Saraswathi remembers

white swans on river
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On her swan-ringed island

Of mist and falling petals

Of song, Saraswathi stands

Holding the wild scent

Of the lilies of eternity

In her silver hand,

Her fingers braiding bright

Visions

Of the dawn-lit past

Of myth-hatched eons

Long ago

Singed in the flames

Of endings

Half-forgotten though,

Their names,

In the days that followed after

Of snow

And white-

Drifting mountains.

On the lapping lake

Pairs of swans sail

And shake

The water from their wings

Their white and gray cygnets trail

Behind

All in a row

Bobbing on the ruffled waves.

Up on the granite cliff

In the rock-cut caves

In tall

Jars

Of stone

Are ranged the rolls of palm leaf scrolls

That caught the words

Of poems flown

The whispering of languages, long gone,

That went on the wandering wind,

On the wings of the waters

The sacred song, the notes of forest birds

The sounds, the syllables, the brush strokes,

The ring of the chisel-hafted hieroglyph,

The eloquence of flowers,

All kept with care

From the child’s fist-drawn scribbles

To the holy vedas of the rishis,

Seers from the stars

All kept, with none slipped into the abyss

None swept aside

There

Are bundled reams

Of cotton

Cloth in all the colors of creation:

The pale-footed hue

Of the mourning dove and her mate,

The nestled orange feathers

Of the northern flicker,

The banded tail

Of the sharp-shinned

Hawk,

Shades of the stout

Trunks of the ficus

And the teak

The red glint

Of the setting sun

Across the pebbled upland creek

The blue

Tint

Of the lotus

And the silver halo

Of the moon that beams

Through the indigo

Ocean of the swift-sailing night

All abide,

Their essence

To ride along the clouds

Of each new dawn

That sings

On the shining cosmic

Tide

Every delight

Of the dance

Of the caterpillar

On the rain-bent

Amarillis.

In the sacred annals

Of her book-filled jars

All knowledge, beauty

And infinity

All that is real

Nothing lost.

And now the swans fly

Higher

In the air

Of crystal frost

Among the green enchanted lands.

Within her magic

Translucent jars

The least stir

Is known

Of every creature

The leaping gray-pawed squirrels

The rooting snout

Of the bristle-faced, brave boar

Then too, remembered is the way

To skip

Among the stars

Or how to weave a shimmering cloak

Or fabricate

A flying ship

Or stoke

An immortal fire

Against the bane-crossed

Cold

Or travel fast

Like racing light

The path to take

To a wondrous land

Of fairies, elves, and heroes bold,

The remedy for every ill

How to ply

The sea

Of time to find the age of gold

Hidden on a cliff-faced shore

And how to make

One’s way to the deepening core

Of the moss-footed forest

In an elvan autumn,

All knowledge past

And yet to be.

Where now the kind

Laughter

Of Saraswathi?

Where the haunting notes

Of the veena?

And the light

Beat of the mringdam?

Where the bells that peel

At dawn?

Where the peace

In the mourning call

Of the swans and the flocking geese?

And where the soft bleating of the goats

Clambering up the rock-strewn hill?

All wait,

Wild and free,

Still

In the luminous blue jars

Of the drifting sky

All that shines true

One day

To be born anew

When the mist settles,

With the glad-crying swans of sunrise,

Over the mountains

Of a far country.

Written around 2010

© Sharon St Joan, 2021

Arunachala

In the state of Tamil Nadu, in the south of India, stands a mountain covered in rocks, called Arunachala. It is four and a quarter hours southwest of Madras (Chennai), in the Eastern Ghats. A very sacred mountain, Arunachala is considered to be Lord Shiva Himself, not just his abode, but the God Himself.

The great Saint Ramana Maharshi, during a visionary experience at the age of 16, went to live there. He never left and spent his life at Arunachala, visited over time by many thousands of devotees. He was very fond of animals. Today, as well as his own grave, there are the graves of several of his favorite animals; including a cow named Lakshmi and a raven that he had rescued.

© Sharon St Joan, 2021

Photo: Sakthiprasanna

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An ancient view

scenic view of mountain
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To ancient peoples, the world of nature was not made up of inanimate beings – or of beings less than ourselves.

Everything was alive and had a spirit and a presence.

The mountains were gods, the rivers goddesses.

