Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Swinging the Hammer

For Tony

When you ask for a sip 
of the holy water I carry 
in my backpack like an offering 
to a minor god, tucked 
beneath the bird bones, 
gray and splintered, that rattle 
when I walk – 
sweet broken flight – 
I look at you, 
cat at the window, 
a coming-home sister 
who can’t arrive too soon. 

You were the rust 
on the side of the house, 
pink-washed blood 
on my spring-lace blouse.  
Now here you are, 
second birth. 

This roundness of family 
is wilderness itself. 
Our lungs billow 
with what surrounds us: 
alpine wind, teeth 
sharpening in the woods at night. 
We fear what others think: 
that what surrounds us 
has lost its holy pulse. 
But home stretches out before us, 
cord after cord of forgotten wood. 
We draw our lot in prayer. 

Tonight, in so many winds, 
the songs we sing 
tumble down the mountain. 
We peer to the well below, 
giddy with the sudden volume.

Some time ago, when I was at a loss with how to make the leap from at-home writer, miserably not producing, to full-time happy person, I had a nice long chat with my friend.  He followed up on our conversation by emailing me a list of viable professions.  If I remember correctly, one suggestion on the list was becoming a tennis instructor. 

I have to say, both my forehand and backhand are pretty awful.  I can whack the ball over the net - and more often over the fence - but my tennis game survives not because of skill or practice but more  out of sheer love for running around.  I would make a lousy instructor.

When I recently came across a summary of Gary Paulsen's pre-writing work career, it reminded me of my friend Lukis, and all my friends working day jobs that sometimes make us want to scream.  And it made me think of that list my friend emailed me, and how right he was in some respects, shooting from the hip to nail a career path.  Ultimately most of his proposals were pitiful matches for me, but his spirit was right on: it doesn't much matter. 

Happiness is an inner game, one to pursue recklessly.  It can be tempting to not allow yourself to play this game.  It’s easy to look foolish, and for some reason, it’s really easy to doubt yourself, and to give up on the big goals before you reach them. 
But, as long as I am active and actively learning, I don't care what I am doing: I am on the right path. 

At one time, I thought I had to be a Serious Writer.  But that thought – and practice - was making me miserable.  I am quite happy scooting around my office job now, and this morning read the advice that perhaps, instead of asking your art to support you, it’s more fruitful to support your art.

I have been taking a step back from all the pressures I have put on myself in the past few years to produce artistically.  I realized recently that I was acting as though I had something to prove – to others, ostensibly, but I think, more honestly, to myself.  I’d rather have something to explore than something to prove. Besides, I was producing a violent environment internally, one that was impossible to thrive in, and therefore impossible to productively create in.

I told my girlfriend, who is an artist, a musician, and an accomplished new doctor (who just got married in a radiant, Fitzgerald-worthy wedding this past weekend), that I bought a sewing machine recently.  Maybe she was just distracted (it was her wedding day, after all), but I found her understandably lukewarm reaction to this information reminding me of how, at one time, I would have thought that spending my free time on anything but writing was a complete and profligate waste of it. 

Now I feel deeply that the quality of my writing comes from my experience as a woman, and that, as a woman, my interests are varied, strange, and sacred. 

So, whatever your intuitive whisperings are, I hope you are listening to them, and taking sweet seconds (or whole weeks) to dance with them.  Let their messages wind themselves in your hair, take their arms hastily about your waist.  Let their secrets lead you through the barrenness of ego's caution, to the comforting thicket of your own wild and beating heart. 

And, if you are swinging a hammer, or learning to retrieve your sanity during your child's nap hour, or going crazy writing your second book, know that we are all in this life together, and that we are all doing more than all right.  And that I'm right here with you - knitting a blanket that stretches on like time itself, stumbling to my yoga mat and following my breath like the song of my old sleeping dog, gazing out of windows, lighting candles, holding out hope that there will be enough time, enough courage, enough connection, for us to make our way toward one another, and to share what we have found along the path. 

In study of beauty, and darkness, and the magic of untangling the deep, stirring dream,
With love,