The Courtesy of the Blind ~ Poem by Wisława Szymborska

The Courtesy of the Blind

The poet reads his lines to the blind.
He hadn’t guessed that it would be so hard.
His voice trembles.
His hands shake.

He senses that every sentence
is put to the test of darkness.
He must muddle through alone,
without colors or lights.

A treacherous endeavor
for his poems’ stars,
dawns, rainbows, clouds, their neon lights, their moon,
for the fish so silvery thus far beneath the water
and the hawk so high and quiet in the sky.

He reads—since it’s too late to stop now—
about the boy in a yellow jacket on a green field,
red roofs that can be counted in the valley,
the restless numbers on soccer players’ shirts,
and the naked stranger standing in a half-shut door.

He’d like to skip—although it can’t be done—
all the saints on that cathedral ceiling,
the parting wave from a train,
the microscope lens, the ring casting a glow,
the movie screens, the mirrors, the photo albums.

But great is the courtesy of the blind,
great is their forbearance, their largesse.
They listen, smile, and applaud.

One of them even comes up
with a book turned wrongside out
asking for an unseen autograph.

—Wisława Szymborska

“The Courtesy of the Blind” from MONOLOGUE OF A DOG: New Poems by Wisława Szymborska, translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.

English translation copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


Quote by Rumi on Happiness

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.


Today’s Quote on Suffering by Gibran

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” ~ Khalil Gibran

First Love ~ Poem by John Clare

First Love

by John Clare

I ne’er was struck before that hour
With love so sudden and so sweet.
Her face it bloomed like a sweet flower
And stole my heart away complete.

My face turned pale, a deadly pale.
My legs refused to walk away,
And when she looked what could I ail
My life and all seemed turned to clay.

And then my blood rushed to my face
And took my eyesight quite away.
The trees and bushes round the place
Seemed midnight at noonday.

I could not see a single thing,
Words from my eyes did start.
They spoke as chords do from the string,
And blood burnt round my heart.

Are flowers the winter’s choice
Is love’s bed always snow
She seemed to hear my silent voice
Not love appeals to know.

I never saw so sweet a face
As that I stood before.
My heart has left its dwelling place
And can return no more.

In Silence ~ Poem by Thomas Merton

In Silence

by Thomas Merton

Be still.
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
to speak your

to the living walls.

Who are you?
are you? Whose
silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
are you (as these stones
are quiet). Do not
think of what you are
still less of
what you may one day be.

be what you are (but who?)
be the unthinkable one
you do not know.

O be still, while
you are still alive,
and all things live around you

speaking (I do not hear)
to your own being,
speaking by the unknown
that is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
to be my own silence:
and this is difficult. The whole
world is secretly on fire. The stones
burn, even the stones they burn me.
How can a man be still or
listen to all things burning?
How can he dare to sit with them
when all their silence is on fire?”


