Monday, July 27, 2015

don't look for perfection in me

A Sigh

by Julia Hartwig

How I loved you things that are superfluous
boundless love friendship sacrifice virtues
met so rarely and paid for so dearly
how I cried over every betrayal every
disloyalty and every abuse

How I loved you things that are unnecessary
paintings words flowers and lovely faces
each blossoming meadow sunsets and dawns
how I loved you almost to excess
and how vexed I was you are superfluous

My copy of the Hartwig came from the library, and pretty much after I read through, I stopped to order myself a copy. I've also placed In Praise of the Unfinished on my recommended reading shelf above.

I keep coming back to "A Sigh." Which must, as Mathew Yeager says in a review of the book, be read in light of the darkness of war. He goes on to say, "As we all know, an understanding of what is superfluous or extraneous results from a confrontation with what is absolutely essential."

It's a bit of a meandering review, which I happen to appreciate. He goes on to talk about a technique used by Glyn Maxwell, and thinks about it in the context of "A Sigh."

"Glyn Maxwell (and I think he borrowed this from Auden) teaches poetry by dictating poems with blanks in them, almost like mad-libs. After taking a few minutes to fill in the blanks, students then compare their choices to what Edward Thomas or Philip Larkin did. Imagining “A Sigh” as such a mad-lib, it’s easy to picture students who have supplied “cigarettes or video games or fame” being startled at what an odd collection of nouns Hartwig has chosen. So what is not superfluous? Now we must set the book aside, stare at the wall above our desks, and ask ourselves. If a poem can make us do this, we know that it has done something."

How I also love: paintings words flowers and lovely faces.

Perhaps a refrain, but we've not sat outside in the garden nearly enough yet this summer. Rob has been working on a couple of projects, and really can't seem to ever stop painting, which I respect and am glad for and also inspired by. Interestingly, Chloe is similar. This summer (and all this past year especially) she's been obsessed with drawing, and her digital art. She's been going to a life drawing class one evening a week, and is signed up for more in the fall. I sometimes feel the odd one out in our household and envy the art makers - their busy-ness (as opposed to the futile daydreaming I seem to be lately occupied by). As for me, I've gone through the proofs of Rumi and the Red Handbag one last time and word is it will soon go to the printer. As well, it looks like the launch date in Edmonton has been set for Audreys Books on October 14th. I hope to read in a few other places as well, but am also going to concentrate on putting together a sort of 'blog tour.' So if you have any ideas for me, or would like to interview or feature me/my novel etc. please get in touch.

So I was looking through the treasure trove that is Whiskey Rivers Commonplace blog and came across a few quotations that inspired, and also coincide with things I've been thinking about, working through, reaching for an understanding of.

These two things:

"Every human being is a koan, that is to say, an impossibility. There is no formula for getting along with a human being. I am impossible to get along with; so is each one of you; all our friends are impossible; the members of our families are impossible. How then shall we get along with them? 
If you are seeking a real encounter, then you must confront the koan represented by the other person. The koan is an invitation to enter into reality." 
- Bernard Phillips

"Don't look for perfection in me. I want to acknowledge my own imperfection, I want to understand that this is part of the endlessness of my growth. It's absolutely useless at this stage in your life, with all of the shit piled up in your closet, to walk around and try to kid yourself about your perfection. Out of the raw material you break down, you grow and absorb the energy. You work yourself from inside out, tearing out, destroying, and finding a sense of nothingness. But this somethingness - ego and prejudices and limitations - is your raw material. If you process and refine it all, you can open up consciously. Otherwise, you will never come to anything that represents yourself. 
The only thing that can create a oneness inside you is the ability to see more of yourself as you work everyday to open up deeper and say, fine, 'I'm short tempered,' or 'Fine, I'm aggressive,' or, 'Fine, I love to make money,' or, 'I have no feeling for anybody else.' Once you recognize you're all of these things, you'll finally be able to take a breath and allow these things to open up." 
- Albert Rudolph

"I don't get tired of you. Don't grow weary
of being compassionate toward me!"
- Rumi

“Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.”

- Simone Weil

Questions that have arisen in conversation this past week, how to be compassionate to those who are not able to be compassionate toward you? I've been talking about how the practice of compassion means we apply it to those we know and those we don't know. Interesting how it's very often more difficult to practice compassion towards those we see frequently, who are related to us, those to whom we are close. And of course it's difficult to feel for those who have slighted us, or acted meanly toward us, or unfairly judged us.

