instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

QUINTESSENCE

Synchronicity With Mystery

Mt. Shasta, dawn

WAKING THIS MORNING DREAMLESS AFTER LONG SLEEP
by Jane Hirschfield

But with this sentence:
"Use your failures for paper."
Meaning, I understood,
the backs of failed poems, but also my life.

Whose far side I begin now to enter -

A book imprinted without seeming reason,
each blank day bearing on its reverse, in random order,
the mad-set type of other.
December 12, 1960. April 4, 1981. 13th of August, 1974 -

Certain words bleed through to the unwritten pages.
To call this memory offers no solace.

"Even in sleep, the heavy millstones turning."

I do not know where the words come from,
what the millstones,
where the turning may lead.

I, a woman forty-five, beginning to gray at the temples,
putting pages of ruined paper
into a basket, pulling them out again.


On our last morning at the lake this year, the unmistakable honk and beating wings of silver-bellied Canadian geese rose from the far cove. The geese were not straggled loosely, aligned casual arrows heaving across the sky as is customary, but carved in their flight close to shore. Low to the water, their V formation tipped on its side, they skimmed beyond the shore pines above the water's edge as the bats at twilight do.

And again this morning in the city I awoke to the call of geese breaking across the dawn. How is it these migrating birds infallibly mark the new crisp in the air? Do they taste the coming wet cold I have inhaled deeply on my early morning hikes? Season after season the geese know when it is time to veer southward. They keep synchronicity with mystery.

It is here: the changing of the season.

I was born in the autumn and it has always been my favorite time of year. I am partial to the slant and slow mellow gold of light, the deepening colors of the earth. But as I age, and turn over longer pages of days, and life, writing and rewriting on the backs of other days and discarded moments, I notice I've begun to tune to the subtle change of seasons. Particularly the glide from summer into autumn. Before winter.

I too, have turned from late summer into fall, and stand at the edge of winter. Each passing season, which once I believed I possessed in abundance, now feels quite precious.

I take my fill of the hours of each day. I linger. I do not rush them onward and into the next. I hold back a little. Try to draw the days and weeks and months closer. I have just begun to understand how to use this life I have been given. And I am grateful.

 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Seclusion

Priest Lake Moonrise

Back to the archives today, my friends. This post is from August 26, 2013. Tomorrow I head to Priest Lake for a vacation of mountain hiking, huckleberry picking, and that mellow glass of wine on the deck in the company of a gorgeous sunset.

My favorite time of day at the lake is early morning. Out on the deck with a mug of coffee as the mist and loons drift away across the bay under a pink sunrise.

I'll see you back here at the end of August. Enjoy these last days of summer.


MONDAY MORNING, LATE SUMMER

On the fence
in the sunlight,
beach towels.

No wind.

The apricots have ripened
and been picked.
The blackberries have ripened
and been picked.


- Robert Hass, from the poem "Cuttings"

The opening of the chest, the heart chakra - literally opening to the deep breathing and calm rhythms of a lengthy period on break - profoundly affects the mind as well as the body. When we step out of the box, the stress-filled, demanding, unrelenting responsibilities of the 24/7, the break from routine can begin the restoration of the soul. As an observer of my own fifty decades of living, the wide empty stretches on life's blue highways are far and few between in the 21st century. It's no news we live in a plugged-in, high demand, ever-changing, constantly stimulating world. The irregular dry spells, down time, wayside adventures, lags in scheduling all seem to have disappeared along with party-lines and land lines. We are "on" and plugged-in every moment of the day: pinged by messages, expanding lists of to-dos, global information, and social media even when we sleep.

Small wonder we find peace walking in the silence of tall cedars, lulled to sleep by lapping waves on the lake shore, listening to the creak of wind in the trees, bird call in the quiet dawn. Thoreau was a relentless champion of "disconnect and rediscover" for the human soul, and frankly, so am I. I found it interesting to watch my family, traveling to our rustic cabin on the lake shore with four smart phones, two laptops, three iPads, two iPods and one Shuffle, slowly adapt to first making the long trek down the trail to the nearest wifi center for internet signal, to eventually, mournfully, accepting there would never be more than one half-bar of cell service off the lake, to at last letting the devices sit in their cases, untouched. Withdrawal from the digital world was both painful and amusing - catching ourselves automatically engaged in a pointless click to check email, Twitter, FB. The urge to connect releasing, ever so slowly releasing its grip, to be replaced by long naps sunning on beach towels on a gently rolling dock, acoustic jazz guitar on the porch, long conversations by wine and candlelight at the picnic table, delving into not just a chapter but an entire book, board games and cards accompanied by a crackling fire and mellow whiskey.

We learned the nurturing quality of quiet. The sweet richness of intimate conversation. Walking the mountains, taking in the whole of life.

We disappear to the cabin every year, coming from wherever we are in the four corners of the world, from whatever education, work, or travel schedules occupy us, ready to find our way back to ourselves. To recharge in the power of tranquility, the open spaces of daydreams, sunny contentment, the deep truthful night and undisturbed sleep. We reconnect not just within, but together. And when the last spider is slapped with a sandal and tossed out the door, when the last huckleberry has made its way to a pancake drenched in maple syrup, the last pot of camp coffee poured to the dregs, we pack up our beach chairs and book bags and return to the world.

