Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Saints, Winners, and Too Many Parentheses

I have always loved the gaps, the spaces between things, as much as the things. I love staring, pondering, mulling, puttering. I love the times when someone or something is late—there’s that rich possibility of noticing more, in the meantime…Poetry calls us to pause. There is so much we overlook, while the abundance around us continues to shimmer, on its own.    -Naomi Shahib Nye

Here is a quick little post, because it is time for the dreams to begin.  

I have been visiting birds and friends in New Mexico, and spending time among the big rocks in Colorado.  Today I went for a run for the first time in almost a month and it felt so good to burn my lungs with the cold air.  I shouldn't really complain about this cold snap that refuses to leave and let spring have her turn.  It has sheltered some last-chance lolly-gagging, before the sun arrives and seduces me outdoors away from all my nerdy projects.  On the run today, I and my ill-behaving dog were caught red-handed at the dog park, inside the fence when a perfectly reasonable golden retriever came in to play.  I sprinted the length of a football field to reach the owner before my dog did.  The mannerly family waited outside while I wrangled my well-meaning but off-putting beast into his leash and ushered him out to the sidewalk, where we teeth-baring, hackles-happy types belong. Once upon a time when I lived in Asheville, North Carolina, I let my dog run free around the neighborhood.  I don't know what I was thinking.  Bears regularly visited our front lawn.  I also feel sorry for the canines in the hood who had to share their yards with my rough-talking, fur-biting pal.  I will be repaying this karmic debt forever, I think. 

Last night, whilst getting up the courage to edit some writing, I snuck over to YouTube and looked up the poet, Mark Doty, reading some of his poems.  I have heard the man read in person before (in a room with 300 other people, but still) and although I can't say I followed every word he said, he absolutely owned my attention.  He seemed to me at once so dedicated to the art of poetry--so devoted to its company--and so deliciously aware of his performance.  His presence magnetized
the room

I remember being impressed, curious about what the devil else this man wrote, and completely refreshed by his reading.  It was like stumbling into Poetry, an ex that I had never been ashamed to have once claimed, and having all my recollections confirmed.  Poetry was lookin good. 

(That might be the definition of a mixed metaphor? You get what I mean.)

Anyway, on The YouTube, I watched a sweet little video in which Doty visits a community college and talks to a room full of arms-crossed undergraduates about what it is like to be a "living" writer--as opposed to all the dead ones that schools love to read and, (my words here) obsess over.  (That is a dangling participle.  I'm aware and don't know how to fix it.  I mean, I don't know how without sounding like I sat on a ruler or an E.M. Forster book.  I happen to like E.M. Forster, btw.  I just don't need to sound like him.  Which, beautifully, is maybe part of Mark Doty's point, about living writers.

But I digress.)

One MD insight from the video clip, for your Wednesday cud (ew?)
"A poem is an invitation to daydream.  Reading a cereal box, or the instructions that come with your I-phone is not an invitation to daydream.  It asks you to focus. Reading poetry asks you to let your focus go.  And we’re just not accustomed to that—to spending time in that way." 

Please don't ask me why I change the color of quotes on this blog.  I like to. 

The other little gem I stumbled upon on The YouTube ("the" refers to my father's habit of calling it that, which I think is a joke?), which made all of last night's procrastination feel a little less errant, is this very short, remarkably nourishing definition of creativity by Naomi Shihab Nye.

And now for the gem-ish poem I dragged up last night on, looking for more words by Mark Doty.  I have started two of his memoirs and finished none; not for a lack of quality on his part.  His prose feels like a combination of thoughtful prayer, texture bazaar, and history lesson. I saturate quickly. He adores dogs, however, or seems to because he writes about them a lot.  I also like dogs, and try not to write about them a lot.  (Is this the first time I have written about the dog park, or what!  I rest my case.)

