Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Paula Becker mit Clara Westhoff in Paula Beckers Atelier, um 1899,Paula Modersohn-Becker-Stiftung
Social media gives us the chance to lean on social one-offs. We put something out there, and feel we've communicated. We might come back and respond, or we might ignore reactions to our own words. I've done both.
Our desire to connect is inherent, it comes on the heels of our need for food and shelter. Community, people we can identify with, fit in with, is a part of our humanity. It is primal and it is dangerous. It is dangerous, because it requires our vulnerability.
Vulnerability: open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.
Social media assures a streamlined version of community, and of fitting in. We are this or that. We voted one way or the other. We prefer Nissan over Honda. We assume we are influencing others with our statements. Our influence is less vivid than we imagine though, as we find ourselves on twitter and facebook surrounded by like-minded people. Singing to the choir is what they used to call it.
Where does the grace and depth of conversation come in? Where does the element of personal vulnerability arise? The chance for acceptance or rejection?
Conversation: Informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral
communication between persons.
This walks us back to the idea of face to face communication. Our seeking out other people, who may or may not agree with us, our choosing to be vulnerable. This vulnerability is what teenagers fear, and what we are less and less comfortable with as we get older. But it is necessary if we are going to hear one another, really hear what another person has to say.
Today, I will watch the news, check my emails, submit a manuscript, and drive my car. None of these activities involve conversing face to face with anyone. Luckily, I have a big family and am forced to be in the world daily, to deal with immediate problems, to offer opinions and to ask questions.
I am inherently a hermit, so I understand better than most how easy it is to hide inside my electronics. Online I can be clever and opinionated, emotional and hard-headed. I can be whoever I imagine myself to be. This is part of the problem, the hubris that comes from not seeking out in-person communication. I need real, in-person feedback to know how much of my self-image is real and how much is a figment of my imagination. I need humility.
Humility: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.
This is not a slap on the wrist for enjoying social media. This is a quiet request to think about what we did before the Internet became more than a research tool. If you're old enough to remember, what did you do to communicate with someone before the Internet, before texting? Did you call them, stop by their house, write them a note and slip it in a mailbox? Did you buy your books in a brick and mortar bookstore instead of through Amazon? Did you take art lessons in a studio instead of from youtube videos?
This past week, I finally got to writing thank yous for Christmas . . . super late . . . I also had a few copies of our poetry journal to mail out . . . and personal notes . . . and a birthday package. The more I wrote, the more joy I took in thinking of the child or adult who was going to be thrilled to get something concrete in the mail. I've had poets write back in shock that we sent out thank you notes to our Tiger's Eye Press contest poets. These simple exchanges remind me that deeper communication involves my time and effort, and always has a physical component.
Physical: of or relating to the body.
We all crave recognition, we all want to belong to the larger world and yet feel important within our own circle of friends. Yet we are moving away from touch and response, from looking into someone's eyes while we converse with them. Have you been at a function and looked up from your phone to see that everyone else is looking down at theirs? What are we giving up for this instant gratification that costs us nothing on the scales of vulnerability? What part of our own humanity are we losing?
We can too easily toss our opinions out into the electronic world. We can say what's on our mind and shut the door on anyone who doesn't agree with us. We can call them ignorant, and further entrench ourselves in a narrow view of the world, political or otherwise. These actions all require very little emotional commitment, and an immediate feedback that makes us feel we've communicated. And we have, but on a very shallow level.
The time for conversation is now. The time for conversation with a real person in real time is now, while we can still tell the difference between superficiality and connection. Call your friend, call your father. Text them. Contact them and ask them out for lunch. Or even more vulnerability-worthy, ask them to your house, open your front door and welcome them inside your private world.
Door: a movable, usually solid, barrier for opening and closing an entranceway.
