Monday, August 3, 2015

some people ascend




Let's begin with the light in my backyard one evening last week. I'm in a hurry to slowly drink in all this summer light and it's exhausting.


"Perhaps my task as a poet is to describe the landscape of loneliness."

"I don't write poems any more. For this you need to have at least a splinter of hope."

"And yet, to write poems you need a touch of madness. That's why poets hold desperately to their despairs and faults."

"Joy - it's not just a gift. In a sense, it's also a duty, a task to fulfill. Courage."


- all of the above, Anna Kamienska






One morning last week I took Chloe downtown to write her second exam (just the diploma exam to go now) for her biology 30 correspondence course. While she wrote, I walked over to Audreys bookstore and browsed. Found California Sorrow by Mary Kinzie. Wow! Published in 2007, a lucky find.

In amid the poems, a poetic essay, "The Poems I am Not Writing" which begins:

Why should I believe there are poems waiting for me which I am not writing? Because I miss them, these shadows like birds dying of cold on the branches, their life diminished as I move closer to them. I frighten them with my nearness. Everything I say in prose, with its links, its clauses, its causal flourishes; its reservations and chatter of afterthought; everything with prose's anecdote and self-observation and preening that is like the shiver of a body brushing back its hair before going into the room, dispels the poem. Explanations and the appeal to authority tear down the modesty of poetry. Its near invisibility. Its perfected impermanence. A scat of wind through a tall fir that knocks off all its caught-up snow and causes the branch to spring about ... but in smaller, evaporating language that brings no attention to itself because it belongs to something greater—perhaps the greater "Whisper of running streams and winter lightning" Eliot wrote of as part of his own world of debased, involuntary phantoms.

{continue reading on Poetry Foundation}


Not only did her words resonate for me and delight - the poem as 'shadows like birds' which can be frightened by the poet's nearness. But validated my assemblage of Asking, in my mind anyway, and also the manuscript I'm coming near to the end of writing, which is so far called The Flower is Always Changing, and which is mainly comprised of various types of essays which might not be essays at all. Who knows.

It's an interesting feeling, this I'm nearing the end of the book I'm writing, feeling. It's good, it's bittersweet, it's a relief, a sorrow. It's a loss, a joy, a lovely lonely lovely weird feeling.

Because I haven't sent any of the pieces from this work to too many places (only if someone asked, really) the manuscript has been mine. I haven't even yet shown friends, though that is soon to come. Thank the gods for friends who give up their time to read your 100 pages of whatnot at a moment's notice.

And then. One considers what comes next, what has come before, what can be done in the space and time allowed in the near future. One considers how old one is and what one has accomplished to date. One considers the lists one has made. The five year plan, the ten year plan. The two year plan.







What's interesting perhaps, is that I wrote Rumi and the Red Handbag before I wrote Asking. I'm in that moment of having my work 'catch up with me.' So I suppose for a short time I'll appear to be 'prolific.' I prefer to be thought of as hardworking.

My focus will be on RRH for the next few months, obviously.

But I'm also going to be wrapping up my flower book, as I like to think of it. And then. One of my many plans is to spend the winter dreaming up my next novel. Yes.





So let's see. This is what's been happening in my house lately. Rob never stops painting, truth be told. 

The Humans of EPL project that I'm part of (one of the two photographers) is still going strong. 

Recently read: Colourless Tsukuro Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Maybe not my usual thing, but I loved it. I found the premise/beginning of the book heartstopping. In a group of close school friends, suddenly one becomes an outcast and is too crushed to even find out why. If you read the novel, you will be drawn to this piece of music

I enjoyed reading this article titled "Researching the Heart of Contemplative Practices" by Maia Duerr. 







Another poem, by Rolf Jacobsen, translated by Robert Bly, found in The Roads Have Come to an End Now. And it probably shouldn't but it's made me think of all the people I'm connected to for this or that reason, some of the reasons forgotten, on Facebook. 



Some People 

by Rolf Jacobsen

Some people
ascend out of our life, some people
enter our life,
uninvited and sit down,
some people
calmly walk by, some people
give you a rose,
or buy you a new car,
some people
stand so close to you, some people,
you've entirely forgotten
some people, some people
are actually you,
some people
you've never seen at all, some people
eat asparagus, some people
are children,
some people climb up on the roof,
sit down at table,
lie around in hammocks, take walks with their red
umbrella,
some people look at you,
some people have never noticed you at all, some people
want to take your hand, some people
die during the night,
some people are other people, some people are you, some people
don't exist,
some people do.











