Forest bathing


… is what the Japanese call
a walk in the woods
with no agenda, no news
of tyrants and atrocities.

Embrace oak’s gruff coat,
birch’s papery veneer,
soak in ancient wisdom
of quiet community
knowing nothing
of our human world.

Here roots run deep
and sunshine filters
through leafy canopy,
teasing with lover’s light caresses
while calling out: listen, listen!

For everything speaks:

twigs crunch underfoot
to declare our passing;

babbling stream
marks time’s passage
while philosophizing
about the source of life;

some birds rejoice
while others chirp warnings;

and squirrels chatter: go away,
don’t bring your darkness here.

Meanwhile, I soak
in the bubbly din,
cleansing myself,
wrestling with reality.


In everything there is a hymn.
Mountains capped with snow
intone a mighty fortress is our God,
stand as testaments to power
taunting us to conquer their mystery.

But if I’m in the mood to be awed
I prefer to sit on a beach,
bare feet rooted in sand
as water stretches to horizon
while crashing waves sing
there’s a wideness in God’s mercy.

A shore opposite longing
makes it feel small and manageable
but oceans and great lakes
drown false theology in vastness.

Stars may also empty one’s soul
to its proper size
but I like to know I can touch,
if only the edge,
the endless sea.


Loved ones sent ahead
as buffer from his brother,
Jacob sits alone
on the banks of the Yabbok.

In midst of his misery,
Fear incarnated –
Angel? God?
Demon? Dream? –
rises from the desert
and they grapple
the night through.

Fear would flee
at light’s first breaking
if Jacob did not hold tight,
begging for a blessing.

Only dislocated hip
attests to truth
as Jacob limps
after his family.


Dazzling October sunshine
promises warmth,
though open doors
reveal its deceit.

Still, a bit of joy leaks
in through squinted eyes
as autumn mutations
confound reality,
leaving disappointment.

No matter what is,
gloom arrives soon,
uninvited yet inevitable.
But the dishonest sun
foreshadows hope:
winter too will retreat
in time.

©2019 Kenneth W. Arthur