Tara K. Shepersky
On Going to the Coast for a Weekend Retreat
All this lovely way
to find out where I belong:
hands to my own fire.
Today is my Birthday
and I'm trying to spend it giving tiny gifts to other folks.
A genuine “good morning” on the trail, that sort of thing.
And not just human folks.
Immediately what happens
is I'm noticing: layers of world
keep giving themselves to me.
How pleasant other people are in passing
—and sometimes, how startled.
How my arches flex with something that's very like joy:
a thrill in their own strength, employed for service.
How treecreepers pip! to each other
in their spiral wanderings.
How ponderosa's ocher-gold topography
lies split by rivers silting silver sun.
How I've never seen this path before,
this wide inviting track,
where the mower has humbled
blue chicory and the knee-high golden grasses,
Dead-center, every now and then,
coyote's marked her passing,
just this hour. She's done it, siting carefully,
over days. Perhaps they are a farming country pack,
and this their highway.
It skirts the hill and dips behind the quiet,
where human roads transfigure into myth.
Instead there are the flutterings in the grass.
Instead there is the particular sizzle of breeze
in a wilding apple.
So I am given another gift—
of coming down to size. Of wariness
that lives in the stomach's pit,
recalls its home in the searching ears
and the edges of the eyes.
And oh, thank you. I did not know
to ask for this.
Sometimes there is nothing I can offer.
Sometimes what's outside of me
must be allowed
to color my outlines in.
From far off
as I stoop to worship
yet another gloriously expiring
a worried voice inquires
about the time, says
You have work!
It's dawn, I say,
my inner witness shimmering
with a fine and pearling rain.
This is the most important work
I will do
Die to the Old Year
Whatever I bring to the darkness
old pain, unquiet dreams,
ambitions clutched against
my jealous heart
and its deeper mysteries
fog finds a home for it.
And above the dissolving world gone
thick to eye and field and tongue
if Orion lacks
compassion, at least
he is up there singing,
my one seen companion.
I could lose the path
to this dark
and glorious gladness.
I could follow this:
subtle tap of maple trees
loosing their withered cradles.
And this: solitary
toad in the greying grasses.
This place will never be empty.
I can be quiet
and I will wander
out of the fog
of my too much self.
Tara K. Shepersky
My contemplative practice is Celtic Christian, with some gnarled old pagan roots, and plenty of room to grow. It emerges daily out of the joy and discipline of walking and conversing with the land I live beside, a river-bent pocket of Oregon's Willamette Valley.
I walk preferentially at liminal times, alone, paying attention to what is offered, outside and in. Sometimes that's the opportunity for composition, and I shape the words in my heart until they resonate with that offering, and give something back. I'm still not sure what prayer is, but I think this combined practice of the physical and mental, the shaping and receiving, may be my doorway.
If you've enjoyed my conversations here, you can find more poems, plus essays and photography, in recent issues of Shark Reef, Cascadia Rising Review, Empty Mirror, and Sky Island Journal, among others. I enjoy meeting other contemplative souls, and would be pleased to start a new conversation if you are so inclined. You are welcome to get in touch via my website.
More on Tara Shepersky’s work can be found on our Links page.