This poem is about a church and I love churches.  I recently visited the Basilica in Santa Fe and snap snap snapped away on my camera, all but disbelieving that it was a real church.  Tim and I were both struck by the church's museum-like cleanliness. This did not stop me, however, from visiting the marble baptismal bowl burbling with holy water, or staring in ardor at the astounding tub-like fountain in its wake. I pictured a party of Baptists splashing with delight in its black, glistening core. More on this--masculine/feminine religious spaces and, if you're lucky, parties of Baptists--later.

This poem is also set in Wisconsin, and I love Wisconsin.  But I think I chose this poem because I have on my mind Tim's sister, who is a poet.  She lives in Wisconsin.  She also wrote a poem about a church!  What are the odds?  Because I can't find her beautiful poem online, you can read a different one by her.  (And now, because I have mentioned this, I may never get a Christmas present from her again.  This would be terrible, as she is a great shopper and gift giver.  But I, like Mark Doty, will lie down on the tracks in the name of poetry!  Or, the name of Jim Harrison, who shares the Writer's Almanac page with my sister-in-law.  I have married into an exquisitely private family--perhaps that is why they are all gifted writers?  Then again, I have a friend who writes stories and theorizes that his friends don't care how bad he makes them sound on the page.  Everyone loves being written about, he says.  Is this true?) 

If I find a church poem of my own, I'll be sure to share it with you.  For now, Mark Doty's words will have to do. This poem is kind of long, which is a joking complaint I have about some poems. When are we gonna get there?!  I sort of start to panic. (Which is, maybe, how you feel about this blog post? 
You know what?  This post wasn't short at all.  My dreams are like, WTF?  We've been waiting for over an hour.)  

When I get to that panicky place reading a poem, I just pretend that MD in the flesh--more specifically, at the podium of a large, established poetry forum--is reading it to me.  I settle into my uncomfortable seat, try to forget about the Milk Duds in my pocket (they would make so much noise! Just forget about it! You can wait.) and let the man take half the day if he wants to, reading his big, g-d-damn, true-to-a-t poem.

Dickeyville Grotto
by Mark Doty

The priest never used blueprints, but worked all
the many designs out of his head.

Father Wilerus,
transplanted Alsatian,
built around
this plain Wisconsin

redbrick church
a coral-reef en-
the brochure says,

to glorify America
and heaven simul-
taneously. Thus:
Mary and Columbus

and the Sacred Heart
equally enthroned
in a fantasia of quartz
and seashells, broken

dishes, stalactites
and stick-shift knobs--
no separation
of nature and art

for Father Wilerus!
He's built fabulous blooms
--bristling mosaic tiles
bunched into chipped,

permanent roses---
and more glisteny
stuff than I can catalogue,
which seems to he the point:

a spectacle, saints
and Stars and Stripes
billowing in hillocks
of concrete. Stubborn

insistence on rendering
invisibles solid. What's
more frankly actual
than cement? Surfaced,

here, in pure decor:
even the railings
curlicued with rows
of identical whelks,

even the lampposts
and birdhouses,
and big encrusted urns
wagging with lunar flowers!

A little dizzy,
the world he's made,
and completely
unapologetic, high

on a hill in Dickeyville
so the wind whips
around like crazy.
A bit pigheaded,

yet full of love
for glitter qua glitter,
sheer materiality;
a bit foolhardy

and yet -- sly sparkle --
he's made matter giddy.
Exactly what he wanted,
I'd guess: the very stones

gone lacy and beaded,
an airy intricacy
of froth and glimmer.
For God? Country?

Lucky man:
his purpose pales
beside the fizzy,
weightless fact of rock.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Love of Danger

Words from the First Futurist Manifesto, printed in Le Figaro in 1909
Tonight I'm thinking about artists in the world, sewing their snippets of dreams together, everything together. I found these words in an old sketchbook, taken from The Shock of the New, by Robert Hughes. I am shocked how much I like the old drawings I started in graduate school, when I was going out of my mind with stress.

