Just a taste of what’s popping up. In case you were looking for a prompt.
My wife can’t resist an opportunity to make a holiday feast, and that means planning ahead. (Somehow the menu keeps growing, enough to feed twice as many guests as we have.) I’m impressed by the checklists she makes, too, to keep herself on track. Three days ahead – or more – the work actually begins. And then there’s the last-minute shopping for anything she wants to be fresh.
Juncos and jays. Rituals and routines. Manners and mores.
No matter my affinity, I never would have been comfortable in the Society of Friends in any of the earlier eras. I always would have chafed at the limitations and discipline. Nor, for that matter, do I see anywhere I would have fit in neatly. (We could start with my interior “fort” surrounding my emotions, despite my public interactions. Or my Aquarian/contrarian nature.) Well, the Mavericks have roots in Boston Harbor. Look ’em up. Doubt I’d fit in there, either.
Opening my car door at the Nubble Lighthouse, I’m nearly knocked over by cold wind. Sustained, more than gusting. Barely a mile inland, only a mild breeze. This strange sensation of having my nostrils blown shut (or at least constrained): to breathe, I have to turn my back to the wind, a first in my experience. Make you wonder about sailors at sea?
In Eastern Orthodox tradition, Mary is a temple of God that surpasses the one in Jerusalem. Within her, the Light or Logos becomes incarnate. The nuances are quite different from what I’ve heard in Western Christian teaching. How much else have I missed? I’m certainly invigorated by the sharp contrast to our austere Quaker aesthetic. I love the extremes.
Launching this blog, as the horoscope said, came in my year to come out of hiding.
In contrast to any sense of guilt or some shame or impoverishment: LOOK AT ALL THESE RICHES! Even the matters of what’s unfinished or undone, now turned to opportunity.
A sense of progress, too.
What do I really want? To be accepted and loved, without feeling pain? Certainly there’s more.
Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.
Crows – dozens upon dozens – all over town, roosting together somewhere. Rook, as they say.
Late afternoon driving: so much glare, not just the low sun, either, but blazing up in reflections. Wet pavement or a waterway I’m crossing.
Midnight here now really fits around 10:30, unlike 12 in the summer, calculating midway from sunset to sunrise.
Cranberries, so quintessentially New England, remind me of driving to Cape Cod and passing all the bogs where they’re grown.
When it comes to Friends, we need new blood.
Eastern Orthodox Advent starts on the 28th and continues to the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6 or 7, not our more widespread Christmas Day! Since we’re taking this up voluntarily, rather than under church discipline, we make some adaptations. Thanksgiving, for one, and ending Advent on Dec. 25, for another. Does it make us look like wimps?
Poetry as a heroic journey. Holy, my voice. Or gritty.
Where am I NOW? Where’s my HEART?
Good to be reminded of ACTIVE WAITING, especially through periods when you feel suspended, on hold until others make a decision or act or all the pieces to fall into place. Drawing from James Nayler, Brian Drayton sees a sequence in spiritual response. The waiting prompts a response, which requires prompt obedience. Next is suffering, perhaps as embarrassment or upheaval. And then public witness – telling others, even if only in a small circle. Throughout, small steps count, however tentative.
How much of being a public figure is a matter of being a performer, too – someone who needs a circle of fans?
Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.
De-racinated, “no root system,” a criticism Tony Hoagland makes regarding so much contemporary American poetry. Also, he notes our fiction is far less diversified than our poetry, in its many tribes.
Don’t know who described Franz Wright as not a formal poet yet “the structure of his poems develop organically, driven by music, rhythm, and symmetry.” Not a bad model!
For that matter, who wrote, “Their humor often depends on a single word: in fact the whole laugh can rest on a single word choice,” before quoting Mark Twain: “The difference between any word and the ‘right’ word is the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning.”
TONE as the angle of sensibility toward the subject. Looking, too, for the fractional element – the bit that counters the previous.
As far as the persona of the writer, think of that time before World War II and the larger-than-life characters who were largely self-created: the conductor Leopold Stokowski or movie star Cary Grant as examples who wound up as caricatures of themselves, or at least strangers. It was, after all, a Sol Hurok era. As for our own obsession with “celebrities” rather than “doers”?
Czeslow Milosz: “The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person.”
Denise Levertov corresponding with William Carlos Williams: “I have been honest in what I’ve written – but with what hypocrisy I have selected what I wrote!”
To which Williams replied: “You know yourself better than anyone else can ever know you. … Perhaps you will never be able to say what you want to say … deep feeling that would reveal you in what may not want to be revealed … In that case, the loss will be great.”
