For a fiercer life

We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life, because of our quiet.”   – William Butler Yeats, via Fr. Michael Doyle from Camden, N.J.

This time of summer, the river is anything but quiet.  Yesterday I trotted down there with Tara, my younger dog, to watch: people swimming, being towed in inner tubes screaming behind power boats, a mob yelling at the top of their lungs aboard a jet boat from Portland.  They turn around just upriver from us, before the tricky currents from the big waterfall at Oregon City and the junction with the Clackamas River, a huge watershed in its own right.

Did you know the Oregon City waterfall is the second biggest waterfall in the US, in terms of water quantity going over the falls? I had no idea!  But then, I lived here for over 30 years and didn’t know that the Willamette was a tidal river, either.

A young couple came down river upright on those new boards that look like people are walking on water, calling out with both fear and delight as they were broad sided by enthusiastic waves from a motor boat towing a strong young man water skiing, jumping those waves, so proud of his youth and daring do.  So proud.  I could tell from the bank, how he looked to see who was watching.  Ah, youth…

So much for still water or a still mind, for that matter.  My mind is going every which way these days, aflutter with world affairs, family events, trying to regain my own health, an incessant chatter like our local squirrels, who, it turns out, aren’t even native, but yet another invasive species.  So are we, I think.  So are we.

One thing I really loved, learning the Centering Prayer from Fr. Thomas Keating:  when you find yourself busy in your mind, just sit back, internally, along the river in your heart, and start over again, saying the word that you choose that brings it all into one point.  And guess what?!  You have a billion tries.  So just start again.

I can do that.  I can start over again.  Again.  For a fiercer life.


About susankerrshawn

Retired Hakomi therapist and body worker; community activist; writer; environmentalist. Happily married to an amazing man. Thinking about many things as I reflect on my nearby river, the Willamette, a trustworthy spiritual guide if there ever was one! And how it is to live with a terminal diagnosis of kidney cancer.
This entry was posted in Catholicism, Centering Prayer, Meditation, Michael Doyle, The river, William Butler Yeats, Writing life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to For a fiercer life

  1. davichon says:

    It has not been “a word” I choose, but every poem has been an attempt to unlock or release something I think like that which “brings it all into one point”. So reading a Yeats poem is active, an attempt — if you follow the Yeats quote, to see and live, even if for a moment. And then there is the attempt — sometimes — to write the poem that does what Yeats describes. That attempt requires far more — what… pride? ambition? confidence? daring at the edge of strength? or if you take the focus off the actor, the words for the same undertaking becomes a seeking of maybe “grace” or “wisdom” — but in any case “more” than the youth behind the power boat, or even the surfers I watched and spoke with last week.

    And if it is not a billion tries, I have always been grateful that these demands admit of many failures, only requiring (unlike human relations!) whatever it is that allows you to pick up the pencil again, adjust, eliminate, change — “edit” for sure, but only if/because it allows a renewed, possibly richer, attempt. I’m not crazy about TS Eliot, or much of religion, precisely because identifying (pointing at) in words “the still point of the turning world” is NOT creating what Yeats says we can do, and what he (maybe) drew on to write his poems.

    I am not talking Literature here. I believe that at our best we ENTER a Yeats poem, live for a moment in a space from which he wrote it — whereas if I look at “Burnt Norton, ” where the Eliot “still point” comes from, I am reading ABOUT some serious theological paradoxes, but experience weariness, weariness, misery that has a clear and complex voice, but is still a large, creaking, groaning machine.

    I loved the waves of Playa Avellana in Costa Rica. I was there not by my own design , and not knowing that surfers travel far so they can ride those waves. But I was a creaky old man stumbling on the volcanic rock in the sand ’til I learned where that wasn’t, and jumping around deliriously in the waves — not one of the daring graceful surfers I had to watch out for as they rode and tumbled in.

    If the past is guide, a bit of the flash and foam and glistening skin may appear in some poem I write if I live long enough. But more likely something about white crest and green depths and turbulence. Among my less than a billion tries. Among my numbered days.

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