I'm thinking about constellations building in the soul, and lots and lots of color.    

Essential dignity.

The long, roundabout way of arriving. 

Wherever it is we are headed (you, me, the turtles), let us say to each other:
Keep Going!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Talkin Country

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

It's a rainy spring/winter day here in Colorado.  I have been laid out with a case of the end-of-winter musings, eating lots of cheese and staring into space for the past week, but yesterday the spell broke.  Since then, it feels like my feet haven't hit the ground. 

I recently dove headlong into Roseanne Cash's memoir, Composed. Reading it feels like stepping into a best friend's kitchen.  Like the best of art, or the best of friends, her voice and insight strikes to the very core of my heart, and I'm not ashamed to say I teared up reading its first pages. 

I also read a book by Karen Maezen Miller during my weekend stupor (fittingly a book on engaging more deeply with your daily life...Note to self: mindfully get up off the couch).  The book was called Hand Wash Cold, and something she wrote keeps cycling through my head.  This is a paraphrase, because I already returned the book to the library.  She says it takes a mother to heal a daughter, and a daughter to heal a father.  Reading about Roseanne Cash's relationship to her father moves me not just because of a life-long obsession with Johnny Cash, with whom I share a birthday, and whom my friend Colleen and I used to call JC, jokingly usurping Christ's initials for the purposes of a different worship.  I appreciated Cash's honest reflection upon her father because reading about any earnest look at parent-child relationships really moves me.

And so, when I got to Cash's summation of country music and song-writing, I felt a shiver pass from the bottom of my spine up my back, and felt it rush out of my arms.  Cash writes: At the heart of country music lies family, lies a devotion to exploring the bonds of blood ties, both  in performance and in song-writing...Country and roots music treat family as a rich and fascinating source of material...

When people first learn that I am writing a novel, a lot of them ask what it's about.  I used to smugly answer, "A family."  It is still my sincere answer, my umbrella answer--one part goofy and one part hide-out.  Superstition rules more moments in my life than I like to admit.  "Your family?" some people ask.  "No, no," I say.  "A family."  What I mean is, Family.  I am writing a book about Family. 

When I was little, I called my mother to the television to see a country singer performing on a show.  I was pretty excited about it.  My mother made it half way across the room before covering her ears and just about running away.  Since then, I've tried to come up with explanations for why I love country music so much, because as I grew up, I recognized that our love affair--country music's and mine--is a little ironic.  Like the scene in Kissing Jessica Stein, when the two main characters are trying to define what "sexy ugly" means.  Country is sexy-ugly to me.  I know it's not Brahms.  I know it's not Radiohead, not Weezer, not Beck.  (But it is Wilco, is Dylan, is Jack White wailing on a guitar while Loretta Lynn warbles into the front mike.)  Where I come from, country is not what the cool kids are listening to, and I know this all too well. 

But lately I've given up wondering why I blast Alan Jackson through the house whenever I come home.  Or why I have not stopped playing Tammy Wynette's greatest hits for the past five days.  I make no apologies.  My downstairs housemate, who is an actor, is rehearsing for a musical. When the clock strikes noon, I know it is time to bolt from the house, because soon he will play the same two songs over and over, singing choral refrains in the laundry room, in his bedroom, in the driveway...It is both a fascinating glimpse of an artist's life and a daily reminder that creativity is a home-grown force.  In any case, for this reason, I play Stand By Your Man like a clock striking the hour, and feel no remorse.  Tit for tat.

