Words of Solace and Joy
00:29 ALEXIS ADAMS, Editor and Publications Administrator: When the world began to change so rapidly this year, we knew our plans for the Tippet Rise Podcast must change too. And so we decided to create a series of episodes to both recognize this moment in time and, hopefully, offer some solace. The first episode was one of poetry and prose: works by deep-thinking writers that inspire hope and resilience. The second episode, featuring music and the sounds of nature from Tippet Rise, was created to inspire reflection.
01:04 This month, we focus on joy. While joy might seem elusive these days, an odd theme for these times, the writers whose works are featured remind us that it still can be found everywhere: up above, in the flight of a great blue heron; in the sound of a mountain stream; in the simple act of walking barefoot in the grass.
01:35 This time of year, the Tippet Rise team traditionally comes together to launch the summer season. Some of us travel here from great distances away—New York, Hawaii, Colorado—others come from just down the road. But at this point, the art center is temporarily closed, and we continue to work from our homes. Despite the distances that separate us, this series was a teamproject: created with equipment we have at home, namely our cell phones. The “low tech, low-fi” sound of this series is all right with us because it reflects the fact that even though we have very little physical connection for now, if any, even though we miss each other and we miss our volunteers, our interns, the musicians who come to us from all around the world, and we miss our guests, We are still connected. We’re still connected with them, with each other, and with you.
02:21 I’m Alexis Adams and this is the Tippet Rise Podcast. We very much hope you enjoy this episode.
02:38 JEANNE REID-WHITE, Special Projects Advisor
WHAT TO REMEMBER WHEN WAKING
By David Whyte
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.
What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.
You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.
Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?
04:32 PEDJA MUZIJEVIC, Artistic Advisor
By Ross Gay
If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth’s great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust,
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden’s dormant splendor.
Say only, thank you.
06:24 CHRISTOPHER CASTILLO, Facilities Operator
HOW SIGHT DEVELOPS IN A DRY LAND
By Tami Haaland
She searches for flowers because she lives
in a dry land, tan with grasses
and sandy soil. The occasional pink
or brilliant green draws her like light.
Later, the parts—leaves, petals, seeds—
and the uses they might be put to:
mayflowers threaded into bracelets,
the flavors of wild onion and juniper.
She doesn’t care for tame.
She prefers incidental: yellow aster on sand,
blue beetles in waxy cactus flowers,
for three whole days a wild plum in bloom.
08:02 ELIZABETH KORTH, Art Education Coordinator and Visitor Center Manager
A DITCH BURNING
By Mark Spragg
I am related to water. I am a descendant of its sound and movement. Part of a roiling lineage. If I bend an ear to either shoulder I hear the suck and swell and hiss of a mountain stream. My soul has nursed at liquid teats. As colostrum is passed from mother to child, so the vital history of water has entered me. Water brings me joy. I fear that water will someday murder me. My life is balanced between its threat and grace.
Everything that means home to me is a by-product of the North Fork of the Shoshone. The floor of the Wapiti Valley is a descending fall of water-smoothed rock. Its random and volcanic ridges crumble down to the river, down with the flow of water, brought every year imperceptibly lower and more jagged by the runoff of thunderstorms and snowmelt. The river and its tributaries support the grasses and wildflowers that by midsummer grow belly-deep to a grazing horse. There is Douglas fir. Spruce. Varieties of pine, some juniper, aspen, and at the river’s banks the water-drunk cottonwood. The trees shed their needles, cones, leaves, layering the forest floor, each season adding to the mulch of acidic duff. Bear, deer, elk, mountain sheep, lynx, coyote, and mountain lion drink from the Shoshone. They feed, and graze, and die, and couple in the wild forest that the river drains. If the North Fork were somehow withdrawn, excised, as a vein is stripped from muscle, the land would desiccate, the wildlife perish, and that small part of me that exists without fear would wither. I cling to the sound of water to be brave in the world. I go to the sound of water to remember that God is not mute.
10:31 JAMES JOYCE, Tippet Rise Filmmaker
MORE THAN ENOUGH
By Marge Piercy
The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.
The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly
new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.
11:42 JENNY VAN OOYEN, Guest Experience and Administrative Assistant
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
By Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
12:30 CARL MAYER, Maintenance, Events, and Special Projects Coordinator
THE FIRST GREEN OF SPRING
By David Budbill
Out walking in the swamp picking cowslip, marsh marigold,
this sweet first green of spring. Now sautéed in a pan melting
to a deeper green than ever they were alive, this green, this life,
harbinger of things to come. Now we sit at the table munching
on this message from the dawn which says we and the world
are alive again today, and this is the world’s birthday. And
even though we know we are growing old, we are dying, we
will never be young again, we also know we’re still right here
now, today, and, my oh my! don’t these greens taste good.