I'll leave you with some photos and brief descriptions and the wish for a calm week ahead. 





I'm most fond of those flowers we've grown from seeds, who knows why. The poppy above, the sunflower below.







After a long and odd day, sometimes just walking into the backyard and seeing this is enough to restore me. Better than a glass of fizzy wine.








I love the way the sun shines through the prayer flags.....so ghostly at times.















The next few photos are near Government House in Edmonton. The totem pole was carved by Earl Muldoe of the Gitskan and the gazebo is Korean.











The bells in my backyard. Evening light.





I'm going to be picking these cherries any day now. I swear.






Backyard. Scarlet runner beans are out of control.




Just some light. A web.







From my little buddha garden.










The light one morning:














They don't call it the golden hour for nothing.....




Monday, July 27, 2015

don't look for perfection in me



A Sigh

by Julia Hartwig

How I loved you things that are superfluous
boundless love friendship sacrifice virtues
met so rarely and paid for so dearly
how I cried over every betrayal every
disloyalty and every abuse

How I loved you things that are unnecessary
paintings words flowers and lovely faces
each blossoming meadow sunsets and dawns
how I loved you almost to excess
and how vexed I was you are superfluous




My copy of the Hartwig came from the library, and pretty much after I read through, I stopped to order myself a copy. I've also placed In Praise of the Unfinished on my recommended reading shelf above.

I keep coming back to "A Sigh." Which must, as Mathew Yeager says in a review of the book, be read in light of the darkness of war. He goes on to say, "As we all know, an understanding of what is superfluous or extraneous results from a confrontation with what is absolutely essential."

It's a bit of a meandering review, which I happen to appreciate. He goes on to talk about a technique used by Glyn Maxwell, and thinks about it in the context of "A Sigh."

"Glyn Maxwell (and I think he borrowed this from Auden) teaches poetry by dictating poems with blanks in them, almost like mad-libs. After taking a few minutes to fill in the blanks, students then compare their choices to what Edward Thomas or Philip Larkin did. Imagining “A Sigh” as such a mad-lib, it’s easy to picture students who have supplied “cigarettes or video games or fame” being startled at what an odd collection of nouns Hartwig has chosen. So what is not superfluous? Now we must set the book aside, stare at the wall above our desks, and ask ourselves. If a poem can make us do this, we know that it has done something."




How I also love: paintings words flowers and lovely faces.





Perhaps a refrain, but we've not sat outside in the garden nearly enough yet this summer. Rob has been working on a couple of projects, and really can't seem to ever stop painting, which I respect and am glad for and also inspired by. Interestingly, Chloe is similar. This summer (and all this past year especially) she's been obsessed with drawing, and her digital art. She's been going to a life drawing class one evening a week, and is signed up for more in the fall. I sometimes feel the odd one out in our household and envy the art makers - their busy-ness (as opposed to the futile daydreaming I seem to be lately occupied by). As for me, I've gone through the proofs of Rumi and the Red Handbag one last time and word is it will soon go to the printer. As well, it looks like the launch date in Edmonton has been set for Audreys Books on October 14th. I hope to read in a few other places as well, but am also going to concentrate on putting together a sort of 'blog tour.' So if you have any ideas for me, or would like to interview or feature me/my novel etc. please get in touch.





So I was looking through the treasure trove that is Whiskey Rivers Commonplace blog and came across a few quotations that inspired, and also coincide with things I've been thinking about, working through, reaching for an understanding of.

