a man wanders into the forest...

Today was "stay away from church thoughts" day in spades. Having four days each week to be something other than spiritual leader not only mellows my heart, but helps me appreciate when I am connected in community. Last night I let myself read late into the night. It was 2 am before my lights were out. Then I slept late this morning and spent hours weeding my way through my home library of jazz, theology, spirituality and culture texts, and poetry. In the end, I whittled my collection down by about 200 books. That's a good start with more to come. Two years ago, I gave up another 300 volumes from these shelves and another 700 works of fiction from the basement went to the library book sale last month, too.

There are books I will never give up: D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf, Leonard Cohen, Mystery Train by Greil Marcus, Rumi, Souls on Fire by Elie Wiesel. I spent time actually cherishing one anthology, The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, edited by Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade. It was the first volume of poetry I purchased as an adult. It spoke to me with a hint of hope after divorce, failure, loneliness, and a serious encounter with humility. I was smitten with Rilke and actually wept in the bookstore on a cold, rain-soaked night in Cleveland.


Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.


And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.

I have been both men and Rilke gave shape and form to my deepest truth. This will always be my awakening poem. But Michael Blumenthal's "A Man Lost by a River" continues to inspire me as well.

There is a voice inside the body.


There is a voice and a music,
a throbbing, four-chambered pear
that wants to be heard, that sits
alone by the river with its mandolin
and its torn coat, and sings
for whomever will listen
a song that no one wants to hear.

But sometimes, lost,
on his way to somewhere significant,
a man in a long coat, carrying
a briefcase, wanders into the forest.

He hears the voice and the mandolin,
he sees the thrust and the dandelion,
and he feels the mist rise over the river.

And his life is never the same,
for this having been lost -
for having strayed from the path of his routine,
for no good reason.

So now it is time to make fattoush - Lebanese cucumber/pita salad - and sip a rich, red Cote du Rhone wine as I savor the close of a glorious day.

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