Temet Nosce (Know Thyself)

This page exists as what used to be known as a "Commonplace Book" for the purpose of maintaining a log of the poetry and philosophy that inspires and propels much of my own thought and writing, and to share, with fellow sojourners, a collection of the beauty and wisdom of kindred souls throughout time. My hope is that we will collectively work towards the goal of a deep and sustaining self-knowledge that will, then, inspire and guide us to pursue beauty, peace and justice in our world.

“He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Burning The Old Year

Letters swallow themselves in seconds. 
Notes friends tied to the doorknob, 
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable, 
lists of vegetables, partial poems. 
Orange swirling flame of days, 
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from, Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Monday, December 23, 2013

"In The Storm" by Mary Oliver

Belief isn't always easy. But this much I have learned — if not enough else— to live with my eyes open. I know what everyone wants is a miracle. This wasn't a miracle. Unless, of course, kindness— as now and again some rare person has suggested— is a miracle. As surely it is. ~ Mary Oliver from the poem, "In The Storm"
"It is impossible ever to estimate rightly the essential significance of the Quaker movement without a clear appraisal of the importance of this call to stark sincerity. And this call to sincerity lies at the root of the Quaker attempt to live the simple life. There is no fixed standard of simplicity. What is very simple for one person often seems very complex and extravagant for another person. There is no known calculus of simplicity. Simplicity at its best and truest is this utter honesty of heart and life,this complete sincerity of soul before God and in relation with our fellow men so that we truly struggle to be what we tell God we want to be and what we profess in our social relations to be. A Quaker must get out and keep out of the ruts of duplicity and sham. That is a basic Quaker way of life which gets back to its original spirit."

~ Rufus Jones

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What The Plants Say by Tom Hennen

Tree, give up your secret. How can you be so satisfied? Why
don’t you need to change location, look for a better job, find
prettier scenery, or even want to get away from people?

Grass, you don’t care where you turn up. You appear running
wild in the oat field, out of a crack in a city street. You are
the first word in the vocabulary of the earth. How is it that you
are able to grow so near the lake without falling in? How can
you be so alert for the early frost, bend in the slightest breeze,
and yet be so hard to break that you are still there, quiet, green,
among the ruins of others?

Weed, it is you with your bad reputation that I love the most.
Teach me not to care what anyone has to say about me. Help me
to be in the world for no purpose at all except for the joy of
sunlight and rain. Keep me close to the edge where every wild
thing begins.

~ Tom Hennen, "What The Plants Say"

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Postscript" by Seamus Heaney

"And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open."

~ Seamus Heaney, "Postscript"

"Knowing Nothing" by Tom Hennen

The hole in the landscape is real.
I can walk through it and back again.
Every time I do
My clothes look baggier.
My hair sticks out.
My boots become untied.
My coat unbuttoned.
My education gone.
I don't care anymore how the world thinks.

I only know that the snow
Has reached my knees.

~ Tom Hennen, "Knowing Nothing" from, Darkness Sticks to Everything: Collected and New Poems

Friday, December 6, 2013

I Looked Up

I looked up and there it was
among the green branches of the pitch pines—

thick bird,
a ruffle of fire trailing over the shoulders and down the back—

color of copper, iron, bronze—
lighting up the dark branches of the pine.

What misery to be afraid of death.
What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.

When I made a little sound
it looked at me, then it looked past me.

Then it rose, the wings enormous and opulent,
and, as I said, wreathed in fire.

~ Mary Oliver, "I Looked Up"  from Owls and Other Fantasies.