On the Creator

For my cousin Caroline, who painted a violet and gave it to my mom, which painting has now passed on to me.


There is a house; you can see the siding and the peaks of the roof. There is an upper-story window in one of the gables. The light of the sky reflects off the glass, so what is inside there is not visible. The land is sloping away; it looks like the mountains. Clouds stroll through the park of blue sky and frame the window in the peak of the house as you look up at it.

Something good is going on up there. There is an engine of creativity, of delicate, difficult work running, balanced and smooth. The energy is bright and sourceless, or simply coalesces from some unknown, unlocatable. The work is the refined curve of the edge of a Violet petal, a smooth line of serrate cells, the smallest puff of life in cages of tenuous molecules that refract – violet! With what brush is this sweep of textured color applied?

When the house and the window dissolve, and the weed is rooted in the compact, stony soil where a kitchen table might have been, will we notice? In the spring, yes. The flock of it will be hard to miss. Will we recognize the small, planar leaf, the promise of miracle to come, when we stride by in the fat rain of a summer storm, while the hard rail of what we decide is important guides us by the neck, turning our head to accomplishment? Will we notice?

The clanking and grinding of the machinations of accomplishment let us know we are doing something. It isn’t the knowing that we’re after, exactly, but the assurance that we’re going about something, that we’re busy. This is the hood we put on to deafen us, to shield us from being rung, resonant with the replete is-ness of being here with all that is. Here is the gravel that made this once a driveway. Here is the orgasm of immeasurable space between mountains, gasping for more air. Here is the toe of your boot. Here is the window that doesn’t exist, nor the house. Here is the mind, taking delight in forging the message of the microscopic edge, hoping I’ll notice.

Why the Sun Went Down

The sun, having taken its leave of the region, abandons the coloring of the world to blues, from dusky to interstellar dark. These blues seek out the spruce trees, turning sprigs even bluer. The protective recesses have something in common with dark matter. Or maybe they produce dark matter. This is where birds rest. Physicists should be interviewing the birds, who have been there and abided. This blue seeps out of the trees and fills up the neighborhood until it finds itself a participant in the cosmos. Once, at a shop in Vermont, I got a really good sandwich. The shop was built in an old stone works building. Right now, it dwells in the same blue as my neighborhood. Between the two places and any point in interstellar space we can triangulate how blue anything feels. If we cared to, we might discover an alternate dimension in red.

A friend sent me a photo of a turtle she rescued crossing the street from the lake to her cottage. (Would it have beat its head against the door when it got there? Would any of us recognize it as an invitation to silently share the news of the world over lettuce? “The lilacs are almost done blooming.”) She found the biggest bowl in the house, filled it with water, and plopped the turtle in. The bowl was bright red. Who of us, being a turtle, would know the whole world still existed when suddenly it all goes red and smooth? It might be deep shell time for some of us. How many turtle-years would it take to get comfortable enough to start exploring when, lacking any reasonableness, it all goes red?

Maybe because it happens most any night, when the trees suffuse cosmic blue into the air, we’re okay with it. Some of us do go exploring. Or to sleep.

An Old Friend

Last week I was at the gym doing leg presses when, in the periphery of my vision, I saw a person walking toward me. How is it that when someone walks toward you, you can sense something is about to happen? It was a friend from work. He had gotten a new job in the company and I hadn’t seen him in a while.

He told me how he was clearing out his hard drive when he came across The Blue Grove in his favorites file. He paused in his work to read some and noticed there hadn’t been an entry in a while. I laughed, partly because it was good to see him, and mostly because he had enjoyed the blog enough to make it a favorite. We chatted for a bit and went back to our workouts.

This week I’m reading Natalie Goldberg’s classic “Writing Down the Bones.” I especially enjoy her approach to writing. In a section about the misery of writing out of duty, I read “If you find this is your basic attitude, then stop writing. Stay away from it for a week or a year. Wait until you are hungry to say something, until there is an aching in you to speak. Then come back.”

I immediately wondered if I could apply this to myself. Was I on sabbatical from The Blue Grove to regenerate, to gather up something great that needed to be said? Natalie also urges readers to dig deep for truth when writing. I considered this deeply for a few hours and decided, no, I’ve just been lazy. Forgive me, someone; it’s been a lot of days since my last confession. And that’s what it seems like I’ve done with this blog- confessing what I see around me. May that vision see truth deeply.

Thank you, Blake.

Being Eternity

This week I have been reading Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” that mystical last word before departure. Somehow, I drown in passages about beauty, and this book is no exception. The pages here are an affirmation of the wonder within us. The author acknowledges we each apprehend beauty differently, then suggests:

All these things have you said of beauty,
Yet in truth you spoke not of her but of needs unsatisfied,
And beauty is not a need but an ecstasy.
It is not a mouth thirsting nor an empty hand stretched forth,
But rather a heart enflamed and a soul enchanted.
It is not the image you would see not the song you would hear,
But rather an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.
It is not the sap within the furrowed bark, nor a wing attached to a claw,
But rather a garden for ever in bloom and a flock of angels for ever in flight.
People of Ophalese, beauty is life when life unveils her holy face.
But you are life and you are the veil.
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror.
But you are eternity and you are the mirror.

