Simple Steps

comments 28
Christ / Poetry

The heavy lifting
is done in the invisible
realms.  What’s left
to be done here
is simplicity itself.
Beauty emerges
from tending
to the obvious.
Get some water.
Carry stones.

When we’re like this,
we live inside of choreography,
though we’ve never seen the script.
We couldn’t read it, anyways–
ten million movements
on planes of existence
whose names we cannot
understand, all conspiring
to make our next step plain.
Just take it.
Don’t wonder about
what it means,
or where it goes,
or wander off thinking of
other steps or destinations
you saw in a magazine.
Be worthy of what is given.
Savor the beauty
of that one step,
then the next,
then the next.
They’re leading
up a mountain
we can’t see
from our plane,
guiding us from one world
to the next.
Step… Step… Step…
This is how stars
were forged,
by willing atoms.
One merges with the next.
Then another.
Then another.
Ambition is superfluous
within the sacred necessary.

Insights are found
at dawn, lying
in a field,
banked fires left behind
by the shepherds
of last night’s
migrating herd of dreams–
a curling wisp of smoke,
gentle waves of heat,
a core of still-glowing embers
that ripple with orange
when the wind sweeps past.
What is needed is obvious.
Find a can.
Get a blanket.
Wrap them.
Keep them warm.
Take them home
and make a fire
in your hearth.
Gather together.

The tasks here
are simple.
There are no spells
to be cast, no
potions to brew,
no elaborate schemes
to concoct, no ways
to win or lose.
Just simple things.
Mary had but
to listen to Gabriel,
and let her heart
say Yes…
Joseph, the same.
Keep being Joseph.
Go to work.
Tease the stone masons.
Stop by the market.
The difference
was the light in their eyes,
the willingness to be lived-through,
the willingness to let
the simplest activities
become encoded by
the holiest secrets.

The heavy lifting, remember,
has already been done.

28 Comments

  1. Dear Michael,

    During a time in my life when I thought my fate was to do the heavy lifting, not feeling myself entwined in anyway, a friend told me, “just do the next indicated thing.” That was good advice for someone lost in the mire of complexity, barely able to walk.

    Then your poem also reminds me of St. Augustine’s saying, “Love and do what thou will.”

    The trick is often though, follow the thread of your life, you are a flower, be true to what calls you and even the suffering will know love.

    Thank you for the reminder and for sharing the beauty of your garden here.
    Debra

    Like

    • Thank you, Debra, for sharing your experience and insights, which clearly come from bouts with the unknown. I like how you wrote that even in the suffering we will know love, which I think is so true. For me, the point is not that we have to suffer, but sometimes if we are a little under-acquainted with our true nature, it takes a call to a new direction with its attendant and temporary suffering sometimes to open up our view. To change our interpretation. To plasticize our rigidity. Oh, it hurts sometimes, but when we receive the gift towards which we are being nudged, which often was our deepest and truest desire-prayer all along… it is awesome. And in that discovery the suffering melts away…

      Michael

      Like

  2. Great post and perspective Michael. It’s very Zen like; chop wood, carry water, do the next thing right in front of you. Convincing the mind to let go of planning, controlling, figuring everything out has been my challenge. My next step is mowing the yard. XD

    Like

    • That’s it, Brad! Mowing the yard, chopping wood, carrying water… sometimes these are the perfect activities for inspiration to worm its way into our minds. Being at peace with the next move can be a beautiful experience. Say hi to each blade of grass for me… : )

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael says: ‘Ambition is superfluous’

    Hariod says: ‘Foul utopianism bruises’

    Rearranging anagrammatically throws up some interesting things occasionally; and besides, when you can’t think of anything intelligent to say, it’s a handy last resort. 😉

    Great work Michael; many congratulations.

    Hariod. ❤

    Like

    • Thank you, Hariod. Anagrams are indeed interesting. It’s a bit like the iridology of words– looking closely at their composition to see layered meanings hidden within. Nested meanings perhaps. What meaning can stand on its own? (Rhetorical, that last bit… 🙂 ) Your presence is always a gift here, and I’m glad you chimed in.

      This particular work came partly from my ongoing and decidedly amateur efforts to write a novel, and observing myself in the process, and noting how it seems at times to be a creative act reduced to achieving a particular word count. I don’t know if you have ever run track or taken on the task of preparing food for a hundred people or something like that, but when you’re facing 8 or 12 laps around an oval, the joy of physical movement can devolve to the need to complete one lap, then another, then another. One at a time. Just watch the number tick down. Focus on this one lap.

      It’s a bit like that for me right now with this writing project, but it’s also so much more than that. Because in my sensation of being plotless and adrift, and just writing the next scene I see, I complete a lap. And then another. And then I look back and regardless of anything else, I see little gems woven throughout I was unable to see at the beginning. It’s by no means a stunning work, but that is hardly the point you see. The process and the experience of being in it is what I’m forced to be present with. And if I leave all those judgments and nags behind, and just write another scene, complete another lap, something seems to emerge from time to time that feels good. When we make ourselves available, it is impossible for beauty and grace to sit on the sidelines.