Chapter 29 ~ Doing It Our Way

Chapter 29 ~ Matt’s Hope of Rescue Suddenly Vanishes

Matt crouched in the corner where the trail and the stone walls met. Twice he lied on his belly and peered over the edge looking for a way he could get purchase to make his way off the ledge and to the valley below. The closest foothold was nearly fifteen below him. He stood up, and turned so that he faced the stone wall. He spread his arms wide and placed them on the smooth stone wall, lifted his head up and scanned the wall above him.
He spotted a shrub growing out of a crack in the wall four feet above him. And, another shrub off to his left and a bit above the shrub over his head. This shrub too was growing out of a fissure in the wall. There was a small rock protrusion jutting out from the wall three feet below the shrub to his left. He calculated if he could grab hold of the shrub above his head, he could swing and grab the shrub to his left. Once he had hold of it, he could pull himself up and brace his foot on top of the rock and gradually make his way up the stone wall. He stretched his arms as far as they would reach, the shrub above his head was two feet beyond his outstretched fingers.
Matt made a half-hearted attempt to jump. He looked back at the edge of the ledge and realized there was no room for error. If he put everything into his jump and missed, he might stumbled and fall over backward and the only landing spot was at least five hundred feet below him.
A mountain bluebird landed on the shrub above him, cocking its head toward Matt, paying no attention to his pleading with the helicopter. Matt thought about building a small signal fire. He opened his backpack, there was a half filled bottle of water and the knife his dad had given him. Matt slapped his palm against his forehead, why hadn’t he thought of his knife. He could have used the metal blade to flash the sun’s rays as a signal to the helicopter. He looked back along the way he traveled along the ledge and saw small dead twigs and dead grasses. He thought he could gather enough to start a fire, the way he once read Native Americans did. He’d rub two sticks together on top of the dried grasses and then add the dry twigs on top. He even watched a YouTube video one time where an outdoorsman did it in less than a minute.
Matt’s careful journey along the ledge collecting the small twigs and dried grasses was tedious. He pulled the bottom on his t-shirt up to use as a basket to hold the twigs and grasses. It took him more than an hour to traverse the ledge and collect everything he needed. When he returned with his to his corner, he looked toward the horizon hoping to see the helicopter. There was no sense starting a fire if no one could see it. He dumped the twigs and dried grasses out onto the ledge and then scanned the horizon for any trace of the helicopter. What he saw made his heart race. Out on the horizon’s edge was a long line of charcoal colored clouds billowing upward like exploding volcanoes. Buried deep within the black curtain muffled flashes of light made a surreal painting on the landscape.
I’ve got to get out of here. I can’t stay. I got to take a chance and give it everything I’ve got to reach the shrub, Matt said aloud. He looked up at the branch and saw the bluebird watching him. He studied the shrub. The branches were less than an inch thick. He wondered if its roots would hold his weight. Matt thought about his choices. He thought of huddling in the corner where the two walls and ledge came together. The far distant rumbling of thunder pushed this thought out of his mind. Mat had never seen clouds so black that they threatened to turn day into the darkest of nights. The black wall was relentless, slowly moving toward him. It was as if Matt was in the storm’s crosshairs.
Matt cupped his hands around his mouth and screamed, “Help! Help! Help!” In the vain hope a search party was within shouting distance. He heard his echo, but no other reply. The bluebird watched him.
Matt now saw dark sheets between the ground and the black billowing mass. He knew it was rain. He involuntarily shivered. He felt for his knife in his pocket. He’d leave his backpack, but not the knife his dad gave him. He edged back along the stone wall to give himself a three step start for his leap to grasp hold of the shrub.
Matt turned to face the shrub. His right shoulder touching the stone wall. His left foot now no more than a half foot from the edge of the ledge. He took a quick glance to the left and saw the tops of the trees far below him. He quickly turned away, his stomach did a quick flip. He said to himself, “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. Don’t be afraid. I can do this.”
Matt closed his eyes for a moment, he remembered his dad telling him the first time he jump into the pool from high dive that fear only stays with you as long as you stand there. The moment you jump, fear leaves. Never be afraid to jump, son. That’s what he said to Matt. Matt felt a surge of courage flow into him. He wondered if it was his dad sending it to him. At his dad’s funeral his dad’s captain came over to him told him one day when he needs courage his dad is going to give it to him. Maybe this was the time, thought Matt.
A flash of lightening that seemed to light the entire world was followed ten seconds later by an immense explosion of thunder. He turned his head toward the darkness that took no account of his fear and he felt the first drops of rain fall on his face.
Matt’s heart felt as if it were going to beat its way out of his chest. His breathing became shallow, He braced his right hand against the wall to steady himself. He shook his head to drive the thoughts of falling out of his mind. He forced a deep breath of air into his lungs and stepped off with his right foot. Right foot, left foot, and leap off his right foot, his right arm extended. It’s what he did. His right foot planted solidly and he leaped, his right arm extended, the bluebird took off. His right hand grasped hold of the branch. He held tight, he swung his right leg up and felt for the rock. He couldn’t find it. Matt found himself hanging by one hand from the shrub. His two feet feeling along the wall for the rock. He felt a slight give in the shrub. The shrub slowly began to yield to the stone wall and Matt looked wildly around him. With a last effort he reached out to the shrub off the left and grabbed hold of it with his left hand as the shrub in his right hand gave way.
Matt swayed on the branch. It held. He now had hold of with both hands while his feet searched for purchase. His left foot found a small piece of rock jutting out from the wall, and Matt placed the toe of his left foot on it, giving him a bit of support. And, then a large gust of wind almost tore him free from the shrub. His foot no longer had possession of the piece of rock and Matt swayed at the wind’s command.

