…who could build a living life out of bare sticks and fallen branches, laughter and love-spit, the dew before dawn, whisper of footsteps, breath-sounds and fire hiss, sharp cedar smoke in the scent behind ears and knees, salt on the fingers and the cool, damp earth smell of sex itself?
(Two figures walk down the sidewalk in front of this house, saying “I want it all. I want it all. What you tryin’ to get?” )
Could we build a life that is alive out of mirthy gales and the art of finding beauty in the absurdity of strip malls, from the dust of old books in tall stacks, looks on the faces of strangers, sweet hunger satiated?
Can a life be made from things we’ve lost, from bones we’ve found?
…warmth under blankets and the heat of the sun, a bath full of sulphur and steam, embers and flames, the dry burn of your hand on my hip…
I have this stubborn and glittering belief that the sound of real laugher echoes all the way to the heavens, and this belief begs the question:
What sort of life would that be, to find myself, again and again, at home out in the world, under starshine and mercury vapor, the glow of the whole universe, resting our bodies on black water and on cool ground, the hard stone of the mountain under moonlight, the sanctuary of setting down all we carry at the end of the day…when we could just about fly for the lightness of it all?
I have to tell you, I think it is possible.
…to dab, and daub, and wedge, and break, to mend, and bend, and bind together the cold wind from the hills and a bright slick of algae, perfect green stones that turn grey as they dry…the call of coyotes on the ridge, hawks in the wind, and the wavering of Cathartes in its Mobius glide…the look of a face in the morning and that shiver in my spine…songs heard alone, and a flash of that gold in a left eye…can we build a life of all these things?
I think it is possible.
Some knots take years to undo. Some knots take years to re-tie.
Have you ever torn something apart to rebuild it?
I have…and I don’t think I want to do that again.
I can build though, and carefully take down walls, plane down edges, open up windows…i can turn one thing into another with the alchemy of morning, each and every day, with the grain of midnight at the edge of my eyes, the aliveness in my heart, when I think about this question of if ever there were…
How much does desiring freedom have to do with the choices she has made, the ways that she has torn her life apart, again and again?
The sun shining in through the plexiglass triangles that made the walls of the living room reflect in glare off of the television screen, casting the curved glass in grey shadow, the image of a turntable spinning cutting to a lady spinning, outside in the sun, the green and gold of the scene, the sun in her hair, blurred on the screen, to an all-black room, the same lady spinning into a smaller and smaller point, the screen filled with nothing but black and the reflections of windows shaped like triangles, the trees and river, all reflection as the spinning lady turned into a single point of light that pulsed once, twice, in time to the music, a magic carpet ride, a horse with no name, the figure kaleidoscoping outward to fill the screen as the names of bands and songs scrolled up the screen in bright yellow print.
“2 LP or 2 cassette set, The Freedom Years, The Greatest Hits of the 60s and 70s”
The girl reflected in the glare sat slumped in a chair, eating a grilled cheese sandwich. The cheese was cheddar, not American, Roman Meal bread, Fleischmann ‘s margarine, little white tub with the green and gold corn shape.
The cheese was cold and rubbery between the bread, oily slick molten like plastic at the edge of the crust.
She wanted to be riding a motorcycle through a desert, wind in her hair.
This crucible this cauldron
The smelting of a good life
A simple passage of the heat from you
stitching the knock of paddle on boat
with the teeth of wind in late December
Cold wood under the hands
Runnels of water birthing trees in the sand
Somewhere far away from here
Low tide high tide
Always moving, that place there
Brackish as it is
“So, everything is an ecosystem, we ourselves are ecosystems.” The upturned hand hovered in the air between the front seats of the car, turning to drive past the high school and over the bridge, and she remembered, for a minute, the night of the long conversation.
“Maybe it’s one of those things, those situations you hear about where two people meet and their lives move together with a baffling ease, as if one were what the other had always needed – (the jubilation of the compound machine!), and they – these people who find themselves in one another’s lives and hearts in ways that – (to observers may seem to defy reason, to be crazy) – within the relationship evidently (as measured by subjective and objective improvements in functionality and experienced quality of life) create a new sort of synergy in living, the emergence of a rare and undeniable partnership, a co-mergence, components that had drifted in isolation find themselves together, and in that togetherness they can move in new ways, become new things…and so they decide – these people, in these sorts of situations, which arise every so often when one heart finds another and feels a new purpose, when lives weave together to make a sudden, new and gleaming pattern – that what makes the most sense is to be in that togetherness as much as they can, because that togetherness is home to the people they most truly are, home to the people they might become in loving and in being loved.”
