Monday, May 27, 2013

to savor the experience of being alive

I've been reading At Seventy: A Journal by May Sarton. (On my recommended reading shelf, above). The journal records her thoughts for one year, her seventieth and begins on May 3rd, her birthday, which was rather lovely for me because my birthday is May 4th. Also, it's lovely to read the entries she makes in the month of May, during the month of May - to read her observations of new growth, the awakening world, the planting of perennials - all as this is going on around me. As I've said before, I was rather obsessed with Journal of a Solitude and also Plant Dreaming Deep, when writing my book Calm Things. For whatever reason, I hadn't found At Seventy until lately.

It's reminded me that I miss keeping my own journal in a more diligent fashion. I write in it several times a week, but not nearly to the extent I used to.

"I feel happy to be keeping a journal again. I have missed it, missed "naming things" as they appear, missed the half hour when I push all duties aside and savor the experience of being alive in this beautiful place.

One thing is certain, and I have always known it - the joys of my life have nothing to do with age. They do not change. Flowers, the morning and evening light, music, poetry, silence, the goldfinches darting about..."

- May Sarton

My recent obsession with leaves....these small suburban forests - feels a bit like I'm returning to my childhood. (The joys of my life have nothing to do with age...) All the hours spent wandering in the woods on our 80 acre farm, daydreaming, looking, breathing, looking for magical clearings.

"How slowly one comes to understand anything!" says Sarton. And I find this to be true. Or, we come to one level of comprehension, but later realize there are many more layers to the matter. Our understanding deepens. 

Sarton talks about the desire to nourish and shelter other writers, those starting out perhaps, or those a little further down the path. We have an obligation to those coming up behind us. But she also talks about the need to balance what we give with our own need to make art.

"I do not want to be invaded, and try to balance someone's needs (someone I have never seen and does not know me) against my own need for time to myself, time to think and, above all, now in May, time to drink in the beauty of this place and to do the work that has to be done to keep it beautiful." 

I think it's important to be generous in ways that you are able to be generous. We need time for our soul-work, whether it's writing in a journal, taking photos, gardening, cooking, writing poems. But we also need to carve out a little time to be generous in ways that are a good fit with who we are, and what we're good at. 

If you're a writer - there are so many ways to be generous. Comment on the work you love. Send notes to authors. Teach. Mentor. Share the work of others. Talk up the books you love, the authors whose work you admire. Take joy in the success of your colleagues. Share their successes. Buy a book, read it, review it. Retweet, like, comment. Rinse, repeat. Be generous, don't be stingy. Be sincere. Don't expect anything in return. Give. The more you give the more you shall receive. I've been saying these things for years, but had an opportunity to say some of this in public at the WGA conference where I was one of the panelists for "Getting Yourself Heard in the Poetry World." It was a great experience to hear and converse with other like-minded people expressing similar thoughts. 

One of the ways in which I try to share my love of poetry is through my site Canadian Poetries. I'm not the most 'public' person. I'm not naturally a teacher or mentor. But when I was thinking to myself, what are ways that I can contribute to the writing community, I looked at what I was good at, what I like doing. I'm not bad at 'web stuff.' Generally, I enjoy it. In another lifetime, I wouldn't have minded being a web designer. And so that's what Canadian Poetries came out of - me figuring out what I'm able to give, what I might be good at sharing, and what I would enjoy sharing. 

For today, though, for me, it's a time to think, wander, write, photograph. Followed by errands, always, the errands....


  1. What a beautiful synchronicity today! I have been reading May Sarton too "Journal of a solitude" and I also love to check and see (with all the journals I read) if she has writen on that same day that I am living many moons ago.
    I have also been reading Rilke that always nourishes me so much and I started posting some of his poems on my blog today and I will post more this week, I think his words are perfectly explaining my life at the moment
    I have been feeling so blessed to have words to lay down on my french journal lately and when that happens I feel so free... I write poetry and prose in 2 languages, Portuguese and French and English for my blog and work comunication and sometimes I feel like I'm empty...but I feel better now :)
    Yes we definitely need to share, so that's why I wanted to say once more that I love your work and that I love your photos too as when I come here I feel like I'm in a place where time doesn't live anymore.
    Thank you!

    1. THis is wonderful, thank you! I often turn to Rilke as well - beautiful to see his words shared on your blog. I also love the synchronicity - that you, too, have been reading Sarton.....xo

  2. It is so great to visit your blog as I write my Introduction to the translation of Calm Things... I decided to translate Calm Things because I felt a deep affinity when I read your essays... And I wanted to share your meditations that spoke to me about a simple way of life, one of enjoyment of the everyday. I translate because I want to share with those who cannot read your beautiful and deep essays...

    1. Sandra - you are an inspiration! Translation is a beautiful way to share and I"m so honoured that you're translating CT!


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