The lakes, the oceans, the trees, the deserts, the forests – everything was living and conscious.  Also, all the beings of the sky were alive – the sun, the planets, the moon, all the stars.

Life was present in every aspect of the universe. The sacred rocks were living entities.

All the animals – the fish, the whales, the bears, the lions, foxes, deer, all the birds, also the ants, the bees, the butterflies and all the insects.

We can see this perception still in the older (and wiser) belief systems of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, in the world views of Native Americans.

Because ancient peoples saw and understood the spiritual essence of all of nature, there was reverence and respect for nature. Human beings took only what they needed for survival – and nothing more.  They were respectful and not greedy. They listened to the voices and to the laws of nature. They were aware of the sacred beings of life. Because of this awareness, they did not destroy the planet earth.

Today, though we consider ourselves, in the modern world, to be much wiser, we are in fact, very ignorant. We see nature through blind eyes, not recognizing the living essence, the majesty, and the awareness of nature and the earth herself.

It is through this blindness and stupidity, that we destroy nature – through greed and oblivion.

No amount of calculating carbon footprints in a futile effort to save ourselves is going to work.

We must focus, not on ourselves, but on the ineffable beauty and life of nature herself.

To put it simply, we must go back to worshipping nature – to feeling a sense of reverence for the earth.  We belong to the earth. It is only by returning to that sense of the sacred that we will be able to save the earth – and perhaps ourselves as well.

© Sharon St Joan, 2021

Red cliffs

grand canyon during golden hour
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Within the red cliffs

Walk the feet of Shiva

Through the eternities of endless eons

In the sacred smoke of the kiva

Snow-

Flakes falling

Within the perceptive

Eyes

Of the pygmy owl,

Reflecting skies

Where green dragons

Sail over the seas and all the caves

Long gone,

Waves

Washing up along the coast

Where still,

Knives

Gleam

Of thieves

Hiding in the dark,

Ninja lives,

Deceptive

Whiffs –

A spark

Of whispered words,

Clever,

Sly eyes smile.

There is the space

Where

The rainbows

Rest

A while

Before the startling storms that howl

Before the white-throated swift’s nest

High up in the rock

Gathers up the errant wings – lost almost.

All the hills become

Encircled in weaves

Of patterns within the mist

Of gray stone.

Within the rain ahead

Flocks

Of night

Rain, loud,

Bold,

That never cease,

Unerring

In their treks of flight,

Within the black armies of the castled kingdoms,

War drums

Of the cloud.

All is here now,

The bow

Of the lone,

Ghost

Ship cuts across the furrow,

And all falls

Suddenly quiet.

Torrents cease.

Winds let go.

All returns

To within the peace

Of cliffs deep red

As the autumn

Moon

In the forgotten dimensions

Of forever. Soon

Will the wild paws

Of the forest

Lions,

Tiptoe

Again, with grace

In the clear singing of the dawn

With the moon-

Enchanting meadows

Gone,

Now turned to gold,

Held in the entrancing feathers of the sun,

While rags of clouds stream

Onward to the dance.

September 10, 2021

© Sharon St Joan, 2021

Where now is the mist-ringed bell

green trees on mountain
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Where now is the mist-ringed bell

That tolls over the wandering wave

Of the gray

River?

The moon a sliver

In the sky?

Who can tell?

Where now the branches of the nagalingam tree that sway

And brush along the cool earthen banks,

Home of shy,

Determined snails,

Before the dawn of being,

Long before the chaos

Of disrepair

Grumbled through the dark hall

Of the subterranean cave.

Where now is the brave, ascending song

Of the gold-eyed buffalo burr,

Who clung to the canyon wall,

In the fierce, railing wind,

Her petals beaming in the sun,

The one

Proclaiming victory for the day,

Where now the call

Of the giant whales

Who dive beneath

The cliff rising from

The moving waters of infinity

In the indigo

Deeps

Of joy – whales who play

With their children, ocean games

In the seaweed-flowing mystery

Of their sparkling blue sea –

Where now the curious

Goat who leaps

Among the white patches of winter snow

Along the steep

Hill of the cedarbreak?

Where now the songs

From the ranks

Of all the charming, twisted juniper trees,

Their bark that curls around like smoke,

Whose wisdom

Belongs

To the light,

The moonrise,

And the night,

Who spoke

In the ever-whistling wind,

But then were felled by a cold-axed blow

Of barbarity and lies.

