We wake up at five- (well, Chip does, that’s when Trixie and Pearl climb on the bed and we nap for 15 minutes or so before joining him.) After coffee with half & half, quiet talking and listening to the NPR news, he goes to workout above the garage and I turn on the lights upstairs, dress in cycling gear, clip-on shoes and all, and take a training ride on the third floor through Yorkshire, London, New York, Watopia, Paris, or Austria for 70 to 90 minutes on Zwift. I had been listening to the radio news when I pedal, but I just can’t anymore. It negates the endorphins and makes me feel slow and cranky and I want to be fit and happy.
I have also been talking to writers and poets every Sunday afternoon for the Alaska Quarterly Review 40th anniversary series, and was so inspired by Naomi Sahib Nye last week that this morning I clicked on a Poetry Foundation podcast and listened to an interview with her as I warmed up, and then I scrolled around the podcast in a lull after the first set — this workout alternates two minutes easy, four minutes hard and eight minutes of moderate effort– and found Cathy Song reading her poem, This Wonderful Opportunity:
May all beings, seen and unseen, be well, happy, and peaceful, including ourselves.
May there be peace in the world, peace in our hearts, peace in our minds.
May we use this wonderful opportunity of human life to awaken.
May we be grateful for wisdom and compassion,
this infinite boundlessness that surrounds us,
waiting to be used by us, to open our hearts and minds
so that we may see things as they truly are,
how brief our lives, how dependent upon others we are,
and so with each act may we bring wholesomeness, humility,
and the courage to do no harm, not least of all to ourselves.
As we journey through this life may we move deeper into insight,
and see things as they truly are,
this wonderful opportunity to awaken.
May we be grateful for the teachers in all their guises who appear before us.
May we love those who are hardest to love, including ourselves.
May leaders who will work for the peace of the planet step forward,
and may we support them.
May those who have gone before us rest in peace, rest in comfort, rest in joy,
and may we remember to remember them.
May the next life be a happy one.
May we cultivate in our hearts, in our minds, here and now, here on earth,
generosity, a land of plenty for all.
May our wish for peace spread like a mother’s soothing hand
and reach the distressed, fevered places of the world
and protect each child the right to be fed, to be sheltered, to be schooled.
The right to go to sleep without fear.
May we journey safely, work contentedly, and return home to loved ones well and happy.
May the path of forgiveness and acceptance
be the path of peace,
and may we find it.
May we use this wonderful opportunity to awaken
and together find true happiness, open spaciousness without borders.
I needed it right then so much, that I played it again, and again, and again– for nearly fifty minutes. It was a meditation. A prayer and a poem. It soaked in as I pedaled like a crazy woman, and then more like superwoman, and then finally, with ease, light and even peace. All because of her words.
On Sunday, poet Jane Hirshfield said that when a poem is written or read, a “lucky few” may recieve it, but that in the grand scheme of things, poetry is less like nitrogen and more like the stones in a garden. A poem’s benefit is not as immediate, but like the slow release of minerals, provides essential nutrients.
By the last set of intervals, I was full of poetry, and kind of tired and sweating hard, and so I switched to Motown hits on Spotify to lift me across the finish line. (Kind of like a shot of fish fertilizer, now that I think about it.) Yusuf Komanyakaa was also in the AQR reading room on Sunday. He teaches new poets to listen to the music in stories and poems, because he says, for a writer, the words and ideas are already there. The art is in expressing them. (And of course the poets’ wisdom applies to everything, doesn’t it?)
What I especially love, is that Cathy’s last name is Song.
I know that her poem made my heart strong in the places the effort of pedaling can’t reach. As for Motown? I dare you to crank it up for ten minutes and tell me it doesn’t make you dance on the pedals– or wherever you are.