Category: Musings

Hold Loosely

Susan Hadler May 5, 2014

ElephantsWhen he was young in Africa, he said,

people held things loosely.

Nothing was yours to keep.

Life and death forever present –

you held things lightly

and you felt at home wherever you went.

You were part of everything – baobab trees, elephants, and people,

and everything was part of you.

P102002DucksSunday morning I noticed my mind going into a frenzy of worry about some small thing and decided to take a walk.  After walking awhile I stopped at the fountain in Malcolm X Park to watch a family of ducks.  Watching the ducks reminded me of standing and breathing with the nuns in Plum Village (Stillness is a Door), silent and still, with enough inner space to know that I was alive and part of an amazing world.

I remembered other times when I felt alert and undistracted, attentive, and happy to Giraffbe alive.

Still sleepy I stopped by the local coffee shop this morning.  While waiting for my chai I glanced into a round, leaf-framed mirror and jumped back.  The face in the mirror was that of a young, dark-skinned man, not the familiar pink-skinned face I was expecting.  Chuckling, I saw that the mirror was a wreath, a Christmas decoration, not the mirror I had assumed it to be.

P1010987Standing tall now where he fell then as a young soldier,

my father is a tree.

First he became earth, then he sprouted,

grew a mottled trunk and branches.

By the time I found him he was fifty years tall,

head in the sky, arms embracing life.

I find him in trees everywhere.

He is the light that comes from darkness.


Slowing down, waking up,

standing, breathing.

A heron glides down to the pond

and folds it’s wings.

Silence is a window.

Stillness is a door.

  The heron flaps its wings

 and flies.

I wrote this poem during my first stay in Plum Village in 2001.  After leaving the stone meditation hall at dawn, I joined a row of eight brown-robed sisters standing in a line on the hill above the lotus pond.  A heron appeared as we stood in silence watching the sky turn red and orange and gold.