Friday, January 23, 2015

Dear Quiet One

Dear Quiet One,

It’s no mistake—
you were invited to the party
on purpose.
And if you only dance
hidden in some
out-of-the-way place
where no one will see,
the Dance won’t mind at all.
The air is your partner—

set the room on fire.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Medley, 1/21/15

So my writing recently has focused on things other than for this blog. It’s a shift I’m enjoying, but being a little out of the blog habit makes emerging from my shell that much more uncomfortable. Today, though, I thought I’d share a few of the things that have been on my mind:

1. This article about phone use and boredom. It came out more than a week ago but I keep thinking about it. This idea that allowing the mind to wander is great for creativity is not new to me, and I have been working to make/keep space for that in my life. (My new battle cry, in fact, may be “Make space!”—not just for creativity but for life in general.) The idea that my smartphone gets in the way of or fills that space makes sense. I do not think I will download an app to help me with this problem, but it is something I’m attending to in my own life. The thing that actually fascinates me the most about this article, though, is the idea of boredom. I’ve maybe always equated boredom with restlessness, for example being in a situation that I had to pay attention to something I wasn’t interested in. The state I’m in when my mind wanders—I don’t have a lot of trouble getting there, and I enjoy it a lot. I’m not sure I’ve ever considered that boredom. What about you?

2. One of the books I’ve been burying myself in recently is The Gift: Poems byHafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky, entirely because of two poems I keep running across/thinking about: “With That Moon Language,” and “Dropping Keys.” I'm moving slowly through this book; I keep finding new favorites. I keep wanting to write more poems myself, and at the same time I feel tempted to quit. Maybe everything good has already been said.

2. And then this, a TED talk by Cristina Domenech, “Poetry that frees the soul,” about teaching poetry in an Argentinian prison: “And in that seventh circle of hell, our very own, beloved circle, they learned that they could make the walls invisible, that they could make the windows yell, and that we could hide inside the shadows.” Please make time for about 12 ½ minutes and subtitles. 

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Questions, Answers

Last week I wrote some, practiced some, organized some. I did lots of normal everyday stuff and also cleaned my office (definitely not normal-everyday.) The whole week, frost flowers climbed across my office window, advancing and receding without my really noticing the movement. Just every once in a while—hey, look at that! and later—gone.

Also last week, from A.Word.A.Day, this: There are years that ask questions and years that answer. –Zora Neale Hurston

I’m so glad that’s true.

I had been suspecting it, wondering on some level. Because what a relief. If entire years can ask and answer questions then that allows for time—long stretches of itand all the other things that move slowly and profoundly but only while you aren’t looking. Like the frost on my window.

*     *     *

Friday afternoon, as we worked our way through a bitter windy parking lot after violin, Oldest and Middle expounded on the future of technology. The things they talked about teetered on the brink of science fiction: information uploaded directly into our brains, easy learning, instant knowledge. I had to ask: So is being able to carry or transfer information the same as knowing something? I think they thought I was trying to be argumentative, but I wasn’t. I spend hours a day trying to move people from understanding, to ability, to something that is a deep abiding part of their being. Besides effort and process, the thing that seems to matter the most in this progression is time.

*     *     *

Whole years of questions = whole years of discomfort, true. But the softness of not-knowing is there, too. Have you ever run into the hard brick wall of someone else’s Knowing? I think I prefer softness. That slow slow motion and growth. Because it must be here in the question years that compassion grows, and humility, and humanity.

The years that answer—they are like breathing pure oxygen. Peaceful, whole. Welcome. And yet they probably hold as much potential for danger as the question years. A person could get stuck there. The questions and answers need each other desperately, and as much as I hate to admit it I need them both.

These are things I maybe have not wanted to accept: the necessity of the question years, the long periods of time that answers and understanding require, the waiting. But the idea of slow things, of softness and knowing and Time, of a cycle of questions and answers that does not ever have to tire out—there are promises there. They make me want to promise to keep watch.

Frost flowers creep
across the window—
seen, not seen.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Day, 2015

I started this scarf almost a year ago, and worked on it through most of 2014. On and off, although looking back it's clear I spent more time not knitting than knitting. Such slow work, even after your fingers know the pattern. That's okay, because the process is the thing, at least as much as the finished piece. And besides, there it is, more finished than not. 

Consider this my version of the New Year's looking forward/looking back post:

What if everything that came to you
was in fact some sort of gift?
     yes, even that.

The fact that you do not know how
to hold such a gift easily in your hands
does not make it something else—
     inappropriate, say,
     or dangerous,
     or tragic.
Maybe it can be all those things
and gift, too.

