A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 7 June 2008

The Red Salamander Moment Of The Now

I've been thinking about Denise Levertov this morning. Not long ago I quoted 2 poems from her lovely, meditative collection Oblique Prayers. From it this is another favourite of mine:

Of Being

I know this happiness
is provisional:

the looming presences -
great suffering, great fear -

withdraw only
into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves;

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel:

this mystery:

For me there's a direct line of connection from this later poem right back to a poem of hers I also love which comes from the 1960s collection Sorrow Dance:


The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

As I write this and consider the 2 poems togther, I've just realised for the 1st time that both contain 13 lines and both have a similar title. There's a stillness, a sense of mystery and wonder, a spiritual awe permeating these simply written, translucent poems, a sense of gratitude and appreciation, which I find incredibly beautiful and life-enhancing. Levertov, and we the readers also, float into Creator Spirit's deep embrace in the red salamander moment of the now. And that moment becomes an eternal moment.

On my Camino pilgrimage late last year I saw a salamander on the edge of an ancient well as I walked between Estella and Los Arcos. It was vivid green and orange, and I'd never seen one before.

Perhaps we should not strive for Enlightenment - it's there for the experiencing at any given instant. Perhaps all-surrounding grace is there for the joyful taking - with no effort at all.

(The quotes float into Creator Spirit's deep embrace, all-surrounding grace and no effort are all taken from The Avowal - another poem in Levertov's Oblique Prayers.)

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