Tuesday, May 21, 2013

a green fling

"Concerning trees and leaves... there's a real power here. It is amazing that trees can turn gravel and bitter salts into these soft-lipped lobes, as if I were to bite down on a granite slab and start to swell, bud and flower. Every year a given tree creates absolutely from scratch ninety-nine percent of its living parts. Water lifting up tree trunks can climb one hundred and fifty feet an hour; in full summer a tree can, and does, heave a ton of water every day. A big elm in a single season might make as many as six million leaves, wholly intricate, without budging an inch; I couldn't make one. A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it splits, sucks and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling. No person taps this free power; the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out even more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air."

- Annie Dillard

"We continually look and hope for a new, special thing that is going to last or make us happy, fulfill our needs, answer all our questions. In actuality, what are we going to get? We will get more seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking. That's it. That's what life is."

- Jack Kornfield

"Writing is a very, very unnatural act. Most people are out living - their bodies are, they're walking and they're talking and they're working and playing and they're interacting. Writing's very unnatural because you are not living when you write. But at the same time, what a great paradox - because you're all writers so you all know. You're all going, Oh but no, no, I'm most alive when I write. So are you more living or less, we can't use "more" or "less," it's just different. And this is the crux of any writer's life. It is the essential paradox and question and torment and joy. Are you writing or living and what's the difference and where's the line and how do we divide those activities?

I've spent my whole life thinking, Is this unnatural? Shouldn't someone be parading outside my apartment with a cardboard placard saying, "Insanity's taking place on the inside?" They really should, there'd be a point to it. And then, in other moods, I go, No, no, no, the insanity's taking place out there. And I waffle back and forth. And this waffling back and forth, when you yourself experience it, it's called life. And you are going to experience this waffling back and forth for the rest of your life. And whenever you do, don't think you're unnatural or broken or different. It's life, and we're living it, and that tension is life."

- Mary Ruefle

“I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure, to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you. Then even death, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part.”
- Annie Dillard

I'm finding inspiration in the green fling, going on all around us. I'm finding inspiration in the way the trees re-make themselves. The green madness, the insanities of coming alive. Last week, there was little time for the 'real' writing. And this week will be even more splintered. And yet, I resolve to grasp my one matter how much coffee will need to be consumed....

There is that line by Rumi, about submitting to a daily practice. And maybe it's strange, but of course you know, that this blog is part of my daily practice. There are very often a lot of thoughts that swirl around these posts - that don't make it in. But many of them go into the book I'm writing. I don't know that I could write another book in quite this way, but it seems to be working for the one at hand, my "Transactions with Beauty."

My practice in writing this blog - well, first the images. As I've said before, they act as prompts, and lead me to places and thoughts I might not otherwise have been led to. I often think I'll run out of things to photograph. They're usually taken within a radius of three kilometres. Often, they're taken in my house. And maybe this is the most important thing that this daily practice has taught me, and I've said it before - but the more creative you are, the more creative you are. Your seeing is continually refined, you begin to see things where you'd not before. Sure, there are the days when your seeing becomes dull, your mood squashes your ability to see the brightness of the world. There have been days, weeks, where I thought, well, there, I must be nearing the end as I'm feeling emptied out, done.

But then the light will change, the season, and one goes on. Replenished, somehow, which I think is also the secret of the daily practice. That you will empty out, refill, be renewed. You will fling your great green leaves, you will blossom, but also, you will winter, became spare and soft and sparkling. And that spareness, your winter seeing will inform your spring seeing. And so on.


  1. And there you go again. Daily beauty, daily bread...and wine. I love and admire all the quotes you pass along, and your images and your seasoned thoughts.

    Thank you as always.

  2. As so often happens, your writings and quotes meet me in a way that encourages, validates, and inspires me to keep my eyes and heart open while on the path. When I returned from a trip to Ca. after years of longing to see those redwoods, the first day back I read your blog --all about the life bursting forth in small green ways where you are. Oh my gosh it stunned me, the connection and appreciation of the nature that is both huge and tiny and a miracle all around us. I love coming to your blog each day. It is like waking up all over again. I feel so lucky, so blessed to come here.

  3. I feel I'm the one blessed by you - dear Edna, and Stephen.....thank you for being here.

  4. Your fan comments are so touching. I feel a bit like the third wheel on a date - observing an intimate moment. Oh dear! So tender, but I can't look away!

  5. . . . and another thing: your Mary Ruefle quote: basically sums up my life's biggest conundrum: am I out there or am I in here? How do I manage the pull of both? Doing nothing hasn't worked out for me so far . . .

    1. Ahhh, Lucy, you're the best. For me, the difficult part is being out there. The inside part, I'm good at....


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