Archive | Poems

Mindfulness Among the Redwoods in Thich Nhat Hanh Phrases

“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.”

When first I came to live in California, the redwood forest seemed to me a dark, depressing place where few organisms lived. The tall, dark woods hid away the sunshine, and below all was muted, musty, moist. For a long while, I preferred the oak woodlands, the open spaces of Henry Coe State Park, where the horizon widens to include even the faraway Sierra Nevada’s snowy caps. Oaks and pines and the frequent sighting of wildlife in air and water and on land captured my imagination, providing me with a nostalgic connection to the Israeli landscape in which I had grown up.

“Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathing out, I am aware of my body.”

Over these past seventeen years — somehow, as though by magic — the redwood forest grew on me. I began to see it as a place of mystery and enchantment, holding its secrets close, so much of it existing far away from our human eyes. Up in the canopy, diversity thrives of mosses, lichen, trees, ferns, brush, and wildlife. Douglas firs have been known to grow on redwoods. Bay trees. Tanoaks. Berry-bearing brush, such as salal, huckleberry and gooseberry. Birds, like the marbled murrelet who only nests in the canopy of redwoods, Northern spotted owls, falcons and bald eagles. Salamanders, chipmunks, earthworms, crickets. But more than simply admiring the diversity of the forest, I learned to sense and love the trees themselves.

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile.”

Tall. So tall they touch the sky, dripping down a gentle rain of fog onto a ground feathery with duff. A lone banana slug meanders by, its slime pushing forest detritus down. I stand below a redwood and feel the strength of its roots in the ground. A redwood’s roots go only about a foot down, but they can stretch as far as a hundred feet away from the trunk. Kurt, my guide a few days ago at Big Basin State Park, tells me redwood roots of different trees fuse together to form one web. I close my eyes and imagine them communicating through the soil, holding onto-and-resting-in each other’s stretching arms, shooting up safe and tall to reach the sun. If their roots are entwined, are they one tree or many? Do the roots make the tree or do the number of trunks? And do they know, these trees, if a bay tree’s roots plunge into the earth through their web of life, that the bay is an “other,” and that they should not meld their roots with hers or a tanoak’s, or a pine’s?

“Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.”

I chatter circles around Kurt as we walk. I can’t help it. Telling stories, asking questions, repeating information I had heard about redwoods, wanting to know more and more and more. Kurt seems patient, content. We visit the two tallest trees in the park. Funny enough, they are young ones who had sprouted farther up to the sky than older trees because of a spring seeping at their roots. The forest fills with the sounds of birds. Some we know: pileated woodpeckers laugh their mad laugh and drill into trees. Acorn woodpeckers waka waka out of sight, their methodical hammering lighter, less frantic. Jays caw and hop, and little juncos chirp. We see one banana slug, and then… I miss another and step on it. I am heartbroken, leaning down to find the slug writhing in redwood duff. A direct hit, Kurt says. How can such a magical day include such a devastating turn?

“Breathing in, I have arrived. Breathing out I am home.”

Three days later, I sit at the foot of a redwood tree at Wunderlich County Park. We are meditating to Thich Nhat Hanh phrases which I have adapted into a guided meditation. Across the creek, young redwoods grow close together on a hill which had been logged and logged again in the last one-hundred-and-sixty years, as had most of the land around us. But this lovely park is now protected and safe. The ground is cold, the air is colder, and dawn is but breaking over the top of the trees. Beside me, Anne-Marie and Adelaide are quiet. We are feeling the connection to the earth. Suddenly, crushing through the vegetation, someone approaches our peaceful spot. As the meditation wounds to a stop, we open our eyes to find a young deer tiptoeing down the hill, her eyes a deep brown in her honey head, stretched wide at the sight of the humans she had not noticed before. She sees us seeing her and hurries away. A pileated woodpecker madly laughs high above, and my heart is at peace. It’s time for our mindful walk.

“Breathing in, I know Mother Earth is in me. Breathing out, I belong.”

I go to nature to find connection, to remember that I am nought but a collection of bits and pieces of earth. The biblical God, anticipating science, had fashioned Adam out of  dust, creating him from the very earth where he belongs. Whether walking or sitting, chattering away or so quiet that a deer misses seeing me nearby, I hold on to this sacred connection to all of life. Sometimes, I joke that being eaten by a mountain lion is the way to go, a way to ensure that I will not be embalmed and entombed or enshrined in a way that would prevent my returning to the earth. But in the coolness of morning, the redwoods permitting me to braid my human roots with theirs, death does not seem so bad, allowing me a glimpse of rejoining this land where every speck of soil is alive.

“Breath of Life” by poet Danna Faulds

I breathe in All That Is-
Awareness expanding
to take everything in,
as if my heart beats
the world into being.
From the unnamed vastness beneath the
mind, I breathe my way to wholeness and healing.
Inhalation. Exhalation.
Each Breath a “yes,”
and a letting go, a journey, and a coming home.

