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

Monday, April 21, 2014

The New Song by W.S. Merwin

For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then
there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song.
~ W.S. Merwin, "The New Song" from The Moon Before Morning.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

~ William Carlos Williams

"Demeter" by Genevieve Taggard

In your dream you met Demeter
Splendid and severe, who said: Endure.
Study the art of seeds,
The nativity of caves.
Dance your body to the poise of waves;
Die out of the world to bring forth the obscure
Into blisses, into needs.
In all resources
Belong to love. Bless,
Join, fashion the deep forces,
Asserting your nature, priceless and feminine.
Peace, daughter. Find your true kin.
--then you felt her kiss.

~ Genevieve Taggard, "Demeter" from "Claiming the Spirit Within: A Sourcebook of Women's Poetry
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” 

~ Thomas Merton

"What I Have Learned So Far" by Mary Oliver

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of -- indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

~ Mary Oliver, "What I Have Learned So Far"
A noiseless, patient spider, 
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated; 
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding, 
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself; 
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them. 

And you, O my Soul, where you stand, 
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space, 
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

~ Walt Whitman "A Noiseless Patient Spider"

"Be A Person Here" by William Stafford

Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own call.
After that sound goes away, wait. 
A slow bubble rises through the earth
and beings to include sky, stars, all space
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again. 
Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone's dream, and the result is the world.
...How you stand here is important.
How you listen for the next things to happen.
How you breathe.

~ William Stafford, "Being A person"

Monday, April 14, 2014

"The Painter" by Robert Arthur Lewis (for my husband, Benjamin)

I put color on walls, then leave and let light tell its own story. Strange how our vague ambitions lead to such particular situations, like these white overalls with the brass clips, this collection of brushes and buckets. It was never my intention to join the order of caps and rags, but here I am.
One summer evening I knelt in a shed cleaning brushes. Light streamed through the splintered boards and I was there to see how it landed, how it made the shovel and the rake and the dirt floor all count. I stopped and listened. Wind swept dry grass against the dryer siding. The sound was as close as my own breath and my kneeling went deeper into thankfulness
for this strange and lonely craft which makes me love so many things.
~ Robert Arthur Lewis "The Painter"