Today an older couple came to my line. The man had deep wrinkles, and grey eyes. He had hair like Dylan Thomas, so I offered him a discount if he could name the author of a particular poem. He accepted the challenge, so I recited the first and the last stanzas of Thomas’ great poem, “Fern Hill,” which deals with the vanishing landscape of childhood and the innocence we can never fully recover. The concluding line stays with me: “Time held me green and dying, though I sang in my chains like the sea.”
I knew I was reciting well because I felt myself step away from my body and I just observed my lips move and I felt the sound being generated by my throat, but I wasn’t involved. I don’t have that experience very often, where I enter into a state of trance, but when I do experience that kind of dissociative “trance”, where I’m not there, then I know I’m reciting well. That’s the experience I had today. Both he and his wife were so moved.
He paused and asked if the author was Dylan Thomas and I said “Yes!”
So I gave him a free health candy bar.
Sri Chinmoy wrote something interesting about Dylan Thomas. He happened to have been speaking of Emily Dickinson but he said something also about Thomas, almost as an aside:
“Emily Dickinson wrote thousands of psychic poems. One short poem of hers is enough to give sweet feelings and bring to the fore divine qualities of the soul. Dylan Thomas’ poems also have that quality, although Thomas sometimes has been misunderstood.”
(Sri Chinmoy, I need my country: Beauty’s Soul, Agni Press, 1975)
Dylan Thomas is of course the great Welsh poet. Vidagdha Bennett, a scholar and chronicler of Sri Chinmoy’s life, recorded the Master’s impressions of Wales from 30 October 1991:
“When I was there first time, everything was crying with joy. Such haunting memories! There I was born and raised. Who can forget Wales? Such simple people. When I see my development since that incarnation, not in simplicity ways but in other ways. For simplicity I should go back to that incarnation. When I see simple people I get such joy. They are real jewels.”
(Taken from “Notes from a Vagabond Disciple 1991, 1992, 1993” by Vidagdha)
I feel a strong attraction to Wales. I have never been there, but the very name gives me great joy. I grew up in a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania that had been founded by Welsh settlers. All the towns and villages around had Welsh names: Bryn Mawr, Bala Cynwyd, Gladwyne, Radnor, Wayne.
I read and re-read The Lord of the Rings in middle school, and fell in love with Elvish names- Galadriel, Lothlorien, Sindarin, Elendil. Much later I learned that Tolkein had been inspired and influenced by Welsh!
I read Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series as a child, a refiguring of Welsh mythology for the twentieth century. I can still recite the opening couplets by heart:
“When the Dark comes rising six shall turn it back;
Three from the circle, three from the track;
Wood, bronze, iron; Water, fire, stone;
Five will return and one go alone.
Iron for the birthday; bronze carried long;
Wood from the burning; stone out of song;
Fire in the candle ring; water from the thaw;
Six signs the circle and the grail gone before.
Fire on the mountain shall find the harp of gold
Played to wake the sleepers, oldest of old.
Power from the Green Witch, lost beneath the sea.
All shall find the Light at last, silver on the tree.”
Also as a child I read Lloyd Alexander’s wonderful fantasy series The Chronicles of Prydain, also based on Welsh mythology. Such beautiful books! How I wish we could inspire young people to start reading again!
A very nice older lady came to my line today. Her name is Nadine. She asked me how I was doing and I told her my hangover is getting better. She laughed (thank God!) and then she told me she comes to my line whenever she can to hear some wisdom. She was wondering if I had any wise words to impart.
I recited this poem by Sri Chinmoy:
“Be indifferent to blame and praise.
You will be happy.
Don’t be sick of solitude.
You will be happy.
Discard the splendour of desire.
You will be happy.
Recognise not the ranklings of jealousy.
You will be happy.
Let death be inaugurated in your vital’s volcano-pride.
You will be happy.”
Sri Chinmoy, Transcendence-Perfection, Agni Press, 1975
She smiled, radiant and sincere, and told “This wisdom I have received today.”
I then asked her a question I often ask my customers- to tell me three things, apart from health and family, that she is grateful for. I ask people to put aside health and family because those are stock answers, and I just want people to think a little. She came up with three things for which she is grateful:
- The awareness of how to be grateful
- To give and receive a smile
- The emotion of awe
I knew then that this woman is a spiritual seeker, and I asked her to repeat her selections and I wrote them down. Nobody has ever given me such excellent answers, founded upon the heart’s awakening, wisdom that comes from heart-cry.
Last week, many people at my store caught some virus and had to call off. So I did not have time to recite poetry for my customers. I was too busy, the lines were too long, we were short-staffed in the extreme. So I just sang the Master’s Kali bhajans, devotional songs for Mother Kali (the Goddess of speed and power) as I rung and bagged. People smiled at me as they heard the songs.. They saw that I was happy and in a good consciousness, and that made them happy. True, I could not recite any poems last week, but I could sing and chant, and offer Guru’s light in a different way. I’m not the best singer, but I am not shy. There is always a way to manifest.