by Leonard Nathan
So you aren’t Tolstoy of St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.
You’ve been given just the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice, and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.
“When the going gets tough may I resist my first impulse to wade in, fix, explain, resolve, and restore. May I sit down instead.
When the going gets tough may I be quiet. May I steep for a while in stillness.
When the going gets tough may I have faith that things are unfolding as they are meant to. May I remember that my life is what it is, not what I ask for. May I find the strength to bear it, the grace to accept it, the faith to embrace it.
When the going gets tough may I practice with what I’m given, rather than wish for something else. When the going gets tough may I assume nothing. May I not take it personally. May I opt for trust over doubt, compassion over suspicion, vulnerability over vengeance.
When the going gets tough may I open my heart before I open my mouth.
When the going gets tough may I be the first to apologize. May I leave it at that. May I bend with all my being toward forgiveness.
When the going gets tough may I look for a door to step through rather than a wall to hide behind.
When the going gets tough may I turn my gaze up to the sky above my head, rather than down to the mess at my feet. May I count my blessings.
When the going gets tough may I pause, reach out a hand, and make the way easier for someone else. When the going gets tough may I remember that I’m not alone. May I be kind.
When the going gets tough may I choose love over fear. Every time.”
~ Katrina Kenison
“In Heaven It Is Always Autumn”
In heaven it is always autumn. The leaves are always near
to falling there but never fall, and pairs of souls out walking
heaven’s paths no longer feel the weight of years upon them.
Safe in heaven’s calm, they take each other’s arm,
the light shining through them, all joy and terror gone.
But we are far from heaven here, in a garden ragged and unkept
as Eden would be with the walls knocked down,
the paths littered
with the unswept leaves of many years, bright keepsakes
for children of the Fall. The light is gold, the sun pulling
the long shadow soul out of each thing, disclosing an outcome.
The last roses of the year nod their frail heads,
like listeners listening to all that’s said, to ask,
What brought us here? What seed? What rain? What light?
What forced us upward through dark earth? What made us bloom?
What wind shall take us soon, sweeping the garden bare?
Their voiceless voices hang there, as ours might,
if we were roses, too. Their beds are blanketed with leaves,
tended by an absent gardener whose life is elsewhere.
It is the last of many last days. Is it enough?
To rest in this moment? To turn our faces to the sun?
To watch the lineaments of a world passing?
To feel the metal of a black iron chair, cool and eternal,
press against our skin? To apprehend a chill as clouds
pass overhead, turning us to shivering shade and shadow?
And then to be restored, small miracle, the sun
as before? We go on, you leading the way, a figure
leaning on a cane that leaves its mark on the earth.
My friend, you have led me farther than I have ever been.
To a garden in autumn. To a heaven of impermanence
where the final falling off is slow, a slow and radiant happening.
The light is gold. And while we’re here, I think it must
Two years ago, I spent a few arduous days in L.A. with my mother and husband so I could have an appointment with Dr. Chia. Last year, we spent a few days on the Washington coast while I was very sick. We picked the closest coastal town to our house, so it was the shortest drive and my husband did all the work — I just had to get myself in and out of the car. I did it for the dogs, to see their joy on the beach, to try to make up for two and a half years of no adventures and lessened activity… but I was not in good shape.
This year, though… This year we took TWO TRIPS TO THE COAST. Again, all I had to do was pack (no easy feat — it takes me days) and get myself in the car. My…
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since 2014, i only see autumn from my windows. but i have been blessed to have experienced autumn in new york & fondly remember those days in central park & on the streets of the city.
“I waited before the world was dark again before I greeted it properly.
I let it put on its star speckled robes and make itself pretty, with the moon for a hair clip
Before I acknowledged it was there.
“Oh you look lovely tonight” I told it, as I shut the curtains firmly,
Playing hard to get with the night.
I treated my alarm as a suggestion.
As a shrill question I had no desire to answer.
I silenced it, though it implored me querulously to begin.
I climbed back into my dreams, instead, through the window I had left open.
There, I sat at an imagined computer and an imagined old oak desk and made dream poetry.
