Keepers of the Promise

comments 32
Christ / Poetry

Snow tip-toes
through the sunlight,
falling in a dappled caress,
a lingering sweetness,
as the world bends
around the corner.
The passing season
is saying its good-byes,
asking to be thought of kindly
for all that was and had to be.

The blown kiss
leaves the forest
empty again,
a landscape between tenants–
a hallowed silence
filled with the changing light.
Who will come next?
A caravan of deer
march through this question
in a timeless, steady line,
through opening spaces,
along still barren trails,
stopping in turns to listen,
to sniff,
to see,
to drink,
to feel,
in the softening ground
in the softening light
in the softening song of birds,
who, also, are remembering
the ones left behind,
that they have made it.

Are their hearts heavy,
these who remain,
their eyes fixed upon the sun?
Or do they understand
the way life was given to life,
the way meat and fur and bones
were spread through the forest
beneath howling winds
and driving snows,
to feed the others,
to carry them,
to sustain those
who would also be needed
to build this new earth?
Do they know
what their living line,
striding out of that darkness
to be christened
in the light of an ascending sun,
means?

I think perhaps they do–
that they’ve always known it
in their surging blood
dancing hooves
thickening fur
and curious eyes:
where they fell,
they would also rise.

In the absence of
an insistence upon others,
the scent of this clarity
fills every season.

Perhaps they know,
far clearer than we,
what it means
to be the keepers
of a promise.

32 Comments

  1. Very nice and poetic ponderings Michael. I agree that animals and nature seem to have an easier time of flowing with life. They have instinct, we have mind and choice. Our free will seems to trips us up. Eventually we learn, after much trial and error. And hopefully before doing too much more damage to the planet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Brad, I have stumbled into some interesting territory here. Be careful where you let those deer lead you! I’m not sure they have an easier time of it or not, but the feeling I was most filled with was their continued presence, the way they emerge from the winter as if un-scarred by the challenges somehow. Always ready to embrace the present without regret it would seem. They do have their foibles. We put out some deer feed this winter at the edge of our yard when the snow was up to their waist, and they definitely have a pecking order. Some are not so willing to share… They bonk each other with their hooves sometimes to establish who eats first, and who cleans up the dregs… Ohhh, this life… They simply mirror our madness!

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such silent mystery in your words makes me hear a hint of wallace Stevens in reply:
    VI
    Icicles filled the long window
    With barbaric glass.
    The shadow of the blackbird
    Crossed it, to and fro.
    The mood
    Traced in the shadow
    An indecipherable cause.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Marga, thank you for the intro to Wallace Stevens! That stanza brought a little chill down my spine of the finest kind. Thank you for the lovely homework assignment. 🙂

      Hope you are enjoying a lovely weekend–
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The last stanza – WE know as well as they. Do you doubt it? It is the meaning of your life, of mine, of thousands upon thousands of us. We know. We are the keepers of a promise, the bringers of the dawn. I never doubt it. And I never doubt the ultimate successful outcome. Not ever.
    Much love fellow traveller
    Alison ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Alison,

      I love the clarion passion of this response. I do not doubt that we are, ourselves, carriers and embodiments of this very same meaning. Nor do I doubt the outcome in what I’ll call the ultimate sense. It is apparent to me, however, in such quiet moments of reflection as the one I enjoyed witnessing the thinned herd emerge from the forest, that our collective knowing or evidencing of this truth has yet to be fully distilled from the confusion of our passing age. This is not intended to a knock, or a sadness on my part. It is not a doubting of who we are or where we are going. It is perhaps nothing more than the sensation I have, of the ways we are collectively still a little starved to sustain this meaning. Of the ways our seeing through separateness still lead to tragedy. Of the ways we still place boundaries on our giving. I suspect that in the fulfillment of the human promise, we will set needless violence aside, set institutionalized/sanctioned distrust and privilege aside, etc. It is such a little gap we have yet to cross… I have no doubt that we shall…

