closer to nature

“…the brightness of the day in front of you is bigger than staying in bed.”

– Pema Chodron


less smoky

this morning

but smoky

wildfires rage

out west

the pandemic

keeps us



i ask alice

how i can

get closer

to nature

she says

we’re up here

in our hi-rise cave

look out

across the urban forest

toward the mountains

must still be there


watch for our

hawk neighbors

the rush-hour

of crows flying

west at dusk

think of the trees

that shelter us

when we walk

each evening


taste the earthen

tannins of the teas

we brew

each morning

the steel-cut oats

walnuts maple syrup

we eat



every hermit-monk

cold mountain poet

needs a wise





Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

In the early months of the pandemic lockdown, my wife, Alice, and I took turns each morning reading to each other sections of When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun and teacher. Given the circumstances, it made sense to go deeply within rather than longing to “go out.” We were hoping for some “Heart Advice for Difficult Times” (the subtitle of the book). We found  much to contemplate and consider. After we finished reading, I decided to go back through the teachings and look for especially meaningful quotes that could be use as prompts for poems.

The result was published in March 2021 by Turkey Buzzard Press. I’m especially proud to have turned the horrors, anxieties and isolation of the pandemic into something beautiful: a collection of poems. The poems are published in the order they were written and the order of the quotations in Ani Pema’s book. This poem, nowhere, appears early in Sacred Chill. It serves to open wide the spaces I explore and contemplate in the rest of the rest of the book.

Sacred Chill is about Parkinson’s Disease, too, and the constant existential improvisations required as symptoms shift and progress while we hold our life and our self together in a tentative but tenacious unity.

Used by permission of the author.

Sacred Chill is available only at this address:

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Wayne A. Gilbert

Wayne A. Gilbert is a retired teacher and teacher of teachers. He has written three books of poems although he ...more