True communication, the give and take of in-person discussion is fading. As we retreat into our electronic pods, the real danger is becoming dehumanized. And then it is easier to judge the liberal, the conservative, the person who in-person might explain their stance, their feelings, and their hard work to get to where they are. You may not agree with their viewpoint, but in-person you'll see their lowered eyes, hear the slight quiver in their voice, and you'll have empathy with this human being sitting across from you.
We're all learning how much media, social and otherwise, we can stomach. We need to consciously choose what resonates with us and what challenges us, and where we fall on the spectrum of vulnerability and overload. It may take an actual day or two of withdrawal from all of our electronics to realize how much we've come to depend on them for social interaction.
Being fully human is being fully vulnerable. Being fully vulnerable is being present emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and just as important, physically.
(from Sonnets to Orpheus, Part Two, # 29)
Let This Darkness Be Your Bell Tower
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,
what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.”
In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.
And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) from In Praise of Mortality, trans. and ed. Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows,
Riverhead Books, 2005
Paper and digital collage by Oklahoma artist Julia Lillard.
I was sitting in the parking lot of a Barnes & Noble yesterday. My best-friend and co-editor, JoAn, had just called. We hadn't talked for a couple of weeks, and I felt I needed to listen intently to what she had to say. We had a long conversation that flowed from short stories to haiku, from family to religion.
What stood out for me was her saying that she had just read two short stories in a journal out of Sacramento, and both ended poorly. In fact, neither even got off the ground, and both were contest winners. She said she enjoys the freedom of a non-specific literary direction, but these stories said little.
Her comments reminded me of what I have been questioning about visual art, the recent excitement over collage and mixed media. Is the art representative of anything? Is it enough to create randomly juxtaposed images? If the work says little to me, did it ever say anything to the artist?
The leading “outsider” art magazines often feature some form of a woman’s head atop a pink flamingo body, her gossamer dress on fire, her flamingo feet hovering aboveground. It occurs to me that our artistic boundaries have widened considerably, and within our boundless artistic freedom we may have lost something vital.
But then I remind myself that both JoAn and I are older, our worldview is different than someone 20, or even 40. A millennial may not care if a short story has a theme or if the flamingo-woman has meaning. It may simply be a flamingo woman with a gossamer dress laced with fire. Or the artist may be making allusions to her life, or possibly interpreting societal norms in her own way. Whatever the mixed media or digital artist is attempting to convey, most likely the work makes complete sense to him or her. Like in a fragmented poem, the artist can jump from one image to another and come full circle having traveled somewhere unexpected.
Still this discomfort of mine may speak to a desire to make metaphors, to create stories, to create order. I am uncomfortable with too much chaos. You wouldn't think so, I had five kids and now have 14 grandkids. I move frequently.
So why is this chaos different from the chaos I've chosen to invite into my life?
What if my poems and my tepid attempts at visual art, are my way of creating order in a universe of seeming chaos? When I write a line that describes an aspen, am I not capturing that tree? Am I not stalling it in time? Am I not comparing it to some other tree in some other season on some other mountain in an attempt to control the uncontrollable?
To pull the lines of the aspen poem together in order to construct a satisfying ending, has been the literary norm. Not to tie a bow on the tree, but to have said something meaningful about nature or aspens or the comparison of the summer aspen to the winter aspen, it's distinct bark the more stunning for not being hidden by wavering silver dollar leaves.
I am conflicted.
I like collage and mixed media art. I just took a mixed media class. I love the freedom to create at-will, without specific expectations or boundaries. But sometimes when I'm searching for inspiration, the series of birds on watercolor paper is more appealing than the random words pasted sideways on a flower than is growing straight out of a man's cranium.
And this discomfort with artistic ambiguity (that is my own) is worth investigating. What if not having distinct boundaries, artists and all creatives are developing a new reality? What if brave artists and poets, no matter their age, are perfectly equipped to set aside tradition, to experiment with undetermined juxtapositions?
What if women really do have flamingo heads, and I've been too stubborn to see?
