In the Same Space
House, coffeehouses, neighborhood: setting
That I see and where I walk; year after year.
I crafted you amid joy and amid sorrows:
Out of so much that happened, out of so many things.
And you've been wholly remade into feeling; for me.
–– C.P. Cavafy, 1929
When it comes to writing, geography––the physical surrounds and locale of our real or fictional story––is more than just placement. Geography is also environment, history, belonging, experience, metaphor. When a writer uses geography as more than part of the setting, or the physical grounding of the story, it is because the landscape the story is set in, or draws from, is a character of the narrative.
How is that, you might ask. A character?
How does a writer bring the hills, trees, or the wide flooding river into the story as a participant? Can the setting interact or influence our characters? Yes, it can. The poet understands, for example, the way the language of the river may be the language of loss. Or adventure. Or memory. A film might translate a script description of a moor into the brooding moments before a fatal encounter and the unspoken dread of our hero. We become engrossed in a book that is more about the secrets of a mountain than the adventurers who climbed it; or a memoir in which the four timbered walls of a house become a terrifying presence or a psychological mirror. Geography is landscape. From the weather, dwellings or structures, to the seasons at play. Writers turn these nonhuman elements, imagined or drawn from real life, into challenges and setbacks; pathways to feelings and decisions their characters face. The story of a final trip back home may begin with turning onto that familiar curve of the road, catching a glimpse of the faded paint on the door, the For Sale sign in the yard. The sea is as much a combatant or ally to the captain as the wind or the whale or the unreliable first mate.
As readers we understand more about characters from their relationship to their environment than we might perhaps garner from only their physical description. The farmer stands in the dry field in the dusty wind, legs splayed and arms crossed, searching the sky for a rain cloud. The rain falls but evaporates before it hits the thirsty earth. What do we feel if in desperation he waters a limp seedling with the sweat of his neckerchief? What if he silently turns his back and walks away? The young girl on a stoop on the garbage-strewn street, drawing. What changes if we place this same girl, carrying a white fur muff, on a train traveling away from home, rocketing through a strange countryside? What if we place her instead at dusk in the kitchen of her grandparents' cottage and the kettle is whistling? Setting is all these details and geography is the landscape of these details. Geography in writing has a great pull on both the reader's memory and sentiment, and writers use this to bring vibrancy to their stories. Even a story that occurs in a single room, a cell over the course of a few hours, has geography. As readers we imagine everything beyond the cell that we do not see, we experience in this harrowing landscape of white walls all the emotions the character does.
When I began writing So Long As We're Together, I knew there were going to be three important landscapes in my story: a ramshackle lake cabin in the northern woods, a solitary late-night studio, and the stage––the performance venue of music. I felt all three landscapes had distinct qualities that uniquely impacted my singing twin sisters. These landscapes were vessels, like Greek amphora of old, gathering history, memory, and desire. I knew these landscapes would interact and interweave with the main characters, carrying voices of the past. Particularly their absent mother and a difficult history that was anything but forgotten. At one point I thought I might name the novel after the cabin, so significant was its role in the story. I soon understood it was the relationship between the sisters that framed everything, from the first night of rain in Seattle to the last sunset in northern Idaho. So Long As We're Together is a narrative of the ways we are and are not our shared experience and history. And ultimately, this is the landscape in which Andi and Marley find their footing.
In the Same Space
Alone he is a solo for piano that never comes to an end,
a small plane that keeps flying away from the earth.
He is the last line of a poem that continues off the page
and down to a river to drag there in the cool flow,
questioning the still pools with its silver hook.
––from "Going Out for Cigarettes," Billy Collins
This is the first post in a series of personal "notes from the author" as we head toward the publication of my newest novel, SO LONG AS WE'RE TOGETHER, from Black Opal Books in September of this year. In my books I have frequently written about artists and the drive to produce creative work. A confluence of passion and obsession, and at times sacrifice, that cuts deep to the bone and may be as ruinous as it is successful. In previous novels I have written about sculptors (Loose Threads), and classical cellists and photographers (Exposures). In the process of writing each book I learned something about our fierce and brilliant, if fragile, humanity. In my new novel I delve into the performance world of country music, telling the story of the Stone twins, Andi and Marley Stone, and their rise from the singing kid stars on collapsible fairground stages across the west to complex seasoned performers taking the stage at the Country Music Awards.