Maybe it’s something like that…?
Systems of human experience
“Everything is an ecosystem. Life is an ecosystem,” his hand hovered, palm up, in the space between the seats. She was turned slightly, watching his profile as he drove, the orange of the streetlights cutting shadows into the youth of his face, showing him as an old man. She made a small listening noise, a sound that meant to say, “yes, go on.”
She wanted to touch his hand where it hovered there, but didn’t, because this conversation was not about that, not about hand holding.
She felt the angle of the seat and car door against her back, felt her own heaviness held in the seat, and was almost distracted, until he went on. “So, there is the theory, this law, that basically says,” he looked at her, “It’s been a minute, so I might be a little rusty on this, but it basically says that what is most evolutionarily successful is whatever is able to maximize its potential efficiency and energy expenditures.”
(Note: efficiency/expenditure – those who figure out how to get the most accomplished toward beneficial outcomes with the least expenditure of resources. A discussion of homeotelic systems, mastery and micro- mastery, and ways that time spent in learning and producing can be synergistic with strategic consideration of ways that efforts put forth in one area can reinforce growth or micro-mastery in another area. Example: using art to fund living to fund travel which inspires and produces art…so that time spent in creating art and building a patronage base…
That’s a macro-example, a lofty goal. Bringing it back to today, is how I am spending my time supporting my growth to award a life that supports my optimal function as measured by joyful ease(?) and efficacy in doing productive things that are enjoyable to me more often than not, being who I am and working with my evolving strengths and growth areas to create a life that I really shine in?
(?) ease does not mean easy, it means that the machine is well-operable, gears moving without grinding, e.g not working a job that requires one to defy/try to alter their body’s biological need for sleep or basic cognitive and sensory processing functions…ease means that the way that you are living your life is not creating harm and struggle, but is generally supportive of/facilitating of deep-felt and meaningful positive experiences.
? Shine does not mean to be exuberantly glittered and beaming in some imagined big loud life, it means that the part of me that is what I call my heart, the core of me, is open and warm, glowing while I sit quietly in some place with no fluorescent lights.
They passed by the highschool, where back in October, she’d walked around and around the buildings while the band played in the stadium, talking to him about wanting to write a book.
She had walked in the dark, her stomach sore with laughter, unconcerned by the fact that she couldn’t find a way to get into the school, not one unlocked door. She was supposed to be volunteering at the band’s fundraiser haunted house, where – a few years back – she had walked with her children through an upstairs hall filled with garish adolescent-sized nurses, ghastly white faces and dark lipstick, blank expressions, trays of pillcups outstretched like offerings that you could not refuse, backing you up against a wall.
People wailed and ranted at the ceiling, chains around their ankles in the red-light dim, clatter and scrape on the linoleum. Some sat in a stone-still catatonic stupor, slumped and vacant.
It was the psych ward as a house of horrors, the house of horrors as the psych ward.
She has to remind herself to separate out her own experience, to set aside the images that rise in her mind as someone sits across from her in the thick-stuffed striped chair, their eyes filling and wide, telling about the time they went to the hospital.
The world feels too quiet today, muffled by these clouds that haven’t yet dumped their rain hanging heavy over everything, all gloom and doom and the promise of a damp afternoon, a chill that drips from the winter-brown leaves still hanging from the privet hedge that has long-since grown into trees.
Yesterday, and the day before, almost everyday, she knows how she will tell the story, and then – almost everyday – she forgets, the idea (that clarity, that certainty!) washed over by the scramblings of the day, collapsed and cluttered under the lists of things to do before she begins. Before she begins to tell the story.
She feels like a failure on days like today, when the day is shushed by rain and grey.
How can she be such a tremendous failure?
She is incredulous, baffled by her own persistent inefficiency.
(Note: I have been doing a lot inventory of where my mind and feelings go depending on how I am thinking about things, thinking about my life. This “not getting enough done I am a failure” thing is a really dangerous construction, which I am in the process of remediation and neutralizing through calling bullshit on myself, not believing what I think, but paying attention to what I think because there is some good information in what sort of toxic thought modes come up in response to certain situations. Note: toxic denotes a harmful effect – in this case the feedback loop between thinking and feeling that can create distress (physiological stress reaction, survival brain engagement, fight/ flight) that perpetuates attention to fear-thoughts and risk -perception, which leads to more distress because…on and on.
