I sang shadowy songs, including this brief version of “Tom O’Bedlam’s Song” recorded by Jacqui Froelich for a KUAF radio Ozarks at Large feature story, at Joy Caffrey and Amy Eversole’s wonderful photography exhibit at Arsagas’ Crossover Cafe. The exhibit was called “Me and My Shadow.” It came springing up out of preparations for a workshop these two wise spiritual friends created togetherto help participants encounter their psychological “shadow” aspects in a safe and supportive way. You can access Jaqui Froelich’s entire interview with Joy and Amy (and much more of interest) at Joy Caffrey’s website, www.joymatters.com

Tom O’Bedlam’s Song – Geoff Oelsner

SACRED EXCHANGES WITH NATURE
(an essay by Geoff Oelsner)

We begin with a song, which may already be familiar to those of
you who frequent these web pages:

ORDINARY MYSTERY

There’s a line of silence on the land.
Silence reclines upon the land.
As day dips into darkness,
It’ll widen and expand,
As primal silence settles on the land.

And that’s an ordinary mystery,
An intricate simplicity,
A topsy turvy harmony,
A song that never ends,
Ordinary mystery,
Impermanent eternity,
Consigned to Time yet ever free,
My friend.

My love nests next to me at night.
I hear her breath sigh up into the night.
As shadows splash the pillow,
I gaze into her face,
Peering deep beneath appearances
To overflowing Life.

Oh she’s an ordinary mystery,
A boundless possibility,
A gentle generosity,
An angel and a friend,
Ordinary mystery,
An everyday sublimity,
The sum of all that’s dear to me,
A love that has no end.

The sunrise warms us both awake.
We see the newborn blue and the quiet lake.
As day breaks into brightness
We resume our work and play,
Partners on the way as we partake

Of all this ordinary mystery,
This case of open secrecy,
An obvious obscurity
We’ll never comprehend,
An ever-changing constancy,
The I behind all identities,
An ordinary mystery
Is what we are my friend.

Those lyrics to the song “Ordinary Mystery” were written about a particular place at Beaver Lake in Northwest
Arkansas, where my partner and I go to renew. And being there works like a charm! We have more energy to give back to the world and the people we encounter after being out there for a day or two. And we always feel our appreciation for the green tribes of plants and the immense gentle oscillations of the trees and the presence of water and bird music and the deep stratified silences of twilight… we always sense our appreciation and affection circulate back out to nature, in some mysterious yet ordinary way, after spending some time at this lake place.

It’s that very two-way exchange of natural beauty and inspiration flooding forth to us from Mother Earth and love and appreciation flowing back out from us to Her that we’ll celebrate in song and poetry today. Since I was 13 years old, and was way changed for the better by 6 weeks in the Rocky Mountains at a wonderful summer camp, I’ve been making songs and poems for myself and other people, certainly, but also very much to express my love for Her, for Gaia.

A bit about that word, Gaia. It’s from the ancient Greek, and means “land” or “Earth.”

The Gaia theory or principle is an ecological theory proposing that the biosphere and all physical components of the Earth are closely integrated parts of a whole, complex interacting system that maintains the climatic and biogeochemical conditions of this planet. Originally proposed by James Lovelock, the Gaia thesis views the Earth as a single organism. One single organism.

If we are all interconnected parts of this singularity Gaia, it follows that our caring for the natural world may have some degree of power to nurture Her. Have you read the amazing book The Secret Life of Plants ? It came out in 1973, and in it authors Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird described interactions and experiments with plants conducted by Luther Burbank and George Washington Carver, and later, people like Cleve Backster, and Marcel Vogel. In a number of these pioneering experiments, plants showered with love grew faster, larger, and hardier than those in control groups which received no love [or, worse, were bombarded with feelings of hate or violence]. I know a few of the many people who successfully replicated these experiments after reading The Secret Life of Plants. Since it was published, more sophisticated measuring devices have been employed in similar experiments, which I’ll say a bit more about later on. I hope you’ll find that information empowering.

And I hope we can feel our way into a deeper sense of this “Ordinary Mystery,” part of which is finite and part of which is not. Another song may help us along in doing this:

The old Shaker Hymn “Simple Gifts” was written by Elder Joseph at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine in 1848. Several Shaker manuscripts indicate that this is a “Dancing Song” or a “Quick Dance.” The references to “turning” in the last two lines have been identified as dance instructions. Please feel free to get up and dance, or at least to let yourself dance inside. Here are the lyrics to Elder Joseph’s one-verse song:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

This olden song speaks meaningfully to our current situation, in which we are corporately lording it over the Earth, and taking her gifts without returning. Monoculture takes and takes from and doesn’t return nutrients to the soil. Our present petrochemical and nuclear energy sources do more damage as they spew life-threatening Co2, radioactive wastes, and other pollutants into the air, soil, and water.