All their songs are fled away

To the far, far mountains of freedom

Where they echo,

Echo,

Gone

To the long

Hills,

Where God always sings

In the wandering dawn,

Waiting for the tumult and the chaos

To have ceased

On the ending day

When flames

That have hissed high

At long last fade,

Scattered away

On the winds,

Lost in the trills

Of birdsong

And the swarm

Of the bumblebee.

Then, in a world that has glided out of the gray mist,

The heart of the wild geese

Will sound once again,

Free,

As the flight

Of the numinous

Rose-winged beauty

Of the dragonflies

Along the lilting, frog-enchanted lake,

Humming.

Hear now the wings,

The presence

Of all the beings,

Released –

Watched over by the bright,

Night-shimmering form

Of Hamsa, the swan who flies

Over the green forest

Of yore,

Reawakened by her

All-knowing essence,

Beginning anew,

In a magic country,

The land of evermore,

Eternal, true

And ever-now,

In the mystical hour of the gray dawn.

© Sharon St Joan, 2021

The truth of Agni

flight dawn landscape sky
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The truth of Agni;

Fire consumes the illusion.

Trees walk on the black way

To the stars,

Trees who remember,

With the stones,

The earth’s enchanted bones,

The beginning and the ending,

The faces of the stones rise,

Red, gold,

Patterned in scars,

Walls of stone, tall,

Remembering

All

The dragonflies

And the elven folk

Of long ago;

No one believes

In them now

Though

They sang the truth of the stars.

In the ending – skies

Of gray

And white – oppression.

The smoke of time,

The embers

Of existence,

The age of blindness,

Of existential crime,

Treachery,

And war

Going now,

On the winds of time.

Shiva dancing both time and eternity,

In the stark

Winds that clear the smoke

Of being.

Soon, the bough

Of the oak

Will climb

Into the shimmering rain

Of Indra.

There, the face of Shiva

In the gold

Trees – twinkling among the leaves,

In a world so old –

That came before —

Yet shines again –

Now

In the ever-glimmering rain,

In the train

Of flowers,

In the arc

Of ancient powers.

***

Written August 7, 2021

© Sharon St Joan

More about praying for rain and the nature of the universe: a prophecy

adult tiger
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Sometimes one must pray for rain for days and even years.

God Is not limited by our time frame. He/She does not abhor death – beyond death there is peace and even joy.

God exists within, around, and beyond the universe. A small part of God is the universe. The spiritual exists – it is unseen because it is not a material thing. It is spiritual. The physical world comes into being – but unfortunately, the physical world then sometimes runs amuck in all directions all by itself – and hence there is pain and evil – because of the separation and alienation from the spiritual.

The physical universe comes into being when a division takes place. Suddenly, there is more than one.  There are two. This second entity may not really be real because only the One is real (think of the Hindu concept of maya). Yet physical reality has appearances – Newton’s apple falls to the ground — in the sunlight, it is red; it is heavy, and it falls; one can watch it fall and hear it hit the ground. To us, it is solid and real, one can even taste it. It manifests as physical. Yet it is missing something; it is not spirit, though spirit may be within it and may dwell within it – and may even be trapped within it – according to the concepts of the gnostics.

Because there is division – there arises incompleteness – a lack of wholeness.  If you divide the train from the engine, something important is missing. Some essential things have been left out.  From this lack arise the deficiencies of the physical universe – pain, suffering, harm, death, illness, and evil. These arise from and are the consequence of the separation – the division that has taken place in order to bring about the universe – the separation (leading to alienation) between the spiritual and the physical. The wildflower is very beautiful, but after summer is done, there is no ongoing source of life and nourishment, and the flower dies. The life within it has gone. It cannot exist apart from the source of life which sustains it. (I do not mean that dead flowers are not beautiful; certainly they are, but theirs is a different beauty.)

When the physical universe – especially as the world of nature – is still inhabited by spirit – still in touch with its essence and its soul – it has profound beauty – the flowers, the majestic rocks, the ocean waves in their endless patterns, the grace of animals and plants. (The ocean and the rocks are also alive.)

The living beings of nature are subject to pain because of the separation that brought them into existence as separate beings – no longer entirely whole – apart from the original unity – which is God. The farther removed one is from the spiritual – the greater the chasm – the more prone is the physical world to suffering and disaster.

