Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Window, Mind, Thought, Air and Love"

Sohrab Sepehri's Raptuous Thoughts on Life

. . . I want nothing more than an apple
and the scent of chamomile.
Nothing more than a mirror and my dear other.
I would never laugh at the child when his balloon bursts.
It doesn't bother me when philosophers split the moon in half.
I remember the fluttering of quail wings,
the color of the crane's long belly, the little goat's footprints.
I know where the rhubarb grows,
when starlings migrate, when partridges sing,
to where falcons fly.
I know what the moon means,
in the dream of the desert,
muttering in its sleep.
I understand the language of ripe berries
bursting in the mouth of the climaxing lovers.

Life, that pleasant chore,
has wings and feathers wide as Death
and launches itself skyward searching for love.
Life should not be unmoving in our mind
like a jar on the habit-shelf,
just another little task on the list of things to do.

Life is like the hand that aches
to pluck June's not yet ripe figs.
Like a sycamore refracted in the fly's myriad eyes.
It is a bat flying in the dark,
the migrating bird's strange directional instinct.
Life is like a train blowing its whistle
in the daydreams of the lonely tunnel-bridge.
Like from the airplane's windows
it is a distant garden seen.
Newspaper coverage of a rocket launching spaceward.
An astronaut finally stepping down onto the lonely moon,
smelling flowers of a distant planet.

Life is like washing a dish.
Like finding silver coins shining in the gutter.

Life is the square root of the mirror.
Flower raised to the power of eternity.
Earth multiplied by our heartbeats.
The simple geometry of breath.

Wherever I am, let me be there.
The sky is mine.
Window, mind, thought, air and love,
this earth, this life are mine.

Sohrab Sepehri
Excerpted from "Water's Footfall"
as published in The Oasis of Now:
Selected Poems of Sohrab Sepehri

(translated from the Persian by Kazim Ali
and Mohammad Jafar Mahallati)
pp. 21-22

Write Kazim Ali and Mohammad Jafar Mahallati in the introduction to The Oasis of Now: Selected Poems of Sohrab Sepehri:

Sohrab Sepehri (1928-1980) was trained as a painter. He traveled frequently around the world, including to East Asia, Europe, and the United States. In 1964 and 1965 he took a long trip through China and Japan, learning about Buddhism while studying woodworkng and painting. On his way back to Iran he stopped in India for several months. Upon his return home he wrote a rapturous poem called "Water's Footfall," a "lyric-epic" that shows marks of the influence of Islam and Sufi philosophy in addition to the Buddhist and Hindu philosophies and beliefs Sepehri was exposed to during his journey.

Sepehri is at home in the natural world, the phenomenological world that exists, and his God is neither bodiless nor remote, but incarnate in every piece of matter and as close as the nearest living thing. This experience of rapture floods the long prose lines of "Water's Footfall," which begins in a poetic autobiography recounting the death of the poet's father, his experience dealing with grief and doubt, and then growing up and leaving home: "I saw a man down at heels / going door to door asking for canary songs, / I saw a street sweeper praying, pressing his forehead on a melon rind."

This conflation of ordinary things, discarded things, with the spiritual and divine seems to suffuse the poem. . . . But here, the regular institutions of knowledge do not suffice. If Sepehri seems Sufi in inclination, it is the Sufism of Rabi'a, a faith of pure devotion that appeals. The institutions of learning and fixity and religious dogma the poet can do without.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Don't Go Back to Sleep
In the Dance of Light, Eyes of Fiery Passion
The Source is Within You
Called to the Field of Compassion
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence
The Impossible Desire of Pier Paolo Pasolini
A Return to the Spirit
Sufism: Way of Love, Tradition of Enlightenment, and Antidote to Fanaticism
Sufism: A Call to Awaken
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
Clarity, Hope, and Courage
"Joined at the Heart": Robert Thompson on Christianity and Sufism

Images: Subject and photographer unknown.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Quote of the Day

[T]here must be space for everyone, especially those who have been hurt, excluded or alienated, be they abuse victims, survivors, divorcees, gays, lesbians, women, disaffected members. The church will be less than what Christ intends it to be when issues of inclusion and equality are not fully addressed.