I am caught between loving the voice that tells me to create without boundaries and that other voice that urges me to use lines from poems in mixed media, possibly even use the visage of the poet who spoke those words, i.e., Emily's face with interwoven strips of lines from "Nature" is what we see--
"Nature" is what we see--
The Hill—the Afternoon--
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee--
Nay—Nature is Heaven--
Nature is what we hear--
The Bobolink—the Sea--
Nay—Nature is Harmony--
Nature is what we know--
Yet have no art to say--
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
I fall back on the lines, "Nature is what we know--Yet have no art to say-- ..."
In these words I find the crux of my discomfort, the very reason I write, the tension that insists I create something, anything to make sense of my world. I will never have the perfect metaphor or painted line. If I do create a traditional work or something unbound, it will be specific to my aesthetic, not yours. You may be creating wildly without caution, or carefully developing a botanical drawing. In the end, it is personal, particular, and up to each of us to choose our venue, to dance with our own demons, and to share only what we are ready to share.
We ultimately have no art to say-- about nature or anything else, but we keep attempting to say it, each generation building on and stripping away past attempts.
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all. Emily Dickinson
Fourteen years ago today I stood with my son in front of the television in our suburban California living room, our eyes riveted to the image of the second tower falling. We were incredulous, frightened by the power of an unknown enemy, by the space between coasts. The West as vulnerable as the East. Was San Francisco next? Or Los Angeles? Or Sacramento where we lived?
Our belief in safety was forever changed.
9/11 changed the way I envisioned my country. I changed political parties. I rethought my concept of revenge and justice. I feared for our country's blind hatred that would eventually further destabilize the Middle East. The president was not speaking to me or for me. The earth beneath my feet was no longer solid ground.
My husband had left California just a few days earlier to begin a new job in Tennessee. He would not have left if he'd known what was about to happen. Our lives began to mirror the country's collective unrest, eventually moving us from suburban Sacramento and trendy Nashville to Oregon and then on to Colorado. We were caught in the slipstream of change that all Americans have since endured.
For some, security became all-important, their angst projected onto granite counter tops and stainless steal appliances. Maybe we couldn't stop terrorism, but we could keep our family safe in a perfect environment without too many walls. We wanted open concept living spaces, where we could watch every move our children made. Safety became a national obsession.
9/11 opened us to the uncomfortable knowledge that we are never completely safe. We are no longer observers of national suffering, we are participants. Like the refugees currently fleeing Syria, we learned that safety and security are elusive concepts, not guarantees.
9/11 opened Americans to something raw and terrifying and new, our own vulnerability. It reignited our patriotism, broke our hearts, and sent us out into the streets less sure of ourselves. Our national image was no longer one of invulnerability. We had colors to signify our various levels of safety.
9/11 opened the door to a horror new to our country, as it opened a depth we had not anticipated. More mature nations with their histories of war and famine, loss and renewal, know that depth is the inevitable outcome. Smug in our idealism and youth, we had no idea.
We can fear our own depth, or we can accept its necessity. Poets, more than most, allow the edges to be torn away in order to see what resides in the recesses. Beauty can be found in a bleak landscape, as well as a field of flowers. It is not about dwelling continuously in either, but accepting the ambiguity of each.
Because of 9/11 America is a country based in ambiguity. How we deal with that reality is important. We can deny it, make an open concept safe-house of our lives, or we can move out among the hurting, among the vulnerable, offering consolation. We are not innocent bystanders anymore, we know what it's like to be flattened by life.
We might have gotten our revenge differently, shock and awe giving way to invasion and lies. We are still learning that bigger guns and smarter bombs only make for more dead bodies. Our unchecked anger and fear did not give birth to a safer world, only to an increasingly unstable planet. Our current fascination with the idea of electing non-politicians to run the country is a reflection of our continued mistrust and dissatisfaction . . . fourteen years later we are less a united country than a frayed populace.
