Monday, July 28, 2014

to have kept your soul alive

"So, to put it in a negative way, you can't do anything to change yourselves, to become better, to become happier, to become more serene, to become more mystical. But if I say you can't do a damn thing, you can understand this negative statement in a positive way. What I am really saying is that you don't need to do anything, because if you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that, and there is nothing wrong with you at all."

- Alan Watts

"It's odd that after thousands of years of great spiritual examples and literature we have to remind ourselves that spirituality is to be found in everyday life. The world's sacred poetry, ritual, prayer and art are filled with images of incarnated divinity ... that lies, admittedly sometimes hidden, in the temporal, or the transpersonal that animates our personal lives. Hundreds of times painters have taken up the theme of the “Annunciation” and have pictured that moment, that eternal moment that is in all our lives, when the angel says: “You, mortal person, have divinity in you.”

- Thomas Moore

"To know what you prefer instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive."

- Brenda Ueland

I've spent the last week considering the opposite of certain things I've held to be true. For example, I've always thought we'd live in this particular house for a long time, that it would be our anchor. I've always felt that if we 'followed our bliss' and followed what we loved doing, that all would be well.

How would things change if I made a point of following where the money was, and how would our life change if we gave up this idea of house as anchor? It's actually really good to look at things in a completely different way, this strategy. To decide what is possible, what you're capable of, how adaptable you might be, and to come to know more precisely what you do prefer.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

lovely beyond belief

The Guest House

by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

“There is nothing you can do except try to write it the way that it was. So you must write each day better than you possibly can and use the sorrow that you have now to make you know how the early sorrow came. And you must always remember the things you believed because if you know them they will be there in the writing and you won’t betray them. The writing is the only progress you make.” 

- Ernest Hemingway

“You’ll ache. And you’re going to love it. It will crush you. And you’re still going to love all of it. Doesn’t it sound lovely beyond belief?”

- Ernest Hemingway

"If you are falling….dive.”

“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”

“Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer.”

― Joseph Campbell

And how about a little advice from Franz Kafka:

“Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

"Don't edit your soul," is really some of the best advice a writer can receive.

Maybe it's good advice for anyone.

A quiet day ahead for me, some writing, some grocery shopping, on the agenda. Some sitting out in the backyard with my notebook. Much needed.

Wishing you all a splendid weekend, some quiet time, and some time to follow those obsessions....

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

closer to life's true sadness

“Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.”

- Alice Walker, from Living by the Word

If we were having tea together this morning, and maybe a little slice of cherry pie, what would we talk about?

Maybe we'd start with change and growth and uncertainty and the next phases of our lives. We'd talk about those moments in life, as Walker says, where it seems something inside of you is holding its breath. We'd talk about contingency and next steps. I'd bore you with my two year plan, various contingencies, and the ridiculous state of my nerves.

Once the heavy stuff was out of the way, we'd talk about movies and books we've been reading.

We just finished watching the first series of Broadchurch. Completely puts you on the edge of your seat, completely harrowing. We also watched a very good documentary called, Spinning Plates. Two very different viewing experiences, and yet, in common with them both is the study of how humans behave in times of adversity.

I've added both of them to my library list, here.

Okay, if we were having tea, I'd brag a little. My book Asking has been reviewed by a poet I very much respect, Catherine Owen. She reviews it along with another book by Amber Dawn. You can read the review here

Currently I'm very nearly finished reading Stoner by John Williams. This is what Julian Barnes had to say about the book in The Guardian:

The sadness of Stoner is of its own particular kind. It is not, say, the operatic sadness of The Good Soldier, or the grindingly sociological sadness of New Grub Street. It feels a purer, less literary kind, closer to life's true sadness. As a reader, you can see it coming in the way you can often see life's sadness coming, knowing there is little you can do about it. Except – since you are a reader – you can at least defer it. I found that when reading Stoner for the first time, I would limit myself most days to 30 or 40 pages, preferring to put off until the morrow knowledge of what Stoner might next have to bear. 

The story of the novel's 'rise' or re-emergence and reconsideration is interesting in itself and Barnes sets it out for the reader very well in the article.

I'm a little afraid to finish the last 25 or so pages I have left.

Well, after I tell you about all the depressing books and movies I've read and watched, you're going to say to me, dude! You must find something more uplifting. Geez, yes.

Here's a list of uplifting reads, I'll have to check some out. Another list here.

I'm not sure that any of the books on these lists exactly leap out to me, but I do firmly believe in bibliotherapy, so will be prescribing myself some lighter fare over the next few weeks. Or perhaps, I'll just reread all of Virginia Woolf....that could work as well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

be sweet to me world

The artist's job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.

- Gertrude Stein

Landscape And Soul

by 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.

- from the Cortland Review

I, too, am waiting for my soul to be jolted awake this summer. Trying not to succumb to despair. Wanting to get to work.

What has helped is that yesterday I finally wrote something. I'd been taking notes and jotting odd words down, stray images, in my notebook all summer towards an essay-poem, poem-essay. Disparate seeming things. Unconnected things. Finally, I felt awake enough to put them together, to make sense of it all in that way.

As always it's the work that keeps despair away.

A good long walk in the morning is a good restorative, too. Very often, I walk down this closed road, which leads to the small stand of trees.

All along the utility corridor path, these yellow weeds.

The field they mowed down a few weeks again is already coming back.

Here you can glimpse the buildings across the highway - the red strip is the Shopper's Drug Mart.

And then these beauties along the fence:

Lastly, walking home through the 'dry pond' in the middle of my neighbourhood.

And me asking all along, be sweet to me world, be sweet....and it is, you know, it is.

Monday, July 21, 2014

everything ahead of me

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” 

- Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Against Travel

by Charles Tomlinson

These days are best when one goes nowhere,
The house a reservoir of quiet change,
The creak of furniture, the window panes
Brushed by the half-rhymes of activities
That do not quite declare what thing it was
Gave rise to them outside. The colours, even,
Accord with the tenor of the day—yes, ‘grey’
You will hear reported of the weather,
But what a grey, in which the tinges hover,
About to catch, although they still hold back
The blaze that's in them should the sun appear,
And yet it does not. Then the window pane
With a tremor of glass acknowledges
The distant boom of a departing plane.

- read more by Tomlinson here

On the weekend we drove from Edmonton to Calgary to see some old friends, which was really lovely and uplifting. Nothing like the company of good people to bolster one's spirits.

It's a good time of year to make the drive because there are all sorts of crops, lush greens and vibrant yellow. The trouble with the highway is that there isn't really the possibility to safely pull over to the side and take photographs. There are a few rest stops, but they're never near anything picturesque. On the way we were able to stop once - and took a few photos of grey sky and canola field.

The following photos were taken on the way home, through the changing weather, and driving at 110 km. So, not the best or steadiest photos.

We started out with blue skies.

Soon the clouds started rolling in.

For a while we drove in misty rain.

What I really wanted to get was a proper shot of cows, or horses.......but there was nowhere to stop. If you look at this last set of photos closely, you can see the blur. Still, they give an idea of the landscape.

And the last leg of the trip was a torrential downpour.

I'm normally quite the stay-at-home person, but it was good to get out on the road, to do something a little different for a day. To feel, for a span, that everything is ahead of me.