By the Moonlit Pond

The frogs are enticing you tonight as you step out the front door
You can hear them from a quarter mile away. Usually they sing you to sleep,
But tonight they are cooing and purring, drawing you in to their wonderland.
Standing in the soft yellow phosphorescent street lights of the parking lot 
You realize that if you cross the threshold there may be no coming back.
The chain linked barrier between man and nature hidden in the shadows behind the Twin Cedars
The pond, though in the middle of the parking lot, is veiled to keep the threat of 
Nature, the threat of life without convenience, hidden from our psyche.  
Creeping between the cedars with feet just too heavy, they become wary.
In the silence you realize what it would look like to walk by someone like you. 
Knelt over and slumped, worshipping, or perhaps taking a shit, hiding from humanity
But before your self conscious completely takes over They give the all clear. 
rrrr ib.   rrr  ib.  ib. ibit-ribit. ribit. ribitribitribitribitribit. 
It’s a welcoming party. A celebration.  They brought you here. 
Soon the noise is deafening and your thoughts, preconceptions, notions are all drowned
In the leafy, moonlit pond. 
From a distance Their chorus sparkles like crickets, with rhythm,
But up close you can hear individual riffing and singing and sometimes screaming
Live-it. Live-it. Live-it. 
Wawa. Wa. Wawa. Wa. 
Which roughly translates to live your insights,
Trust yourself and 
Align your actions with your realizations.
Like a schoolboy, you smile
and no one is around to see it.

for enquiring minds

(For optimal affect read in a teenager’s voice)

Listen (Practice)

I’ve had a head cold over the past week which has really hampered my desire and ability to write poetry, as well as for my meditation practice. I’m just starting to come out of the haze and getting my footing back into some kind of normalcy. Without the practice, without the regimen of daily meditation all I have left is coffee. Anyway it occurred to me that I do still, in fact, have the practice. I do have ways to focus my mind, to keep it oriented even if my nose is clogged! This is through the practice of listening, listening deeply without adding anything (via thought) to the moment, just supporting and understanding, being there for the person I’m in conversation with and not letting things distract me from this purpose. It’s difficult and so often -before I’ve even recognized it- thoughts have run away from the situation, but if practiced with regularity, just like a daily meditation practice, this should take on a more important role in my practice, even more so than breathing perhaps. Deep and active listening comes from listening that is not narrative driven, that which has no agenda, or judgments, it comes from wisdom, from the ground. Deep listening is trying to understand the other person’s narrative; the other person’s wants and needs without adding anything to it. Could we also use this for ourselves? Yes!

 Thich Nhat Hanh: Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.

I really struggled the other day when a friend was talking to me about his crappy weekend. It was one of those times when one bad thing gets compounded by many other bad things. And as he was telling me about it, I knew there to be times when I was distracted by cars driving by or the breeze in the trees, but thinking back on the conversation the thing that was most distracting was my thoughts driving me away from what he was saying, and the majority of these thoughts were based on the fact that I didn’t have the right thing to say, that I was somehow not a very good friend because I didn’t have any good advice or comforting words for him. So my narrative drove me away from the conversation and it became very self centered and stressful as I bashed myself over and over again. I was going in and out of these thoughts and came to rest on at least not adding to his frustration by turning it into a bitch fest. At the least don’t add to his depression by gossiping about the people causing his problems. But of course the more I focused on staying away from this course of action, the more I was drawn to it and I heard myself saying things that opened the wound even more.

This situation happened before I remembered that deep, active listening can and should be a part of my daily practice, but even at the time I felt embarrassed and knew that I only served to bring back up the difficult things he was dealing with.

Always following my own narrative. I’m always following my own narrative, even when I’m taking interest in someone else’s it still comes back around to filter through my own. Why? Why is this so? Is this the mechanism that contributes to an overarching feeling of alienation? This is why listening deeply has become such an important focus for my practice, because when I listen deeply to others I force myself out of this mechanism that revolves around the watcher (ego). I lose myself in their words, their world, their problems, which for a short instance all become mine as well as theirs; ours.

A Brief History of My Dog My dog is a rescue. Apparently he was being neglected and abused when he was found wondering the streets. He had been being left outside and found multiple times before taken in to be offered to a home that would love him. We found him and gave him that love. Though with a bit of a caveat. We had many instances of him going potty inside and at that time I had no control over my anger whatsoever and there were plenty of times when we came home and found he’d pooped in the house or gone through the trash and I’d take my anger and frustration out on him. Not something I’m proud of today and something that I have to face as every time I raise my voice I see him slink down and head to his kennel. He picks up on my moods very easily and it’s amazing to see, however something that also serves as a reminder for how I treated him in the past. Had I handled the situation with a little more understanding and compassion he may have worked through whatever it is that causes him to shit in my house! Now when I take time out, he goes and refuses to get near it, pulling away on his leash. He’s so afraid of his own shit. The whole of this history for being hurt and punished for it comes up each and every time he sees it.

