Poeming the Flow

The Great Unravelling

The Great Unravelling

 And so it began –

all the years of knitting together a life –

all the years of dedicated attention

tracking the soul like an elusive animal,

catching glimpses around corners or through forests,

always looking away to follow others’ advice,

doing what was expected –

somehow now, an ending;

like running out of wool

for an expensive sweater.


No wool left to secure the endings,

nothing left. Suddenly,

shockingly suddenly,

realizing between one sunrise and another

that it was all

a false trail, not deliberate –

No – but my seeing was false,

my desires and longings were

blinds covering windows

through which beamed the bright, real,

pulsing lands of truth.


And isn’t that the way

The whole world unfurls? Rolling open

Like a flag whose country never quite

Becomes clear.

Because it is for all countries, all natural being

Rising and ending, rising and ending.

But not ending, not ending at all.

Seeing Through


 It's the details that grab me first: snow

piled higher than my shoulders;

paths filled up to my knees

needing to be cleared;

icy danger hidden beneath

 innocent powder.


And the effort of wood heat:

attention to the flame's quality:

will the fire last? Does it need another log?

Is the temperature gone down too far?

And getting up twice in the night

to prevent that from happening.


In the night, stillness.

In the night, stars lean down

and offer comfort.

In the night, darkness wraps everything

in a soft blanket

and remakes the world,

starting again in slow unfolding

as every night always does.


And then, o unpredictable reversal,

everything is full of light,

even while I am still in darkness.

Everything opens like a lotus

and I am seeing through

seeing through

to the light at the heart of everything

I thought yesterday to be unspeakably difficult,

impossible to maintain.


In an eye's blink, the world

shifted its axis from darkness to light.

Shoveling snow became a wrist strengthener

and an exhilaration of body and spirit working together.

Getting up twice a night was a gift of silence and solitude;

Going out with the dog a visitation from the stars.

Paw-boxing with the cat while waiting for night logs to catch

became a small bubble of mutual comfort.


Everything I thought an interruption

reversed itself into a gift.

Everything I thought tight and small

burst open, revealing an infinite heart.


And everything the ancient wise ones say is true:

stay long enough with an obstacle

and it opens like a door.


Not Two

moonrise in Zimbabwe

Not Two


It's not light that makes all things new:

It's darkness. In darkness

everything is lost. Nothing is seen, nothing.

Old familiar landmarks offer no recognition.


Darkness makes you stumble, inside and out.

Stumbling makes you reach out, stand still

until some bearing - known or unknown -

slowly makes itself known.


When the world is awash in darkness

everything, everything is waiting

for light. But darkness is itself light,

light's underside, light's foundation

and womb. Darkness underpins

everything in creation, and -groaning -

gives birth to light.

The Small Light

 When the deep frost lifts

slowly softening what before was hard,

clearing passageways

where some seeing,some walking upright

is possible -

a small light sparks.


Keep your eyes on the small light.

Don't go after the big ones, of which

there are so many, so many.

Keep your eyes - that is -

the eyes of your longing heart -

on the small light.

It will guide you through

continuing, necessary darkness.

Keep your eyes on the small light.

It is easy to lose-

or to lose faith in.


But it is always there.

It has never not been there.

Other things seems bigger

more important, more helpful,

more satisfying. They are not.


Keep your eyes on the small light.

Thread of Love

Thread of Love

                                         Hodge-podge, heightened frenzy,

over-shopping, over-eating, over-socializing -

frenzied drinking and doping

and trolling shops for mainly

unneeded but desperately obligated gifts...



Every year,

Christmas highlights heart longing

(and its lack)

in fluorescent red and green:

for connection and communion,

for loving and feeling loved,

for recognition of who you are,

for heart-beating, heart-pounding,

heart-softening love.

Even for a moment or two, when

all is quiet and decorations are done

and stillness tiptoes into the room,

even for a moment.


The Christmas I was ten,

I no longer believed in Santa Claus

but continued the ruse for my Mother's sake.

For months I had been raiding the gift hoard

looking for one thing:

a Jon Gnagy drawing set.

It wasn't there.

On Christmas Eve, it wasn't there.


So I spoke to my grandmother,

that fountain of unrestrained love,

that giver of everything

even things she didn't have.

On Christmas Eve

I called her into the perfect parlour

used only for the priest

when he came for the dues

 and otherwise kept for wakes of family members,

knowing no one else would be there.

I told her my longing.


"Get your coat on," she said.

"We'll take the bus downtown now and find one."

We did: left the house as my father and uncle

were laying new canvas while they began

the Christmas drinking that

always plunged my mother into a foul mood.

Somewhere during Christmas she would always say

"Christmas is only for children and men."