It is crucial that we see: “The Arctic ice cover is melting. Wildfires burn out of control. Ancient trees are dying. Storms grow more violent. Deserts spread. Clean water gets scarce. Farmlands turn to dust.” [This woeful litany is from Frances Beinecke’s fine little book, Clean Energy Common Sense, 2010, p. 93.] The daily footage of the British Petroleum oil leak into the Gulf has forced us to see more graphically than ever before how environmentally lethal and suicidal our petrochemical addiction is.

Our short-sighted greed and arrogance have got us painted into an environmental corner. My own distress and grief about this situation are part of the motive force behind this essay. As you know, that grief so many of us feel so keenly can paralyze, or it can spur us to political action, which is essential. “Simple Gifts” suggests to me that as we “come down to where we ought to be” and get grounded and shed our hubris, the love and delight and sense of connection and belonging we feel become something substantial we can give back to Mother Earth. But to feel that love and delight we must bestow our attention upon Her in all of Her magnificent particulars.

The following excerpt from a poem by Walt Whitman [from the first edition of his Leaves of Grass, published in 1855] expresses something of the quality of open, porous attention to Nature that we all originally experience as children. If we add an extra line to include ourselves, we can approach the passage as a responsive reading.

Your acknowledgment of relatedness and offering of praise back to Nature, goes:

HALLELU! THAT’S ME TOO!

THERE was a child went forth every day;
 
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
 
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.
 
  

The early lilacs became part of this child,

HALLELU! THAT’S ME TOO!

 
And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-bird,
         5
And the Third-month lambs, and the sow’s pink-faint litter, and the mare’s foal, and the cow’s calf,
 
And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the mire of the pond-side,
 
And the fish suspending themselves so curiously below there—and the beautiful curious liquid,
 
And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads—all became part of him.

 
 HALLELU! THAT’S ME TOO!

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-month became part of him;
  10
Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,
 
And the apple-trees cover’d with blossoms, and the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the commonest weeds by the road…
 
HALLELU! THAT’S ME TOO!

The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,

The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,

The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;

These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.

HALLELU! THAT’S ME TOO!

Whitman wonders as he wanders into the poetic landscape he’s evoking here. That wonder is inherent in here in the child-spirit that lives in us all. There’s a precious merging capacity that we have as children. Also called the “symbiotic phase” in Margaret Mahler’s theory of the mother/child relationship, the symbiotic relation is an early phase of development that precedes the infant’s separation/individualization phase, where the mother begins to be seen as another being. The symbiotic phase is characterized by a sense of the total enmeshing of mother and child, who thus form a “unity of two.”
This merging capacity can keep developing after the symbiotic phase passes and maturation continues, if the infant is mirrored and nurtured by his or her mother in a healthy, “good enough” way. According to A.H. Almaas in his chapter on “Merging” in The Pearl Beyond Price, Integration of Personality into Being: An Objects Relation Approach, what arises in infancy as the merging phase possesses the potential in adulthood for spiritualization into what he terms the “Merging Essence.”
I can say from my own experience that merging may also develop in a compensatory way: as a premature baby, I was separated for 6 weeks from my mother after my birth, and I didn’t bond all that well with her. Deeply bonding and even merging with the environment itself must have felt safe enough to me to become a source of solace and joy, as I grew to maturity.
This compensatory blessing was quickened in me largely thanks to my maternal grandfather, Ernie Beyer, who lives on in my heart, though he died when I was 10. My first and most difficult death.
Ernie and I spent many days together at the lake house he built outside Kansas City. It was there he taught me to ice skate, and play baseball and helped me start a rock collection I’m still adding to all the time, and closely observe butterflies and moths and snakes and plants. I can still see his smiling eyes squinting out across the lake as he rowed our little boat out in the early morning, and pointed out a kingfisher or a great blue heron or a water bug doodling around in the shallows, with the excitement of a child himself. All this became part of me as a child… I think that’s when the following song began to gestate within me. I wrote the first few verses when I was 15 or so, and the rest came suddenly several years ago as I was walking through a park in my home town:
PINEY GREEN RIVER

We set out one day to sail down that Piney Green River,
The boatman and I, our hopes running high.
We set out one day to sail down that Piney Green River.
The waters ran down with a bound-for-home sound.

I said to the boatman, “Well, I hardly know you.”
He said, “Take your time. Just sit back and watch as the treetops fly by.”

CHORUS: We set out one day to sail down that Piney Green River.
The waters ran down with a bound-for-home sound.

The ship split the mist with the tip of its bowsprit.
The boatman’s eyes smiled as the silence replied.

