A Proposal for Nature Tourism for the Okanagan

This wetland beauty is what a real tourism is made of.

I witnessed busloads of Asian tourists scattered across pastures in Iceland, to take pictures of exquisite light.

The timing, the location, the season, all have to be right.

These are ancient, honourable traditions.  They are alive here.

So often, though, I have seen Asian tourists in Vernon trying to find some nature to photograph off the front of their main stop, the honey farm, and the meadery, which closes its tasting counter for their arrival, by the busload.

So often have I seen them crossing traffic to shop at the Dollar Store.

Well, if they came for beauty, we have cattails. What are the tour bus companies thinking?

We also have feral squiggly willows.

They are worth $3000 of Nikon equipment, too.

And a plane ticket.

But why just Asians. Why don’t Canadians come for Beauty, too?

It’s not particularly hard to find, even in the ruins in which we are forced to live.

It’s easy. You go by foot. Then you stop.

Then your mind stops.

It’s all ephemeral, but here’s the thing: ephemerality is continuous. We have the ability to flow, but also to pool.

Let’s pool.

Let’s follow the turtles for awhile and give our guests the respect they deserve and open our social forms to the living world for them.

Look at how the water turns to turtle shell with the lightest breeze!

And by doing so, open them for us.

 

Water Has Memory

When a breeze shifts the old cat tail stalks, the energy skin on the water kinks, again and again. Water remembers each kink.

Then the greater memory kicks in and the energy is reabsorbed. Effectively, it is reabsorbed into past time. Yes, this is a photo of time travel, similar to looking back to the Big Bang.

Look how the entire mountain ridge across the valley is caught in the newest water kinks.

Against the Descending Night, A Prayer in the Rushes

I am not angry.p1470038

I am sad.

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My elders taught me that these were cat tails. They taught me that poetry was a fairy tale.p1470033

They taught me that these were swamp weeds. They taught me that words expressed thoughts.

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I learned later that these rushes were the winter food of snow geese, who summer in Siberia, when it is like our winters here in this fjord lake valley. But that was not enough.

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I learned later that the people who are this land that has brought me to the sky built their houses out of these reeds. Why did no one tell me this? Why were they separating me from my body like that? I am nothing but this body. These rushes are my thoughts. I am them walking.  It was not enough.p1470051

I learned later that I have ancestors, far older than my elders. To them, these were not plants. There were no plants in their world. There was the sound of wind rattling the stems, calling them. It is all that I am.

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It has not been enough. There is only the world of men, I was taught forty years ago. If you do not accept their way of speaking, and I promise you I was instructed in this, then you are an outlaw and can expect the laws to be used to suppress you. I am not speaking in metaphor. This was the point of philosophy forty years ago. Men wanted to build a world that consisted only of a social network.

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And they did do that, but not for those of us who are the world, who are a rush brushing against a breast with the sound of geese leaving to overwinter on the seas of the moon. As if that were up in the sky, and not right here.

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As I grew through adulthood into middle age and then past it and became a last remnant of a lost earth, under stars most men and women have never seen, younger people began to correct me.

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They had learned well. They were very helpful. They told me that this was a wetland. Not the moon. I do not think that they were trying to kill me, the poet, the man of the rushes, but the effect was the same.

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I am not angry.p1470014

The people who lived in books told me that my ancestors were simple people, who read themselves into the land, but “we” understood reality now.p1470054

They told me that what you see in these images weren’t the sound of the cold calling through the sun and the sun answering. They told me about reality. I think they thought I knew what this stuff was. But I am not sure.p1460999

In return they were very helpful. They told me that my languages, English and German, were not languages of the world but were very useful systems of social codes and abstractions.p1470015

They were even more helpful. They told me that mathematics was true, that cold-hardened steel was true, but that spirit was not one thing or another and so not “true” because it could not be cold or hardened.

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They told me that Beauty was not a measuring device for the presence of life in a land and its people, or in a people and its land (if it’s useful to say one thing twice) but a pleasurable response designed by a force called evolution to create babies, which, to reason, which they understood, was a clever product of randomness and an elegant expression of it.

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In their world, there were no men of the rushes. But there were reasonable things.

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Where they saw wetlands, that could clean water for their cities of asphalt, steel, concrete and glass, I saw bows, arched, and water fields, and arched with them, and was arched, but it did not matter.p1410980

I did not see grazing grounds, or a lump of rock circling the earth, and that was that. They told me they did. Sometimes I suspected that they were looking at words, but I didn’t know that for sure. They did say that what I saw was “poetry,” though.p1410981

I saw the sky. I knew that much. Written in the earth.p1410989

I saw the geese were the moon flying. Written in me.p1410986

Who could I speak to of this? I live in a country in which such talk is called romance. It is not a complement. It is something to be corrected. It is also called poetry in this country. It is something to be corrected.