But my grandmother and I boarded a city bus

in thick snow on Christmas Eve,

tracking though uncleared sidewalks,

distracted by the raffle bells and the pull

of a free turkey, which my grandmother

always won.

We found the Jon Gnagy Drawing set

at Great Eastern Oil,

and boarded the bus for home.

On Christmas morning, there it was,

wrapped and placed under the tree from Santa.

I never asked my grandmother how my mother

took this breach of belief.


Now older than my grandmother was

on that Christmas Eve, I cannot forget

that moment, that willingness

to leave everything and brave snow

and shoppers to get me that set.

More than almost any moment in my childhood,

it comes back every Christmas,

a thread of Light

making all the frenzy acceptable,

even necessary.

A thread of Love.

Love Stuck on Debris

Love Stuck on Debris

thanks to M. whose lack of punctuation gave me this title


Love stuck on debris is love nonetheless:

isn’t that how God made the world?


Love in muddy marshes, love in raging waters,

love in quiet woods, love in tearful hearts?

Love in a cat’s eye, gazing;

Love in a puppy’s tongue, licking kisses,

Love in warming wood fires and winter storms?


Love stuck on debris

is the only place love can be.

Didn’t God choose it, wrap arms around it,

embrace it to death?

Put aside the books and computers;

put aside the mental proofs and impressive structures.

They are prisons.


Love always sticks to debris…

until the long time it takes for debris to fall away,

and there Love is,

all fiery breath, and dancing lights.

Filling With Riches

Filling With Riches


Just this morning, drinking tea in that darkest moment

before dawn shows up, doing nothing

but breathing in and out, in and out, not knowing

that there was anything else to be done -

I felt my whole body filling with riches.


It started with my feet, tingling and trembling,

then rose - quickly, it seemed - up my legs,

where my knees expanded and sent out little sparks.

Soon my belly and chest took on light,

as if someone unknown to me had lit a candle there.

And then it was that I knew -

I had filled with riches. I was a kind of candle flame

that  sent out waves of light in beams, in soft fire.

I breathed in the being, not the doing of it.


Then my cat meowed a demanding cry, outraged

that I had forgotten to open the door to the porch for him,

where he goes every morning after his breakfast.

Then the puppy raced up the stairs and eagerly threw herself in my lap

as she does every morning, pawing my arms and licking my face,

so deprived she feels from not having seen me all night.

Then Joan arrived in the kitchen and began to talk about the fire-

the quality of the flames, the shape of the wood,

the temperature on the gauge, and what time in the night

did I add a log?


There are times that I feel all this as interrupting my

carefully designed morning quiet. This morning

was not one of them. This morning, full of grace,

all I saw was another way I was filling with riches.

The flame burning so vividly within received its fuel

as much from that noisy rising of creature love

as it did from that nameless, unbiddable fire

filling me within.


Long Life Psalm

Long Life Psalm

There are whole languages I am forgetting:
A beginning of endings.
A strange contentment flows
Like fresh water through my body,
Washing whatever counts as my soul.

I am released - but from what?
I am freed - but from what prison?
I am given a new love-
And I barely recognize it,
So small and tender does it appear,
so easily lost, like stepping on a flower
so small I don't know it's broken ground.

I lie down, a failure in every part
of my lengthening life. Sobs rise
like hiccups, like pain shooting
out of nowhere, out of unknowing,
where no pain was a second ago
and now pain is all there is -
not in the body, weary from trying -
but in the heart, no medicine available,
except surrender, except love,
and always in its own time.

I no longer command any performance.

This Great Light

 This Great Light

On the bank of this river, this lake,
the whole world resides:
water, air, golden light,
beauty and sustenance.

Slow lapping of waves,
reds and golds
as far as the eye can see:
What more can this moment contain?

Even though moments don't last,
unfolding one into the next
empty other - a beauty reigns
even when eyes are closed
and minds distracted
and hearts preoccupied.

The world opens
unfolding like a lotus,
calling like a loon
on a dark lake at night.
Again and again and again:
nothing ends.

Trees die away,
waters rise and recede.
Flowers bless with momentary beauty.
And we, we who still haven't found our place
in this interlaced magnificence -
we stumble, blind and blinding
as if we were in the dark
and not this Great Light.

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It Came to Me

It Came to Me

 One morning it came to me

sitting at the kitchen table

finishing green tea-

one morning in late winter

just before going out to shovel snow

for the third time in as many days –


one morning waiting for the puppy

to ring her bell to go out again,

one morning

that happened to be Ash Wednesday –


 I am flooded with a tender softness

saying “this is it:

there is no more to life

than this silence

the fire

dancing its heat from the stove

the in and out of puppy needs

and comforting cat presence,

there is no more than this

inner melting

stopping me in my frantic tracks.