CH: We set out one day to sail down that Piney Green River.
The waters ran down with a bound-for-home sound.

We passed through the pinewoods. I heard voices calling.
Or was it the wind, or the echoes of songs of the ones that had been?

CH: We set out one day to sail down that Piney Green River.
The waters ran down with a bound-for-home sound.

We set out one day to sail down that Piney Green River.
The boatman and I, our hopes running high.
We set out one day to sail down that Piney Green River.
The waters ran down with a bound-for-home sound.

[Readers of this can hear recordings of “Ordinary Mystery” and “Piney Green River”
by going to www.geoffoelsner.com and clicking on them in “Songs.”]

I also want to share a song I wrote lyrics for in Ireland, after visiting the “Hill of Tara,”
which was long where the coronations of Irish kings took place, and before that a strategic,
ritual, and sacred site back all the way to the Neolithic. At Tara, I was inspired–mindblown– by another child, a radiant young girl I saw in a particularly unguarded, open moment. From her and the ancient place itself I received a felt sense of being encompassed by what early Celtic peoples would have known as the Triple Goddess, aka the Great Mother, the Creative, Nurturing Matrix of all life. This feeling made me mindful of a line from the Irish poet W. B. Yeat’s, “All things remain in God,” but I feminized that line in my song to “All things remain in Her.” I’ll follow this song with a poem I chant to Gaia:

Winter Hymn at Tara, Ireland

Hatless, almost headless, heedless of cold I go
here and there in wind.
Clearest eyes I saw today, so clear I saw her light
before I saw her face: Queen of Heaven, maybe seven years old.

All things remain in Her. All things remain in Her.

The church on the curve of the hill,
the light around the body, the church of the arch of the sky.
Mother of Fields, your worlds revolve beyond
our fleeting walls and windows.

All things remain in Her. All things remain in Her.

I remember lives here like sky remembers cliffs
where winds have been.
Mother of Worlds, your fields are light with dew
and stones and stars.
Mother of Space, your fields are light with dew
and starry hearts.

All things remain in Her. All things remain in Her.

[Note: the line “All things remain in God.” is a quote from W.B. Yeats’
poem “Crazy Jane On God.”]

HYMN TO GAIA
(MOTHER EARTH)

Gaia
with pouncing hounds of fire,
panting tongues of magma
Gaia
with feet of pure jasper,
basalt limbs lovely in darkness
Gaia
with migrant cloud-herds,
vagrant tribes of upper air
Gaia
with azurite necklace of lakes,
tangled skein of rivers
Gaia
with gushing knots of ice-melt,
drip of thin rivulets over stone
Gaia
with down-tending maze of hairy roots,
upward heft of hoary branches
Gaia
with architecture of cricket song in night meadows,
birdsong inlaying silence at dawn
Gaia
with spired and lucent crystal choirs!
O blue jewel swaying on a stalk of sunlight!
May men learn soon to honor you,
Gaia.

[Readers who would like to hear me ululate “Winter Hymn at Tara” to harmonium accompaniment can go to a short podcast the Fayetteville Public Library made of me in 2010 , at this link: http://www.faylib.org/services/ref_podcasts.asp It’s a brief scroll down. ]

The poet and the scientist both observe Nature closely, though poets may
well wonder at Nature more than scientists and scientists may often wonder about Her
workings more than poets. And we both require an experimental, fluid, even playful mindset to be successful in our respective endeavors– the scientist must be willing to do many trial experiments. The poetess turns lines over on her tongue and tries them for just-rightness and sonority.

I’m going to share some of my poetry with you… but I want to shuttle back and forth between the nature mystic’s garden and the scientists’ lab for a few minutes first.

Earlier I referenced the pioneering scientific research described in the book The Secret
Life of Plants, and how it has been reinforced by further studies over the years.
Actually, before I saw the book , I was already among the converted due to the time I’d spent living at the Findhorn Community in Scotland. There in 1965, a garden planted on sandy soil with organic additives of little more than cow manure, grass clippings, and seaweed tested out completely satisfactorily for all nutrients, including rare trace elements, though the Morayshire County Agricultural Advisor considered this impossible at that time. Gardening there, I witnessed the size and quality of vegetables that grew in the ambient field of love and cooperation we co-created with the spirits of Nature.

For me, as for people in many if not most indigenous cultures, spirits of Nature are expressions of the nature of Spirit just as we humans are, dynamic energies which are part of a larger subtle ecology and much more than just Jungian archetypes. In any event, what I saw and felt at Findhorn opened my young mind to the possibilities of blessing and and actually working with such energies in tangible ways.

Later in 1980, Leslie and I brought our friend Dorothy Maclean, one of the 3 founders of the Findhorn community, to Fayetteville. She spoke to over 200 people in the UARK Theater and led a weekend workshop in which she taught us a process called “attunement” at Findhorn, which draws on that merging capacity I mentioned earlier, to allegedly make contact with different energies in Nature.

