Jill Bolte Taylor's Stroke of Insight

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Love in the Time of Extinction



These days the world is on fire
everything of majesty sliding
into the sea--
the top of the planet
like a child's melting ice-cream cone
dropped to the ground.
They say we have reached critical die-off
and from this point on
there is no going back.
For instance, a partial list:
there will never be another Zanzibar Leopard
--we can thank agriculture for that--
and the wings of the Dutch Alcon Blue Butterfly
have ceased their soft, delicate dusting
in the spent grasses of the Netherlands.
If you've always wanted to follow the trail
of the Vine Raiatea Tree Snail, well then
you are out of luck; it has vanished
along with the Aldabra Banded Snail.
If you are not alarmed by this, it is safe to say
you are not a hedgehog, or a toad. But listen:
can you hear the soft and heavy tread
of the Western Black Rhinoceros? No?
You never will again. Nor the Javan Tiger's
slinking shadow falling on a jungle path
or the call of the Dusky Seaside Sparrow--
what song would she have sung today?
There is no way to know
and here we must note the particular effect
of losing not only a species
but the song of the species:
mating calls and mothering-calls
fighting songs and cries of joy
entire musical compositions intended
to communicate the depths and heights
of the experience of being a bird
or a leopard or a rhinoceros
or a snail (do snails sing?) or a hedgehog
or a human being.

And before we go extinct, as we certainly will
I must take one composition off the endangered list
because when you call me later across
all the thousands of miles of scorched and suffering
earth between us
I want to sing you a new song:
the wild, unfettered anthem my heart composes
every time you speak my name.



KB 8/2015



Monday, August 24, 2015

Reminders for the Romantic

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
--Rumi

Be careful
she says
and for once I listen:
be careful
don't follow your heart
that sweet broken-winged thing
flapping circles in the dust;
it wants what it wants
she says, but you know better

Remember who you are
fearless and full
of spacious goodness
the universe contained within
galaxies dancing beneath your skin
how large, how lovely
how savage and spacious
this borderless country
in which you live!

Be alive, then
open your eyes, then
there is room here for you
and for your loved ones too
Leave them be, let them come
falling toward you easily as water
flying upward swift as hawks
This is joy, she says
you are made for letting go
for trying your wings
for leaving and returning

This is life
drink deeply my dear
live fiercely while you're here
and when love comes you'll know it
and it will know you.
So go, explore your country
love who you love
fill your mouth with music
swim in it, revel in it
You can never ask for too much.

And I listened, for once.
I said thank you
I said Yes, I will
and I went to the banks
of the river of love
filled my lungs with gratitude
and leapt in.

Adam explains love.

KB 8/2015












Sunday, August 16, 2015

Be Here Now

Be here now.

I stand in the dark by the sluggish creek, listening to the bullfrogs and the cicadas singing their rusty songs. Slip out of my shoes and root my toes into the dry Texas soil. This isn't where I want to be. I miss my mountains, my wide sky, my clean cold air, my nights lit with improbable light. But I am here now. I close my eyes in the 90-degree heat, breathe in the smell of hot scrub and the live-oak tree arching overhead. It's the same tree I climbed a few months back when the creek was in flood, to rescue my neighbor's cat. She moved out, that neighbor, while I was gone; I didn't get to say goodbye.

Now be here.

People move on. The trees, and the creek in its limestone bed, the fossils and the frogs and the snakes that hunt them--they stay, more or less. The lizard that lived beneath my doorstep seems to have disappeared, but it will be replaced. Everything and everyone on this wide planet is replaceable, including me. I try to forget that fact, sometimes, but it always resurfaces. Easier to forget when I'm on the move, and that is why I try not to stay. But there is strength in staying. I open my eyes and there is the live-oak, its twisted root gripping dry ground as it has for untold years, and a dry leaf falls to my shoulder. I let it stay.

Here now be.

Tomorrow I will hang my art on public walls for the first time. It is a way of staying, of giving my heart away, that somehow feels more naked than any writing I've ever done. I might as well stand on a street corner and lift my dress over my head, or join a high-wire circus act and tiptoe nude above the audience. What will people say? What will people think? Will they laugh? What if they find me ridiculous? What a strange thing is vulnerability, this animal sense that warns of danger when there is none. And maybe after all we are just animals, trying for shelter, hungry for love and warmth and the comfort of bodies pressed close; the reassurance that Yes, sweetheart, you can stay here. Here is home. Here is your sky, your mountains, your air. Turn around and come back inside; rest your bare feet awhile. Be here now.











