Tuesday, April 10, 2012

To Drink Water from Cupped Hands


A beautiful male cardinal, who appeared to be flying solo, stopped by my yard this morning and sat in the crab apple tree long enough for me to take a few photos. Last year a lone cardinal passed through and I couldn't help but wonder if it's the same one, returning along a traditional route to his summer home.




The trees are budding out despite very cold nighttime temps and several gloomy, not-so-warm days. But today the sun is shining and so I stopped to admire the trees at the far end of the rock garden near the hollow. Their tiny tips of red and green waving in the wind against the blue sky remind me that everything is going according to plan. The world knows what it's doing without me having to do a thing except witness its effortless awakening.

Passing a bird house that had gone unnoticed when I first moved here, I stopped to admire the peeling paint of what must have been a rather colorful little dwelling once upon a time. I thought about Otis, the man who cared for this place so lovingly, noted the date he'd painted on the back of the birdhouse, and renewed my own commitment to the land.




As I walked up the sloping lawn, my father came to mind and I was momentarily filled with a sadness over the fact that he is no longer in this world. This man who loved the world and yet struggled at times to find peace within it, who saw eighty-four springs (it seems like such a paltry number now), is not here to see this spring. And now, I can't seem to shake a Raymond Carver poem I read a few days ago. It speaks to why I returned to this place of my childhood. I thought you might like it, too.


"The Trestle"

I've wasted my time this morning, and I'm deeply ashamed.
I went to bed last night thinking about my dad.
About that little river we used to fish -- Butte Creek --
near Lake Almanor. Water lulled me to sleep.
In my dream, it was all I could do not to get up
and move around. But when I woke early this morning
I went to the telephone instead. Even though
the river was flowing down there in the valley,
in the meadows, moving through ditch clover.
Fir trees stood on both sides of the meadows. And I was there.
A kid sitting on a timber trestle, looking down.
Watching my dad drink from his cupped hands.
Then he said, "This water's so good.
I wish I could give my mother some of this water."
My father still loved her, though she was dead
and he'd been away from her for a long time.
He had to wait some more years
until he could go where she was. But he loved
this country where he found himself. The West.
For thirty years it had him around the heart,
and then it let him go. He went to sleep one night
in a town in northern California
and didn't wake up. What could be simpler?

I wish my own life, and death, could be so simple.
So that when I woke on a fine morning like this,
after being somewhere I wanted to be all night,
somewhere important, I could move most naturally
and without thinking about it, to my desk.

Say I did that, in the simple way I've described.
From bed to desk back to childhood.
From there it's not so far to the trestle.
And from the trestle I could look down
and see my dad when I needed to see him.
My dad drinking that cold water. My sweet father.
The river, its meadows, and firs, and the trestle.
That. Where I once stood.

I wish I could do that
without having to plead with myself for it.
And feel sick of myself
for getting involved in lesser things.
I know it's time I changed my life.
This life -- the one with its complications
and phone calls -- is unbecoming,
and a waste of time.
I want to plunge my hands in clear water. The way
he did. Again and then again.

~ Raymond Carver






The photographs are mine.

44 comments:

  1. So glad you cardinal visit. We are getting more each year. My first 30 years in Maine, I lived without them.

    I love that poem.

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    1. These two sightings, last year and now this year, are the only two I've seen, that I recall. It's a very moving poem, isn't it?

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  2. A Northern Cardinal kept singing outside my back door at daybreak. Translated into English, it's song was, "I'm a actually a Southern Cardinal with a Centrist Tendency."

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    1. Does this mean his political leanings are moderate in their implications? I can dig that.

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    2. Perhaps, but definitely not a Catholic Cardinal.

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  3. Wow. That poem packs a punch! I'm going to spend some more time with it. And I'm glad you have a cardinal that stops by. They are so special.

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    1. It grabbed me from the get-go and I have returned to it many times, finally deciding to post it with a context that appeared today that seemed fitting.

      Yes, that cardinal was a great way to start the day.

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  4. That is an incredible poem, Teresa. And the cardinal? So beautiful and vibrant. I am moved, my heart is open. Thank you for this.

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    1. You are most welcome, DJan. It really is an incredible poem, isn't it? And isn't it wonderful to read something that opens our hearts? I continue to be moved with each reading.

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  5. Hello Teresa:
    The Cardinal is well named with its very fine, almost papal, plumage. And, how marvellous it is that once again he has returned to you. As you say, it gives one a great feeling that all is well with the world and that the Master Plan is once again unfurling on the year ahead.

    The poem is so apposite and captures beautifully the thoughts of childhood,of life and death and what are the joys of the simple, everyday life.

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    1. They certainly are aptly named. It was such a happy surprise.

      The feeling conveyed in that poem is so palpable. It's really stayed with me.

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  6. Very moving indeed and perfect for your day.

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    1. I so appreciate those days when something I've read dovetails with a memory or what I am experiencing in that moment. Despite its ephemeral nature, it feels solid and true.

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  7. A very beautiful poem, Teresa. Made us remember our sweet father doesn't it.

    The photos are very beautiful. I love the trees and the red cardinal. What a wonderful red for a luxurious evening gown with a flying shawl!!
    Grethe ´)

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    1. Thank you, Grethe. I wish I could have gotten a better photo of the cardinal. One of these days I will have to upgrade my equipment, but I'm happy for the visit and wanted to record it. I'm just glad he sat still long enough.

      As the years go by, I appreciate even more my father's own love of the world and all he experienced.

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  8. I have been thinking these very words the past couple of days ...

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    1. Life continues to unfold and I'm just so glad to be here to witness it.

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  9. Finding the clear stillness of life. Plunging full-body into the compression of the water's embrace, the clear view of life. Feeling the water fill and move the pain of empty hollowness. Looking up at the joy of New Spring, and the joy of the song-birds.

