Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Underneath the smile of flawless teeth, a playfulness
Sitting, Pucklike, on your brow—you thawed the
Ice that wickedly set my mouth in a Scandinavian line,
Cured my genetic dourness, taught me again to laugh.
How difficult not to be seduced, my full-grown playmate,
Ensorceled by that childlike freedom into wishing you
And I might not have to grow up! I thank you nonetheless for
Risible moments, for teaching me once more to hope, weep,
Dream, dare, let myself be me—to try for something with all my
Soul and body. What a rush! Yet insinuating itself into
Our games there was not only that better, nobler
Dream for each and both, that challenge to
Exert ourselves for something truly worthwhile, to
Earn a happiness we had not dared desire—but also the sickly
Pall of grief, of loss, of not quite reaching our heart’s goal;
Losing something precious, costly, dear; the sober wrench that
Yanks us back into harsh daylight, hard reality, solid ground.
This solid ground is firm, yes, and rock-strewn,
Hazardous, harsh, and hard on naked feet, unguarded souls.
At the core of many salt-water moments, the source of
Tears upwelling in my chest, shaking this solid body—as
If it were a small thing, dry thing, fragile autumn leaf
Tossed back and forth in playful breezes or hurled
In some divine anger (not Juno’s wrath again!) to earth—
Small at first but growing, is this grief, this sorrow:
Not at losing you, though that is ache enough to send me
Over the edge, and does, but my heart’s lament
That you, dear man, sweet man, fine man, good man with a
Heart made for love and hands for kindly deeds, should
Ever fail to see how much you have to give this world
And cannot feel—deep, deep within yourself—how
Rich your gifts and your complexity: your gentleness
Dancing fiercely with manly strength, your
Artist’s yearning after truth and beauty woven
Together with your first-hand knowledge of life’s pain;
All your openness to friendship, family, orphaned animals, a
Love of sky and water, tree and leaf, a joy deep-rooted in
Living—all of this pouring out like sand in an hourglass,
But not from one hour’s chamber to the next—no! Spilt
Upon the ground, pouring from some crack in the glass, some
Torn part of your heart, some little crack through which
Your hope, your love of self, your pain, your fear all rush
Out, soaked in seeming seconds into the earth, instantly,
Utterly gone, lost, unrecognized. You and I, my fellow fool,
Are alike in this, watching precious hours vanish with little
Real and lasting stuff to show for them. We are such slaves,
Each in his own way, to our fears and hurts, old wounds.
Terry, what would happen if we could resolve to
Hold our hearts open, our ears alert, our eyes ever seeking—
Each moment that we have—to Life, not fear? What
Might then come about? What healing waters lie
Under the deceptive surface of our turbulent, wasted days?
Surely the power that set this amazing universe
Into being, into action, into a dance of variety,
Complexity, and some strange balance of compassion and beauty
Will reveal at least a hint of our potential, and with
Heart-breaking (for we need our hearts broken open again)
Invitation call us back to life worth living!
Let Shawn’s passing before us, my brother-in-law’s daily wasting
(Eaten by disease), the news of every terror on this earth
Teach us not that all is vain but that each new hurt and
Horror calls us to learn from pain, from failure, from futility;
Each moment reveals itself as fresh opportunity to be the
Men that we were created to become. Even our wildest
Urges give flesh and voice to that creative fire, that
Spirit that gives life and binds all things together.
I weep, yes, to think your dreams are circumscribed,
Contained by something way too small, inadequate.
Lad, it is not too late to take our next small step
And say Yes to God, to Life, to Joy, to deepest Reality, to
Sit still that we may listen to our heart’s deepest yearning,
To want more, and more, and even more for ourselves, for
Such (believe it or not) is Heaven’s will. Dream deeply, dare bravely. Be!
July 20, 2002
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.
—From “The Dry Salvages” from Four Quartets by T. S. Eliot
who played by the rules
earned the smug toleration
of the unimaginative—
not affection, respect, or love
(perhaps a quiet admiration
for his ability
to tolerate crap)
It’s not enough,
he concluded tardily,
and decided to take his soul back,
to color outside the lines
and follow his imagination,
to take risks and live
with the consequent failures
as well exhilarating successes,
to let fly the snarky comment
and show disapproval
as well as bestow
the wonted compliments
He’s gone back to dancing
in streets and hallways,
singing out loud,
drawing on sidewalks with chalk,
laughing too loudly,
playing with children and elders—
and even the occasional midlifer
who has begun to wake up
and wants to play too
17 October 2003
Paul E Strid
Monday, February 28, 2005
into a Friday office—
ripple above building cranes,
docked ships in the haze
Racing mists, ghost shreds,
dance by night, by day among
San Francisco joys
Laughter is better
in most everyday things
than hot, bitter tears.
I am reminded
daily and repeatedly—
Today was the day
my heart was eager to work
September 26, 2003
Peter Brokenleg, a Lakota singer and teacher, postulates that the purpose of all ritual is to create, restore, and maintain relationships. Relationship is thus central to all Lakota ritual, and most Lakota prayers end with the words “Mitakuye Oyasin,” variously translated as “we are all relatives” or “for all my relatives.” This represents more than human relations and includes all creation: the four-leggeds, the wingeds, the swimming, the creeping, the plant and tree nations, the sun and moon and star nations, mother earth, our ancestors and our descendants, all spirits and powers, and ultimately that Great Mystery we call Grandfather, the Creator. This intimate connection with all creation—which itself is seen as a living reality, “thou” and not “it”—is understood in the recognition of the circle and the directions.
After “sending a voice” to Tunkashila, Grandfather, the Creator, the directions are addressed. Elaine Jabner notes that “[i]n all Sioux ritual, the four directions are greeted with the usual order for the greeting being the same as the myth's order for the establishment of directions.” West is thus the first direction and they are then saluted “sunwise” (or “clockwise”): West, North, East, and South. Black Elk continued his prayer thus:
You toward where the sun goes down [West], behold me; Thunder Beings, behold me! You where the White Giant lives in power [North], behold me! You where the sun shines continually [East], whence come the day-break star and the day, behold me! You where the summer lives [South], behold me!
He then continues turning toward the zenith and nadir as follows:
You in the depths of the heavens [Above], an eagle of power, behold! And you, Mother Earth [Below], the only Mother, you who have shown mercy to your children! Hear me, four quarters of the world—a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is! Give me the eyes to see and the strength to understand, that I may be like you. With your power only can I face the winds.
This salutation of the six directions—the four cardinal directions plus up and down—characterizes and begins Lakota ritual. Participants are thus located, grounded, established, before they proceed. Such relatedness carries with it blessing, obligation, and great power. It also places each person at the crossing of the two roads, the center of the circle, for in Lakota thought this represents “here and now.” Each person is always at this crossroads, facing all its choices. As Black Elk noted, “anywhere is the center of the world.”
 Class notes from “Native American Ritual,” GTU summer school course taught at PSR.
 The story is well summarized in Elaine Jabner, "The Spiritual Landscape," I Become Part of It: Sacred Dimensions in Native American Life, ed. D. M. Dooling and Paul Jordan-Smith, (New York, NY: Parabola Books, 04/12/03, 1989)197-199. A fuller telling of the establishment of the directions may be found in D. M. Dooling, ed., The Sons of the Wind: The Sacred Stories of the Lakota (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000).
 John G Neihardt. Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1988) 5.
 Neihardt, op. cit., 6.
 Brokenleg, class notes.
 Neihardt, loc. cit.