 Alive. Alive.

The Dearest Freshness

The Dearest Freshness


Blinding July, full of grace –

rain raises shoots into leaf;

sun opens flowers

and feeds them with a baby’s spoon,

soon turning them into smiles of waving freedom.


Water – whether lake or river or marsh

or stream – becomes a magnet in July,

drawing noise-worn hordes

into primitive play. The frenzy of summer days

peaks and descends.

peaks and descends,

swirling with hunger for a lost innocence,

an annual-only meeting

of soul and nature, greedily grabbed.


But in August, the song of the white-throated sparrow

grows daily less frequent,

and crickets emerge to announce

the season’s turning. Cool Breezes

lace their thin strands

among wafting warm air. Tent caterpillars

appear one morning, their night spent

in weaving a home for cooler weather,

and leaves in barely noticed numbers

turn yellow and fall.


In August, not July, I begin to feel the dearest freshness

in the roots of July’s abandoned abundance.

Hidden and constant, the dearest freshness

stays and stays, hidden and whole,

moving into dormancy (never death)

and holding steady the web of nourishment

that emerges eternally,

over and over and over.


The dearest freshness prevails.

Prodigal Spirit


This time

the crash to earth was not as far

nor as dramatic. I had not flown

so high nor so far afield,

tempting the gods.


But crash it was, down, down

into soil softened with tears, this place

is familiar, is welcoming,

even of my restless prodigal spirit,

always longing for anywhere

other than where I am.


Perhaps the circling will be smaller now.

Perhaps the faithful silence

and the tender arms of trees

will be enough.

Perhaps the river’s voice

will be the one to listen to,

and the soft ground, always waiting,

will pull me, inexorably,

towards home.

Living Light

Living Light

(for aging communities)


When a tree has lived long enough

it falls to the rich forest floor

and slowly, tenderly,

its center is hollowed and hollowed

leaving a circle drawn in the air.


We, passing through the woods,

notice light pouring through

empty centers, round and brilliant,

notice light streaming

through empty centers of fallen trees.


That’s who we are now.

We have begun

to let light shine through.

We are letting ourselves be hollowed.

We are pulsing light into the world.

Merlin Falcon


Merlin Falcon


Just this morning

in the burning, still sunlight

before breezes woke up

from their mysterious sleep

a Merlin Falcon spoke to me

in her steady, spaced note,

from a tree I couldn’t see.


I left the road and searched for her

tiptoeing through swampy grass

eyes and ears

sweeping and searching-

and there she was – a small bird

for such a majestic name

in a bare tree not yet blooming.


Over and over she called,

the same call

with the same few seconds

between staccato notes.

being early May, is it her mate

she calls for? By June,

her chicks will be well- born.

and she will be pushing them

out of the nest  to fly –

I have witnessed this miracle

more than once.


But this morning, the Merlin Falcon

questions me.

What are you calling for? she asks.

Where is your focus?

What needs doing now?

where is your nest?


Standing there, wrapped in listening

to this small fierce bird

I hear the question

“to what will I give birth

before I leave this world?

more easily, I think,

than I came into it.


The Merlin Falcon returns,

year after year to the same trees.

She is faithful

following her rhythms

with no hesitation,

fully inhabiting them.


As must I.

As must I.

A Day Like This

A Day Like This

It will be a day like this -
a weekday, an ordinary day,
with snow flying horizontally
and melting like thunder
from metal roofs;

It will be a day like this
when the news comes. News
that empties my life and strips away
enough skin to rub me into ashes.
News that changes the world.

There is no knowing what that news will be.
A death, maybe, or even a small change
in body temperature, a necessary
day surgery, or a casual sentence
uttered in a phone call, unintended to be
anything but conversation, passing the time.

But it will change everything. It needn't be
the big news of wars and airplane crashes;
it needn't be a dip in the stock market
or a computer virus that sweeps the world;
It won't be a surprise election
or the dire predictions of global warming,
difficult as they are to hear - no-

It will be news that slides,
a sharpened knife between ribs,
nicking the heart with enough pain
to initiate a slow earthquake,
but not death: rather a slow
rearrangement of all the elements
that used to sit in their places,
humming happily.

It will be a day like this,
sun coming back into its own,
tired snowflakes trying casually
for weak threats, a predictable day,
or so I thought - until the news came
traveling over electrical lines
and wireless threads of interwoven lives
shaking the landscape for all time.


Before the Fire

Before the Fire



Once, I thought I knew something-

how to function in this world, for one thing –

now the world conspires to let me know

in no uncertain terms –

I know nothing.


Once I thought I could see –

truth, at least, or a tree –

now the smallest and largest events

flowing fast as a released river

expose my utter blindness.