Still. as the day is memorialized in story and myth, I am left with . . . that thing with feathers that perches in the soul. Maybe it is irrational, maybe I should be more jaded. But I choose to live in that place of ambiguity where hope is as real as despair, where borders are man-made and hatred is a choice.
I choose hope over fear.
Hope over hatred.
Hope over ignorance.
What do you choose?
Amid high fashion in last weeks WSJ Spring Fashion Issue, I found artist and poet Etel Adnan. A woman who quietly creates in two genres.
As we become more attached to our electronic fixes, twitter feed, instagram postings, whatever distracts and entertains, the artist in us waits. Instead of creating, I am on Pinterest looking at what other people have created . . . it is one thing to be inspired, another to use my precious time unwisely.
The muse, mine is less like an ephemeral angel, and more like Medusa, blows in furious and loud, asking pointed questions and making opinionated observations.
so when are you getting off that computer?
put it down, put down the phone.
the child is talking to you, look at his face.
another episode of House of Cards, really?
you do know there is no discernible subtlety in texts?
didn't you look at your Facebook page ten minutes ago?
didn't you look at your Facebook page fifteen minutes ago?
We are a bunch of easily distracted animals. Distraction does not make for good art. (Nor does it enrich our relationships.) The beauty of my sitting on my bed in my pajamas typing while listening to Spotify is its seductive ease. I am beautifully distracted.
If Etel had spent her time googling the life out of herself, what a vast wealth of wonder we would have lost. And what are we losing of our own creative life by hiding in our increasingly vapid cyber-worlds? Even the word "friend" has been cheapened. Becoming a friend takes time, usually years of nurturing reciprocal entanglement. A friend on Facebook may be someone you don't know or even care to know. But we have 238 of them, and suddenly we are all in high school again aching to be popular.
Some gentle suggestions:
call your friend (the real one) just to hear her voice.
hug a child.
pet a dog.
read a book, a real paper and ink book. Murakami preferably.
and stop reading this blog entry, go for a long walk, then come back home and create something exquisitely your own.
Oh, if you didn't read the article, Etel is 90 years old.
Okay, I’m going to say it. The holidays make me uneasy.
I don’t come to this conclusion without experience. I have 5 children. I have 9 grandchildren. I have lost count of gifts and dinners and the times I've stood in line two days before Christmas, the coveted toy in my hands, the smirk on my face for having found said toy. But underneath I felt a fraud.
The clamor for gifts, the craziness of consumerism, have always unnerved me. I am not a shopper, wear the same jeans, put my tee shirts on inside out, and consider comfort before fashion. I like the newest electronic for what it does, not for what it signifies. This doesn't make me holy; it makes me slightly out-of-step.
For the holidays, everything has been pre-packaged and handed to us as if it’s been ordained. Yet these are holidays we create, these are pressures we endure, and most of the time without thinking too deeply why. Each year I try to simplify and each year I’m reminded that simplifying means being left out, because the world around me isn't interested.
The forced happiness from Target commercials to family expectations wearies me. If we come to joyfulness through the normal channels, then so be it. To be coerced into a false joyfulness is unfair. We have all been indoctrinated to the point we don’t know which ideas are ours, and which ones we are reenacting because we feel we should.
This applies to writing as well. If I am compelled to write about the oddly marked seagull that lagged at the back of the flock, the writing is better. If I write about the seagull because I think something outside of me requires it, the writing is dry like cardboard in my mouth. Thinking of where a piece might be posted before it’s even written is damning my work to mediocrity. To the sameness we go to writing to avoid.
As we wade through the holidays, it is good to ask ourselves what we expect. And when we look back, was the experience, the gift, the meal, ever what we imagined? Like opening that first package of books, the ones with my name on the front, the disappointment is not often spoken of.
I’m not advocating mutiny. I am advocating thoughtfulness, compassion, and less greed. And acceptance of that friend or relative who is not comfortable with the often-forced holiday mood. That person might be in the process of becoming real. Allow them their space.
