When I heard Li-Young Lee read this stunning love poem I instantly dissolved in tears. It’s depth took me to regions beyond human love to that intense longing for the beyond, the more, to the inscrutable mysteries of the universe where I have found the divine in my old age. I can hear it whispered by desert mothers and fathers in the caves of Cappadocia and encounter it wafting on the notes of Hildegard von Bingin’s ethereal chants. This is the stuff of mystics. Enjoy.
Weekend All Things Considered February 24 interviewed Li-Young Lee. (Listen here)
I Loved You before I Was Born
I loved you before I was born.
It doesn’t make sense, I know.
I saw your eyes before I had eyes to see.
And I’ve lived longing
for your every look ever since.
That longing entered time as this body.
And the longing grew as this body waxed.
And the longing grows as this body wanes.
That longing will outlive this body.
I loved you before I was born.
It makes no sense, I know.
Long before eternity, I caught a glimpse
of your neck and shoulders, your ankles and toes.
And I’ve been lonely for you from that instant.
That loneliness appeared on earth as this body.
And my share of time has been nothing
but your name outrunning my ever saying it clearly.
Your face fleeing my ever
kissing it firmly once on the mouth.
In longing, I am most myself, rapt,
my lamp mortal, my light hidden and singing.
I give you my blank heart.
Please write on it
what you wish.
My first experience visiting a Memory Care facility has left me with a heightened awareness of the spiritual practice of emptying oneself. I am left with an urgency to learn how to let go while I can still choose. I want to store up the Light that will warm me and guide me if I come to a place of unawares. May it be so.
The young woman at the lobby desk welcomes my sister and me to the memory care unit with genuine enthusiasm, happy that Gloria has visitors. She invites us to enjoy refreshments from the sideboard while we sign in, then we embark on our journey into another world.
The door opens onto the movie theatre. Comfortable chairs face a giant screen, flanked by posters of actors in their 1940’s heyday. A few residents watch, while others sleep or stare inwardly at movies of their past lives.
The theatre morphes into a small dining area, the brown floral Persian rug seamlessly connecting the two areas. Three small tables host residents and their care-givers slowly enacting the ritual of eating. Bite. Sleep. Bite. Stare. Bite. Tears gather and I choke up, overwhelmed by the question stalking me on this first journey, ” What if the disease takes me? What if…” The words of the biblical character Job bubble up as if emblazoned on a marquee,”The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” What an emptying this would be.
Moving down a hallway, windows look out on a garden and period musical instruments don one wall, while 1950’s fashion prom dresses decorate the other wall. When the hallway enters into another area we see Gloria seated at a table eating lunch with another resident. She still knows who we are and her delight at seeing us is reassuring. Also reassuring is her increased appetite and genuine affirmation of her new home.
After a brief stroll around the halls we say our goodbyes, happy that Gloria is happy but dreading the fast-approaching time when she will no longer know who we are. We, however, will know who Gloria is on our next visit and we will love her in whichever dimension is claiming her that day.
PHOTO CREDIT: https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2017/01/25/learn-about-alzheimers-disease-and-dementia-research-at-public-forum/
I was dragging my body of spent muscles
out of the locker room at the YMCA when
I stopped in my tracks (plodding though they were)
before a big window displaying the Tai Chi class in motion.
There before me stood a twenty-something hulk of a man
Serenely engaged in the exercise, seemingly suspended from the ceiling
By an invisible wire attached to the bristles
Of his Lisbeth Salander Mohawk.
I giggled with delight at this delicious oxymoron
Placed along my one-size-fits-all path to wake me up.
Divinity lurks in the oxymorons of life,
Showing up where and how we least expect it.
© Rita H Kowats 2-8-18
photo credit: Thomas Hawk <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035555243@N01/15801792012″>Punks Not Dead</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to follow its path.
Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.
from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue
photo credit: PMillera4 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/48227962@N04/36204074031″>Ireland</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>