John Berryman: “You should always be trying to write a poem you are unable to write, a poem you lack the technique, the language, the courage to achieve. Otherwise, you’re merely imitating yourself, going nowhere, because that’s always easiest.”
“And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey” (Joshua 9:13, KJV).
The mind dances here and there, rarely in a linear progression. So what’s in my thoughts these days? How about counting on these fingers?
While driving through town, I glance over at a small cemetery and notice wild turkeys padding about. A whole flock, actually, reminding me of hunting season hereabouts and the national holiday just ahead. Somehow, the critters know the calendar, and the wiser ones find sanctuary in town. Good luck to the rest of their brood.
With the return of cold weather, we once again use our front entryway and the mudroom beside the kitchen as auxiliary refrigerators. Don’t trip over the pots and pans when you visit.
When it comes to problems, focus on what’s closest, rather than always on the horizon. (The view from Mount Aquarius.)
It’s all New Work, in the works.
After all the lost or difficult years, the dashed dreams and desires, broken promises, upheavals – mingled, curiously, with gratitude. I’M HERE!
What never happened – and then?
Asked how long they’d lived there, in an American Walden, the artist replied: “Too long!”
Could the text be made simpler, rather than wildly reaching?
It’s better to know, even if it’s bad news, than to be left hanging in limbo
We keep trying to find a good system for storing our leeks through the winter. We’re very open to suggestions.
Being mindful of what’s right in front of us can always be a challenge. Here are 10 new items from my end.
Been collecting bags of fallen leaves from the neighbors, urban farmer that I am. These days, a couple dozen bags are sufficient, unlike the 200-plus I gathered in many of our first years together. They get stacked against one side of the barn to break the sharp blasts of cold wind that otherwise freeze the pipes to the mother-in-law apartment on the other side of the barn. It’s another of my winter-prep rounds. Come spring, the leaves get moved to the big compost bin.
I carry a sense of being responsible for making everything better – me, alone. Except I have insufficient resources. Which takes us back to my deeply ingrained fear of poverty. No wonder I always want everything to work just right – and get so upset when it doesn’t! And that twists back to my fear of conflict.
All of my writing (as I’m venturing) assumes an experience, if only an out-of-nowhere phrase (exploring the subconscious, then), demanding discovery as some unity of the cosmos. Even when I’m writing about what I don’t know.
My appreciation of raw oysters on the half-shell goes back to my girlfriend in college, who insisted I eat (real) seafood while visiting in Florida. (And here we were, staying on a cattle ranch.) Up till then, it had been frozen fish sticks or canned salmon. Flash forward, to New England, where these days just before winter provide some of the fattest, juiciest oysters imaginable. These bivalves have stocked up for their version of hibernation. And, as one Mainer points out, you can count their age on their shells, just like rings in a tree.
Gotta brace again for the end of Daylight Savings, the day our winter begins. Really begins.
Of course location affects my writing and sensibility. The slums of a small city can be as urban as anything in a big metropolis, if you look and listen.
Turn up an old Gohn Brothers catalogue – Amish clothes etc. Realize that’s no longer me, either.
Ever so messy, the girl with the Lord & Taylor shopping bag.
Somehow, even my Quaker practice and theory break free from some past.
Taking the bus to Boston, I look out to see a field of big trucks just before the state line. Then remember, from a detour, it’s the truck spa. Seriously, that’s what it’s called. Keep wondering if there’s something on the side for the drivers.
At least they’re not commandments. Holy Moses! Ten more from my end of the universe.
Sometimes I enjoy being in the front passenger seat the entire trip. Get to see more, for one thing. It’s an opportunity not to be in charge, not to be fully responsible – just let go and observe. What a relief!
All the waterfowl, the tip of the wing nearly touching the surface they fly over: how do they do it?
As Richard Brown Lethem says of his work, “For my entire life I’ve been trying to mine the subconscious.” No wonder I’m drawn to his paintings, inexplicable as so much remains to me.
I feel myself to be from another planet, looking at a world I once wanted to inhabit.
The grief men carry. Could it simply be the passage of time? Or something more fundamental to Eden?
As the news story reported, a neck-slasher to his stepdad: “I’m going to kill you and your life is going to end.” (The redundancy is emphatic.)
The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston’s Bay Back really is a magpie’s nest, an egocentric collection of bright and shiny objects. I do wish the curators were at liberty to give its masterpieces better display, contrary to Isabella’s directives. My, there’s so much clutter in the way!
Rather than heading back to Maine, she’s spending the night here. Thus, it’s NO YORK.
Pockets in a room that aren’t doing anything: that hold, in effect, dead energy. What’s the better usage?
Who am I, at the core? What do I really want? (That, for someone she accuses of being self-centered.)