The quiet of the woods
is not your regular quiet,
not empty-room quiet,

but a full quiet, still to the brim,
quiet held in soil grown over ages,
filtered by leaves and feathers,

a quiet fermented by eons of rain,
the quiet of birdcall and snowfall
and snowmelt and sun,

a stillness shielded by trees
even whose young ones
are older and wiser than we,

whose roots silently ponder
what is below, and know
without saying,

a quiet held in the owl’s gaze,
who sees your quietness
which flourishes within you

hugely, agelessly,
growing in you
as silently as a mushroom.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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           The greatest among you will be your servant.
           All who exalt themselves will be humbled,
           and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

                         —Matthew 23.11-12

The worse you feel about yourself
           the more you need to be encouraged, right?
Those who seek greatness
           are starving for themselves.

But the Beloved died
           humbly pouring himself out.
One can be no greater
           than to serve beside him.

The less your opponent listens,
           the louder you shout, right?
Those who exalt themselves
           are only trying to convince themselves.

But a much quieter voice, truthful, absolute,
           has spoken calmly: You are worthy.
No need to say more.
           The rose unfolds, at peace in its unfolding.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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To the pond, evening

Mindful of the world’s dangers
and sorrows I walk.
I could go straight down to the pond
but I take the long way through the woods,
the yellow trees, apostles of the centuries,
holding their arms out over me,
the little brook sewing its way through them.
My path is narrow, made by walking it
over and over, in all kinds of weather.

The water in the pond is at peace,
and will find its way to the sea.
A few geese rest there, stopping by.
They too will find their place.
The yellowing grasses lie down,
folding their million fingers on their chests.
They will sleep for now but they will return.
My breath, a thread that has gone in and out of me
—how many times?— goes in and out.
It is not mine alone.

The winterbent pine by the pond
raises its arms in benediction.
The rising moon, so steadfast, holds her thoughts to herself
watching me make my way back up the field,
like all of us, wandering home.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

Other conversations

I walk among trees.
The conversations of their falling leaves.
A little breeze moves among them casually.
I think of how long they’ve been here,
and their favorite stories.
They know where every branch is,
mindful of every root hair and what it touches.
Under grey sky, not really cold yet,
they stand in faithfulness.
Little birds work up and down their limbs,
and sometimes sing.

Like my soul, they know things
they don’t need to tell me.
But we both like it
when I walk beneath them.

Weather Report

as an occluded front of words
passes by overhead
and out to sea.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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To love

Infinite Love,
you who love me into being each moment,
let me this day flow freely with that love,
for it is not my love I give but yours.
I seek in all and above all to love,
to appreciate, to forgive,
to encourage, to comfort,
to listen, to make room,
to thank, to assist, to bless.
May I choose to be loving
rather than to be right,
to be gentle rather than tough,
to be curious rather than judging,
to meet all with reverence and humility and delight.
And with those whom I cannot love easily,
let me hold and protect with all my being
room for you to love them, even through me.
O Spirit of Love, you who love me infinitely and perfectly,
breathe your love in me.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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I walk in loveliness

My path is strewn with beauty,
red and orange, yellow, green,
leaves ribbed or smooth,
leaves living still, or dead,
at rest or falling through the light,
or turned by wind around and round,
ochre, saffron, bright or black and mottled,
released into the wind, the ground, the past,
leaves lobed or whorled or undulate,
leaves rife with bugs and shades and hues,
of blood, maroon, and wheat and honey,
amber and the sun and moon and flames
of love and life and what it is to thrive,
leaves dry or rotting, and leaves glazed
by rain, surrendered to the earth until
they’re raised again in something green,
alive, beyond what we can see,
but now still brown and plain or blazing bright,
the hues of pomegranate, lemon, hues of fruit,
now working down into the root, the dark:
the fire of death, the spark of life, the art
of autumn’s sweet release, the art of peace.

I walk like Autumn’s bride in loveliness,
a dress that beckons forth my loveliness.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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Dove of peace

              To the tune of Londonderry Air, “O Danny Boy.”

Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

O Dove of Peace, among our weeping ruins, rise
and take your flight on bruised and battered wing,
for still we need your song, and still our anger cries—
and still you come to us, and still you sing.
O sing of gentle courage, sing to every soul
who rules on throne or hides in catacomb,
for to us all you come to heal and make us whole.
O Dove of Peace, bless us, and make in us your home.

O Breath of Life, you breathe in every wounded breast.
You breathe your peace alike in friend and foe,
for every child is holy, every soul is blessed;
and every fear your peace will overthrow.
O breathe your peace in us, let it become our way;
let us meet every trouble with good will.
O bear us on your breath of love and hope, we pray.
O Breath of Life, O Dove of Peace, be with us still.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to it read:

Listen to it sung:

We are not powerless

When evil falls like a hailstorm
and cruelty pounds living beings into the Earth,
when the cloud of ash descends
with its broad wings and thoughtless talons,
and we seem so small and feel so helpless,
we are not.
We are remnants of the light of creation,
little heavens in whom the mighty grace of God
throbs like nuclear power.
Frail and faulted as we are,
we are vessels of the Spirit of Life,
stewards of the peace of God.
In our hope burns a greater power.
Our good will joins an energy field
that moves mountains.
We cannot gauge the quantum of hope
that shimmers, unseeable, in our hope.
We trust, and our hope
defeats the powers that would have us despair.
Radiant with love, even before the dawn,
the victory is ours.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
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The end of the world

At the end of the world
the power-wielders will send their messages
and the generals will give their commands
and the officers will push their buttons
and death will fall like rain…

or maybe the billionaires will make their money
and the entrepreneurs will manufacture their goods
and the factories will spew their poisons
and the clouds will descend…

or maybe the demagogues will suggest
and the pundits will assert
and the people will believe
and the massacres will commence…

but somewhere people will gather—many—
different ages, languages, religions,
and they will sing together
and the world will not end.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio version:


As darkness descends
you hold your candle,
your frail light,
but it is not little.
It is the flame of “Let there be light,”
the big bang of hope.
Your light orbits through the darkness
with all the other stars
in a great galaxy of compassion.
You say your quiet prayer,
a few words uttered on the wind,
but they are not small,
these words spun of a thread of love,
a hardy strand that runs from heart to heart
in a massive web of mercy.
You offer up your heart
but it is not your heart,
it is God’s, beating in you,
it is God’s light shining in you,
God’s hope echoing through you,
God’s prayer sustaining the world.
Keep vigil with courage and confidence,
for God keeps vigil in you;
in us, in the hopeful and the helpless,
in the traumatized and terrorized,
in all of life
God keeps vigil.

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
Listen to the audio recording:

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