On Herds, Husbands & Riffing on Writing

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Cattle_herd public domainSerendipity, it’s sometimes called. Those happy coincidences that lead to some unexpected pleasure or insight. Or synchronicity. Those meaningful encounters that, touching tangentially upon something you’ve been musing upon, spark a new way of thinking about it. Then off you go, riffing on the topic the way jamming jazz musicians will do.

Here’s how it happened recently. I was grazing on Twitter and found a link to an essay that sounded interesting, taking me to new site called The Toast. The essay that drew me there did not pan out, but I found a link to something else that sparked my interest: “Some: Poetic Essay” by Julia Shipley. So I went there.

Now the essay starts out talking about horses and cows and the poets who write about them. Normally I’m not much interested in barnyard animals, but once when I was looking for a particular poem by Hayden Carruth, I came across his “Cows at Night” which I loved so much I blogged about it. (Another example of serendipity.)

Hoping that Shipley’s essay on cows might provide a similar unexpected pleasure, I continued reading. That’s when I came across these lovely lines and immediately tweeted my pleasure to others.

“The names of the herd tell a story, the way a group of stars makes a constellation.”

As I continued reading, the essay took an interesting turn, morphing from a mediation on cows, to a mediation on men, or on prospective husbands, to be exact.

A line about how some couples “pull together” in a marriage “like a pair of horses working in a synchronized pace” caught my attention. I’d been musing a lot lately about marriage, how it goes through different stages, and how while my husband and I still pull together in the same direction from time to time, more often than not we wander off in different directions. It’s becoming apparent how little we have in common.

While we both took early retirements, and we’re both home bodies, we seldom see each other and do little together. We eat at different times mostly, take walks at different times, swim at different times. We watch different shows on TV and pursue separate hobbies. Our paths cross only intermittently throughout the day, and while those crossings are pleasant enough, they are usually unplanned.

Sometimes I worry about us. Our marriage. Do we spend too much time alone? Is this healthy? Should we try to find ways to spend more time together? But then I realize: I’m quite content this way. As a writer, I like having time to myself. I like knowing he doesn’t need me or feel neglected when I’m off by myself. We’re alone, but not lonely.

I’m coming to think of us like the lines in a sparse drawing. We rarely touch, but we cross now and then, and our crossings shape our days and our lives and fills up the space that surrounds us in meaningful and comforting ways. Spare lines and plenty of white space, but pleasantly so.

Shipley writes about all the men she met over the years and cultivated relationships with, but who never turned out to be the husband she was looking for. She thought perhaps she was in love with the idea of love more than in wanting any particular man.

I wonder that myself sometimes. I like having a husband, I love him deeply, but I’m not “in love” with him. I am, however, “in love.” It’s just not with a man, or perhaps, more truthfully, it’s with so much more than the man. It’s the man and the life and the kids and the cows at night and names like constellations. And the walking and swimming and writing. Just this, right here, right now. Riffing about the things I love.

Her essay ends with something similar:

“Once I approached another heroine, former dairy farmer Gertrude Lepine, who never married or had children, but farmed with her sisters in a Vermont hinterland called, Mud City. I asked if she missed her cows. Her herd was famous, her registered Jerseys attracted buyers from as far away as California when she retired. Sure there were some favorite cows, she told me, But it’s The Land that I love the most.

The Land.”

Yes, I’m in love with The Land too. The Land, and all it holds.

Just before her essay ends Shipley quotes a passage in Willa Cather’s O Pioneers :

The passage describes Alexandra, who took over her father’s Nebraska farm and coaxed it to glorious success, and who is now a single middle aged woman.

“ . . . she lay late abed . . . luxuriously idle, her eyes closed, she used to have the illusion of being lifted up bodily and carried lightly by someone very strong. It was a man, certainly, who carried her, but he was like no man she knew; he was much stronger and swifter, and he carried her easily as if she were a sheaf of wheat.”

