our love won’t be folded into a card

how cliché to write a love poem today,
but not nearly as inept as the card
I could otherwise settle upon—
the same card gifted to hundreds of
wives and girlfriends alongside heaps
of chocolates and flower bouquets

(no offense to the creative exploits of card writers, chocolatiers or florists)

worth careful consideration is what
brought us to this point in our lives—
countless conversations and shared
study sessions in college, the gradual
mingling of plans and aspirations,
the decision to go forward together

we’ve moved far away: from Rochester
to Lincoln, then Fairbanks and now St. Cloud—
each place with unique twists, ups and downs;
well, not Lincoln with its pancake-flat prairie,
long sunsets and skies stretching on forever

Alaska snow twinkling with an ethereal
glimmer while aurora sways overhead,
cold made warm with a ready embrace
or a moose unexpectedly passing by,
nodding hello while munching willow

now home by Sucker Creek— named
after the fish I remind others, but we’re
certainly suckers too, not for living here,
but for falling headlong into the expectant
promise of love, a promise sometimes
broken since nobody always reaches the
impossibly lofty ideals set before us

yet we keep trying, together, day by day…

we try for each other and, even more
importantly, now for our daughter, Elena—
our love made real in a remarkable being
all her own, our spirit brought together
and magnified, our entire universe
personified and growing before our eyes…

such beauty, such massive cosmic love!

thank you for helping me to become
who I am now, so much more than
I would have been alone; thank you
for you, and especially for Elena;
thank you for family and togetherness

this is our love. Cupid’s arrow has
no bearing on any of it. this is our love!

to relate

I’ve something to say. It’s about my life, all it is and all it is not. Lots of times I’m a mess of a human being, doing the bare minimum to scrape by. I’ve been lethargic. Other times I’m inspired to great works and huge swoops of focused activity—maybe there’ll be more of that soon. Often I don’t quite understand what I’m doing or clearly see where I’m headed. Much is cyclic. There’s been a lot of thinking about purpose and meaning and in the end, well, I don’t have definitive answers. Hopefully I’m far from the end. Hopefully this conundrum of a life continues allowing me to puzzle along for awhile longer, because it feels like something special. I’m grateful to be here.

Lately I think I’m here to relate. People talk of finding their place in the universe, but maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps there is no place that stays put long enough to be found or is detectable by the eyes of the individual. For what are we separate from everyone and everything else we exist in relation to? There is no Gregory without all the rest—no me apart from deep, freezing waters and trees losing leaves; scathing displays of hurt alongside tender shows of affection;  a Swedish vocalist finding a pipe organ in New York City; and without you, yes you, your triumphs and failures. I relate to all of it, be it apparent or obscured by a complex fabric of unrecognizable connections. Even when I try to ignore how everything affects my being in this very place, here I am relating to the entire tangle.

I’m here at least, and maybe at most, to be good to this part of the world in the best way that I can. Not just those I obviously love, because that’s pretty easy most of the time, but also to those who rub me the wrong way. The obstacles, they deserve care. I probably can’t fix much. My principles may never overwhelm anyone’s shortcomings or injustices, not even my own, but that’s okay.

Love, patience, and wholehearted openness could be enough. We’ll see. I’ll try growing with an outwards embrace and that may be the best I can do. Compassion is not easily contained and compartmentalized. It spills over barriers and smooths rough edges. Sharing love and careful attention with all that surrounds is worth something. Besides, it’s all I’ve got right now, so here it is. Maybe it’s that simple. Maybe I am just a part, not apart from all that is. I’ll try to show up and meet my life right where it is now. I want to be an active, willing participant in this great tangle.

Hello, how are you today? … Please take care.

enduring love and understanding

Life convinces me that those who graciously endure suffering and readily sacrifice themselves for others are the closest to realizing the most profound, enduring love. And yet the callous world would have us believe they are the very people most easily taken advantage of by the cruel and selfish. We’re warned against becoming naive. To be taken advantage of by others, we must first be attached to that which we’re not willing to give up. Identifying ideas, habits of thought and behavior, relationships with others, objects or desires. Attachments are endless. Perhaps we have to be willing to lose everything (or give of ourselves completely) to awaken to the deepest truths— to realize truly unconditional love.

When does the quest for self-preservation and security become unreasonable and a selfish pursuit of unnecessary comfort and overabundance? How insidious, our vile greed! What is vital in this life? How much can we give up before nothing is left?

How could we ever be completely separate from the ground of being itself, the ultimate source of fathomless love? Is it even possible to be cut off from that which sustains us while still being part of this life?

I feel like it’s all right here somewhere— nothing lacking, nothing in excess.* The problem then is all in my mind. The problem itself is empty and one of misperception and dormant realization. And yet that ultimately insubstantial challenge continues to confound me.

Truth, astonishlingly bright and resoundingly clear, is often obscured by me.

I want very much to understand the depths of this life, but I continue to trip over myself.

*While writing this post, “nothing lacking, nothing in excess” popped into my head. It is part of a line from “Verses on the Faith Mind”, a tremendous teaching poem from Seng-Ts’An, the third Chinese ancestor of Zen. This sutra has been tremendously helpful to me over the years. The surrounding chunk reads like this:

The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.