It's easy to practice compassion when you're surrounded by compassionate people. The test, I guess, is to practice it when you're confronted by someone who looks down upon you, who isn't understanding, or who isn't the least bit interested in the practice of compassion.The test is to practice compassion in a 360 degree circle - in all directions. We don't really get to choose for whom we should feel compassion. It's a bit of a fail, right, when we do pick and choose. But sure, all that said, I continually fail at this. In a big way.

I often ask myself, WWPCD? (what would Pema Chodron do?)

“The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes. ”

- Pema Chödrön

Some days I'm overwhelmed with thoughts of my great imperfections. My very own impossibility. The most difficult thing is to be compassionate toward the self. And then, as Rudolph says, all this is the raw material - wrestling with ego and prejudice and certainly limitations. Without this state, where would the novelists come up with their material?

So, on to writing then. Living with that uncertainty.....

"Do not quit. You see, the most constant state of an artist is uncertainty. You must face confusion, self-questioning, dilemma. Only amateurs are confident . . . be prepared to live with the fear of failure all your life."

- W. O. Mitchell

And yet, it's a tougher time now for most writers than it ever has been. Case in point.

When the article in Salon titled "“Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from" first came out in January there was a bit of a buzz about it in writer circles.

But man, this is a difficult thing to talk about. There's always someone who has it better than you, someone who has it much worse. Writing is a slog, life is a slog. I admit I used to spend a a LOT of time thinking about how great it would be if I had a whole year just to write, where I didn't have to worry about paying bills, didn't have to work a day job and do freelance work and try to sell the occasional photo etc. It's actually been strangely freeing to give up that dream, and refuse to even think about it as a possibility ever. Ever.

Okay. Enough of all that. Bokeh. Because sometimes this is what keeps me going through a week.

It's the time of year when soon after dinner, the light in my backyard does this thing.

I was powerless to resist. Just kept hauling things out of the house and holding them up, getting Chloe to hold them, just to see what they'd look like surrounded by this bubbly delicious light.

So, yeah. Jane Eyre.

My dragonfly paperweight. (Indispensable on those breezy days).

Back to the cherry tree.

Chloe's Pegasus.

Lucky kitty.

A little cherry bokeh.

And then this old thing. A purse I bought years and years ago at a little shop in Jasper. (Going through my book one more time has got me thinking about purses again....)

By now you can see my completely obsessive personality coming through. 

Chloe's toast (dessert). 

And this beauty. Which honestly. Was given to me by some force of nature. It was lying on the sidewalk as I sauntered home on a morning walk with the dog. About a block from my house. I have no idea where it came from. Mysterious gift.

And lastly.....some forest shots.

These are out in abundance at the edges of the little forest.

And these....did someone plant them? Or did they migrate in from a nearby garden? Either way, a lovely surprise.

And thus ends another week of various unconnected ramblings and photos. I have no idea what I'm doing here, that much is clear.....But hearty thanks to all my readers for sticking around while I muddle about.

Wishing you all calm things.



  1. Hello, I'm so happy to be reading your words on this lovely morning. It's become a ritual for me to sit with my coffee and my dogs and read you and a few others at the beginning of what is for me the weekend. I work with the public at a tourist destination and at this time of year it's awful, so many people and too many of them are jerks or idiots (they eclipse the good people, the ones I'd like totake a few extra moments with). To sit here in birdsong and read the snippets and poetry you've curated, and ponder what you've been musing all the way across the country helps bring me back to myself, so thank you for writing. I'm looking forward to your book! Have a lovely week,

    1. This makes ME happy to read. Thank you, Kim.

  2. Such lovely images to accompany these insightful words.

  3. Thank you Shawna for your weekly treat of thoughts, words and images. They, and you, are a blessing!

  4. I am amazed at all the beautiful, magical light in your backyard! And rainbow sprinkles on toast? ...that is just the best! I'm very excited to read your new book, another good reason to look forward to fall!

    1. Thanks so much, Susan! I need to get out and take more photos - that light doesn't last long....

  5. Congrats, Shawna, on your new book! So excited for you. LOVE the cover. You endlessly amaze me. Didn't you just publish Hive? Good grief! I must get to my reading pile . . .
    Love the 'cluster of grapes' bokeh shots. Oh,that handbag! What a treasure. Signed, your friend,
    Fine, I am Lazy and Disorganized.

    1. Aw, so nice to see you hear, Cathy! So glad you like the cover. Makes me happy!

  6. Love the bokeh...and the purse.

  7. Hi. Regarding your comment "So if you have any ideas for me, or would like to interview or feature me/my novel etc. please get in touch." ... I've been recommending Tim Grahl's book "Your First 1,000 Copies" to all my writer friends. He's big on building your list, an approach I see a lot in content marketing. Good luck, and thanks for the continued Monday goodness.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...