Possibly it isn't the holiday that makes me uneasy, but the expectations around the holiday. And as much as I’d like to be included, there is an equal pull to be true to myself. In life, as in writing, being an outsider is rarely a choice. The world is changing though; people are becoming more honest, like The Velveteen Rabbit, more real. If we choose not to participate, we will deal with the fallout, but we will have chosen for the right reason, and that in itself is something to celebrate.
We are all guilty of hubris, that confident knowing that turns out to be pure ego. Hubris is the quality we note in others, while ignoring it in ourselves. Hubris is also our great embarrassment when we are fall flat on our face into our own ignorance and clumsiness.
In all things I am overly sure of myself, then completely stymied by my own ignorance. It is a Gemini trait, jumping in and then paddling back to the side of the pool as quickly as possible. These past few weeks I've done an awful lot of paddling back, and then clinging to the side of the pool.
My daughter's wedding drew us into the woods of Oregon. Two weeks of getting ready and being immersed in the set-up and break-down of a wedding held at the end of two miles of dirt roads. It was beautiful, she was beautiful. And I was kind of useless, having cracked a rib on the drive from Colorado to Oregon.
Instead of lifting tables and chairs, instead of feeling helpful, I was more of an observer. I could watch the small children, but physically there was little else I could do. This down time, which was really chaotic and filled with people and bottomless activity, was a particular kind of purgatory for me. I like physical labor, I like helping in a concrete way. I was forced to watch everyone else work, which forced me to look more deeply at myself. I thought a lot about contributing, how each of us has our own way of being in the world, of giving back.
I suspect writers give back with their words, their intimate feelings shared with strangers, and I have recently decided that it's time to return to my own work with a greater seriousness. On the drive home, I thought of ways to expand the amount of time spent on writing and submitting my poetry. I made lists. When we got home, I immediately got sick with a terrible head cold. For the past week I've been useless still again, at the mercy of my body, which hasn't cared about print jobs or deadlines or emails stacking up in my yahoo accounts.
Now that I've come out of the fog a little, I remember my last blog post about Whitman's body electric. How humbling to go from the high of acknowledging the senses to laying flat on my back watching seven episodes of a British televisions series, The State Within, in case you're wondering, back to back to back.
My projects have suffered, my editing jobs stalled, as well as all tiger's eye projects. I have had to literally wipe off my desk and begin again. I am humbled in the face of my own hubris, as well as my body's needs.
Walt Whitman would understand, I'm sure.
O I say these are not the parts and poems of the body only, but of the soul,
O I say now these are the soul!
I Sing the Body Electric, Walt Whitman
St. Augustine is often blamed for creating the concept of a body/mind-soul split, and much of Western thinking is based on this idea. The Psalmist's, For I am fearfully and wonderfully made, seems to have given way to I am fearfully made.
Walt Whitman helped in sewing the soul back into the weft of the body with his words, yet we continue to struggle with the supposed separation.
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?
And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?
And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?
And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?
If we are lucky, our bodies demand we get out of our heads and heed the ache and passion of living. It may be an illness that takes us from our head space and into our fragile body. Or an accident. Maybe falling in love is the key, the tipping point between intellectualism's dry company and the body's wonderful letting go.
Poets are advised to appeal to the senses. Work with ideas if you must, ideals and political leanings, but nothing will capture the reader like a well-placed image or scent, the remembrance of a taste brought forward. Cut through the radish skin, red reveals white, slight moisture on your fingers, bitterness on your tongue.
Today I am dwelling in scent/ sight/ sound/ taste/ touch.
Today I am dwelling in the body electric.
The pink roses were in bloom but the excess canes had grown too tall and brittle, so I decided to create order from the chaos. An hour later, as I simultaneously kept three small boys from running down the driveway or falling down cement stairs, I realized that raising anything, flowers or children, takes much longer than we anticipate. The roses are mine, the children are not, but the memory of raising my own came back with unexpected force. Along with the physical memory of gardening.