We later had a number of stunning experiences with attunement. I don’t usually discuss such experiences–they’re quite personal and can seem flat out impossible to many people, but I’m going to share a few stories, for what they may contribute to this essay and perhaps to your sense of what is possible for consciousness.

Here’s one: some time after Dorothy visited here in 1980, Leslie and I were sitting at the edge of a two acre field we’d cleared for food growing in the hills near Kingston, Arkansas. We wanted to practice attunement and decided to attune to “The Spirit of the Wind.” We closed our eyes and went to a quiet place inside and held a clear intention to do this, then resumed our immersion in silence. I reopened my eyes first. Standing a few feet from us was a ten foot tall whirlwind. Astonished, I whispered “Look!” to Leslie, who opened her eyes and joined me in amazed contemplation of this windy anomaly. It stayed long enough to be well-witnessed, then whisked away.

The event was one of many which I call “confirmatory experiences,” in that they have dramatically validated my confidence in the responsiveness of natural forces to the resonance and receptivity of clear, focused human awareness. As you might imagine, our immediate reaction to the whirlwind incident was a giant “WOW!”

Some of you might like to learn the process of attunement yourselves. You can pick up The Findhorn Garden Book or one of Dorothy Maclean’s books or you can read about an approach similar to the one she taught us in Stephen Buhner’s wonderful book, The Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature.

Experiments in which human consciousness, and in some cases music, have
demonstrably affected the structure and quality of water, air, plants, and soil continue
to this day. The following may be an even greater stretch for some of you to take in than my little story about attuning to the wind. Here goes:

Recently, my wife and I traveled to Chicago to spend a weekend with a man from India
named Mahendra Kumar Trivedi. A mechanical engineer by training, he has
an ability to alter living and non-living matter with Energy Transmissions or “blessings” of focused intentional consciousness. Mr. Trivedi has collaborated with researchers in six countries from numerous scientific fields, and gathered a broad set of data substantiating this ability in a scientifically measurable manner. The results of these collaborations are beyond
anything predicted by the science of today. Here are the results of some of Mr. Trivedi’s experiments:

Without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, crops showed significantly increased nutritional value
Crop yields increased up to 500%
Immunity in plants increased up to 639%
DNA (Genetics) altered up to 69% in plants & 79% in microbes
There were Viral load reductions of up to 99.81% in viruses that included HIV, Hepatitis (b & c )
Genus and species altered in harmful bacteria
Human cancer cells converted to non-cancerous cells. He’s collected many testimonials from people he’s apparently healed of a huge range of health problems.
In material sciences research, mass and size of atoms, and the energy within and between the atoms greatly changed
Finally, in an experiment which Mr. Trivedi verbally reported to us in Chicago, the presence of radioactive isotopes was reduced by up to 47% in contaminated water.

This man’s capacities have been tested in over 4000 experiments. His Foundation also seeks to further the remarkable research previously done on Mr. Trivedi’s distinct physiology and it’s relationship to his unique abilities.

I found him an interesting man: obviously focused and powerful, cranky at times, very big-hearted, and rather childlike in a lovely way. He clearly has a profound trust in what he called “the God,” in a tone of reverent awe. If you are moved to visit the Trivedi Foundation website, to view the many pages of specific scientific studies, you might also find it interesting to google Ken Wilber’s essay about Mr. Trivedi and the vast implications of his work, and you might like to see Deepak Chopra’s interview with him on youtube.

The thing he said I liked the most was that he was participating in these experiments so
that people will say, “This is also possible,” in other words, to increase collective
consensus about the feasibility of such abilities residing in us all to one degree or
another. And that’s why I’ve shared all this information with you, too.

We leave the realm of science now– or what some of you might prefer to call the borderlands of the realm of science and science fiction. If you do find the Trivedi experiments unbelievable, I’d suggest a good close look at what has been happening in field of parapsychology in the last 150 years. A fine place to start would be to read Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism, and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind by Elizabeth Mayer, Ph.D., with a foreword by physicist Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ.

Harold McCoy, a dowser and healer who founded the Ozark Research Institute in Fayetteville [and who just died in early July of 2010], played an essential role in the birth of this book. Mayer’s daughter owned a rare and expensive harp which was stolen while she was living in the Bay Area of California. Harold, while in Fayetteville, successfully absent-dowsed over a map of her neighborhood there and located the exact street address of the house in CA where her daughter’s stolen harp was. Thus it was found and reclaimed, and that is what initially opened Mayer’s previously skeptical mind to doing the research that led to her book.