Monday, July 20, 2015

Confession

I killed a lot of fish today
Waist-deep in the river
Leaning into the current, reeling
Them in and netting them
From the glacial water. Then grasping
Their slick silver bodies in my hands, feeling
Each flash and flip, electric almost
In their will to live.
Watching them rise to the surface
At the end of my line
That sweet silver tail-dance that brings
The fish to me
Or me to the fish
It's hard to say, my heart
Swooping like an eagle to the catch.
But when finally the fish
Is in my hands and it's time
To make the kill
There is a pause.
A prayer.
Just a moment--thank you.
And, I'm sorry.
But not sorry enough to let you go.


KB ©7/2015




Saturday, July 4, 2015

Let Your Lover Go

Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.
--Rainer Maria Rilke

Let your lover go
For everything you think you know
There are a thousand things more
You haven't yet imagined
He is the secret roots of trees
And the dark earth in which they grow
He is the light of the sun
Playing through the leaves--
Let your lover go.

Let your lover breathe
Wide as the sky she is, and free
As the storms that fly across it
She falls to earth like rain and rises
Again with the heat of the sun
For everything you think you've seen
She still comes to you in mystical ways
And blankets your nights with stars--
Let your lover breathe.

Sing your lover home
If you are willing to learn the song
That conjures their heart to your side
Build a sanctuary, that they might kneel
With open walls and a roof of clouds
On the side of a mountain next to the sea
Place your heart there and let its tricky beat
Be the rhythm they feel in their bones--
Sing your lover home.



KB ©7/2015


Monday, June 29, 2015

About Love

Don't grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.   --Rumi


In my dream, you are standing by the fence
with an armload of sunflowers
and above them, your sweet boyish face
that makes my heart stumble. We stay outside
and talk for hours, and you are not dead
and it does not seem strange.

I might be clinically insane
every now and then, and perhaps
irretrievably narcissistic
but I know more about love than most people.
I know that love is the one who'll drive
all night in a driving rain
just to hold your hand. You knew this, too
and when I flew for miles to see you
in the hospital though there was nothing
much to say, we sat together
and didn't say much
and it was enough.

You taught me nearly everything
I know about love, and I learned the rest
from hard experience: what a person says
means something
but what he does means everything.
Also, that thing about sticks and stones
is bullshit: words can bite and burn
down to the bone, quick as anything.

You don't have to be altruistic
to feel grief; sanity is not required
in order to love someone
so deeply that when they are gone
they take with them a whole band in the spectrum
of your color wheel. Suddenly, blue
no longer exists
and your sky will never look the same:
clouds drifting across pale grey.

Love is a strange
and haunted animal. It will stay
long after all the other guests
have left the party.
It curls itself around me now
familiar as an old friend, as I wake
to a world where you are not.
I watch as dawn comes
and the stars press themselves into her arms
and fall asleep, one by one.
This is how I know
you and I and everything
are always alright.



KB ©6/2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Dead Man's Blanket

"There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground; there are a thousand ways to go home again."  --Rumi 

I don't know who he was
but he's dead now
and I have his blanket.
I am wrapping myself in it tonight
seeking sleep on the desert floor
but it has failed to keep me warm, so instead
I am watching the wheel of the galaxy
turning endlessly overhead. I am glad
to be an insomniac spectator, front and center
at the greatest show this end of the cosmos
with bats and frogs for company
and the wind and waves to orchestrate.

I stopped today at a roadside church
and lit a candle for my soul at Mary's altar
nevermind I haven't worn the tattered shroud
of religion since before this dead man
wore his blanket.
It doesn't matter to Mary;
whatever I've done
it doesn't have to be repeated
whatever sin I've committed
I don't have to atone for it now.
When I drove on I left that candle burning
and I know she watched over it
open-eyed, hands outstretched and clement.
It is more than I have ever given myself:
this simple mercy.

Now I lay me down to stay awake
cold and sure of nothing
except the planet is still spinning
and I am still here to bear witness.
I wait for the stars to show their faces
and then I speak to them, one by one
first the planets and then
the constellations: scorpio
and the bear and orion
telling them I am still here, alive if not well
and it almost seems that they listen
pausing for a bare second
to bend their stately forms, kindly, nodding.

Startling to be noticed in this way;
I am just a bit of dust wrapped up
in a shit-for-nothing blanket
that once belonged to someone
who now lies below the earth
while I lie on top of it, shivering
staring up
unblinking
like god's own maniac.
But, after all, I am a living maniac
grateful for the dirt and the cold
the finite breath in my lungs
the flawed beat of my little heart.

Someday, somebody will wrap themselves
in an old thing of mine: a silk scarf
a bit of faded denim
the bright weave of a poem.
But it will not be today
because today I am alive
and there are uncharted miles ahead of me;
see, the sun is already at my back
warm, bold, impatient
pressing me on down a desert road.


KB ©6/2015