Monday, October 5, 2015

we must pull the curtains

A Place to Sit 


Don’t go outside your house to see flowers.
My friend, don’t bother with that excursion.
Inside your body there are flowers.
One flower has a thousand petals.
That will do for a place to sit.
Sitting there you will have a glimpse of beauty
inside the void and out of it,
before the gardens and after gardens.


by Wendy Videlock

They are fleeting.
They are fragile.
They require

little water.
They’ll surprise you.
They’ll remind you

that they aren’t
and they are you.

Which flower are you? How do you wish to flower?

This week's questions, perhaps.

We've clearly moved into fall, the blur between season has been refocused. On the weekend there was a strong wind, and so now many of the trees which had been so splendid have lost their leaves.

A bit of a shock really.

Regardless of the wind or the rain, we've been walking every day. Sometimes out in the utility corridor (below) and sometimes to the small suburban forests. I hadn't been to the spot where my favourite tree is for some time, but you'll see it as you scroll down.

Learning the Trees

by Howard Nemerov

Before you can learn the trees, you have to learn
The language of the trees. That’s done indoors,
Out of a book, which now you think of it
Is one of the transformations of a tree.

The words themselves are a delight to learn,
You might be in a foreign land of terms
Like samara, capsule, drupe, legume and pome,
Where bark is papery, plated, warty or smooth.

But best of all are the words that shape the leaves—
Orbicular, cordate, cleft and reniform—
And their venation—palmate and parallel—
And tips—acute, truncate, auriculate.

Sufficiently provided, you may now
Go forth to the forests and the shady streets
To see how the chaos of experience
Answers to catalogue and category.

Confusedly. The leaves of a single tree
May differ among themselves more than they do
From other species, so you have to find,
All blandly says the book, “an average leaf.”

Example, the catalpa in the book
Sprays out its leaves in whorls of three
Around the stem; the one in front of you
But rarely does, or somewhat, or almost;

Maybe it’s not catalpa? Dreadful doubt.
It may be weeks before you see an elm
Fanlike in form, a spruce that pyramids,
A sweetgum spiring up in steeple shape.

Still, pedetemtim as Lucretius says,
Little by little, you do start to learn;
And learn as well, maybe, what language does
And how it does it, cutting across the world

Not always at the joints, competing with
Experience while cooperating with
Experience, and keeping an obstinate
Intransigence, uncanny, of its own.

Think finally about the secret will
Pretending obedience to Nature, but
Invidiously distinguishing everywhere,
Dividing up the world to conquer it,

And think also how funny knowledge is:
You may succeed in learning many trees
And calling off their names as you go by,
But their comprehensive silence stays the same.

The comprehensive silence of trees is what I'm drawn to, I suppose. Silent speaking.


by Lorine Niedecker

We must pull
the curtains—
we haven't any

I made my annual trip to pluck leaves from a neighbourhood plum tree - plenty of branches hanging over the fence. I've been feeling like I haven't been able to concentrate properly on fall. That I haven't gone out and got the shots I wanted, quite. That I haven't been giving fall my full attention.

I've promised myself that after my book launch is over (October 14), I'm going to turn the computer off for most of the day, at least for a week. I'm going to give myself a bit of a solitude retreat.

“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”

- Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet

So a week ago, Chloe and a friend and I visited the Muttart Conservatory - the show pyramid was full of sculptures from Zimbabwe. I was particularly fond of the small animals.

When we look deep into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth and everything else in the cosmos in it. Without clouds there could be no rain, and there would be no flower.

-  Thich Nhat Hanh

And so even though it's full-on fall outdoors, it's summer in the pyramids. I need to remember to visit more often in the dead of winter.


And this is what it looks like from outside. We had a nice wander around the grounds of the conservatory. Some really lovely views.

And so now it's time for our virtual tea (and doughnuts) break. 

If we were sipping tea I'd tell you about all the nervous eating I've been doing, ha. I'd tell you that I received the printer's copy of Rumi and the Red Handbag. It's really beautiful - I'm so impressed with my publisher. The cover, typesetting, the weight of the thing - all lovely. You can read more about all this here

If we were having tea, I'd tell you about the novel I'm reading and loving. Reading it very slowly because it's not long and it's so amazing. Sleepless Nights by Elizabeth Hardwick. I'm sure I have someone out there to thank for mentioning this novel - but I've forgotten who.....

Listening to: the new release by The Innocence Mission

Reading and rereading: this article on lovingkindness by Sharon Salzburg. As well, Salzburg links to this really enlightening conversation "Mindfulness and Heartfulness" where the Western Contemplation is compared to the Eastern, Meditation. 

