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Nest

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The finches on the porch
Feed their chicks with song and joy.
May we nourish our students with such enthusiasm
Feeding them tasty morsels
Of Ayurveda wisdom
Until they grow strong wings and fly.

Drought

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At first we were delighted.
After the biting winds
The
icy, treacherous streets
Months layered in hats and mittens

We picnicked under leafless trees
Walked barefoot on winter grass
Reveling in warmth and sunshine.
Weeks passed.
Snow melted from high peaks
Clear blue skies assumed a threatening sameness.
Where were our soft spring snows?
Then the fires began,
Consuming forest, homes and lives
And we, like Dust Bowl farmers
Gazing at barren fields
Like Kenyan villagers tending famished cattle
Gaze helplessly at the smoke-hazed horizon
Longing for snow
Praying for the rain.



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I am the fragrance of the unexpected

I am the taste of birdsong

And the sound of flowers

I am always new.

Only in rare moments do you meet me

This freshness

Knowing yourself as a new creation

Only now

Entirely new.

Suddenly

You see the world with fresh eyes

Such a world

 Such love

A world to honour

Not one to use

Or carelessly abuse.


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The Photograph Album

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There I am in my christening robes

In Auntie Nessie's arms,

In camel hair coat and pixie hood

Petting a Frisian cow

And in new Easter dress

Handmade by Nanny

Feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

 

There's Dad grinning at the helm of the April

On the Salford River

Mum, with Nick starting to swell her belly

Peggy hanging out the washing

As she did every Monday,

 Siamese Victoria in the wigam,

And Mosby the tortoishell

Sitting between teddy bear

And Skippy, my toy fox terrier.

Katy in the apple tree

Little girls skipping in the yard

And children on the seesaw

In front of octagonal summerhouse

Timmy, Kay, John and Livy

With a curly-haired Becky

 Balancing in the middle.


Look, here we are in Leicester Park,

Cheeky Lindy and Nick playing on the ruins

Wearing their little duffel coats,

 Here with Mum,

Looking for signs of spring.

And see!

 A priceless shot of Fingal's Cave

Taken by my Baby Brownie.

 

Visions of family

In dinghies, ferries, tents, rockpools,

Or snuggled in the back of Blue Bessie,

Our little Morris Minor.

Happy children making calendars, building a boat

Playing in snow,

Decorating Christmas tree.


My childhood self is alive here

In that elusive garden

Whose sorrows and joys

Have made me what I am.


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The Delicatessen

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We visited your shop every week

For cheeses and Polish sausage.

You made much of me

Gave me nibbles of cheese

Reached over the counter

To pat my head

And fill my hands with bonbons.

 

You were magical and foreign like me

The child with oval eyes

And Yiddish-speaking family.

Great-Granny came from Poland

We had a secret bond.

 

I didn't know of your sufferings

Under first the Nazis, then Stalin

Or why you and your compatriots

Lived in Nissen huts on Sandy Lane

Outside Melton Mowbray.

 

For a child in the aftermath of war

The Polish camp was a part of my world

Perplexing, but simply there.

I went with my mother to sing carols

And cheer up elderly residents.

 

Your life was marked by tragedy and displacement

Great-Granny's too.

So many stories untold

Deemed not fit for children's ears.

I hope my weekly visits

 Brought you joy.

Fragments are all I know of you

But I will not forget.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Hava

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 Hava

 written for the naming of an Afro-Jewish baby


Mighty Hava

Mother of all the living

Great black woman

Striding the plains of Africa

The Motherland

Your origins swathed in mystery

Birthgiver of our race

Be present here.

 

Holy Hava

Dweller in the garden of innocence

Luminous mother

Bestower of the light

Of human consciousness

Be present here.

 

Bless this baby

Of the two covenants

This daughter of Sarah and Abraham

This child of Africa.

 

Bless her who bears your name

May she truly be

A second Hava

Chooser of the fruit of life.

May her mighty soul unite

The riches of Torah and Motherland

May she walk in power like you

Gentle and strong

Peaceful and confident

May she help to birth the Light

Into our troubled world

And may she ever live

Held in the arms of love.

 

On the Moor

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On the Moor

For Rosalind

 

This is what we have always loved

Battling through bitter wind

Head doon an' bash on

Rain stinging our faces

Sheep fleeing as we approach.

We hike, soaking wet

Through a watercolourist's fantasy

Ochre, umber, burnt sienna, viridian.

 

We walked bog and moor together

When I was nine and you were three

Hopping from tussock to tussock

Your tiny hand tight in mine.

 

You've made your home on these moors

And I among ponderosa pine

And tallgrass prairie.

Today you stride ahead

I follow

Two sisters in January gale

Doing what we have always loved.


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When he came home to die

You shed no tears

Knowing in your heart

The future that was yours.

You had watched him turn pale

 Fever dew descend

Surrey sanitorium swallow him.

 

You'd met at seventeen,

Romance undimmed by

Rationing, buzz bombs

And air raid sirens,

Shared a first kiss

 At Willsden Junction station

Two days after Christmas

Nineteen forty-two.

 

Your sparkling eyes

Gave him a reason to live

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Fled from your ebullience.

Condemned as a callow youth

He spent a rich, full lifetime

By your side.


