Sweeping

The broom echoes in the atrium.
Clear light
cold pink February morning.

The neon sign cycles
Hot Bagels Hot Bagels Hot Bagels.

The broom’s push-pull repeats
as I drink this morning’s cup
of Major Dickason’s blend.

A moaning wind
underneath the entry doors.
The supple ring of elevator bells.

Tony said yesterday
that he had hopes
for the new century but they
had died
in a God shaped hole.

The century mark is just
a label.
The ineffable broom
is an ordinary thing.
All of this
is so familiar.

2006

Brooms, Wyoming Territorial Prison, Laramie, Wyoming
Photo by Richard Gylgayton

Something Intimately at Hand

4.17.20 9:36 am Last Homely House

“It has something to do with presence—not a future good outcome, but the immediate experience of being met, held in communion, by something intimately at hand.”

Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God (Cowley Publications: 2001) 

Outside my studio window the morning light emblazons the maple trees in the backyard. I often feel a communion with that luminosity, except at those moments when my dualistic mind kicks in and my ego overwhelms my reverie with anxieties of one sort or another. During the last six years I have migrated from hope to fear and back quite often. That cycling has been due to the abrupt changes in my life walk. Through it all, when my head cleared and I was able to see my way past my troubles I have come face to face with that “something” that I can only label as God. That proper noun seems inadequate because of what most people assume it signifies—which is not what I mean at all.

“Being met” with that communion and sense of love for me as who I am, is what I think Bourgeault means by mystical hope. It’s what I am writing about in Winterland Nights, though I don’t tell it—I try to show it—as in the final scene that finishes Chapter 14. It is “an abiding state of being” whether I am aware of it or not. It is subtle—yet sometimes obvious. When I become aware of it my eyes tear up and I am filled with an indescribable emotion, a bliss state that transcends all my ego experience and simply sustains me with love. I do not want to break off the intimate connection to that condition when I am cognizant of it.

I sensed it the other night as I was reading a poem by Joy Harjo from An American Sunrise, titled “Directions to You Rainy Dawn Ortiz” (pg. 22). It begins:

Follow them, stop, turn around
Go the other way.
Left, right,
Mine, yours.
We become lost,
Unsteady.
Take a deep breath,
Pray.
You will not always be lost.
You are right here,
In your time,
In your place.

Then, yesterday, as I sat in the passenger seat of Paul’s truck riding through the valley of the White Salmon River, and later, eating my lunch while standing in the empty parking lot of the Mt. Adams Ranger District building, I could discern my departed ones enfolding me, not physically—though I like to imagine it that way—but spiritually. As I think about it I see that they are now bound up in that same communion. As Harjo writes: You are right here, / in your time, / in your place. That comforts me.

This does as well:

But we do hope. It is the main impulse of life. Why do we awake to a new day anticipating that things will improve? What accounts for the hope which lies within us? If life was simply about random particles interacting with no purpose or meaning, death too would be meaningless.

Ilia Delio, Hope in a Time of Crisis  https://omegacenter.info/hope-in-a-time-of-crisis/

I suppose all these thoughts are whirling around inside of me because of the pandemic and all the psychic energy that’s being projected by multitudes of people. That’s unmeasurable of course and easily dismissed empirically. But I can’t do that. There was a time that I tried, but my heart wasn’t in it. Something inside of me—the poet, mystic, artist, and creative man—wanted me to understand that Flatland thinking can only explain everything as particles interacting “with no purpose or meaning.” Not much poetry there! Now, in this time and place, in these circumstances, it’s obvious to me that the myriad things are not obvious.

Instead, there “is something intimately at hand.” The fact that I can’t fix a specific word on it just shows how intimate it is. That truth disturbs some people, so they either dismiss it as unscientific, or smother it in sentimentalism or literalism and remove all the sacredness from it.

There is nothing new in this journal today, save for the definition of hope as mystical. These days of waiting and quarantine are starting to seem like a blessing to me. I’m not sure what I really mean by that other than the outside world, that I normally discount, is now so quiet it seems not to really exist. I find that fascinating, because somehow that also comforts me. It is possible that this experience that everyone one is part of (“we are all in this together”) is a turning point. Maybe we are close to that moment of global awakening that I have hoped for. I will not dwell on that. All that’s important now is that I sustain my health and write, think, read, and care for my little piece of Earth and Heaven.


Seal Rock State Park, Oregon – photo by Richard Gylgayton

Long Walk at Dawn

Excerpt from Chapter 14 of Winterland Nights

Those first few months in Bollinger Canyon I lived in a buffer zone, passing from one chapter to another. I trusted the experience. Any apprehension that I felt was not because of that greater spiritual picture. It was because I had to make a living, pay the rent, take care of myself, learn how to be alone, and accept the solitude that bounded me in the canyon.

