The Peonies Reaching

Make me like the peonies reaching,
ripening and revealing shimmers of light,
born of darkness, from disintegration in a long story’s night
whose tale suggests only seclusion unending and a crushing fate…
until the bursting out upon the day,
until the unfolding from haunts of burial entombing,
until all my songs release fragrance
sweetened by a holy undoing,
whose whispers in moonlight of a sun behind the night
birth soul beyond the doom,
holding sacred sway over a mysterious teaching.

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, 2015, All Rights Reserved

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, 2015, All Rights Reserved

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, 2015, All Rights Reserved

Photo by J. Ruth Kelly, 2015, All Rights Reserved

j. ruth kelly, 2015, all rights reserved


juxtaposed sun’s rays
stirring colours under skin
melting winter’s haze…
reach deeply please into corners still
shuddering shock from isolation
set fire to all the lies we tell ourselves against the fears
burn white to red in holy consummation all these contradictions
claiming our clearest songs and muting every proclamation making
love and art from devastation

j. ruth kelly, 2015, all rights reserved

j. ruth kelly, 2015, all rights reserved

photo by ryan mcguire - bells design


ego tells me to draw conclusions…shore up my indignation or my melodrama, the one where I’m left out, ignored or otherwise tricked into a situation not best for me…the one where I’m enticed onto the dance floor, courage of a wallflower conjuring possibility…the one where I get there and it’s empty…the one where the latest story plays out ancient history…here, another loss…there, another loss…

see, there now. I can legitimize the pout, the hardening heart; the saga continues.

heart tells me to stay in the game…shore up my courage, stand naked, hold out for better days…perpetuate the script of constancy and hope…keeping afloat fantasies made from valid yearnings…distorting reality…one more swig from the bottle, just one…

see, there it is. I can accept and continue heralding heartfulness in the face of hard, harsh brick wall non-response; the saga continues.

mind tells me to get real…how much more obvious does it have to be before you see, it’s the same dumb sham…you’ve been played…you played yourself too…wake the hell up, chick…run fast and far…fuck ’em…be done and gone…besides, no proof of your perspective as valid, no proof of possibilities good, bad or otherwise, no proof, no nothing but silence… and silence speaks. see how much it meant? nada…nowhere…next?

and now, finally. I can dignify my stupidity by showing I see it, by throwing myself into a race in the opposite direction. there, the saga stops (nah, it continues).

but the shores shape and carve out the landmass… the mist makes feasts and evaporates… myriad possibilities, likelihoods, comfortings and abandonments form character, painting stories on soul’s terrain…somewhere between the melodramatic maybes, foolhardy courage and pessimistic realism is the song of a universe whisking us all onto dance floors we’ve not begun to fathom … and while I can’t stop the tides or discourage another etching on my backside, frontside or otherwise, can’t force justice, or awareness or love or … happy endings… I can let go and let it be as I move on, away from conclusions…embracing the way of nature … ‘though it seems fairly obvious sometimes…

all I know is this: I don’t know. I see all the possibilities in situations left languishing, cut short violently or otherwise aborted by unfortunate events. but. I don’t know.

move me, life, beyond judging what is not mine to judge… move me, great waters, into the floating real of what I can do for me right here, right now in this warm and gentle sea…

photo by ryan mcguire - bells design

photo by ryan mcguire – bells design

Magnetic Resonance Imparting

Tenzin Choegyal’s singing, particularly with the Metta String Ensemble and particularly the Crane Nomad song reached into those places humming with a bit of futility, of loss collecting in dark corners of the soul. The timing was perfect, right before an MRI to see if I have MS, ALS, or some other crippling illness. I suspected it is the same battle I’ve fought for over 20 years but the concern shook me up. Choegyal’s voice pulls soul parts back from the edge of the abyss… beautiful healing… insta-weep and weep of the best kind of cleansing.

My only complaint is that he laughs at the symbolism of the crane, or, more specifically, the spiritual medicine. But I suspect he’s laughing at the thought of how strange he must sound to the western mind. The crane has been speaking to me already…nothing strange. Longevity. Good health…wings…moving on from dark times…

His expression takes me back to a childhood filled with some of the most beautiful, mystical singing imaginable…good medicine.

The Opposite of Depression…

…is vitality, says Andrew Solomon. Spot-on eloquence and tear-evoking insight, worth the 30 minutes to feel/hear this medicine of clarity. It is another example of what I recognize in my own life as radical grace.