I think I know who to blame for this passion--my friend from college.  A shy soccer player from Masachusettes, Liz introduced me to the great car songs of our college life--country musicians I had been hiding from in my leafy Connecticut perch.  I had been born into a southern heritage--my grandfather's heavy radio dialed to twangy guitars and whining lyrics while he ate banana sandwiches for lunch, peanut butter crackers with glasses of milk for a snack, in between round after round with his riding lawn mower--but when I was five, my family moved to Connecticut.  There, my mother could escape the music that had become so ludicrous to her.  She joined a choral group and sang show tunes at nursing homes and schools with a collection of sassy women.  My father could scan the Times as he rode the train into New York every morning.  We bought scarves to cover our tender ears the first winter.  We took pictures at a snowy beach on our first Thanksgiving, after we ate in a restaurant--one little clan of funny-talking children led by two sweet sweet adults.  In the spring, when daffodils came up in my grandmother's garden, we were 600 miles away.  When her tomatoes came up in the summer, we were driving the 600 miles south to eat them by the peppered slice.

People ask me where I am from, and I say to them, North Carolina.  You don't sound like you're from North Carolina, they reply.  I know.  But trust me.  I am.  My grandmother's house, her kitchen, the big ass radio and pristine white carpets--if there is any hometown left in this traveling heart, it is there.  And country music takes me back there, delivers me to my first home--to the south, the place where everything is a little bit broken, a little bit off, and sometimes, if you look too closely, a little bit something to be ashamed of...especially to an outsider's eye.  But I don't have an outsider's eye.  There is no accusation left for me--just pure adoration.

There is a yogic saying--This is perfect, that is perfect.  If the perfect be taken from the perfect, the perfect remains.  I think that's what I love about country music - the exaggerated brokenness, and the reverence for that very thing.  It is redemption, I guess you could say.  In true southern fashion, it's a straight shot of Jesus, chased with a spot of sun through the porch screen.

Last night, I heard Robert Plant and Alison Krauss's version of Your Long Journey (off of the album Raising Sand) and immediately imagined singing it with my mother.  We used to sing together before bed every night, and though we have not sung together much since, she has a voice as delicate as crystal, and as clear, and I am so grateful for the gift of song which she passed on to me.

In honor of Johnny Cash, and artists everywhere, I leave you with these words by Roseanne Cash: ...what I understand more clearly now, is that it's not just the singing you bring home with you.  It's the constant measuring of ideas and words if you are a songwriter, and the daily handling of your instrument if you are a musician, and the humming and scratching and pushing and testing of the voice, the reveling in the melodies if you are a singer.  More than that, it is the effort to straddle two worlds, and the struggle to make the transition from the creative realms to those of daily life and back with grace.  My father did all of those, as a habit of being.  He provided a template for me, of how to live with integrity as an artist day to day.

May we all give thanks to our teachers, to our roots.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whoa Nelly

by Donald Revell

Yellowbird here for one day only,
I'm telling you
The trees here
Are children of themselves.  You can see it:
The deadwood in mid-air
Departing into mid-air,
And just below it,
Bright circles of emerald-green new growth.

The day is long when it is blind.
This morning, I find only darkness in me
Where yesterday I saw through countless eyes.

Yellowbird, I pray for change.
I dream about it,
The wild transformations,
Even as each day
The changes prove more terrible,
More set upon death and humiliation,
Even the humiliation of mountains.

I want celestial light, but not apocalyptic.
The end of the world is an old story.
I'm starting a new one.
Yellowbird here for one day only,
These emeralds are trees.
Fly fast.

This poem comes from a book called The Bitter Withy, from which I had the pleasure of hearing the author read not long ago.  I bought the book because it has a bunny on the cover (from Titian's Virgin of the Rabbit (Virgin and Child with St. Catherine) which we will all now go to Paris to see, okay?).  I also bought the book to remember the apocalyptic passion of its author, creator, reader.  I tell you, the next time I do a reading, if my bangs are not flapping like mad crow wings, I will not have done my job. 

Nevermind that I don't have bangs.  Or that no one has asked me to read.