So, this isn’t a “oh, woe I’m a failure” kind of thing…it’s a “man, this crap still comes up for me? What’s up with that?” kind of thing.
That is one thing that being crazy taught them, that no one understands what it is like to be who they are, to know the things they know of themselves.
The she that is a they here, the they that is a she, in the way she is seen and all the people they have been to this doctor and that nurse, those teachers, the mother, the father, the lover, the old woman down the street, the kids at school, this person learned that she is a they, and learned – because she had to – how other people see her, what they make of her. All the people she is in other people’s view of her.
When it’s been this long since I have written, I always start out talking about how long it has been since I have written.
It was a matter of simple mechanics, equations of time and energy, what the days hold space for, what she is able to do while she is doing other things, the things she cannot do while she is doing other things, which is this…writing…
She feels suffocated by all that she has not written.
Her to-do lists go undone.
What it becomes is this critical mass of input, without time to make sense of how the experiences sit with her, what they mean to her, what they do to her, the effects of living, of moving through a day, walking and talking, drinking water, eating an apple, then another apple, at her desk, and noticing the crisp of it, the sound of the door to the office opening, and then closing.
Feb 12 (13 days ago)
They stood on the broad board floors of the house she grew up in, the rafters and eaves a dim cathedral space above them. The house smelled the same as it always did, damp rot and dry rot and Spanish moss and brackish water, the memory of papermill.
“We could approach it like an experiment.”
No one had to touch paper to make the manuals
Slick page and red ink
Blood and meat under that shine
Laid on in China
Or some toner-stink room in a strip mall
with it’s own zipcode
The Subway and the Hobby Lobby
Over by the interstate
Not quite the heart of the triangle
Nowhere near Central
Where the boys on The Row
Those men getting old
Wait for letters from women
That they call girls
Baby girl this
Baby girl that
Don’t you need a man to love?
That’s what they say
Those boys on The Row
telling stories in #2 graphite
’bout their mamas and their crimes
All wrote out in penmanship
Make a teacher weep it’s so damn neat
Ain’t got nothing else to do
But write these girls
Nah, those booklets don’t have nothin’ to do
with that place
Ain’t nowhere near it
Didn’t come from nowhere over there
Put em all in a box, stack those smooth-edges
Sheets still sticking
Bindings creaking, scraping
Cover static and sucking
Don’t have nothin to do with real lives
With real meat, real bone
Sittin’ out at the edge of the county
By the same square window,
pale pink light in the morning
All day long, the worst at night
Lamplight glow and waiting
The 1st, the 3rd
“They say that Starry Night is such a good painting because Van Gogh managed to shape the sky in the same way that stars really turn, winds really blow.” She pointed to the swirls on the water. “Look, it’s like Starry Night.”
The clouds have been auspicious these past few days. Fine-edged and angled, hanging there against the February blue like some kind of alive thing, drifting and white.
She stood in the parking lot at the bank, looking up, phone held out into the air above her head, squinting into the glare. The doors to the bank scraped open and a group of tucked – shirt, stylish flats business-lunch sort of gang of grown ups walked out into the sun.
The greying man, mauve shirt and purple tie, grinned at her, a lanky woman in a parking lot, hair too long and held in a braid down her back, tattoo across her shoulders. “Can I get in the picture?” He called to her, and his female companions let their faces settle into tight line smiles. She shrugged, looked up at where the clouds were hanging in triangles and hawk eyes, up at the sky. “Well, that might be a stretch.” Grinned back at the man and wondered what he felt, what his life was like.
Clean cars and emails, desk work and forced joviality. Making the sale, again and again.
A long time ago, she had stopped worrying about whether or not she seemed strange to people. What is strange, anyway? She thinks other people are strange.
She doesn’t understand how they think or how they feel, how they can do the things they do – go sit at their desks and pick up the phone, have conversations they don’t want to have. She has a job. She has a desk.
On days like this, when she is waiting for someone to come out of the bank and take her to the river, she thinks it’s strange to be the person who – on Monday – will walk into her office and set to accomplishing the tasks of the day, the copies to be made, the keys to be pressed. Conversations with people who are miserable and trying not to be miserable.
Some try harder than others, but she still finds something to love in all of the wringing hands and tear-filled eyes.