. . . I am guided [in all of this] by the radical vision of Christ [and am] committed to mak[ing] the church [one] where there is less an experience of exclusion but more an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Beyond Respectful Tolerance to Celebratory Acceptance
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men
Jim Smith on the "Tears of Love and Faith" of LGBTI People and Their Families
LGBT Catholics to Pope Francis: Let Us "Work Together Towards Creating a Church Where All Families Know That We Are Truly Loved and Welcomed"
Celebrating the Presence of God Within All Families
"The Church is Better Because of the Presence of LGBT People"
Quote of the Day – August 19, 2015

Monday, August 22, 2016

Australian Sojourn – May 2016

Part 6: Goulburn

Since June I've been documenting my May 6-June 6 visit to Australia through a special series of Wild Reed posts. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

Tonight's installment focuses on my time in Goulburn, New South Wales, a place that is considered Australia's oldest inland city . . . and the place where I lived and taught as a primary (or elementary) school teacher at Sts. Peter and Paul's Catholic School from 1988-1993.

While in Goulburn I stayed with my dear friends Cathy and Gerry (pictured with me above), their daughter Jacinta (whom I taught when she was in fourth grade in 1989), Jacinta's husband Antipas and their daughter Sophie.

Goulburn was and remains a very special place for me. In many ways I feel I came of age there. I'm also always humbled and touched by the warm welcome I receive from my many friends and former teaching colleagues and students every time I return – even after all these years since I lived there, and even when it's been (as in last year's visit) close to a decade since my last visit. I have discerned that if (or rather when) I return to live in Australia, it will most likely be in Goulburn, or somewhere close by, that I will make my home – in large part because it still feels like home, thanks to the many beautiful people there whom I'm honored to count as friends.

Left: With Gerry, Jacinta and Sophia – May 18, 2016.

Gerry had been a teacher with me at Sts. Peter and Paul, and his wife Cathy and I had studied together part-time at the Australian Catholic University in nearby Canberra in 1991-1992.

Above: Antipas and Sophia – May 19, 2016.

I taught two of Gerry and Cathy's three children, Jacinta and Bernard. Jacinta and her family are currently living in Goulburn after spending many years in Africa where Jacinta and her husband Antipas founded Suluhisho Trust, a non-profit organization that facilitates sustainable social and economic change within communities in Kenya.

Right: Gerry with his youngest son Joseph, a gifted musician, and granddaughter Sophia – May 18, 2016.

Above: My first home after graduating from college was the last little flat at the end of this row of flats in Church Street, Goulburn. I lived here for the first four years of my six years in Goulburn. My last two years were lived in a beautiful colonial-era stone cottage in Clifford Street (a picture of which can be viewed here).

Above: Goulburn's Big Merino!

For a century-and-a-half, Goulburn was one of the largest fine wool producing regions in Australia, so much so that it was dubbed the “Wool Capital.” The Big Merino, a popular tourist landmark, reflects this aspect of Goulburn’s history.

Fifteen metres high and eighteen metres long, the Big Merino is a three storey structure housing a gift and souvenir shop, an educational display depicting the history of wool growing and the wool industry in Australia, and a platform where visitors can peer through the giant ram's eyes!

Above and below: Scenes of Goulburn – May 16, 2016.

Above and below: Autumn in Goulburn is a particularly beautiful time of year.

Above and below: The Goulburn Wetlands project, which is working to convert an abandoned brick pit into public parkland and a natural storm-water treatment system by the restoring of the local wetland ecosystem. It's an inspiring project, to be sure.

On Wednesday, May 18 my friend Gerry and I drove to the nearby town of Crookwell, about 40 kilometres northwest of Goulburn. Here we visited the Lindner Sock Factory, where we caught up with a former student, Andy.

I was Andy's 5th grade teacher in 1992. The next year he asked me to be his Confirmation sponsor. I hadn't seen him in over 20 years until our May 18 visit to his family's sock-making factory and shop in Crookwell. It was great to catch up with him and his mum. . . . And, of course, I bought a couple of pairs of socks!

Above: With Andy – May 18, 2016.

Above: Later that evening I gathered with a number of my former teaching colleagues and friends for a lovely night out at a Goulburn restaurant.

