Monday, October 12, 2015

any word we love

Over the Weather

by Naomi Shihab Nye

We forget about the spaciousness
above the clouds

but it's up there.The sun's up there too.

When words we hear don't fit the day,
when we worry
what we did or didn't do,
what if we close our eyes,
say any word we love
that makes us feel calm,
slip it into the atmosphere
and rise?

Creamy miles of quiet.
Giant swoop of blue.

I looked out one morning, this past week - and there it was - the late bloomer. The other buds don't look like they'll have the same luck but this one bloom seemed a good omen. Meanwhile, I'm saying calm words to myself, imagining the spaciousness above the sky. I'm taking in the last of the fall colours. And I'm trying to still myself for the week ahead.

Teach me the power and strength of silence
that I may go into the world
as still as a mouse
in the depths of my heart.

- Mechtild of Magdeburg

We picked the last bouquet from the garden. Every last flower in bloom. Chloe helped me, and then she held them so I could take a photo.

All week long, I tried to take a decent photo of them, but when the light was good, it seemed I was running off to work. One evening I took them outside and sat them on the railing where my bird usually sits.

And there they are on the table by the window.

The weather has been incredible - the stuff of a perfect autumn. But there was also a frost one morning.

Recently I came across an interview with a poet I admire, Li-Young Lee, in Image magazine. Here's an excerpt:

Image: Your poems are full of questions. The poems themselves might be questions. I think your memoir The Winged Seed has something like five hundred questions in it. Have your questions changed over the years? Are you closer to an answer? Do you understand the questions more profoundly? 
LYL: The word quest is in that word question. I feel as if I’m going to live my life as a giant question mark. I’m just going to live open, ready to encounter whatever God puts in front of me next. I have fewer and fewer answers. I feel like I know less and less.
Last year my son told my wife, “When we were younger, Baba had a lot of ideas he would talk to us about. As time has gone on, he talks to us less. And he’s become a lot warmer and seems more mellow.” I wanted to give them a lot of ideas. But the older I get, the more I realize I don’t know anything. There are no ideas to give. If I can just love them straight from my soul…. I don’t know who they are. I don’t know why they’re here. I don’t know why any of us are here. I’ll just live that question. My whole life will be a question. I will be a question mark. 
Image: And poetry helps you do this? 
LYL: I think so. When I come to the page to write the poem, I have to surrender everything. You have to accomplish a kind of deep yin quality—openness, yielding, getting out of the way so that the poem can come in. And that is a way to practice my life.

I've been thinking a lot about the 'quest' lately as I've been preparing for my book launch. Perhaps after the reading, I'll write a longer blog post about my thoughts on the quest. But I was pleased to come across these words by Li-Young Lee. And I was also glad to rediscover Image magazine, which I had sort of forgotten about.

Not Writing

by Anne Boyer

When I am not writing I am not writing a novel called 1994 about a young
woman in an office park in a provincial town who has a job cutting and
pasting time. I am not writing a novel called Nero about the world's richest
art star in space. I am not writing a book called Kansas City Spleen. I am
not writing a sequel to Kansas City Spleen called Bitch's Maldoror. I am not
writing a book of political philosophy called Questions for Poets. I am not
writing a scandalous memoir. I am not writing a pathetic memoir. I am not
writing a memoir about poetry or love. I am not writing a memoir about
poverty, debt collection, or bankruptcy. I am not writing about family
court. I am not writing a memoir because memoirs are for property owners
and not writing a memoir about prohibitions of memoirs.

{continue reading the poem here}

After reading this poem, I looked the book up and ordered it based on this description: 

Garments Against Women is a book of mostly lyric prose about the conditions that make literature almost impossible. It holds a life story without a life, a lie spread across low-rent apartment complexes, dreamscapes, and information networks, tangled in chronology, landing in a heap of the future impossible. Available forms—like garments and literature—are made of the materials of history, of the hours of women's and children's lives, but they are mostly inadequate to the dimension, motion, and irregularity of what they contain. It's a book about seeking to find the forms in which to think the thoughts necessary to survival, then about seeking to find the forms necessary to survive survival and survival's requisite thoughts.

And then, read this amazing conversation with her.

So recently I'm just watching the leaves curl up on the vine in our backyard. This is a full-time job.
A calling. But it gets away from me. 

- By Fernando Pessoa  {source}

My gaze is clear like a sunflower.
It is my custom to walk the roads
Looking right and left
And sometimes looking behind me,
And what I see at each moment
Is what I never saw before,
And I’m very good at noticing things.
I’m capable of feeling the same wonder
A newborn child would feel
If he noticed that he’d really and truly been born.
I feel at each moment that I’ve just been born
Into a completely new world…

I believe in the world as in a daisy,
Because I see it. But I don’t think about it,
Because to think is to not understand.
The world wasn’t made for us to think about it
(To think is to have eyes that aren’t well)
But to look at it and to be in agreement.

I have no philosophy, I have senses…
If I speak of Nature it’s not because I know what it is
But because I love it, and for that very reason,
Because those who love never know what they love
Or why they love, or what love is.

To love is eternal innocence,
And the only innocence is not to think…

My gaze is clear like a sunflower, too, but one that's a little bit drunk, a little bit disheveled.

So now it's time for a moment of quiet. A stone bowl of rose petals.

Time for some tea: pumpkin spice. Not my usual, but quite nice, actually.

If we were having tea together, I'd tell you about the novel I'm currently reading, Great House by Nicole Krauss. I loved her The History of Love so I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to make it back to her work, but I'm very glad I have.

We've been watching Longmire on Netflix, a departure from all the British mysteries we usually watch. Very compelling stuff.

Lastly, I'll likely be writing a blog post after my book launch which is this coming Wednesday, the 14th at Audreys Books in Edmonton. Naturally, there's been some last minute drama leading up to the event etc. I'll post photos and tell tales on my website, so take a look there later in the week if you have time.

In the meantime, dearly wishing you all calm things.

- Shawna


  1. A beautiful transition you have captured here, full of vibrant color and light and absolutely enchanting, even more so with the bits of frost. And what a gorgeous gathering of flowers, so sweet in Chloe's hands! As always, your tea and cookies look so yummy and inviting and I so wish I could come share a cup with you...I would tell you that your book launch will be a big success and a wonderful celebration of your amazing work! xo

    1. I dream one day we'll sit and have a cup of tea together :) Thank you for the good wishes and always great support, Susan.

  2. I always enjoy your photos. I haven't been inspired lately to pick my camera up. Since the dogs died, I just don't seem to feel anything. Many good wishes on your most recent book launch. I'm looking forward to spending a few days in Edmonton to visit my son and grand daughters -- I love Edmonton at this time of year.

    1. Thank you, Diane. So sorry about your dogs. Speaks well of you that you loved them so much. I hope you find your way back to the camera before long and especially toward healing. Wishing you a wonderful time in Edmonton! It really is beautiful.


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