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QUINTESSENCE

A Warrior and A Monk

Bust of Alexander, Museum of Athens

Some things
you know all your life. They are simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter, and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.


- from "The Simple Truth," Philip Levine

I have shared this stanza of Philip Levine's poem "The Simple Truth," before with you. If you are not familiar with Levine's work, please, when you have a moment, read through the entire poem. And then perhaps browse the complete poetry collection by the same title. Levine's poems are earthy, powerful, they sear in your brain, they are moving. Distinct and subtle. Levine is sometimes referred to as the working man's poet. A tribute to his attention to the ordinary hours, to working lives, our empathy for the fates of others.

This stanza is about many things, but I often find myself coming back as I read to a reflection on core values such as loyalty, fidelity, love. The musculature and the power of attachment.

The human heart is capable of great patience, tremendous tenacity. It stretches, it builds - ever so slowly - like bone in the new body. All is a journey, this life. Connection and partnership; the hand-bricked construction of family. Our selves evolve into new ways of being, taking unique shape within the lives we lead. It is the simple truth to say that living is about ever-becoming. And while neither easy nor pristinely beautiful, and certainly not perfect in its process, for each one of us becoming is absolutely of whole and perfect intent. Perfect in joy, grounded in earth, heaven, and the never-ending soul. The human heart is a warrior and a monk. And it speaks a simple truth. Belong.

As we enter the quiet months of winter, listen to the song your life is singing. Speak the things you know to be true. Make these truths the pillars of conscious living.

Let the beauty we love be what we do. - Rumi

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Late Summer

Priest Lake Moonrise

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"

I've been looking at accountability. Mine. 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? At times it feels like a win to simply slow the busyness, delete the detritus that clouds quiet moments.

How hard in this modern world to make space for clarity. Space reclaimed from work/life schedules, from cleaning out our physical surroundings - or it might be all in our heads. The important thing is this: without inner clarity we lack a life map to navigate where we are to where we want to be. Mapping begins with honest assessment, checking in, and acknowledging our choices.

Each of us has a place, a person, a time, where the world slows and life opens, and we look deeply at the mechanics of our own happiness. We understand with profound certainty the desires and needs that guide a life well-lived, a life examined. Our life.

This is part of a post from August 2013:

"The opening of the chest, the heart chakra - the deep breathing and calm rhythms of a lengthy period on break - profoundly alters the mind as well as the body. When we step out of the box, the stress-filled, demanding, unrelenting responsibilities of the 24/7, we begin the restoration of the soul. The wide empty stretches on life's blue highways are far and few between. We live in a plugged-in, high demand, ever-changing, stimulating world. Down time, wayside adventures, lags in scheduling seem to have disappeared. We are "on" and plugged-in every moment of the day: pinged by messages, alerts from work, urgent global news, the carousel of social media even when we sleep.

Peace. Where do we find it?

Thoreau championed "disconnect and rediscover" for the human soul. And indeed, I found it interesting to watch my family - traveling to a rustic cabin on the lake shore with four smart phones, two laptops, three iPads, two iPods and one Shuffle - slowly adapt to silence. From initially trekking down the trail to the nearest wifi spot for internet signal, to eventually, mournfully, accepting the one half-bar of cell service off the lake, to at last letting the devices sit in their cases, untouched. This withdrawal from the digital world was painful and amusing - catching ourselves automatically engaged in a pointless click to check email, Twitter, FB. The urge to plug in releasing ever so slowly; replaced by naps sunning on beach towels, guitar on the deck, long conversations by candlelight at the picnic table. The luxury of delving into not just one chapter, but an entire book. Board games and cards, a crackling fire and mellow whiskey.

We relearn the nurturing quality of quiet. The giving earth. Taking in the whole of life. Lulled to deep sleep by the waves lapping the lake shore, the creak of wind in the trees. Awaking with bird calls in the dawn.

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. 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 final pot of camp coffee poured to the dregs, we pack up our beach chairs and return to the world.