The barrenness outside your window—
     bare branches,
     cold earth,
     long strands of sunless days—
those are Someone’s art,
their gift to the world
just like this mist-colored yarn
     in your hands.
The feel of it between your fingers,
the wrap and lift,
joining together and separating,
even the rhythm and click,
lift and pull
of the needles—
all are part of the art of it.

After a while you stop wondering
when it will be done.
You can love
the feel of the thing
growing beneath your fingers,
you can love touching your work
and seeing that it is good.
You can learn to thread yourself
     into the length of it,
you can learn to tear out the mistakes
     and re-work what went wrong,
you can learn to work backwards
     as well as forwards.
You can absorb these things
right through your skin
until you breathe pattern and softness
and the sheen of fog-colored yarn
which you are slowly knitting
into clarity.

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Light: 12/24/14

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. (Isaiah, 9:2)

Most years I cry at the end of the Christmas Eve service, while the congregation sings Silent Night by candlelight in a darkened sanctuary. This year I had two chances:

1) at the church I grew up in, with Parents and Kids and Husband. It’s not that the emotions didn’t hit hard as we started singing. It’s just that I looked at Youngest next to me and she had her head thrown back, glow stick aimed at the back of her throat, rock star/flame eater style, as she sang. And that kind of magic did not need my tears.

2) at the church later where I filled in for another violinist last-minute. The orchestra played two verses of Silent Night and then dropped out so the choir and congregation could sing a cappella for the third verse. I did not even try to sing. I closed my eyes and let myself float on the sound of the choir. And the sound did not break my heart. It lifted me out of myself the same way the waves did at Galveston Island many years ago. And that magic did not need my tears, either.

Leaving the church after my job I remembered I had no picture for tonight’s post. I also realized I still had presents to wrap. The post had no chance of being done before midnight. The luminaries curving along the path in front of me outside the church were clearly the perfect thing. But I couldn’t get a good picture. The best I got was what you see above, which I’m convinced is beyond perfect. Because I keep thinking I know exactly how I should go about doing this life thing, and I keep not getting it right but finding something better than I wanted despite that. Because I can’t stop thinking about how subversive a thing Light is, and how all it needs from us is our imperfections and our expectations and our plans, if only just to show us that this kind of magic does not need us at all. Just watch and wait.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Light: 12/22/14

Variation: Hwy 63 North

Of course all the light
is in the sky,
and reflected off the wet road
and in the headlights and taillights
smeared long
on the pavement,
but the heat—that is in the grass
along the sides of the road,
tall and tawny and gold.

It is three days before Christmas
and snow would be nice,
draped clean and sparkling
across these hills.

this is a variation 
on winter,
the same way the Nutcracker pas de deux
is a variation on a G major scale—
it may have started off as a riff
but what you get in the end
is a melody you can feel 
throughout your body—
a melody you can flow with
over and through these hills—
these hills that after seven years
have become like home
(and maybe home, too,
is a variation.)

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Light: 12/21/14

Today in Urgent Care I had a little bit of a rant: “It was January 2 years ago that I started getting sick all the time, and it’s been one thing after another ever since. I’m so fed up!”

To which Husband answered, “Ooooh, now all the germs are so scared! Every single-cell organism in the room just shuddered.”

It was worth a good belly laugh.

It has been a good day for levity. As in: we’ve had some good laughs today, and also: we needed some good laughs today.

I have felt good for one week since the most recent sinus/bronchial infection. Now I have shingles. Add the last 2+ months of kid’s illnesses, add all the hours of sitting in or driving to and from doctor’s offices with them, add the stupid asthma that four of us have, and the medicine that helps us breathe that costs twice as much this year as it did last year, add that while the pet mouse has been slowly gruesomely dying of cancer the pet hamster and pet fish died unexpectedly. Things could certainly be worse. But I’m really, really tired of acting like I’m patient.

I can’t say we laughed light-heartedly but we laughed a lot, and shot-through with all kinds of light. That is a levity I can trust , close to perfection.

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Light: 12/20/14

We decorated, at least part-way. The to-do list is shorter than it's been in months. I gave Oldest a haircut—one of the most improvisatory ever, and he trusted me. The weight of everything tonight is more moon-weight than earth-weight, which means it will float away before I can catch it, but for the moment feels perfect.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Light: 12/19/14

I live in a world where things like this sparkly bouncy ball just show up, possibly out of thin air. Also magical: the patch of glitter glue on the floor in the den (I left it there on purpose, a memento.) 

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