towards the west coast of England. We’re running castle to castle again come February. But still a long way to go before that. The dog is staring at me. We’ve both grown soft on this side of summer and I believe he feels a similar ambivalence facing the prospect of leaving this warm little library…
After a glass of wine, my inner critic no longer tells me I need to get the answers right.
After a glass of wine, she actually sounds a lot like Dorothy Parker – ’cause when she’s tipsy she sides with me, and turns on everyone else.
I have been walking so softly – for almost half my life now – that I am a brittle presence in the world. So obsessed with belonging, with not belonging, that I’ve sprouted protection. “Don’t touch me.” All the while sending little coded messages into the world, in the form of poems. In books that no one can find. I have competing desires. (If fear isn’t a form of desire, self-protection is.)
For some reason I just had a thought about my mother telling me she used to rehearse for her mother’s death. That’s a pretty messed-up way to go through life, isn’t it?
I think I inherited that practice. I rehearse for the worse. I don’t trust my resilience. Although in this case, it means that I’ve started a new one: a new play.
I’m taking a break from social media, and I’ve removed all the news apps from my phone, save the New York Times and NRK. I get up at 5 and do yoga and meditation before I check the news. I figure, if the world is ending, I will have squeezed another peaceful half-hour of life before it does. I’m not saying ignorance is bliss, but why forfeit all that is good?
Maybe I’m lucky, in that I wouldn’t have back my experience of “youth” for the world. Even if that means I have pain in my big toe, in my knees; bifocals and a tendency to say, “Huh?”.
I’m lucky that because of my youth, I know that the rain that beats on the roof will eventually stop. And that all this political turmoil will pass, one way or another. And one way or another we move on. Regroup. Grow.
Forgive. I guess.
Sometimes – just sometimes – I envy young people their hubris. The more we know, the more we know we do not know. How to marry that knowledge with daring? Socrates did it, right?
They say he was a jerk.
And I think there might be even more to it than that. When we glimpse ourselves in that way, we are unaware that we are seeing ourselves. We are looking objectively at the world (in the best sense), and seeing with the compassionate – or even admiring – eye that we look at others with. When we recognize ourselves, we turn on ourselves. With the conscious “posing” comes the conscious judgement. Or vice versa. We wilt under judgement.
This is why I need running, too. The warrior-poet me moves (and does not think). Like you, she gets out of her head, presses against the earth – gives and takes in a space of quiet. It is time-out from self-analysis, conversation, and the mental struggling I do too often with other people. A rock is a rock, and it has no intention that I feel necessary to root out and interpret. The patch of snow, slick instead of crusty, had no intention to make me fall on my ass. I should probably learn to treat people as I do nature.
I’ve seen my dog summon puppy-like energy to chase a toy rat – just until she gets her teeth on the edge of it. Then she realizes it isn’t interesting at all, and she goes back, circles a little square foot of floor, and lies down again. Disappointed. I think, not as much in regards to her expectations, but in regard to suckering herself into expectations. She knows it tastes like cardboard and plastic. Not rat.
This is a season of quiet. I want to retreat to a cabin in the valley for a few weeks. I want to pull away, and observe. Morning runs through the rustling, frozen underbrush.
Not to be talked to. Talked at. Fixed.
I want to reemerge into a world of details that have worked out their individual spats, sighed with relief, and gotten on with it all.
Without my well-intentioned interference.
(And my apology to email subscribers for the premature publishing of a draft yesterday.) Carolee, Last night I read the day’s poem from A Year With Rilke before bed. Since your letter last week, I’ve been reading them aloud. This poem was actually a letter: [..N]ow at last I can breathe. Now everything is…
I wrote last time about banging pots and pans and getting ready for Christmas. I haven’t done that. I guess by now, from the tone of this letter, that is pretty obvious. I did pull out the Pete Seeger Christmas CD set. And as I typed that sentence, as though he’d read my mind, E. lit the candles here on the table. Now he is eating a cookie. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. He is definitely not reading my mind now. Marriage. It is all about balance, isn’t it?
And every time I exhale, I watch a cloud form in front of me. There are glimmers of blue and red in the light of the headlamp. It becomes very meditative: watching the cloud form again and again. Only, instead of thinking about peace and the effortlessness of a Buddhist life, I think about the Little Engine that Could and how it seems every moment is a struggle against stillness. Life itself a disruption, the workhorse of a universe that would much rather remain at rest.
It is funny how memories are connected to places. Though sometimes inaccurately. They are free-floating, but put down roots. Like weeds, they will find a way. They will break through the concrete, they will travel over oceans. They tether themselves to whatever they can grab hold of. And will not be excised.
As I type this, I think about a conversation I had yesterday with a student who is struggling with the same thing. I talked to her about recognizing when to push back at the world, and when to relax, gather strength; and to never beat oneself up for not being perfect. Now my own advice comes back to me with a wink. This seems to happen a lot. This kind of synchronicity can either strike me in completely narcissistic terms – believing everything in the universe is designed to be a personal message for me – or it can open me to the fact that I am in no way unique, and that I’m completely blind in terms of my own weaknesses… and wisdoms. I’m ashamed to say I often have to remind myself of the latter.
It brings me to Orr’s phrase to describe poetry: “the eros of langauge”. I think poetry is necessary because it bridges the gap between the corporal and the intellectual in a way no other writing can. Why we say novels that tell the truth are “poetic”. When we speak poetry, sing it, it becomes corporal. It’s funny that when we sing the word “love”, we are not supposed to sing “luhv”, with its stingy and clenched vowell, but we’re supposed to open the mouth, sing “lahv”- with a wide-open palate. Because it hits us in the gut with its beauty then. Openness.