These two things:

"Every human being is a koan, that is to say, an impossibility. There is no formula for getting along with a human being. I am impossible to get along with; so is each one of you; all our friends are impossible; the members of our families are impossible. How then shall we get along with them? 
If you are seeking a real encounter, then you must confront the koan represented by the other person. The koan is an invitation to enter into reality." 
- Bernard Phillips


"Don't look for perfection in me. I want to acknowledge my own imperfection, I want to understand that this is part of the endlessness of my growth. It's absolutely useless at this stage in your life, with all of the shit piled up in your closet, to walk around and try to kid yourself about your perfection. Out of the raw material you break down, you grow and absorb the energy. You work yourself from inside out, tearing out, destroying, and finding a sense of nothingness. But this somethingness - ego and prejudices and limitations - is your raw material. If you process and refine it all, you can open up consciously. Otherwise, you will never come to anything that represents yourself. 
The only thing that can create a oneness inside you is the ability to see more of yourself as you work everyday to open up deeper and say, fine, 'I'm short tempered,' or 'Fine, I'm aggressive,' or, 'Fine, I love to make money,' or, 'I have no feeling for anybody else.' Once you recognize you're all of these things, you'll finally be able to take a breath and allow these things to open up." 
- Albert Rudolph





"I don't get tired of you. Don't grow weary
of being compassionate toward me!"
- Rumi


“Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.”

- Simone Weil

Questions that have arisen in conversation this past week, how to be compassionate to those who are not able to be compassionate toward you? I've been talking about how the practice of compassion means we apply it to those we know and those we don't know. Interesting how it's very often more difficult to practice compassion towards those we see frequently, who are related to us, those to whom we are close. And of course it's difficult to feel for those who have slighted us, or acted meanly toward us, or unfairly judged us.

It's easy to practice compassion when you're surrounded by compassionate people. The test, I guess, is to practice it when you're confronted by someone who looks down upon you, who isn't understanding, or who isn't the least bit interested in the practice of compassion.The test is to practice compassion in a 360 degree circle - in all directions. We don't really get to choose for whom we should feel compassion. It's a bit of a fail, right, when we do pick and choose. But sure, all that said, I continually fail at this. In a big way.

I often ask myself, WWPCD? (what would Pema Chodron do?)


“The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes. ”

- Pema Chödrön

Some days I'm overwhelmed with thoughts of my great imperfections. My very own impossibility. The most difficult thing is to be compassionate toward the self. And then, as Rudolph says, all this is the raw material - wrestling with ego and prejudice and certainly limitations. Without this state, where would the novelists come up with their material?





So, on to writing then. Living with that uncertainty.....


"Do not quit. You see, the most constant state of an artist is uncertainty. You must face confusion, self-questioning, dilemma. Only amateurs are confident . . . be prepared to live with the fear of failure all your life."

- W. O. Mitchell


And yet, it's a tougher time now for most writers than it ever has been. Case in point.

When the article in Salon titled "“Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from" first came out in January there was a bit of a buzz about it in writer circles.

But man, this is a difficult thing to talk about. There's always someone who has it better than you, someone who has it much worse. Writing is a slog, life is a slog. I admit I used to spend a a LOT of time thinking about how great it would be if I had a whole year just to write, where I didn't have to worry about paying bills, didn't have to work a day job and do freelance work and try to sell the occasional photo etc. It's actually been strangely freeing to give up that dream, and refuse to even think about it as a possibility ever. Ever.





Okay. Enough of all that. Bokeh. Because sometimes this is what keeps me going through a week.







It's the time of year when soon after dinner, the light in my backyard does this thing.




I was powerless to resist. Just kept hauling things out of the house and holding them up, getting Chloe to hold them, just to see what they'd look like surrounded by this bubbly delicious light.





So, yeah. Jane Eyre.





My dragonfly paperweight. (Indispensable on those breezy days).





Back to the cherry tree.







Chloe's Pegasus.





Lucky kitty.





A little cherry bokeh.









And then this old thing. A purse I bought years and years ago at a little shop in Jasper. (Going through my book one more time has got me thinking about purses again....)











By now you can see my completely obsessive personality coming through. 

Chloe's toast (dessert). 




And this beauty. Which honestly. Was given to me by some force of nature. It was lying on the sidewalk as I sauntered home on a morning walk with the dog. About a block from my house. I have no idea where it came from. Mysterious gift.




And lastly.....some forest shots.






These are out in abundance at the edges of the little forest.





And these....did someone plant them? Or did they migrate in from a nearby garden? Either way, a lovely surprise.


















And thus ends another week of various unconnected ramblings and photos. I have no idea what I'm doing here, that much is clear.....But hearty thanks to all my readers for sticking around while I muddle about.

Wishing you all calm things.

S.





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