      Much love to you as well,
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Michael, I particularly appreciated this work of yours, and I remarked upon this to myself early on as I read through. I do enjoy all of your work, and believe me, each gets at least two readings; yet this one was effortless to absorb and had an ease of style that rendered the message all the clearer to my untutored mind. Poetry was never something that occupied a great space in my life, and it was your work and our friendship that had me reading it regularly. I suspect my tastes are undeveloped, and that the slight difficulty I have in interpreting some of your pieces may recede in time, though I just wanted to let you know that I very much appreciate the immediacy and accessibility of this piece. I feel it’s not so that those qualities necessarily cause any dilution in the profundity of the message – you always intend that there be a message, I’m sure – and the penultimate verse perhaps demonstrates the point admirably:

    In the absence of
    an insistence upon others,
    the scent of this clarity
    fills every season.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Hariod, my compassionate friend, I should tell you that poetry in the most general sense has never occupied a tremendous space in my life either. As a person in a sunken bathyscape will study very closely a particular pocket of oxygenated gas, neglecting the far greater atmosphere from which it was derived, and without ever cultivating the thermodynamicist’s appreciation of the generalized principles at work, so my own poetic giving and receiving lacks the cultivation one might obtain from having made a commitment to the broader art of poetry itself. I am increasingly certain I have missed out on a great deal. Both my reading and my writing have been generally undertaken as acts of basic and essential sustenance, and as it increasingly becomes the case that I no longer know who exactly is being sustained, or for what, I hope to branch out into a more leisurely study of the field. All of which is to say, I look forward very much to continuing this great work together.

      Much Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh, the cherished deer who starve, are hit by cars or die by hunters… how many die a natural death? Do animals mourn the loss of loved one? Yes, they do. Elephants mourn undeniably and has been the subject of scientific study. They even have mourning rituals. I am probably taking your poem way too literally here but it is a subject near and dear to my heart. Our dog, Ko-ko, whom we adopted from my mother when she was ill and going to die, mourned plaintively one evening. She had just come to stay with us and felt quite at home with house having visited so many times with my mother and knew me very well since I was with her when she first came to be with my parents. Sorry to digress. Anyhow we had taken her basket of toys from my mother’s apartment and hidden it to give to her at some point. Well, one night she let out a undisguised wailing from the bedroom. She had found the basket. And it had to be a wailing over the loss of my mother. It broke my heart. She lived another 10 years with my husband and me and adjusted quickly but that one wail said it all. I will never forget it of her. So maybe animals do adjust better than we do but I believe they mourn. As for whether they feel Samsara, no clue.
    Anyhow a beautiful poem I read, perhaps too concretely, forgive me, and I send you my love,
    Ellen

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Ellen,

      Thank you very much for this note. One thing I have noticed since beginning this blog is that certain topics seem to come with a penchant for pushing buttons– the reaction to death being one of them. I have no doubt that animals mourn, and perhaps there are varying degrees of awareness of this experience in different species, or even within the unique members of a species, based upon their emotional and mental bandwidths. It was not my intent as I wrote this piece to discount the place that mourning has in each one of us.

      Death is profound change. Abrupt change. And when it involves loss of a loved one, friend or companion through with whom we experienced the deepest treasures of life– to know and to be known, to love and to be loved– it can be astoundingly painful and difficult… as we all know or anticipate in one way or another if we are honest about our human frailties. I think grieving is inevitable, is itself a rich field of experience, and is entirely appropriate for all species when such changes occur… I don’t suggest to gloss over the fullness of this experience.

      I also think that when one’s perceptions are rooted in unity, there is an added richness to this experience. A place in which the total field of experience is held and forgiven, and seen in the most meaningful light. A place in which the lost deer– whether through cars, hunters or coyotes– are honored by the eye contact of their relatives with the sun. There is the connection of some circuit in that willingness to step forward. Nevermind the specific causes of departure, something necessary has been given… All us who have entered this realm did so to serve every other being who ever was or will be. There is simply no other alternative, when we understand our deep and visceral interconnectedness… That is, I think, what we lose sight of sometimes…

      Much Love, Ellen–
      Michael

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      • Dear Michael,

        I didn’t mean to come on so strongly in my comment but I fight for the animals every day and feel quite passionate about them.