I’m not an expert on memory, or much of anything else. For a long time, I thought I had an amazing ability to recollect the events of my life, that unbroken string of experiences that rolls like a reel of who I am. It wasn’t until I realized that I only remember what I remember that I began to question the integrity of the internal store of impressions and still – frame images and the brief flinches and pulsings of sense, that I held so proudly as my memory.
The entire world stretched out to the east and west, driving along on the spine of the mountains, taking the Parkway home. The feeling of nausea was tremendous, the land sinking into the cold of itself, grey light down in the valleys, just the uppermost angles lit gold and slipping fast.
They were taking the long way home, talking about how much they can’t stand their jobs, how they feel at the end of a day. “Well, anytime someone is having to force themselves to do something, it is corrosive to the soul.”
She didn’t know what she meant by soul, but knew it had something to do with the will to live and the ability to laugh.
“Maybe most people, or a lot of people, at least some people, can kind of anesthetize that loathing, that body resistance, or learn some helplessness, or just…numb out, pain pills and television.”
She was being obnoxious. Privileged bitch. Don’t know shit about living, how most folks, work is all they know, trying to work, hating work, but working and not trying to do nothing else, wasting time thinking about how they ought to be able to be free. People are glad to have jobs, even terrible jobs. Make ’em a little money, feed they family.
Everybody wants to be free, but it’s easier for the privileged to believe that it’s possible to be free in these ways she wants to be free. To be able to go where she wants to go, to rest when she needs to rest. To do what she wants to do.
“What a fuckin’ brat,” she thinks, head beginning to feel slack with the vertigo of switchbacks, driving up and up. “You can’t pretend that it’s not depleting, that it’s not corrosive.”
She understood that this was true. She couldn’t ignore that she didn’t feel well at the end of a day, hours staring at a computer screen or a crying human face. Some smiling. Sparse laughter. No sunlight unless she took a break to stand in the parking lot and stretch her arms up, feel herself grow taller, her body relax. The strong desire to be in the forest, outside.
She is privileged. She doesn’t watch television.
She doesn’t watch television because she has better things to do. She is privileged because she has better things to do.
When I stop thinking about, and working towards, the inspecific ‘project’
That has become,
In my mind,
And burrowed deep into my bones,
A legacy that is mine to carry
My dead uncle’s keen fury
The cunning writ of his aunt
Cold blue eyes that I don’t have
Ink and blood, photos and ash
Old papers in a drawer
That’s what the inside of my bones
The marrow of me
Is made of
I just forget
In that curious way
That endless days
Have the power to make a person forget
Who they even are
What they are made of
Where they come from
And what keeps them alive
I meant to say, starting out
That I can find that stillness anywhere
That deep woods feeling
Though the view is not always so lovely
Sitting on my front steps
With bricks all crooked like cancer
Wedged down into the yard
the grey flat street a hard line
Under the tops of trees
And the fineness of the trails
That weave through fields of green and gold
Here in the splashed rain flats of this old
But I can find that stillness
In the slight movement
Of these first yellow blooms
And the hum of peach blossoms
Waiting for a little more warmth
The absence of traffic
The distance of sound
Walking the other night,
Falling light, before the coyotes
In the dark
Yipping and howling at the full moon
right before we crossed the bridge
Another small marriage
Weaving out of the bowl
Where there was no wind
If you always held a picture
Of the birds eye view in mind
If you saw the world spread out like that
You yourself a pinpoint moving slow,
A dot on a map
“I always know what direction I am going, which way is which.”
This was a lie, because I don’t always know
And I know that I don’t
that sometimes the world spins
Or the river turns
I am all turned around
Paddling further into the marsh
Running toward the Balsams
And then I stop
able to get lost
It takes me a minute, sometimes,
To figure out where I am
And where I need to go
In me, there is this feeling
Like way back when
They imagined the being
Of a person
As something of substance
That moves in the body
And it is an alive thing
That feels like light and metal
But it is only the beating of my heart,
The heaviness or lightness
The signals flashing over cords
Small flutters and clenched
A tightening and loosening
Moves like water in me
Swells and smooths
Builds and breaks
Turns to glass
Reflecting heavy skies
When I forget
Because of the impossible fullness
That haven’t been ordinary
For a long time
Because when one is a person like me
Nothing is ever ordinary
The heron in the field
Bluebird above magnolia
Hawk over highway
Color of sky
Calls in the night and early morning
Nothing is ever the same
And there’s a hundred different ways to see a thing
So even this curve of branch holds wildness
Roots mirroring growth under the concrete
Touching the place where my lover stands
Wherever that is
By way of a hundred million small connections
…and I remember, when I think about this
When I feel this
That the world is big and wild
And held together by small stirrings
And broad strokes
That must surely gleam like magic
I feel the marrow of me
My weight in the sun
Almost nothing at all
And remember, again,
Who I am.
