Monday, August 15, 2016

come, lonesome one

For Tomas Transtromer & Max Ritvo

by Jean Valentine

I looked,
and there he was, my older brother,
my guide to the underworld.
His eyes were kind. He said,
“Here, take my hand, we cross here…”

It was the little blue restaurant.

He was the Swedish poet
He jumped up over the back of the chair
and sat down right next to Max.
And Max said, “Come, lonesome one,
to the lonesome.”

“Come lonesome one, to the
lonesome”: St. Symeon, the
New Theologian, addressing
his God (949-1022).

{A lovely conversation with Jean Valentine and poetry selection in Plume}

I seem to quote from Jean Valentine often enough on this blog. Especially when I'm "sad on the ground."

I've been missing the tea ceremony, as Lamott, calls it, below. My writing calls to me, "come, lonesome one." And I will, I'll answer that call, soon.

“I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual act of writing - turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

- Anne Lamott

Lamott is an encourager, and in the interview with Valentine that I mention above, there is a recurring theme there too, about encouragement. How important it is to have those people in one's life that nudge you forward with the right words at the right time.

Meanwhile. Summer is on its last legs. The garden surprises with its last offerings. This dahlia, for example.


by Dorianne Laux

                    Poem beginning with a line from Gwendolyn Brooks

I am not deceived, I do not think it is still summer. I
see the leaves turning on their stems. I am
not oblivious to the sun as it lowers on its stem, not
fooled by the clock holding off, not deceived
by the weight of its tired hands holding forth. I
do not think my dead will return. They will not do
what I ask of them. Even if I plead on my knees. Not
even if I kiss their photographs or think
of them as I touch the things they left me. It
isn’t possible to raise them from their beds, is
it? Even if I push the dirt away with my bare hands? Still-
ness, unearth their faces. Bring me the last dahlias of summer.


An excerpt from "The World Catches Us Every Time" by John Tarrant

"When people ask about distraction I suppose they mean something like my life: I am leaving the house but I can’t find my truck keys. By the time I find them, mysteriously, my phone has gone missing. While I’m looking for the phone, it rings—it’s my friend, also my board president. Then the sheep make a hullabaloo about something so I walk down to the paddock, but it is just a kind of sheep party with baaaing, while the border collie cheers from the sidelines. I feed the sheep alfalfa, come in and sit down to write. 
Then emails—a friend has cancer, someone wants a bio, a friend who’s a physicist has cool things to say about koans, my daughter opens a Google hangout from Tokyo and wants to talk about Jane Austen and also new uses of Ngram Viewer. I open Ngram Viewer, which gives the frequency of a word’s use over time, and it turns out that words “distraction” and “distracted” were most used in Jane Austen’s time, but are now on the rise again. 
And wait, here’s a link to a piece that claims that the thylacine, the Tasmanian marsupial tiger, which is a sort of totem of mine, isn’t actually extinct. With so much going on, it seems that I don’t need to leave the house after all. 
Nothing is wrong with any of those chunks of experience. The question is whether I can have enough space and silence inside them to actually take them in and claim them as my life. Distraction can have a long arc and until the end of the story, you can’t say what’s a distraction and what’s a calling."

I've been think a lot about the ways in which I'm distracted, lately. And the words by Tarrant spoke to me: which are distractions, and which are callings. Is this blog, for example, distraction or calling?

I'm due for some soul-searching. I'm trying to be patient with myself. But I can't say it's going

"So we have to be patient with ourselves. Over and over again we think we need to be somewhere else, and we must find the truth right here, right now; we must find our joy here, now. How seductive it is, the thought of tomorrow. We must find our understanding here. We must find it here; it is always here; this is where the grass is green."

- John Tarrant

"Knowing who you are is not a mystical thing, but a matter of experience, acceptance, honesty, and compassion. It is knowing you are small and selfish and angry, and great, creative, tender-hearted and caring."

- Jason Shulman

Both of the above quotations are from Alive on All Channels, with thanks.

If only you knew what bliss I find in being nothing.

– Rumi

In the green morning
I wanted to be a heart.
A heart.

And in the ripe evening
I wanted to be a nightingale.
A nightingale.

turn orange-colored.
turn the color of love.)

In the vivid morning
I wanted to be myself.
A heart.

And at the evening's end
I wanted to be my voice.
A nightingale.

turn orange-colored.
turn the 
color of love.

- Federico Garcia Lorca

“I am a firm believer that every few years one needs to shake one's life through a sieve, like a miner in the Yukon. The gold nuggets remain. The rest falls through like the soft earth it is.”

- Amy Poehler

“I want to be able to be alone, to find it nourishing - not just a waiting.”

- Susan Sontag

For those of you who read this blog regularly, all twelve of you, you know that there will be changes coming up in our small family, with our daughter going off to college, me taking on more hours at work until December, and then, after that, looking for other ways to make money. Perhaps seeking out freelance work. I don't quite know yet.....And as always, trying to do everything while carving out that very soul-necessary time to write.