You might also want to take a look at Lynne McTaggert’s book The Intention Experiment, which describes ongoing experiments to benignly affect the environment and human health, which you can participate in online.

Although I’ve written and organized around both nuclear and climate change issues, nature-oriented songs and poetry are another way I’ve been naturally inclined to love and celebrate the world. All art-making of this sort seems pretty similar to the gratuitous songs of birds, which sound forth the joy and praise at the heart of creation. So, here beginnith more poetic and artistic ruminations and celebrations:

Robert Sudlow was a Kansas landscape painter I met 46 years ago, who just died this March at age 90. Bob is the most important male spiritual mentor of my life. His paintings are
ever-suggestive of merging: presence of earthsky as a fused “unity of two.” [Google www.robertsudlow.com and “images of Robert Sudlow” to see a generous sampling of his magnificent oil paintings and lithographs.]

Bob taught me by how he lived and worked to offer praise and beauty back to nature. For him painting was a sacramental act. When I was with him outdoors as he painted,
I could just feel the way he saturated the landscape with his love and attention to it. I tried to describe his powerful unitive influence on me in this poem:

HE PAINTS WITH ME

I walk through one of Sudlow’s paintings,
through the landscape as he paints it.
I feel fineness, brushed by vast awareness.
I walk as Bob works on a hill
of golden prairie grasses grazed by wind.
I feel inscape; invoked into the scene
he’s working on and in, into the sphere
where his attention dilates.

“Inscape:” is a word coined by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’ (1844-1889). “Instead of viewing the world as a scientist who classifies and categorizes, or as a philosopher who sees universals, Hopkins sees each thing as highly individualized and different from all other things, so much so that each object is to him almost a separate species and the world becomes an endless catalog of sharply individuated selves.” [John Pick, editor, A Hopkins Reader, pp. 19-20]

Hopkins saw the sacred essence of each object in the landscape– its inscape. His poetry attests this, always:

from “God’s Grandeur:” “The world is charged with the Grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”

Robert Sudlow was so intimate with the inscape of eastern Kansas that being in the field with him facilitated some remarkable confirmatory experiences and communions of my own. A few years ago, he took me to a hillside farm where he’d done a lot of outdoor painting in all kinds of weather. We were walking through the center of a field which he told me had recently been expanded by some bulldozing. I thought I vaguely sensed a subtle disturbance there, and asked Bob, “Do you think that the nature spirits are upset by things like this clearing that’s just been done? Bob was walking about eight feet in front of me. There were no trees, nothing above us or anywhere near us. Immediately after I asked him that question, a solid dirt clod fell out of thin air from directly above me and hit me smack on the chest right over my heart. I checked with Bob that he hadn’t tossed it back over his shoulder, but no he hadn’t. I took this a direct answer from Nature, and felt it couldn’t have happened without Bob’s potentiating connection with the sentient energies of that place where he’d painted so often.

KANSAS BROWNS
For Robert Sudlow

I know a quiet artist who likes to paint farmers’ fields
late afternoons in autumn, then sit with evening
colors and smoke a nicked old pipe.

Kansas smells of goldenrod, walnuts, baled hay, rain,
ploughed ground, soybeans, clay banks, limestone
creek beds, “and something of the color brown,”
he says. “Smells best in mid-fall…”

Then, hedge apples are last to drop.
They cluster pale green near the fence posts,
filled with thick milk beneath their pulp.
Mild cows stand stalled at gates,
by troughs and ponds, heaving
steady breaths.

The artist holds a palette swirled with Kansas browns
of shady forest deer-paths, furrows, umber gaps.
At dusk he puts his brush and palette down.
We sit in evening fields.

The poems “The Isle of Mull” and “Morag Clouston,” were written under the influence of the Findhorn Community while I was living in Scotland in 1969-70:

THE ISLE OF MULL
(Scotland)

Cloud and light clubs break over granite Mull.
The plover lays her polished eggs
in an open keep of sand and bone.
Waves roam down the earth’s slow curve.
High tors of lark song spur the wind.
The silence of the world mends here.

And psyches can mend in such a place, too. Mine did in some inscrutable way– I’ve felt
more like myself ever since being there. And, my color perception opened up permanently while walking the hills and seaside dunes of Mull. Here’s another poem from Scotland, about
a woman I met who lived on a family farm not too far from Findhorn:

MORAG CLOUSTON
(Morayshire, Scotland)

A poem about you, Morag Clouston,
how you walked through the farmhouse
in morning hush after night snow,
dusting the heirlooms and old oak.
Kitchen tableaux: of you dicing carrots,
or reading as supper simmered,
or carrying in stew
to your man and three boys
(them dressed in blue shirts,
smiling and a little quiet
with one another in the candlelight).
Then a simple thing, you turn about
in the kitchen to clatter dishes
back into the cupboard, lamplight
across your back and soft spun hair.

