Friday, January 21, 2011

Dread and Bliss

"The person who has not, in a moment of firm resolve, accepted—yes even rejoiced in—what has struck him with terror—he has never taken possession of the full, ineffable power of our existence. He withdraws to the edge; when things play out, he will be neither alive nor dead.

To discover the unity of dread and bliss, these two faces of the same divinity (indeed, they reveal themselves as a single face that presents itself differently according to the way in which we see it): that is the essential meaning and theme of both my books (The Sonnets to Orpheus and The Duino Elegies).

—Rainer Maria Rilke

Wasp Dreams

Awake, thirsty, hungry, I fly
from parchment nest through woods
to the porch where I feasted last night
on shreds of barbecued chicken thigh.

Seeking, now, a morning meal
I blunder heedlessly, hapless
into sticky woven threads
strung between porch and post

both wings held fast—web sways
who’s this? wrapping me, spinning me
swaddling me tight in silky sheets
bound, secure, attentively embraced

her mouthpart—painless—a spider’s kiss
i liquify, am drunk, a dreadful bliss.

You can listen to this sonnet here:

  Wasp Dreams by Dan Gurney 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Miracles Everywhere: A Moment in Kindergarten

"When we live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere."  —Thich Nhat Hahn

As snack time got underway, I found a chair at M’s table and sat down with her and three of her friends—four five year olds whose combined 20 years on earth total about one-third of my almost 60 years around here.

M. had brought the apples—crisp organic Galas we had just cored and sliced into wedges.

I lifted one of the apple wedges to my mouth and bit off a small piece. Closing my eyes I slowly crushed it between my molars and let sweet juice mix with my saliva. Slowly, I chewed this little morsel again and again, slowly, until the last of its form liquified into a formless, pulpy juice. I swallowed,  emptying my mouth of all but a lingering sweetness. I let my eyes open and said, “Apple trees are so magical.”

“Magical? Apple trees?”

“Oh, yes!” I went on. “Deep, deep magic—a miracle, really.”

“It’s just a regular apple,” M said somewhat skeptically. I wondered if I had made too much of a spectacle eating this one bite of apple.

“Yes, it’s a regular apple! Regular apples are miracles!  Clouds become millions of raindrops and fall to the earth and soak into the ground. Apple trees have roots that sip the water out of the soil. Somehow trees also know how to pull out of the soil just exactly the right minerals they need to make wood, bark, leaves, and apples, using sunlight for power and ancient magic they got from their ancestors for the how-to-do-it. They made the sweet juice and crispy apple flesh that just filled my mouth. It’s a miracle that apple trees know how to do this.”

I took a second bite of the wedge and closed my eyes again. I decided to simply enjoy the flavorful moment and not to go on about seeds and oxygen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Seducing the formless into form

My daily practice these days takes about an hour and typically includes:

  • waking at 5 AM
  • dream journaling (assuming there’s a dream worthy of it),
  • a quick yoga routine,
  • playing a Native American flute,
  • reading poetry—Hafiz, Rumi, Rilke, for now
  • 20 minutes or a little bit more of Samantha (concentration) meditation.

I finish up by cultivating the intention to awaken kindness, compassion, and wisdom throughout the day ahead.

From there it’s off to the living room for tea with my wife.

Today this poem by Hafiz spoke out:

that illumined 
who keeps
seducing the formless into form
had the charm to win my
only a perfect one

who is always
laughing at the word
can make you know



Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arachnid Dreams

How I wish that in the space of one
night’s darkness I could weave a spiral galaxy of silk
designed by my ancestors
and mysteriously bestowed to me from some deep

time before time. I would doze in the morning sun,
amid my particular array of glistening dewdrops
and—rocked by soft morning breezes,
and at the edge of sleep—

snooze until some flighty insect blunders into my gossamer-spun
dream. Waking, I would swaddle my breakfast in silky attention
wrapping and comforting this trembling body before sipping
guts gently inside me and swallowing them deep

the better to digest heedlessness into filaments
that I can string in the sun to be jeweled with dew.

—Dan Gurney

  Arachnid Dreams by Dan Gurney 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Polar Bear

My friend, Sandy Eastoak, had a poetry reading at one of my town's tea shops this evening. She read praise poems.

I particularly like this one, an arctic love story. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

polar bears

do you remember
ice fishing

it was maybe six
eight hundred years

a happy life, that one
& simple

we met as children

watching each other
cautiously at
first then running
wild over the meadow
just emerging from piled

small wildflowers
laughing as loud as
we singing
beside the new
stomachs grumbling
for our forgotten

our families traveled
with different herds
so sometimes weeks would
pass then sometimes
you’d come with
mine or i’d go

they all winked
happy at our glad
games & looking toward

& it came

first ecstasy
then understanding
deeper & easier
season by season

& the small son
who rose the sun in
your eyes & made  you

then the daughter
& you discovered how
your hands could
twist beauty everywhere
in bone fiber dye

she made you known
for craft that became
our people’s as you

one winter day when our children
had grown beyond
we caught five fish against hunger
when the white bear came
we saved ourselves
by losing our

but your were angry
even your cool wisdom
left you crazy
over this one thieving

we talked with death
in our lodge
& you went across
the frost hard ground
to meet him
just your knife
you’d carved magic
in the handle
i’d sung the

you tracked the bear
& met him on
the ice
where you baited the
scene with new

& when he came with
fangs roaring
you stood & spat
your secret words

i followed &
the two of you

i lost the easy man
of innocence
& gained the bear man
of power

you cleaned the skin
& made the robe that
marked you
you gave the meat
to everyone & all
the dogs
songs & sparks
lit the long

i was a singer
now everyone wanted to hear
i glowed with
your honor
carried your light like the
sun in my two

love lit winter
bright as midsummer
the taste of berries
was always on our

our grandchildren
were favored & kept
faith with the people’s
each giving full

their broad smiles
made you laugh &
grow ever more

after years you
one day you said
i will not pass
another winter
readied me, promising
to stay close
until i

one morning you
lay in my arms
counting every sky
wide & beautiful because
i was there
& i counted every
earth fragrant & solid
because of

you stayed close
the grandchildren
were happy to see me
talking with you
i missed your

seasons later
i said i’m going to your grandfather
walked over the ice
to find your bear’s

when she brought her
sharp teeth to my throat
i was already flying
glad & grateful
your welcome big
as the whole sky

do you remember
ice fishing

Monday, January 3, 2011

Karma Etheree*

Some Taoists believe that each of us has 36,000 gods and goddesses living inside us. We please these deities in us when we think good thoughts, eat good food, and take proper care of our physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health. But if we abuse ourselves, they’ll get up in disgust and leave.

Thich Nhat Hahn says that we honor our forebears and our offspring by cultivating mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom.

While thinking about these things, I composed this Etheree.

breath i draw
each word i say
every bite i eat
touches for good or ill
my children, grandchildren and
unseen future generations.
each action pleases or displeases
all my forebears, human and otherwise.

—Dan Gurney

*Consisting of ten lines, the Etheree poem starts with a one syllable line, then adds one syllable per line, ending with a final line of ten syllables yielding an overall syllable count of 55. In other words the syllabic structure is as follows: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. It’s an uncomplicated, unpretentious form of poetry that has the quality of slowly opening, like a flower.  Try composing one—you may like it!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hope for the Future

Inspiring kid. There's hope in the future. This is proof.