What held her lightly “as if she were a sheaf of wheat” was something so much more than mere man. I feel that way too sometimes. Like I’m being tenderly picked up and carried away. By life. The joy of living. These unexpected, serendipitous pleasures. By the act of writing–taking chance encounters and spinning them into something else, tossing them out into the universe, watching them drop down into a poem, a painting, a song. A blog post perhaps.

Here’s wishing you today many serendipitous pleasures that pick you up lightly and carry you away.

The Wildness of Water

deborahbrasket:

With summer here and my 2-year blogging anniversary approaching, I thought I’d reblog one of my early posts (my second) about the pleasures of swimming and our primal connection to water.

Originally posted on Living on the Edge of the Wild:

Now that the weather has warmed and heated our pool, Dale and I go swimming every afternoon. It’s not just the exercise we look forward to, or the relief from the heat, or a pleasant way to wind down the day together. There’s something sensual and delicious about slipping into the cool water, gliding hands over head through folds of flowing silk, becoming weightless and transparent suspended beneath the sky.

I haven’t swum so much since we were living aboard La Gitana and sailing along the coasts of Baja and across the south Pacific. Then it was mostly snorkeling along the reefs, chasing schools of colorful fish, or diving for rock scallops.

Chris and Kelli snorkeling

We’d go early in the morning to forage for food and stay for hours, swimming in pairs. Dale and our son Chris would hunt for fish and lobster with spears. Our daughter Kelli and…

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Writing on Writing – A Writing Process Blog Hop

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Writing 800px-Bartholomeus_van_der_Helst_-_Regents_of_the_Walloon_Orphanage_-_WGA11346Writers love to write about writing. It’s not surprising. It’s our passion.

So when I was invited to participate in a blog-hopping writing process tour, I jumped at the chance to talk about one of the great loves of my life—writing.

The first to invite me was the lovely Rebecca Koonst, a new blogger at Mom’s So-Called Life. She writes about the pleasures and struggles of being a mom, a woman, and a wife, in a light-hearted, heartfelt way.

Author Kelly Hand also tagged me. Or maybe I tagged her. Let’s just say we got caught up in a game of tag, and we’re featuring each other in our Writing Tour posts. She wrote the Au Pair Report, a novel I loved about childcare and politics in Washington DC.

In turn, I’ve invited three other blogger-writers that I admire to join the tour on June 23: a novelist from Australia, a poet from Canada, and a fellow blogger who writes about the creative process. I hope you will hop over to their blogs next Monday. There’s more about them and links to their blogs below.

So, first question, what am I working on?

Well, it’s a bit of a jumble. I have four writing projects in various stages of completion.

From the Far Ends of the Earth, a novel: I’m in the final stages of editing this, which has gone through several sets of beta readers. It’s about what happens when the mother who has been holding together a hopelessly dysfunctional family mysteriously disappears. It’s told through the perspectives of the three family members left behind—a cranky graduate student, a heroin addict, and their emotionally distant father. How they cope with the mother’s disappearance, learn to reconnect with each other, and forge new relationships in her absence, create the heart of this novel. I wrote more about this book in a blog post celebrating the completion of my first draft, and also in the post When Things Go Missing, which includes a link to a short story based upon one of the chapters.

A Play of Dark and Light: a short story collection. I’m also working on a collection of short stories, many that I wrote long ago—getting them dusted and polished and out to literary journals. Four have been published so far. You can read more about them, with links to the stories here:
13 Ways of Looking at Dying, Just Before and the Moment After; Us, Ancient; When Things Go Missing, and Looking for Bobby.

The Adventures of La Gitana, a series for middle graders. I have the first book completed in what I envision as a series for middle-graders about a family that sails around the world, based loosely on our own family’s experience. I’ve put this on hold until I get the literary novel out to agents. You can read more about this adventure series on my writing website at www.djbrasket.com

Living on the Edge of the Wild, my blog. When I began blogging, I saw this as something I needed to do to be a serious writer, as a means toward an end. Now it’s become an end in itself, as important to me as the other writing. It’s a way to explore ideas and share them with others. It’s part memoir, part reverie, part reflection, and partly a way to share my love of art and literature with others, as well as things I’ve written and am writing (like today’s post!).