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There are people in this country who are called people in authority: professors, city planners, property developers; it is all the same. They come from other countries to this one. They correct me. They don’t say, “We call this a wetland.” They say it is one. When I say, your city is in the middle of my valley, and I wish it would go away, they are shocked at what they call my naiveté. I think they think I live in books, but I’m not sure.p1420291

They use the word ‘we’. I don’t. I’m sorry about that. It has caused confusion.p1420292

We the rushes, I should have said, and not cared that they don’t think they have a language for the earth that accepts its personhood. I should have said, we the children of the moon, meaning the eye of a bird in the night, and if they insisted on a stone then a stone thrown into a pool, rippling.p1420293

I kept silent. I am sorry about that.

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I did not know myself. I was deferent, as I learned from the water and the land, bending with the wind and the rain.p1420043

It’s not that I didn’t feel the energy within this body and world I am. It’s not that the rushes didn’t hold the answers to every question in the world. It did not matter.p1470001

I was well trained, and believed them when they said these things were all separate, and only the seeing of them had form, and this seeing was less than theirs and was called “poetry,” which I didn’t feel they liked much.

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I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. I, of course, wanted to live among them. Some of them I even loved. Some I still do, more than myself.p1470009

Some of them, though, told me that the stuff in the image below (for example) was Nature. They told me about the seriousness of literary committees, and that there was one way of doing things, and it could be taught, and they would run the committee now, because I was talking about rushes and land and they were busy people and needed to talk about important things. Serious things. Things they could say to each other, not to rushes. I suspect they didn’t know how to talk to rushes, but I’m not sure.
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Of course they needed to talk to each other. They were young. I was too much a child of my ancestors and not enough a child of their books. I was a knot of tangled threads.

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By their pride, they taught me how to untangle that. They tried to teach me that poetry was a thing made of words, set in metres and rhythms, and even that these things could be fixed, and that poetry was not snow geese and not the waiting for snow geese and not houses made of the body by plucking its hair the way a musician plucks the strings of a lute. They taught me that men — a kind of puppet that a soul can operate in the way a robin operates an apple tree — speak this way, and that women had other things to talk about. I’m happy for them, and though at times I have wished they would have said what that was, what they needed to say, one of my friends, a woman and a philosopher, has kindly explained to me that this kind of talk is just the puppet talking and it should just be ignored. I was excited. This sounded smart and new.
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Caught in the spell of young professors of literature, one of whom even said, despite my protests, that all men hate the earth and want to destroy it, I forgot myself and tried to argue, and when I failed at that, predictably, forgot myself again and stopped writing poems for the world, even though I had had elders who taught me the old ways, even though they only cloaked them in the words of literary men, for their own protection.
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They could not protect me from my misunderstanding.

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I did not tell the important literary people, who know how things get done in their world that I cannot see, who know the traditions of how to train people, which looks like the training of horses to me, that the boat of my ribs is the lute, that I am singing with old Vaïnomoïnen, the smith of the Milky Way, here on the star road, as my people have sung since men found iron and struck it with a hammer instead of making war.p1470028

I am sorry. I should have told them. I should have said, “I do not want to make war.” I should have said, “I would like it if we loved each other.” Well, the last time I said “I do not want to make war” was the day, thirty years ago, on which I learned that many people, who call themselves poets, and I presume they know what they’re saying, want war. They delight in it, they told me.

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I am repeatedly told that as a man who speaks the words of his ancestors, I am of their kind. A tribe, they call it. No.

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I did not tell them about the mind that was a spark from the anvil of the world.

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I should have, right then. I did not tell them about the darkness that is light, the matter that is time, in the little time I have in the world before I am the world again, without time. I didn’t expect that they would understand something that is beyond understanding, and so I was silent, partly out of deference and partly to protect myself, lest I be torn from the world into words and when I turned around again there would be no world at all.p1470026

I was afraid of that, and in my fear I failed them and myself.

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But I am not sad. Sure, they would not have listened. They would not have heard. How could they? We did not share a language. But, even so, some things are not said for people. They are said for the rushes and the wind.

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I should have forgiven them easily and at once. These were, after all, people like myself, who understood war too well, whose ancestors had been driven, as mine, into its throat and had been swallowed alive, as my people were.

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After all, this land was captured by countries across the sea, not by love but by violence, and if I grew up in that violence and read it as love, and if they grew up in that violence and read it as my own, why should I be bitter? I am not.

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I am joyful. I catch the sun. I am not sad because of that. I shake my stems in the wind. It is a small gesture, I know, but it follows the winds of time, just so. Just so.

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I have found myself at last, just so. I am weaving the sun and the earth together, not because they are not already there, but because I love them.p1470030

Because I hear them speaking.
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This speech is not in words.