      I started novels two or three times in the past, but didn’t have the willingness or wherewithal to say to myself, even though you’re lost, just write another step. No matter you can’t see it’s relation to the whole. Just write it down. So, it’s a commitment to complete something, but in the commitment I am forced to relinquish my own perception of the creative process, and something happens. That is part of what inspired this piece. The realization that this is true of my entire life… Not just of this semi-occasional weekend hobby. But of everything. Just take a step… Something will meet me there… Meet us there…

      Michael

      Like

      • How interesting that you should at this moment describe your inner experiences of creating a novel Michael. I say this because yesterday, I watched two films from the BBC archives on British abstract artists from the 20th. century. Each of the artists was shown at work in their studio intercut with their attempts at explaining the inexplicable, that’s to say, whatever it is that causes the hand to move in this way or that – remember, this is non-representational work and so anything goes, moment-to-moment, step-by-step, so to speak.

        None of the artists were able to define even any remote sense of a pre-meditated intention; the process as a whole being that of allowing subliminal influences (your ‘choreographer’?), simply to occur. One of the artists, John Hoyland, seemed almost wracked with anxiety as he awaited to see what his hands might do next, and whether they might only produce meaningless, destructive gestures as a result of their unguided, yet simple, steps. Another, Patrick Heron, attempted to control what he admitted was ultimately uncontrollable, the creative template for the work having been wrought from his earlier unguided hands as they laid down the lines and geometry of the piece, thereby largely determining it’s final outcome outside of conscious thought – Heron’s ‘control’ came in only as he painstakingly filled in the spaces with colour, after all the heavy lifting had been done.

        A very dear friend of mine is a professional artist, and I have spent many an afternoon and evening in their studio quietly observing the millions of simple, unguided steps necessary to create large abstract canvases. This person was for some years an ordained Buddhist recluse and remains a seasoned meditator, and so is very in tune with mental processes, causation and so forth. And yet, as with the artists in the films I watched yesterday, the explanatory message is always that the paintings, to a very large extent, determined their own course i.e. outside of thought or intention.

        I hope your novel finds its arc Michael.

        Hariod. ❤

        Like

  4. Something hit me when I read this line: “the willingness to be lived-through”. Went back to the beginning and read it again, yes it’s how I live; inside the mechanism of ‘self’ but your word is ‘choreography’ and that says so much more…

    Like

    • Thank you, Tiramit. I am curious if you could explain more of what you see in the connection between living inside the mechanism of the self and ‘choreography’?

      Michael

      PS – I’m glad you’re computer woes have been repaired!

      Like

      • Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to this. Your choreography has the grace of dance, my mechanism of self is without art, more mechanical – a Theravadin way of seeing it. Your question, though, is a good one; holds the attention, answer not necessary, the asking of it is enough.
        About the computer saga, I recently bought an iPad mini because of further problems with my laptop and it could be end of story for that, sadly. All is well with the iPad and I’m using it for posts but M needs to use it too so we have to allow for that…

        Like

  5. Perfectly synchronous and dripping with wisdom and delightful and Zen and yes, yes yes! I also really enjoy Debra’s wise and intuitive comment that we must honor our flower in whatever way it wishes to bloom. Tending the sacred fires, yes. Stand in that space between in dawn and let all be revealed,yes! For as all is revealed, we suddenly stand in a “state of constant amazement.” I heard one of my favorite mystical poets use that phrase in a comment somewhere before… I think his name is Michael Mark or something….

    😉

    Like

  6. One morning I received a prompt to watch to the Sabadell orchestra and chorus giving a surprise performance of Ode to Joy in the town square and was awash with sobs for the state of the world, for the beauty of the music, for the reminder of the best of humanity. Then I read this and dissolved into more floods of tears. Without realising it I’d been doing a lot of heavy lifting, for the world, for Don with his injury, and for myself. It was such a relief to see beauty again, to put the load down, to just be. Here. *This* world. Here. Where all is well. More than well. As it is. And to be reminded once again that all that’s required is the next step. What a relief. Thank you ❤
    Alison
    You might enjoy this

    Like

    • Beautiful, Alison. Thank you. Whatever else he may have been, Beethoven was a cosmic lightning rod. It is impossible to see that and not be reminded of what beauty is lurking within us all. Brought tears to my eyes as well. I love the opening movement to his 5th symphony as well.

      Much Love
      Michael

      Like

  7. I stopped at so many spots to enjoy the vistas in the landscape of these words – I paused at “Be Worthy of what is given” for many minutes I think – gazing out the window of my current view, 30,000 feet, clouds much closer than water cutouts into land land, tiny boxes of existence below, I a make my way home, the earth below me in a rare(ish) perspective for this infrequent airline flyer, anymore, though I suspect new modes of flying are being worked out nightly. Finished grading papers, had 10 minutes left on the sky internet time – your paper airplane poem pasted itself to my window and etched themselves into my heart.

    Like

    • Aren’t changes of scenery wonderful? They really seem to open me up to new vistas of inner experience. I don’t know if it’s the gift of time outside of the normal demands, when they’re temporarily set aside, or the new sights and sounds that bring us to heightened awareness or what, but for me travel doesn’t need to be elegant. I like flowing without a need to be somewhere or maximize the sights I take in. Just walking around in a new environment can peel back whole layers of habitual thinking. I’m slowly working on fulfilling the promise of that line myself, one moment at a time… Noting the fairy tale day dreams and gently nudging them aside…

      Michael

      Like

    • Yes, indeed! Thanks be to the Love that lifts up each of us as it passes by, picking us up gently to dust the shelves on which we reside, whispering a word or two of inspiration in our ear before setting us back down…

      Michael

      Like

    • Meredith, so glad you visited and left such a glorious gift. I have trouble sometimes connecting the dots, but I infer some glorious encounters with nature, some memories of friends, some moments of beauty to receive and share, for which I am grateful…

      Michael

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s