Friday, October 24, 2014

what will you memorize


by Margaret Gibson

For today, I will memorize
the two trees now in end-of-summer light

and the drifts of wood asters as the yard slopes away toward
the black pond, blue

in the clouds that shine and float there, as if risen

from the bottom, unbidden. Now, just over the fern—
quick—a glimpse of it,

the plume, a fox-tail's copper, as the dog runs in ovals and eights,
chasing scent.

The yard is a waiting room. I have my chair. You, yours.

The hawk has its branch in the pine.

White petals ripple in the quiet light.

In the quiet, a necklace of gourds on the fence.

A mourning cloak on a seeded spray of crabgrass.

An undulant whine of cicadas.


In my solitude, on one of my walks, I try to memorize the autumn leaves and the elegance of certain tree branches. Their lovely gestures. The way the light and the wind moves through the leaves, a message.

I've still been thinking about the line I quoted earlier this week from David Whyte's conversation with a monk: 

"The antidote to exhaustion is not rest: it's wholeheartedness."  

And just generally thinking about what it means to be wholehearted. 

Here is Pema Chodron:

Wholeheartedness is a precious gift, but no one can actually give it to you. You have to find the path that has heart and then walk it impeccably....It's like someone laughing in your ear, challenging you to figure out what to do when you don't know what to do. It humbles you. It opens your heart.

Pema Chödrön

And so, we go on looking for the path that has heart. Stumbling at times, yes. All too often, it seems, some days.

The colour is slowly draining from the world, but very slowly this year, for which I'm grateful.

There is nothing more of a balm than a long autumn.

I return home from my walk, and the grass is still green in the front yard, though.

Early mornings, that touch of frost is now a regular sight.

I want to memorize it all, before the snow falls, the colours, the frost, the quiet light, the leaves, all.

And you, what will you memorize today?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

be sweet to me, world

"We do not truly see light, we only see slower things lit by it, so that for us light is on the edge - the last thing we know before things become too swift for us."

- C. S. Lewis

I know I've posted the above quotation before. And actually, I've posted the poem below before as well. But I like to re-read things, am constantly re-reading favourite books, poems, and maybe you like to re-read as well. 

The last line makes my heart stop. 

Landscape And Soul

Stephen Dunn

Though we should not speak about the soul,
that is, about things we don't know,
I'm sure mine sleeps the day long,
waiting to be jolted, even jilted awake,
preferably by joy, but sadness also comes
by surprise, and the soul sings its songs.

And because no one landscape compels me,
except the one that's always out of reach
(toward which, nightly, I go), I find myself
conjuring Breugel-like peasants cavorting
under a Magritte-like sky - a landscape
the soul, if fully awake, could love as its own.

But the soul is rumored to desire a room,
a chamber, really, in some far away outpost
of the heart. Landscape can be lonely and cold.
Be sweet to me, world.

"Be sweet to me, world."

This is what we hope for ourselves, and for others.

I was thinking about this line in the context of reading Marilynne Robinson's work again. (Last night began re-reading Gilead, after reading Lila, as I talked about in the last post).

And then, here's a thing. At work, a while back I had this idea that it would be cool to have a Humans of New York-like project at my library, because everyday we meet so many interesting people. The Humans of EPL project will appear on social media each Wednesday, and yesterday the first two photographs were posted. Gina and Josh. I happened to take the first two photos, but will be sharing the photographing with my co-worker, Sarah.

The library I work at is an amazing place and I work with so many dedicated and talented and compassionate people. The people that come into the library are constantly surprising and wonderful. So it's just cool to be able to show some of what happens there in this way.

Today's photos. One day at about lunchtime, I looked up from my computer screen where I'd been trying (and rather miserably failing) to work on a freelance article, and, this light. I wandered around the house with the camera, seeing how the sun was easing into the house, now, at this time of year. It reaches in further, somehow, low as it is.

Ace had settled in my study, as I was working, which was more like staring out the window. He doesn't always hang out with me when I'm writing, but he seems to sense when I could use the company. Clever old dog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

the antidote to exhaustion

So you know how it is when you read a book you love, and then you read that book again the very next day. You're soaked in it, and you don't want to leave the world you were in and you don't want to read anything else, maybe ever. Though you know you will. The writer part of you starts making promises to yourself. About how you will write after this, how you will think, and mostly feel, and how your next book will be. This is the way it's been for me with Marilynne Robinson's Lila. (I've put it on the recommended shelf above). I don't want to talk about it, and I don't want to read any of the reviews. If you haven't read Gilead, or Home, you might want to read those first. And I can tell you her books aren't for everyone. Well, what decent book is.

So last night I came home from my library shift, a bit before 10:00. I needed something to peruse before bed, so picked up a book I'd already read to dip into. Diane Ackerman's Dawn Light. (Also on recommended).