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(Well, unless you will accept that these are words, which is generous and bold of you.)

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Is that too much to ask? I don’t know.

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I don’t know how it is among you.

 

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I think sometimes you do.

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I think of the children, often. I think of the poets among the children. Those who have not found their voice in the world yet. Those few who run their fingers along a blade of a sound and feel the foundations of a house, the stretch of a thought, the music of a heart lifting as a snow goose on its way to the Siberia, where it speaks the language of ice with all that is.

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With all that it is possible to be.

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These are the wings.

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Listeners, please, if you think I am making a poem, then I have not used my words well. Here, this is a poem:p1470041

Please read it again and again and again. Don’t look to me. I am just a rush speaking the wind. I am just the wind, speaking a rush. I do not mean poetry by that. That is something we were all taught.p1470042

That term is something I have lost. I don’t need to go looking for it.  I do not need to put one word on top of another word on top of another word until they make an image of the world.

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Nothing’s lost, but things are found. I am already here.
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I have always been here. I don’t need science to do this for me, either. That was for people trying to escape a war, and that’s a fine thing.

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There was a time I was a child in a school. I was being taught that one form of literature, science, is true in the world, and all others are entertainments, which can be studied by science and then, observed and classified, would be true, as they had not been before. I was not taught about the smith who sailed the boat of his ribs down the Milky Way. I found him on my own. I walked outside. I breathed.p1470045

Please, forgive me for reminding you here of what might sound strange to you. Breath means the world to me. This is not poetry, I should add. It is the world speaking. What goes by that name today — poetry — is a dark magic, but it is not the world, or me, or speech, or, I suspect, you, and the words it uses are not the words of my language, or, most likely, yours. They look the same, yes. These words I write here, and you read, though, are not the words of my language. If you sense any poetry here, perhaps I have managed to move myself just enough out of the way that you can feel the rushes brushing against your cheek, and … can you smell them, too?

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I can. They smell of dry water. It’s hard to explain. But why shouldn’t it be. Explanation is a game of words and this is not words or a game. This is the world.p1470085

I love the body of you.

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Don’t you? My brothers and sisters, the wind has been waking into the sound of rushes. That’s all. It has taken some time.p1420293

It has been growing into itself to find you. I was born knowing this. I have been remembering before it is so late that I am no I at all.

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I apologize for the delay. I was born to people who made a hammer out of the language of my ancestors, that spoke the sound of a goose’s wing, that came from the lungs, and because I loved them I believed them. That is the right way to enter the world.
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But now I am the elder. I can let those old stories go.

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I can let them go to Siberia.

p1420352I can follow them.

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I am the elder to no-one’s children, not even my own. I know that. I write for the rushes, as I always have, because that is what they have heard as they have written me. I dare not stop. Do you?p1420344

Whatever children may follow, they might have need of the language of the earth. They might find each other on its paths. I don’t know. I pray they will. I know only that night is coming. The machines are coming for us. They will live in our place. We the rushes will be the silent dead.

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Young men write language for the machines now, while young women write the story of their bodies and measure the world to strip it of language and cast it naked on the sand for the sun to write upon. I do not profess to understand. It has to do with dreams, I think, but the young women aren’t saying. Many of them are quite angry, although they have difficulty saying about what. I understand. It’s a hard journey, life. It’s hard waking.
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I hope the young men find them there, though. I hope the young women will have them, in their wordlessness. I hope there’s enough wordlessness to go around. It’s awkward, but it can’t be helped. There is no other way to see in the dark. I hope we will protect them.

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The machines are merciless.

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I speak out of turn, perhaps, but I do so because love is merciful.

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I know it is an indulgence on my part, but what else? Every child must learn the old ways by touch alone, by breath and blood and bone, by skin and lip and teeth and tongue.

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Only that way will they learn of us and live, and we will live on through them.

Mind and Body are One

Things are just what they seem. Like dreams, the act of looking into water has no words. And it can’t be given any, except the simplest ones: blue, log, deep, water, light, wet, leaf, dragonfly, pond, toad, fish and so on. You can read it, but its language is itself.
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The language is complex.

 

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And multi-dimensional.p1230634

It profoundly resists usefulness. You can bathe in it. You can drink it. You can be centred by it, but that is not use. That is bathing, drinking and centring, which is a way of saying: in different ways our bodies do the same acts, whether with the eye (seeing), the skin (bathing), the mouth (drinking), or the gut (centring). Beyond that, we can’t go. Our language, English, has this profound layer, that can’t be budged. It can be approached in infinite variety.

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But it can’t be budged. That is honest. It is completely unified, on levels of body, heart and mind, dream and waking, self and world. We can trust it. It can lead us to water, stone, rain, wood, snow, fish, toads, grass and light. Words aren’t there to explain it. How could the complexity shown in the image below be explained? Explaining has nothing to do with the body, and this is about the body.