In researching this book, I delved into the professional and technical aspects of songwriting and vocal performance, the thrill and disappointments of a life on stage, and the ways music like a balm may bring healing to the human heart. I held an image in my mind of an out-of-luck family living on the road; of an eccentric and erratic single mother hellbent to survive. Donna Stone lived on caffeine, her wits, and sheer ambition. She relentlessly promoted the musical talent of her girls –– yet Donna would stop at nothing to protect her daughters from harm. This idea grew to become a story of the bond between sisters, a mother's fierce love, and the dark power of secrets.
A story of love and what might break it.
In my novel, writing and composing country music lyrics anchor the life of one sister in particular. The synergy––even the synesthesia between words and music––and the transformational power of lyric vocals was very much on my mind as I developed the characters of Andi and Marley Stone.
A few months back, as some of you may have read, I spoke with New York Times bestselling novelist Caroline Leavitt –– This is You, Cruel Beautiful World –– on her blog about SO LONG AS WE'RE TOGETHER, exploring the interconnected power of music and writing. [Link: carolineleavittville.blogspot.com/Burgess] Here is what I wrote about music and writing:
Debussy was said to have painted music, Sibelius heard compositions as a symphony of color. As I worked on my country music novel, SO LONG AS WE'RE TOGETHER, I realized I was beginning to hear unspoken words within the music, not just the music of words. Language has always possessed musicality—and naturally and effortlessly transforms into the lyric, the song—but for me it was a unique experience to think about songwriting, melody, and a novel's narrative all from the point of view of a musician. What story does a line of notes tell when there are as yet no lyrics, when the song says nothing at all?
When words do partner with a melody there is a dance between meaning and feeling. We understand words, however we feel music. What becomes important? What is said, or left unsaid? Conveyed through language or simply through the notes of the song?
I determined to make a deliberate effort in my narrative to infuse in the landscape, scenes, and in dialog, echoes of the musical performances of my country music duo, Marley and Andi Stone. I felt the twin sisters' music was as much a character in their story as the lake in the novel, or Donna, their mother. That for some characters, what they seek speaks their piece in the world. Marley leaves heartbreak at the keyboard, finds hope in an inspired melody. Andi defines a world for herself by singing it into being. Donna pushes back a hard and disappointing life listening to the jubilation in the notes and verses of others. I considered the novel's narrative as a musical composition between all the parts of the story and an original melody took root in the pages, from the opening note to the last.
Many writers read their work aloud in draft to catch a lagging clause or repetitive word, dull sections, or run-on sentences. I read this entire novel aloud, by scene and section, and in a series of chapters at a time. Multiple times. Listening to the narrative was quite literal for me. I paced my small study as I read, attuned to the music in the words. The lake country as well as country music defined the Stone girls and I listened for that thread on every page. My hope is that when you read this novel, it will sing for you too.
I'm so looking forward to sharing this novel with you. Until then, here's to that "last line of a poem that continues off the page."
May the music of your own words carry you through.
Today I remember an extraordinary poet, Galway Kinnell. This Irish-American poet's work was awarded both a Pulitzer (for "Selected Poems," 1983) and an American Book Award. An ardent individualist, Kinnell stood apart from his peers and the literary influences of the Twentieth century. He immersed himself in the gritty issues of his day and was a passionate advocate for freedom of expression. A poet of almost photographic sensitivity, his words pulse with an exuberant love of language, a lyrical style distinctly his own and possessing a rare and gorgeous musicality.
RUINS UNDER THE STARS
by Galway Kinnell
All day under acrobat
Swallows I have sat, beside ruins
Of a plank house sunk to its windows
In burdock and raspberry canes,
The roof dropped, the foundation broken in,
Nothing left perfect but the axe-marks on the beams.
A paper in a cupboard talks about "Mugwumps",
In a V-letter a farmboy in the Marines has "tasted battle…"
The apples are pure acid on the tangle of boughs
The pasture has gone to popple and bush.
Here on this perch of ruins
I listen for the crunch of the porcupines.
