So much happiness by Naomi Shihab Nye

This morning, I gathered flowers from the garden; weeds really, but they have the prettiest flowers. Purple with yellow inked at the centre, white with pale green hearts, little pink blossoms that have brought the smell of summer into my room.

I had a little note to you all written out. I threw it away not because it was pre-meditated but because I found it hard, for the very first time, to be at ease with the self who wrote it after it had been written. I take care with words and with every thought expressed, I had also let spontaneity to win over caution. But when I was done and I read it to myself, there was nothing to do but to discard it.

Little things about you have come to arrange themselves in my room. They’re invisible yet keep changing places because I don’t like any of these things in any particular order. And when I look at them or hold them in my mind, their shapes and weights alter. I have this notion that this is where the music lives and grows.

This is true of the things I want to give you, too. T. brings me the forest with him. When every part of my back and heart ached, I held his hand and just breathed. The pain is strange and unfamiliar and when I get used to it, I cannot speak to it at all. Then, I leave. I walk somewhere and I live again in passage and I learn to trust myself again and I am a little less afraid of loss.

You have your own gifts of passage, why would you possibly need mine?

This has crossed my mind and the answer is they are not really mine and because I’m happy now and happiness floats.

So much happiness
Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records . . .

Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.



A Note by Wislawa Szymborska

L., I am not scared about what will happen or won’t happen. Not now. As for prudence, I have given that up. Perhaps because it is characteristic for me to be reasonably grounded, to not let my guard down, I am coming across as particularly foolish now. But this is new to me too, you know.

So what do I know? Only that I owe fullness to the things that are in making; that this awakening is a part of that journey. That I am ‘home in my body’, to use Thich Nhat Hanh’s eloquent phrase.

I have to walk this way now, and keep on not knowing something important.

A Note
Wislawa Szymborska

Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it’s not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a conversation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumble upon a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;
and to keep on not knowing
something important.

Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.

Orkney/This Life by Andrew Greig

I am already thinking of things I have to write down for you, books I want to give you. I borrow from Ramanujan; I feel myself enclosed within lines and words that have no closure, and so in belonging to them, I feel free. Yet, I think of you, of your come back soon, so carelessly spoken, and I feel the weight of this time physically. Last night I  dreamt that I fell asleep on your couch and you let the tea grow cold and now I am thinking about the infinite spaces circling people and things and the enchantments betwixt and between:

This is where I want to live,
close to where the heart gives out,
ruined, perfected, an empty arch against the sky
where birds fly through instead of prayers

From Orkney/This Life by Andrew Greig

The Day I Became A Bird

L., I’ve been thinking of ordering copies of The Day I Became A Bird, one for me and one for you and one more. Well, just to keep so I can give it away. But did I tell you I was broke?

That line from Sontag. Yes, she says – Nothing is mysterious, no human relation. Except love.

I was rummaging around in my drawers, looking for something (can’t even remember what now), when I came across A.’s letter; it made me so happy and embarrassed looking at the drawings of mine she had copied out – you know, the ones I can’t bear to look at.

I have to go cook and my cooking has been most uninspired lately. Maybe I’ll just eat kiwis. Or plums. Or both.

Just look.


From ‘The Day I Became a Bird’ by Ingrid Chabbert and Guridi

Litany by Billy Collins

L., I spoke to you of balance because I am afraid of rushing headlong though this is not without its intoxication. Even as a child, I was self-contained and then I felt no mastery in this but in later years, particularly in my early twenties, I developed an arrogance I never knew I possessed and I fortified myself with it.

So yes, when my heart beats quicker and I’m brimming with joy and then I’m impatient and when that evaporates, afraid, yes, all of this unsettles me terribly. Though fear is giving way to joy even as I write to you.

You will be amused. You will not help. But I wish you were here all the same.

And because I am aware of just how ridiculous this whole damn business is, let’s make fun of me with flair.

Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine…
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and – somehow – the wine.

To go into the dark by Wendell Berry

Approaching another unknown and trying to enter without falling back on old ways and old thoughts. I have to do this alone.

So I begin.

I welcome myself.

If you are reading this and preparing for your own passage, know that you can carry your own being. Grace itself is not still, and perhaps it passes into us only as we move.

To go into the dark
Wendell Berry

To go into the dark with a light is to know the light
To know the dark, go dark, go without sight
And find that dark, too, blooms and sings
And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.


Riprap by Gary Snyder

My dearest T., through present grief, one sometimes relives past ones; they are never truly past, are they? I cannot speak of any of this intelligibly because my hand seeks yours or L’s, and the precious attention you offer. Holding your hand, I have often found ways back to myself and my walks with both you and L. have trailed into my words that are textured and marked by utterances of movement and landscape as indeed our own lives are. I am thinking of

Gary Snyder

Lay down these words

Before your mind like rocks.

placed solid, by hands

In choice of place, set

Before the body of the mind

in space and time:

Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall

riprap of things:

Cobble of milky way,

straying planets,

These poems, people,

lost ponies with

Dragging saddles —

and rocky sure-foot trails.

The worlds like an endless


Game of Go.

ants and pebbles

In the thin loam, each rock a word

a creek-washed stone

Granite: ingrained

with torment of fire and weight

Crystal and sediment linked hot

all change, in thoughts,

As well as things.


You would have loved my A.

My mother sent me a photograph from our childhood that I have never seen before. A has her arms around my brother and me. I am sucking my thumb and looking as absorbed as I always look when I am doing nothing. My brother is smiling his serene Buddha smile. She looks radiant and so young. And something about the way she is holding us suggests that yes, she is here, but she will get up and go now because something else in the house needs to be done, because her hands seek work and all the objects she touches, too, need her attention.