I have to be slow in the way I begin , but not so slow that I forget that I have begun, which has happened a number of times. Too many to count, to try to remember. They blur into a slide of blank pages and opened documents, blue-lines and the press of ink, the click of key, pencil whisper. The tremor of thrill, the rush of fear.
Oh, hey now…what’s that? Rush of fear? Little flood of doubts and rushing blood, cheeks flushed, sheepish.
Morning light outside just as bright as it was a few minutes ago, when you wrote that first brave sentence, but different…sharp or flat, a quality of glare, none of the pearline roundness of the morning that was the morning of beginning, which was a different morning than the morning you’re in now, even though it is the same morning, just a few minutes later, as you stare at the sentence, the blinking cursor, or press the pencil harder, let it fall out of your hand, feel the heaviness of yourself, sitting in the chair, your heart beating hard and brow furrowed, wondering what to say next, realizing again how difficult it is to begin.
I am looking for someone to help me to develop and distribute this amassed body of work in such a way as to maximize its efficacy in being a beautiful story out in the world.
I have started several projects here of late, and haven’t thought about this one much at all, other than a fleeting awareness that this exists as a thing floating around on the internet. “I should probably say something.”
…but, posting here hasn’t felt like priority. This is more a dumping ground, a random sampling of experiential detritus, with scraps of mediocre poetry that serve as keys as codes notes to myself to remember small marriages, eulogies to the morning, to the passage of time itself, my effort to not forget this life, with its drives and its laundry, its walks with the dog, because it will not last forever.
…and ideas…a place to store ideas…to play with ideas…to work out my understanding of a thing or situation, a phenomenon.
I haven’t been writing much…just a few notes here and there, not really engaged in the flow of words, glutted up with too much to tell about, the driving urge to do it justice, the back wave of frustration of having so much to say ( souch I want to remember!) and so little time to say it in (so much life unfurling!)…
One thing that has surfaced in my mind as something to say is that I Love to Hear Myself Talk…and to state that it makes total sense to me that I would like to hear myself speak, because I couldn’t speak correctly for a long long time, my entire childhood, and now I can speak beautifully, in different tones and pitches and volumes, with gestures and pauses and fun-feeling expression…i love talking with people, talking to people…i like to feel my voice. There is nothing wrong with being an oratorically – inclined person.
…so, why do I feel trepidation on the backend of my confidence?
I could write a whole book on the silencing of voices that occurs when people are assholes to our authenticity, tell us to shut up. Even if a person does not cognitively (consciously) care what another person thinks, as a species that is characterized by interreliance among its members (with group inclusion often being a matter of life and death) we want the people we perceive as having power to like us, to be on our side, to take us into the graces of their resources and influence.
Middle school popularity. Stings in the body when those girls roll their eyes at your shoes, because it means you’re different, not good enough. You’ll fend for yourself, wearing shitty shoes.
I reduced my hours at work. It is the first day of spring and it is snowing, lightly and persistently.
That old blue jacket
and the time travel of photos
How brick smelled under new rain
Not the brick, but the moss
The warmth of sun
That was the scent
Under those skies gone grey
In the summer
Out by the mines in Birmingham
It is hard to name the feeling
that comes on the heels of consilience
that unease, the disorientation of all things being as they should, a point of smooth juncture in a cluttered field, with the jags and ruptures that led to this perfect arrangement still in the background, perimeter, out toward the possible future.
It’s reading the river,
watching the way the roots branch
and mapping out the circumstances and forces that might create a continuation of ease amidst the massive clutter of potential wreckage
Stuck in the marsh
A boat dragged by a hurricane
They walked, as they always walked, everyday, up toward the two big hickories that flanked the bone-grey road. This walk, small passage between the tall trees with her mother, her father, her brother, was home, the undistilled feeling of it, the sunlight and grass smell that shimmered over the pasture, the glare of heat, soft light in shadows, thickening woods, and all was just right and safe walking down the road, passing through the two trees.
