Sunday, January 29, 2012
From the beauty of the changing sky, from the trees, from "the ancient conversation between the ocean and the stones," we always have the choice, the opportunity to create an inner landscape of beauty.
Beware, in this world, of mistaking glamor for beauty.
Learn the art of inwardness, for there in the presence of inner beauty one may find one's true home.
You never walk the same path twice, or twice sing the same song, step in the same stream twice or write the same poem twice.
Trust your own encounter with primary sources. How do we know beauty? We feel more alive in its presence.
Our family awaits the arrival of a new life, growing. The essence of primary source. In this crowded world, here, too, is beauty.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Today I had a lovely walk in a spring-like day. I can't help but worry about such warm winter days. I see bulbs pushing up leaves, and trees coming into early bud. We could still be in for sub-zero nights before spring, and the buds...
Yet I also can't help but feel pleasure in the freedom from the weight of many layers of clothes, the privilege of an easy stroll by the creek in conversation with an interesting neighbor. After giving thanks for days of snow, then ice, and lots of fog, here comes another day in which to love whatever comes in the moment.
Monday, January 23, 2012
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.
Kunitz copyrighted "The Layers" in 1978. He had some maturity from which to write. Born in Worcester, Massachusetts on July 29, 1905, he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees from Harvard. He was the United States Poet Laureate in 2000, and the above poem was published then in the book The Collected Poems (W.W. Norton). Kunitz said of his work, "If I hadn't had an urgent impulse, if the poem didn't seem to be terribly important, I never wanted to write it and didn't." He died May 14, 2006.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
"Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!"
True affections? Maybe people, family and friends. Yes, a tribe. Maybe formal training and work experiences, practiced or abandoned. Yes, a tribe. Maybe hopes and life dreams, some achieved and experienced, some abandoned. Yes, a tribe. What other elements? Pets... Writings... Music... Habits... Collections... Oh, the list can be long. I wonder, what's on your list of true affections?
Saturday, January 21, 2012
"Live in the layers, / not on the litter," Stanley Kunitz writes, deep into his poem "The Layers." Reach through surface and humus to far-down bedrock; extend fingertips into the clouds and beyond. Occasionally a friend from the lives-in-another-skin community can and will meet an expressed need. More frequently our needs are met in the internal community through which we brush along with everyone else, most needs (identified or not) met in mysterious, indirect paths of intention and struggle, body chemistry, life habits that carry us, changes big and subtle over which we have small yet insistent control.
"What do you need to feel better?" asks one line of the doctor's routine-visit questionnaire. That question confounds me. I wonder how he would answer that question. Do you have an answer, a true answer?
This morning snow covers the world within my horizons and sleet is presently falling. The sun rose behind thick clouds, its light so diffuse the world seems monochrome. Close up I distinguish dark green pines, beige stalks of under growth in the woods, variegated browns and winter moss colors on tree trunks. The red barn still shows red, and the red bird. How much our views depend on our place in the picture and the kind of light.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I talk to myself. I answer myself. I write poems. Who cares? I care. This small, ordinary life is the life I've got. This following is primarily for me. You may listen in, or not.
... poetry, which read quickly or encountered in a hubbub of noise makes no sense. You have to open yourself to a poem with a quiet, receptive mind, in the same way as you might listen to a difficult piece of music. It is no good trying to listen to a late Beethoven quartet or read a sonnet by Rilke at a party. You have to give it your full attention, wait patiently upon it, and make an empty space for it in your mind. And finally the work declares itself to you, steals deeply into the interstices of your being, line by line, note by note, phrase by phrase, until it becomes part of you forever. ... If you seize upon a poem and try to extort its meaning before you are ready, it remains opaque. If you bring your own personal agenda to bear upon it, the poem will close upon itself like a clam, because you have denied its unique and separate identity, its own inviolable holiness. I had found this to be true in my study of literature. As soon as I had stopped trying to use it to advance my career, it began to speak to me again.
Karen Armstrong, The Spiral Staircase, 284-285.
Monday, January 16, 2012
I've long been aware of the notion of naming a potato for every person or situation one needs to forgive and then carrying around those grudge potatoes until the weight and stink of them gets too burdensome to wish to continue. Thus one experiences the way that forgiving another is a gift we give ourselves. Rev. Lynn also spoke of this at some length.
I was less conscious of the notion that in this moment my experienced, actual life is the one I've got, to be savored and lived in, and old dreams let go. I have struggled with less-than-normal energy all my life, and I have laid down dreams because of it.
