Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

“as common as grass” ~

“…in spite of the contemporary public perception of meditation and poetry

as special, exotic, and difficult, they are both as old and as common as grass.”

Gary Snyder

Yesterday my students asked me to read what I had written during our morning quickwrite. (Each day we begin class with, literally, a quick write — each of us signs up for a day or two when we bring in a prompt, write in response, and then share.) He added — “I hope it isn’t like when you wrote about blue.”


I had to laugh –so many times my quickwrite is a poem, or at least a start. This is like this which is like this, which sounds like a bell when it calls out, in a language I can’t quite remember…

See what I mean? I can’t help it — it’s how I think: a kind of literal  melding of image and sound and thought that comes out as poetry. The poet Basho says that “all poetry and art are offerings to the Buddha.” Which makes me inordinately happy, since poetry appears to be my default gear.

But seriously? Poetry and art — offerings to what we aspire to be. Apt in this week of Rohatsu, or Bodhi Day, celebrating the Buddha’s enlightenment. Because that’s what happens inside me when I read great poetry, or view amazing art. Walk through tall grasses in the fall, or happen unexpectedly upon the pas de deux of light & shadow…And I’m connected to everything, caught in the web of the moment, suspended above my fractious frantic life ~


Thorncrown Chapel by E. Fay Jones

Beauty — artistically contrived or naturally occurring — is a kind of sacred space. It links us to what is best in the human spirit — our love of beauty, our aspiration to grow and deepen in connection to each other, to the earth. To our time here. So that poetry — that incredibly necessary song of sound & content — is almost hymnal. Auden sometimes brings me to my knees in awe — how does he do that? And there are quiet moments when Mary Oliver or Pattiann Rogers sneak up on me, and I can feel myself growing, brightening and lightening.


Here’s advice from this beginner’s heart: feed your inner artist today. Go to a museum, a park, a botanical garden. Read a poet — from Shakespeare to Neruda to Brian Turner.  Listen to Bach’s Cello Suites, YouTube Preview Image or Other Lives Dustbowl III. It’s a kind of meditation, a stopping of our whirlwind thoughts and a suspension in the moment. And it’s fun. What more could you ask?

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