Friday, July 8, 2011

Wolves

One day I just woke up, the wolves were all there
Wolves in the piano, wolves underneath the stairs…  -- Josh Ritter

Fortunately Not Every Day Is Important,
by Sol Gordon

Alone,

          feeling sorry for
          the plants
          unwatered
          like my love
          in the Fall of
          life

I

         seek the sun
         among withered flowers
         and brief encounters
         where friendship lingers
         not for long.
         I am loved
         not enough to still the
         Exile.  I lit two candles to

Find

         The way.  No one noticed
         What is a way to a
         Jewish holiday?
         Then

God

         responded, somewhat impatiently
         I thought,
        "For Heaven's Sake, Water The
         Plants, And Get On With It."

I’ve been thinking about food, lately—both what we put into our bodies and into our minds.
  I’ve been on vacation in Alaska for the past two weeks.  Besides the fact that my dog may never forgive me for leaving him (it’s true, I may overestimate the value of my company), it was a very good trip.  Whales breached.  Sea lions burped and roared.  Bearded men sold and fed me delicious hunks of fish.

I Heart Alaska.
  Truly and freely.

Packing my suitcase for the flight home two days ago brought the kind of sadness I feel when departing a loved one.
  It didn't surprise me, exactly.  I knew I was leaving the most perfect combination of wilderness and western culture that I have found to date.  Still, the usual things I conjure up to make going home easier--the comfort of my kitchen, the freedom of uninterrupted yoga practice, the note cards and papers waiting in my desk at home--failed to seduce me.  I felt that, were I in a different place in my life, Alaska and I might make one sexy duo.       

Still, I got on the plane.  I entertained the briefest fantasies of returning to Colorado only to pack up everything and go back to Alaska.  But I knew they were only fantasies, and here's why: because I'm tired of moving.  I'm tired of being far away from everyone I love, and getting to the east coast from Colorado is way easier than getting there from Alaska.

All this added up to another realization: I'm tired of chucking my heart onto passing trains and wondering why I'm so tired at the end of the day.

Before the trip, I had imagined being struck by a great epiphany while we traveled.
  Instead, I got thunked over the head by a dull club. A red-headed stepchild of sorts emerged from the depths of my being around the end of week one.  She was gap-toothed and freckled, and hung around the front porch of my mind.  When I asked what she needed to tell me, she said, simply, “You ain’t having enough fun.”

Knowing that opportunities for amusement were in abundance (boat tours, coastal roads, log cabins, sourdough pancakes), I dug deeper for what she was trying to tell me.  I struck upon it immediately: though my body was on tour in one of the most gorgeous landscapes of the country, my heart itself was in a cardboard box, stuffed at the bottom of my suitcase. 

Travel stresses me in two ways:


1. When I don’t have adequate space to mediate for several days, my emotions board the nearest roller-coaster and ride every wave of anger, despair, depression, and despondency, and take those I love with them.

2. I often have difficulty with food options on the road.  This makes me anxious and, when I make the wrong choice, very very cranky.


All this comes back to grounding.  When I don't take adequate care to do so, I suffer big time and, unfortunately, so do those around me. 

I often think of a van full of dogs that Tim and I drove to Florida once.  They were piled into crates, and those crates were stacked one on top of another.  We were delivering the dogs to safety, to a no-kill shelter eighteen hours away.  When I want to bare my teeth at my travel companions, I think about those dogs.  Often, I fail in efforts toward patience, and I growl and snarl--if only internally.  But those sweet pups that Tim and I were not able to let out for those eighteen hours--not even for a bathroom break--were silent the entire ride.  It was like they knew where they were headed, and just wanted to get there.  I'm sure they were frightened, or more than anything a bit confused.  But they managed their spirits better than I do on big trips.

What I learned on this trip, in addition to many marine animal facts and what a glacier looks like up close (Superman blue!), is where I am out of balance in my life, and how to go to those places and soothe them.

I also learned that rocks left behind by glacial morraines are sometimes soft to the touch.
  I’m not saying I want to rake through my life and leave behind only perfection.  Actually, I do. And that’s the problem.  I know, intellectually, that perfection isn’t my job.  Surrender to the craggy parts of life, and learning to love them as much as the luxuriously soft and impeccably credentialed ones, is.  That sounds like there are a lot of those impeccably credentialed ones.  And maybe there are.  But all I seem to be seeing lately are the big ass crags.

I know that surrender, not perfection, is my job.  But why do I have to re-learn it every darned day of the year?

I once learned that, traditionally, Quaker women leave one mistake in the quilts they craft, because only God is perfect.
  What a sweet combination of reverence and playfulness!  And who are these women who can limit mistakes to just one?

I’ve been reading the exquisite Journal of a Solitude
, by May Sarton.  Incidentally, this book has been on Tim’s shelves, which are packed to the gills, for years.  I have passed it several times a day, for several years now.  Often, all that I have seen are shelves that are in desperate need of some Feng Shui love.  Now that I have finally pulled out Sarton’s book and waded into its sweet attention, I think: how strange is life that I wanted him to chuck what I need most? 

Here is a gem from the bowlful of gems contained in
Journal of a Solitude

Found this in an old journal of mine – Humphrey Trevelyan on Goethe: “It seems that two qualities are necessary if a great artist is to remain creative to the end of a long life; he must on the one hand retain an abnormally keen awareness of life, must always demand the impossible and when he cannot have it, must despair.  The burden of the mystery must be with him day and night.  He must be shaken by the naked truths that will not be comforted.  This divine discontent, this disequilibrium, this state of inner tensions is the source of artistic energy.  Many lesser poets have it only in their youth; some even of the greatest lose it in middle life.  Wordsmith lost the courage to despair and with it his poetic power.  But more often the dynamic tensions are so powerful that they destroy the man before he reaches maturity.” 

Must art come from tension?  A few months ago I was dreaming of a happy work, a whole book of poems stemming from fruitful love. Now here I am back on the rack.  But perhaps this is a sign of health, not sickness.  Who knows?


And, from a delicious book I picked up in Denali, called Small Wonders: Year-Round Alaska,
a little piece of advice on ground work:

…go out and explore the world gathered around you…The closer I look, the more there is to see.


So, here’s to despair!  Or, learning how to work with it.  To seeing the trees inside the forest, to piles and piles of beautiful books, to bear and moose-lovers, to art as food, to meditation as life, and to abundant, life-long practices of mindfulness and humility.

With love,
Kara

3 comments:

  1. i missed your comforting words! welcome home!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanks, babe. it's good to be back

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have often attempted to capture the glory of that Tom Skerrit exultation. A truly inspired scene and a great link.

    ReplyDelete