Monday, March 16, 2015

the glow deep inside

High Country Spring

by Charles Wright

It's not so much the description, it's what you describe,
Green pox on the aspen limbs,
Lilac bud-bursts set to go off,
                                                suppuration of late May.

The world is a tiny object, a drop of pine sap,
Amber of robin's beak, like that,
                                                   backlit by sunlight,
Pulling the glow deep inside.

{from Scar Tissue, by Charles Wright}

I listened to this Eric Satie piece played by Francine Kay on the way to work one day last week, which was difficult because it was so soothing and slow. Definitely a 'calm thing,' though, don't you think? 

BrainPickings, once again, shares some treasures - this time a post on Leonard Cohen and songwriting:
"[Writing] begins with an appetite to discover my self-respect. To redeem the day. So the day does not go down in debt. It begins with that kind of appetite."

Writing to redeem the day. And so, I find with my 'low-internet' experiment, yes, I continue to write more. This is obviously because I have more time to read, to think, to let my mind wander. It's not surprising, really. I feel like I'm slowly getting my balance back, though I'm not quite there. I mean, I know we never really quite get there, but there are times when we have more of a sense of equilibrium than others. And it's something I continue to strive for. When I've written something, even notes toward something, I feel as though the day hasn't gone down in debt.

And from an interview with Jane Hirshfield:

"The first word of every poem might be “Yes.” The next words: “And then.”"

From an NPR piece on Hirshfield:

"Compassion, in a way, is one of the most important things poems do for me, and I trust do for other people. They allow us to feel how shared our fates are." 

- Jane Hirshfield

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to receiving my (pre-ordered) copies of Hirsjhfield's new books. Reading her, one feels the compassion in her work. I admire the balance and equilibrium she creates in a poem.

"Understand me. I’m not like an ordinary world. I have my madness, I live in another dimension and I do not have time for things that have no soul."

- Charles Bukowski

And I've also been thinking a lot about soul lately. I might have mentioned that the subject of 'soul' is a large part of my upcoming novel, Rumi and the Red Handbag. (A quick aside: I've seen the preliminary design for the cover and it's so amazing....can't wait to see and share the finished product in the coming months).

This past week I returned to an old book, Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore,

"So the first point to make about care of the soul is that it is not primarily a method of problem solving. Its goal is not to make life problem-free, but to give ordinary life the depth and value that come with soulfulness. In a way it is much more of a challenge than psychotherapy because it has to do with cultivating a richly expressive and meaningful life at home and in society."

"'Soul' is not a thing, but a quality or a dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with depth, value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance."

How difficult it is to integrate all the various parts of our lives at times: family, work, creative pursuits, the everyday errands and housework, a social life.....

I feel as though I'm asking myself more often, are you where you want to be? Where else might you like to be? What else could you be? Which reminds me of the words of Joseph Campbell, who advised taking a wandering time, especially when you're young, but I think it still applies at various stages of one's life. He said, "Just think, "Where do I feel good? What is giving me joy?"

And then, of course, there's knowing what brings you joy, and knowing what is possible.

Well, spring, or not quite spring, as is the case here. We go along in that state for quite a while. The ground still frozen, heaps of snow in the backyard, and stretches of ice, too. It's been very warm these past few days, and so the melting has been going on apace which is wonderful. But there's the dirt and gravel everywhere - the edges of the road are basically a gravel pit. Dried grass, leaves, and still snow in the field and on lawns. The texture of snow becomes granular, and is gritty, as you'll see in photos further down.

Is it just me or does the beginning of spring set up a kind of mourning in the soul? I should be feeling hopeful, and I will, eventually, but this long transition between winter and spring....

I read the Levertov poem below and remembered past griefs, and because I'd been thinking about how we integrate all these many parts of our lives, the poem really spoke to me, though I've read it before. I thought about what happens when we invite those difficult things into our homes, as we would a homeless dog. Feed it, care for it, even love it. How we might transform ourselves through this act.

Talking to Grief 

by Denise Levertov

Ah, grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.

I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.

You think I don't know you've been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your name,
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
to consider my house your own
and me your person
and yourself
my own dog. 

I'm going to end today's post with this Hirsch poem. When it comes down to it, this is the only thing I know that I'm really meant to do. To examine this world, its dried up leaves at the end of winter, the way the sun lights up the flowers on my kitchen table, early morning. The shapes of things, present and absent, the sound of the birds high in the bare trees, the slow and steady winding down of winter.

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 dusky 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.

{source, please view Edward Hirsch's site}


  1. I love this line from the Hirsch poem: I shall begin scouring the sky for signs
    as if my whole future were constellated upon it. And I love the heart-shapes on your photos.

    1. Thx Manisha. I keep coming back to the Hirsch poem myself.

  2. Thank you for sharing "Talking to Grief". I always find new poets to read more of here.

    1. Me too! (I was just about to write the same message).

    2. Thx Drew and Angela. Levertov is well worth seeking out! Glad you like the poem.

  3. Thank you for the gift of yourself, of peace and calm and wonder in every post. I look forward to each new post.

  4. Again, like these past weeks, there's so much to come back to in your posts, Shawna. A kind of mourning at this time of year, yes - my thoughts always drift to Eliot's "April is the cruellest month...". Love the contrast between your indoor and outdoor photos- can that glow illuminate the outdoors too? xo

    1. Oh, I wish it could! Soon, though I think :) I admit, I'm ready for some green outdoors, and some flowers, too.

  5. Thank-you! This post pointed me towards the entire interview with Jane Hirshfield and it was just what I needed to finish this Friday well.

  6. I just wanted you to know, I have gone back to the Eric Satie pieces several times this week.

    1. I'm glad you like it! I've been listening to it all week too :) xo

  7. Beautiful, soulful images and so much of this post I can relate to photography and the need to create. And yes, that long transition between winter and spring, I am in mourning too. I can't wait to see your new book cover!

    1. The intersections between writing and photography are many! Thanks Susan!


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