    Your posts always move me. Thank you Teresa Evangeline, for always encouraging me to look at life with open eyes and heart.

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    1. The joy of New Spring certainly has been my "mantra" recently. It's such a beautiful time, ripe with possibility.

      Thank you for those kind words. I appreciate hearing that my posts are encouraging, as your words are to me. With open eyes and heart is the only way to move through life.

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  10. My mother always had cardinals at the bird feeder. That was in Memphis. We don't have them here in Oregon and I miss them.

    Lovely poem.

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    1. I've only had the two sighting, last year and this year. What a treat for the eyes and soul they are.

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  11. If it wasn't for you I would read no poetry at all. Your own words and the poem were beautifully sown together, I could even see the seam. My favourite bit "who saw eighty-four springs". Yes, Yes, and Yes.

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    1. I'm glad that reading my posts provides a bit of poetry in your life. I read them every day, like a prayer I would say to the universe and the perfect way to begin my day. So many more springs you shall see, Med, and share with Xavier.

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  12. Cardinals are my favorite. In the Springtime I have seen the males feed the females safflower hearts beek to beek. Perhaps the male has other motives in mind.
    That poem is very powerful and it does remind me of my father. Specifically of a fishing trip we took together many years ago in Canada. We were staying in a log cabin on an island. One night it rained cats and dogs. The sound of the rain on the roof was deafening. Yet we were warmed by a fire and dry. Great, great memories. Thank you for reminding me.

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    1. Safflower hearts. No matter the motive, what a lovely courting ritual.

      Your memory of the fishing trip with your father sounds wonderful. The stuff a good life is made of.

      We humans could learn much from the simplicity of nature.

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  13. Sometimes I Feel Passive & not relevant to Nature's Waking.but Otis left a sign to say that aint so!

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    1. Nature's waking wherever we are. Take a walk through the cemetery near your house, where Sylvia Path is buried, and you will find Life! Otis left a few signs. I'm learning to pay attention. :)

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  14. This beautiful post resonates with me in many ways. I too am enjoying the signs of Spring (more advanced here)and find myself sometimes reflecting on the reality that we only get to live through a limited number of Springs.

    And I too am reminded often of the folks who lived here before us. In the woods near our house is a big Beech tree still bearing my father's name--which he carved on it about 70 years ago.

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    1. I'm working on not letting what appears to be a limited number of springs cause me to feel melancholy, but see it as a signal to live each one fully. You certainly are, with your life on your beautiful farm. Despite the hard work it certainly must be, it seems to provide so many fine ways for appreciation. Love your chick pics this morning. :)

      To live near a beech tree with your father's name carved on it! To still be farming that land. Simply wonderful.

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  15. "I wish I could do that
    without having to plead with myself for it.
    And feel sick of myself
    for getting involved in lesser things.
    I know it's time I changed my life.
    This life -- the one with its complications
    and phone calls -- is unbecoming,
    and a waste of time.
    I want to plunge my hands in clear water. The way
    he did. Again and then again."

    Exactly how I feel at times! Wonderful poem. Keep remembering your Dad, he is till part of you, right?

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    1. He is still part of me and always will be. I have come to appreciate more and more the full, rich life he created for himself, and the legacy both my parents left for me.

      The lines you quoted really caught me, too. Thanks, Bill.

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  16. The Carver poem is a tribute to all warm and loving fathers. You always select the most complimentary poems that relate to your subject matter. Always enjoy reading your posts. -- barbara

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    1. Thank you, Barbara. There are so many wonderful poems. It's always satisfying to me to see where and how one fits into my worldview. I'm glad they speak to others, also.

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  17. This was beautiful. Both your bit and his. As you may know, it hovers close to an experience I'm getting ready to have, so thanks for sharing it.

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    1. It appears to be a life passage for all of us. Experiencing it with a parent can be liberating in the oddest way, for everyone concerned. If we let it be. I have used this analogy often: we are all moving down the river of life. Some go on ahead and move around the bend, but they are still there on the river with us, we just can't see them in the expected way. Thanks for responding, t.

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  18. That is a great post and a wonderful poem. It just seemed to say much about the link between generations, perhaps the strongest link there is. And perhaps that is why, against all the odds, civilisation survives.

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    1. Hi Alan, That link between generations is something I am growing to appreciate more with every passing year. And on we go....

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  19. I read your wonderful posting a little earlier, Teresa, and finally got back to read it again. You have an uncanny knack of writing often about what I am feeling. My own father has been on my mind lately. He passed away 43 years ago on Thursday, yet he is always with me. A gift, I know. Carver's poem is so wonderful - I thank you for sharing it.

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    1. We do seem to be tracking along similar lines, Penny. It's one of the things I love about blogging - meeting people with whom I can see the connection we have, the Oneness we all share.

      Your father passed when you were young. When I think of someone we love who has passed, I remember what Yoko Ono said regarding John Lennon. When someone asked her how she would handle life now, since she and John had spent so much time together, she replied that now they would be able to spend All their time together. I just love that.

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  20. I liked the poem. Often when in the high country, deep in the forest, I sense that my Dad is not far away from me. I think of him often.

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    1. I often "see" my dad high in the mountains, out in this beautiful world, so I can certainly understand how you must feel when you are in the high country, or in a forest, and sense that you are sharing it with him. What a wonderful thought. Thank you.

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  21. I'm so lucky to still have my dad although he is getting old 88 years and frail. The Carver poem made me think again about the time I spend with him now and how precious that is. Thank you.

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    1. Avril, It's so nice to see you here again. It's nice when we can recognize how valuable the time is that we have with a parent. Precious, indeed.

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