She did not know what pulled her to look back, to pause and glance up at the highest branches of the oak at the edge of the little field, grass spring-fed bright and cool to the eye at the edge of the woods leading out to the marsh. Her eyes were drawn to the mirror, hanging up in the branches of the oak, oval like the one in her great-grandmother’s bedroom, faded like that, not reflecting much other than green and light.
She stared for only a moment, wondering why a mirror hung in the trees, feeling a cool stillness settle into her, around her, the sun falling behind a cloud. When she turned back to her family, they were gone, disappeared. The fear rushed in on the wake of the understanding that she was completely alone, that her family was gone, disappeared just like that in the moment she had spent staring at the mirror hanging in the trees.
The idea came to me in the early morning, as ideas often do, whole tumbles and arcs of them as the day wakes up. I’d been 1/2 puzzling over a question for a couple of days, trying to figure an idea that would fit within a given set of parameters, that would meet certain requirements.
What could I do? What could I do?
What would graciously hold all that this must hold?
What sort of story would that be? What kind of pictures would that story take to tell?
The idea came at first as a single line, and then stitched itself together almost in an instant, all the words, the cadence of them, the scenes and subtext, the theme and point of it…a gestalt wallop of idea like lightning in my head, and I was suddenly awake and paying attention, my heart pounding and face awe-slack while the possibilities that I may actually be able to do this beautiful thing, this idea that came to me in the morning, bounded around inside of me, smoothing and tucking a whole ‘nother world.
I’ve been struggling to write, but I think about writing all the time…as per usual…and try to write here and there…my head and heart are cluttered with stories to tell, notes to make…i go over the scenes and images, the recalled dialogue, the cast of light, the sensation of a billion prices of cold heat across my skin, frigid water from the center of the mountains pressing into me all over, the acrid rhododendron fire and Crescent moon, wind from the slope, another small marriage.
Things like that…
“It’s hard to merge systems. It’s a matter of functionality, and all day long I can understand how and why this works and doesn’t work and I can name what must be done, but . . . damn, it’s just entropy, the slipping of things, and inertia, the sticking of things, the falling into habit, the fumbling along in patterns, faltering, veering, drifting.”
Apr 8 (9 days ago)
I used to drive to work alone
I used to sleep alone
and when the mountains showed themselves
the rise of rib and shoulder
Against the light of a day coming
then a day fading
I was there alone
with this world in me
sheaves of ideas
churning and unfolding,
body monitoring what matters
in measures of heart rate
and breath in the morning
the feeling in my limbs
running in my legs
the smell of forest
and falling night
a thousand different memories
strung by a detail
the color of sunrise
song phrase and oxytocin
near forgotten prayers
(those times I used to pray. In six words, a legion of moments rushes in, sensation and clear scenes that cease to be, but still reverberate, which is what fervent prayer does, draws into focus and expands outward the apex of fear, binding up doubts in hope, casting the bundle up and out, saying please, please, thank you, thank you, give me what I want, let what will come to pass come to pass, let me believe that it is the right way, let me know the right way, let me see, let me see…praying is a good way to get a look at what you really hope for, to muddle through the mess of apprehensions and find something shining to hold, a sliver of lake through the trees. I stopped praying for what I wanted a long time ago. Now, I just pray to be able to trust in my own discernment, to know what is love and what is fear, to be able to turn from what is motivated by errors in my thinking about what is good and what is needed. I don’t need much.)
I was here alone
Apr 9 (8 days ago)
For months, I have been in a crash course of tactical and strategic contemplation, intermittently making notes in a small green journal, many lists and arrows. Charting a life course, an imagined means to a desired end, the life I most want to be living. I have spent hours envisioning myself free. Thinking about boats and sunrises, being in the desert. The smell of coffee in bookstores. Train rides. Conversations with strangers. A feeling. The sensation in me, down into the marrow and up into the blood, of simple happiness, of not having something grind away in me as not being quite right, some let down or another.
(If – for me – my experience of happiness depends on believing that things are *okay* in my world and that I am living *right* I can be happier by changing how I think about things…which can be a slippery slope, because sometimes things don’t feel right for good reasons, because things aren’t okay, and I’m not living right. I am letting myself down. I am scared. I doubt the potential of a positive future. I will fuck it up.)
