In honour of women and their deep work in the home

The Work of Happiness 

by May Sarton

I thought of happiness how it is woven
Out of the silence in the empty house each day,
And how it is not sudden and it is not given
But is creation itself like the growth of a tree.
No one has seen it happen, but inside the bark
Another circle is growing in the expanding ring.
No one has heard the root go deeper in the dark,
But the tree is lifted by this inward work,
And its plumes shine, and its leaves are glittering.

So happiness is woven out of the peace of hours,
And strikes its roots deep in the house alone.
The old chest in the corner, cool waxed floors,
White curtains softly and continually blown
As the free air moves quietly about the room,
A shelf of books, a table, and the whitewashed wall –
These are the dear familiar gods of home,
And here the work of faith can best be done.
The growing tree is green and musical

For what is happiness but growth in peace,
The timeless sense of time when furniture
Has stood a life’s span in a single place;
And as the air moves, so the old dreams stir
The shining leaves of present happiness.
No one has heard thought or listened to a mind,
But where people have lived in inwardness
The air is charged with blessing and does bless;
Windows look out on mountains and the walls are kind.

 

photo Rose Cook

On Love

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Love

by Czeslaw Milosz 

English version by Robert Hass
Original Language Polish

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills.
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

photo Rose Cook

from ‘Live Like You Were Dying’ by Tim McGraw

He said
‘I was in my early forties
With a lot of life before me
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days
Looking at the x-rays
Talking about the options,
talking about sweet time.’
I asked him:
‘When it sank in
That this might really be the real end,
How’s it hit you
When you get that kind of news?’

He said:
‘I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Blue Manchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying.

I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishing
Wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad.

I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again.’
And he said:
‘Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying,
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it.’

 

photo Rose Cook

Hafiz: Becoming Human

Once a man came to me and spoke for hours about the great visions of God, he felt he was having.

He asked me for confirmation, saying ‘Are these wondrous dreams true?’

I replied, ‘How many goats do you have?’

He looked surprised and said, ‘I am speaking of sublime visions and you ask about goats?’

And I spoke again, saying, ‘Yes brother — how many do you have?’

‘Well, Hafiz, I have sixty two.’

‘And how many wives?’

Again he looked surprised, then said, ‘Four.’

‘How many rose bushes in your garden? How many children? Are your parents still alive? Do you feed the birds in winter?’

And to all he answered.

Then I said, ‘You asked me if I thought your visions were true. I would say that they were if they made you become more human, more kind to every creature and plant that you know.’

 

                   photo Rose Cook

 

Kindness

 

 

Kindness

 

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

 

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend.

 

Naomi Shihab Nye

abridged from Staying Alive, ed. Neil Astley