“I long for you like the sky longs for rain”
And blushed a little,
My hands flourishing along the keys with a spring in their step.
Then, I got up and put an axe neatly between the eyes of a passing zombie and returned to my fanciful words, as though everything was exactly as it should be.
My first thought when I woke up was
“Perhaps it is”. ”
– Sarah-Louise Jordan
“When everything was much darker, people would tell me it was going to get better, and I would ask them how they knew. Some of them had instincts about it; they held the conviction my life would improve with the same unquestioning certainty they gave to the idea the sun would rise tomorrow. Others had faith in something greater than this world, in the idea of unseen hands guiding everything, and they believed something kinder would be sent to me again. Out of all the buds of life trying desperately to open on this planet, they thought the dreams I carried were amongst the ones which had to bloom. Then, there were those who had faith in me. More faith than I had. I knew I was strong, but I was never certain I was strong enough. Doubts are heavy; they are the battle armour of the weary and exhausted and Fears are like the fog of Victorian London, billowing thickly around you, so you can’t see where you are going anymore.
“It’s going to get better” they told me.
“Well, maybe” I would think, but it didn’t make me feel any better to hear them say so. Unless it was my grandparents, who were imbued with the mystical wisdom of old age and I could imagine might really have a knowing, or a couple of my friends who could have said “it’s going to pour with rain” in a soothing enough tone to give me comfort. When anyone else gave me their prophecies, it made me feel more alone. It made me feel like they didn’t understand what was happening to me.
When someone is crawling through a long and dark tunnel, with no sign of light to guide them, and the roof is threatening to cave in on top of them, it doesn’t necessarily help them to hear that you think it’s going to turn out fine. When you shout encouragingly into a burning building to the person frantically looking for an exit, to tell them it will be alright, even though you don’t have the power to rescue them yourself, it doesn’t always feel like your hope is anything more tangible than that.
“It’s going to get better.” They told me.
“Well, maybe, but when? And what makes you think I can hold on that long?” I thought, but I didn’t say out loud.
And so, I continued crawling and frantically looking for a way to survive, and I kept dealing with the daily impact of the meteorite which couldn’t stop itself from crashing into me, while people who were still close enough to existing to be able to count the stars kept telling me it was going to be ok.
“Well, perhaps, but unless your promises will be kept by my own life, that isn’t enough for me. You can’t save me. What if I can’t save me either?” I wondered quite frantically, but I never thought I could ask them.
After a very long time, it turns out they were right. It did get better. Unrecognisably so, and it does get better still. Sometimes it is even better enough to feel possible again. Maybe being closer to the stars means something, after all, about the scope of their perception. I don’t know.
I do know there is a part of me which wants to make you those promises, too. We all do. When we see someone we love or care about is in pain, we have to believe it will work out for them, because anything else is too unreasonable to contemplate. We want to comfort them, instinctively, and we try to comfort them by drawing hopeful faces on the monsters surrounding them, because sometimes that is all we know how to do.
What is happening to you is awful and it is unfair, and I can’t guarantee I won’t take my crayons and try to draw smiles on every dragon’s fearsome jaws. Or that I won’t forget myself and claim some instinct about your future. My inner Nostradamus as certain as the phases of the moon that there is happiness left for you. I am so sorry if I do that and it hurts.
I promise, though, that I do see the tunnel collapsing and the fire raging and the comet racing for your heart. I can see you, as well, in the midst of the chaos, doing all you can to make it out alive.
If you should want my company, I will bring you any lanterns I can find. I will build you a well and carry buckets from it to where you are. I will help you set your lasers to obliterate to take that comet down.
I will imagine us by the ocean, with our feet in the sand, and the sea (who tells no lies and asks no questions) lapping at our feet.
I will take you to the moon, where there is a warm blanket of silence to wrap around our shoulders, and time itself is made to stop its incessant chattering by the absence of the clocks to give it voice. There is nothing left to do for now but sleep, and rest, and heal.
I know today was hard, and tomorrow will be too, but you’re remarkable and you don’t face the dark of this alone.”
~ sarah-louise jordan