How does my work differ from others in its genres?

If From the Far Ends of the Earth differs from other literary novels, it may be in that one of the main characters, the mother at the center of the story, is absent. Apart from the prologue, which is written from her perspective, the reader only comes to know her through the eyes of the people she leaves behind. And through the photographs she mails her son, and the messages she leaves on her daughter’s answering machine. Otherwise, she remains an enigma, as I believe we all remain in the end to a large extent. This is one of the main themes of the book, how we see each other subjectively, filtered through our own desires and fears, memories and misconceptions. While the “truth” about each other remains largely a mystery.

My short stories may be unique in how they explore psychological states of mind. While they have plots—things happen–what’s of interest to me, and I hope the reader, is what’s going on inside their heads and hearts, what makes them tick, or not tick. There are some elements of magical realism:

Fine and Shimmering tells the story of a young woman in a bad marriage who feels she’s not quite real, but lightly tethered to earth by a fine and shimmering cord.
In Tamara in Her Garden, the daughter of a Jeffry Dahmer-type mass murderer recognizes traits of her father in herself and retreats from her lover and analyst to her garden which becomes a metaphor for the beauty and brutality she sees rolled up together in the world and others.
The Man in the Attic is about a woman who has become so hyper self-conscious she believes she is being constantly watched by a romantic admirer who eventually takes up residence in her attic.
On the lighter side is Joshua’s Tea Cup, the story of a young autistic man who sees galaxies floating among his tea leaves.
And Petite Marmite is love story about an habitual liar and his gullible wife with an O’Henry style ending.

These are just a few of the stories in my collection so far.

The middle-grade series may be unique in that I’ve yet to encounter a book written for that age group about children growing up while sailing around the world.

I’m not sure if my blog is unique. My readers will have to answer that question.

Why do I write what I do?

As I’ve written here about my blog, I like exploring the edges of things, the borderlands between states of consciousness, and states of reality—the social and psychological, the human and more-than-human, the physical and spiritual, the known and unknown, the world we know outside ourselves and within our own minds–and how they overlap and re-create each other. I see the creative arts as existing on that fringe, the thing that helps us negotiate the borderlands and translate one to the other. Writing is my point of entry.

All this is true for my novel and short stories and blog. But for the sailing adventure, I’m writing that to preserve for myself and my family, what it was like to live at sea, and to share that adventure and my love of the wild with others, especially children.

I could say much more on the topic of why I write, and have. But I will spare you here and refer you to the following posts if you want to know more about why I write and how: Writing, A Leap of Faith; Wabi Sabi Writing.

How does my writing process work?

A lot of my writing springs from my reading. Stories and poems and other blog posts trigger a new line of thought, and off I go off in that direction, allowing it to take me where it will. I think of it as “riffing” on other’s works, as jazz musicians will do when they jam together. The same happens when I engage with nature, go for walks or hikes, or merely sit on the patio taking in all the sights and sounds around me. Thoughts and images will spring to mind, and I’ll grab a notebook and start writing.

I usually start writing in the morning, sometimes in long hand while sitting in bed with my coffee. Then I’ll go to my office and type what I’ve been writing into a word document, revising as I go. Most of my revising is done on the computer. But I’ve printed out my novel to revise as I read it, as well.

I keep a writing log, setting weekly goals, and tracking my hours. This has helped a lot, because I can get pretty scattered and off-track otherwise.

Who’s Up Next?

Don’t miss the next installments of the Writing Process Tour on June 23. The following bloggers will be sharing their writing process.

Author Nikki Tulk, Shadow, Wings & Other Things - Niki loves” to write, dream, read, learn and make art in many different media from theatre and music, to making up her family’s next weekend breakfast menu.” She is also the author of the lovely and lyrical book Shadows and Wings, which I highly recommend.

Poet, Jeremy Nathan Marks, The Sand County - Jeremy’s blog is “an exploration of the natural world, our relationship with it and the necessities that govern life on Earth. Here you will find a little bit of everything that brings us to that interface of human dreams, desire, repose and the wisdom, austerity and sublime power that the natural world offers.” Jeremy also writes some amazing poetry that he shares on his blog.

Writer, Kim Hass, The Art of Practice, The Practice of Art - Kim blogs about “Creating Mindful, Joyful, Compassionate Moments of Being.” She writes about the creative process and “what makes a Writer with a capital W–no credentials needed.” I love that!

“I See You But Do You See Me?” – Artist Marc Clamage, Bearing Witness

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Marc Clamage - Maxine

“I see you but do you see me?” Maxine by Marc Clamage

Since my last post, I discovered another artist who refuses to turn away. He bears witness one face at a time by painting panhandlers he sees in Boston Harvard Square near his workplace.

“I used to hurry by them,” writes artist Marc Clamage, “but then I began to stop. Each face tells a story, I realized, and I would try to capture as many as I could through a series of oil paintings.”

Rosie and David with pet guinea pig, by Marc Clamage

Rosie and David with pet guinea pig, by Marc Clamage

He’d noticed there were more than usual that year, and that they seemed “younger, and more troubled.” Sometimes even whole families begging on the streets.

Many of the people he encountered were simply passing through, on their way to a new job or to visit family. Some panhandled to supplement a low-wage job, or help pay the rent.

Others were homeless. Panhandling was their only source of income. A few of these were mentally disturbed, or drug addicts. Some were sick and dying.

 Marc writes: “I do not ask the panhandlers to ‘pose’ for me, but to carry on with their business. I pay each person $10, though I wish I could afford more, because they earn that small fee in the hour or two it takes me to paint them.

"Newly Engaged, Need Motel to Celebrate" -  Justin and Lauren (The Lovebirds) by Marc Clamage

“Newly Engaged, Need Motel to Celebrate” Justin and Lauren (The Lovebirds) by Marc Clamage

Over that time, we often get to talking, which has been a privilege and an education.

I’ve seen or heard many human dramas: the tragic love story of Gary and Whitney; squabbles over the best places to work; the mysterious figure everyone calls “The Rabbi,” stuffing $20 bills into cups and disappearing before anyone can see his face.

“I’ve witnessed a few instances of cruelty, but many more of thoughtfulness and generosity. And when I head home, I’m always struck by one thought: There but for the grace of God go the rest of us. Perhaps that’s why we find panhandlers so hard to look at.”

I was deeply touched by Marc’s paintings and by the stories of the people who posed for him. You can view more of his paintings and read the stories on his website “I Paint What I See“, or at his blog.

Marc Clamage - Gary

Gary, Desert Storm Vet, by Marc Clamage

I also like what he says about how he paints:

“I paint what I see, only what I see, only with it right in front of me, only while I’m looking right at it. I do not work from photographs, or imagination, or memory, or even from sketches. I paint exclusively from life. The essence of representation is that every choice, every brushstroke must be made in direct response to the experience of visual reality.”

To really “see” someone, the way an artist does, objectively, without judgement, and yet responding to what is seen, the pain, or loneliness, or confusion, or anger; to see and be seen like that, must be freeing, for both the painter, the one painted. And for the viewer as well.

To simply behold what we see–the good and bad and beautiful and ugly–without judgement, but with compassion and humility, is the essence of “bearing witness.” And it must have a healing effect.

Bernie Glassman in “Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace” wrote:

“In my view, we can’t heal ourselves or other people unless we bear witness. In the Zen Peacemaker Order we stress bearing witness to the wholeness of life, to every aspect of the situation that arises. So bearing witness to someone’s kidnapping, assaulting, and killing a child means being every element of the situation: being the young girl, with her fear, terror, hunger, and pain; being the girl’s mother, with her endless nights of grief and guilt; being the mother of the man who killed, torn between love for her son and the horror of his actions; being the families of both the killed and the killer, each with its respective pain, rage, horror, and shame; being the dark, silent cell where the girl was imprisoned; being the police officers who finally, under enormous pressure, caught the man; and being the jail cell holding the convicted man. It means being each and every element of this situation.”

Marc Clamage - Whitney

Whitney, cancer victim, by Marc Clamage

To bear witness in that way must be the hardest, the most healing, and the most humbling thing we could ever do. And the most needed.

Elsewhere, Glassman writes: “When we bear witness, when we become the situation — homelessness, poverty, illness, violence, death — the right action arises by itself. We don’t have to worry about what to do. We don’t have to figure out solutions ahead of time. . . . Once we listen with our entire body and mind, loving action arises.”

More of Marc’s paintings follow. See if you see what inspired him to paint these people. Sometimes we see something that cannot be “passed over” lightly, but must be “passed on” to others in whatever way we have of preserving them:  in paint or print, or images on a blog site. So I pass these on to you.

Marc Clamage - Colleen

Colleen, by Marc Clamage. Died of exposure and a drug overdose.

Marc Clamage - Gideon

Gideon, by Marc Clamage

Marc Clamage - Anthony

“Too ugly to prostitute, too kind to pimp.” Anthony by Marc Clamage

Marc Clamage - maria

Maria by Marc Clamage

Marc Clamage - Laurel

Laurel by Marc Clamage. Her sign says she’s a mother of 4 and victim of domestic violence. On the flip side it says “I’m not a whore, asshole.”

Marc Clamage - Carrie

Carrie by Marc Clamage. Now clean and sober and off the streets.

[This post originally appeared on another blog in a slightly different form]

Bearing Witness – Refusing to Turn Away

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A Beggar

Italian painter Gaspare Traversi (1732-1769) Mendiant accroupi or A Beggar – Courtesy of the Narbonne art museum.

I found this painting of a beggar at the blog site of an artist that I admire. She found it on a rainy day in Narbonne, France where she’s traveling, and wrote:

It is the emotion and compositional strength of this image as well as pure skill in foreshortening that had me coming back to this painting several times. Every centimeter of this canvas is in full use and allows you no room to shrink from the image. The beggar has seen us. We must respond in some way and whatever that way is he and the world will know. It is our human condition we are facing in this painting. (Terrill Welch – Creative Potager)

It struck me how often we are tempted to turn away from images, people, situations, that seem too horrible, too hopeless, that make us feel too helpless to even think about it, let alone do something ourselves to help. Like extreme poverty, hunger, homelessness, addiction, rape, human trafficking, mass murder, mental illness . . . the list goes on.

It’s human nature to do so, to turn away from the ugly faces that our human condition sometimes shows us. To pretend it’s not there, or doesn’t affect us, or isn’t us, or won’t be us, or someone we care about, some day.

But it’s important to resist that urge to turn away, even if we have no way to address it. It has to do with what I’ve come to think of as “bearing witness.” It has to do with, not only, bearing witness to an atrocity that should not be forgotten nor repeated, as the holocaust survivors have done, as we’ve come to regard the towers falling on 9/11.

It also has to do with simply being there for another human being in pain, “bearing” that pain with them, in that we acknowledge it and in whatever small way we can show them they are not alone. That we stand with them, if only in spirit, if only in refusing to turn away, to pretend it doesn’t exist, or that they don’t matter.

I’ve found myself returning to this motif in my writing again and again: the need to look, to not turn away; the importance of bearing witness to another’s pain and suffering.

And there are so many other writers and artists and activists who are doing the same thing. Who are refusing to turn away, and instead bearing witness to the pain they see and experience when encountering the dark side of the human condition. As this artist was doing when he painted “The Beggar” so long ago.

Sometimes it’s all we can do to help another. Bear witness. Sometimes it’s all that’s needed.

I feel blessed by the Traversi’s painting. His refusing to turn away, but looking deeply at it, revealing the humanity he saw in the face of suffering, reveals his own deep humanity, and challenges us to do the same.

[This post originally appeared on another site in a slighty longer version]

Selling My Babies. Where’s the Joy?

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Wikipedia Commons Mother_and_Child_-_Mary_CassattIt’s never the full-blown joy I expect when a short story is accepted for publication.

Even when the acceptance letter exceeds my wildest hope, like this last one:

“I’m stunned into dumbstruck awe by your piece, which I finished mere minutes ago. That’s how much time it took me to accept this, in the fervent hope that it has not been taken by another journal.”

“Stunned!” “Dumbstruck!” “Awe!”

I should be feasting on those words for weeks. I should be doing cartwheels down the hall. I should be. But I’m not.

I’m so used to opening my emails and finding a “thanks, no thanks” response to my submissions that acceptance and praise come with a jolt. Disbelief, even: Is this a joke?

Then a flood of conflicting emotions descend. Gratitude comes first, with relief tripping at her heels.

“Finally!” I think, gazing sternly at this wayward child of mine: “Took your sweet time getting that proposal, didn’t you girl? I thought you might be a spinster forever. I was ready to banish you to the dark corner of a bottom drawer. Boy, did you luck out!”

Eventually a giddy glee and an I-told-you-so sense of vindication take hold as I rush to tell my husband. Genuine happiness beams when I call my daughter, text my son. Bashful pride sneaks in when I post the event on Facebook or Twitter.

But I do all this in a hurry, because I know it won’t last. If I don’t grab it on the fly, I’ll lose it altogether. For the elation is rapidly deteriorating into an edgy uneasiness. A prick of panic. And gut-wrenching remorse when I realize: She’s gone! Out of my control. What have I done?

This is how the submission process works for me:

Rejection, rejection, rejection (repeat, ad nauseam)
Then whammy! Acceptance! Giddy glee! (Yay me!)
Followed by panic. Deflation. Despair.

So what’s wrong with me? Where’s the joy?

Well, I’ve given it some thought and think I’ve figured it out. It’s such a cliché, I almost hate to tell you, but here it is: She’s my baby. She’s leaving the nest.

Ready or not, she’s out there. Like it or not, I’m responsible for her.

The problem is: She’s never been well-behaved. I tried, but I couldn’t tame her completely. She was a “darling” that wouldn’t be killed. Now she’s on the loose. And O My God! What will people think when they get a good gander at her!

Did I push her out the door too soon? Should I have given her another rewrite? Or, did I sell her too cheap? Did she deserve more than what she got?

Should I have waited for a more prestigious, more adoring, more (fill in the blank) suitor?

How will she fare in his hands? Will he show her off? Twirl her around? Tell her she’s pretty?

Will anyone other than he actually read her? Or will he hide her away in some dusty warehouse, or send her to some virtual outpost where she’ll fade away in utter obscurity and ignominy?

Would she have been better off left in the drawer?

It’s about this time that I pull up her up on my computer screen and give her another read.

Yikes! This is awful! She’s a complete mess! What can I do? Withdraw her? Demand a divorce? Use a pseudonym?

Can I spruce her up in a hurry? Fresh lipstick, maybe? A new dress? At least straighten her hem, for God’s sake! She’s not ready for this. And neither am I, it appears.

The really sad thing is: She’s just a short story!

What will I do when my pride and joy, my novel, goes? Is this why I labor so long? Revise so endlessly? To keep her at home where she’s safe and warm and well-loved? Why strive to make her perfect only to lose her in the end?

It’s not like I can’t take rejection. I’ve become numb to rejection: “Oh, you again. What else is new?”

I read through a standard reject and taste a mild bitterness, a dash of sadness, sometimes a whiff of distain—what’s wrong with these idiots!

If there’s a bit of encouragement in the rejection letter, the taste is bittersweet.

If the encouragement is profuse or specific, I’m delighted. I call my daughter: “They really liked my story! The one they rejected. Isn’t that wonderful?”

So why am I not overblown with joy by high praise and acceptance?

Isn’t this what it’s all about? Publication? Praise? Recognition by my peers? The juried consensus that this story deserves to be read? Otherwise, why write?

But all I feel after the initial sugar high wears off is: Loss. Remorse. Resignation.

Félix_Emile-Jean_Vallotton_-_Woman_Writing_in_an_Interior_-_Google_Art_ProjectSo back to work I go.

Butt in seat, open a new vein, let the words flow out.

I immerse myself in the writing. Let it wash over me. Carry me away.

And that’s when I find it. What I’ve been seeking all along.

Full-blown joy!

It’s right where I left it: In the writing.

 

 

 

Dreaming of Death—Oops, Bears

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Black bear US Fish and Wildlife public domainI’m going to die. Soon.

That’s what I thought, waking one morning, remembering three distinct dreams, each in which I was suddenly “taken.”

In the first, I was whisked away by a whirlwind that dropped out of the sky. In the next two, bears got me.

The dreams were so vivid and similar, I was sure they meant something significant. Knowing the best interpreter of any dream is the dreamer, I asked myself:

“What do YOU think it means?”

“It means I’m going to die!” was my answer.

This realization was so disturbing, tears sprung to my eyes. It’s too soon, surely! I have a lot of living yet to do. I’m not ready.

It wasn’t my first dream of death, or bears. Only a week ago I had a similar vivid dream of being chased by a bear in our garden. Fortunately, in that dream I managed to escape. It was my husband who got gobbled.

This dream fed my certainty that bears must symbolize death in dreams. I rushed to my computer. A quick google search confirmed my fate.

Bears do symbolize death!

Among other things, I learned as I searched further. Like rebirth and renewal.

Ever the optimist, I latched onto that explanation. Perhaps I wasn’t dreaming of my real death. Perhaps it was only symbolic. The death of my “little self,” and the rebirth of a brand new shiny me. What a relief!

This new interpretation seemed even more likely when I recalled that in the last two bear dreams I was walking with a “little sister” who was dragged away, kicking and screaming, before I was taken. But when the bear came back to grab me, surprisingly, its paw was soft as it led me away.

I realized then in my dream that I had been “chosen.” The bear was taking me on a journey and I was no longer afraid. In fact, the bear was so amiable that when I worried about leaving unprepared, he let me go home to grab a coat.

I was certain this must be the correct interpretation of my dreams since bears also act as spirit guides and signify fresh beginnings.

Still, the “death” scare lingered.

So I decided to share the dreams with my husband. Just in case. That way, if I did suddenly expire, he’d have a good story to share:

“Well, you know, she dreamed about her death only days ago!”

I didn’t tell him about the dream where he got gobbled. No need to alarm him.

Besides, that would make a good story for me. You know. “Just in case.”

[NOTE TO READERS - If this blog goes dark, you too have a good story!]

“Wake Up Amazed” by Kaze Gadway

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Flowers001

Sometimes I come across a blog post that I just have to share. The excerpt below is from Kazegadway – Finding the Wonder Daily.

As I cruised the streets where homeless sleep, I encounter a single young woman wrapped up in a blanket trying to keep warm. I stopped to give her a warm sleeping bag. She spoke very clearly. “I was so cold last night that I didn’t think I would wake up. Then I wake up and someone is offering me a sleeping bag. That is so amazing.”

I grin and leave as she wraps up and goes back to sleep. I worry that she is going to be harmed by sleeping in the open with no friends nearby. Then a homeless man in a jacket and backpack calls out to me. “I’m watching to see no one steals her blanket. Thanks for stopping by.”

I am blessed twice over. Once by a young woman who awakes amazed at the world. And again by a homeless man who watches over her.

The author is in her “7th decade.” A woman who, after spending a lifetime working to address the root causes of poverty around the world, now spends her days tending the homeless, and writing about her encounters. The excerpt above is from a post called “Wake Up Amazed” and you can read the rest of that post at that link.

But every post is a gem, filled with compassion, wisdom, and humility. She writes in “Attention“:

I find myself paying attention to where the homeless sleep or just hang out during the day. I notice who has a blanket or a backpack and if they are alone or with someone. I look at their faces and see alertness or maybe pain. Since I have moved to Albuquerque, they are never just in the background.

Perhaps that is why they talk to me. Something they see in me tells them that I notice them as people.

Here’s another brief snippet from Prayer and Action

One middle aged man talks frankly about looking for a job. “I’m not going to get a job. Every day it seems less possible. The longer I stay away from work, the more I look like a thug, unshaven and dirty.”

I give him all the contacts that I have. I don’t want to end the conversation by saying “good luck” or something else lame. So I hesitate.

“You aren’t going to pray for me, are you?” he says with a laugh.

“I don’t think so,” I say. “But I don’t know how to acknowledge you are a part of eternity without praying. I want you to know that you are special.”

I stop, feeling very stupid.

Stunned, he says “That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.” He walks away.

Silently with wet eyes I pray “God have mercy.

Her stories touch me deeply. “There but for the grace of God, go I” we sometimes say when encountering people less fortunate than us. There goes my son, your daughter, our Nana, that guy I went to Prom with, the girl who broke my heart in college. The professor who seemed half-crazy in the kindest, wisest way. The next-door neighbor who took in stray cats and fed me cookies when I was a kid. They are part of us.

Reading her simple posts brings to mind what the Christian mystic Julian of Norwich wrote so long ago:

God is to us everything that is good and comfortable for us: He is our clothing that for love wrappeth us, claspeth us, and all encloseth us for tender love, that He may never leave us; being to us all-thing that is good, as to mine understanding.

Between God and the human there is no between.

I hope you will take a look at her blog.  You may “wake up amazed” by how profound simple kindness can be. Kazegadway – Finding the Wonder Daily.

In Limbo, While Live Lambs Burn

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IMG_2506I won’t be writing here for awhile. Probably. Maybe. I don’t know.

I’ve started several blog posts but can’t finish them. All my energy is drawn elsewhere. As if I’m in Limbo, waiting for some axe to fall.

Here’s a pretty poem to tide you over until I return. Something I wrote years ago. Hid away.

See if you can guess what it’s about.

All the Little Lambs

I swear

Sometimes I feel like
I lay in a loft,

Peeking
Through a warped
floorboard,

Watching havoc
burn hay.

And I feel
Distant, somehow,
Remote, dismayed.

While live lambs
Burn
Below
Betrayed.

Easter and Earth Day – “O Sweet Irrational Worship”

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Bobwhite Quail-Colinus_virginianus_USFWSA timely blending to celebrate Easter and Earth Day by poet, monk, and mystic, Thomas Merton.

O Sweet Irrational Worship

Wind and a bobwhite
And the afternoon sun.

By ceasing to question the sun
I have become light,

Bird and wind.

My leaves sing.

I am earth, earth

All these lighted things
Grow from my heart.

A tall, spare pine
Stands like the initial of my first
Name when I had one.

When I had a spirit,
When I was on fire
When this valley was
Made out of fresh air
You spoke my name
In naming Your silence:
O sweet, irrational worship!

I am earth, earth

My heart’s love
Bursts with hay and flowers.
I am a lake of blue air
In which my own appointed place
Field and valley
Stand reflected.

I am earth, earth

Out of my grass heart
Rises the bobwhite.

Out of my nameless weeds
His foolish worship.

by Thomas Merton

Many thanks to Nancy Adam and her lovely blog Saints and Trees for bringing this poem to my attention. Read her commentary about the poem HERE.

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