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And since you can trust this, you can know that if anyone explains what you see here, what they are really doing is dismissing your body, and theirs. They have no right.

Sustaining the Okanagan 8: Give the Children Water

Schools aren’t classrooms. Classrooms are courses within schools. Putting children in classrooms teaches them about classification and abstraction, how to think in groups and how to put their words into sentences. It is very bookish behaviour. If we want them to put water in a dry world, such as the Okanagan, if we want them to rebuild the earth, we need to put them in water. We need to give every school a wetland.
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Bulrushes, Reflecting

Otherwise, they will build words and classrooms, as we have done, without adding wetlands. We could have a wetland city, in this dry climate, 400 miles long. We could work to extend water rather than to extend roads and parking lots, and could work hard to find room, here and there, for roads, as we now do for water. People tell me how hard these things would be, how nothing is possible without a funding source. First the funding, they tell me, then the service. Nonsense. First the water, then the water. It is very, very simple.

 

 

Green Algae + Yellow Pollen + Rain + Beaver = Beautiful Life

Pollen in the rain is nice.P1060499

But without rain, it’s nice, too.P1060501 You’d think these currents might be created by the wind.P1060502

Nope, they run with deep flows of water. The wind doesn’t touch them.P1060503

Waves slosh them a bit. P1060505

Some kind of electric thing happens around logs.P1060507

This is the Conconully Reservoir in the springtime. The entire lake is blooming with these tiny round algae. When you hit a thick patch your kayak slowwwwwws down.P1060508

But who would mind?P1060509 Ospreys, that’s who. It’s hard to see fish in this stuff. P1060515

See what I mean about the logs? Thanks to the beaver.P1060516

The white haze on the image below is the sun, filtered out of the sky and laid on the edges of waves of energy.P1060518

Amazing!P1060520

First Steps Towards the New Sun

Perspective matters.
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Was that light playing on water? Is this, below?
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They are one, but only when my body and mind are one. They are different at the same time. This difference is not to be dissected but entered. Here I am…

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I am that body. The thing I have been trained to call “I” is a thing made out of these perceptions. In Canadian culture, such perceptions are called fanciful. I can’t help that. Here are the same leaves that have fallen on dry land.

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The difference between the two visions of the leaves (in water and on land) is not the difference between water and the earth, but how a human body perceives that difference. They are visions. They are readings, not of the self or of the body, but of a spiritual presence. To read a mind, look here:

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It requires the giving up of the self, that’s all. But then, the self is the only thing that stands between you and the reeds below, which is another manifestation of the play of water and light. You don’t have to become the reeds, or the tree or pond above, to be them. That is a fallacy that comes from reading books and living so much in light you are blind to the dark. It is the Canadian way, but, as I said, I can’t help that.

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It is easier to enter a body in the world, if sight is not overly privileged. You have been trained to do just that, in the culture of the self, in the discipline of analytical observation which is the culture of the book.

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You’ve been trained, in other words, as a book. This, for example, is a book.

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So is this.

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The ability to stop the world as it flows through you, to develop it…

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… is what book culture calls creativity, which is also known as progress and urbanization (which is also known as civilization).

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We all have potential for so much more. The pond below is not a narrative of ecosystem restoration but of complex relationships between forms of energy, including the energies of time and mass, as read by bodies. The solidity of the boulder below, and its combined weight and weightlessness, those are part of the way you know how to read the world. That’s you. It’s not creative, because it is an entering into a state of creativity, not its ownership by a self.

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In book culture, creativity is defined as the capacity for the making of entirely new things in the world, although there is nothing new in the world unless you separate yourself from it and ignore what you already know. Look at the gap between willows in water …

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… and the ones reflecting into the water.

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They are the same in the world. You are the difference —and you are the bridge. As the year closes, I’m thinking of these things. I’m pondering the difference between identity and the self. I am meditating on creativity, not because I use the concept, but because the culture that has taken over the earth I live in does, and I find it a dangerous thing. Our children deserve it to be taken to task and clearly defined as the ghost it is. If I were to ask, how did I come to this place, that would be the book talking.

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In the world, there is no question, and no book, only the opening that brought this moment here.

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Questions, in other words, are the book talking — useful, for sure, but no more a universal tool than a hammer or a pair of pliers. They are extensions of the body, but not the body. The body doesn’t need wings to fly.

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And now, well, now it’s early in the new sun.

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There’s time, still, to set the book down for a moment, and be present … not to live in the present, as the book demands, but to be present, which is an entirely different thing.

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Soon enough, you will be lost again to the world of selves, I’m sure, as will I. If I could make a wish for you, for this coming year, do, please go lightly there.

I’ll be here walking with you.

~

This discussion will be expanded over the next couple weeks.