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Thoughts on a Meditation Cushion

Sitting in meditation this morning
Watching my thoughts churn
Muted turbulent clouds
Barging into my head and each other
An uneasy, silent movie of a stormy sky
High school registration
March trip planning
Friday dinner
Basketball practice
My training session
The Brahmaviharas
Custody schedule
Sadness, the kids go away today
My bike, is the wheel inflated?
Perhaps I can go riding today
Stomach grumbles, what’s for breakfast?
The meditation retreat last day’s dance
A thought arises out of the mess
How confusing the world is
How confusing
And a counter thought smiles
How simple
To be sitting here
On my meditation cushion.

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Fool’s Leap

Let’s build a box together,
Shall we?
One side made up of limitations
The second expectations
The third is disappointments
The fourth frustrations
The top from judgements
The bottom from beliefs
With some nails, scattered on the floor,
To symbolize our fears.

Let’s build a box together
A box to keep us small
To keep us safe from any need to
Grow
Expand
Or fly
Can you imagine flying in this box?
The nails shaking up a storm inside
The walls closing in
Crashing imminent.

Willing to give
Anything, anything at all
Just so there would be
No
Crashing.

And yet
What if
By crashing
Something new could come
Something fertile
Something blooming
Something green
And red
And pink
And yellow
And colorful all over?
What if
By crashing
The walls could disappear
And then
I
Could
Fly?

I’m listening to OneRepublic’s music in my car
Safe in the box
Safe in the car
Safe in my fears
But the music is beating, beating, beating
Calling me out of the box
And I find myself squirming
One part a sedate, responsible driver
The other dancing with the beat.
I want to leap out and explode
Instead of staying stuck
In this hurtling metal car
Inside of staying stuck
In my own self-built box.

Dancing, dancing, singing, dancing
My spirit’s hands reach up and out
Fingers tickling the stars
Sending storms into the stratosphere
I need to dance so I can write
I need to sing so I can write
I need more space
No box can fit
I dance and sing and sing and dance
With this creative, freedom trance.

The metal box, its speed, are gone
And in their place my soul explodes
To outer space, creating storms
Bringing blessed rain and more
Flowers, fruit, a golden shower
Words to fill out seven novels
Words to fill the heart with joy
I knew somewhere, somewhere within
This passion smoldered hid
Awaiting a single lighted match
To give it this release
Into a fool’s trusting leap.

And now,
What now?
No change.
No change at all.
After all,
That’s who I was,
You know,
Before.

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Peeling the Onion

The poem this morning is for Jeanne, who is helping me peel the onion, and in the process, understand myself.

One day
I know
All these layers
I’m peeling
Will be
Not gone
But ingested
A part of the
Richness
Of me
And then
On that day
That marvelous inner sunshiny day
Writing
Will be
Not a fear
Not a black heavy cloud
Not a choking in my throat
Or a tightness in my heart
But instead
A song
And a dance
Light and free.

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It’s All in the Details

It’s all in the details, I’m told,
Eyelashes lined up like bamboos in the wind on a blinking eye
Veins sending droplets of water stretched on a leaf
Whiskers trembling on a dog sniffing the breeze
A glint of fiery green on a hummingbird’s wing.

It’s all in the details, I’ve heard say,
The oxygen-sucking scent of a match lighting a dark room
The spicy smell of an orange peeled, tickling the nose
The remembered sea, sun and sand smell of sunscreen lotion slathered on suntanned skin
The pungency of teenager boy, sweaty after a hot football afternoon in the field.

It’s all in the details, some claim,
The touch of a newborn butterfly’s wavering, skinny legs on my hand before it opens its slow-drying wings
The sun rays burning the neckline under my hair as I hike on the trail
A dog’s curvy head, nudging itself under my palm, its short tickling hairs
The ever-cool, scratchy-smooth feel of a manzanita branch in the shade.

It’s all in the details, you know,
Chocolate melting in sweetness down an eager throat
Lemon juice curdling the tongue
Tomato and cucumbers, sliced salad, bursting in a flavor of my grandma’s love,
Papaya, pulpy and velvety, a taste of Hawaii.

It’s all in the details
It is?
But what if
I’m near sighted
My eyes are weak
What if the only details I see are blobs of color
What if I spent the last twenty years too depressed to see anything other
Than fog and blurriness and smooshed up
Somehow
Togetherness of nothing?

It’s all in the details, the experts say,
Scent
Sight
Taste
Touch
Sound
So they say
But what if I can’t taste the trace of blackberries in wine
Or see the golden flakes in a girl’s eyes
Or smell anything in my allergy-stuffed nose that dreads working its neurons
Or hear anything other than a mess of sound in a jazz concert?

It’s all in the details, I guess,
But I’m afraid,
What if
After all these years of depressing my brain
I’m too closed off to see anything other than color blobs
And smell anything other than strong smells (aversion) or weak (blah, but fine)
And touch anything but hot and cold or soft and rough
And taste anything but good or not (chocolate is good)
Or hear anything other than a cacophony of sound (that jazz concert I misunderstood).

And so, part of me wonders
Has there been a depressed writer before (my heart whispers, sure)
Has there been a blind writer before (surely sure)
Has there been a writer who had parts that went berserk whenever writing was mentioned
Whose perfection refused to allow anything other than perfection
Who couldn’t write more than a few words on the page
Whose only way to release the pressure
The earthquake that threatened
The need to express
To write
To tell
Was
This?

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Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109