Thursday, May 9, 2019

A Time to Rest

Art: Mark Collins

Her beak, tucked under thick wing.
Her eyes, shut to daylight.
The spring-sweet magnolia and
hemlock boughs holding space.


We must give ourselves permission to rest,
to engage with the gentleness of spirit
that resides in that place between doing
and being. Softly. Shhhh. Quiet now.

Nothing is wrong. Let it alone. All of it.
You have already been there and made
your way here. Let quietude provide
cover and be your attentiveness.

Here is exhaustion’s antidote.
Here is blessed resilience.
Here is the imagination looking
out and looking in for that which
will restore the whole heartedness
necessary for your next rising.

I can promise you that there is something
alive in this black-lit void just waiting
for all of the other voices to fall silent so
that you will meet your next breath,

and love yourself again.


I didn’t disturb her, the owl.

© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From a book collaboration project with artist Mark Collins
A Time to Rest has been selected for the Leigh Yawkey Woodson 
Art Museum’s 44th annual Birds in Art 

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

When the Fires Dance

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

When the fires dance, know
that I am the maiden skipping
round with lilac flowers in my
long hair. “Beloved, I am here”, is
my young body’s verse, innocent
of long days and dark nights.

Dance with me. Welcome the
sun. Kiss the moon. Leaves
are on the branches and life
is rising. You, I’m calling to you.

When the fires dance, know
that I am your sister in spirit
and practicality, hand in hand
weaving the ribbons that bind
us one to the other and all.
How lovely this that we are.

Dance with me. Welcome the
sun. Kiss the moon. Leaves
are on the branches and life
is rising. You, I’m calling to you.

When the fires dance, know
that it is my face you see
in the shadows, heart turned
always toward the light. That
which flickers in illusion is
the future we live and share.

So, dance with me. Welcome the
sun. Kiss the moon. Leaves
are on the branches and life
is rising. You, I’m calling to you.

When the fires dance, know
that I am still among the flames,
lifting into the next day. Never
does a soul rest that speaks
with truth’s tongue. Ears
must be prepared to listen
to beauty.

Please, dance with me. Welcome
the sun. Kiss the moon. Leaves
are on the branches and life
is rising. You, I’m calling to you.

Dance with me. Welcome the
sun. Kiss the moon. Leaves
are on the branches and life
is rising. You, I’m calling to you.

© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Truth and Beauty" (a work in progress)
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Monday, April 29, 2019

Waiting Patiently

Art: Mark Collins

Patience comes to those who have learned
the value of a thing: a seed or a beloved.
It’s some set of bones saying,

“I know your worth,”

and never stepping back from the heart’s
placement on what could be but isn’t, yet.

In this hurried world, patience is a living
life declaring:

“There is something dear to wait for,
to still for. I will. I am. Until the time is right,
and then—oh, my deep desire.”


The cardinal happened to be on a branch above
the feeder, looking down, waiting patiently,
but he could have been there watching the love
of his life, below, scratching in old oak leaf litter,
not yet aware of their springtime unfolding.
Would it have mattered? I couldn’t have
faulted him for either:

Black oil sunflowers
Anticipated devotion


What’s interesting to me about patience
is how an act of nothingness prepares something
yet unclaimed to take full possession of us.

Patience is the slow welcoming of our singular
demise. Oh, excruciating bliss!


So, how much longer will it be before your
lips know reward?

© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From a book collaboration in progress with artist Mark Collins

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

Custom Builder

Art: Mark Collins

My soul was carefully constructed
of two opposing forces. One that
wants to nest, to tend a place of
otherness, the other to fly freely,
everywhere, endlessly.

One can travel, but a suitcase does
not a nest make. One can hope to
nest, but some longings, alas, don’t
land with the same capacities that
desires take flight.

The robin in the pine with last season’s
grasses clumped and streaming from
her beak is nesting.  I adore this. I adore
my memories of robin nests discovered:

The deep, mud-fiber bowls that hold
beautiful sky-blue eggs, maybe five, then
cheeping nestlings that beg for parental
deliveries all day long, then nothingness.

The robin is common, yes.
Springtime nesting is predictable, yes.
Yet, there is always magic, yes. Always.

As a child I was told that somewhere,
out there, there resides a great custom

All my life, I’ve wondered:

Does he have a plan for me and,
if so, is it ordinary enough to become
something magical?

© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From a book collaboration with artist Mark Collins
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Thursday, April 4, 2019

My Mother's Hands

Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

Today, I was looking down at my mother’s hands,
dry, crinkled, mapped out in wrinkles, veins as
meandering blood lines, literal and metaphoric.

I hadn’t before valued them. What they had touched
and held, what they had pulled toward, what they
had pushed away.

I remember, when a young woman, gently lifting
and guiding the gold ring from her index finger mere
moments after she took her last breath. I thought
about putting it on today, but I know that it won’t fit.

But, here are her hands.

© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From "Truth and Beauty" (a work in progress)

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Ephigeal Ephemeral

Art: Mark Collins

Epigeal: adjective of botanical nature.
Growing on or close to the ground.
Grounded. Grounded, yet emerging.
A well-rooted aspiration to be a
bold something despite the vulnerabilities
inherent in just showing up.

Hepatica nobilis, a docile woodland
plant of buttercup relation and oak
familiarity, roots in calcareous, clay-rich
soils, emerges in late winter or early
spring to call me out into the world again.
Her liver-leaf, hairy stem, and purple
petals are my body’s unfolding and
the beauty that I want to put onto this
Earth, somehow.