We've been living in apartments for years, and one of the things I've missed is digging in the earth, getting my hands dirty, creating a garden that was once only lines drawn on paper. Our new home has two mature rose bushes that lean against the old metal garden shed. As I cut back cane after cane, my skin torn by thorn tips, sweat covering my body, I finally gave up on the dream of creating any semblance of perfection. I remembered what gardening feels like, how time stalls while you dig or cut or transfer, and how as the early moon shows itself high in the sky, you really haven't done half of what you'd planned.
A friend is new to writing fiction. She mentioned that she was surprised by the paltry amount of pages she had at the end of the day. I remember the moment I felt the same disappointment, after writing and writing and writing, I had accumulated just a few pages of action and dialogue. Pages that still needed editing. This is why I'm primarily a poet, and rarely a fiction writer.
What I came away with yesterday was an appreciation for good parents. And for gardeners, good or otherwise. For anyone who is willing to wait long months for an unpredictable outcome. This includes poets . . .
Poems, like rose buses, are trimmed to nothing, they recover and grow in spite of us, and then we cut them back again. Once in awhile we are handed a poem from some mysterious source, the muse or Lorca's duende. Ta-da, there it is, fully fleshed-out and ready to show off. Most of the time there are lines that come together awkwardly, words that need reconsidering, and until it feels finished, its fate is as unknowable to us as child-raising or growing roses. The poem may turn out to be a brat or a dry cane with nothing but thorns.
Physical labor brings out something in me that otherwise lies dormant, my creative drive. When I hike or ride a bike, when I play with children or pull weeds, I'm afterwards drawn to their opposite. To be physically active, even exhausted, is to later be quiet and still, open to subtle impressions that suddenly enliven my thoughts.
Summer is more than being miserably hot or drinking endless iced coffees. It is about establishing a balance between the physical and the mental. Doing and being. Possibly it is why I keep hearing from writers who are once again writing. Instead of long slumbering winters where their words lay dormant, they are forced outside to participate in gardens and playgrounds, to be more physically engaged with the world.
These captivating paintings are by Daniel Ridgeway Knight, http://www.danielridgwayknight.org. I love how he's made gardening, in long skirts even, look enticingly attractive. His biography says he liked to paint peasant women. Just the idea fascinates. Did the peasant women enjoy being painted? Quite possibly they did. Although many of his subjects were posed, others appear to be working or resting after work, their hair askew, faces slightly weary. I especially like this woman lost in thought among the flowers. What are her thoughts after a day of working with flowers? Who or what is on her mind?
Summer is my least favorite season, but I am finding it is exactly what the body desires. Heat, a garden to tame, and long evenings with a stack of poems to consider. It will take time to finish these individual poems, they definitely need pruning. Their development into something worthwhile will take longer than I imagined. Their outcome is unknowable, but I am lost in the anticipation of what they might become.
To imagine something better, to live with the subjunctive what if is to either be in heaven or hell. Would we accomplish very much if we didn't daydream and plan for something more? Or would we be more satisfied if we just accepted what is?
Sitting in my third-story perch, the bright green of tree leaves waving in front of the sun, covering, uncovering the light, I consider our move a little east into a house whose ground-floor won't offer me this kind of floating above humanity feeling.
It is what I've asked for, needed for a long time, a home, solid ground beneath us. Yet knowing all along that it's an illusion, a temporary salve for a restlessness I've never fully understood.
I dream of ravens incessantly
demanding water from an
empty metal bowl, their beaks
clanging against the lip.
This is a verse from my latest poem, To Change a River's Course is to Never Be Satisfied. The poem is about diverting waterways, messing with what should be left to itself. But the ravens came in overhead, as they often do, and landed in the poem with their demand to be heard. I've used the verse as a refrain in order to give it import, and imagine the reader questioning its inclusion.