Chapter 22 ~ Doing It Our Way

Chapter 22 ~ Grace Discovers Matt Is Missing

Brad pulled his pickup truck in front of Grace’s cabin. He turned to her and said, “Grace, I really had a great time this morning. Thanks for having coffee with me.”
Grace extended her hand toward Brad, “I did as well, Brad. Now, I’m going in and find out what Matt’s been up to. He’ll say, ‘Nothing much, Mom. You know. I hung around.'”
Brad laughed and said, “Matt’s sounds a lot like me when I was his age. I’m going to change and if you don’t mind, I’ll stop by and walk over to the fireplace with you and Matt. I’ll bet Larry already has it fired up and is making a great lunch.”
“I don’t mind at all. Give me five minutes to freshen up,” Grace said. She opened the door. Stepped out of the pickup truck, grave Brad a smile, closed the door, turned and walked toward the cabin. She heard the pickup drive off the short distance to Brad’s cabin. It was only when she was at the cabin door she dared to turn back towards Brad’s cabin and watch him. Grace watched he get out of the pickup. He closed the door and raised his arms over his head and stretched. She thought he was happy and peaceful. When Brad turned toward his cabin, Grace quickly turned away and opened her cabin door. She stepped inside, she didn’t see Matt, She called, “Matt?”
Thirty seconds later, Grace swung the cabin door open and raced towards Brad’s cabin. She opened the door to the cabin, Brad was stripped down to his boxers. He looked startled to see her. Then, he sensed something was wrong, he grabbed hold of his dirty jeans and said, “Grace, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Matt. He’s not in the cabin. It’s not like him. I should have never left him alone,” said Grace. Her brown eyes wore all the marks of a coming super storm.
Brad slipped on jeans. He sat on the edge of his cot, and pulled his boots on. “We stayed a bit longer than we expected. Matt may have taken a walk around the lake. Do you have your cell? Call him,” he said.
“Why didn’t I think of that? That’s the first thing I should have tried. My cell is in my handbag. I left it in the cabin,” said Grace as she turned toward the door.
“I’ll go with you, Grace,” said Brad following her out the door, hitching up his pants, holding his boots in his right hand, and running in stocking feet behind Grace.
Grace ran to the cabin, jump up the two steps and went through the door. Her handbag was on the floor by her cot, right where she dropped it when she called for Matt.
She picked up her handbag and began to dig through it for her cell.
Brad said, “Matt left his phone on his cot.” Brad walked over to pick it up. He turned and took a step toward Grace handed it to her.
“I just know something terrible happened to him. I just know it, Brad. We’ve got to look for him,” Grace said with a sense of urgency.
Brad took hold of Grace’s hand, “Panicking is the wrong thing. We can only help him if we are calm. Remember how Matt said he wanted to go for a hike? Boys are boys and the lure of the hike may have gotten the best of him.”
“You think so, Brad? I couldn’t bear to lose Matt after losing Mike.”
“Let’s think positive. We’ll talk to Jane and Larry and see if they saw Matt. If they haven’t, we’ll go to the park ranger and get help. We’ll find Matt, don’t worry,” said Brad.
Grace felt reassured. There was something in Brad’s voice that settled her and eased the deepest fears within her.
“Give me a moment to slip my boots on and we’ll head to Jane and Larry’s cabin,” said Brad.
Grace walked over to Matt’s cot. She looked underneath it. She looked behind it. She said, “Brad, I think you’re right about Matt taking a hike. His backpack isn’t here. Do you have any idea where he might have gone?”
Brad pulled his last boot on and slipped his jeans down over the boot. He stood up and motioned toward the door. Grace followed Brad’s arm and walked out of the cabin. Brad was right behind her. He said, “When we went running this morning, I saw four trailheads. All four were temporarily closed because of the frequent sightings of black bears and mountain lions.”
“Oh God, no!” said Grace and turned around to look at Brad. Her eyes were filled with tears.
Brad gently placed his right hand on Grace’s arm and turned her toward Jane and Larry’s cabin. He said, “Animals generally stay away from humans, unless they think the human is a threat. It’s hard to predict how an animal will respond. I think Matt may be in more danger from poison oak and poison ivy than a bear or mountain lion.”
“You really think so,” said Grace.
“I do, Grace,” said Brad, knocking on the door to Jane and Larry’s cabin.
The door opened, the fringe bikini clad Jane answered, “Oh Brad, I’m so happy you came by. I’m feeling better now, thanks to you. Larry went to town to get some steaks, do you want to come in. Oh, hello, Grace.”
Brad said, “We’re not here for lunch or a social call, Jane. Matt’s missing. Did you see him after we went to the coffee shop?”
“No, matter of fact we didn’t. When Larry came to pick me up in the canoe, we decided to lay out on the raft for a while and enjoy the sun. Why? You know boys, they have a mind of their own. He’ll come home when he smells the steaks cooking.”
Grace was about to say something, when Brad said, “Thanks anyway, but we’re headed to the Ranger station.”