Halfway down the road to civilization the electronics buried in our duffles ping on, buzzing and downloading in a frenzied burst and we have to laugh. The world. It doesn't wait, and it doesn't matter."

This weekend I am headed north for two weeks to the remote quiet shores of Priest Lake once again. At the lake, I will find silence. You will find me on the deck at sunset, feet propped on the rail, a mellow scotch in hand. The evening star rises over the lake, bright against the rose-colored Selkirk Mountains.
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So Hush A Masque

Starry Night Over the Rhone, Vincent van Gogh

How came ye muffled in so hush a masque?
- "Ode on Indolence," John Keats










Waiting coils inside her and licks and licks its paws.

I go through motions already made in another life [wrote the husband].
The room is cold. I must unpack. But not yet. Night is almost here.
Another one without I was going to say but that wold be weak.
Another one.
I stand firmly on the foundation of the love I fashioned, yes, our love.
You will disagree. But look inside yourself. there you see a world
traveling silently through space. On it two specks. We are
indissoluble. Three minutes of reality! all I ever asked.


She stands looking out at rain on the roof.

- from "The Beauty of the Husband," by Anne Carson

A good book plucks us from the concrete bunkers of the present. A good book lifts us from our circling preoccupations, puts wings on our thoughts and hands us navigation coordinates we've never flown before. A good book sits in our thoughts like the most erudite and giving of guests, discussing the world at length long after the book has closed. A good book is an all-night diner with an open bar and our favorite people alive and dead, known, unknown, stirring coffee across from us with a bent spoon, chin in hand, asking, "And after you decided to do that, then what?"

Life, as the saying goes, is to be be lived. A life, your life, is not to be postponed or sidetracked, minimized like a competing channel on a bigger screen. Anne Carson, in her incomparable book-length prose poem, "The Beauty of the Husband, a fictional essay in 29 tangos," explores Keats' idea that beauty is truth. And does so telling the story of a marriage. As you might imagine, truth thus becomes personal, subjective, illusory, intimate. All of its beauty released in the telling. Truth and beauty, we discover, are synonyms for what is real.

Beauty, it turns out, like truth can be cruel. Transcendent. As goes one of my favorite lines from the poet Masahide, Barn's burnt down. Now I can see the moon.

When you read this prose by Anne Carson, think of what you understand as the narrator speaks. What is truth, what is illusion, is it possible to experience differing threads of the same story? A good book lifts us above the landscape even as it plummets us into the heart of action. A good book inhabits our thoughts because of its beauty. Because of its truth.

Life, in all its formidable beauty.

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.

This sentence, posted last night by two gentlemen on Twitter, is from the novel "Ulysses" by James Joyce. Perhaps, as one of them said, the most beautiful sentence in the English language. I gift it to you. Be overwhelmed.


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Synchronicity

Ostia Antica, Italy

For whom and to whom in the shadow
does my gradual guitar resound,
being born in the salt of my being
like the fish in the salt of the sea?

- from "Songs," Residence on Earth, Pablo Neruda

I was born on the 22nd of September. Today is the 22nd of July - the day my first husband, Ken, passed away...and birthday of my second husband, Greg. Reverberations pass through our lives - touched by this one number, 22.

A strange and mysterious, sad and joyful tumbler of emotions accompanies every July 22nd for me. I am twinned in both my past and my present on this one, extraordinary day. Acknowledging loss while acknowledging joy, aware of what is missing and what is found. Greg was aware of the synchronicity of these dates before I was. We had just met; Greg had read THE GEOGRAPHY OF LOVE and he texted me that day, wishing me peace and comfort, as he knew my son and I were out at Ken's gravesite. Greg never told me that day it was also his birthday, which speaks to his sensitivity and respect for Ken's place in my life, although later it caused me some remorse as his birthday should have been something to celebrate. If only I'd known. Would I have believed it? Would the shared dates have shaken me?

