This Poor Gray Ember of Creation

From where I’m standing, the slope of the land falls away in waves, the silver tops and knotted trunks of olive trees growing smaller. At the bottom of the drop, the ground rises again and then curves out of sight into a second shallow valley before angling steeply to a ridge in the distance, where I see the ruins of a temple, its columns, frieze, and pediment crisp against the sky. The Greeks built a line of temples here to honor their gods twenty-five hundred years ago.

Today, we call this ridge the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only one temple and the bones of a few others still stand, the rest have been tumbled to the ground by earthquakes, plundering, and the erosion of time.

I take in this wide vista from the doorway of my cottage at the Villa San Marco, a slice of heaven Linda and I have fallen into by pure chance.

Continue reading “This Poor Gray Ember of Creation”

Wise Words – The World Is Full of Magic Things

“The world is full of magic things waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”

William Butler Yeats

I can’t be sure this quote belongs to W.B. Yeats, but it certainly fits with how he saw the world, as a place of enchantment.

It places the source of wonder not in our powers of vision, but in the things around us. It is the world that is alive and we who are the dullards. If we can look up from the mental whirlwinds that absorb us and drop the preconceived packaging we use to keep the world safely in place, we can awaken our senses and see where magic is afoot.

For most of us, our perceptions are dimmed because we look at life through the same old, tired filters. These filters fog our perception like glasses made from Coke bottle bottoms. But we can revive our senses by dropping our filters, even briefly.

I will make you a promise. Try this experiment of attention and attitude for 30 seconds, and your senses will awaken to things you have been ignoring.

Continue reading “Wise Words – The World Is Full of Magic Things”

Stop, Look, and Let Your Eyes Adjust

I live in Sacramento, a good-sized city. Light pollution from buildings and parking lots clouds the night sky, making star gazing a limited adventure.

I recently went to Crater Lake, Oregon, high in the Cascade mountain range, far from any population centers. At night, the sky was spattered with stars, like confetti littering the street after a Superbowl parade. I could make out the Milky Way, a faint background haze stretching across the black from horizon to horizon.

I was amazed, speechless, mesmerized. Now I know what they mean when they say “star-struck.”

I walked along the rim trail walk away from the lodge, the only lighted building nearby. When I felt the darkness around me was complete, I stopped and did nothing but look for several minutes. As I stared upward, my eyes continued to adjust, and the whole starlight show slowly unfolded. More sparkles appeared with each passing minute. They filled in the spaces where I had thought there was only black. I began to think that if I could see it all, there would be more light than dark.

Keep Reading

Entering the State of Presence Through Beauty

Light and air are different in Ireland. Shifting clouds and the low angle of the sun against the landscape create an atmosphere filled with magic. On a drive through the far west, Linda and I break over a rise and are caught by a spectacular view where light, air and rugged coast join together to amaze. We stop, wordless, to watch.

The sun’s shallow light illuminates a fog above the whitecaps. As each wave hits the rocks, it throws out a spray that mingles with the mist. For a moment, all the parts cohere. Light and air become one thing moving over the water, absorbing the black rocks and green fields. The light emanates from everywhere with no discernable source. The air breathes, exhaling wet and heavy with each breaking wave. 

I am lost in the scene. I feel expanded, lighter, more real, remembering my place in a larger scheme. Taking in this impossible moment, this extravagant beauty, I am changed.

Keep Reading

The Shift to Expanded Consciousness

When I experience wonder, beauty, or amazement, I often feel my consciousness shift. This is both startling and familiar. In one way, the experience is a shock because it enlarges my sense of self. It wakes me from my ordinary way of seeing and propels me into a different mode of perception. But in another way, it feels like home.

I may be walking along, preoccupied with my thoughts, and suddenly see the brilliant bloom of tulips sprouting in my yard, a color burst of pure brilliance;


I’m listening to the radio (do people listen to the radio anymore? It must have been Pandora), enjoying the music when a song comes on that transports me back to a tender moment in my youth;


I’m sitting in meditation, and I have one of these rare times when the ordinary falls away and I glimpse what the masters have been talking about; time lengthens or stops or both; my body feels both solid and weightless; I sense what being-ness is when words and thoughts are absent.

Keep Reading

Wise Words – Galileo’s Mind

The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.


Join me in a thought experiment. 

Look inward and drop in. Drop into the warmth and weight of your body. Slowly let your awareness expand. Past your skin. Past the room. Out into the open air. Up to the sky. Out into space. Let your attention settle on the sun. Feel this tremendous celestial body, filling it with your awareness. 

Feel yourself as the warmth and weight of the sun, glowing and massive. Sense the planets spinning around you, a collection of peas caught in your field, the force of your presence pulling them through space. 

Your light pours out in every direction, so bright it shines through the blackness to light up the planets billions of miles away. Feel the heat of your burning furnace that bursts from you every second in a generous flow out into the cold. 

Let your awareness follow one ray of your light, the tiniest fraction of your power, on its 8-minute journey through the dark as you travel back to Earth, enter the atmosphere, descend, and land gently on a tender vine, giving it warmth and sustenance.

This was the thought in Galileo’s mind.

The inferno at the center of our solar system can hurtle the planets through space and still drop life onto every speck of space on Earth. 

Is the consciousness in your mind any different than Galileo’s? Or the sun’s? Can’t your awareness gaze at the distant mountains and the blue wildflower blooming at your feet, both so beautiful they stun you into silence?

Photo by John Tecuceanu on Unsplash

Wise Words – The Magic of Small Moments Can Open You

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time.”                          

Iris Murdoch

My wife and I were walking in our neighborhood on a late fall day, the afternoon light falling at an angle. I had zipped my jacket tight to my neck to keep out the chill. The leaves had been dropping for weeks, many of the trees were bare and brown.

“Look,” Linda said, and pointed to my left. I turned my head and right beside me was a single rose sitting on a long stem, arresting and incongruous. Set against the pale background and the soft light, it was stunning. The rose was in full bloom, its deep pink petals nearly spent, about to drop and join the brown leaves. It was the last rose in sight, alone and radiant in a splash of unreasonable beauty.

Continue Reading