        In my case, it is not a matter of forgetting our interconnectedness but rather not being able to believe in it. Yes, I sometimes (not nearly enough nor as strongly as I used to before my days of being medicated) feel the unity of being in all of us but that feeling somehow gets lost when it comes to people and loss.

        I am cursed with concrete thinking and believe in reincarnation but get perplexed when I think of loved ones lost though I may feel their presence at times. Even very strongly at times, and have had a visitation of sorts. But the wheel of samsara turns and they must be in different bodies now, lost from me. Seems contradictory and then I think but we all are consciousness. I think it but can’t feel it in my heart. Lots of work left to do on this obviously.

        I am very conscious of death and worry about losing those few still left whom I love (my husband big time). You wrote to me once on how feeling our interconnectedness would ease that pain or fear of pain.

        You seem so clear in your mind on all this, I admire how you think and write and share and look up to you as I flounder about lost in anxiety.

        Thank you, love, Ellen

        Like

        • Hi Ellen,

          Please come on as strongly as you desire. I am touched by your words here… by their honesty and their heartfelt nature. I am hesitant to write too much so late in the day, as I am feeling the fatigue of it all. I don’t want to mis-step with you on this one.

          Your words remind me of a place I was once in, where I couldn’t make sense of things and the world felt heavy indeed. I was trying to rationalize the teachings and experiences of a Native American spiritual tradition I had entered with the deeply embedded ideas of a Catholic upbringing. What I ultimately found: I couldn’t do it. The difficulties of rationalizing the two were at times very confusing, and when you are searching for a foothold into this idea of Love, confusion is really an obstacle. But how to become un-confused!?

          The mind will work on this problem like a dog that has been bred for eons of time to hunt or to herd. Everything, every act of play, becomes related to this task. The mind will try and untangle these dilemmas unceasingly, but it cannot achieve the desired outcome alone. Your ideas of reincarnation sound to me as though they may have become, in their application within your own mind, obstacles in some way. We can sometimes lock onto certain ideas and say, yes, this is true and then try to fit our other ideas in or around these core ideas until they all fit. Once they all fit, we find peace. But I think in the end the presence of the heart has to be the core idea, or else we’re always left with extra puzzle pieces in our hand, and gaps we don’t know how to fill.

          Love is much bigger than you or I or particular beings I think. Reincarnation strikes me as being far less linear than we sometimes think. We often think of Being X becoming Being Y, when really I think it is like a million nameless waves of the sea intersecting with one another, becoming Being X, then Being Y, and all at once somehow. Not like a this, then that, then that. But like a twirling kaleidoscope. For me unity isn’t about the particulars, not about certain beings, but about the universals that shine through them, which ultimately brings the realization it shines through each of us. I hesitate to suggest this, knowing it can be an idea that sparks further fear or anxiety. Know that beyond those gatekeepers lies abiding peace and comfort. I think, Ellen, if you continue with the Mooji, or a practice that works for you, that provides you access to peace in the heart of your own being, even if it only comes in rare glimpses at first, that as you work with this over time the peace will strengthen and expand, and the ideas that are obstacles will soften.

          I wish you peace and strength, both, in equal proportion.

