Hearing, Listening, and The Poetry of Simon and Garfunkel

 

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The well-timed pause in her story. The cough and the yawn. The lyrics to a Simon and Garfunkel song. A sentence of honest revelation expressing words I would rather not hear. They dig into me, and I ache with their sting of truth. Or a version of it.

Stretch me. Open me. Give me all you have to give, world. I am a receiver. A receptacle of grace and grit.

Because I am learning to listen, I now hear the fire, the burn, the crackle of the ash, the fragrant rising up, the sound of the unsavory too.  I am stilled by the quiet and stirred by the poetry. Every sound in the school of stop and hear the world comes to me and I am a pre-schooler once again.

Slowing down, being present and dedicating all of the senses to a moment opens the world up— to wonder, discovery, to what was once unknown. If I am here I want to be all here. There, all there. But I encounter the both and the and of the present. I compromise and meet it all. This is the risk of diving in. This is what I am learning. Both and. To seek beauty is to meet pain. To be open to delight and extraordinary intricacies of the micro-world is to be open to both comfort and joy and hurt and pain.

Bring me all the things I missed on those days when I was too tired, uninterested, too busy, and preoccupied with the unimportant things of life. Dump them at my feet and watch me weep. Noticing now is my redemptive act. It is compounding my joy. For I can’t go back, but I can move forward looking and listening and living well in the moments I have. As a note taker and as one on a journey to discover the joy of noticing, I must listen with the eyes of my heart. I must hear with a deep sense of listening. The pitch is high. The echoes and reverberations bring elation and chords of depression, but grace out yells the grit.

On Sunday I drove down Highway 26, traveling from the Upstate to the Low-country. This is a drive I know well. I could drive it blindfolded but I wouldn’t recommend it.  As I was channel surfing, I stumbled on a fantastic radio show which was featuring music from The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and other classics. The featured music was primarily old demo versions of popular songs, something other than the easily recognizable recorded hit.

It had been years since I had heard the song “A Hazy Shade of Winter.” Music, like nothing else, has a way of stirring memories. That song you danced to at a high school dance, or didn’t because no one asked —that song you sang to alone in your bedroom with a hairbrush mike—they resurrect memories that both remind, awake, and make us want to forget.

After nearly 50 years from the time it was first released,  I heard the song anew in all its simplicity and complexity. It is a poem. It was a gift. Here are the words:

A Hazy Shade of Winter

Time, time time, see what’s become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities

I was so hard to please
Don’t look around
The leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hear the Salvation Army band
Down by the riverside’s, there’s bound to be
a better ride
Than what you’ve got planned

Carry your cup in your hand
And look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hand on to your hopes, my friend
That’s an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again
Look around
The grass is high
The fields are ripe
It’s the springtime of my life

Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
At any convient time?
Funny how my memory skips while looking
over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme
Drinking my vodka ad lime
I look around
Leaves are brown, now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground
Look around
Leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground

(written by Paul Simon)

And so I am listening. Because the world is full of beautiful lines of rhyme and wonderful expressions of what is heard, seen, felt, and lived. And sometimes it all falls on deaf ears.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

Promise Me

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Promise Me

You will
find love in the places where love is hard
and learn to know it there
Walk the trail that’s hard to blaze
Pressing on, though tripping up
On a broken wing and a cryptic prayer
Your walk will be marked by the limp of grace
Mercy, your salve on every blistered place
Remember the Psalms of Ascent
Came before

Contemplate every word that expires from your lips’ breath
And know with certainty
That each word was first birthed
From the inspiration placed in the well
within (where the echoes grow)
Remember that “think comes before speak and pray comes before it all”
And pride comes before the fall

Promise me
That excellence will find you seeking it
And it will mark the work of your hands

You won’t permit perfectionism
To entangle you, hold you captive
Wrap you up in the bonds of your own creation
Bury you in the mire of doubt
“Carry on” will be your anthem song

As you blaze root-laden trails
Settle without settling
(the third cousin of compromise)
Compromise, the first cousin of grace,
Can yield “and it was very good.”

You’ll always remember
That proximity of heart can be hard to maintain
But never let distance, brokenness, and pride
Place a wedge the size of east Texas
Between you and anyone
You love big back

Promise me you will make peace with
Both and
And
Tough and tender
Fragile and strong
And there are more
You know them well
Just promise me

You will always remember
The world is filled with grand and glorious wonder
Waiting
And there is more where that came from

 

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Lord Have Mercy – The Commingling of Joy and Grief

 

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Lord Have Mercy  – The Commingling of Grief and Joy

Full, bloated with beauty. A half a century plus eight years of looking up, I wonder again how the crevices, shadows, and craters, and chunks— wholly, holy cheese (a poet’s words not an astronomer’s terms)— are visible from Earth. I wondered how it seemed to have swallowed up all the light. Every glint and glimmer of the sun’s beams, transformed them into moon beams. In that blink.

The one between the set and rise, the pas deux of earth and sky.

Physicists and psalmists and poets and God knows on this one thing we can surely agree. We’ve never stop looking up at the blinding moon, man or no man.

Achingly we hold on to all it sends our way.

Night on night, the singleness of its trajectory appears to be aimed right at my broken heart.

This journey through my window pane, via crossbars in the crosshairs on a violent night here on Mother Earth. Full bloated with pain.

The explanation was Google-able. But I needed only magic and mystery. No explanation would console me, no explanation for the orb’s blinding grace would soothe me into understanding.

Radiant beauty that blinded me the night the evil rained down in Vegas was bound for Earth, a long forever, ago. And will be forever more.

Two unexplainable facts. Beauty, moving me to tears. One eye cried tears from the beautiful. One eye cried from the pain.

Lord have mercy on the ones. Whose soul windows are bloated with commingled saline tears. Blessed are the ones whose cheeks were tear stained.

The night the bullets rained down in Vegas, Lord have mercy on that night.

That night the moon refused to refuse to shine.

My eyes, my spirit, that night, as blue as a pair of full blue moons. Every once in awhile the tears run rapid down the cheeks, a race to the finish line.

The point where grief heals all wounds, mends all things, bears all things. Love.

And still.

The world is bloated.

With beauty.

Maybe

Maybe

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Maybe the light is always just right.

Maybe we are standing a quarter inch off of where we need to be to see.

Maybe the slant is always pouring in with just the perfect amount of glint and shadow

To show us where to cast our eyes.

Perhaps we moved at the speed of un-noticing all those years ago. And left the beauty in 

A blur.

Perhaps the Light is always just right.

Afterall.

And sacred ordinary was always waiting to have its time of quiet hallelujah, with you 

And you alone.

Maybe the Light is always just right.

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