Overhead the skull-hill rises
Crossed on top by the stunted apple.
Infinitely beyond it, older than love or guilt,
Lie the stars ready to jump and sprinkle out of space.
Every night under the millions of stars
An owl dies or a snake sloughs its skin,
But what if a man feels the dark
Homesickness for the inconceivable realm?
Sometimes I see them,
The south-going Canada geese,
At evening, coming down
In pink light, over the pond, in great,
Loose, always dissolving V's-
I go out into the field,
Amazed and moved, and listen
To the cold, lonely yelping
Of those tranced bodies in the sky,
Until I feel on the point
Of breaking to a sacred, bloodier speech.
This morning I watched
Milton Norway's sky blue Ford
Dragging its ass down the dirt road
On the other side of the valley.
Later, off in the woods, I heard
A chainsaw agonizing across the top of some stump
A while ago the tracks of a little, snowy,
SAC bomber went crawling across heaven.
What of that little hairstreak
That was flopping and batting about
Deep in the goldenrod,
Did she not know, either, where she was going?
Just now I had a funny sensation
As if some angel, or winged star,
Had been perched nearby watching, maybe speaking,
I whirled, and in the chokecherry bush
There was a twig just ceasing to tremble.
Now the bats come spelling the swallows,
In the smoking heap of old antiques
The porcupine-crackle starts up again,
The bone-saw, the pure music of our sphere,
And up there the old stars rustling and whispering.
The imperceptible balance of image with emotion. Never too much, always exactly enough. Poet, translator, essayist, teacher. Galway Kinnell wrote about life, death, and the fragility of beauty. His obituary in the New York Times (October 29, 2014) concluded, "Through it all, he held that it was the job of poets to bear witness," ending on these words of the poet, ''To me,' he said, 'poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment.'"
I invite you to explore the wrok of the late Galway Kinnell. To close, from "Trust the Hours (Wait)":
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven't they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
The last flower has opened on the stem,
the first two mostly done by now: call home.
I slipped my skin
walked off & left myself & left
feeling the first snow of the season falling
cold on my face running to catch that downtown bus leving
my life behind & abandoned my whole self, was I
a colt or a fresh coal afire with each chain of nerve
alive naked & loving the feeling of feeling
my heart beating feeling my blood too feeling
- Lightsey Darst, from "Thousands"
Lightsey Darst's quiet revolutionary poems, THOUSANDS, are written in journal form, in a notation of private thought that rages across the page. The above poem is taken from "Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2012." A mysterious shift of awareness powers Darst's poem. I am drawn by the element of recovery. As though the shape of some unvoiced loss has only just revealed itself. The line "I walked off & left myself & left" traces the poet's slip from the familiar into the unexpected. Chasing her bus, a first cold snow swirling in her face, Darst surroundings dissolve on a wave of raw sensation. A transformation of presence. As if tasting a bite of watermelon we remember a summer in Kansas, a particular garden bothered by horseflies and dust.
The daily self has met the deeper dreamer.
I thought of this poem today and that opening, The last flower..., noting an unmistakable mark of fall color, of rust, crimson, and dry brown, in the wilderness foliage. Trees standing silent in a stagnant haze of wildfire smoke and heat. No breeze rustles the leaves, there is no murmur of birdsong or insect life. It has been a difficult, burning summer in the Northwest. Yet the turn toward a changing season is unmistakable here. The downshift. Letting go after a fierce season of difficult growth. This transition in seasons feels equally personal. As though I, too, will turn a corner. That I will have "left myself & left," rediscovering what is lost as though new again, experience what is hidden as seen.
Autumn can be a rest or a beginning. Perhaps both.
I am ready for my heart beating feeling my blood too feeling. Aren't you?
MONDAY MORNING, LATE SUMMER
On the fence
in the sunlight,
The apricots have ripened
and been picked.
The blackberries have ripened
and been picked.
- Robert Hass, from the poem "Cuttings"
I've been looking back at posts about writing and creativity, living and making meaningful choices. Have I done the things I said I would, made the changes I want, pursued priorities that matter? Sometimes. Admittedly, not always. There are days it is struggle enough to want to slow the busyness, savor the quiet moments. How hard in this modern world to make space for clarity, for peace of mind amidst the nonstop pings, alerts, and alarms that surround our work/life schedules. We live task to task, crisis to crisis. Have we forgotten how to slow the hours?