Looking at: Jenny Holzer. Interesting to think about who the voice is in her "Projections." I'm really most fond of the movie marquee, or "Truism" series. "Turn Soft and lovely any time you have a chance" is one of them. 

Lastly, if we were having tea, I'd tell you I'm about the least calm person around right now. But I'm trying to keep my sense of humour about that, too. I'm freaking out about my upcoming book launch and all the related stuff, but I'm freaking out less than I usually do. Progress, right?

So, wishing you all a calm week ahead, dear friends. Thanks for stopping by. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

the light that's blazing


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.


The yard is a waiting room: what will you memorize?

Quickly now, slowly. Sit. Memorize the light at this time of year. Breathe in the light. Breathe. Don't forget.

So I tell myself.

Next. Solitude again, and simplicity. You'll likely remember the next passage from Walden, if you've read it, or recognize the oft quoted lines about advancing confidently in the direction of your dreams.


by Henry David Thoreau

Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as
two or three, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail …

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.
To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome
and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the
companion that was so companionable as solitude …

If one advances confidently in the direction of his
dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has
imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in
common hour …

A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener.
So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts.
We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and
took advantage of every accident that befell us. Sometimes, in
a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my
sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the
pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and
stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through
the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the
noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was
reminded of the lapse of time.

from Walden

Sitting, noticing, memorizing. These things won't quite change the world. But how much easier it is to meet the world after one has had some solitude.

Life is a garden,
not a road
we enter and exit
through the same gate
where we go matters less
than what we notice 

- Bokonon


"Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
the light that's blazing
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what's hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not."

- Rumi

(transl. Coleman Barks)

"After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn't it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked — as I am surprisingly often — why I bother to get up in the mornings." 

- Richard Dawkins

via Whiskey Rivers

More questions. What is the light that's blazing inside your presence? Why do you bother to get up in the mornings?

I know the questions sound a bit new age-y. But they're not unconnected to Mary Oliver's well-loved line:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do 
with your one wild and precious life?”

These questions are, in fact, urgent. If we ask them of ourselves frequently, we can see how the answer might change through time. Become refined, more hopeful, and at times less so.  Perhaps we come to know more about ourselves, our abilities, the world. When we see what persists, and what drops away, what does this tell us about our place in the universe? What do you want to notice when you move through the world today? What is the light that's blazing inside you?

While I have sometimes complained about Facebook here, the thing that keeps me going back is the generosity of my friends there. The sharing of the good stuff. 

One of my favourites from the week: A.L. Kennedy's "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction." Have humility, she says. And, "have more humility."

Number ten is also spot on:

10. Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on.

So last week I had some completely unexpected and really quite insanely good stuff happen to me with regards to the forthcoming novel, Rumi and the Red Handbag. And so, how to proceed with humility. But also, to allow myself to enjoy the nice bits (when lord knows there have been some not so terrific bits and certainly will be more of same through this literary life). And maybe more importantly to let the book have this life of its own, to do what I can to help it into the world, to find readers, to also do well for my publisher. Okay, and to do all this and not turn into a terrible annoying rotten braggart of an author. In truth, I probably don't have to worry too much about this, as this might be the last fanfare the book/I experiences. So, tentatively, what I've decided to do is to mainly write about the 'journey' (a bit of a goofy word, that) of the book on my website blog. If you want to leave a comment, etc, just click on the title of the post. And thank you.

Our buddy Ace, is back to finding the sunbeams to nap in. So that must mean summer is officially over. 

I finally remembered to buy the fertilizer drops for the African violets, so they're back to blooming.

This also appeared rather magically on Facebook last week. Tina Turner, who knew? I love this.

And next. A few good early morning frosts made for some fun photography.

There's nothing like a bit of 'weather' to make you really appreciate weeds, yes?

There's still time, I hope, to sit and notice my sunflowers. The way they move and sway and want to grow even as the season draws to a close.

The golden light right now is like none other. Here it is from the kitchen looking out the back door.

And lastly, a few from around the neighbourhood. 

Other peoples' roses. 

A stone in the gutter stopping all the leaves, and damming the flow.

What the photographs never capture - the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze.

"Leaf sounds talk together like poets
making fresh metaphors. The green felt cover slips
and we get a flash of the mirror underneath."

- Rumi

The suburbs. A van we admire every time we walk by. (C. and I are both fond of the I Brake for Sasquatch sticker)

The sunflowers planted beside a neighbourhood church.  

And the view with the 7-Eleven. 

Have a calm week everyone, and thanks for visiting.

- Shawna

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