Since our marriage, Greg and I, as well as my children, dance in the complex realities of this date. We've embraced it as uniquely ours. The anniversary of Ken's death is etched on July 22nd, Greg came into life on July 22nd, the 22nd day is the day of my birthday in the fall...it seemed natural that going forward we would chose the 22nd day of any month as our choice for important events and decisions. We married on the 22nd of April. My daughter schedules major exams for this date (she is taking one today), and my son releases new music projects whenever he can on the 22nd.

How fitting that last night my beloved Ken was spoken of in the course of a writing workshop I taught at Auntie's Books on memoir - and I came home that same night to share and celebrate the class with my dear Greg. Today, Greg's birthday, is full of joy. We celebrate the doorway that opened between our lives and loves, and the powerful synchronicity that is for us, the number 22.
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The Good Life

My children at the beach with our dog, Scooter

THE GOOD LIFE
by Mark Strand

You stand at the window.
There is a glass cloud in the shape of a heart.
There are the wind's sighs that are like caves in your speech.
You are the ghost in the tree outside.

The street is quiet.
The weather, like tomorrow, like your life,
is partially here, partially up in the air.
There is nothing you can do.

The good life gives no warning.
It weathers the climates of despair
and appears, on foot, unrecognized, offering nothing,
and you are there.


We stand in the tracks of tangled footpaths among dreams, ambitions, regrets, loss. At every vantage, we take in the long view. There is something about our hearts that needs the wideness of the unknown, the promise of discovery around the next bend. Mark Strand's line, "like tomorrow, like your life,/is partially here, partially up in the air," reminds us we exist in becoming - in shift between hard realties and bright imaginings. Partially here, partially up in the air.

In a week marked by deep suffering and wordless pain for our own communities and others around the world, of shocked disbelief, and moral agony, I find unexpected comfort in these lines of Strand's last stanza:

The good life gives no warning.
It weathers the climates of despair


The ability of life to rebound, for wounds to heal and the human journey to continue - mindful of events that have occurred - moves me. I don't know if someday the world will end on a high note or a whimper, but life continues to seek what is good. We must rise. The celebration of The Fourth of July blesses the founding anniversary of our nation, symbolized in part by family gatherings and communal celebrations. In the wake of all that has been tragic and awful, let us lift one another, step forward, and stand strong in community.

The following is from my very first post, July of 2010:

Welcome summer! Collect your flip flops, grab your beach bag and throw in a basket of great books to indulge in. These are the slow days of simmering heat and sun. The pastimes of childhood call. Riding barefoot on a bicycle, playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes of the wheel, ratta-tatta-tat down the block for an ice cream. Hot afternoons at the city pool, sleepovers under the stars, lemonade stands in red Flyer wagons. The boom of thunder and the salted tar smell of cool rain as it hits a hot street. The vacation trip to the beach. Crammed in the family station wagon packed to the gills, counting state license plates...

Life is forever "partially up in the air." Choose faith. Choose joy. Choose optimism. Find time for yourself and those you love.

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Good Bread

The ponies of Shetland Island

Today I yearned for a clean, direct, open moment on the page, my friends.

To write something simple. To tell you something as I felt and thought about that something, without intellectualizing, filters, deeper or attenuated meanings. Like a sandwich. Start with good bread, crisp lettuce, garden tomato, your choice of deliciousness in the middle. Nothing complicated about a sandwich.

Why? Maybe because it's summer, the seasonal reminder that a peach plucked directly from the branch is the peach that is simply most worthy. Like you, I am chafing under the unbearable weight of the news of the world in all its foolishness, waste, and loss. I am also writing this morning in the lingering shadow of a pre-dawn dream of my mother and my dog (both long gone). A dream I did not understand but clung to like driftwood on the open sea upon waking. What is that but feeling the hard edge of life, the ache of what we cannot comprehend?

The hunger to pen sentences that lean against the door jamb, hands in pockets, at ease, reflects in part a working year of constructed essays, edits, and trenching in lines on the page - what it is to be a working writer. But I wonder, does this wish for ease hint at a sea change within? Toward a way of being and writing less constructed but warmly essential? Less clever, a little bit messy? Maybe there is a part of me that needs to sow a handful of words and let them bloom where they fall, full of will and wildness.

