An Ode to Insomnia

I recommend this poem by James Parker in the July/August 2020 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, I love this line: The sea of anxiety loves a horizontal human; it pours over your toes and surges up you like a tide.

Layers of Awakening

The insects are amassing on the other side of the screen.
Their wings brush out a call to action, a low drum beat.
The song dogs still sing at night, but now they sing of war.
The trees sigh their reluctant assent, weary of the heat.

103° in the arctic and the planet, our only gift, suffers from knowing us.
Cyclical spirals, layers of awakening, understanding is slow.
All sentient beings fear us. And we fear each other.
Our contribution has been ideas and inventions, of no use at all,
No improvements are possible when they are all brain, no heart or soul.
Most humans live so far from nature they do not see a thing amiss.
Our alignment to nature is not just off, it is gone entirely.

The otter and beaver are clear on their intent to join.
The red fox and wolf will march together, and the black bear is ready for the call.
The sand hill cranes will trumpet the first cry; while the eagles look out from on high.
Those who run, and those that fly, and even those who crawl.

Heat rises, thunderbolts ensue. Human privilege really was a thing.
You only feel the coming battles out here. The cities are numb, and ever dumb.
Humans fight each other there, based on the color of skin and bits of colored ribbon.
When I listen closely, I feel the gentle beat of all those wings.

Written by Linda Gottschalk during the last week of May 2020, a sad dark time

Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

“Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth
let’s not speak in any language,
let’s stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.”

― Pablo Neruda

A Thousand to One by Berton Braley

There’s a thousand “Can’t-be-done-ers”
For the one who says “It can!”
But the whole amount of deeds that count
Is done by the latter clan.
For the “Can’t-be-done-ers” grumble,
And hamper, oppose and doubt,
While the daring man who says “It can!”
Proceeds to work it out.

There isn’t a new invention
Beneath the shining sun,
That was ever wrought by the deed or thought
Of the tribe of “Can’t-be-done.”
For the “Can’t-be-done-ers” mutter
While the “Can-be’s” cool, sublime,
Make their “notions” work till the others smirk.
“Oh, we knew it all the time!”

“Oh, the “Can-be’s” clan is meager,
Its membership is small,
And it’s mighty few who see their dreams come true
Or hear fame’s trumpet call;
But it’s better to be a “Can-be,”
And labor and dream—and die,
Than one who runs with the “Can’t-be-done’s”
Who haven’t the pluck to try.

Berton Braley (1882–1966) was an American poet.

Thanks to Dr. David Purlmutter for bring this to my attention.

An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans by Kristin Flyntz

Brain Tree

Stop.

Just stop.

It is no longer a request.

It is a mandate.

We will help you.

We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt.

We will stop the planes, the trains, the schools, the malls, the meetings, the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our single and shared beating heart, the way we breathe together, in unison.

Our obligation is to each other, as it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.

We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions, to bring you this long-breaking news: We are not well. None of us; all of us are suffering.

Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth did not give you pause. Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan. Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.

You have not been listening.

It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives. But the foundation is giving way, buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.

We will help you. We will bring the firestorms to your body. We will bring the fever to your body. We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs that you might hear: We are not well. Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.

We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.

We are asking you: To stop, to be still, to listen; To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all; To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart; To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy?

How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy? To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?

Many are afraid now. Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness, listen for its wisdom. What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?

As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?

Stop.

Notice if you are resisting.

Notice what you are resisting. Ask why.

Stop.

Just stop.

Be still. Listen.

Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well. We will help you, if you listen.

Written by Kristin Flyntz. Thanks to Jeanne Peters for bringing this to my attention.

A Revelation at Hand

The world shifted on its axis this weekend as the impact of coronavirus on the human race came into focus. I felt the zeitgeist slip a notch, in contrast to its usual slow turning – borders of all sorts closing, new leaders emerging as previous leaders are shown – in a flash -to be ineffective, new concerns moving front and center and old priorities – once held dear – suddenly not even relevant.  March 2020. Something new has been born into this world.

The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Blue Morning Drive

This poem was written on written on January 2, 2018

I open the garage door and start the car to warm it
Back out into the squeaking snow,
the headlights reveal flakes as big as cereal and
Six inches of powder, new to this place in the world
The air becomes increasingly blue as nautical dawn emerges, no other light but my little ship sailing down the road
The firs are magnificent in their heavy green and white robes; their
deciduous cousins groan as they wave their naked arms and complain about the cold
At the corner where our dirt road meets the county road, no other cars,
I make the turn slowly and venture further into blue
The second house on the right still displays a Christmas tree
I see the lights through the picture window,
Those big multi-color lights, impossibly cheerful on this frigid, forlorn morning
At the intersection where the county and state roads meet,
movement and life
A clumsy county snow plow, blinking and nodding, moves forward in a cloud of snow mist,
A semi follows, snow streaming off its roof
I turn and join the regatta,
sailing slowly through the blue

Two Miles High in Michigan

This poem was written in the Spring of 2018

“First there was the ice; two miles high,
hundreds of miles wide and many centuries deep.”
Waiting for the Morning Train by Bruce Catton

First, the ice.
Then a roar as millions of giant first growth trees fell into lumber.
Furs, muskrats, confusion and disease for the first people.
Storms on the big lake and tales of bare-knuckled survival.
Lighthouses, floods, and the relentless immigration from northern Europe.
Now retirees learn to snowshoe, and tourists climb the dunes.
No one knows if the second and third growth trees smell as sweet in the heavy summer air.
But sometimes, when the wind is from the north and the conditions are just right, you can smell what is coming next.

Afterwards

Ireland

Your colleagues are not your friends.
Your boss is not your family.
Even if they have been to your home.
Even if they have met your wife.

They may remember you.
For the stand you took, a battle fought.
For your authenticity.
But they aren’t going to stay in touch.
Regardless of what they say at your retirement party.

A few words exchanged with a stranger at a coffeeshop.
A dramatic storm coming across the lake.
The screaming, yipping celebration of the local coyotes.
That’s what I’ve got now.

#SpringIsRunningLateThisYear

A poem in 28 hashtags, curated from Instagram

#winterwithoutend
#whereisspring
#cabinfever
#maplesyruponpancakes
#upnorthliving
#winterwonderland
#nobadweatheronlybadgear
#beautifulsnowlookswet
#howmanysnowblowersdoyouhavethereanyway
#pastieweather
#walkedtoschoolthroughworsethanthis
#uphillbothways
#makeanothercupofcoffee
#whatyouseeiswhatyouget
#weatherapps
#whenwillthesunshineagain
#sickafofwinter
#whitemood
#gameoftones
#notafraidtobecold
#aprilblizzardsbringwhatexactly
#snowfalltalltales
#wintersurvivalhasmanymeanings
#snowpocalpyse
#whereisspringalready
#willwebestuckinsnowforever
#eternalwinter
#rememberthattimewhenitwasntsnowing