Chapter 18 ~ Doing It Our Way

Chapter 18 ~ The Gloves Come Off In The Dating Game

A bright sun peeked through the tops of the tall pine trees sending streaks of light through its boughs. Matt was sound asleep on his cot, his Cowboys’ football blanket pulled up around his neck. Grace was standing over him watching him sleep. She saw the smile on on Matt’s face, whatever he was dreaming, it must be a happy dream, she thought. Grace was wearing a modest one-piece navy blue bathing suit. She walked to the cabin door, opened it and felt a cool breeze embrace her and took a deep breath. It felt refreshing. She looked down toward the lake and saw five deer drinking water. She glanced to her left and spotted Brad, He was wearing swimming trunks and no t-shirt. He was doing pushups. She could see the muscles on his back and arms ripple with each pushup. She stepped back, she did not want Brad to think she was staring at him.
Grace walked back into the cabin over to Matt. Matt was now on his side. She gently shook him calling, “Matt, Matt, wake up. You’re snoozing you’re losing.”
Matt rolled onto his back, and rubbed his eyes, and said, “What time is it, Mom? Did I oversleep?”
“No, you didn’t oversleep. I thought you might want to see the five deer down by the lake. And, by the way, Brad is exercising. He is doing pushups.”
Matt jumped out of bed, “Why didn’t you wake me earlier. I wanted to exercise with Brad.”
“Matt, you didn’t know Brad was going to exercise,” said Grace chasing after Matt as he ran toward the cabin door. She called, “Matt, stop. Change into your bathing trunks and put your Nike’s on.”
Matt stopped at the cabin door and hollered, “Brad, I’ll be right there to exercise with you. Wait for me.”
Brad looked up in the middle of a pushup and said, “I’ve just started. I’m going to run three miles before we go swimming. Want to run with me?”
“I’ll be there in five minutes,” called Matt.
Grace stood aside and let Matt race by him.
A moment later she heard Matt, “Mom, I need my Cowboys’ t-shirt. Where are my running shorts, you brought them, right?”
Grace said a quick prayer of thanksgiving that something told her to pack these items. She said, “Look in my suitcase. They’re in there.”
“Thanks, Mom. Tell Brad I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Mom, I can’t find my socks, you know, the socks with the Spur’s logo. Didn’t you bring them?” hollered Matt.
“They’re in the backpack with all the other socks. Don’t make a mess, Matthew!” said Grace.
“I won’t, Mom. Thanks for packing everything,” said Matt.
“You’re welcome, now hurry on. I can see Brad is waiting for you.”
Grace walked to the door to call to Brad. She opened the door, and stared toward the lake. The deer were gone, in their place was Jane by lake doing yoga in a fringe bikini. What is she trying to do? Grace felt a sudden flow of anger surge through her body.
“Excuse me, Mom,” said Matt bounding past her hitting the cabin door with his outstretched hand, and banging the door against the side of the cabin.
“Let’s go, Brad. Want to do four miles?” called Matt racing toward Brad.
Brad had a Cowboys’ t-shirt on and called over to Grace, “We’ll be gone about a half hour. We’ll go for a swim when we get back.”
Grace hollered, “I’ll be ready. We’ll all race to raft. Loser has to buy coffee in town.”
“You’re on,” said Brad as he waved and he Matt started off on their run.
Grace waited and minute and watched Jane’s eyes follow Brad up the trail. Grace decided to walk down to the lake.
When she was within speaking distance, she said, “Good morning, Jane. Isn’t it a little cool for the outfit?”
Jane was lying on a yoga mat pulling on a yoga strap and stretching her hamstring. “I must be going through the change. I feel so hot. I heard you and Matt making a bet. I’ll be finished stretching in a few minutes. I’ll join the competition if you don’t mind.”
Grace didn’t stop to think before she said, “I don’t mind competition.”