Poetry will always speak of life far truer than my words. The ways of poetry hold us bathed in the starlight of distant stars we do not yet see. In a poem what is, is given shape, a doorway. So I begin here, with this powerful poem by the late Philip Levine. Enjoy.

THE SIMPLE TRUTH
by Philip Levine

I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.
Then I walked through the dried fields
on the edge of town. In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light. The woman who sold me
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,
she swore, from New Jersey. "Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."

Some things
you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.
My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself,
and the two of us to betray our love. Can you taste
what I'm saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.


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Pent In The Shadows

CHRISTMAS SPARROW
by Billy Collins

The first thing I heard this morning
was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent -

wings against glass as it turned out
downstairs when I saw the small bird
rioting in the frame of a high window,
trying to hurl itself through
the enigma of transparency into the spacious light.

Then a noise in the throat of the cat
hunkered on the rug
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in the cold night
through the flap in a basement door,
and later released from the soft grip of teeth.

On a chair, I trapped its pulsations
in a shirt and got it to the door,
so weightless it seemed
to have vanished into the nest of cloth.

But outside, when I uncupped my hands,
it burst into its element,
dipping over the dormant garden
in a spasm of wingbeats
then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.

For the rest of the day,
I could feel its wild thrumming
against my palms as I wondered about
the hours it must have spent
pent in the shadows of that room,
hidden in the spiky branches
of our decorated tree, breathing there
among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,
its eyes open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight
picturing this rare, lucky sparrow
tucked into a holly bush now,
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.



This poem by Billy Collins, from a 2013 compendium of new and selected poems "Aimless Love" (Random House), evokes many feelings for me.

Interiority (noun): being within, inside of everything. Loosely that which is within; going inward, further toward a center.

For many of us, the holidays are not easy. We are the ones with grief tucked in a back pocket. Interiority a place we dwell in instinctive rebuff of a season frequently marked by chaotic family gatherings, lush sentimentality, bombastic festivities, and prickly, achingly nostalgic traditions. We take refuge, wait out the hours. Wary of the ways the social carousel tenders the blues. The mood is not exactly melancholy, certainly not joy, but more fragile. A splintered heart. A clear-as-glass gathering of the self.

I was reminded of all of this recently chatting with a friend in New York about the recent loss of her mother and her difficulty enjoying the season. "How is it for you?" she asked.

Indeed. How is it for me? After a decade of widowhood and a recent remarriage, I find myself in a different place now than in the years leading to this moment. The word I reached for was "serene" as I answered my friend. But that is not quite right. "Serene" implies a peaceful contentment when I am thinking of quiet still waters. The truth is I am not beyond it, even a decade later as I reflect on the death of my first husband, Ken. But I have come to accept it. And as time swallows the insignificant and polishes the pure, I have found comfort in the goodness of our years together. There is acceptance in surrender, knowing loss is nonnegotiable. I have learned I can thrive at the kinder edges of that once-gaping hole. I want to tell my friend, Time will gentle loss, and life will come to mean more than enduring sadness. There will be joy - and that is okay.

The commitment to a new marriage - to growing, building, loving - helped free my life from loneliness. For loss is lonely. Others skirt its cold shadow. I will never not feel my grief, but that pain no longer paralyzes living. I have come to see grief and sadness as one more beautiful ring of color encompassing the soul. Much as a seashell forms bands of ridges, rings, and patterns in response to the ocean, so have I, living this life given me. Part of the beauty of Collins's poem is its inexpressible awareness of the nuanced shadows of danger and mercy, moonlight and grace - the very Christmas sparrow I want to place in the hand of my friend, closing her fingers gently around the gift. This is life. And someday, that acceptance will be enough to fly to joy again.