Right: With Kathyand Marion.

Above (from left): Marion, me, Steve, Carmel, Gerry, and Michele.

Left: With Michele and Marion.

Above: Gerry, Jane, Marg, and Marion.

Above: Joe with his kindergarten, first, second, third and fourth grade teachers! And as his mum Cathy says, "they all lived to tell the tale!"

Above: Sts. Peter and Paul's Primary School, where I taught from 1988 to 1992.

The place has changed a lot since my time there. In fact, neither of the two classrooms I taught in exist anymore. And the garden I and some of the students worked on at lunch times and after school to cultivate and maintain has sadly long been paved over.

For images of my teaching days at Sts. Peter and Paul's, click here and here.

Above: On the day I visited St. Peter and Paul's my friend Jane's birthday was being celebrated. Apart from Jane, the only other person still on the teaching staff since my time there is my friend Toni Gaye, seated second from right.

Above: Goulburn sunflower.

NEXT: Exeter

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remnants of a Past Life (Part I)
Remnants of a Past Life (Part II)
The Australian Roots of My Progressive Catholicism
Goulburn Revisited (2006)
Goulburn Landmarks (2006)
Goulburn Reunion (2006)
Australian Sojourn, March 2015: Part 9 – Goulburn

Images: Michael J. Bayly.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Quote of the Day

The problem is with the pipeline: school to prison pipeline, oil and gas pipeline, and even, often, the leadership and philanthropy pipelines. ALL pipelines only work when both ends are consensual and the space between is short enough to stay in real relationship with everyone involved. Otherwise pipelines are streamlined ways of moving something without consent or full understanding, covertly, without the slow necessary and emergent steps of relationship and where power stays in the hands of those who created the pipeline, not with all of those who are impacted and involved. Those characteristics are one way of describing violence.

Susan Raffo
via Facebook
August 19, 2016

Related Off-site Links:
Dakota Pipeline Construction Halted Amid Ongoing "Defiance of Black Snake" – Deirdre Fulton (Common Dreams, August 19, 2016).
"We Are Protectors, Not Protesters": Why I'm Fighting the North Dakota Pipeline – Iyuskin American Horse (The Guardian, August 18, 2016).
 A Massive Oil Pipeline Is Being Built Across the Great Plains . . .  But Resistance is Rapidly Escalating – Zoë Carpenter (The Nation, August 16, 2016).
1,500 Join Standing Rock Oil Pipeline Protest – Amy Sisk (Prairie Public News, August 17, 2016).
Oglala Sioux Tribal Members Join Pipeline Protest – Associated Press via (August 15, 2016).
Pipeline Resistance Encampment Swells; Prepares for More ActionUnicorn Riot (August 14, 2016).
North Dakota’s Standing Rock Sioux Aren’t Backing Down to Oil Pipeline Developers – Sarah Aziza (Waging Nonviolence, August 12, 2016).
Dakota Access Pipeline: Three Federal Agencies Side With Standing Rock Sioux, Demand ReviewIndian Country (April 27, 2016).
What is the Bakken Pipeline? (2016).
Four Stories of Indigenous Peoples’ Struggle for Climate Justice – Martin Vainstein (Greenpeace, August 8, 2016).
The Final Indian War in America About to Begin – Tom Giago (The Huffington Post, January 16, 2015).

UPDATES: Judge Denies Stay of Bakken Pipeline Construction; Landowners Seek IUB Emergency Halt – Rod Boshart (The Gazette, August 22, 2016).
Officials Pull Water Supply as Dakota Access Protest Swells in Number and Spirit – Lauren McCauley (Common Dreams, August 23, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Something to Think About – October 13, 2015
Words of Wisdom on Indigenous Peoples Day
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That "Human-Being Magic"
A Spirit of Defiance
Visions of Crazy Horse
Something to Think About – April 22, 2014
Threshold Musings
Quote of the Day – September 11, 2012

Image: "The Last Breath of the Black Snake" by Michael Horse. This image was requested by Winona LaDuke of Honor the Earth for the Cowboys & Indians Alliance's demonstration at the White House on April 22, 2014. It depicts cowboys and Native Americans fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline at the White House.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Australian Sojourn – May 2016

Part 5: Albury

I continue this evening my special Wild Reed series documenting my recent visit home to Australia. (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

Tonight's installment features photos and commentary from my time in Albury. My good friend Kate lives just outside of this rural New South Wales city.

