NICE SNAKE !

Photo by Tim Vickers, Wikimedia

Photo by Tim Vickers, Wikimedia

 

Nice Snake!

This poem [by my friend, Godfrey John] is spun from the authentic experience of a little girl in South Africa.

Slowly and with no mistake
the giant snake is inching up
the veranda where the five-year-old
sits, joyfully sloshing her cereal.
As if planned and without noise,
the boa constrictor guiltlessly
encircles the chair and the child in his coils.
He lets his eyes come close to hers.
“Nice snake!” she says, lifting
a spoonful of milk up to his mouth.
He feels excused. He sips the milk.
She lifts the spoon to her own lips.
His innocence coincides
with hers. Valued now, he waits.
She feeds him again with special care:
“One for you and one for me.”
Suddenly he dips his mouth
deep into the bowl. The child
taps his head with her spoon and laughs:
“Naughty, naughty! Wait your turn!”
The boa constrictor meekly places
his scaled face against her cheek.
Repentence is response to love.
Once again she lifts her spoon
full of light. His lips sip.
They take turns ‘til the bowl is empty.
Unhurriedly, then, he uncoils

and slides beneath the veranda steps.Slowly and with no mistake
the giant snake is inching up
the veranda where the five-year-old
sits, joyfully sloshing her cereal.
As if planned and without noise,
the boa constrictor guiltlessly
encircles the chair and the child in his coils.
He lets his eyes come close to hers.
“Nice snake!” she says, lifting
a spoonful of milk up to his mouth.
He feels excused. He sips the milk.
She lifts the spoon to her own lips.
His innocence coincides
with hers. Valued now, he waits.
She feeds him again with special care:
“One for you and one for me.”
Suddenly he dips his mouth
deep into the bowl. The child
taps his head with her spoon and laughs:
“Naughty, naughty! Wait your turn!”
The boa constrictor meekly places
his scaled face against her cheek.
Repentence is response to love.
Once again she lifts her spoon
full of light. His lips sip.
They take turns ‘til the bowl is empty.
Unhurriedly, then, he uncoils
and slides beneath the veranda steps.

We must demythologize.

Innocence cannot be earned:
innocence is immanent;
innocence is untouched
by guilt or hurt or old age.
Innocence
is a child with a snake and a bowl of cereal—
astonishing the day,
celebrating art.

From p.6 of the book COMPASSION WINS by my late friend and mentor, Godfrey John, of Toronto. I had the deep privilege of publishing his first volume, FIVE SEASONS: Selected Poems and Essays, in 1977. 

Here’s a personal favorite from that earlier volume, p.151:

Fossil wave

Where once the surf on cretaceous beaches
crashed over earth’s millennial heart
and eon by eon through the dim prehistoric
great tides raced where no man was,
in the first dawn, in the days before birdsong–
a single ripple ran out in the mud . . .
Far up shore and down the centuries
one last, lost Mesozoic wave
edged out its imprint for all time
to stir in this slate like a signature.
Here in an English vale where a sea
once washed all meaning into stone
a child may lift a wave in his hands
and listen to eternity . . . .
Fossilized wave at shore

Fossilized wave at shore

 

 

Longing for Light

Banana blossom in our backyard.

Banana blossoms, and green bananas, basking in the light of our backyard, in Merida.

We’re missing the light of Yucatan! (Of course, we’re missing our friends and neighbors there, too.) But light is so easily taken for granted – and so helpful for a bright outlook. Einstein spent his career questing to understand more about the nature of light, and changed the world thereby, making the 20th century the century of physics. Our modern technology is a direct result of his deep curiosity. The 21st century will be the century of biology, as we tinker with the blueprints of life. (We’ll see how that goes; but it could come to resemble Vonnegut’s Ice-nine.)

Curiosity is a decidedly spiritual quality. Moses had it: I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. (v.3).  Actually, each of us has it, as it comes pre-installed, although some of us rarely explore this vital aspect of our being, beyond childhood.  One who urged that we become children again(v.3), also said: The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. (Jesus, v.22) He also observed: I am the light of the world – AND – You are the light of the world – AND – Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. 

But what is that singleness (oneness) of outlook? Could it be that only good is real, and that all that occurs is ours to learn from, by asking (and sometimes wrestling) with the question, what is the spiritual lesson of this experience? (You might say, along with John Lennon, that I’m a dreamer, or simply naive; but I’m not the only one.)  Ultimately, everything comes down to translation, interpretation. Perhaps this oneness could be an unrestrainable lust to understand, questing after we-know-not-what. Maybe this is what drove Einstein. St John hints at this near the end of his life with his highly concentrated summary of the career of Jesus, notable especially in v.5 (but please start from v.1).

Whether our hunger is intellectual or spiritual, it can feed our spirit. (But, from where does this nourishment emanate?) Without such an appetite, we mostly are asleep, in danger of Thoreau‘s cautionary observation: I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. (I just love the link to his page, and the energies of community and technology which have brought his quotes into focus.) There is another site which does this for me almost daily: nonduality.com which rolls out uplifting observations with a singleness perspective, landing on my desktop as nonduality highlights newsletter.  

While 256 shades of gray can be lovely, I do miss Merida’s blue sky. 

Glass block skylights illuminate the interior of our home in Merida (including old hammock hooks on the walls).

Glass-block skylights illuminate the interior of our home in Merida. (Those are two old hammock hooks on the walls, in the spotlight.)

IMG_1036And that’s the view from what has become our summer house, today.