I hate to start off like a bad thank-you note, but I cannot believe so much time has passed since the last post!  And yet, I can.  I realized this week that March was a subtly-declared Artist's Month, wherein I bought cheap art supplies, modge-podged everything in the house, stayed in my pajamas far too long, and baked lots and lots of sweets.  (I am so grateful for my hungry friends, and this is in the oven right now.  Mine slumps in a misshapen way that makes me feel great love for it and my whole life.)

I have also been reading Dr. Christiane Northrup's books and gobbling up her elegant wisdom.  She kind of reminds me of a sane Martha Stewart - someone with an intense amount of focus which she points toward nourishing subjects and pursuits.  Not that making your own crepe paper carrots is a waste of time.  I'm sort of serious here.  I read a blurb of a book that is coming out soon (by Sara Avant Stover, whom I have often mentioned), and here is what Nischala Joy Devi says about Sara's book:

"From the first page of The Way of the Happy Woman, I breathed a great sigh of relief. As women we are told to be warriors, smart, sexy, successful. We can have it all, but at what price? It seems all we really want is to be happy. Thank you, Sara, for helping us remember our true divine nature and making it so accessible.”

That part about all women really wanting is to simply be happy made a lot of sense to me.  (See also: The Pajamas All Day section of my personal handbook, filed under Crepe Paper Crafts.)

What am I learning?  Whatever creates happiness = Good.  Period, the end.  As long as it's not causing harm to others, I guess is the caveat.  No shooting bb's at passerbys, etc etc.  That's what fiction is for.  Which is maybe why I write?  Cause, come on, sometimes it's really fun to shoot bb's.

My friend sent me an article on writing advice recently.  In it, Geoff Dyer wrote:
Don't write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les caf├ęs . . . Since then I've developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.

I'm not sure I agree with him that one should never write in public places but I crack up every time I think about it being a lavatorial activity.  Writing is sooooo personal, and I do find myself muttering to myself, scratching my head like a dog with fleas, and employing other such unattractive habits, that maybe Dyer has a point.  (I just want to clarify: I want to go to Paris for the Titian, in addition to the cafes.)

Because Roddy Doyle's advice won my heart, and I have little understanding of copyright laws on the web (joking joking) I think I will post them here:
1 Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

2 Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph ­–

Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it's the job.

Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don't go near the online bookies – unless it's research.

Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg "horse", "ran", "said".

Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It's research.

Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.

Do not search for the book you haven't written yet.

Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – "He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego." But then get back to work.

And with that, I'm off to a piping-hot loaf of puffy, croissant-like cinnamon-pull-apart bread (I did this?), a novel that wants to call itself mine, and the whole month of April!  Which I have ambitiously declared Career Girl month.  I am still waiting to understand what I mean by this. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Poem 1: An Entrance
by Malena Morling

In the city
     of leaks
and ghosts
     just past
The Casket
on Van Rennselaer
there is a
with its front
And just
     above it
are the words:
     "No Trespassing."

Poem 2: Sunflower
by Federico Garcia Lorca

If I did love a cyclops
I would swoon
beneath his stronger gaze
sans eyelids.
O fiery sunflower, ay!

Poem 3: Sheba's Hesitation
by Rumi (of course)

Lovers of God, sometimes a door opens,
and a human being becomes a way
for grace to come through.

I see various herbs in the kitchen garden,
each with its own bed, garlic, capers, saffron,
and basil, each watered differently to help it mature.

We keep the delicate ones separate from the turnips,
but there's room for all in this unseen world, so vast
that the Arabian desert gets lost in it like a single hair

in the ocean. Imagine that you are Sheba
trying to decide whether to go to Solomon!
You're haggling about how much to pay

for shoeing a donkey, when you could be seated
with one who is always in union with God,
who carries a beautiful garden inside himself.

You could be moving in a circuit without wing,
nourished without eating, sovereign without a throne.
No longer subject to fortune, you could be luck itself,

if you would rise from sleep, leave
the market arguing, and learn that
your own essence is your wealth.