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Gatherings

We artists are mythmakers, and we participate with everybody else in the social construction of reality.
- Helen Mayer Harrison

Thanksgiving is near, and many of us turn our thoughts to upcoming gatherings. We may grow thoughtful as we noodle over grocery lists, our thoughts preoccupied by the complexities of hosting relatives from afar. Or we may be the ones to pack our bags, steeled for that bumpy emotional ride that so often comprises family immersion. The personal challenges and issues are real, but our anxiety is frequently intensified by overthinking. We are erecting moats, laying in reserves, presenting an obligatory delegation in lieu of our hearts.

Our modern century is tough on connection. We crave relationships, a sense of belonging that will endure. We need this. When we come together in celebration, let us bring our goodwill. Let us avoid the stresses of elaborate planning and impossible expectations. Oscar Wilde remarked, "Simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex." Be simple. Take each moment as it comes. Tilt the table whenever possible toward joy and contentment and away from conflict. Thorny issues are not resolved over dinner tables.

Here is a Quintessence post from November 25, 2012 that opens on powerful words from poet Philip Levine:

Some things
you know all your life. They are simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter, and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.


- from "The Simple Truth," Philip Levine

The beauty of love is that it is capable of great patience and tremendous tenacity. Love stretches, it attaches, it builds, slow like bone. This life is a journey. Moving and changing, we experience the gestation of new forms of connection and partnership, new expressions of family. We evolve new ways of being, new shapes for the lives we lead. It is the simple truth to say living is ever-becoming. And while this process is neither easy nor pristinely beautiful, imperfect in process in fact, the becoming is perfect in intent - grounded in the earth and in the heavens. We find joy when we reach beyond the self. The human heart is a warrior and a monk. And it speaks a simple truth: Belong.

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Untrodden Ways


SHE DWELT AMONG THE UNTRODDEN WAYS
by William Wordsworth

She dwelt among the untrodden ways
Beside the springs of Dove.
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love;

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
~ Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and oh,
The difference to me!


Nature's transcendence over human life was a powerful theme for William Wordsworth, an English poet whose life straddled the turn of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century; a fluid time of traditions in neoclassicism and romanticism and growth in rational thinking and science. This beautiful, emotionally-compressed elegy, a poem written in 1800, is one of Wordsworth's famous "Lucy" poems.

Wordsworth muses at greater length on transcendence in "Three Years She Grew." In this poem celebrating the entwined relationship of life and nature, surrendering to the fragility of human life in an otherwise omnipotent universe, the poet's reconciliation takes predominance over grief. The poet accepts the sovereignty of Nature, a pastoral realism captured in this opening line, "Three years she grew in sun and shower." In a following stanza in "Three Years She Grew," Wordsworth yields to Nature's claim on Lucy -
"The stars of midnight shall be dear
To her; and she shall lean her ear
In many a secret place

The poet then concludes the poem with, "The memory of what has been,/And nevermore will be." Returning to the personal, and acknowledging the final passing of a beloved physical presence into memory.

Return for a moment to the opening poem: What I appreciate about "Untrodden Ways" is the simplicity of language and emotion Wordsworth used to capture a universal truth - that loss takes place in a context of invisibility to the world at large. We are pained by our personal sorrow amidst the mute indifference of others. "The difference to me!" - Wordsworth's ending line - makes a powerful and poignant statement. Love is always personal, and yet in most ways, invisible to others. If you have loved and lost someone very close, you know the edged emotion expressed by Wordsworth in, "few could know/ When Lucy ceased to be." The truth that although any of us may "dwell among the untrodden ways," we shine "fair as a star" to those that love us.

Yesterday a short story I wrote inspired from a single line in an obituary I read a few years back was published online in an international journal, The Stockholm Review of Literature (www.thestockholmreview.org). The theme of this story keeps company with Wordsworth's Lucy poems - observing the ways we accept and inhabit our vulnerability loving others. An online link to "Sunday Dinner" is copied below, as well as to a poem "Coffee and Keys" featured in the same issue. You may copy and paste these links into your browser to read, or click directly to the story and poem from my home page where I include live links under New and Notable.

