Monday, March 27, 2017

Wholeness

Poets Joseph Brodsky, left, and fellow Nobel Prize Laureate Derek Walcott.
A revisited post from March 22, 2011.  At the original post, readers have left their own experiences of being saved by poetry, a form which will forever unite us.  You will find the comments here.

In cultures other than mine there are ceremonies to restore balance, refit missing pieces into the spaces left by their exodus. My absence from self has been an itinerary of comings and goings for which no estimated times of arrival or departure were known.

Before poetry - appreciated and even studied long ago but not absorbed, not inhaled, no door opened wide enough for habitation, accommodating the bulky goods with which it travels - caught me, I assumed that my once-absent segments had all flown home. Now I find that what I took for life in full measure was more a silhouette. Poetry has a way of poking its fingers into vacant corners, eyebrows raised with the question, shouldn't there be something here?

Poetry, if it wanted to, could beat any self-help manual senseless. A poem is a far more believable testimonial: I survived to write this. Poetry doesn't tell you, it shows you. How is it that, over not so many months, a literary form, an art, has become teacher, guide, source of wisdom and the voice that keeps me awake at night (in a good way)? Painful shards of memory that used to steal my breath now look like material.

There is study ahead, there is travel. My fragments could turn up anywhere. They arrive in daily emails, my heart lurching in recognition. They emerge in posts and comments, they step shyly forward from links that have a telling glimmer: look here.

In a culture thought by some to be without shamans we are not lost or abandoned. The poets rattle and drum, they chant and dance. We are redeemed by words, their incantations point the way.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Word of the Week - 159

Art by Michael Sowa.
Word of the Week:  GIFT

I assume we each retain possession of a child's delight upon receiving a gift, especially when it arrives as a surprise.  What a bonanza this week when a friend sent not only the newest version of the FLOW BOOK FOR PAPER LOVERS (300 pages of paper-paper-and more paper, the subject of a future post) and her copy of SOWA'S ARK, a collection of creatures which inhabit the imagination of German artist Michael Sowa.
One of Sowa's many rabbit illustrations.
A Sowa snail of intimidating size.
Thank you, Elaine, for the multi-part joy, first the arrival, then the opening and now the ongoing enjoyment of the rich contents.  In my family, we called such surprises "Hi presents."  Thoughtful, generous and such fun to receive.

If you are interested, the book is available from Amazon, here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Word of the Week - 158

Jeong Kwan, a South Korean Buddhist nun, is featured in an episode of the series, Chef's Table.

Word(s) of the Week:  TEMPLE FOOD

I will allow the links and the chef herself to tell what moved me so deeply about this program.  The most I can add is that my own sense of rightness about the world, a world in which peace, beauty, devotion, ceremony, sacredness, generosity, stillness, attention and love not only exist but are valued, perpetuated, feels greatly affirmed.  If you, as I, have felt estranged from long-held truths,  please permit yourself this accessible period of restoration.  And the pure art of vegetarian meals, called simply temple food by the chef.

This will take you to a New York Times article about Jeong Kwan.  Here is a recap of the series episode, available on Netflix.

To find the show, it is Episode 1 of Season 3 of CHEF'S TABLE, however you watch streaming programs.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Word of the Week - 157

Art by Lisa Kaser.
Word(s) of the Week:  HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY THAT I LOVE YOU?

My family of origin was not much for saying, "I love you."  I actually cannot remember it being said to me or among the five of us as my sister, brother and I were growing up.  We siblings say it now, yes we do.  The words are spoken between me and my friends, me and my son.  Anyone who reads this blog or any FB posts knows that I love lots.  Lots of people, things, weather, states of being, colors, creatures and love itself.  I had a rubber stamp made, small, simple, that urges, "Fall in love with everything."

I was already thinking of this phrase for Word of the Week when last night I dreamed - for about the nine-hundred-and-forty-seven-thousandth time - of an old beau.  In the dream I had to turn down an invitation to be his date at a car show, his yellow dream Chevrolet beckoning, as I was already going with someone else.  The someone else said, "You know how much he's in love with you, don't you?"  My answer was, "Yes, but he won't do anything about it."  (Please excuse me for I know the dreams of other people are generally tedious.)  The dream caused me to ponder more than four decades speckled with memorable, treasured blurts of affection.  We are not growing younger, just like the rest of you.  I grapple with the still-adolescent parts of my mind that think saying those words to a man who has been a friend, uniquely, to me for more than half my life has to be "going somewhere."  What a twit I can be.  It has always been somewhere, everywhere.  It is a gift, as my sister might say, "A pearl beyond price," to have people we love, even better but not required if they love us back.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Word of the Week - 156

All paintings by Stephane Dauthuille.
Word of the Week:  INCOMPLETE

I look at the art of Stephane Dauthuille, the heads or limbs of his richly-gowned women existing just outside the paintings' edges, and I do not wonder what is missing.  I have no feeling that what these works say to me is an incomplete message.  They speak fully.  We are each allowed to interpret as we will.

