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There is a whole universe underneath, which drives the primal needs and desires of not only ourselves but of all of life. It is a mysterious, wonder-filled dynamic force, unfolding and expanding at this moment. The wonders of creation are, in the words of Judy Cannoto, radically amazing. I love the image described by Pádraig: “Every now and then, my knee would be bumped by a dog who was finding a better position for a) rest; b) vigilance; or c) scraps.” Aren’t we all, in some sense, seeking to find a better position for these things?

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Urgh! Thats beautiful. "Aren’t we all, in some sense, seeking to find a better position for these things?". Indeed we are!

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Your comment took the words right from my mouth. Aptly put!

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

There is so much for which to be grateful on my "over table" - healthy children growing into young adults poised for their next adventures, a profession through which I may speak into the lives & accompany the next generation into their next stages of growth, friends with whom to share laughter & tears as we face our individual & collective life challenges. But the "under table" is there - with concern for how we as human beings have failed to honor the beauty & gifts of

creation, how we might reverse our destruction of one another, for how we have failed to love one another & all of creation as

well as needed. I look forward to the day when Julian of Norwich's words of courageous hope are made true: "All is well, and all will be well and all manner of things shall be well." As I try to integrate my "over & under tables," I trust to effect that hope.

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Dawn, Thank you for your keen reflection. I appreciate your reference to the words of Julian of Norwich. Hope, in my view, is not optimism; it’s something far deeper. I always liked this quote: “Hope is hearing the melody of the future and faith is dancing to that melody in the here and now.”

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May 27Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I love that, Michael! Thanks for sharing! Hope is indeed far deeper than optimism!

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Beautiful quote — do you know who first spoke it?

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Serene, I believe the quote is attributed to Brazilian liberation theologian and philosopher Rubem Alves.

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I love that quote! I agree that hope is deeper than optimism. Hope is holding us.

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well said, Dawn.

so well said.🌱

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

What a delightful phrase/ almost a metaphor! Undertable! I love it.

My table currently is full and empty simultaneously. It is filled with richness of friends, relationships, lots of good work and coffee! There are dishes of ambitions and "future plans", CV revisions, deadlines to meet, ideas to engage with and house chores to do. Every so often, a new platter of "unread emails" arrives, some of the bites in it lovely (daily poetry emails!!) while others kind of disgusting! LOL. A full table.

The under table has it's Toby (mine is Rosie), often nuzzling for gentle scraps, walks, pets, licks, eye contact, belly rubs and straight up food from my plate. And she has compay. There are my old friends of depression and dread, a developing relationship with gratitude, old mouldy (but growing- like fungus amazingly does) delight wrapped up in fear and perhaps a buldgeoning notion of existential inter-being!

Perhaps the bigger question is, who is around my table???

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I love the idea of our canine counselors and friends being under the table with the difficulties, and pain. It means that when we look under there, as we all have to do, there’s a loving protector to give some encouragement.

We have a golden retriever/something named Rosie. She has to be around one of us at all times, whether it’s under the table, the bathroom counter, or our feet. She is the best of us (mostly!).

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And I thought of “understory” and it’s overstory…

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

This comment reads like a gripping novel 😁

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I like that question, “who is around my table?”

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Just love your musings here. Thank you!

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

It is a difficult place to be in, the place of remaining when someone we love has died. I was going to say left and they did, but it’s a more permanent leaving. They can’t come back and even if sometimes I feel they are just out of my peripheral vision and if I could turn quickly or slowly and quietly, I could see them. So my undertable is one of sadness and grief, and longing. It is relieved, put aside with interactions with others, with activity, but it is there when I return.

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Elaine, Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. A poignant reflection! When you stated: “I feel they are just out of my peripheral vision and if I could turn quickly or slowly and quietly, I could see them,” I was reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, A Passing Glimpse. These following lines of his always strike me:

“I often see flowers from a passing car/That are gone before I can tell what they are

I want to get out of the train and go back/To see what they were beside the track.

Heaven gives it glimpses only to those/Not in position to look too close.”

Frost’s accesses something which is often elusive and certainly mysterious. He captures my longing to see and reconnect with the many beautiful, heartfelt, and nostalgic “passings” in my life.