Summer gives us the long, hot day. The ripening of the fruit on the trees and the grain in the earth. Nothing happens in summertime that happens in a hurry. The baking heat and light-filled days are a tutorial in slowing the hours. An invitation to open to the quiet ripening in our own complicated lives. A pause to welcome the simple. To celebrate joy in singular moments.
Summer is nature's reminder to follow our instincts toward the life well-lived. All of us have that place, person, or time of day, where the spinning world slows, life opens, and we experience deep happiness. Where will you be in these last weeks of bright golden light? I am headed north to the remote quiet shores of the lake once again. You will find me on the deck at sunset, feet propped on the rail. Scotch in hand, I will end each day in rhythm with the hours as the evening star rises over the lake, bright against the rose-colored Selkirk Mountains. I will toast you, wherever your slow has taken you.
I saw the heron
like a branch of white petals
in the swamp,
in the mud that lies
like a glaze,
in the water
that swirls its pale panels
of reflected clouds;
I saw the heron shaking
its damp wings -
and then I felt
an explosion -
a pain -
also a happiness
I can hardly mention
as I slid free -
as I saw the world
through those yellow eyes -
as I stood like that, rippling,
under the mottled sky
of the evening
that was beginning to throw
its dense shadows.
No! said my heart, and drew back.
But my bones knew something wonderful
about the darkness-
and they thrashed in their cords,
they fought, they wanted
to lie down in that silky mash
of the swamp, the sooner
~ Mary Oliver
There is something about the delicacy of the transitions from spring into early summer and then from summer into late fall that always remind me of the poetry of Mary Oliver. The way in which Oliver captures the voice and imprint of the unseen; the song of living things, the guardian silence of the skies. When I read this poem, it reminds me of my late husband Ken, who passed away in 2003. His presence still among us is the heron at the water's edge below the cliffs where he is buried. For a week after his death, a single gray heron waited there at the river's elbow, braced against the rushing waters. Still and tranquil, it watched us where we stood on the bluff above him, mute with grief. Eventually on the last day, as twilight fell to its deepest hue, our heron spread its feathered wings and rose into the sky. Lost in the dark.
All of us sing an unfamiliar song when it comes to life. We receive, we give. We perhaps only imperfectly hear the melody as we progress through the years. But how important it is that we celebrate life. Cherish family, love, the accomplishment of big dreams. The having of big dreams. The still moments though they become years. The translucent ice newly veined with cracks. The reflecting clouds. The trace of the past like the taste of cold water in an iron cup. The bloom, and the fossil. The liminal presence.
And still it is not enough, to have memories. One must be able to forget them when they are many, and one must have the immense patience to wait till they are come again. For the memories themselves are still nothing. Not till they have turned to blood within us, to glance and gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves - not till then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
I found myself reading back through old journals this week, thinking about Memorial Day. I stopped on one from seven years ago. Those of you who know me, know that I come from a long tradition of military service, and have many generations of family members, including my father, who lie in military cemeteries in the United States and around the world. Here is part of what I wrote in 2011:
My husband is buried above the wild and tumultuous Spokane River, downriver from the traintrestle bridges. Freight trains roll high above the river, making their way across the continental U.S. Great diesels haul palettes of stacked container goods and seemingly endless chains of barrel cars of crops, oil and chemicals, and the double-decker slatted stock cars. The cars sway down the tracks and then disappear from view through narrow granite cuts in the basalt mountains. We called them "wishing trains," because we'd whisper secret wishes crisscrossing the roads beneath them as they passed. My husband liked the idea that for all eternity he would lie beside the wide, wild Spokane River, in view of those industrious magical trains. Nature and commerce. Chaos and fortune. Our lives are ruled by them.