A poem to picture you
home in your hills,
spending hours in sun-dust
on the back stairs with a green
congregation you watered and sang to.
What words would be transparent,
shapely as a wineglass held out
to you, weary woman, to pour
how you paused at the gate late one night
in your forty-fifth winter,
the boys in bed, and took in
the night’s whole glitter?
How the hoarfrost crackled all around
as if it were being hammered,
and you thought,
“I could dance with the children”,
feeling light as a whisper
before the lingering stars,
and how close to the skin,
how awake was the young girl in you,
Morag Clouston.

Her dance-with-the-children energy is as much a joyous spontaneous expression to Nature as her watering and singing to the green congregation of plants. The satisfying exertions and serenity of indoor and outdoor gardening reconnect so many of us back up with natural rhythms and body wisdom.

Eckhardt Tolle, in his book , Stillness Speaks [pp. 84-86] writes wonderfully of the sacred exchange that can happen in our relationship with the natural world:

“You need nature as your teacher to help you reconnect with Being. But not only do you need nature, it also needs you.

“You are not separate from nature. We are all part of the One Life that manifests itself in countless forms throughout the universe, forms that are all completely interconnected. When you recognize the sacredness, the beauty, the incredible stillness and dignity in which a flower or a tree exists, you add something to the flower or the tree. Through your recognition, your awareness, nature too comes to know itself. It comes to know its own beauty and sacredness through you.

“…Nature can bring you to stillness. That is its gift to you. When you perceive and join with nature in the field of stillness, that field becomes permeated with your awareness. That is your gift to Nature.”

Now for one of my tree poems– “Oak Angel:”

OAK ANGEL

Tree at our window in the crush of day
presiding Oak as you are now
you stand before me in the rose church
a branching of brown roads of twilight
and tell me my roots but only now I hear.
cannot fail thirst While we sleep
for in the earth you walk
our life is. the deep world-breezes–
Old angel night’s cool hand
you were singing on the brow of our city.

IT SANG. I felt its strength and heard its song in wind and was encouraged.

Finally “Guardians,” a poem about a days’ drive through Robert Sudlow’s beloved Kansas,
beginning in the Flint Hills where he painted so often and with such devotion. The poem expresses a mood of merging and environmental sensitivity that seems to be on a wavelength similar to many of Bob’s paintings:

GUARDIANS

As we drove toward Council Grove,
I thought (seeing darkness deep
in a morning window) living there
is one who, caved into herself
at night, becomes winds
rivering through cottonwoods
across Kansas, nameless guardian
of stream banks and gullies.

And later as we turned into
Wakeeny, I felt brush past me
hints of one who holds
the entire sway of grasses on this plain.
Prayers appearing in their sheen
open in his mind
as he sits in a porch swing,
somewhere near the trembling of roads.

We headed West through crosswinds,
past wheat’s gold inscriptions,
spying traces in that tall afternoon
of one who wheels across cumulus
on wings of red-tailed hawks,
scattering visions like rain
on the earth below.

From a distant farmhouse,
walled in a windbreak,
broodings rose up at twilight
of one who wears the wet
weave of roots gently as her own veins,
siphoning life into their outstretched branches.

So on the unsheltered plain,
each soul that wakens
in its cradle of flesh,
aligns with space,
and is drawn out into the guardianship
of what it loves most deeply.

Thank you for reading, and please consider that our love for Nature nurtures Earth and indeed
the total seamless field of Life where nothing is separate but each thing is endlessly different and unique– the Great Mystery we all so miraculously appear and inhere in. Right here in.

Please, please be encouraged that there are many ways we can each be guardians:
we can work politically, which is way essential, AND we can also play or dance or sing or pray or love our way to make a positive difference in this sacred world we belong to. We can.

Hello, friends. Mother Earth and environmental harmony is on my mind & heart. On 7/11, at 11 am, I’ll do an entire service at the Unitarian Church in Fayetteville titled “Sacred Exchanges with Nature.” It’ll be a blend of: songs by me (with some vocal and instrumental help from Leslie Oelsner and a harmony by Renee Janski. And including singalongs for you) , poetry (by moi and the ineffable Mary Oliver), stories (I’m going to talk about a few nonordinary experiences I’ve had with the energies of Nature, and relate something about living and working at the Findhorn Community in Scotland) , & scientific findings (with special emphasis on recent remarkable experiments in which Mahendra Kumar Trivedi has demonstrated capacities to alter atomic structure, positively affect air and water quality, and increase crop yields)– all this to quicken our sense of the possibility that OUR awareness and love can improve environmental well-being. Political action is way essential, AND there’s more we can do for Gaia . Hope you can make it!