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"I was going to say left and they did, but it’s a more permanent leaving." This sums up my feelings of losing loved ones as well. Especially while still in the middle of processing how life is going to be without them.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Elaine, this is so true.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I am currently involved in a restorative process with the county attorney’s office where I play the role of a surrogate community member as we discuss with the offender how his/her crime impacted the neighborhood. Typical offenses are theft and OWI (operating while intoxicated or impaired). The offender has no idea what is about to occur in the conversation other than they have to complete this part in order to meet their probation requirements. Usually the tone of the conversation and sometimes their posture changes when the offender is confronted with community impact. The mood shifts from them being concerned only about themselves to discussing the larger community. The “intuitions and senses” of the dialogue about community has more power than just completing the requirement.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Sounds like such a valuable process, although maybe challenging for everyone involved, including you. I'd never heard of the county attorney's office (or any other entity) having this role play version of restorative justice. Thanks for sharing.

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May 28Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

A few years ago I volunteered with the Victim Impact program through our state Dept of Corrections. Sharing the impact of the assault perpetrated on me opened the door for some surprisingly heartfelt conversations.

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“I am often drawn to the hunger of a poem:

the presence of an absence…”

So many of our words today have the underpinning language of fear,

There’s a deep hunger for the language of love, gratitude, kindness,

and forgiveness as the underpinning inspiration and motivation

of all that we say and do.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I am reminded of the expressions "Lay your cards on the table", being paid "under the table". I think of what it feels like to be able to speak from my heart and what it feels like to stay hidden. I am in a liminal space after a loss has changed my life completely as if I am both at the table and under it.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I love what you say about being at and under the table. Such a beautiful way to put it. I so often feel as though I live under the table, and have to pretend to be someone who knows how to be at it, sitting up straight in a chair and finding the right words to say.

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May 27Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Carri, I read your words about living more under the table, and I thought yes this is me.

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Yes, me too. And probably many of us. Thanks for finding those right words and putting them on the table.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I was lucky enough to catch your appearance in Camden, Maine last week. Even as my table filled with the richness of the poem you wrote and read, of the insights shared by other poets and the small conversations with others in attendance, an invitation by Mark plunged me deeply in our shared humanity. "I invite you to turn to someone near you and tell them, 'You are beautiful,' " he said. I did, first to my wife, then to a stranger with a welcoming face and finally, most profoundly, to a man sitting alone in the last pew of the church where we had gathered. He was looking at his hands, quiet. I took a chance, put my hand on his shoulder and said the words. He looked up, and right back into my eyes. It only took a moment, but I felt our deep, shared humanity. Our shared poetry.

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May 27Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Love this...it reminds me of a story Nick Cave tells about going to his local cafe a bit of time after the death of his son and the cashier (who knew him as a regular) didn't say anything when she took his order, however, when she completed the transaction, she looked him in the eye and squeezed his hand. He said it moved him more than any words he'd received. As you said, the gesture, the shared humanity.

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How beautiful.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I am currently reading the beautiful book, "The Presence of Absence," by Simon Van Booy, so those words leapt out a me. What lies beneath the table, for him, is death and grief. It sounds quite depressing, but the amazing writing leads the reader to an appreciation of our amazing lives, and both the disconnect and connection to what is above and below the table.

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May 26·edited May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

My namesake in furry form. Did you hear, Pádraig called us ‘handsome’? Well that’s how I heard it.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

LOL You heard right, Toby!

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

My interactions are with systems where algorithms make decisions

about my future life

to accept my petition for the position - or not

to approve the application for assistance - or not

to put forth the next song and whether I dance - or not

to dangle an irresistible item for my purchase- or not

to select my next word - or not.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Depending on who's around my table these days, there's either an undercurrent of existential despair or one of benign neglect.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

These seem like two ends of a non-continuum. So much in life is like this these days, and it makes me wonder what's in the middle of skewed opposites.

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yes, Phil.

you remind me of middle passage,

of which Nikki Giovanni so eloquently, and painfully, explored.🌱

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May 26·edited May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

When I was very young our family stayed with friends on the Atlantic. One summer when I was no older than 8, my father, brother and I were able to venture far out into the ocean because the tide was shallow and low. Then it suddenly changed and we found ourselves trying to outpace a quickly incoming tide and a strong current started to pull us back out to sea. My father grabbed my little brother and started instructing me to walk toward shore. His voice was calm but I knew he wasn't calm. I walked like he instructed me but the current felt stronger. I wailed for my father to help but he was holding onto my little brother and I knew he was too far to help no matter what. Those were a few of the most terrifying moments I had in my young life.