There is nothing to know and nothing to see.

only a flash of light

or a sounding of such harmony

as stars sing of in silent darkness

or, the sun and moon, steady and faithful,

daily reveal.


In the passing how easy it is

to be deceived by the new and sparkling

or the old and desired,

neither of which is as real or glorious

as one fallen leaf on the autumn ground.


What joy, what flaming fireworks

to be folded into the blanket of what is right now,

content as a cat curled on an old kitchen chair

before the fire.


Let those who have ears to hear –

let them hear.

And let those who have eyes to see –

let them see.

Before I Knew a Deeper Joy

Before I Knew A Deeper Joy

Once I lived in a sort of bliss,
though I didn't know it then.
Season followed season, light followed dark,
actions had predictable consequences,
every season with its holiday
full of feasts and presents.

Everything unfolded - if not exactly as it should-
then with engaging variety. I always
had enough to eat, choices of clothes to wear,
unlimited education, books, travel
even friends around the world.

Mine was a rich, safe world.
Until death began to claim
those closest to me, claim those
who made the bliss possible.
They fell away,
and my world expanded,
not outwardly but inwardly.
I became familiar with grief and despair,
loss and darkness, tears and surrender.

Questions arose like bubbles
in a pot coming to a slow boil.
They were questions that had no real answers.
I slowly came to know them
as the only real questions,
questions that filled me like steeping tea.
I was steeping, I was changing color
and becoming stronger in the rising heat
over which I had no control.

Before I knew that life is truly inward,
opposite to everything I'd been taught and given
and sought and struggled for, inward
in ways that create that outer, mirror-world,
I was innocent and predictable,
secure and safe and thought
everyone else could be like that too.
How different the world is from what
I used to think before I knew.
Now a deeper joy
sometimes visits.




Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday



Not “ashes to ashes” or

“dust to dust”

“earth to earth.”

That’s the journey.


Driving African roads

so many people are walking, walking,

that after awhile

they seem to rising straight

out of the ground

and going back to it,

all in the one day.


Earth to earth

is strangely comforting.

Doesn’t she birth us,

feed and clothe us,

keep us warm in every climate?

Pour over us

companionship of each other

and animals, birds and beauty?


This is the real Earth Day.

This is the day of enfolding arms.

Energies of Love

Energies of Love


I used to think that love

was something lived

solely among people,

whether spouses or parents

with children, or

friends and family

or even groups with common purpose.

Love – or the attempt to love –

could fit them all.


But age is daily widening my vision.

Every day I see the layers upon layers of light

that translate love into being,

and that love

is the blood of the pulsing universe.


Love addresses me in the sorrowful eye

of a horse pulling a winter sleigh

and in the insignificant yellow petunia

trailing over the edge of a hanging basket.

Love shines in the waterdrops of morning grass

and in torrential rains

forcing their way into the ground.

Love leaps up in the surprise of blazing reds and golds,

missed when all was green,

and in the direct communication

of cat and bird, fox and bear, wind and tree-stillness.


Sometimes I can hardly bear all the light

when I am awake enough to see it.

Every day opens new sources

and takes me from business-as-usual.



I am finally,

finally, slowly

becoming the presence

of this faithful shining universe.

Julian's Cat

Julian’s Cat


Perhaps Julian sat like this some days,

safe inside her small shelter

attached to a big Church

holding her cat like a baby,

cat purring with joy

and her arms wrapped around it

like a world.


Perhaps Julian’s cat comforted her

when her breaking heart

could no longer sustain

what it took

to look upon

the lines of troubled faces

waiting at her window.


Maybe it was Julian’s cat

who transmitted

the larger love

that sustains the universe,

holding stars in place

and keeping love stable

at the heart of the spinning world.

(Brenda Peddigrew, March 2013)

Mary Beth 29.08.2013 14:39

Love and identify with "Living Light".....

marcia 09.07.2013 23:18

yes, we are not going anywhere but round and round, deeper and deeper with poetry, sermons and ponderings.

Lee Gauthier 09.07.2013 19:18

These poems are gifts.. a few of the many nuggets of life 'wisdoms' you are sharing from a deep place in your soul - gleaned from your seat in the universe.

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Latest comments

23.11 | 19:20

Hi Marilyn...can you share your writing when there's a chance? Love to read some!

04.01 | 19:04

Thanks, Andie...that's it exactly ! So glad you experienced it!

04.01 | 18:36

'Whatever you need
and wherever you go next -
will come to you'
My holiday experience.

28.12 | 15:12

Hi Brenda,
I've just finished reading The Choice - got it from the public library. What an amazing story and an unbeatable spirit. I'll check out youtube now