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


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.