So while your "undertable" is such a delightful one of dogs in your offering this morning and one of a kind of astonished relief in Jane Kenyon's poem, my association is to the Under Toad in the World According to Garp. That Big Mysterious Monster of Anxiety that pokes her unwanted head into my business but I'm always pushing away. When I trust myself to look under the table, reach out to the Under Toad, say hello to my anxieties, I have been learning something. That I don't have to make friends with her, but when I attempt to treat her as a kind of angel as in messenger, respect her instead of fight her, I can work better alongside her and my heart softens. Because she's always there. How can she not be there in a world such as this?

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

What a terrifying experience you describe here Amy. I'm so glad that you found your way safely back to shore. I, too, have been pulled under by the mighty power of the ocean and the Under Toad—and like you, I've learned to respect her and help her find her rightful place alongside all the other energies inside. I'm still afraid of swimming in the Atlantic, but I face my fear and dive under the waves because it is a glorious experience to be held by this vital, salty, grey-green sea. I'm guessing that the Under Toad is holding me in her own way, too.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

This piece of writing resonates with poems of John O'Donoghue. The phrasing captures the essence of an image being created. Toby is a lucky dog! Should we all have such a gentle and grateful Toby in our lives.

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Today, Padraig, your offering is brilliant and generous, and something I will be happy and curious to sit with for a long time. I will take it to my therapist (when I find the right one. Help!) In the meantime, what I see//hear is that everyone is hurting and longing and too often either defending or blaming. I am part of this everyone. I've been thinking recently that I might need a dog, and your post adds fuel to this fire of longing for something easeful relationally-speaking in my life. A million thank you's (how does one spell the plural of thank you without sounding Brooklyn?) Always, and especially today. Much love, Gayle

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May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Looking for the right therapist these days is like finding a pebble in the middle of a pile of rocks. So many of them, so hard to find the one. Keep on searching. I am. Maybe they are under the table with the dogs and demons.

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May 27Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

You're right. I think maybe they are under the table... maybe that's why I'm thinking about getting a dog. But yes, I'll keep looking for a human.

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May 26·edited May 26Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

There’s an 8 1/2 x 11 inch black and white photograph my father took of me in fifth grade that hangs on my bulletin board. I didn’t know he was taking the photo. Whenever I look at it, I feel like calling him up to say, “Did you know you were seeing the real me without the usual mask?” My father is long dead, so I can’t ask him. I see the me in that photo that did and maybe still does live beneath the self I usually present to the world. I see the intensity, the tilt of the head, the immersion in the book and the questions that were swirling pleasantly in my brain. I see the utter lack of attention to what’s going on around me. This is different from many other photos which show the defensive exterior that protects what lies beneath. There are photos of me with silly grins and shy smiles and expressions of seething anger. There are photos of me turning away from the camera or holding a hand over my face. I didn’t want to be seen and it seemed he was always looking and not seeing. BUT in this photograph he seemed to see what was beneath the surface and I like both the photo and the idea that he cared what might be going on behind the mask.

This, of course, is a very self-centered answer. I’ll remind you, thought, that last week I spoke of the magical structures visible beneath the exterior of fruits and flowers. So, you already know that I like knowing and seeing the structures beneath the surface and at different orders of magnitude. Another magical beneath the surface process that delights me is observation of the phases of cell division. The chromosomes are like two little troupes of dancers organizing into kick lines that face each other.

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May 27Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

I really love your meditation on your father taking photos.

You may enjoy the poem "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon, especially the video of her reading her own poem. I watched it with students so many times in my years of teaching, but I still think of it often and occasionally watch the video again. I first saw it on a video series called The United States of Poetry (1996), a great PBS series of poets reading their poems music-video style that I'd still recommend. The series is discussed on poets.org as well.

Lyons's poem has so many layers, especially her line "the eye my father shut to keep his sight"--referring to, among other things, her father's camera eye snapping pics. Just an amazing poem by an author from Kentucky.

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May 27·edited May 27Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Ooh, I do love the poem by George Ella Lyon you shared, Shelly. The line you quote and the lines that follow really speak to me.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures,

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments —

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree

I intend to go look up the PBS series you mention. There are so many poems and so many poets worthy of notice, but sometimes, it’s nice to have a bit of a roadmap to finding them. This poem reminds me of a series of prompts my memoir group used — What do you do? Where do you come from? We called it “cocktail party questions” as a joke (that people don’t really want a deep answer) and I thought the results of our group’s responses were revealing in precisely the way this poem is.

So, thanks for the reply and the leads. This is the reason I read and post here!

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May 27Liked by Pádraig Ó Tuama

Yes, so many poems (both old and new), so little time!

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