On this day, Memorial Day, breezes wave ribbons of color along narrow cemetery paths lined with the stars and stripes. Families, lost looks on their faces, clutch plot grids and wander the treed acres looking for their buried. The hands of little ones are tucked in the hands of grownups; in the little fists small flags or bunches of garden lilacs. America does not forget its loved ones. It does not forget its soldiers. Yet the numbers buried in the green shade seem to swell in a continuous sea of monuments. Already a newly engraved stone, a simple bench, stands next to my husband's. A nineteen year old boy, lost in Afghanistan. Someone's son, someone's brother. There are two flags flying in his honor, on the grass the gift of a baseball mitt.
Bending low, I place a flag in the ground the requisite distance (a boot length away) from my husband's marker. A Vietnam era Air Force veteran, he was proud of his service. I couldn't help but think of our own boy, now twenty, at the US Naval Academy, his life at a crux point as well. National service opens us to community beyond family. Opens us to our shared identity as American citizens. In the fall my daughter will run her first half-marathon for Team USO, proud of our soldiers, her brother, her father, and all those whose names she does not know. Those who came before her and follow her now, hands open and ready to do whatever work needs doing. Whether serving in the military, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, the USO, or organizations like Doctors Without Borders or the Red Cross, let us take a moment to thank the persons we meet giving of themselves to America and to the needs of the world.
In the time since I wrote this, my daughter has become a physician, committed to the well-being and needs of others. My son has become an electrical engineer, using science in the invention and service of technology and art. Their father still lies beside the murmuring river downriver from the rumbling trains. Time has passed, and things have changed. And yet, the families come to the cemetery this and every Memorial Day, bearing their tiny flags and garden flowers.
Let the poems of memories carry the day. Whomever it is you think of on this day, whomever it is you miss, I know you will find peace in the devotions of remembrance. I give you love.
by Ellen Dore Watson
I believe in trees. Sun-stunned,
forking, house ofshade and moan
and burning. I don't want a god who
bleeds, I want a shepherd to herd me
homewise, toward wood and stone
and making. Tomorrow is the place
we put what we're afraid of. Today,
lists. Give me a now where whispers
come bidden and unbidden, visions
follow. Give me belief not outward
but in -- I want what's waiting to out.
Here we are, one third into 2018. As promised, time to revisit my resolutions and see how I’ve fared implementing these changes to date.
Welcome to the New Year. I know all of us hope that 2018 will be kinder and more positive than its predecessor. It seems fair to simply state we know this not to be the case thus far. This morning the news is filled with distressing photographs of Guatemalan refugees held at our southern border with Mexico. The last weeks nothing but a Scrambler ride of government and White House scandal that make me wonder if, indeed, civility is dead. Or perhaps, abroad. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tweak our routines more favorably toward both productivity and joy? Here’s to trying.
Let’s revisit my ten goals for 2018:
1. Back to paper journals
Returning to journaling and drafting book notes on paper has been relatively simple, and I can report, productive. Folding together my morning cup of tea with time at the kitchen table organizing the day has made my writing goals come together and also helped me to step back and find a mental center. I added a Lemome bullet journal specifically for mapping writing goals and progress, and am happy to report bullet journaling is as productive as those of you who use one told me it would be.
Slow down first drafts
The plan was to return to handwriting first drafts on yellow pads. The flexibility of a notepad has opened up many more writing opportunities in impromptu places (waiting on a delayed flight anyone?) and freed me from the usual outlet hunt. The process of later translating handwritten pages onto the computer has resulted in draft pages that feel stronger and more clarified, and help target the following sections of work.
2. Rethinking social media
Hello, Facebook, privacy anyone? Deleted my Facebook account (as I detailed here in an earlier post). I find Twitter and Instagram offer excellent outreach and connection. You are all so creative on Instagram! I think we connect more meaningfully than ever, honestly.
Certainly the return of spring has made daily exercise an easier, more pleasurable outdoor pursuit, and after having read the nutritional, eye-opening fact-fest of “How Not to Die” by Dr. Michael Greger with Gene Stone, my commitment to a more thoughtful vegetarian diet has resulted in genuine better health. Cutting social media and television out of my late evenings in favor of reading has also been good for a solid night’s rest.
4. A “year without shopping”
Ann Patchett described her year without shopping (with the exception of books and a few requirements related to family life, her bookstore, and life as a writer) in her 2017 New York Times Op-Ed. I intend to use this maxim to reset my own expectations and habits. To strive to own or purchase only what, to quote Marie Kondo, “brings joy.” To date that has meant the purchase of books (of course), support for the arts (museum and all varieties of performance), cuisine (the pleasures of dining out), travel, etc.