          Blessings
          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

  6. This knocked gently and gracefully at the heart dear Michael. Not sure why or how we humans forget the wisdom that nature so openly and abundantly shares. Other forms of life still seem to have it.
    “To understand the way life was given to life” , how beautiful! I feel, in that understanding lie answers to the disorder that often surrounds our time here. Thanks Michael.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, PR. I tend to agree. So much disorder will one day roll up into a ball and vanish altogether. Our suffering, too, can be like a house of cards. You just have to pull the right pin, to collapse the entire structure…

      We lose sight sometimes, too, of how much we have been given. How deeply we have benefited from those who came before and cleared the path for us to follow, out of the forest, towards the warmth of a gentler season…

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dearest Michael,

    So moved by your taking such time and effort to reply to my ramblings at all, and so much more so at the end of the day when faced with fatigue. Your caring is admirable and was much appreciated.

    Much gratitude for showing me a way through reincarnation I had sort of had glimpses of before but now see so much more clearly thanks to your explanation. Of course, it makes perfect sense that it is non- linear. And not sequential in time. Most of your writing, expands my mind. Like I said in one of my comments to your five-part story, I feel like I am free-falling in your prose and poetry and am not scared. It feels wonderful and like just what the “person” needs to be the Self.

    Many, many thanks, Michael, for your time and caring in elucidating many points that are so important to me!

    Am writing through a migraine at the moment so will go now. But thank you also for your good wishes and blessings. I send the same to you.

    Much love,
    Elken

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ellen,

      I hope the migraine is passing or has passed. And you are most welcome. It is helpful to me also to be able to offer something, however small or electronic it may be. Love flows through every wire, into and out of every screen, and across every gap in time and space. We recover this understanding one true interaction at a time.

      Blessings
      Michael

      Like

      • Your offerings are never small and neither was this one. It helped me through a rather large hoop. I look forward to jumping through more in your writings. With gratitude, Ellen

        Liked by 1 person

  8. What a beautiful tribute to the turning of the seasons, to the lovely Madam Nature herself. This is gorgeous. I remember in MA a cold day this past Fall, we were renting a funny house with a football field for a front yard (at least in yards), and two deer came to visit the swing set. (My kiddos are guilty of disposing of apple cores eaten outside by simply dropping them, so there were several deerish treats to choose among.) The kids and I had front row seats from the living room window, watching the deer nibble here and there, relax, then perk their ears, and our little poodle losing his mind inside the house, and me fussing at him to hush. Somehow the deer could sense him rustling about behind the window, and the rest of us didn’t want them scared off and the magic to end. There were a few other times deer made a grand appearance, but this was one visit which we all got to share together.
    If you get the chance, set out a bird feeder for me, sprinkle some sunflower seed, cast some wildflower seeds to the wind, and well, you know what to do with those apple cores. 🙂
    These transition times are my favorite times of the year, each one a colorful and unique bridge of what’s to come.
    Plus, you have helped me forgive this last winter all her ice and wind and snow. Brilliant.

    Like

    • Andrea,

      The bird feeders are in full session right now out here. The gold finches have arrived en masse the past few days. They’re eating us out of house and home at this very moment. We’ve also got juncos, chickadees, and cardinals having a midday snack. And in the evenings, the deer still tip-toe through the forest boundaries and stare into our kitchen windows, asking the kinds of questions you can’t really answer in the absence of poetry.

      Those moments spotting wild life in the yard with children are so precious. When the deer pass through, we will say, “Dee! Dee! in memory of a wintry twilight close to a decade ago when we were peeking over the sill at the herd of deer with little ones alongside…

      And forgiving winter. Perfect. I would think the sun-soaked entity commonly known as Florida may have helped in this regard as well. I hear she has magical, restorative powers…

      Michael

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  9. ” Who will come next?”………… That’s what I so love about nature.. all fit perfectly All interact and co-operate each species knowing its place within the scheme of Natures Home.. Each in balance. No one is top no one is bottom… Yet each surrender to what will be so that each survives..