Hi!  It is a three-poem night, which you may or may not be glad to know differs a little bit from a Three Dog Night.  I have been reading a piece from Shambhala Sun, which my father once jokingly referred to as my "lesbian buddhist" magazine, because he didn't know what to do with its cover photo of a shaved-headed female teacher.  I'm guessing it was Pema Chodron, a favorite speaker and writer of mine. (Just to be clear, no lesbians or Buddhists were harmed in the making of my family.  It was a joke. A joke!  At least, that's what I'm telling myself.)

I have been interested in Eastern teachings ever since I can remember.  I don't know if it was passed down from my brother, or if was always something we both leaned towards.  I remember calling him once and asking what he was reading.  He replied, The Art of Happiness, by (His Holiness) the Dalai Lama.  The next time I called, I was delighted to learn that he had put down The Art of Happiness for a finance book that in my mind was, How to Get Rich and Retire Young, although I can't actually find a book with this title.  I may get in big trouble for writing all this, but this combination of true heart and honest earthliness is one of the reasons I love my big brother so, and find his company genius.

Anyway, that was a sidebar.  The real reason I am writing is to share the tiniest image in this article I read tonight called "Smile at Fear: Teachings on Bravery, Open Heart & Basic Goodness."  In the article, adapted from talks Pema Chodron gave on Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche's book, Smile at Fear, Pema Chodron says, "Fear is like a dot that emerges in the space in front of us and captures our attention."  She goes on to say that it is like a doorway that go one of two ways: to awareness or to more fear.  Actually, you should read the article to see what she says about it, because I lost focus when this image of fear as a tiny dot was introduced.  It sort of blew my mind, to see fear as this pin prick of a black dot in the air, something so tiny that it is almost a dust particle, but something that, when focused upon, expands and expands until it opens up like a rabbit hole and our mind jumps in, followed by our sweet body, and our whole heart and all of our good intentions, and everything gets tumbled and scrambled and sort of lost.

The article actually talks about befriending our fears - "touching" them, as a path to befriending and loving ourselves unconditionally, as you would a friend. (But how many friends do you really love unconditionally?  As I contemplate this, it occurs to me that I might have some work to do in the unconditionals department - for myself and others.)  Instead of thinking about befriending fears, however, I was thinking about that damned dot, and how completely humongous I can let my fears become.  Pema talks about the pointlessness of running away from fear, or disguising it, or numbing ourselves from it.  But I just kept thinking about how small that dot could be, and how big I sometimes make mine.

I was talking about fear with a friend today. We said, "Why so hard to stay in the heart?  Heart, why you so hard to befriend?"  The truth, of course, or it seems this way to me, is that it is MUCH harder to be out of the heart than to be in it, but it is more acceptible to be out of it.  If we aren't watching, acceptability - rather than sincerity - becomes our training.

I want to pause to say that, of course, this isn't everyone's training.  The majority generally rules in the world, but I know children being raised with the most intentional, supportive parents, children who are truly wild and open beings, and I know LOTS of open, loving teachers - including my own family members.  I want to be very clear about this.  World, I believe in you!  It's verrry easy to bemoan, bemoan.  And yet, I come for something different.  A little sumthin called LOVE.  Just kidding.  About the tone, I mean.  But otherwise, I'm very serious!

Pema Chodron gorgeously defines spiritual warriorship as "working on ourselves, developing courage and fearlessness and cultivating our capacity to love and care about other people."  Wowwee wow.  So lovely.  At the end of the article, there is an exerpty- thing from Chogyam Trungpa's Smile At Fear book, which describes "The Tender Heart of the Warrior." He writes, "Warriorship is so tender, without skin, without tissue, naked and raw...You have renounced growing a thick, hard skin.  You are willing to expose naked flesh, bone, and marrow to the world."  

Now that I write it, that last part sounds a little alien-movie/Die-Hard 3: lots of flesh and guts and face parts ripping around everywhere.  But I really dig the emphasis on tenderness, and that word itself is so tender.  I also am taken with the image and idea of renouncing your shield.