Forty years ago I did not dream for myself the life I have. By choice and chance, by trial and error and try again my life so far has brought me here. Some parts of my present situation are much better than what I'd imagined decades past. Some dreams remain unfulfilled, some unfulfilled forever. Still, I believe I've forgiven the unfulfilled dream for I say my life is good. I hope you can say the same.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
My friend Dana Knighten writes of how in childhood she learned to "focus on the particulars: the shape of a leaf, the fall of sunlight in a trapezoid on a honeyed oak floor, an ant crawling over dirt flecked with mica beneath the sheltering branches of a maple in our side yard, the fuchsia blaze of crepe myrtle blossoms outside the dining room window in September."
Oh, yes, me too. The details of a moment, the "world in a grain of sand." A smile in the numbers denoting a date.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
- my latest fortune cookie, writes my friend.
Is this true? Yes. No. Both-and.
Technology is a tool, like fire, like a cast iron cook pot, like shoes, furniture, a bicycle. Think of a microscope, or an MRI machine, or the Large Hadron Collider. Think of a computer that compiles and analyzes huge amounts of data and organizes it into forms that allow humans to contemplate the information found therein. Tools, old and new.
Human choice determines if one practices the art of arranging the world so as to not notice. Noticing and telling the truth of what we notice can be both terribly painful and ecstatically rewarding.
My feeling about truth-knowing shifted as I got off pain medications and lived day after day after year with a non-stop hum of whole-body pain. I leaned how to look at the experience of pain-in-the-moment, look straight on, to examine the exact details of it, to recognize the variations of it, to recognize the precision with which it enhanced my awareness of the zing of life with the sometimes sharp, always blanketing ache and misery of it. I learned how to carry this, too.
Now I am experiencing hours on end of not-everything-hurts. Now I'm aware that I can't remember when I was last previously without that constant hum of whole-body pain. Now I understand clearly that there is absolutely no way to communicate to someone who has not lived there what life with constant pain is like. Like we can't communicate exactly our experience of a color, or a flavor.
I noticed my experience. It's the only one I've got. Yet how presumptuous if I imagine that anyone who has reached adulthood has not experienced real, deep, lasting pain, physical and emotional. All carry their pain. Some by choosing to practice the art of not noticing.
Human. Both alone in our unique skins and just like everyone else. Experiencing life. Making our choices. Using our tools. Noticing and not noticing.
Today the sky is clear, high blue and sunny. The temperature is upper 40s. I will put on shoes and a coat and go notice.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
One of my friends has decided to keep a journal this year in which she daily records one thing for which she gives thanks. She wants each day's entry to be something original. She says she recognizes that at the beginning of the year it's easy to write a new thing daily, but as the days go forward some things will begin to reappear. Yes.
You can change your life! Put old thoughts behind you! Set your intention to _______! You fill in the blank. Think positive. Lose weight, get fit, get strong and well. Let go of that old, negative stuff. Make a million. Save time. Save money. Save energy. The list goes long.
All both true and not true. We do not wake up one day and change our DNA. Cells die and regenerate, making us new, following the pattern. There's evidence in the nature-nurture debate that who we are, how we experience and respond to the world, depends first on our body chemistry. We seek to avoid the problems of a DNA pattern change.
Further, we depend on our habits, on all the world's patterns: natural, engineered, social...
I think of earthquakes, and war zones, and remodeling projects, birth or death in the family, and I am so thankful for the same old story made new again and again. Big changes are tough. Let my changes be subtle, built slowly on a foundation of same old, dependable and known.
Hello, dependable sunrise.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
I, too, go out in the cold for clarity like none other. Thanks, Dana
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
In his poem "New Year's Resolution" Philip Appleman has the phrase, "...as innocent of loss as any dawn." It reminded me of the biblical, "Weeping endureth for the night but joy cometh in the morning." (Psalms 30: 5). In my experience this sentiment, so beautifully said, is simultaneously true and not true. Yet the true part, the moments of pink newness that sometimes cheers the dawn...
Monday, January 2, 2012
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them. Leo Tolstoy
Many wise voices agree, happiness is an inside job. Virtue. Beauty. Goodness. Simplicity. Anger. Anxiety. Sorrow. Fear. Fright. Everything. Consider this progression: seed, soil, sun, rain, thorn, leaf, bud, petal, seed. Which can we do without?
I wish you awareness of your full, skilled, entirely proficient range of experience. Sing your life as the virtuoso you are. Happy New Year.
The weather forecast promises that this morning's clear sky will unfold to temperatures in the sixties. Pleasant for human experience in the moment, and I wonder who/what-- right here, today-- experiences the warmth as difficult? If the earth's temperature rises two degrees... How do you feel if your temperature is two degrees above normal?