This tune emerged around 2007, along with a lengthy set of lyrics descriptive of a wild, magical time in my life:  in 1977-78 Leslie and I lived communally with several other young people in a farm house at the edge of Athens, Georgia.  A lot of nonordinary things happened there…we weren’t always in an ordinary state of mind.  At certain points, I unified with myself and the surrounding countryside in  particularly intimate and powerful ways, and this song narrates one such precious event.  That’s me on vocal,guitar, harmonicas, and shruti box (a drone instrument from India), Leslie on harmony vocals, Andrew Sieff on drums, and Kelly Mulhollan on bass and preachers’ organ.  The cut was too long and otherwise not quite matched with the rest of the other songs on my last CD.  It was one of 5 or 6 songs I recorded and eventually decided not to include on Ordinary Mystery.   Over time, I may share more of these songs here.  Enjoy!

How I Got Over – Geoff Oelsner

Here’s a poem in the Antique Mode, which seems to invite a melody.  That melody hasn’t visited me yet– maybe it’ll visit you first.  I wrote this at a Buddhist meditation retreat on April 18 (2010) at Wattle Hollow, south of Fayetteville, led by Anna Cox, after taking a mindfulness walk in the burgeoning Spring woods there.  We had chosen ‘name tags’ randomly and I got the name “Truth.”  No lie! 
Next we were directed to write a key question on our name tags.  I closed my eyes and saw (in print much like this) the question, “How to awaken as love?”  Good question.  Then we all went out on solitary, silent walks with our particular questions in mind.  Once back from my walk with a rock I’d picked up, I found this poem had followed me back to the meditation hall and wanted to be jotted:
 
Truth took a walk and he didn’t go far
but he traced a route under every star.
He carried a question, “How to awaken?
How to awaken as love?”
 
Truth took a few steps; he was traveling light.
He kept his attention close in sight.
Heart-shaped leaves beckoned.  The Wild Violet spoke:
“The way to awaken?  If you want to awaken, just love.”
 
Nature is full of live parables–
the Violet roots deep in soft, sensate soil.
It points how the way down flowers upwards, and gives words:
“Root deep in the dark loam to love.”
 
Truth found sweetheart violets, then found a heart-stone
embedded heart-down in the pebbles and loam.
Truth heard an answer:  “Loving is how,
how you patiently waken Now and Now.”
 
Truth took a walk and he didn’t go far.
In a flower and stone he found his own heart.
_______________
The stone sits on my home altar, a “live parable” and a token of the weekend.  Wild Violets flower all over. 
 
If you ever get a chance to do a retreat with Anna Cox, I’d say go for it.  She plans to return to Wattle Hollow from her Little Rock home to do another retreat this autumn. 

…is a sanctified instrument.  Many traveling preachers have used them to inspire congregations in rural churches.  Also called “folding organs,”  they fold into 70 pound wooden suitcases which stand up all ready to pump and play, after being unlatched (no, NOT unzipped).  Anyway, I’ve wanted one for a long time, ever since hearing Kelly Mulhollan play his (if you click on #31 in the “Songs” chamber of my website, you’ll hear Kelly playing his Estey organ on it, along with me on another portable reed instrument– harmonica).

Estey & Company of Brattleboro, VT manufactured these “portable reed organs” through the 1950’s.  Last Winter, I  finally found one made in the 40’s and bid for and bought it on ebay with Ellis Ralph’s 11th hour help. 

They’re hard to find.  It came to me with cabinet the worse for wear and voice very wheezy.  It’s being restored back to tiptop playing order.   Both our children are musicians, and I hope to eventually pass this mellow old heirloom on to them after we make a whole lot of  music together.   Edward Hejtmanek has completely repaired and beautifully refinished the wood cabinet the 4 octave keyboard folds into. Now its guts, its reeds, are being renovated and replaced by an elder man named Dale living in a small town in OK. 

This gentleman Dale exuded a peace which radiated through he and his wife’s home and yard.  The  flower beds and blooming shrubs there seemed very well-loved.  We were visiting and he told me,

“A guy from England contacted me about an Estey he saw on ebay, and asked me to check it out  for him and see if it was worth buying. .. He had it sent  to me and I fixed it up for him…  He said he was from a band called Coldplay and that I should send it to him in Portland, where they’d be doing a concert soon.”  

So, someone in Coldplay has also caught the Estey bug! 

I’m eagerly awaiting for Dale to  complete my Estey’s organ’s resurrection!  Can’t wait to get my hands on those keys.  Hopefully, I’ll be exposing it to the General Public at gigs in just a little while.

I’ll keep you all…uh…posted.

