Mirror Mirror

When I was a teenager in my parent’s house my shower – the room had been made for my sister – had mirrors on three sides. We don’t talk so I don’t ask her what it was like for her to take a shower, but for me it was me coming and going, again and again and again. My relationship to my body and the way my mind works were honed in that shower. They were not begun there, that had happened, but I learned to look at and look away from myself in a kind of daily continuum that is a habit to this day.

The photograph I took above helps me reflect on that. The cycle of the wheel of life, the deer who the Buddha said were the only creatures who would listen to him remind me to have patience. We all have our wheel, let us look for the deer.

My expectation is that I will rise to the challenge, whatever it is. When I don’t I feel less than. But less than what? It’s all made up. It’s a game. The real relationship is in my heart, less than is in my mind.

Praise the next step!

Where We Meet

Look at your thin brown fingers against my willing ear, nose to nose and lips lightly swept into the moment. I remember the outfit I was wearing, one of my favorites. You can see the straps, they were so light, very fine cotton lightly ironed, I remember its being so smooth and just a little crisp. Like you. I would put you up to so many adventures – we celebrate them now – so many rises and falls of our breaths. You’d look to me at the end of The Lone Ranger – was it Him? I could always tell. And I would say yes – or, no, a fake this time. I knew, just like you knew to take me in that moment and a mother, yours, I think, knew to ready her camera so we can thank her forever for this shot.

And for this one I can thank my daughter Bimala. Gordie and I looking like the tame West, sunstruck on the beach, sharing a glance, a moment in the sunlight, the years still kind, Gordie the ten year old Galgo when we met. I promised her freedom of expression for the years left to her and for seven years she larruped and gallumphed in our lives. On the Rail Trail in the wet spring of Conneticut, Gordie unleashed, promised to stay on the trail, just an old dog. In an instant of my looking away she flies into the nearby pond, home to frogs now wildly dashing and flopping and splashing off lily pads so happy to connect to her old self, her power. She meets the tame with the wild. She is Queen of the pond.

 

The Queen. Whenever I am, wherever I am it is an opportunity for a nap, a pet, a lot of sliced turkey. I have sanctioned this. Invited and upheld the now institution of the Queen of Cats. In bed I am plucked at and turned for comfort, cold, hot, food, or an upset stomach. There is no reason to complain; I have invited this guest of my heart. She is a miracle of clarity, of focus, of warmth and creatureness. She is the Isle of my heart, the root of my response to faith. She has taught me to leap into faith, to trust my own instincts and that I can get sliced turkey when she needs it.

 

 

Memorial Day

Today – this weekend when we celebrate the lives and deaths of our nation’s defenders, I have no words of my own. I find myself remembering the Declaration of Independence  which began our journey and by whose strength of stated purpose we are here today. When I thought of Toni Morrison’s words commemorating the September 11 dead and wounded I wanted to share them with you.  Of particular importance to me are her words to herself, “I would freshen my tongue…”  It says to me, prepare yourself before you go off to speak your mind about anything. Do not let your preconceived belief systems speak for you. Be of the mind that makes comprehension be second to compassion. Let Peace begin.

 

The Dead of September 11 (2001)

Some have God’s words; others have songs of comfort
for the bereaved. If I can pluck courage here, I would
like to speak directly to the dead–the September dead.
Those children of ancestors born in every continent
on the planet: Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas…;
born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, geles,
wide straw hats, yarmulkes, goatskin, wooden shoes,
feathers and cloths to cover their hair. But I would not say
a word until I could set aside all I know or believe about
nations, wars, leaders, the governed and ungovernable;
all I suspect about armor and entrails. First I would freshen
my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil—wanton
or studied; explosive or quietly sinister; whether born of
a sated appetite or hunger; of vengeance or the simple
compulsion to stand up before falling down. I would purge
my language of hypberbole; of its eagerness to analyze
the levels of wickedness; ranking them; calculating their
higher or lower status among others of its kind.

Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for
a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts.
Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be
seduced by blitz.

To speak to you, the dead of September 11, I must not claim
false intimacy or summon an overheated heart glazed
just in time for a camera. I must be steady and I must be clear,
knowing all the time that I have nothing to say–no words
stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture
older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you
have become.

And I have nothing to give either–except this gesture,
this thread thrown between your humanity and mine:
I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot of its box of flesh to understand, as you have done, the wit
of eternity: its gift of unhinged release tearing through
the darkness of its knell.

Credit: First printed in Vanity Fair magazine. Reprint courtesy of the author.

 

 

Biography:

Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, Toni Morrison displayed an early interest in literature. Morrison, the second of four children, immersed herself in the close-knit community spirit and the folklore, myth, and supernatural beliefs of her culture. Storytelling was a common practice in her family; after the adults had shared their stories, the children told their own. The importance of listening to stories and of creating them complemented Morrison’s profound love of reading. She subsequently attended Howard and Cornell universities and then worked as an editor at Random house, a critic and delivered several public lectures about African American literature. Her academic career has taken her to Texas Southern University, Howard University, Yale and Princeton, where she has been the chair of Creative Writing since 1989. Morrison began her novelistic career in 1970, and was admitted to the American Academy of Arts and Letter in 1981. In 1988, she won a Pulitzer prize and in 1993, she received the Nobel prize for literature.

