The River Poem
by Eric Vithalani*
by Eric Vithalani*
it is always the story, in the river, the moon
destroyed by falling leaves and then reborn.
our canoe, black, is the waters, and i see through
the spanish moss a purple martin’s script
derived and diving and ducks under a concrete
bridge where the words mi corazón se detiene
por ti, alondra are painted. what does it mean?
she asked. detiene is stops. corazón is heart,
i say. this morning we sat at the kitchen table:
she copied a recipe and i finished a crossword.
the black pens, uncapped, on top of the notepad,
left alone for the cat to knock to the floor. we
tear the seams of the water and i remember
my grandfather’s story of the snakes falling
from cypress branches into flat-bottom boats.
*First published in Sliver of Stone
|Photo courtesy of Harmon Conrad. Courage courtesy of Heron.|
Today, I read an article called How to Know When You've Made It As a Freelance Writer on this site. I don't currently have freelance ambitions, but I do have a zeal for keeping in shape as a writer. (Could you tell?!?) I liked the article because it talks about something I've been experiencing lately - that the only one who can legitimize you, and truly let you into the clubs of Arrival, Good Enough, and Big Hot Stuff, is yourself.
My husband used to joke, when we first started dating, that I legitimized him. He is a quiet person, a little shy, and somewhat mischievous-looking. (Returning a library book one morning years ago, he was once famously mistaken by the homeless men waiting out front as one of their own.) When we started dating, my cheerleader-notch friendliness apparently complemented his shyness. People who previously skirted around him now sought him out. On my end, Tim brought a little mystery to my life. When I started dating him - a man five years younger than I, who felt no need to impress others, and did not compulsively shake hands with people or bend over backwards to make friends, as I did - my life got a little more interesting. The slender shoot of poise rose in me, and I calmed down a bit.
That's sort of neither here nor there, except that I do believe Tim and I do legitimize each other in certain ways. More importantly, our love for each other legitimizes us, because in order to show up for each other, and care sincerely and listen and be present fully, we have to first show up for ourselves.
I used to love a line that the character Lester Bangs' says in the movie Almost Famous: "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we're uncool." I quoted it in a letter to a friend once, and she latched onto it, and wrote it back to me years later. I had completely forgotten about the line when I re-read it, and was delighted that I had once offered it up. Being in her company at my friend's wedding recently brought this quote flooding back to me. I had the realization that I wasn't as clueless as I usually recall, that my younger self had had inspiring heat, and had taken care of her friends well. These are good things to realize.
But I still feel like I have to learn the maxim behind the Lester Bangs quote almost every day - that who I am is someone I have to stand by, no matter how cheesy or uncool I feel, no matter how eager beaver or sentimental I may appear to others. It's taken me a long time to realize that just because I'm not everyone's cup of tea doesn't mean I can't be my cup of tea every single day.
Today, a friend asked how she could take steps to develop deeper intuition. This friend is a young woman who reminds me a lot of myself, and all the good qualities I used to carry around on my sleeve when I was first making my way in the world. I could only tell her the way that my own intuition has developed - by taking my heart's hand, over and over, and tuning in, listening to what I find there, and taking action based on the information I've received.
Whether we are artists, architects, or business analysts, this is our job every day, as human beings. It is our calling, and our right. And yes, it isn't the easiest job in the world, but without stepping up to the challenge of it, we can miss out on what we are here to do.
It is late and boiling in our little bungalow tonight. Tomorrow morning, we fly to see my family at the beach in South Carolina. In addition to some free A/C, I'm hoping for pelican sightings and sleep-filled mornings. But I will settle for anything the ocean gives me. I just want to be in the company of her shells and scavenged loves. And to hug my mother. It is a craving so palpable, it's an ache. I have one more quote before I dash, though, and it comes from Gay Hendricks' The Big Leap. I have recommended this book repeatedly, I do realize (so shut up about that book already, Kara!). But seriously....maybe you should read it?
In honor of leaning in to your deepest dream, that whispers away all day beneath the clamor of other messages:
"The universe will teach us our lessons with the tickle of a feather or the whomp of a sledge-hammer, depending on how open we are to learning the particular lesson."
That seems a little harsh, now that I look at it again, as if our tragedies are our fault. But I do believe that our tragedies are invitations to deeper awakening. This quote makes a lot of sense to me, because I have learned - through many years and many walloping mistakes - to keep a constant eye on the weeds that grow along the path to my heart. It is easier to correct overgrowth in passing-by snatches, than to clear a whole month just to get a grip.
So off I am to bed. Here is to the titles you choose for yourself - Writer, Chef, Best Friend in the World - and to believing in them (because they are true).