Monday, October 26, 2015

to carry joy

Nights in the Neighborhood

Linda Gregg

I carry joy as a choir sings,
but quietly as the dark
carols. To keep the wind away
so the hidden ones will come
out into the street and add
themselves to this array of
stars, constellations and moon.
I notice the ones in pain
shine more than the others.
It’s so they can be found,
I think. Found and harbored.


For me, rather than nights in the neighbourhood, mornings. Carrying joy, carrying the lines by Linda Gregg:  

I notice the ones in pain / shine more than the others

This feels very true to me. 

We've been walking, Chloe, and I, and the dog, each morning. Stopping by trees along fences, trees growing wild in the low spot of the dry pond,  and by groomed hedges lining other peoples' front yards. Finding things to believe in, as the next poem goes. The way leaves hang on and on. Reflections in puddles, tenacious weeds. 

Things to Believe In

by Patricia Monaghan 

trees, in general; oaks, especially;
burr oaks that survive fire, in particular;
and the generosity of apples

seeds, all of them: carrots like dust,
winged maple, doubled beet, peach kernel;
the inevitability of change

frogsong in spring; cattle
lowing on the farm across the hill;
the melodies of sad old songs

comfort of savory soup;
sweet iced fruit; the aroma of yeast;
a friend’s voice; hard work

seasons; bedrock; lilacs;
moonshadows under the ash grove;
something breaking through

{from the author's website}

The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see - it is, rather, a light by which we may see - and what we see is life.
- Robert Penn Warren

"Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours."

- Jane Kenyon

{source, Brainpickings}

So, what often happens with this blog, is I'm looking for advice that I myself need. I'm looking for poems that are a light by which I may see. It's purely selfish and then I share them so I don't have to feel so alone. I really love the Jane Kenyon quotation, above. Though, I suppose we could replace "take the phone of the hook" with "turn off the wi-fi."

Also, I very much needed to hear this:

"What is my opinion of this novel? - it is the sum of myself, as far as the written word can go, and my opinion of it is like my opinion of myself: - gleeful and affectionate one day, black with disgust the next day."

- Jack Kerouac in his notebook (January 11, 1948)

I've been blogging about Rumi and the Red Handbag here, if you'd like to catch up on the rather ridiculously good things that have been going on with the book.

And if happiness should surprise you again, do not mention its previous betrayal. Enter into the happiness, and burst.
- Mahmoud Darwish

“I just do my work, and I work every day, and my ambition is just to do something better than I last did,” she said. “I’d like to write something as great as ‘Pinocchio’ or ‘Little Women.’ I won’t say ‘Moby-Dick’ because that’s impossible. I’d like to write a book that everybody loves. I’d like to take a picture that someone wants to put above their desk so they can look at it while they’re writing a letter or doing whatever they’re doing while sitting at their desk. I’d like to do a painting that would astonish people.”

- Patti Smith

I plan on reading The "M" Train by Smith, it's on my list. It's good really to have a larger list than time, in some ways. So much to look forward to. Anyway, "I'd like to write a book that everybody loves." Yes, and the photograph, too. I'm always happy when someone says they're using one of my photos as a screensaver. I like to think of one of my photos being printed off and tacked onto the wall above a writer's desk. Something like that.

I found the above quotation on Alive On All Channels, and also this one, though the attribution isn't clear to me. I sort of relaxed just reading it though:

“What would you lose if you were to completely relax all the time? Not collapsing, but relaxing totally in what you were doing? What would you lose?”

I feel like it's been a long time since I've really relaxed. I sometimes relax when I'm taking photos. I can disappear into that process a little bit. But writing isn't relaxing, everything surrounding writing isn't relaxing. Being a writer is not relaxing. And because I live with an artist, I can say that that isn't terrifically relaxing either. I suppose what it is, is that life isn't relaxing. We're always worried about making a living, about how we're going to get through. I know that will never go away and it's too bad. I wonder what would happen in our art if we really could totally relax into what we're doing?

Well, this is what relaxing looks like. Instructions: find a sunbeam, close your eyes, dream.

And this is what our living room looks like these days. Rob has been working very hard on his new series, titled, Grid

You know I'm a fan of "On Being" - I quote from it and link to it often enough. And this is what I found on their blog this morning. More things I need to hear.

“When you’re making something, you don’t know what it is for a really long time. So, you have to kind of cultivate the space around you, where you can trust the thing that you can’t name. And, if you feel a little bit insecure, or somebody questions you, or you need to know what it is, then what happens is you give that thing that you’re trying to listen to away. And so how do you kind of cultivate a space that allows you to dwell in that — not knowing?”

 - Ann Hamilton

Okay, and so rather brilliantly, I follow the links all the way to Ann Hamilton's website, and see that / am reminded that, she is the artist who made this, which we saw on our first trip as a family to New York. Chloe would have been 10 years old at the time, and we spent a lot of time at the Guggenheim being very impressed by this installation, 'human carriage.' The experience of it has stuck with me ever since.

“We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe.” 

 -Henri Matisse

And one last poem:

The Letter Always Arrives at its Destination

by Niall Campbell

Then I wrote often to the sea,
to its sunk rope and its salt bed,
to the large weed mass lipping the bay.

The small glass bottles would be lined
along the bedroom floor – ship green
or church-glass clear – such envelopes

of sea-mail. Only on the day
of sending would a note be fed
into each swollen, brittle hull –

I had my phases: for so long
it was maps: maps of wader nests,
burrows and foxes’ dens, maps where

nothing was in its true position –
my landscape blooming from the surf.
Later, I'd write my crushes' names

onto the paper, as a small gift.
The caps then tested and wax sealed.
None ever reached my dreamed America,

its milk-white shore, as most would sink
between the pier and the breakwater,
and I would find that I had written

about the grass to the drowned sand,
again; and to the sunken dark,

I had sent all the light I knew.

{source, Scottish Poetry Library}

I love the ending of the poem, "I had sent all the light I knew." 

What else can any of us do?


  1. your post really spoke to much of this is relevant to me right now... your pictures are have a wonderful way of capturing that magical kind of light...thank you...sending relaxing thoughts your way...

  2. Beautiful. The poems are particularly wonderful :)

  3. Lovely LOVELY post! I probably wouldn't be using the word lovely if i were a writer but it just feels a soft comfy cardigan or a pot of nourishing soup. I never tire of reading about the success of Rumi and though I don't actually know you except through your blog posts I feel hugely proud. Can't wait for it to hit South Africa. It should be soon. Another beautiful quote ... "I am out with lanterns looking for myself" - Emily Dickinson

  4. Gorgeous details in this week's photos. Really beautiful.

  5. Thanks everyone! I SO appreciate you dropping by. - Shawna

  6. I've entered into the happiness and I'm bursting :) The light, the colors, the bokeh...all of it. Your puddle image with the reflection blew me away, love it! This is one of your posts that I will return to over and over, to take in all these wonderful poems and thoughts. I'm off the check out your links now..

  7. I live in South America right now and miss the fall.. Right before reading the part about enjoying when someone says they've used a photo of yours as a screensaver, I'd just dragged a copy of one of the photos down to make my desktop, replacing another photo of yours;) A friend passed your blog my way, rightly thinking I'd enjoy it. Regardless of sometimes being in the middle of what you describe as not relaxing, your posts truly transmit quite the opposite--thank-you~!


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