 

This drawing’s another Michael Anderson dandy, depicting the cellar door in the song lyrics below.  Mike drew the door in the Earth.  The actual door led below a farmhouse at the outskirts of Athens, GA where we lived in 1977-78.  There was an old grove of beech trees on the property near the house, and a dead tree directly in front of it where monarchs en masse made a rest stop on their way south both years we lived there. A lot of flat-out magical things happened to us and our friends there.  It was a wild time in our as-yet childless lives, 2 years into our marriage.  I look back fondly in these lyrics:

  HOW I GOT OVER

 I was the butt of April’s joke, a fool gone blind in wine and smoke.

I bless the night the light bulb broke and darkness eased my pain.

The cistern filled with rain, and honeysuckle seeped into my breath

As I fell off to sleep.

 The cellar door was half ajar. I dreamed I found a star down there,

A point of light that flared and darted deep into my heart—

A tiny shining ark that sailed way into me and came to stay

As I lay there asleep.

 It came to stay as I lay there asleep.

Ta na na na na na na na and that’s how I got over

To my soul

 And as I lay there bathed in grace, the darkness wore a brighter face.

The gloaming glowed and it erased the space that hung between

My destiny and me. I heard my whole soul speak, and summon me

To waken from my sleep.

I woke taking my waking slow, untouched by thoughts that come and go

The traffic of my daytime mind had vanished in the night.

I felt the morning light warm wet empty streets, and fill the fields

As I arrived from sleep.

 It filled the fields as I arrived from sleep.

Ta na na na na na na na and that’s how I got over

To the dawn to the light

And as I lay there fast awake, the shade was shorn as light did break

Into my room and met a mirror turned toward the sun.

Reflections one by one dissolved into the dawn. I sat up straight in bed

And the morning yawned.

 The horses neighed in nearby stalls. A breeze eased ‘round the farmhouse walls.

The air was full of sweet bird calls and slowly melting bells from steeples in the hills.

The neighboring houses stirred. I sat there being

Every sound I heard.

 Ta na na na na na na na

And that’s how I got over to my soul

 That April was the kindest month. I was a happy springtime dunce.

You’re only young forever once and I was in my prime.

The blossoms were sublime—they blazed inside of me, and out in the garden

Crazed the honeybees.

By Geoffrey Oelsner

copyright 2009

Old pond,

frog jumps in…

no sound at all.

I discovered buried treasure under a Tower of Babel of old papers: a bunch of terrific pen drawings by Michael Anderson– now decamped to Brooklyn and continuing his artistic Quest– which he did here in 2008 to illustrate some of the poems and songs on my 2nd CD, Ordinary Mystery. One of the mysteries of making that CD was (?) where the heck these deft sketches went…I never knew, and assumed they’d been vacuumed up by the Household Gods of Forgetfulness and Entropy, never to be seen again. Nay! They will be on Display here, beginning with this one, drawn to accompany my poem, “The Caravan.”

Why “The Caravan” (as opposed to “The VW Camper,” or “the RV,” etc.)?  Well, I originally started this poem in Scotland near the Findhorn Caravan Park on Moray Firth when I lived there in 1969-70.  I was in my early 20’s then. In the UK, a caravan is a trailer.  I liked the sound of that word.  Later I toggled the poem in 1972 or so, while travelling around the Oregon coast in a 1 and 1/2 ton converted logging truck, aka “The Incredible Hulk.” Ah, gasoline was way cheaper then, and carbon emissions of slight or no concern to most of us.

Later yet, when my son moved out to the Pacific Northwest, I tweaked the poem a bit more, and sent it to him– from one 20-something to another– along with 20-some other poems I’d mostly written on the W. Coast during a deeply lonely but also positive time in my early to mid-twenties.

The rhythm of the poem is actually imitative of the rhythm of the many exquisite prose-poems that the late spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti wrote to precede remembered transcripts of discussions he had with people he worked with.  These beautiful pieces of nature writing appear in the 3 volume series by Krishnamurti, Commentaries on Living.

Years after titling this piece, I discovered a wonderful Rumi poem which is traveling in a similar direction– Rumi’s caravan just goes much, much farther than mine:

Come, come, whoever you are.

Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.

It doesn’t matter.

Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come, even if you have broken your vow

a hundred times.

Come, yet again, come, come.

“Who can depart that never came,
return that never left?”

-Virginia Scott Miner (1901-1982)
poet, teacher, and friend

When first lilac leaves arrive,
we turn toward warmth
with the rolling home
that gathers
no loss.

“Nothing is so beautiful as spring–
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightning to hear him sing…”

from “Spring,” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89)

Here it comes! Green tongues poke up out of the snow. Wind wags them
and their soft sighing song begins on slopes, in hollars, along streams.
The Big Wheel has done spun us back around to this revival.

It’s good to be seen by your eyes. Here’s some Spring poems for them: