Friday, May 23, 2014

Flowers (inner and outer)


Once I would have walked a mile to see and smell   
lilac blooms.
Why?  Maybe it was the first flower I recall knowing by name, after seeing a woman carry branches of them in a vase.  

From this I took pleasure in learning and remembering the names of flowers and plants,  signs such as their color, shape and seasonal occurrence.  Then I sought out zinnias, making special trips to neighborhoods where dwellers had planted them in multiple colors and varieties. 

 Or irises, from a different spectral range and genealogy, the taste of memory of late May,


 to rhodoendrons and peonies breaking open spring’s progression into summer,




a cycle begun inside me with the magnolia’s early spring explosion


or flowery fireworks:



As Whitman asks “have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems,” so I took pride in knowing these by name(although probably so much more remote from their meaning,) rejoicing in their flowering and colors, and maybe above all these reminders to notice both the moment and the passage of it.  These blossom instantaneously (we would need Edgerton’s invention to see) and fade at the end of their time of the sun.  Within me, a flowering; beyond me, an impermenance.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Instructions (inspired by First Sip)

A poster I saw once upon a time and which has made the rounds online,  such that it would be difficult to identify the creator and the original source,) has frequently offered consolation for me whenever I've returned upon it:  "Yes, I've made mistakes. Life didn't come with instructions." 

I've heard others refer to it this way: "I didn't get the playbook," implying other people did, assuming they were on a team or the team.  Yes, the outlier's feeling, the one who doesn't get it, the misfit, things I know and forget and relearn. 

What also comes to mind is Blake's dictum from the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, "the tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction."  I would call myself a tyger, agent of creative wrath, or wise.

How often was I told "It's very easy if you follow directions?" Rather than following directions, I considered myself stupid for both not following directions and for not doing something "very easy."

Then at other once times, I might have learned from others with experience.  "Nothing is easy," my first landlord told me, after I'd fatheadly commented that what he was working on looked like "it wouldn't be easy."  Or, the groundskeeper at one of the educational institutions with which I've been associated, gleefully asserting: "First we put it together, then we read the fucking instructions." 

Lacking such confidence or persistence and then willful ignorance as a substitute, and yet there may have been a time when I was willing to let of regret and do the next necessary thing in front of me.

So imagine my delight when at last I discovered there are instructions.  Thank you, Mary! Thank you, Claudia! 

For me, these words convey presence, appreciation, gratitude, and sharing all of it, whether through speech (also silence and being with another/others) and art which "hinges on having experienced something so moving that I want others to know about it."(June Wyler, quoted in Conversations with Artists by Selden Rodman.)

(For those who prefer a simpler version, there's the Zen master to himself: "Oh, master?" "Yes, master." "Be calm." "Yes, master." (Source))

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"crack in everything"

"I was hoping to find a crack in the pavement where my ailanthus of a poem could take root."  Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist

The author was talking about finding an appropriate poetry anthology and about a big tree.  My experience is something on a smaller scale:

This picture is from my backyard this past summer. I didn't plant it, though it came from a seed, perhaps windblown or from an avian messenger?  I'm still fascinated with the plucky plants that went to victory through the asphalt, or in some instances winding out of the compost pile.  It also reminds me of Leonard Cohen's oft-quoted: "There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in."

Far from perfect and the picture may convey some sense of the messiness around it.  But the sunflower didn't wait.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Learn

Some friends welcome the new year with reflections on learning or commitment to a new word or new wish, a blessing even. 

I could take any of these routes.  Fear of commitment (and being accountable to a commitment,) or making an imperfect choice and regretting it (like in the popular parlance FOMO = fear of missing out,) holds me back, rather than standing in something - today.

To take things further, what have I learned in the past year?  I won't say what the character in Thomas Pynchon's V says, however, if I haven't learned, there's

no shame in relearning what I thought I had learned, should have learned.  Letting the voice subside that tells me how stupid I am for not knowing, as if it were the answer to another test I would fail or get wrong, because there is only one right answer, of course. (Lindsey talks about this relearning in her New Year's post and elsewhere on her blog and somehow I've learned this acceptance and humility from her, as well as gratitude for another day to be present and learn, whether there's a re attached to it, parenthetical or not. 

So maybe the word is learn, and for me, accept both the limits of knowledge and the necessity to act and make mistakes, that even being wrong may land on a relatively low rung of the spectrum of catastrophe.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

#Reverb12 - the gift

December 6 - What was your favourite gift given and/or received in 2012? (Thanks again, Hope, for the prompt.)

The biggest gift?  Cats.

One I thought was found dead in the street.  Cassie and I were rushing out the door to catch a flight to Washington, DC, to meet her sisters and clean out her late mother's apartment.  We saw whom we thought was Pegasus, dead and bleeding from the mouth.  We wrapped the dead cat up and put him in a cooler and let our friends know what happened.  All weekend we thought we'd lost Pegasus and dreaded our return.  When we got home Monday morning, all four of our cats appeared, including Pegasus.  It was miraculous.  So who was the cat that we found two days before?  We'll never know. I brought the dead cat to the veterinary and asked them to give the animal a proper burial.  However, I will never forget the gift of realizing that Pegasus, whom we thought was dead, is alive.

One night in September, Cassie informed me that our friend Michel had appeared in tears with a cat cage bearing Sabrina, his late father's cat.  Another black cat, a longhair (we have had all shorthairs,) who had been abandoned since Michel's father's passing.  He couldn't keep her as Ralph, their dachsund, wouldn't have it.  Sabrina was clearly traumatized and spent most of the first two weeks with us in the cellar, though occasionally we would catch "Sabrina sightings," as she ventured upstairs for food.  She had one eye which looked like it had cataracts but the vet later determined to be scar tissue (he also cleaned her teeth.)  Gradually, she became more and more acclimatized and now Sabrina is our only lap cat.  I haven't had one like this in years.  She still mostly keeps to her living room sofa, but every day makes some sort of friendly appearance and explores a little more each day it seems.



This week it looked like we might lose Tibbs, who is Cassie's favorite.  He is something of a fighter, somewhat aggressive and with a heart.  He sleeps under the bushes along the driveway and yowls at us when one of us pulls up in a car.  He likes to get into cars too.  I thought I would be writing his obituary as he is diagnosed with feline leukemia and has been low energy with an undetermined infection, however, he is spending the night at the veterinary hospital and we are optimistic about his feeling better in the days ahead.  Another gift.  Nevertheless, I believe we have enough cats.  ;)

Pegasus and Tibbs know what they want:






Aldous Huxley famously wrote, describing his advice to an aspiring novelist: "“My young friend,” I said, “if you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats.” And with that I left him. I hope, for his own sake, that he took my advice. For it was good advice — the fruit of much experience and many meditations." However, what he goes on to say is the psychology cats reveal is not always so pleasurable; in fact, he describes many "sermons of cats" as "depressing."  I suppose I've given up the novelistic aspirations, if I ever had any, though I do enjoy the privilege of these spiritual beings' care and company.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

#Reverb12 - Not to Forget

December 5 - Five things you do not want to forget from 2012? (Prompt from Hope)

1. My joyful surprise at Cassie's successful surgery, happened just as the doctor said it would.  A skilled surgeon would know how and why, though for me something incomprehensible accomplishes the healing and I want to remain forever grateful.

2. Hannah singing the national anthem, rising to the occasion a couple of days after she was hospitalized with an infection.  Driving her to the event she was having difficulty finding the right key, and then she calmly, unflamboyantly settled into it.

3. An abundant garden where one had not grown recently, flowers and vegetables, surprise upon surprise day following day.  Though I've loved fresh tomatoes ever since I can remember, the real gift was the eggplant, which reportedly are hard to grow.  A reminder of the abundance of life and water and soil and sunlight and growth.

4. Meeting Helen in person.  We'd begun a correspondence through the We Love Gratitude website.  I admire her faith, perseverance, humor and colorful way of describing people and events. 

5. The Inspiring Women project, even as it feels unfinished ...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

#Reverb12 #4 Music

Thanks again to Hope for the prompt, Did you discover a favourite song or musical artist in 2012?

James Blackshaw.  I like the solo guitar style made prominent by John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Robbie Basho and others I'm probably not familiar with, and Blackshaw's work seems like a worthy extension of that idiom. 

Here is a video of Blackshaw playing on the street.  I'm not sure of the date, it was probably filmed in the past few years, the sounds of the street complement the guitar playing.  I also like when he dryly says "Cut" at the finish.

The Broken Hourglass is another performance that resonates with me, I listen to it a lot and love the emphasis and dynamics.  It's a big sound and at the same time there's a lot happening.

There's also the Cloud of Unknowing.  Blackshaw has an album of the same name though I like this live version a little more, it has a staccato quality in some places not heard in the other.

Hard to choose since there's so much of his work that I like, but here's Boo, Forever.  I don't know what the instrument is that accompanies him in the final minutes.  

Why?  Something about his playing changes something in my being, I'm not sure what it is.