I found this online in someone’s blog – how cool is that????

I’m going to give a talk at Toastmasters next week about choosing words to make a point, to be instructive, to let the audience know who I am and where I’m coming from. I remembered a poem I had written in a workshop – Grace Under Pressure – lead by my writing mentor Kathleen Spivack and I couldn’t find it in my files so I Googled it.
Well there were a lot of references to it, professors had been teaching it, bloggers blogging it and a slew of young rappers writing about it on their sites.

Here’s the first one I found:

“Following Pulitzer”
Reading my way through the Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) winners

Tag Archives: The Concord Art Association Regrets
Poetry Friday: Rejection
Apr2

“In my current job search, there’s been some good news, but more than that there’s been rejection (which isn’t unusual, given the market, but is of course disheartening at times). Today was one of those days, and it made me remember a poem rejection letter I like that I used to teach with—it’s “The Concord Art Association Regrets” by Pam White. I used it to teach the sestina poetic form, which I’ll say more about after the poem:

Your entry was not accepted. We regret
it wasn’t (enough for us), a work of love.
We liked many of the colors on the whole
but the mass was just something unrelated
to the rest of our show. We hope your work
will have a bright future in another place.

We remember last year you tried to place
another photograph and it was also with regret
we turned you down. Though for that particular work
we found nothing about it (no one could) to love.
It was obscure and a little upsetting in relation
to the rest of our show which we look on as a whole.

Now you may think us ungenerous. On the whole
you are probably right, but this is our place
and we can do what we want whether you relate
to it or not. However we don’t want you to regret
your association with us. We want you to love
us, send us money, but please, no more work.

You see right now we need money to work
on the building we’re in. There’s a hole
in the roof and one wall needs all the love
and attention it can get. Really the place
needs so much, which all costs. I regret
to remind you we need more space for related

works. We’re trying to expand and relate
to lots of different kinds of work
so different people won’t regret
their visit with us but will see the whole
beauty and tranquillity of the place
and come with us, a journey of love

Where people of all races, colors, and creeds love
to look and bask and of course bring relations,
friends, and lovers. All are welcome to our place
here where all the world’s magnificent work
can be shown in its entirety, the whole
place filled – with your exception, we regret.

We know you’ll love the whole
work we’re doing for this place.
We can’t relate enough our regret.

“What I like about White’s poem is that the Art Association’s letter uses the sestina to make a point. The sestina (if unfamiliar, try Wikipedia: the short answer is that it’s a little clockwork device that reuses the same 6 words over and over at line-ends) is a necessarily repetitive poem: bad ones feel like the poet is trying to send the same message over and over without getting it right. And White applies that to an overlong rejection letter…an organization trying to move between rejecting you and asking you for donations but not managing to really break free of either one at the right moments. I like this modern approach to form, where we write a sestina not as an exercise in word challenges (though that’s fine for those starting out—in fact, it’s advisable, I think) but as a specific form that allows our words to work in a certain way. A sestina would not be good for some things—plot-driven poems have a hard time with it, I think—but for a repetitive rejection letter, or a languorous love poem, or a twisting-turning little poem that’s boiling down to a central idea, it can be fantastic. So fantastic it almost lets you forget you got a rejection letter. Happy weekend to you all.”

Well that’s just one of them – I have to admit I kept on reading the many Google entries and found my sestina used to interpret the form with two other poems – mine featured first and the other poets were Elizabeth Bishop and Rudyard Kipling.
So, I don’t completely know what to think but I know the universe works in ways that are explicit and not at all mysterious and this morning and last night I had asked for direction in my work. I have been bombarded with visual images all day, and now this.
Guess I have some stuff to work on.

Go For Small To Get Bigger


We’re pushing to move, realtors’ open house Thursday, and besides doing a lot of weeding outside I find myself weeding inside. Today I made a stack of goingtogettoitsoon books, notebooks, and videos on internet marketing. It’s funny that they have been scattered among my English Usage, Thesaurus etc. that didn’t make it to the going pile, and now they are stacked neatly on the floor until further notice. I say funny because I’m keeping some books I’ve had for many decades and letting go of ones that I got last year.
What I realize in this process is the niche I’m fitting in to is the one I’ve been in and focussed on for most of my life. What I thought would be a quick fix didn’t pan out – I believe that is an expression from the goldrush years. Not surprising really.
I’m doing what I’ve always done. I’m interested in what has always drawn me. I’m renewing my hold on what I know and holding it closer. When I watch Paula hold her camera, it inspires me. When Jon writes about his photographs and I see him catch the light and frame a shot, I am transported.
I’m framing my niche to serve independent people doing business, call them entrepreneurs, I take a part and the whole comes along. Just like the tree and all its parts, just like the bird and its song. We are all connected and I feel full with every part of me in taking the next steps I am so happy to be taking.


I can’t separate the thing from what it is, nor do I want to.

