(26) LIVING HERE: A Beauty In Decay

November 12, 2013 | | Comments 2


“I hear and behold God in every object, yet understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who can be more wonderful than myself.
Why should I wish to see God better than this day?…

That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be.”

(Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass)


These days my breast swells with each breath of this dank, profoundly rich and fragrant, autumn air. It’s the air of winter, the air of decay that fully fills, that challenges my touch, nose, eyes, ears and throat, that races my body. That is the beauty of winter and this is an ode to A Beauty In Decay.

But first, this note on words and writing: To interest even me, and at least entertain even you, this writing has to come from somewhere and go toward something. Words have origins and implications – they re-present a fragment of experience and are obviously not the thing itself. Still, well-connected words can make powerful introductions! And some precisely targeted, timed and barbed words point not only toward something, but beyond the real and the conceivable. For me, writing is triggered by, and comes from, graceful inspiration, and the editing that follows is a distilling, a reducing to make a tasty sauce with light and heat. Ultimately, the most I can say about my writing is that it’s a vague rendering of silence in honest words. And the editing is a zen-like raking of a stony field of clodded verbiage to remove most of the ambiquities. It’s a labor of love that may take, carry or otherwise transport a reader from here to here


‘Tis the season for raking-up and cutting-up, for bundling-up and snuggling-up for winter. Wherever we live, we all know winter and the need for a little warmth. A warmth that’s more than physical…more than mental…maybe even more than emotional?
Spiritual perhaps? Ah! To simply call this warmth “spiritual” is to dismiss and disregard the potency of winter. To remain like a skater on a winter pond that’s iced-over with ideas and ideals that are so thin they cannot bear the weight of reality.

If we’re sensative and attentive to our pond-in-winter, we may stop skating over our profound nature. We may find ourself laying flat on that ice, gazing into the dormant depths below. We may note the autumnal colors of the dead leaves in the shafts of sepia light that penetrate clear to the bottom. And we may see how, even in death, these leaves remain as eloquent portraits of the past year’s growth…and its essential, inevitable and graceful, decline. A leaving. Yes! And a return!


Indeed, winter is especially about lying fallow, about not ploughing, planting and harvesting. We “winter-over” as the Brits say, finally taking time to patch and repair, to darn our spiritual socks, so to speak. In this recognition of the uses of winter, we may take refuge like a recluse in our interior shadowlands. Finally, after “the hay is in the barn,” we may get to huddle by our own gentle fire and take up a prolonged residence there, in stillness, contemplation and possibility. A fecund possibility for unguessed changes in relationships that, like a wise stranger, moves in for the winter. Who knows what will happen?


It’s an uncertainity that has a certain familiarity if not comfort, to it. We really get to know that we don’t know, and we get used to seeing dimly in the fire light. There’s a steady gathering of our deepest nature – a mounting willingness to turn into the winds of denial we’ve avoided so adroitly lo these many years. A willingness to stop searching for shelter and to face a fierce grace, aka reality.

Willing or not, those piercing winds of winter often get in our face, don’t they? Indeed, winter threatens. It threatens to take away everything we thought we had or knew. It insists on showing our self to our Self, face-to-face. And it does it all with a determined earnestness, like a great sculptor pounding, chipping and sanding away the unnecessary in a granite block to reveal and release the underlying and essential beauty!

Winter is a time to pause, to stand back and really look at what is. And to see with our own inner eyes how our conditioned mind/feelings discribe and limit – “crib and confine” as Shakespeare said – our unlimited and infinitely good nature. Our one, common nature.

“It is only when you have opinions about what you see that there is disagreement and separation” (J.Krishnamurti)


Winter invites us to chop the seasoned wood that kindles our own fire. It invites us to step inside to take a beautiful barefoot dance in front of our own flaming hearth. To return. To renew. To re-move the bindings of old growth; to stoop and enter our own door and to abide in reverence there. To linger long and long by our inner fire; to look for the truth of our being directly, right where we always are – here.

“Look for me under your boot soles”

(Walt Whitman)

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  1. John Greer says:

    This is a real treat – beautifully written, with evocative images, and deep truth! Thank you, James, for giving us so much food for thought.

  2. James says:

    Thank you John, for your kind note! This Fall seems to be more deeply entered into,like the nearby redwood forrest I frequent, and the article emerged from there. Be well my friend.
    James (NDL ed.)

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