Halfway down the road to civilization the electronics buried in our duffles ping on, buzzing and downloading in a bursting hive of fury and we have to laugh. The world. It doesn't wait, and it doesn't matter.
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

The Hero, The Story

David Grunzweig, 14,202 ft summit Mt. Yale, Colorado

We read stories to get experiences we've never known firsthand, or, to gain a clearer understanding of experiences we have had. In the process, we follow one or more characters the way we follow our 'self' in our dreams; we assimilate the story as if what happened to the main characters had happened to us. We identify with heroes. As they move through the story, what happens to them, happens to us. In comedy, heroes go through all the terrible things that we fear or face in our own lives - but they teach us to look at disaster with enough distance that we can laugh at it. In non-comic fiction, the hero shows us what matters, what has value, what has meaning among the random and meaningless events of life. In all stories, the hero is our teacher-by-example, and if we are to be that hero's disciple for the duration of the tale, we must have awe: We must understand that the hero has some insight, some knowledge that we ourselves do not understand, some value or power that we do not have.
- from "Characters & Viewpoint," Orson Scott Card

Preparing for an upcoming speaking panel for Bouchercon 2016, a mystery writers conference in New Orleans this September, I reread this paragraph by science fiction novelist Orson Scott Card from his popular writing guide, "The Hero and the Common Man." I frequently write about human duality. Mankind's possession of tandem weakness and potential greatness. Joseph Campbell famously explored the attraction of the heroic ideal in his groundbreaking work on the psychology of the mythic hero, writing we are both the ordinary and the extraordinary in any given moment.

In choosing what we read, we predominantly seek characters who inspire us through their vulnerabilities and predicaments. Fallible characters who uncover a surprising ability to rise to the occasion. We seek the ideal: To be brave, compassionate, courageous, inventive, adventurous, just. Powerful in defense of truth and right.

In the individual stories of the athletes of the Summer Olympics in Rio we confront the heroic and personal cost of heroism at every turn. How situations that bring out the best in us are often the most difficult to endure. Events we respond to bravely are often the ones that cost us the most. If the gift of triumph is permission to define ourselves as great and capable, future challenges will be met with battle-tested courage.

I confess I do not know whether challenge strengthens our vitality for life or merely toughens us with protective scars. Perhaps we exist on a pendulum between the two responses - boldness and aversion. The heroic stories we read challenge us to imagine greatness for ourselves, explore our own courage. And in our mental shadowboxing, realize a true, real world strength. As readers we use story. Stories are allegory. A call to action. We embolden ourselves to undertake the unimaginable, to find our personal greatness.

Push your boundaries. Celebrate the day and its challenges. Be in awe. You are the hero of your story.
 Read More 
2 Comments
Post a comment

Stones Against Worry


THE OCTOPUS
by Benjamin Harnett

Out into the wary wideness
eight minds dragged it, sunlight
fire here, the cool of dark
downwardness. Tentacles go
self, self, self, self, stone!
Ah, lifted to the eyes, this the one.
Quick, back to the closeness
of home.

Felt air, once, a pitiless
flattening, the bright roar, God.
It worries an old scar
balancing self-wrapped rock
on others like a bone. What
was the self, but worry
without comfort, and ache
for food.

To be a child again, all eye
and jelly, drift among ignorant
millions, and be swept up into
a world-mouth with one's family,
to dissolve instead of being
torn by iron to die alone.
Yes, the new cave needs
another stone.


Can you feel the flex in the spine of this poem from Benjamin Harnett's chapbook, "Animal"? The Octopus captures the essence of self, survival, and aloneness, but in a way that spotlights attention on the pure and directive nature of life. The centering of home, cave or nest. The binary reality of safety. The collective comfort of our others. Our known.

It's been a rough month around here, and in the world. There were times when I felt more than a few stones extra were needed to shore up the cave. Life has a way, doesn't it? Lobs in chance, and everything changes. Events occur that destroy calm and defy stability; that undercut every effort at organized living. A disaster or tragedy blocks our pathways, shuts down options, blows a hole in our every effort at risk management. We panic. We howl. Then we get it together and get it done.

Humans, like the octopus, endlessly gather stones against worry - fearing that moment fate yanks us in a new direction.

Stones Against Worry.

"Emergency Fund" was a real thing for us this month. Why you have one, when to use it. Others scoot encouraging stones our way. A box arrives, unannounced. Inside, personal, sentimental things to restore equilibrium, offer faith in good memories, a reminder of good things yet ahead. When good people do good things, it is as if God hands you a star. However dark things may be...there is that star, casting its comforting glow.

So thanks, good souls. You know who you are. No gesture, however humble by any of us, goes without casting its ripple in this world. Those smallest of ripples build into waves of good things. Before we know it there are stars everywhere, lighting the dark.



 Read More 
Be the first to comment