Waiting For Peaches


This is how they look today.

This is how they looked last week.
You know what I want.
I want peaches.
Now.
I’m afraid they’ll be blown off, rained into mold, pecked at by birds, eaten from the inside by I don’t know what, I’m looking for caterpillars crawling, small and large bugs I don’t know the names of, all the earthly beings eating them unripe before they get a chance to be what I want.
And. And what? What if they survive all the above ills? What then.
Well, all the things that go after ripening peaches, ripe peaches, bark, branches too many and too few, too low and too high.
What then? Who are they, They who want my peaches.
This is too much to wait for. The tension is too much.

Okay – so this was my way of relating to a quote today I saw from Esther Hicks/Abraham. Here it is – why not just put it out there, it’s what I wanted to say in the first place……
“Whatever you’re thinking about is literally like planning a future event. When you’re worrying, you are planning. When you’re appreciating you are planning. What are you planning?”
There, isn’t that perfect?

Spaces


This is my room.

Looking for Home. Finding Home. Home is where the heart is. Isn’t. What is my home aligned with? My heart. My head. My pocket. One thing I know is that I wish it weren’t so involved with “the market,’ the economy, that everyone wants a bargain and so on. I would like to just go out and look without pressure – not that I’ve ever done that, but I’ve been under less pressure before. I don’t love pressure but I know it makes diamonds and all that.
The whole process makes me kind of sleepy.

And it’s raining, which makes sleepy easy.

Weeds


There are moments in a day when all there is in my mind are weeds. Right now there is a big “as within, so without,” the dandelions are ubiquitous – seas, swarms of them lifting as I lift my feet.
I could say I don’t like them – I don’t – but I think it’s mostly because they are weeds. And I think we call them weeds because they are ubiquitous.
Having said that, it doesn’t make sense to me. Respect for things all around us in multiplicity is sparse. Look at “black birds.” I think there is more than one kind but I rarely hear anyone defend their specificity. My favorite bird is a crow. I always get a funny look with that.
Imagine if our love of rarity included breath. Imagine that. I love appreciating the wealth and weave of similar beings, air, water, hens feet.

Unsigned

So I’m getting help with the interstitial realms of Facebook and a couple of other social media sites. Sara Friedman was recommended by Jon Katz and she is great. Just enough for me to grasp, she feeds me small bites and keeps me with her, “is that clear?” And not too strangely, she’s uncovered a part of me. I say not too strangely because I’ve experienced exposure in the “safest” of places – like this. We’re talking “about” pages. I don’t have any about pages filled in. It’s not surprising, I rarely sign my paintings. I never think of my name as part of the piece. I also (it follows in my mind as the night, the day) don’t think that telling you about me is going to solve anything or enlighten you in any way, I suppose I could say it’s all a ruse, I know exactly who I am and want to hide. But that’s not true either. What’s true is that when I’m painting or coaching I don’t know who is painting or coaching. The work gets done but I don’t feel like I did anything but listen.

Over the years I’ve contrived to sign a few pieces and I respond to my name when called – for the most part. But I’m not tied to identity – you can tell I’m not a marketer! I even have written articles on “branding,” but I don’t know much about it. I have more than two clients who are marketers whose businesses have taken off since I’ve been listening. I still don’t get it but I know how to lead into the next step. I guess that’s the way. The next step.

These guys are both still unsigned – but I respond when I hear my name called.

Conflict – Thank You Seth Godin

Seth Godin wrote about our internal conflict. He said,

“Everything we do that’s important is the result of conflict. Not a conflict between us and the world–a conflict between us and ourselves.”

I feel that all the time. I put Guinevere’s photo up because she is my example of who isn’t conflicted. Today Paula and I are looking at houses. We hope someone will look at ours. We hope they will talk themselves into our house and we will talk ourselves into another house. It would be handy and scary if it all happened soon. But what do I want – I want to be like Guinnie. I want to accept the miracles I find, yeah,  I want to see the miracles in the first place.

My dogs practice what Godin calls “self-marketing.” He even goes so far as to say, “Successful people have discovered how to be better at self marketing.” I agree. When I align what’s in my best interest with what I want, I’m successful. And then I don’t care so much what someone thinks, I’ve done my self marketing. I know my audience.

Seth’s whole post is here:

Conflicted

 

Everything we do that’s important is the result of conflict. Not a conflict between us and the world–a conflict between us and ourselves.

We want to eat another dessert but we want to be healthy and skinny as well. Who is we? Who is the self in self control, and who is being controlled?

We want to stand up and make difference and we want to sit down and hide and be safe.

We want to help others and we want to keep more for ourselves.

It’s not a metaphor, it’s brain chemistry. We don’t have one mind, we have competing interests, all duking it out.

This conflict, the conflict between I and me, is at the heart of being human. One side sells the other. Like all kinds of marketing, it’s far more effective if you know your audience. You will do a better job of telling a story (to yourself) if you understand who you are marketing to. In this case, I is marketing to me (and vice versa). The marketing is going on in your head…

Successful people have discovered how to be better at self marketing.

Seth Godin