the celebrants

without the trees
bowing and shaking in the wind
the rustling supple surrender
of osage orange, pine, maple, ash,
oak, willow, apple and ripening peach
without the leaves transforming sunlight
into matter their joy sweeping through us
how would we know the sheer delight
of the summer scented air momentary
in our minds as it brushes gently past
how could we ever feel alone in a forest
among boughs content to lie down
and sink deep with them into being

©John Greenleaf-Maple 6/21/17
text and art

thunderstorm approaching solstice

encircling all of Kansas City
and the web of sprawling suburbs lightning bolts
explode upward from the earth first
leap with ecstasy miles into the sky
though we reverse it in our minds
light boils from cloud to cloud it seems
looking for the spot that most longs for it
a roiling search akin to our thoughts that
seek to unite us with the objects of our desire

the pendulum nears its apex in the ripening night
the thunder rolling in is a song of the past
a crashing afterthought but full of insight
in the vacuum left by sizzling plasma
the air rushing in a sudden gasp
into the rent atmosphere where chaos
ripped into our attention drawing us nearer
to the longest day and height of our power

©John Greenleaf-Maple 6/20/17

Live Here Now

The only reason we can look back at our past with regrets and wish we had been able to do some things more lovingly is that we have become more loving and aware of the consequences of our actions over time. Never find fault with your past self in light of today’s understanding. Congratulate yourself for having grown and look for the next opportunity to make life more wonderful.

©John Greenleaf-Maple 6/19/17 – text and art

The Non Process of Imagination

My friend Victor Dougherty is an accomplished musician who recently gave a public talk entitled “Imagination.” In it, he describes his “process” of song writing, which struck some chords with me as well (sorry, but it’s in our brains now and I’m trying to let this flow, so let’s just move on). As background, it is worth noting that Victor comes from a musical family who regularly performed in public, and that he learned how to play guitar and other instruments, as well as sing confidently, from an early age.

When it came to song writing, however, something he first attempted in his teens, Victor noticed something very frustrating. Because his creation was based on all of his thoughts about what an awesome song should contain, rather than his feelings, it sounded somewhat disappointing at best, and it had been laborious to produce. Yes, he finally produced a playable song, but he never enjoyed playing it, and did not attempt to write another song for seventeen years, such unpleasant toil it had seemed.

Over the years, though, as Victor pursued a spiritual path that included daily meditation, something shifted. Stillness had opened up a channel through which inspiration could freely flow. With the mind out of the way, chords, lyrics, etc. would just begin to show up as if by magic. His “song writing” became more directed toward picking up the guitar, vocalizing in some manner that might range from yodeling to geese calls, just keeping loose, and seeing if anything happened. Some pretty amazing things did happen, but if nothing showed up on a given night, no biggie, he’d just give it a try again tomorrow.

The creative process also evolved into a barometer of spiritual wellness for Victor, and contains a lesson for all of us trying to progress in our own creative journeys (whether we do that through what is formally called art or in other innumerable ways for inspired self-expression). When the channel to spirit is blocked, the energy does not flow. What causes this stuck energy? The anger we carried around all day about that thing the person said to us or the horrible thing we heard in the media. The worry expended on an upcoming bill or task.

It doesn’t take much to trap us in our thoughts, and once we are defensively holding onto some negative energy, we sure as hell are not going to be a conduit for the new and unknown, which then becomes an unwelcome intrusion into all of the busy-ness we just created for ourselves. Right, we are going to get this figured out with our thoughts, fix it, and then the needed peace and serenity will be restored to our lives. Except it doesn’t really work that way, does it? The more we hold onto, the more control we try to exert, the more our goal eludes us.

Like Victor, I no longer try to “think of some awesome thing to write.” Instead, I work on getting myself right, and then I will be open to that which is truly alive in my life, to the source of all creativity. When a poem then arises from stillness and begins to manifest itself upon the page, I am swept up in the flow and feel of it, what it is teaching me, its supple ability to glide into existence while I give thanks for its exhilarating energy, the peaceful knowledge that it will guide itself with surety in response to the heart’s desire. And regardless of whatever anyone else thinks of it, I got to experience and record something that had meaning for me rather than just cleverly arranging words into some academic notion of what a poem should be.

When we are still, the inner critic eventually heaves an exhausted sigh, packs his bags, and leaves. We don’t argue with him because he is, as we all know, simply wanting attention and the chance to stand in the way. Yeah, he’s still lingering outside the door, looking back through the window, peering in dejectedly and pleading with tearful eyes for one more chance. That’s how he got back in the last time. Let’s just remain calm and he will truly fade away.

©John Greenleaf-Maple 6/18/17 – text and artwork

how it is allowed

such tragedy and despair, such suffering,
is this God even sane
to put us through all of this?
have we bothered to ask Her?
have we become still enough
to listen for His answer?

those who have fully surrendered,
who disappeared and then returned
can barely articulate the love
that overwhelmed them, blinded them,
and revealed the perfection in which we swim

always over the centuries a few
through grace and acceptance get a glimpse
and always it is the same
purity, ecstatic bliss and love
unconditioned by any requirement
containing everything, including us
with our free will to use as we please

but we are not pleased, are we?
we freely choose to hate and judge,
to cause our despair and tragedy
and then ask how Dad could let this happen,
how Mom could let us bleed out
on a dusty battlefield somewhere in anguish

close your eyes, reach out your hand.
can’t you feel it flowing by,
your perfect God who gave birth
to your glittering blue paradise?
is your will to help this world?
can you see your neighbor’s need?

such tragedy and despair, such suffering,
is this God even sane
to put us through all of this?
have we bothered to ask Her?
have we become still enough
to listen for His answer?
perhaps we will one day do it
it could be now in this perfect moment

©John Greenleaf-Maple 6/17/17

passing days

yes I would say they are endless,
the moments filled with grace but
as far as a balmy sunlit earth
that is just a passing notion of course
it disappears yet the entire universe
lives on just fine
with no reference whatsoever
to how earthlings measured time
if you don’t believe me
then please relax and close your eyes
in utter stillness with nothing to analyze
do you scurry to and fro?
Count the hours to our demise?
i thought not so.

i really just want us to remember, to honor
the source of timelessness, being and all the rest
maybe share how we are blessed,
pause to be awed and humbled by what we do
when we stand aside and let arise
whatever below might ascend into view

that’s when it truly begins
the masks start burning off like morning mist
vaporous wisps that intertwine collapse and
are reborn as quivering liquid light
that now rolls languorously along
the gently sloping living lawn
to thirsty mouths, to me and you

©John Greenleaf-Maple 6/12/17