Koa Books

Veterans of War
Veterans of Peace

Ellen's Invitation Letter

May 16, 2011

Dear Friends,

The past few months have been filled with notable milestones for me, for all of us: birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, births, deaths. Of course, these milestones stand out from our everyday lives-that's the nature of milestones. And while such important occasions bring people together, I've been thinking lately about the intimacy that comes from everyday, mundane encounters with others. Sometimes these encounters are reassuring in their very ordinariness, sometimes they are boringly predictable (or predictably boring), sometimes we don't even notice what we are doing. But other times, something we have done again and again assumes, for no reason we can fathom, a greater importance, a greater resonance.

I was thinking about Nancy's wonderful origami activities last time we met. In her prompt to us, she noted, "unity, harmony, creativity - this is what I see in these folded squares joined into one. The beauty and power of fairly ordinary single beings joined together, so much more than the one."

So, as we look ahead to our time together on June 4, we might think about the ordinary, the mundane encounter that sometimes becomes more, that brings us together or heightens our awareness. I'd like to introduce us to the ordinary through a brief nonverbal activity that might help us to imagine the power of the mundane, and of how it can bring us together, both with those in our everyday lives and those in our sangha. We'll then proceed to writing in silence, hopefully taking something of this small activity into our writing.

I've included below two of my favorite poems by Seamus Heaney for your pleasure and, perhaps, to prime your thoughts, jog your memories. As usual, the prompt is here to use in your writing or not, as you need. As for the day, try to arrive early enough to settle in and be ready to come together at 10 am for meditation and check-in.

The day will follow the usual order, with approximate times:

  • 9:30 Arrive and settle in
  • 10:00 Meditation and check in
  • 11:00 Writing prompt
  • 11:30 Meditation, and time to write, in silence...
  • 1:15 Lunch (Potluck, vegetarian; the first half of lunch is in silence)
  • 2:00 Sharing of the day's writings
  • 3:30 Walking meditation (in the eucalyptus grove or inside)
  • 4:15 Sharing of thoughts, reactions, and feedback to other's writings
  • 5:00 Announcements
  • 5:20 Meditation
  • 5:30 Put things back in order in the space, help clean up, and take the extraordinary energy of the day back out into the world.

I'll look forward to seeing you all at Marg and Bill's, on Saturday, June 4.

In peace,


Sonnet #3 from Clearances by Seamus Heaney

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other's work would bring us to our senses.
So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives-
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.
Sonnet #5 from Clearances by Seamus Heaney
The cool that came off sheets just off the line
Made me think the damp must still be in them
But when I took my corners of the linen
And pulled against her, first straight down the hem
And then diagonally, then flapped and shook
The fabric like a sail in a cross-wind,
They made a dried-out undulating thwack.
So we'd stretch and fold and end up hand to hand
For a split second as if nothing had happened
For nothing had that had not always happened
Beforehand, day by day, just touch and go,
Coming close again by holding back
In moves where I was x and she was o
Inscribed in sheets she'd sewn from ripped-out flour sacks.