What's going to happen is that I'll be shaking my life through a sieve, which is a really great exercise, I concur.

What colour will my soul turn?

How to be nothing?

How to be a heart?

I fill up with questions now.

It's time to turn toward solitude. To seek out the company of the lonesome, of the aficionados of solitude.


"Sometimes I feel annoyed and resentful over not having had the easy career, open doors, and royal welcome that some painters have found easily, perhaps too quickly. But I've always persisted on the path of solitude and exactingness. Painting cannot be done amid the world's hubbub, by adopting its rhythm and complaisance. It is better to seek solitude and silence, to be surrounded by past masters, to reinvent the world, not be cradled by false sirens, cash, galleries, fashionable games, etc."

"What matters is to advance alone on beauty's path, never straying...."

- Balthus

And never straying, one finds:

"There's nothing but a tenacious, stubborn-minded faithfulness that's no longer a choice, but something consubstantial with oneself, essential and destined." 

And so I'll leave you with this walk in the fog, from one morning last week.

Last things.

Watched: The Song of Lunch with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. It's not often you come upon a movie based upon a poem, okay, one never comes upon such a thing. But here it is.

A blog break. I don't know when, but sometime soon, I'm going to need to take a blog break. I don't know why I haven't thought of doing so before now, frankly.

Listening to Rose Cousins. That voice. Wow.

Stuff going on in my basement.

The Alberta Readers Choice Award voting is nearly over. Still time to vote for Rumi and the Red Handbag.

Wishing you a week of beauty and patience and calls that may be answered. And of course, all calm things.

- Shawna



  1. I think we're more than 12 reading your thoughtful words and loving your beautiful images! I know how you feel though, as I'm always sure my blog only has 4 readers, and 3 are close family. Just know that you'll be missed! I always make time to read your blog early Monday mornings. Your posts put me in a happy, meditative state as I muse over the poems and chase down the links before starting my day. I fully understand the need for a break, or even whether you want to continue: sometimes the things that once fed and excited us can become a burden, and need a rest, or a revamp to deserve tobe worthy of taking up precious time. Best wishes to your daughter as she embarks on this new chapter of her life!

  2. Such beautiful images. I so love your bowl. That Ann Lamont quote is so perfect.

  3. Yes to all of it, the beauty, the lonesome patience, the poetry.

  4. Yes, it can't be just twelve people reading your blog, I myself share your posts very widely. :) I wait for Monday nights just to read your weekly post. All the very best to your daughter and to you and Rob.

    I remembered you today reading alone in a bookshop, this book that I think you will love -

    And oh, I loved Rumi and the Red Handbag, such a delight, so full of subtle nuances.

  5. The most beautiful last offerings of many changes happening at this time of year. I can certainly understand your need for a break, especially at this point in time. And that fog, I would love to be blanketed in that right now. All my best to Chloe as she heads off to college and to you, Shawna. I'll be thinking of you. xo

  6. Way more than twelve reading this amazing blog! You particularly hit the spot this week for me amidst panic and disillusionment about the future, work, writing, education, which degrees and careers open doors and which ones remain tightly shut... Your blog always reminds me that enjoying the right here right now is more fruitful than worrying about the future..

  7. The Saskatchewan-born artist Agnes Martin wrote: “The measure of your life is the amount of beauty and happiness of which you are aware.” Shawna, every Monday (thanks to my daughter's discovery of your site) you illuminate the quotient of beauty for me and all readers and for that, I thank you.

    1. Hello Gloria. Though I don't know you, you have perfectly echoed my thoughts. Thank you, Shawna, for this blog.

  8. Wishing you patience and no rushing. Take the break and I am a firm believer of the importance of doing 'nothing' until ...
    You do have many changes in your life and they've been floating around disturbing your space. Wait patiently, let the fog lift when it may, and know that when it clears the light will be your guide.

  9. There are many more than 12 of us. I share your words and refer folks to your blog, too. Do take whatever time you need, in any way that works for you as you pour your life through a sieve. You offer such wise words for each of us and share lovely thought provoking images. You are a joy in my life. I wish you well on your journey.

  10. Dear Shawna. Even before you mentioned a possible blog break my heart skipped a beat when you wrote about changes coming to your family and working more hours.... I felt it there. Your photographs are beautiful, your thinking and writing inspiring, and they all help me through every day. For me Monday means Calm Things but I also know that it is vital to recharge a battery. What do I want to say? That I will make the most of you as and when I can because you bring me light. xx PS I love your new header...

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments and for checking in, so to speak. It can feel a bit lonely here otherwise :) xo

  12. Thank you so much for your blog. I love it. The disjointed/linked photos, comments and quotes. I can understand that you might need a break from the blog, but I will miss this calm pond. It has been helpful to me through some rough times. And if you decide to move into another project and the blog evolves into something else or nothing, good for you, and I will make my own calm space.


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