And I think we are much the same with our own shit, our past beliefs about ourselves which we’ve made this whole narrative about comes up again and again each moment. It comes up in our narrative in our minds and we follow it without question. Perhaps my friend had already accepted and gotten over the bad weekend and all he really needed was someone to hear his story. Perhaps he just needed to know that someone else had had similar experiences and hearing someone share them would’ve helped him most, but while following my narrative, I could only think about how I didn’t have the right words for him and so was a bad friend and slunk back into my shell and didn’t provide any of that!

I think that if I can meet my own shit (and my kids, and wife!) with the understanding and compassion that comes from deep listening it can provide many opportunities for new growth. Seeing deep listening as a daily practice, much like meditation, really is the first step.

This fresh new growth
leaves not yet unfolded
has already been chewed through

Journey to the Deep Midwest

I recently traveled to Illinois to visit family and help my grandpa move from his assisted living facility back into his own house. That is a move not many people get to see, he had been through a lot since the time he left his house, which he left due to an injury. In and out of hospitals and nursing homes he managed to get himself back into the house he bought with his wife after returning home from WW II.

Driving to the airport
Under 4 am moonlight,
Windshield wipers

And wet pavement

With the winds
go the cherry blossom petals,
standing at the departures terminal.

We left the gate without too much of a big deal made of the whole thing, which in these situations is exactly what you’d hope for. The views were grand, especially with the sunrise perfectly in line with our flight time. It occurred to me that these views should inspire poetry, as they are views the ancients would have climbed for days, climbed the highest peak around, just to see such a similar sight as we, who sit with our heads buried in screens for constant entertainment! Though our experience didn’t yield the wind blowing mist in our faces and the smell of cedar wood and moss, it still provided me with much inspiration for poetry.

Pink sunrise 
Clouds form lakes in valleys,
Misty mountaintops.

If I were single, and sat between two beauties, I’d probably sit in silence, all the same. I used to feel a compulsion, driven by the awkward feeling of silence, to create conversation. Now though, I know my role and won’t beat myself up for any missed opportunities, or accuse myself of dullness.

Instead of asking to excuse me,
I’d rather nearly piss my pants.

Departing Denver
In an afternoon dust haze
Clouds and mountains indiscernible
Other than inky feathered daubs.

From Denver to Moline, Ill such a small plane that I sat in a row with a single seat, while the other row only had two seats! A girl, about the same age as my daughter, sat with her dad across from me. They were visiting family too. Moments after take off she became restless.

She cares not for her fathers comfort,
ah the consequences of love!

I’m pretty sure that if it weren’t for landscaping the only trees I would’ve seen are oaks. They are massive and quite intimidating. Here, in the pacific northwest, we have the Oregon oak which doesn’t enjoy the same stature as the oaks of the Midwest. Probably due to the variety with which it has to vie against. I didn’t have much time to spend with them, but it was clear that this was Their country! so it was very refreshing to see in the very corner of mom’s backyard a hemlock gracefully curtseying at the stand of oaks in the ravine.

In the land of the oaks
I found my friend

the hemlock

Going through a drawer of old papers and photos:

Under sepia photos
And pale dusty papers,
A picture of my kids

While moving my deceased grandmother’s recliner, which she bought and the next day passed away in…

perfume lingers
on the house cat’s recliner

On the last day of the trip we had more idle time than that of the previous days and so some things that had been building up had the chance to come out.

Grievances aired.
Grandpa sits in his recliner.
Legs folded, stock returns in his lap,
Powdered donut on his lips.

As the trip started I had a lot of poetry coming up and I really wanted to write this travelogue in the style of haibun as made famous by Basho, (especially since I was reading Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Basho on the flight out) but as the trip went on and the responsibilities grew I was unable to write down as much as I wanted and so was left with quite a few poems from my departure journey and really not much else. As I read what I had I felt a sense of incompleteness from the original intention. However, I still want to share what I have and practice the craft so I decided to put it together and just make the notation that it’s not the full journey in many ways; I wished to express the depth in range of emotions and experiences that such a trip provided. Nevertheless this attempt still, hopefully, took you on a journey.


Somehow, in the land of oaks, i found my friend the hemlock

Traveled to Illinois recently and was amazed/scared by the innumerable and ancient Oaks. It was clearly their land. There was no variance of trees in the ravines, which is where all the natural stands occurred. The buds were imperceptible as of yet. Though for the first time I finally understood all the Halloween pictures with the scary trees