“…shutting out the depression strengthens it; while you hide from it, it grows…our needs are our greatest assets…valuing one’s depression does not prevent a relapse, but it may make the prospect of relapse and even relapse itself easier to tolerate…I had learned in my own depression, how big an emotion can be, how it can be more real than facts and I have found that that experience has allowed me to experience positive emotion in a more intense and more focused way…the opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality and these days my life is vital, even on the days when I’m sad…I have discovered something inside myself that I would have to call a soul…I found a way to love my depression. I love it because it has forced me to find and cling to joy. I love it because each day I decide, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to cleave to the reasons for living and that, I think, is a highly privileged rapture.” Andrew Solomon

The Feltness Path

“Our logic says that what happens to you doesn’t matter to me, what happens to the world isn’t happening to me, but our hearts disagree. This logic contradicts our felt experience…what’s happening to children in Haiti…to child soldiers in Africa…to the whales…to the forest…that’s happening to me too. That’s something we can feel, that’s why it hurts when you see that photo of the sea bird drenched in oil…”

One of the biggest challenges in personal growth is one of bridging the gap between the logical/separate self and the connected self. The idea of the self as separate is essential for certain phases of our growth and structuring of identity. It’s what makes us distinct. And yet we are also the connected self. If we let one rule before the other, we can lose much of what we would otherwise give in connection. And yet if we never allow the heart’s own mind to have a say…we wither. The world withers and bombs explode. With the connected self, we recognize that on this day in 1945, we lost on levels unfathomable. And we continue to lose when we turn a blind eye on the murdering of innocents, piling up the death count into numbers well beyond what we encountered on 9/11 as we shake our heads, parsing words and labeling certain lives as expendable.

So much we can make whole when we embrace the connected self while accepting the separateness that makes us unique. We get there by way of what Rilke beautifully describes as a ” …more human love (that will fulfill itself, infinitely considerate and gentle, and kind and clear in binding and releasing) will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other.” [Letters to a Young Poet, pg 58-59]

It’s this protecting, bordering and saluting, honoring of each other as separate but precious, and connected and even as one whole expression revealing love itself (all of us, man, woman, child, animal, earth, sky, nature) which will preserve the very point of life itself. It’s that dance between unity and separateness whose only music is love’s best, a dance whose steps celebrate connection without destroying our distinctions and uniqueness.



What It Be…

“Love is a momentary upwelling of three tightly interwoven events: first, a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another; second, a synchrony between your and the other person’s biochemistry and behaviors; and third, a reflected motive to invest in each other’s well-being that brings mutual care.” Barbara Fredrickson

Stepping out into a sudden deluge of rainpour, I found wet pavement for my bare feet and a redheaded son in tow. After a week of rest after surreal travel setting my health back a bit, this feast was unavoidable. And beyond welcome. My youngest followed me out into the night and the grass underfoot was all squish wonder, wet and cool. The maples overhead, as I walked intently towards the street and the strange light in the torrential night air, fluttered under a relentless pounding wealth, dropping more fat wetness onto the top of my own red head. And I kept walking, my ancient son behind me, chattering, asking me “What are you doing?! Where are you going?!” He was shocked. I had gone from couch to doorway to outside in a fluid, silent spill. I couldn’t respond. I just laughed. Then finally the inner upwelling of little girl spoke, “I have to get out there to the street…” Then I stopped at the curb and stomped in the flow of water running like mad down the road. He balked at my madness, echoing my own endless reflections on non-point source pollution and all the possible chemical ick getting on my skin. I could only laugh, shrug it off “Whatever!” I stepped into the street, realizing my 75 year old Mama was stepping into the yard too, chattering away with my other ancient son, Isaac. They were laughing and following at their own pace. No protection, the intent clear in their progress under the same trees, towards the same street and surreal light. I spread my arms out wide and lifted my face to the downpour. Something I had murmured, I don’t recall, evoked spontaneous response in Evan. He shook his head and smiled and grabbed my arm to pull me into a hug. And held on. For whatever reason, he had needed my silly girl response to rain and fears of stupid chemicals in waterflow. He needed that reminder that I’m playful, girl, not just Mom. Then we were joined by two more and the walk down the road began. My own girlish Mama soaked to the skin and Isaac too, we laughed our way down the street. For a moment we did the silly walk, arm in arm, one leg crossing over the other’s (like the Monkeys, if anyone remembers such), singing. But mostly we basked in what it be… in love and torrential earth/sky fusion activities. We made it all the way to the end of the street and I had to turn around. It was the best I could manage after being laid out with my health for a whole week. But what a rush of renewal…

Once back under the maples and away from the street light, we lingered, all of us, chatting and grateful for a rainfall without the risk of lightning and the cool breezes coming up from all the gusty tanglings of elemental surrender. And because my youngest ancient child spoke of how we’d likely forget the moment, however wonderful, I have put this to post here. One day he’ll remember and laugh and the waterflow will call him out for another dance with the agelessness we all embody every once in a while. But I wonder where the world would be were we more eager to forget age and role and hair color and anything but soul as we soak up the song of rain, abandoning custom, worry and obstruction for just one more dance with the child within, how much more freely would love erupt and grow.

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2014

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2014