Like the ravens, I often bang my beak against things, and like the ravens, sometimes I find the bowl empty and dry.
Of late, the writing has been my metal bowl. The lack of water the lack of creative flow that used to appear without thought. I expect its return. I ask myself what if it returns. And what if it doesn't. Either way I am accepting, because I can look out the window and recognize grace. For this moment in time, there is nothing more beautiful that this green mass of quivering leaves growing darker as the sun drops behind the Rockies.
The boxes are piling up, bankers boxes, the best invention for saving our backs, and much-used U-Haul boxes, broken down and re-enlivened with muscle and packing tape. My winter sweaters, fuzzy scarves, ski caps and gloves are packed. Magazines are sorted, toys and picture books, notebooks, folders, and more notebooks are boxed. In an attempt to leave out only what is necessary for the next few months, I've hesitated to tape some boxes.
I told my daughter that we dream of a particular home, and yet it is getting into that home that will bring us face to face with our daily life, all of the problems and joys we had in our previous dwelling. We live a certain way in any house we inhabit. It isn't magic, it never was. But the subjunctive what if I lived in a bigger, nicer, better place haunts us. We move and move again, sometimes only metaphorically.
I, like most writers, need space around me to create. Physical as well as emotional space. I look forward to the designated office, to the sun porch right outside my office, but these trees out the window, the sound of them layered from near to far, rustling in harmony, these will only be a memory.
Never would I have considered missing anything about this apartment. And yet I will. I will miss the sound of these trees, their delicate pointed leaves, and I will miss their unexpected shelter.
A week of travel, a few days in California, and then a few days in Oregon. This trip was about seeing family, a new baby, and the time moved too swiftly; but touching skin to skin, the tactile memory remains.
The return to Denver meant an immediate birthday party, and grocery shopping for fresh produce at Sprouts. We brought back a heavy bag of bulk items that cost half as much in OR as they do in CO. We oddly stock our dry goods pantry from another state!
Instead of January being the month of promises, goals set, and diets begun, April seems a month of new beginnings . . . we are planning to buy a small house, to set down semi-permanent roots in Denver. And after a week of traveling, drinking too much coffee and eating scones from the Flying J truck stop . . . it is time to consider what changes the body demands.
I am trying to eat right, I am trying to walk more, I am trying to submit poetry . . . I am experimenting with floor plans and furniture layout and envisioning a yard filled with native plants.
And with this season of change and experimentation comes the month of poetry.
I stopped at the downtown library this morning, 45 minutes on the meter, and found poetry spotlighted both downstairs and up, and a rash of new streamlined books of poetry. They weren’t hiding in the stacks, but were displayed prominently for everyone to see. If you were unfamiliar with poetry, you might pick up one of the books just to peek at the mystery between the covers. Hopefully you'd be pulled in and held.
Unable to resist, I brought a few books home from the library: Linda Bierds / Roget’s Illusion; W. S. Merwin’s / The Moon Before Morning; Charles Wright / Caribou; Martha Collins / Day Unto Day; and finally, William Stafford / Sound of the Ax.
I may skim through these books or read them through, but they’re here beside me, like old friends hoping for a long conversation.
I am listening to a conversation between the poets . . .
You write for burnt glass
When it’s your own pain you notice it
Centered, surrounded by pines, one could forget the uncentered world
Invisible, inaudible things, always something to hanker for
You with your many questions, I have none
I will follow my experiments, even if they don’t converge with needs
April, a month of change, the temperatures unpredictable, the gardens imaginary, our poetry less weighted with the darkness of winter. There is something stirring just beneath the surface. I will read the poets for clues to this stirring. And like William, I too will follow my experiments.
My writing often deals with the environment, my poetry filled with allusions to natural and man-made disasters. I have unlimited hope though, there is just too much wonder in this world to become a defeatist. As Margaret J. Wheatley said, Hopelessness has surprised me with patience.