I say to my breath once again
come from in front of me
go away behind me
row me quietly now
as far as you can
for I am an abyss
that I am trying to cross.
– W. S. Merwin
Riding Out at Evening
At dusk, everything blurs and softens..
from here out over the long valley,
the fields and hills roll up
the first slight sheets of evening,
as, over the next hour,
heavier, darker ones will follow.
Quieted roads, predictable deer
browsing in a neighbor’s field, another’s
herd of heifers, the kitchen lights
starting in many windows. On horseback
I take it in, neither visitor
nor intruder, but kin passing , closer
and closer to night, its cold streams
rising in the sugarbush and hollow.
Half-aloud, I say to the horse,
or myself, or whoever, let fire not come
to this house, nor that barn,
nor lightning strike that cattle.
Let dogs not gain the gravid doe, let the lights
of the rooms convey what they seem to.
And who is to say it is useless
or foolish to ride out in the falling light
alone, wishing, or praying,
for particular good to particular beings
on one small road in a huge world?
The horse bears me along, like grace,
making me better than what I am,
and what I think or say or see
is whole in these moments, is neither
small nor broken. For up, out of
the inscrutable earth, have come my body
and the separate body of the mare:
flawed and aching and wronged. Who then
is better made to say be well, be glad,
or who to long that we, as one,
might course over the entire valley.
over all valleys, as a bird in a great embrace
of flight, who presses against her breast,
in grief and tenderness,
the whole weeping body of the world.
– Linda McCarriston
The Family Is All There Is
Think of those old, enduring connections
found in all flesh–the channeling
wires and threads, vacuoles, granules,
plasma and pods, purple veins, ascending
boles and coral sapwood (sugar-
and light-filled), those common ligaments,
filaments, fibers and canals.
Seminal to all kin also is the open
mouth–in heart urchin and octopus belly,
in catfish, moonfish, forest lily,
and rugosa rose, in thirsty magpie,
wailing cat cub, barker, yodeler,
And there is a pervasive clasping
common to the clan–the hard nails
of lichen and ivy sucker
on the church wall, the bean tendril
and the taproot, the bolted coupling
of crane flies, the hold of the shearwater
on its morning squid, guanine
to cytosine, adenine to thymine,
fingers around fingers, the grip
of the voice on presence, the grasp
of the self on place.
Remember the same hair on pygmy
dormouse and yellow-necked caterpillar,
covering red baboon, thistle seed
and willow herb? Remember the similar
snorts of warthog, walrus, male moose
and sumo wrestler? Remember the familiar
whinny and shimmer found in river birches,
bay mares and bullfrog tadpoles,
in children playing at shoulder tag
on a summer lawn?
The family–weavers, reachers, winders
and connivers, pumpers, runners, air
and bubble riders, rock-sitters, wave-gliders,
wire-wobblers, soothers, flagellators–all
brothers, sisters, all there is.
Name something else.
– Pattiann Rogers
For the graduates of the University of Arizona.
This morning we gather in gratitude for all aspects of sacredness:
the air, the warmth of fire, bodies of water, plants, the land,
and all animals and humankind.
We gather to honor our students who have achieved the extraordinary
accomplishment of earning doctoral or master’s degrees.
We gather to honor their parents, grandparents, children,
family members, and friends who have traveled with them
on their path to success. They have traveled far distances to be here
this morning: we honor their devotion.
May we remember that holiness exists in the ordinary elements of our lives.
We are grateful for a homeland that has always thrived
on a glorious array of people and their diverse cultures, histories,
and beliefs. We acknowledge the generosity of the Tohono O’odham
in granting this land on which we learn, teach, celebrate
accomplishments, and sometimes mourn losses.
May we always cherish our ancestors as we prepare for the days ahead.
May we remember that we exist because of their prayers and their faith.
We are blessed with distinct and melodious tongues.
Our languages are treasures of stories, songs, ceremonies, and memories.
May each of us remember to share our stories with one another,
because it is only through stories that we live full lives.
May the words we speak go forth as bright beads
of comfort, joy, humor, and inspiration.
We have faith that the graduates will inspire others
to explore and follow their interests.
Today we reflect a rainbow of creation:
Some of us came from the east, where bright crystals of creativity reside.
They are the white streaks of early morning light when all is born again.
We understand that, in Tucson, the Rincon Mountains are our inspiration
for beginning each day. The Rincons are everlasting and always present.
Those who came from the south embody the strength of the blue
mountains that encircle us. The Santa Ritas instill in us
the vigorous spirit of youthful learning.
Others came from the west; they are imbued with the quiet, yellow glow of dusk.
They help us achieve our goals. Here in the middle of the valley, the ts’aa’,
the basket of life, the Tucson Mountains teach us to value our families.
The ones from the north bring the deep, restorative powers of night’s darkness;
their presence renews us. The Santa Catalina Mountains teach us that,
though the past may be fraught with sorrow, it was strengthened
by the prayers of our forebearers.
We witnessed the recent fires the mountains suffered,
and in their recovery we see ourselves on our own journeys.
We understand that we are surrounded by mountains, dziił,
and thus that we are made of strength, dziił, nihí níhídziił.
We are strong ourselves. We are surrounded by mountains
that help us negotiate our daily lives.
May we always recognize the multitude of gifts that surround us.
May our homes, schools, and communities be filled with the wisdom
and optimism that reflect a generous spirit.
We are grateful for all blessings, seen and unseen.
May we fulfill the lives envisioned for us at our birth. May we realize
that our actions affect all people and the earth. May we live in the way
of beauty and help others in need. May we always remember that
we were created as people who believe in one another. We are grateful,
Holy Ones, for the graduates, as they will strengthen our future.
All is beautiful again.
– Luci Tapahonso
And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I’ll make me a world.
And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.
Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That’s good!
Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That’s good!
Then God himself stepped down—
And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.
Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas—
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed—
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled—
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.
Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.
Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That’s good!
Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I’m lonely still.
Then God sat down—
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I’ll make me a man!
Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;
Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.
– James Weldon Johnson, 1871 – 1938
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.