This is one of those mornings where my tea is already cold as I open the computer program. My routine crumbled even before I got out of bed. And as I type this Norwegian words keep intruding in my inner monolog, which is rare. I don’t want to use the world crumble. “Smuldre” comes to mind instead. I think this means I am primed to write poetry today. Onomatopoeia taking precedence over everything this morning. My personal, physical relationship with words.

Crumbles. “Like a cookie”. Dry, granular.
Smuldre opp. It is a perfect translation for crumble, but the sm sound feels softer. It’s still dry but not granular – more like old paper. Dust.

I suppose being an outsider means having a peculiar relationship to a new language as a boxful of tiny objects to make sense of and piece together. A second language rarely arrives in context.

I over-analyze the shape and sound and discrete parts of each word. I experience imaginative literal (and visceral) origins of phrases. Å gå i oppløsning: To become loosened into non-being. It’s not the same thing as dissolve. It feels different on an emotional level. And for me, all emotions begin as physical sensations.

The thing is I can’t write in Norwegian because how I feel the language and how it is read and understood by native speakers are two different things. Norwegians will argue with me (and be right, of course) that both cookies and wet paper smuldrer.

When I write, I often wind up searching for a way to translate my understanding of a Norwegian phrase back into English. Norwegian has become a kind of poetry tool for me to play with. A shift in perspective that is almost magical. Probably because it comes from a place of ignorance.

I think of Picasso when he talked about the art of trying to paint like a child. This, years after he’d learned classical painting techniques. He wanted to de-familiarize himself with painting.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphaelbut a lifetime to paint like a child.”

– Pablo Picasso

I have a lot of personal issues with Picasso as a role model of any sort, but I do think that there is a value in going back to pick up dropped stitches – things we let go of along the way that can provide us a kind of structural integrity for our creative perspectives/pursuits/contributions.

I think that this is just another way of talking about “The Beginner’s Mind”.

The creativity coach Jen Louden talks about beginning again – always beginning again. But I am now putting that together with a deeper understanding. This doesn’t mean picking up where you left off and continue. It means pulling back, shaking it off, and beginning again from a point of ignorance—with the integrity of experience, but not using experience as a pathfinder.

Begin. The word doesn’t begin with a breathy vowel, rising passively on the continuation of an exhalation. It is plosive. Explosive. It’s the new calf being let out of the barn in spring.

It also ends in n, the tongue vibrating on top of the mouth.

It’s a nice feeling.

E. says often lately that “beginning again” is everything now that we are getting older. We are guaranteed to have trip-ups that will keep us off the trail and make it difficult to lace up the shoes and get out there. The key now isn’t to aim for improvement, it is to aim for continuation, to get up again. To keep getting up again.

The last two days have begun with beautiful sunrises, while the weather is clear and cold. The fire-bright bleed before the sun actually rises. The still water that mirrors the sky. All this makes it easier. I lift my chest and drop my spine into the center of my back, shoulders relaxed. I let go of thoughts about work, or about books, and I notice the birds. The mourning dove this morning flying unusually low to the ground, perching on a low branch in the same tree where the small squirrel lives now. Three grackles were tussling mid-flight.

The strangest thing was that we passed a group of people, 7 maybe, walking in a tight cluster. It’s unusual for people to be out so early, but it has been a year since so many people have walked to closely together. It’s a sign that the county has finally stepped up the vaccinations. It’s odd that I feel almost an apprehension about things returning to the way they were. I am ready, and I’m not. I think it’s because I feel that I’ve failed at this Covid society so far. I need to figure it out before I have to move on. I feel like I’ve missed something important. I have no idea what it is, but there’s something. A lesson? An accomplishment? An epiphany?

Maybe I am thinking that if I haven’t found the time to calm down and do things like read for fun, go for long walks more often – when will I when things speed up again? I am not ready for things to speed up. Am I alone with this feeling? Stop, stop, stop until I get my head wrapped around all of this.

Of course I’m not alone. Again, I think we can hear something over and over and think we understand it, until we experience it. “Get off this rollercoaster” is so general it can be applied over and over in our lives, and mean entirely different things: Oh! NOW I get it for real. Oh, no, I didn’t really get it! But NOW!

But what is the name of that ride where you stand, back to the wall, while everything spins and plasters you to the edges while it tips sideways? The Graviton Theatre. How could I forget?

That. Who knew the designers of carnival rides were poets working with physical metaphors for our lives to come?

When I was about 6 my mother was trying to sweeten the pot when leaving me with new babysitters: They’re making tacos for dinner. But the couple was from Mexico and their “tacos” were something I’d never seen before. Creamy, greenish, bland chicken, soft tortilla shells. No cheddar. No jalapenos. What?! I remember thinking it tasted very “grown-up”. There is little worse (to this day) than anticipating a dish then being presented with some twisted version of what you know and have been salivating at the thought of.

I have no idea why that popped into my head. I suppose we learn that words aren’t always a reliable indicator of a shared reality. I suppose it has something to do with the five aggregates, staying in the moment, and not clinging to expectations.

And I think the five aggregates have everything to do with poetry.

A good poem (in my opinion) works through all of them: form, sensations, perceptions, ideas, and discernment. Maybe poetry is nothing more than the attempt to overcome the limitations of words through metaphors.

My love is like an overripe peach
too soft to touch without
bruising in spots – sweet
maybe, but too round
on the tongue, too
indistinct