13:20 MELISSA MOORE, Communications and Administration Manager
SO MUCH HAPPINESS
By Naomi Shihab Nye
It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
With sadness there is something to rub against,
a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.
It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
It doesn’t need anything.
Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
and disappears when it wants to.
You are happy either way.
Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
and now live over a quarry of noise and dust
cannot make you unhappy.
Everything has a life of its own,
it too could wake up filled with possibilities
of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
and love even the floor which needs to be swept,
the soiled linens and scratched records …
Since there is no place large enough
to contain so much happiness,
you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
for the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
and in that way, be known.
15:12 ZACHARY PATTEN, Music Programs and Podcast Coordinator
FROM THE ART OF THE COMMONPLACE: THE AGRARIAN ESSAYS OF WENDELL BERRY
I sat one summer evening and watched a great blue heron make his descent from the top of the hill into the valley. He came down at a measured deliberate pace, stately as always, like a dignitary going down a stair. And then, at a point I judged to be midway over the river, without at all varying his wingbeat he did a backward turn in the air, a loop-the-loop. It could only have been a gesture of pure exuberance, of joy — a speaking of his sense of the evening, the day’s fulfillment, his descent homeward. He made just that one slow turn, and then flew on out of sight in the direction of the slew farther down in the bottom. The movement was incredibly beautiful, at once exultant and stately, a benediction on the evening and on the river and on me. It seemed so perfectly to confirm the presence of a free nonhuman joy in the world.
16:50 PETER HALSTEAD, Tippet Rise Co-Founder
By Peter Halstead
A matter now of memory,
these unreal follies by the sea,
from frangipani on the white-washed wall
to girls long gone, immortal,
lawns expanding down the slope
to sea with torches and the flap
of Moorish canopies, high palms traced
against an infinity of blue,
sea birds busy with the leaves
in the featured shrubberies,
my life a trellis of such things,
bougainvillea, birds of paradise
frozen now in amber rings
beyond the reach of rising seas,
neatly placed by gardeners
against the coming doubt,
souvenirs and pictures
hoarded for the coming drought,
boundless spaces in the sky
fixed against the dimming eye,
the ravaged face, profusion
of the childhood breeze proof
against the chaos in the trees,
the loss of everything on earth but place
and sun and ancient grace.
19:15 LINDSEY HINMON, Tippet Rise Co-Director
If you are seeking, seek us with joy
For we live in the kingdom of joy.
Do not give your heart to anything else
But to the love of those who are clear joy,
Do not stray into the neighborhood of despair.
For there are hopes: they are real, they exist –
Do not go in the direction of darkness –
I tell you: suns exist.
20:15 PETE HINMON, Tippet Rise Co-Director
EVERYTHING IS WAITING FOR YOU
By David Whyte
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
22:10 ALEXIS ADAMS: Each work included in this month’s episode was read with kind and generous permission from the author or the publisher or is in the public domain.
We began and ended with poetry by David Whyte. Born and raised in Yorkshire, Whyte trained as a marine zoologist and worked for many years as a naturalist. He is the author of nine books of poetry and four books of prose.
Ross Gay is the author of three books of poetry, including the Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. A passionate community gardener, he is also a professor of English at Indiana University.
Tami Haaland was Montana’s Poet Laureate from 2013 until 2015 and is a professor of English at Montana State University in Billings.
Mark Spragg’s reading was excerpted from his essay, “A Ditch Burning,” from his critically acclaimed book of essays, Where Rivers Change Direction. Spragg is the author, also, of three novels and numerous screenplays.
Marge Piercy has published almost twenty books of poetry and close to twenty novels.
A farmer and environmentalist, Wendell Berry is also the author of over 50 books of poetry, fiction, and essays.
David Budbill was the author of eight books of poetry, numerous plays, a children’s book, speeches, essays, and reviews.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of more than 30 volumes of poetry and is the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate.
Rumi was a 13th-century Persian poet and Sufi master. His work widely influenced mystical thought and literature throughout the Muslim world and across the centuries. In more recent years, books of his ecstatic poems have sold millions of copies, making him one of the world’s most-read poets.
Peter Halstead is the co-founder of Tippet Rise Art Center and also the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation and he is a pianist, a photographer and a poet.
This episode of the Tippet Rise Podcast is brought to you by Tippet Rise Art Center. Thank you so much for listening.