But for the Love

“Unless you know how to love your neighbor, you cannot love God. Before placing an offering on the altar of God, you have to reconcile with your neighbor, because reconciling with your neighbor is to reconcile with God. You can only touch God through his creatures; you will not understand what is true love, the love of God, unless you practice the love of humanity.” ~Thich Nhat Hahn, Zen master, poet and peace activist, Taming the Tiger Within

Recently, I had the honor of becoming friends with Chase Gagnon through a poetry group we’re apart of on Facebook. To say it simply, his words move my soul. Today, I have the privilege to share the power of his poetry, photography and storytelling! Enjoy.

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“I was walking into Zeff’s on the corner of Russell and Winder for lunch when I saw him sitting against the wall. The same tattered old man who’s always roaming around Eastern Market through the snow and freezing rain asking strangers for money, the guy who you can see digging through dumpsters and trash cans looking for scraps of food.

I never have anything to give him, and he knows this by now. But it’s the day after Christmas, and I just hit it big off a dollar scratcher. Won thirty five bucks. He puts his head down as I approach, shielding his face from the wind. “Hey man, you want some lunch?” His eyes lit up “you serious fam? I’m hungry as a motherfucker!

I said “hell yeah!” motioning him with my head to get up off the cold ground. We walked into the filthy dive and sat at the bar, each ordered a couple coney dogs and some chilly fries with a hot cup of coffee.”

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“We sat and talked about basketball, how insane Andre Drummond played last night as highlights from the game flashed across the fuzzy TV screen above the counter. Laughed at how stupid our fellow Americans were for electing Donald Trump, and then talked a little bit about how goddamn cold it’s been this past week.

I saw his eyes ice over when he thought about the weather outside, gazing back out into the filthy streets where he sleeps while he sipped his piping hot coffee, both bare hands gripping the mug for warmth. “You know, I can’t remember the last time someone treated me like a human.”

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how bitter
its silence —
gently falling snow

~Chase Gagnon

*photos, poetry, and storytelling by Chase Gagnon

Putting Fears to Good Use

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PRAYER TO PUT FEARS TO GOOD USE

Going over and over one’s fears
is empty
and emptying.

There’s something Greater that sustains.
We call it esperanza. Hope.
We call it guerre es podar. Desire is power.
Hope and desire are powers.

Fear—ha!
Fear—ha!
Ha, hum—fear.
Pstt, pssh!

Consider that most fear
is not fear of failure:
it’s fear to live wide
and deep, as soul calls,
in full power.

Choose your petty fears carefully,
because they can grow big teeth.

Instead, draw your attention here.
I have several fears
I would like you to have.

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Fear these:
Fear not loving
while you have the chance.

Fear becoming bitter.
Fear cynicism.
Fear turning to stone.
Fear living underwhelmed
by everything.

When the culture drags you
back and forth
between being fearful
and being a person
who gives blessings.
Give blessings.

When the culture drags you
back and forth
between being fearful
and being merciful.
Be merciful.

When the culture drags you
back and forth
between being fearful
and being forgiving.
Be forgiving.

When the culture drags you
back and forth
between fearing
and loving.
When the great “they”
say it must be decided,
one or the other,
you can either be fearful,
or do the other, be loving…
refuse to do only one.
Choose all of them.

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Be fearful, and bless others.
Be fearful, and be merciful.
Be fearful, and forgive.
Be fearful, and do.
Be fearful, and love.

It is by doing,
by doing the blessing,
the mercy, the forgiveness,
the doing, and the loving,
that fear is dissipated.

Be not afraid to ride
right up to the enemy
and touch with your
most sharpened flint
made of Love.

So may it be for you.
So may it be for me.
And so may it be for all of us.

