Wednesday, February 26, 2014

book of transformations

Creation is really a sustained period of bliss — even though the subject can still be very sad. Because there’s the triumph of coming through and understanding that you have, and that you did it the way only you could do it — you didn’t do it the way somebody told you to do it, you did it just the way you had to do it. And that is what makes us us.

- Alice Walker, found on Brain Pickings

The Layers

by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

I suppose the quotations I'm drawn to, and which seem often disparate, likely reveal what's going on in my subconscious, even more than I would imagine. Well, the words by Alice Walker speak to me very deeply. She gets at two of the central truths of the writing life - that there will be sorrow in what we write. I think there is sadness in the act of writing, itself, as well. But when we look back at our times of writing, those long and sometimes short spans of creativity, and the fact that we have been able to write at all is bliss.

In writing what you had to, what you alone could write - what a triumph this is.

What was I looking for in the Kunitz poem?

"How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?"

We are always roaming through the wreckage of our lives, perhaps, and we can go on, aware of the beauty of the layers, the richness. Aware that the book of transformations is a given, that we go on changing. We will proceed, we must.

Is the question answered? How shall the heart be reconciled? Sidelong. The answer: every stone is precious to me. The answer: change.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I agree with you. Sometimes I find the passages of text that "speak" to the "conscious" me are really both the voices of the author and my sub-concious speaking together in harmony. Does that make any sense?


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