The notion of a life in which nothing essential is missing is relatively new to me.  Any of us of moderate means is capable of wishing for material goods or circumstances that could, we believe, make everything better.  Depending on your definition of better.

A heart or mind that chases after the unattainable allows a sense of lack to cast shadows on what actually IS, obscuring, diminishing what we have.  Contentment is not a product of merely having but of the awareness of and gratitude for what is present.   As I write this, it sounds simplistic.  Of course, everyone knows that, I chide myself.  I can't say that I've always known it.

As the only story I can tell fully is my own and though I may write "we," what I mean is me/I.  Historically, my greatest sense of incompleteness involves my relationship with myself, with a notion of insufficiency in every nameable category.  Becoming our authentic selves, allowing that to be not only enough but desirable requires such traits as acceptance, faith/trust, the willing suspense of doubt and continually reviewing the situation.

I assume of others as I do of myself that we are all works in progress.  I once believed that meant an endless striving to be somehow better than I was.  I had no idea there could be something succulent about being miraculously ordinary, ordinary meaning just me being me.  To be fully who we are,  treasuring that profound and unique state without apology or asterisks to indicate missing parts, ah, there's a challenge.  Within the boundaries of human life with its sorrows, we seem to have the option of being not only happy but complete.  When our mother passed, my sister described her as dancing in heaven with her mother, now restored to two good legs.  In the realm of spirit, measured by the heart, I believe I have what I need, two good legs and a great deal more.   

Monday, February 20, 2017

Word of the Week - 155

Portion of "Window in Collioure" by Henri Matisse, 1942
Word of the Week: TIPTOE 

My thought for the week:  I'd rather not walk where I feel the need to tiptoe.  I am at home in art, in beauty, in poetry, color, music, laughter, all foods for the senses.  I find strength there, bedrock wisdom, grounding.  For whatever life has planned, I am better for leaning into what provides enduringly solid footing while acting as a timeless balm for my soul.



Monday, February 13, 2017

Word of the Week - 154

Illustrator Pablo Auladell and friend.
Writer/artist Edward Gorey as puppeteer.
Word(s) of the Week:  INNER CREATURES

Various sources tell us of our inner beings, the ways they inform and shape our lives.  Inner goddesses, the inner child, inner chef, inner entrepreneur.  I wish for us each to claim our inner creatures.

My creatures are closely tied to the inner child, their gifts the ones I wish she'd had to provide a greater sense of safety and of self.  My inner octopus, a master of camouflage and squeezing into tiny hiding places.  Tentacles, essentially eight additional brains, would have sensed when conditions required caution.  I cannot imagine an octopus behaving recklessly.  My outer child/teenager was a puzzling combinations of timid and foolhardy.  The creature's ability to move swiftly yet with the languid grace found in water-dwellers speaks to my inner mermaid.  The sense of becoming weightless, certainly less gravity-dominated in water still calls to me.

My inner bear, considered a light hibernator, enjoys long winter naps while being able to awaken and take part in Christmas festivities and a winter birthday, neither of which require actually getting dressed.  An especially thick, warm bathrobe could transition handsomely between cave and civilization and would, of course, have roomy pockets to carry foraged treats back to the nest.  There might also be an inner tortoise capable of hibernating more deeply.  The three which were family pets spent their winters in a well-protected location packed with dry leaves, hibernation by concierge.

There is probably a spot at which a spirit animal and inner creature intersect.  The attributes of totem forms supply what we most need: a moth, a crow, a fish and my most frequent visitors, parrots.  We live in one of the Southern California neighborhoods inhabited by flocks of wild Amazon parrots.  They roost and cavort just outside our windows.  At times their squawking drowns out conversation.  We invent dialogue for them, their loud exchanges sounding like accusation and complaint.

For at least the past 10 years or so I have identified with the story of Ferdinand the Bull, realizing that my activity of greatest comfort is a metaphoric smelling of the flowers, sidestepping conflict, declining to engage in rivalries, feuds, stink talk in general.  With the goal of a quiet mind and quiet heart, I follow Ferdinand's example, growing still as I celebrate beauty wherever I find it.

In another post, we may contemplate inner fictional human creatures.

Wishing you blessings of all the Animal Gods.  (Thank you, Rebecca.)  xo