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Winter Solstice in Wales

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For those of us who aren't Welsh: Ivy is the embodiment of underworld goddess Rhiannon, Alban Arthan is the winter solstice, Beli Mawr is the sun, Dewi Sant is Saint David, Llelwellyn the Last is the last king of Wales, Cymru is Wales, Edward of England hated Celts and conquered Wales, Pantycelyn was the greatest Welsh Methodist hymn writer and author of Arglwydd, arwain trwy'r anialwch (guide me o thou great redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land).


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Winter Solstice in Wales

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

This dark December day

Of leafless trees and dripping berries

She the goddess Rhiannon

Slayer of the mighty

Glossy tendrils drawing us

To her dark underworld.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when druids woke to Alban Arthan

And upon stone circle

Beli Mawr, the sun god, birthed anew.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when Romans mined the gold and tin

As she hung when the ground rose 'neath Dewi Sant

And white dove settled on his blessed shoulder.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when the trees were in turmoil

At the death of Llelwellyn the Last

Head severed from his body.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when Edward's army

Stormed across the Marches

And Cymru fell to England.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when Pantycelyn sang

'Guide me O Thou great Redeemer'

 And Rhiannon lay hidden

Under barren coalfields.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when villages emptied

And Welsh hymns rang

Through Colorado coal mines.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when Wilfred Owen

Found the pity war distills

In horror of the trenches.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

As she did when blackout paper

Covered lighted windows

And bombs rained down on Cardiff.

 

The ivy hangs green on the oak

Today, when the seasons falter

Faery folk forgotten

Sellafield plutonium

 Poisoning Irish Sea

 Nuclear warheads ready

For ultimate destruction.

From Rhiannon's dark womb

What rebirth awaits us?


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Reflections on Turning Sixty

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Reflections on Turning Sixty

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Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: 

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,  

Hath had elsewhere its setting,           

And cometh from afar.

 

Sixty years ago, I was born into a Postwar Britain of bombsites, rationing and austerity. Neighbours dropped by to borrow sugar and stayed for a 'cuppa' at the kitchen table. Toys and furniture were scarce, optimism abundant. My parents wanted a child who would bring peace to a war-torn world and tell the next Hitler where to go. Their innocent aspiration invoked a tiny freckle-faced Tara.

 

This intention to benefit all beings,

Which does not arise in others even for their own sake,

Is an extraordinary jewel of the mind,

And its birth an unprecedented wonder.

 

 When I was ten, the Cuban Missile crisis erupted. I didn't expect to see eleven. That October Sunday, we sat around the television, watching Russian ships approach Cuba, waiting for JFK to press the button. Mutual Assured Destruction. Slowly, the ships turned.  I saw a world reborn, a hope renewed.

Morning has broken,

Like the first morning

Blackbird has spoken,

Like the first bird.

 

At seventeen I read On the Beach, post Nuclear Holocaust novel, watched Children of Hiroshima, learnt about ICBMs. It seemed impossible that I would live to be twenty. I would be turned into a shadow, only that. Adult insanity ruled.

 

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

 

Today I celebrate sixty years in a world on the brink. Sixty years of adult insanity. Nuclear weapons, My Lai massacre, Chernobyl, TMI, Fukushima, global warming, Age of Stupid, species extinctions, African famines, gulf oil spill, Twin Towers, Afghanistan, Iraq--war and still more war. Sixty years, waiting to be turned into a shadow. Sixty years, yearning for peace. And still my spirit is strong.

 

Drinking a cup of green tea

I stop the war.

 

 I have seen that all faith traditions are true and good and all religions tainted with misogyny and fear of fleshly lusts. Fear drives adult insanity. Fear turns us into shadows, with or without a nuclear holocaust. I have seen that life can be rich and full, even on the brink. I have seen that joy abides in all, beneath the horror, beneath the pain, beneath the fear, for joy is our true nature.

 

From joy all beings come

By joy they live

And unto joy they all return.

 

 

I have learnt that simplicity, contentment and humble pleasure are revolutionary acts capable of transforming the world. And I have seen that Eros, a much-maligned god, deserves a place of honour in my pantheon.  He gives much more than sexual ecstasy. He imbues my life with all-embracing love and transcendent passion, colouring everyday things with his radiance. Eros will never allow me to be turned into a shadow.

 
To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand  
And Eternity in an hour.
 
 

As a teenager I made friends with Roman pagan poet Horace, translating his poetry and even visiting his house in the Aniene valley. Horace has walked with me ever since, tapping me on the shoulder when I sip a glass of water--how good it tastes!--or wander round the garden--see the flowers, feel the warmth of the sunlight, smell the fragrance, pluck today!

 

Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

Don't trust tomorrow's bough for fruit

Pluck this, here, now!

 

For decades I have studied Vedanta, Hinnayana, Mahayana, Tantrayana, Kabbalah, Hasidut, Sufism, Taoism and the Desert fathers. The essential teachings of all mystic traditions are summed up in a hymn I learnt in St Mary's Infant School.

 

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land.

 

Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth a Heaven,
Like the one above
.

 

In sixty years, I have learnt that this world, with its pains, its wars, its catastrophes, this world on the brink, is the birthplace of compassion, the ground of tenderness. And I have come to know that the greatest treasure we can possess is the human heart, in all its love, in all its sorrow, in all its pathos, for the human heart is where time meets eternity.

 

The clouds that gather round the setting sun

  Do take a sober colouring from an eye 

 That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;

  Another race hath been, and other palms are won. 

 Thanks to the human heart by which we live, 

 Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears, 

 To me the meanest flower that blows can give 

 Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

 

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 Related Posts:

http://www.alandiashram.org/mas_blog/2011/12/remembering-st-marys-infant-sch.html

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