Earlier in this section, the author describes how some people see beauty: “Like a young mother half-shy of her own glory she walks among us.” I have never seen a garden forever in bloom, even closing my eyes. But I have seen a young mother half-shy of her own glory walking around, and there is something profoundly beautiful about that. Yet, aren’t we all in the throes of some kind of peculiar-to-us glory, difficult as it may be to see it in ourselves?

Morning Breeze

At rest this morning, I woke up to the soft sound of thunder rolling around; the promise of rain. Now, the trees wick moisture from the clouds, pulling down nurturing beauty.

Who can say if I will die in a fiery car wreck today, or if I won’t? Here I am, though, with the green of these spruce trees, heavy with moisture, these clouds with unknown interiors, with the morning coolness flowing. Even the dog across the street, with the annoying incessance of its bark. This is the gift of this moment, of each moment. May I give each of these gifts the honor of being present for them.

Again with the Being Here

This evening I took a chair out into the yard to sit and read. I could feel the texture of the wind on my legs. Or the texture of my legs in the wind. I sat facing east and saw the towering clouds parade downwind, away. How could I read with that going on? I had to pay attention.
It came about that I did manage to finish the book, though. I was reading “Anam Cara” by John O’Donohue. While I find something noteworthy on nearly every page, this passage was particularly resonant for me:

It is a strange and magical fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here. Rilke said “Being here is so much.” It is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free.

How enticing is it to consider myself wildly and dangerously free? It feels like an invitation for something hidden in me, something potentially shocking or embarrassing, to exert an influence on what I am doing here in the world. Am I that daring? Am I that willing to be true to what I find in my heart to be, to try, to embrace? Isn’t it worth the being here?

The Work Words Won’t Do

This evening, I watched water bathe in the last of the day’s suns, a luminosity in the earth mimicking the sky, but with turbulence.
At dusk the colors sucked the words out of me: “Oh, gift! Oh giver!” And “I am acceptance! Oh, gratitude!”
In the transition to night, the clouds glowed like nebulae, or looked like the Northern Lights. Or maybe sea turtles, flapping those giant flippers, gliding through constellations. Some ancient Chinese philosophers told stories of giant birds, six hundred li long. Maybe they were seeing something like this.
And then it was night. The stars were sterling. I walked, my chin to the zenith, and prayed “Hey, you who must name yourself! Whether God or the Tao, or Void, or Tosser of Galaxies, I’d like to speak to you. You imbue my life with these daily gifts so that I am rich. The ‘thank you’ I am too inarticulate to get out is only a shade of the ineffable ‘thank you’ that you stuck into my being here. I didn’t ask for it, but you pierced me through and left this open wound that aches ‘thank you.’ Now, somehow, I want every frame of the movie of each step, each breath, the turn of my head, every blink, to give you back this ‘thank you.’ I have to think you’re getting it, because you keep afflicting me with beauty. So, yeah, rock on.”
I love you, Wuxi, and will miss you always.


I am so envious of people who operate chop sticks without thinking about them. In a shop in China, a salesgirl told me I should be adept at using chop sticks, based on my being able to roll those chiming balls around in the palm of my hand. I already knew I was passable with chop sticks, but also knew I looked like I had suffered some brain damage and was reentering society before I was ready. So I watch people eat or retrieve small things from small places and admire the unconsciousness of their dexterity.
So, instinctively, I hold a spoon in my hand. It rests lightly between fingers and thumb, poised to perform. It is deft, more agile than my fingers could hope to be. The smooth, shiny bowl of it speaks of usefulness, inviting me to maneuver it into the joy of mashed potatoes or soup or Cap’n Crunch. Yum. It can carve out a mouthful of appropriately chocolate-chipped cookie dough. It can corral the last shreds of oatmeal. It can bring me ice cream! All without a thought to the digits that hold it. It rests in my hand like it belongs there, and without realizing it, connects directly with my mind. I don’t know where I learned this. Gliding through intervening space with grace, it arrives to my lips with smooth polish and reliable sustenance. How enviable is that?

What Quality of “I” am I?

Today, I am reading about the idea of Bodhichitta. It means “noble or awakened heart” and can be found in all beings. We find it when we are able to let go of our insistence on safety, awaken to a tenderness for life, and acknowledge the delicacy of our being here at all.

In her book “When Things Fall Apart,” Pema Chödrön writes:

“When we experience the soft spot of bodhichitta, it’s like returning home. It’s as if we had amnesia for a very long time and awaken to remember who we really are. The poet Jalaluddin Rumi writes of night travelers who search the darkness instead of running from it, a companionship of people willing to know their own fear. Whether it’s in the small fears of a job interview or the unnameable terrors imposed by war, prejudice, and hatred; whether it’s in the loneliness of a widow or the horrors of children shamed or abused by a parent, in the tenderness of the pain itself, night travelers discover the light of bodhichitta.

“Bodhichitta is available in moments of caring for things, when we clean our glasses or brush our hair. It’s available in moments of appreciation, when we notice the blue sky or pause and listen to the rain. It is available in moments of gratitude, when we recall a kindness or recognize another person’s courage. It is available in music and dance, in art, and in poetry. Whenever we let go of holding on to ourselves and look at the world around us, whenever we connect with sorrow, whenever we connect with joy, whenever we drop our resentment and complaint, in those moments bodhichitta is here.”