Albury is separated from Wodonga, its twin city in the neighboring state of Victoria, by the Murray River, which is Australia's longest river. Together the two cities form an urban area with an estimated population of 90,000.

I traveled to Albury from Melbourne on Saturday, May 14, a journey of three hours or so. Kate and her partner Shane met me at Albury Railway Station, where the photos above and at left were taken. The platform at this station is one on the longest in the southern hemisphere.

About the Aboriginal history of the area, one online resource (a community health resource) notes the following.

The original inhabitants and traditional owners of the Murray River area near Albury and Wodonga are the Wiradjuri, Wavereoo and Dhudhuroa people. Albury was a resettlement area in the 1970's and many Aboriginal people moved to the area at this time, particularly from western New South Wales.

We are quite a transient population with many new faces around at the moment. There are currently around 2,500-3,000 Aboriginal people in our community living on both sides of the Murray River.

Aboriginality is in the heart. In our community there are as many fair skinned Aboriginal people as there are dark skinned people. In some respects, we are quite invisible as a community. The Murray river is considered the giver of life, not a divider of communities, but it can be challenging to collect accurate data about health needs and service usage as the organisations used by community members are located in both NSW and Victoria.

I first met Kate in 1984 in Armidale, where we both were attending our first year of college. The photo above was taken in 1985 when I traveled with Kate and a number of other college friends to the New South Wales/Victoria border area for a friend's 21st birthday party. Pictured from left: me, Nikki, Mickey (partly obscured), Dom, Kate, and Kathy.

Above: Kate and I on beach near Coffs Harbour with our mutual friends Kathy and Melinda – October 1986. Kate's boyfriend at the time, Brett, took this photo.

Above: With Kate in January 2001. This photo was taken in Goulburn during one of my visits home to Australia after my move to the U.S. in 1994.

Up until my Australian sojourn in May of this year, the last time I saw Kate was in early 2003, when she visited me in Port Macquarie where I was staying with my parents – again, during one of my visits back to Australia from the States. That was 13 years ago! It was high time we saw each other again. Hence my (albeit brief) visit to Albury.

Above: When I visited Kate and Shane in May they were care-taking a farm cottage on the outskirts of Albury.

Above: Kate and Shane.

Right: Shane with his Brazilian parakeet.

Shortly after my arrival in Albury on May 14, Kate and Shane were called to go check on one of Kate's horses that was on agistment on a farm in the nearby hill country. Having already traveled for over three hours, I opted to stay at their place while they went and did this.

It was a beautiful autumn evening, and I spent much of it simply being outside in the coolness of the fading light. I guess I just wanted to soak up all the unique beauty of the Australian landscape at dusk. I took some photos (above, left and below) but they don't do justice to the beauty I witnessed.

Once darkness fell, I went inside the cottage and read by the fire one of the books I'd brought with me on my sojourn: Posthumous Keats by Stanley Plumly.

Shortly after Kate and Shane's return at around 11:00 p.m., we experienced a black-out – a common occurrence at the cottage, I was told. Power was restored a few hours later. Kate and I talked long into the night, catching up on the events of the many years since we'd seen each other.

Above and below: Sunday morning, inside and outside the cottage.

Above, right and below: Paying a visit to two of Kate's horses, not far from her family home at Table Top.

Above and left: Visiting Kate's mum, Alice – Sunday, May 15, 2016.

The portrait in the background of the photo above is of Alice as a child. It was painted by the revered Australian artist Russell Drysdale (1912-1981).

Drysdale won the prestigious Wynne Prize for his work Sofala in 1947 and represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1954. He was influenced by abstract and surrealist art, and, according to the Oxford Companion to Art, "created a new vision of the Australian scene as revolutionary and influential as that of Tom Roberts."

NEXT: Goulburn

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 1 – Maroubra
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 2 – Morpeth
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 3 – Melbourne
Australian Sojourn, May 2016: Part 4 – Hanging Rock

Photography: Michael J. Bayly.
Aboriginal artwork: Artist unknown.