The whole article is an address of unconditional friendship to oneself.  Holy hard task, batman!  But worth a shot, right? What else are we here for, but to love.  And how can we fully love another until we can give the same grace to ourselves?

It is time for bed, but before the dreams begin, I leave you with an image and a lyric from my favorite band in the cosmos (zee Wilco).  No laughing at my grandma-like understanding of how to post pictures on this blog, please.  The lyric is somewhat risky, because if you think of your emotions as the seat of your heart, the lyric sounds like a betrayal.  But if you think of your heart as the seat of truth, and emotions as the dust particles and sea waves that are part of the whole kerblanging cosmos, then it can be like a renunciation of panic with eye toward the pie, everything a remembrance of peace, peace, peace.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

After Midnight

by Louis Simpson

Ed was in love with a cocktail waitress,
but Ed's family, and his friends,
didn't approve. So he broke it off.

He married a respectable woman
who played the piano. She played well enough
to have been a professional.

Ed's wife left him...
Years later, at a family gathering
Ed got drunk and made a fool of himself.

He said, "I should have married Doreen."
"Well," they said, "why didn't you?"

I have loved this poem ever since I stumbled upon it, years ago when a friend gave me Garrison Keillor's Good Poems.  (Suppose it isn't rightly his - or is it?  Is this an interesting question--maybe only in Intro to Feminism courses: if someone compiles something, do they get their name on part of it...?)

Soooo, it's late and I am on vacation with family, and I just wanted to post this poem because I've been thinking a lot about why I delay my freedom/happiness/delight and how, really, no one cares what anyone else is up to.  I often give this as advice to sensitive (read: paranoid) friends that most people are so self-absorbed that they don't pay much attention to other people's flaws. 

Or is this self-absorption thing just a problem of mine? 

Seriously, I think a lot about binds - mostly the mental sort, and how to get free from the obsessions around which I wrap my bliss & power, rather than going with the flow, intuition, divinity, grace, etc. etc. 

(I just wrote grave instead of grace, which is up to something, too.  Sometimes I am blown away when I remember that I will die.  It sounds morbid but awareness of the short stay on earth--in this here body--is possibly the most humbling and liberating force there is.) 

Let's all go sky-diving, say?

Admittedly, this post is all jumbled, even the punctuation. I've also been accidentally setting the font on some posts to GINORMOUS and it makes me embarrassed to see but also reminds me of my friend whose emails arrive in two-story-high font, and it feels like she is cheering her hellos through my computer with a bullhorn. 

So, a big bullhorny shout to passion, to whatever it is you are reaching for.  And if it is hidden in a closet (guilty, guilty), to all I say: What are you waiting for?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Road River Tree Stone

Happy New Year!  But it's almost February!  Where did January go? 

Mine went to recovering from travel, sleeping and eating, plotting out the new year, cleaning out the old year, day dreaming, night dreaming, drawing, singing, praying, all with a little work sprinkled in.

I have been chewing on lots of quotes lately, and these have sustained me as much as beloved poems. The poems I hear have been wisping off the wings of black birds, creaking in the frozen pond I've been walking, and rolling down the loud and clear mesas along the shy blue reservoir in town.

I went to an Acro-yoga class last night where I touched other people's feet, received Thai massage from a stranger, and wobbled as the base while "flying" another stranger above me.  It was unnerving, revealing, and ultimately expansive. When I got home, I rearranged my whole office, so something must have cleared in the hour and a half class. 

My goal for 2011 (the word resolve seems to involve something more organic, where this choice is certainly deliberate) to be more vulnerable. This little Sut Nam station is part of that exercise, as is befriending perfect strangers, talking about my flaws and paranoias, asking for what I really want (i.e. a pair of red cowgirl boots as well as world peas), and flinging myself (or walking boldly) in the direction of my dreams. 