With the arising of the mental plane (which can be useful, but which is mostly an agent of disruption), there is further separation and further evil – such as we see in the modern human world. – war, chaos, hatred, injustice, disease, tyranny, and cruelty – and an irrepressible drive to rise above and dominate the earth. But, one may say, these things have always existed. But think for a moment – that is not so. Think of the innocence of deer, of flowers, of the rolling hills – who all existed before human beings.  The natural world can be dramatic, even destructive, but it is not cruel. Even tigers are not cruel; they kill only when they are hungry or to feed their young, out of fear or defence sometimes, but never out of malice. The tiger is as innocent as the deer.

Only human beings have the capacity for intentional cruelty, and cruelty is intentional – the word itself implies intent. As human beings, it is our task to leave behind the tyranny we exert over the natural world – and instead to bring about a re-unification of the physical with the spiritual – in union – to re-unite that which has drifted – or exploded — apart.  We must learn to perceive once again the true reality of the natural world – it is inhabited by spirit. Nature is an expression of God.

The mistaken assertion, espoused in the Old Testament that “man was made in the image of God” is a false teaching and goes along with much of the rest of the Old Testament that portrays God as a tyrannical being. If you don’t think so, you may not have read it lately. Parts of the Old Testament are soaringly beautiful – such as some of the psalms and parts of Isaiah – these express the true wisdom of these people, but the rest was written by somebody else. It all contrasts sharply with the portrayal in the New Testament of Jesus as a teacher of love and kindness. The Old Testament prophets spent quite a lot of time persecuting the Canaanites who followed the old religion and were always going up into the hills to worship trees — as if worshipping trees were a horrible thing to do. Unfortunately, much of the underpinning philosophy of our culture derives in part from the dominance expressed in the Old Testament. We have lost sight of this, but it is so.

Worshipping trees, who are sacred beings, is actually quite a good thing to do.

Nature is a part of God, and when we are able to become ourselves a part of this truth – truly able to perceive it – then we perceive the original peace of the unity of the two halves that seemed to have been split apart (though this was always an illusion). The physical and the spiritual will be brought together again – will be one. This is the mystical truth. It can be glimpsed distantly – intellectually. It can only truly be seen mystically.

This is the truth of mystics the world over. We can discover this by looking to the ancient worldviews – the knowledge in the traditions of the ancient land of India, the cosmic understanding of indigenous and tribal peoples all over the earth. They hold the remnants of truth that our modern world has left behind and destroyed. We must once again look to them for the truth – and salvation.

The genocide of the earth’s native peoples – like the war against nature (it is the same war) — has been a scourge attempting to kill truth and beauty in order to make way for a force, alien to nature, that seeks only dominance.

It has run its course. Many of those who might once have perpetrated the lies supporting this war have now turned against it.

For those ancient peoples of the earth who have guarded fundamental truths over so many eons – for them, along with their brothers and sisters of the natural world, and the earth itself, there will come again the brightness of the light and the dawn ahead.

© Sharon St Joan, July 2021

Stars and rivers

northern lights over mountain and forest
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You are,

And you become still,

The white star

Cast in the slivers

Of the ashwood tree

And the Black Madonna

Who swings on the gold swing

Of your rose-ringed car,

Carried through cities old

As the emerald wings of time,

Unbent.

Where are you in the wandering

Whisper of the canted

Tide

Along the rock-cut

Ghost-shelled

Shore,

When only

gulls can hear the ringing

Echo

Of the soft-belled

Singing

And the murmur

Of the many-lilied morning,

Of the waves that tiptoe

Back into the sea?

Forest voices, green-mossed, among the damp sod,

There you unfold

The unsuspected peace

Of the day

Of clouds,

Of gray

And wind-boned shrouds,

Of rain, from where bands

Of brave geese,

Hurtling,

Climb

Above the northmost hill

The blue Himalaya.

In the winds, you stir

Beside

The ever-present,

Southern rocks of Arunachala,

The mountain that is God.

The quick-footed magic,

The dragon-bright beauty

Of the cosmic

Dance of Nataraja,

And the truth of all that ever is or could be,

All are held

Then and now, and evermore

In the starsent,

Moon-enchanted

Rivers

Of your hands.

©  Sharon St Joan May 18, 2013