    Wonderful poem Michael. Here this winter its not been harsh, It must be wonderful to see deer pass through…
    Many thanks for sharing your words..
    Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue. Nature is a fascinating topic to me, because on the one hand– yes!– it reminds us of unity. The shape and majesty of stone, or water, or tree soothe the soul. On the other hand, Nature reminds us of cruelty and limits. And so ultimately, it shows the choice in what to see and how we see it is essentially our own to make. I’m amazed at the creatures coming out of hiding to fill the gap left by the winter’s withdrawal. Part of Nature’s beauty to me also is that she is not controlled. There is no one at the top of the pyramid profiting by it. She simply is. Every element is authentic, appropriate, wholly what it is and nothing more. Not desiring to be other than what it is. This is a huge challenge for humans I think– to be content within the fullness that we are…

      Much Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • You have hit the nail on its head Michael when you said ” This is a huge challenge for humans I think– to be content within the fullness that we are…”…. They have to learn to be content within. instead they seek externally all the time for fulfilment thinking ‘Things’ Relationships, careers, Wealth, will bring them what they continually search for.. Yet its within all the time.. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes. Who are these silly humans, anyway!? They are I! The beautiful part of smashing our externally seeking thumb between this particular nail, and the hammer of Love, a.k.a. the Delusion Buster, is that all these flowers and stars appear in your awareness… And you realize it’s a trail, passing near the homes of all beings, leading unerringly to the heart of Love itself…

          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Mysterious beauty of nature is found hiding no longer Michael in your poetry …you bring it forth in ways that are touching in an innocent yet profound way ..the deer is my spirit animal and so I am moved by your gift of acknowledgement In our oneness with all creatures …love , simply love xxxmeg

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Meg. I can see the deer in your writing and in your image. The innocence and the grace. The cautious step forward from the trees. We have been feeding the deer a few snacks on a daily basis since the snow began to fly on its two-a-week storm cycle this winter. We are winding down, but the snow is still on the ground in the woods, and the leaves have yet to bud, so there is still not a ton of food out there for them. This is a gift my wife has brought me– this relatedness. This morning I had to go in to the office early, so I was out just after 4 AM in the moonlight, traipsing through the woods. Not thinking at all…

      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

      • How great to be traipsing in the woods in the moonlight… wonderful image. Makes me miss our little barn in the woods. We have not been able to get there since Thanksgiving.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for the good wishes. We made it there and things were okay. Frogs were singing and we saw a porcupine in the back yard. It is a great place for a retreat. Namaste, Ellen

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            • Yes, the frogs are singing here tonight. I might not have noticed if I hadn’t read your note. This week was the first week of the season we’ve been able to crack the windows open since the winter… Glad you had a nice retreat from the City!

              Peace
              Michael

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  11. Genie says

    The deer are so playful, they follow me and surprise me on walks during the winter, one deer coming quite close, while the others keep watch, then, they spring off somewhere, only to peep into my walk again — having taken a different route and bouncing around near me, but not too close, either, as though they are out walking with me in winter wonderland, and of course we are walking and playing together.

    One interesting thing that I have noticed too, is that, when the deer come into my yard to eat the food I leave out under a large tree, they circle the tree and all have a nibble, doing this over and over until everyone of them has had some food, however, if a youngster eats too much food at one time during the circling around the tree for nibbles, the other deer will give the youngster a nudge; learn proper manners and think about your tribe, they seem to be saying, and indeed, as I wach the winter progress, the younger ones will wait and take their allotted turn for a nibble and then circle the tree, not taking more than the others.

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    • Wow! So lovely to hear of your relationship with the deer. We are deer feeders, too, at least during the winter. It is such a cool feeling when they are making their rounds, coming through the trees in fits and starts as the sun is setting, staring through the windows into our house. They get to know you, don’t they? We tend to lay out multiple piles… like a virtual trough… 🙂 I’ve seen them give each other a kick once in the while, as you say, when the manners are broken… I also think there are some “hogs” in among them… But their ears and their eyes and their graceful movements, are always beautiful glimpse…

      My wife cut a deal with them. We help out in the winter, and they leave her flower and shade gardens alone come summer… So far, so good… 🙂

      Life is beautiful, and I do love the reminders we are given…
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

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