6. The vegetable and me
The health pay-offs in terms of my annual medical labs and health have proven the value to me of a fruit and vegetable diet. Reducing alcohol intake, upping exercise—all the usual suspects, yes.
7. Books Read List
Time to get back to keeping an annotated list of books read each year. This has proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated. I discovered how many books I keep going and stashed in different places. One for travel, one by the bed, several in my study… Getting organized and finishing books and entering them into the list will require more focus. I'm on it!
8. Off the fence
Warren Buffet recently tweeted that “sometimes it’s necessary to unfollow people in real life.” Time to clean house (declutter emotionally) the obvious dysfunctional relationships in my life, and deal with fence-sitter issues. Initially tough, the aftereffect is a true tranquility. While a work in progress, I am taking steps to release the not-good and nourish the good.
9. Tech diet
So tired of life on screens! I gave away the iPad. I reduced my devices to my laptop and my smart phone. They “do it all” with minimal fuss and interconnected efficiency. I've freed the rest of my life for actual people and actual conversations, reading books (paper books) and listening to audible books on my phone while I exercise or travel.
The goal is to seek a wide range of input from books, film, television, music, live entertainment (concerts, dance, theater), museums, lectures, podcasts, etc., to achieve a satisfying balance of the best of culture and critical thought this life has to offer. Working on it!
I’d love to hear from you about things that you've changed, routines that work for you! Send me your comments here or on Twitter. Here's to more joy!
SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.
- Lord George Gordon Byron, 1780
I have always loved the opening lines of Lord Byron's poem. There is honest praise in the words, She walks in beauty. To walk within virtues both given and borrowed, appreciated by others, or rough-cut and unknown. Byron's poem celebrates an ideal, certainly. An ode to qualities pure and principled as the stars in the sky.
Romantic love is believed by many to be the opening toast of a lifelong dance. Like beauty, the first blush akin to bubbles of champagne that break on our tongues; a heady intoxication of light and delight. It is also the first step toward the tempered partnership. That which grows to become strong and steady, solid in its core. A union but not a transformation.
So here's to the blush and the confusion, the yearning and its bliss. Indeed the old poets are right. Let us not forget to dance. For within the heart's folly lie the seeds of a good life.
by May Sarton
There is no poetry in lies,
But in crude honesty
There is hope for poetry.
For a long time now
I have been deprived of it
Because of pride,
Would not allow myself
Today, I have learned
That to become
A great, cracked,
When I was young,
Now I am older and wiser,
I can be glad of her
As one is glad of the light.
We do not thank the light,
But rejoice in what we see
Because of it.
What I see today
Is the snow falling:
All things made new.
This poem by New England poet May Sarton stands as the final poem in her book, "Halfway to Silence." What I love about this poem is the poet's quiet sense of slipping through experience into a sense, as English writer Julian Barnes defined it, of an ending. Opening to wisdom. Aged, reflective, and questioning still, Sarton seeks an elusive muse. A bolder, nobler inspiration. Answers.
"Of the Muse" reveals a distilled personal truth from Sarton: that her lifelong art has not been the gift of inspired flights of stark originality but the gift of incidental moments of awareness. Found truth along life's most ordinary path. Leaning in is looking closer. "We do not thank the light,/ But rejoice in what we see/Because of it."
Truth, not appearance or form, defines meaning; unvarnished and unaltered. Whether one speaks of the heart or the earth, ambitions or sins, perceiving honestly is the beginning point. "There is no poetry in lies," Sarton writes. Listen in, the poet advises. Hear the tighter, deeper, stronger, resonating beat of experience. There is no mantra or magic. No easy hack for enhancing creativity or making a life.
There is only this: honest awareness. A raw truth. "But in crude honesty/There is hope for poetry." Can the essence of understanding be put more beautifully or simply? Sarton lays aside the ego and its masks. Only comprehend, she asks. See that which is before you. Bow to the pre-eminence of what lies in all things, and therein, find wonder.
To see the snow fall, all things made new.