If my goal for 2011 is to be more vulnerable, then my resolution is to have fun. Having gone over some 2010 goals and seeing ones that missed the bar by a mile, I think the trick is to take the work out of homework and just see about the home part. To me this means making peace with my place on the earth, and just kicking around (hopefully in new cowgirl boots) in that space. Whatever this brings will be what needs to be. Right? This is my hypothesis, anyway.

So, what has your heart resolved to create in this gorgeous new year?  (I may be biased but it looks so bright to me now - my friends are: pregnant, new mothers, women contemplating babies, women birthing books, art projects, steaming platters of food...ok, they aren't actually birthing steaming platters of food. That would be disgusting. But there is a whole lot of inspired creation everywhere I look!). As you contemplate your goals, here are some words from the wise. Or, at least, the published :)

"I believe that one of the secrets to happiness is to work within the parameters of the reality of your life."  --Kenny Shopsin, in Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin

Eat Me is newly arrived at our house, given to us by a dear friend.  I hear tell it comes by the suggestion of Amelia, who has this really great blog

"To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men--that is genius."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"

I had the very excited but erroneous thought at work today, Was Emersom, Lake, and Palmer inspired by R.W.E.?!  Prolly not, huh.

"The Creator made us for honoring Him (insert Her if you wish).
(insert comfy pronoun) put in us the ability to work for the good of all.
One of the things He
(ahem) did
Was give us ears, and ears are not mouths.
Ears were put on the side of our heads
So that we would hear all that goes on around us.
That's to let us know things before we talk.
Our mouths are on the front of our face
So that our words can be directed.

We're to use that gift of speech for specific purposes.
It should be limited, otherwise we can be mislead."
--Chief Leon Shenandoah, in a beautiful book called To Become a Human Being: The Message of Tadodaho Chief Leon Shenandoah, by Steve Wall, who also did a book called Wisdom Keepers

"Yoga is the rule book for playing the game of Life, but in this game no one needs to lose. It is tough, and you need to train hard. It requires the willingness to think for yourself, to observe and correct, and to surmount occasional setbacks. It demands honesty, sustained application, and above all love in your heart. If you are interested to understand what it means to be a human being, placed between the earth and sky, if you are interested in where you came from and where you will be able to go, if you want happiness and long for freedom, then you have already begun to take the first steps toward the journey inward."  --B.K.S. Iyengar, from Light on Life

I find it really really interesting that Native American elders and yoga philosophy talk about "being" or "becoming" a human being, as if it is not enough to be simply animal.  It suggests the choice we have in bringing about the human potential in the human body. In terms of the Christian tradition, I think about the fact that the most loving and compassionate teacher in this tradition (Hey-Zoos) is sent by God in human form

And lastly, "I set off in yoga seventy years ago when ridicule, rejection, and outright condemnation were the lot of a seeker through yoga even in its native land of India. Indeed, if I had become a sadhu, a mendicant holy man, wandering the great trunk roads of British India, begging bowl in hand, I would have met with less derision and won more respect. At one time, I was asked to become a sannyasin and renounce the world, but I declined. I wanted to live as an ordinary householder with all the trials and tribulations of life and to take my yoga practice to average people who share with me the common life of work, marriage, and children. I was blessed with all three, including a long and joyous marriage to my beloved wife, Ramamani, children, and grandchildren."  --B.K.S., Life on Life

This last one gives me such comfort. When I first read it, my jaw dropped open. It said exactly what I was hoping for in my life with, and helped me reconcile my desires for a family with my desires for a spiritual life. Now I see the two as beautifully intertwined. This quote perfectly introduces the yogic possibility of living ordinary days with extraordinary love.

Tim just came in jokingly singing Sheryl Crow's "If it makes you can't be that baa-aa-aad...," which reminds me of when my college roommate and I used to screech out that song at the top of our lungs while being transported around town in other people's cars. 

To friends, to exuberance, to happiness!