*prayer by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, posted on her fb page Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

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*this post is dedicated to all the water protectors at Standing Rock

Redefining She

wild-oneWild One,
I see you
Quivering beneath that old skin
Draped in shoulds and oughts,
Wearing that false smile,
The one that says
‘Yes of course I will..’
Before you set yourself aside
And conform to that safe, known, shape
Of appropriate ‘She’
Wild One
I hear you
Growling in the night,
When your passion wakes you,
Ready to rip his skin or yours
As the truth burning fires of awareness
Blaze their intensity into your mind
Laying bare your compromises
Stripping the lies you tell yourself
Refusing to stay that safe known shape
Of appropriate ‘She’
Wild One
I feel you,
As the dawn breaks
And the false floor and tight smile
Give way to grit, grief and remembering,
That deep, fluid, undulating pulse,
That nectar heart, that moist knowing,
That sweet longing and clarity so bright
They blind you to that safe known shape
And memory,
Of appropriate ‘She’
Wild One
I need you
Ready to shed your fear and thrive,
Ready to feel incandescently alive
Uncensored majesty of womankind
Embodying the grace of the sensually sublime
Receiver of nature’s subtle melodies
Vivid, ageless, honest and free
I stand for you, and you stand for me
The redefined expression
Of appropriate ‘She’

By Clare Dubois, a dear Tree Sister

This poem was generously given permission to be shared here by Clare Dubois who is the founder of TreeSisters. TreeSisters is an organization passionate about the reforestation of the earth’s forests and female empowerment through reclaiming the feminine Self. Tree Sisters just launched their new website on the autumn Equinox, September 22nd. Please be sure and visit this amazing venture at TreeSisters

They are also hosting a powerful series of deeply inspirational speakers that will reach into  the feminine consciousness to plant seeds of change while letting go into a trust of nature’s wisdom. Join them at Feminine Awakening Series

*photo by Anne Brigman, 1918

Song of Songs

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A long time ago when much of the world was still a wild place there was once a waterfall with a beautiful voice. She could sing with the stars and moon. She would sing with the trees of the forest and all the creatures that came to her shores. In all the earth there was nothing like her divine voice. One day the waterfall told herself she was tired of singing and telling stores all the time, but she couldn’t stop her voice from flowing with the waters. As time passed the waterfall’s voice grew dull as it cascaded down over the rocks. It had lost its music of laughter. It only sounded cold and angry as it slapped down into the depths below. There were no more lullabies at night because the trees no longer listened. The creatures of the forest came to her shores only to quench their thirst. They no longer stayed to visit. Even the stars hide themselves from her behind the leaves of tree spirits and veils of clouds. The waterfall began to feel a deep sadness that she had never known. She had never been so alone. She didn’t know what to do.

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Until one day, a pokey little green frog jumped on a mossy stone at the foot of the waterfall. He began to croak out a song. And croaked and croaked into the night. The next morning, the waterfall called out to the frog and said, “Thank you little web-footed friend. I had forgotten what it feels like to sing out with all your might. For many years now, I have used my voice to say what others wanted to hear. But now I realize that I can only sing the song of songs when I give the gift of presence. You have been a true friend.” After that the frog and waterfall would sing many a new song with each dawning day.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016

*photo of waterfall by Nicolas A. Tonelli, Pennsylvanian Waterfalls

*photo of green frog found on Frogs Native to Pennsylvania

She Let Go

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She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

By Rev. Safire Rose

•photo found on Fall Notes

Dragonfly Songs

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Time

To read 

The signals

Traveling 

On the wind.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016

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At the edge

Of summer

And autumn

Light softens

Dragonfly song.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016

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“When the air is hot and humid, there is a feeing of dullness and stagnation. Everyone is oppressed by lassitude. As the seasons begin changing, fresh air comes from the arctic. Clouds that have been building up begin to dispense rain, and damp air is exchanged for fresh, cool breezes. At night, the heavens are changing so quickly that lightning flashes from colliding clouds, and thunder heralds the revolving of the skies.

The same is true of human life. If the heavens cannot endure stagnation for long, how can stagnation last with us? If we find ourselves blocked and frustrated in life, we must look for the inevitable outlet. Nothing is permanent, so how can our obstacles last? We need to look for the first opportunity to set things moving again.

On the other hand, sometimes stagnation comes from our own laziness or incompetence. In this case, then it is we who must show initiative and stimulate a breakthrough in dull circumstances. As soon as we see a chance, we must act. Unless we engage ourselves and events fully, we cannot expect to act sufficiently.”

~Deng Ming-Dao

What Happens?

littlegirl

Sometimes I wonder

What happens 

To the little girl

When she suddenly

Grows up.

© Salem Islas-Madlo 2016

*photo by Anka Zhuravleva