Tuesday, May 6, 2014

walking with the deep alone

I Am Going To Start Living Like A Mystic

by Edward Hirsch

Today I am pulling on a green wool sweater
and walking across the park in a dusty snowfall.

The trees stand like twenty-seven prophets in a field,
each a station in a pilgrimage – silent, pondering.

Blue flakes of light falling across their bodies
are the ciphers of a secret, an occultation.

I will examine their leaves as pages in a text
and consider the bookish pigeons, students of winter.

I will kneel on the track of a vanquished squirrel
and stare into a blank pond for the figure of Sophia.

I shall begin scouring the sky for signs
as if my whole future were constellated upon it.

I will walk home alone with the deep alone,
a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.

Yesterday's weather was rather amazing - that rare combination of: not quite spring, morning fog, and a touch of frost.

I've shared the Hirsch poem before, and the next one by William Stafford, as well. But the walk I took, with the deep alone, which seemed somehow deeper because of the fog, reminded me of the thread in Stafford's poem, because of all the frosty threads clinging to branches and last year's flowers.

The Way It Is

by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

People will wonder what you're pursuing, this is true.

For my birthday Rob got me the book, Self-Portraits by Vivian Maier. (You can learn more about her here). I've also talked about Maier before here and find her fascinating, ongoing.

There's a bit in the introduction by Elizabeth Avedon that I find interesting.

She talks about how coming upon Maier's work was "like discovering a message in a bottle thrown in the ocean over 50 years ago." She says, "the work sings with photographic purity, the love for physically making pictures. There is no place or use for a witness or collaborator, remaining uncluttered and free from the pursuits of acceptance, notoriety, and celebrity."

She ends by saying,  "So often contemporary photographic work needs something...It demands an audience, or requires funding. It needs someone to like it, share it, or comment to it. Images today are not content to exist on their own, they constantly seek opinion and validation, gathering numbing, repetitive rhetoric along the way. Vivian Maier's work is extraordinarily different in that it only needed to be made. What magic. A misfit genius."

Maier undoubtedly had a firm grip on this thread Stafford writes about, and she followed it. It doesn't seem as though she had occasion to explain it to anyone much. Her work is magic; her work is genius. But I wonder how things might have been for her had she been able to share her work. I don't think it would have hurt the work. It seems strange to think of her as a misfit, though, I have to admit. Seems too easy to think of her that way.

I won't say where my writing is concerned that I haven't imagined what it would be like to just write and not worry about finding a publisher etc., to just write for the love of writing. I've wondered how that would change and shape the writing.

As for my photography, I'm no VM. But it seems to me that so many people are out there every day trying to come away with a few good images - it's a similar thread they're following. Maybe we put our work on the web and hope for a few 'likes' or comments. A little validation. But mainly it's about following the thread. Maybe it's about the way one becomes a disciple of light, of the mysteries, frame by frame.

Maybe I know what I'm talking about, maybe I don't.

But here I am on the path, one of the usual paths:

I could hear the geese long before I could see them, coming out of the fog. They're flying down the length of the utility corridor, here, and perhaps toward the large pond about half a mile down.

Here is Ace, looking out at another bird's song:

I wonder how many photos I've taken over the years of the stand of trees, the hill, the open gate?

The same stand of trees, same field. Made different by the combination of fog and frost.

I had set out a little earlier than usual because I knew the frost wouldn't last. By the time I was back on the sidewalks, among the houses, the sun had already burned most of the frost away.

These last two shots don't do this little formation justice. But it seemed evidence of magic, and so I include them here.


  1. A rather haunting post today, but in a most lovely way. By haunting I mean that these words will follow me for a little while (longer, if I'm lucky). Thank you. Have a lovely day:)

  2. This post was replenishment for the soul, this morning. Thank you!

  3. i am especially touched by the close up pictures of the magical frost on the buds of spring.
    and the deep alone.
    just the words are perfect. are they not? the immediately take me to a quiet wonderful place. even if i have no fog.
    i just got back from barnes and noble. now i have your book they ordered for me.
    i will read it this afternoon! and then i'll no doubt re read it. again. and again.
    it's the kind of thing to carry with one. a little like 'gift from the sea' by lindbergh.
    to me it has that same quality. i want to spend unhurried time with it.
    thank you dear heart!

  4. It has been awhile since I have connected with poetry. I am enjoying the poems you share, along with your photos, very much. They are so true. Thank you<3

  5. i'm sorry. i have come back. to take up even more room. too long.
    but i just have to tell you.
    that you do not touch type makes these posts even more miraculous to me.
    i like that you are overwhelmed by an apple.
    i am marking up your book. i want to eat it like an apple! i don't want it to be too precious. i will be visiting its pages often. i mark in pencil. fine and light.

    i love that you let chloe think that she was part greek and didn't correct her. i so love that.

    and i can see your sandals hanging on the knob. and the broken strap with the hair pin.

    i like that your life is three huge golden apples on a window sill in venice. and that it's still a work in progress.

    i love that the bee came to visit rob's painting of lilacs. and that little chloe invited the guests to see! and that the bee safely returned outside!
    to say i am enjoying this small treasure of a book is an under statement.
    i have never known a poet before.
    painters yes. writers yes. musicians yes.
    but never a poet.
    til now.
    it makes me want to sing and be quiet all at the same time!
    i'm only just on page 27!
    i promise not to write about it all the time! i'll go now. and have dinner.
    and pick it up again tomorrow.
    it's a perfectly imperfect piece of fruit you know!

    1. Tammy - I couldn't ask for a better reader - what a blessing you are! I'm overwhelmed :) What a beautiful response - thank you SO much for sharing it :) xo

  6. I've returned to this post and have enjoyed it even more this time around. Added to my enjoyment is Tammy's comment, especially the line.....
    " makes me want to sing and be quiet all at the same time!"


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