I hope you enjoy this recent work.
"Sunday Dinner"
http://thestockholmreview.org/the-soderberg-section/sunday-dinner-by-glenda-burgess/

"Coffee and Keys"
http://thestockholmreview.org/the-stagnelius-section/glenda-burgess/
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Poetic Drama


It is a function of all art to give us some perception of an order in life, by imposing an order upon it. The painter works by selection, combination, and emphasis among the elements of the visible world; the musicians, in the world of sound. It seems to me that beyond the nameable, classifiable emotions and motives of our conscious life when directed toward action - the part of life which prose drama is wholly adequate to express - there is a fringe of indefinite extent, of feeling which we can only detect, so to speak, out of the corner of the eye and can never completely focus; of feeling of which we are only aware in a kind of temporary detachment from action. There are great prose dramatists - such as Ibsen and Chekhov - who have at times done things of which I would not otherwise have supposed prose to be capable, but who seem to me, despite their success, to have been hampered in expression by writing in prose. This peculiar range of sensibility can be expressed by dramatic poetry, at its moments of greatest intensity. At such moments, we touch the border of those feelings which only music can express. We can never emulate music, because to arrive at the condition of music would be an annihilation of dramatic poetry. Nevertheless, I have before my eyes a kind of mirage of the perfection of verse drama, which would be a design of human action and of words, such as to present at once the two aspects of dramatic and musical order. It seems to me that Shakespeare achieved this at least in certain scenes - even rather early, for there is the balcony scene of "Romeo and Juliet"- and that this was what he was striving toward in his late plays. To go as far in this direction as it is possible to go, without losing contact with the ordinary everyday world with which drama must come to terms, seems to me the proper aim of dramatic poetry. For it is ultimately the function of art, in imposing a credible order upon ordinary reality, and thereby eliciting some perception of an order in reality, to bring to us a condition of serenity, stillness, and reconciliation; and then leave us, as Virgil left Dante, to proceed toward a region where that guide can avail us no further.
~ T. S. Eliot, POETRY AND DRAMA, The First Theodore Spencer Memorial Lecture, 1950

Here is the challenge with which drama must come to terms: To go as far as it is possible to go without losing contact with the ordinary everyday world. The meat of all art lies in that single sentence. Eliot defines a powerful philosophy of creative endeavor - "For it is ultimately the function of art, imposing a credible order upon ordinary reality, and thereby eliciting some perception of an order in reality, to bring us to a condition of serenity..." And? And? Leave us. On the edge of an unfathomable abyss of the undefined; intuiting an understanding for which words fall short.

I am musing today on favorite works of art and music. Books I have read for which this alchemy of order-imposed-upon-mystery rings true. You must have them as well. This morning I am listening to a recording of Puccini's Madama Butterfly. Is this the voice of poetry? Hear the secrets. The weighted crack of heartbreak - the single clear notes quivering in the air. I am lost in the farewell aria Addio Fiorito Asil. She is singing, "The boy's name is Trouble, but he will be renamed Joy upon his father's return..." And then I glance at my bookshelf and think of the description of winemaking in Anne Carson's prose poem, The Beauty of the Husband, that lays forth all of what she will say about love in one devastating sentence - "An ideal wine grape/is one that is easily crushed." Or of late, closing the book on Anthony Doerr's exquisite All the Light We Cannot See, "Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world."

The perception of an order in life: words and images, a nuance. A tangible thing composed, danced, hammered, sketched, or sung from the everyday ordinary. The world arranged for us in transcendent verse. Awareness gathered in a glance, from a tear drop, plucked from a tide pool abandoned by the sea. The hint of possibility.

If you can, take a moment. Study the way light falls across the stubbled field. Hear the wind worrying in the birch leaves. Speak aloud the words of a love letter. Follow a painting in, in through the artist's eyes. All that life is, actually is, lies at the edge of comprehension. There but not there: the lingering strands of a dream. Find your way. Seek the brave unknowing. As Virgil left Dante.


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