And I must have read this part before, but in this reading, it just jumped out at me. Page 152.

She's talking about fatigue, exhaustion. She's quoting from a passage in David Whyte's Midlife and the Great Unknown, where the author meets a monk to whom he confides about feeling "bone-weary, waterlogged, and windless."

"His friend listens with concern in the dwindling hours of the night, and then says something that still gives me pause: "You know the antidote to exhaustion is not rest. It's wholeheartedness." "

Okay, that's so wonderful, I'm going to repeat it.

"The antidote to exhaustion is not rest: it's wholeheartedness."  

Coffee, I think is also nice.

And yesterday, because it was Ursula Le Guin's birthday, this quotation popped up on the all the social media sites:

“I think sometimes about old painters—they get so simple in their means. Just so plain and simple. Because they know they haven’t got time. One is aware of this as one gets older. You can’t waste time.”

So I have Robinson's Lila, rattling in my brain for three days, and then I come upon the line about wholeheartedness, the line about not wasting time (which is my longtime personal writing advice to myself). I'm thinking about old painters, I'm thinking about the time I have left. I'm so bloody exhausted. But also, suddenly, not.

The night before last, I went outside after dinner, and the light was that old and tired and glorious light we get in mid to late October. And I drank it in. I tell you, it doesn't last long at all, not in my yard. It reaches into the low spots only selectively. Eases through the apple tree and onto the bits we still haven't cleaned up yet and maybe won't.

When the light had gone, I looked up and there was this bird singing up in the neighbour's tree. Illuminated, just so. 

And I don't know what to say about it either, but you can imagine how it made me feel. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

for nothing but joy

The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz

by Alicia Ostriker

As if there could be a world
Of absolute innocence
In which we forget ourselves

The owners throw sticks
And half-bald tennis balls
Toward the surf
And the happy dogs leap after them
As if catapulted—

Black dogs, tan dogs,
Tubes of glorious muscle—

Pursuing pleasure
More than obedience
They race, skid to a halt in the wet sand,
Sometimes they'll plunge straight into
The foaming breakers

Like diving birds, letting the green turbulence
Toss them, until they snap and sink

Teeth into floating wood
Then bound back to their owners
Shining wet, with passionate speed
For nothing,
For absolutely nothing but joy.

{more by Ostriker}

There was that foggy day last week you might remember. It didn't wait for me though - by the time I reached the entrance to the field it had burned off. But here are a few shots of it off in the distance, along the highway, along the tree line. 

And then it was gone and we were in the field. The sun had come out in the east, but toward the west, clouds. This made for a rather eerie lighting effect.

We've been staying out of the field for quite some time, and others have too. But lately I've noticed the path is worn again, and people are going in. Rumour has it that the coyote family has moved on. But who knows, perhaps they'll be back when the snow flies.

Ace races around, nose to the ground, hunting, for what I know not. It's pure joy though, for him, you can tell.

He's damp from all the morning dew. Still willing to pose a little for a biscuit.

It's good therapy, always, watching Ace bound through the grass, his experience, pure joy. As I often say, he's my personal trainer and my mental health practitioner. Worth his weight in gold.

Monday, October 20, 2014

the changing light of a room

"I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room."

- May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

I still give thanks for the writing of May Sarton, though she may not now be in vogue. She must still have her readers though, and books like Journal of a Solitude will always find a simpatico soul. And what more can we as authors hope for our books.

Well, it's Monday, and if we were having tea at some point today I'd tell you that I ran out this weekend to buy Lila by Marilynne Robinson and read the first 100 pages last night and made myself stop so that it wouldn't be over in one reading. She's without a doubt my favourite living novelist.

The night previous we watched Bill Moyers interview her on PBS and this deepened my regard for her.

I've added another movie to my DVD list at the library, titled, Elaine Stritch: Just Shoot Me. I knew next to nothing about Stritch before coming upon this wonderful documentary and I'm so glad I watched it. To see someone so utterly unique and full of life is an inspiration.

In general, I've been on a novel reading binge. Have lately read Olive Kitteridge, which apparently is being made into a movie starring the incomparable Frances McDormand. Also read, Ellen in Pieces by Caroline Adderson.

Rob heard a BBC show while painting one day recently where they were talking about tree registers in Britain, which I thought was pretty fascinating. So have been looking around at various tree registers and which countries have them.

Previous to this I'd been writing about Enzo Enea's tree museum, which is also very interesting to me.

Maybe it's this time of year, when they draw such glorious attention to themselves as they change colour, that one can spend a great deal of time in reverie with regards to trees.

I'll leave off this morning with more tea, and some green tea pocky. Wishing you a quiet moment or two today to sip a cup and treat yourself to something biscuit-ish.....and to enjoy the changing light of a room....