One morning just before my 23rd birthday in July I awakened early before the sun was up. I had slept deeply—but I was restless. I put on my jacket and went outside. The air was cool, but comfortable. Georgia, the petite black cat who lived in the corral came up to me and mewed. I started walking and said, “Do you want to come with me, girl?” She followed me. 

As I crossed the pasture, I smelled the horses and the dry grass. I began walking up the trail behind the house and yard and sensed the incense sweetness of summer-toasted bay trees and the arid aroma of parched grass. It was a scorching summer, with more heat coming. Aside from the sound of my footsteps everything was silent. The night had not yet broken through to twilight, but there was ambient light and my eyes had adjusted so that I could see my way. As I walked the sky started to brighten. Black turned to violet. There was no fog and a few remaining stars flickered and gave way to the sun that was beginning to stir below the horizon.

The path climbed slightly and turned south as the landscape emerged in the growing light. Everything was shimmering, a trick of my eyes striving for the light. As I ambled, I felt as if there was another entity with me in addition to the petite feline familiar that shadowed me. Georgia dashed about, but always returned to the path on which I walked, checking up on me to be sure I was still on the trail.

I had no idea as to what to do that morning other than to keep mobile. I had made my way to a time when I had yet to be at peace with the concealed self that made me restless. I was scarcely aware that there were greater energies stirring within me that I would not have understood even had I been more spiritually perspicacious. I knew I was a mystic that did not fit into the mold that I had been given as a child. I had to make my own way. I was reluctant to do so.

The path led to a grove of poplar trees near the crest of the trail. I could see them ahead of me in the rapidly expanding light, their multitude of leaves shivering in the morning wind streaming in from San Francisco Bay. I loved that spot amidst those trees. There was a stump that I could sit on—a meditation chair provided by nature. It was another setting like the vortex in the redwood grove that had altered me a few years before. That summer morning, I remained the same human I was that turbulent night, still sensitive to the wildness that had compelled me when my mind was almost undone. I waited patiently as the sun ascended. Georgia jumped into my lap. The experience of immanence was calm.

Was Georgia trying to tell me something? She was a barn animal, and she lived on the edge of the wild. If everything fell apart, she could return there and make her way by foraging and hunting. She was gentle but potentially savage. As I sat on the stump, she remained on my lap, her eyes wide open, watching the light flood into the canyon as the sun inexorably climbed higher above the hills. 

Color spilled from the shadows. Dull black and grey turned to iridescent green and fulsome ochre. The hills were ornamented with groves of oaks and buckeye trees. I looked up and saw the first hawk of the day darting about looking for a rising current of air that had yet to develop. Birds were awakening. I could hear them launching songs. Somewhere in the arousing geography a mockingbird began to call. At that moment it was the loudest sound in the canyon.

I heard the far-off rumble of civilization beginning its hasty rush through the spirit of the times, as I sat on the stump while my heart opened to the spirit of the depths. Like Georgia I was on the edge of my own animal nature. My own wildness and restlessness were there within me like a portion of myself that I had not yet recognized as a friend who loved me.

I do not recall how long I sat there quietly thinking that there would come a time when I also would arise each morning and go somewhere to earn my lucre—so I could make my own path through the outlandish world that humans had established. I knew also that there was something more important that needed doing. I had thought long and hard about what that might be as my time in college wound down. I had returned to the Bay Area to become a writer, but it was not my time then. The calling had called me, but I was afraid to follow. Later, when I had the mettle, I did not have the time.

As Georgia purred in my lap, a voice inside me whispered—an intimate articulation that I had heard many times before. I could not place it within the context of personhood. It had no physical face, no obvious visage. It was the voice that endowed me with images and metaphors that were replete with compelling mysteries that I could not understand. I listened while slipping in and out of its vocabulary in the same way as sensing dreams or reveries. It was the part of me that was not me. I could not tag it with a specific proper noun without it scattering into puddles of mercury. When I attempted to understand it with my small mind it obscured itself yet remained in full view at the same time.

What I heard as I waited in the poplar grove still speaks as I play the tape that presents the succession of my life on the river where the Yellow Princess navigates. I still can’t label that music, but it no longer just whispers like a tranquil ghost. I cannot see it, but it rests all about me. It wants everyone in the world to know that it loves us, even if we do not listen or are unaware of its existence. It does not hide, but it cannot be measured or seen except in its outer forms: poplars, animals, wind through trembling leaves, birds singing.

That morning, like that hawk looking for a lift, I sat and opened my heart to that voice, knowing that eventually, if I was patient, it would carry me across the sky while my feet remained firmly planted on the earth.


Winterland Nights is available in paperback and Kindle at this link.


Photos of Bollinger Canyon circa early 1980’s by Richard Gylgayton.