To be there, intentionally visible, just to
the other side of the dark season requires
something that little plants have mastered
and humans are still apprenticing to. We
are learning, I hope, to find our way back
to well-lit places with a vigorous resilience.
I’ll call it wisdom.


The offerings of flowers and a generous self
should never be squandered. This world can’t
wait for reluctant witnesses.

Love is here.

And, then, gone.

© 2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From a book collaboration project with artist Mark Collins

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Sunday, March 24, 2019


Photo: (c) Jamie K. Reaser

In the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a white-petalled member of the poppy family, is one of the first plants to emerge during the waking of Spring. Hiking along the woodland trails, one finds it suddenly there; clean, pure, declarative clusters breeze-dancing where not even a hint of a flower occupied the dusty leaf litter the day before. The feet must stop. The eyes and mind must fix to substrate. Mustn’t they? Yes. Change is witnessed. Something new exists – flowers and season and possibilities. If you listen closely, you can hear the tenor in the Hallelujah choir.

Emergence (Noun):
(a) The process of becoming visible after being concealed.
(b) The process of coming into existence or prominence.

Birds emerge – they pip their way out of shells perfectly designed for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Tadpoles emerge – they wriggle forth from egg masses, pushing through a gelatinous encasement that breathes while simultaneously buffooning voracious newts and other would-be predators. Snakes emerge from skins too small. Butterflies and moths emerge from capsules in which they become nameless between identities.

I have goats on my farm. In the middle of December in 2005, I found myself, quite unexpectedly, watching goat kids emerge from their mothers’ wide-stretched vaginas. I had never before witnessed birth. It was messy. It was systematically chaotic. It was a process.

There, in front of my crouched body, they landed, slimy-wet and cloven, among the stiff spans of golden straw that I’d spread, in haste, to gentle their arrival. I witnessed eight first breaths, the first crying out of eight newly-defined selves, the first relational nuzzle of four mothers and four pairs of siblings, twelve beings knowing – it seemed – precisely how to be what they are – goats.

I was fascinated by where they had been before they emerged, and what it was like there.

We humans emerge, too – over and over again.

We emerge from our own mother’s womb, from stages of maturity, from relationships – some of us more scarred than others – from sleep, out the front door, and from our lives into something so untouched by our fright-constrained curiosities that we can describe it no better than, ‘death.’

In his poem, What to Remember When Waking, David Whyte writes:

“To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.”

We must emerge to become human and be in service of the world into which we have emerged. But, what of the hidden places?  What of the dark, often nameless, places from which we emerge?

What of the soil-world in which is nestled the awaiting seed?

What of the interior of the egg, the cocoon, and the chrysalis?

What of the occupied space in literal and metaphoric wombs?

‘Bardo’ is a Tibetan word for the ‘in-between’ or ‘transitional state.’ What of the bardos – all those periods in our lives in which something has ended and something else has not yet begun, all those places in our lives between where we have departed and where we have not yet arrived, all the crises of identity in which we feel like ‘anonymous’ is the old valid signature?

Yes, what of them? Looking downward and backward, I conclude that we living beings fundamentally require the dark, the hidden, the nameless, the indescribable – let me say ‘the mysterious’ – places and spans of time in order to manifest something – ourselves – that can be seen, named, described, and has the capacity to touch others in the light.
The known emerges from the unknowable.

If a “Hallelujah!” is appropriate for emergence, what’s the best way to celebrate the in-between? I think, perhaps, it is silence. No. It is a sacred silence, a silence infused with an inherent gratitude for these places and these times that are the gestating, creative spaces in which the blessed templates of what-to-come are scribed.

Sacred silence is not passive. ‘To be silent’ is a verb phrase. Sacred silence requires intent and inner-action. It requires receptivity and holding – actions that we humans don’t seem particularly well versed at; otherwise we might not have such an aversion to silence, and the times and spaces it demarcates.

Sacred silence is an offering.  In reciprocity, the soul may sing to us the navigation song meant to guide us across the wide-reaches of seemingly desolate terrain. Such songs have enabled the Aboriginal Australians to cross the Outback deserts, Pacific Islanders to precisely chart vast expanses of ocean, and curanderos to travel from one realm to the next.

Upon reflection, I realize how often I have filled what I thought to be life-voids not with sacred silence, but with words: words of frustration, of anger, of accusation, of self-pity, of entitlement. I have been known to scold the gods for the absence of things, including the clarity of next steps – where to place my mind, my heart, and my feet.

In her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chödrön observes:

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. ”

It would seem that we require life’s proverbial ‘no-man’s land’ in just the same way that a fledging requires thin air. And, like the fledgling who must take a leap of faith, we must lift each foot and, in turn, replace it in the detritus of an unmarked trail.

Bloodroot garners its common English name from the dark red-orange color of its rhizomes and the juice therein. The genus, Sanguinaria, means bleeding in Latin. In the Algonquian languages it was known as poughkone – red dye – a reference to one of its common uses. Native Americans also employed bloodroot to treat fever, rheumatism, ulcers, and various skin ailments. In recent years, the bloodroot has been commercially applied as an anti-plaque agent in toothpastes and mouthwashes.  Currently, it is being studied for anti-cancer properties. 

Bloodroot’s most potent gifts to humanity are hidden in the darkness. And, it is darkness from which a single stem emerges to support the pure, white declarative clusters that dance in the breeze.


Just a few feet down the path, I spot the first Hepatica blooms.

(c) 2014-2019/Jamie K. Reaser
From "RidgeLines" (a work in progress)
Originally published in the Wayfayer literary magazine

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