Poem by Tagore

On the Nature of Love

by Tagore

The night is black and the forest has no end;
a million people thread it in a million ways.
We have trysts to keep in the darkness, but where
or with whom – of that we are unaware.
But we have this faith – that a lifetime’s bliss
will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips.
Scents, touches, sounds, snatches of songs
brush us, pass us, give us delightful shocks.
Then peradventure there’s a flash of lightning:
whomever I see that instant I fall in love with.
I call that person and cry: `This life is blest!
for your sake such miles have I traversed!’
All those others who came close and moved off
in the darkness – I don’t know if they exist or not.

Chapter 1 – Doing It Our Way

Chapter 1

The two friends stood in line at Starbucks. Five people were in front of them, a couple in their thirties, a male college aged student, a male about 35 dressed in slacks and tie who looked like he was on his way to work. And, a woman about 25 with a young baby in a papoose. It was 9 a.m. on Saturday.
“Grace, there’s only one table left, do you mind getting my coffee, you know what I like, I’ll reimburse you. I’m going to grab the last table before anyone in front of us beats us to it,” said Jane Ferri.
“Good idea. I’ve got it, don’t worry about it. The usual, right?” Asked Grace Conti.
Jane smiled and gave Grace a soft pat on her shoulder. Jane quickly walked to a high table for two with stools in the far corner of Starbucks. She sat with her back to the wall, and looked up at the line. She saw the couple pay and take their drinks, turn and look at her. They were not happy. Well, too bad, Grace and I need to talk, she thought.
Grace made it to the front of the line, “Hi Tim.”
“Hi, Grace. The usual?” Said Tim, the Starbucks barista.
“The usual for me and a grande chai latte for my friend,” said Grace nodding toward Jane.
“Okay, that will be a grande skinny vanilla latte for you and a grande chi latte for your friend. How’s Matt doing?” Said Tim ringing in the order.
“He’s a nice kid. He’s doing okay. Thanks for asking,” said Grace. She smiled at Tim. He returned the smile. Grace took her receipt and walked over to await her order.
Five minutes later, Grace thanked the barista for the order, picked up the drinks, and walked to table Jane earlier grabbed. She placed the drinks on the table and climbed onto the stool. “I’m glad you got the table. This place is packed,” she said.
Jane pointed out the window, “It’s Saturday, there’s a big football game in town and the farmer’s market is going on up the street. It’s the perfect combination to fill Starbucks at 9. How’s everything going with you? We haven’t seen each other in three weeks. You don’t answer my texts. I was afraid I did something wrong.”
Grace held her drink with both hands, took a sip, set it down, and looked at Jane, “You’re my best friend. I’m sorry. I should have answered your texts. The last three weeks have been tough for me. I know you understand.”
Jane studied Grace’s face for a moment. Grace’s eyes were watering. Grace reached for a napkin and dabbed at the corner of her eyes, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to. I can’t help it, sometimes. It was three years on the 8th. It feels like yesterday. I can’t get past it. I’ll be okay in few days.”
Jane reached over and briefly touched Grace’s hand, “I’m sorry. I forgot. Has it been three years?”
Grace gave Jane a half-hearted smile, “Three years. Three long, long years. I still feel like I’m walking in a fog.”
“How’s Matt doing?” Asked Jane.
“I wish I were as strong as Matt. He’s only in 7th grade and he goes about his life like nothing happened. He’s involved in school. He has lots of good friends. He keeps a large photo of Mike on his wall. It’s one of Mike in Afghanistan. He doesn’t know I’m watching, but he touches the photo each time he walks in and out of his room. He wants to be just like Mike. He wants to play football, basketball and track. And, he wants to go to one of the military academies, just like Mike. Why? Because Mike did. I can’t help him with sports. I mean, I know what a football is. I know what a basketball is. I can watch a game on TV and know what’s going on, but I can’t tell him how to play. I was interested in gymnastics and ballet,” said Grace.
“Where’s Matt now?” Asked Jane.
“He’s at his friend Tommy’s house with some friends. Tommy is a year older than Matt and lives four houses down and the boys play basketball in Tommy’s backyard. I told him I’d be home at 11 and I wanted him home by 11:15. He’s really good at listening to me. I talked with Ellen, Tommy’s mother, she said she’d keep an eye on him. It’s not easy being mom and dad to boy who thinks he has to be the man of the house,” said Grace sipping her latte.
Jane took a deep breath, she sipped on her Chai tea, and set it down, “I know Ellen, she’s nice, her husband Dan he’s a bit weird, but okay if you don’t mind their ultra liberal politics.”
“I don’t pay too much attention to politics. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, we live in a free country. So, why should I care?” Said Grace.
“I guess so. Although, Ellen’s a lot nicer than Dan. When Dan starts talking politics he rants against the government. He hates the military. He sees a conspiracy around every corner,” said Jane.
“It keeps him busy,” said Grace managing a small laugh.
Jane said, “We’re good friends, right?”
Grace looked at Jane, “Yes? Usually, when you say, we’re good friends, you have something to tell me you think I don’t want to hear. Am I right?”
Jane nodded, “If I am out of line, say so and I’ll stop. Fair enough?”
“I know what you’re going to say. I don’t want to talk about it. How many times have we gone down this road? I think a dozen times and the answer is still going to be the same, no. Grace’s words held the chill of an Article blast in the middle of January.”
“I’m your friend, Grace, not your enemy. Please, Grace, listen to me. You’re thirty-four years old. I wish I had your looks and figure. You need to be dating. It’s been three years since Mike was killed in Afghanistan. You’ve got to let it go and get on with your life. Matt needs an adult male figure in his life. You need a man in your life. I don’t think you’ve dated once in the last three years, have you?” Asked Jane.
“If you don’t count the times you tried to set me up with dinner at your house, I haven’t dated. I don’t feel like dating. I had one love in my life, and that was Mike. I’ll never find another like him,” said Grace fighting back a wave of emotions.
Jane listened and saw the pain etched on Grace’s face like fine lines carved with an artist’s sculpting blade.
Jane said, “There is no other Mike. Maybe there may be someone different from Mike who’ll be a good husband and father in a different way. You’ll never know until you try. You’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you. I saw Tim look at you when you were ordering our drinks. He likes you.”
“He’s five years younger than me, at least. I’m doing okay. Is the sermon over? Let’s talk about something else. Want to go to the farmer’s market with me?” said Grace trying to move the conversation in a different direction.
Jane absentmindedly ran her hand through her hair and reset her ponytail. “Grace, you haven’t worn makeup in three years. Not even a touch of lipstick. Nearly every time I see you, you’re wearing your workout clothes. I know you don’t spend all day at the gym. Do you wear them to work?”
“No,” said Grace curtly.
“What if I plan a barbecue next Saturday afternoon? I”ll invite Ellen and Dan and Tommy. I’ll invite a few other friends as well. It will be casual. I want you to bring Matt, he’ll have Tommy to play with. And, yes, there will be an eligible bachelor there. Please, try it one more time. I promise, if you come and nothing happens, I won’t bring it up again,” Jane said.
“You mean it? You won’t bring it up again? Promise?”
“Yes, Grace. I mean it,” said Jane.
“Okay, we’ll go. Matt and I will be there. But, I already know, I’m not interested.”