Do you see what just happened? I was writing about happiness, the feeling in me, the warmth and spread of it, that lightness and ease in my mind, deeply present and alive, warmth and relief in the feeling of cool air, mirth, the heat in my legs running as fast as I can, the smell of pine trees and fire, the dry hush of paper, the drag of paint and paddle, the fight with wind on the top of a bald, across a lake, waking up rested with sun in my face, newness…every single moment of being born again galvanized into this glow that sits at the center of me. That’s what happiness feels like this morning, the words and phrases, images that came to mind when I wanted to get back to what I was saying before the slightest thought of fear led me astray, into that landscape of doubt, the conviction of it all.
This morning I am doing a dance between a bountiful hope and everything that threatens it. It isn’t always like this. Sometimes I believe more than others, feel a possible future more strongly…in all manner of directions.
It’s ironic to me that months (oh, who am I kidding . . . years) of thinking about the future have led me to the conclusion that thinking about the future is basically fucking me up.
There are times that I don’t think that it is very practical to try to “be in the moment.”
Is it not inevitable that I will careen off a cliff or forget something important if I move forward without any sort of plan at all?
With a little more mental exertion, I can understand that being present in what one is doing and experiencing and moving toward is not about complacency or bumbling around, but is about being conscious in the fleeting richness and wonder and stillness of each moment we are alive, each breath we take.
At least, for me that’s what it’s about…with a kind of intuitive sense that if I do this thing, be fully present and participatory in the day at hand, then what I know is best for me, what I know I love, what is good for me…these directions will emerge if I learn what actions, behaviors, and worldviews / perspectives facilitate the experiences of what I know to be happiness.
So, in that way, I can believe that being in the present and not mucking about or reveling in the throes of some potential future, terrible or wonderful, not exerting my resources of time and mental energy in experiential daydreaming and deep analysis of ways and means and possible threats…that not existing in a perpetual process of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) deliberations and the construction of matrices of possibility and potentiality…to the extent that I am simultaneously living in ( at least) several different lives, while holding one foot in the here and now, who I am in the walking-talking realm, with all the striving and shrinking people I might become nested into me…some gilded and busted, plasmatic matroyshka, constructed of everything I have ever known and loved and feared…if I set the details of the future aside, let motivations rooted in fear and striving fall to the wayside and just focus on what creates a sense of congruence or at the very least a movement away from dissonance…and do those things, inhabit those thoughts, nurture those beliefs…find a way to do all this work of reality management and conscientious participation in my daily, immediate activities, headspaces, and feeling-states/feels in theidst of attending to my life as I have structured it, or as it has come to be structured as a result of spotty and disrupted deliberative upkeep, maintenance in the manageability and desirability of the design and its consequences…to work from the premise that if I do more of what I love, that my life will organize around those activities…if I, having determined what I have determined about my own functionality (my assets, my limitations, my vulnerabilities in terms of tendencies and glitches in my abilities and capacities), simply do more of what makes me happy, and tend to what needs tending to in the current structure in a way that nudges operations to something more amenable to my personal potential to be as authentically alive and productive in my aliveness as possible, to experience joy and beauty in everyday.
( For a long time, I thought – and sometimes still think – that to experience joy and beauty, I have to go somewhere rare, do something bold. This is, no doubt, part of my basic personality structure, to have this erring toward audacious requirements in my thinking about what would be awesome. It has taken me a long time to understand that the everyday is awesome. There is some tragic error in the thought that beauty can only be found on sunrise beaches, though, yeah – for sure – there are definitely some situations and settings that are much more likely to facilitate happiness than others. However, I am not at the beach right now, and yet I want to experience awe and wonder, and so it comes down to the breeze in this red maple and the thought that the wind stirring about in my yard here in the mountains is carrying water from all the way across the world in its currents, and that I am alive and that today I have a chance to have a beautiful day, to believe that I am blessed in the food that I have and the warmth of the water on my hands, my children coming into the kitchen, the person I love returning home, fire and love, a safe home, a beautiful home in the oldest mountains on the planet.
Why is it so easy to forget these things? To become distracted and stressed out about dumb trivialities of living? As animals and as people with personalities and ways of experiencing their lives and environments, some things can really fluster us, some more than others.
I am distractable, for example, and I live and work in high distraction environments. This results in a hindrance of my efficacy, unless corrected for by either practicing self-discipline of attention and task-orientation or by reducing distractions in my environment, if it is important to me that I not be distracted. If somethings is happening that is upsetting me/creating distress, I can change that thing (somethings are easier to change than others) or I can change how that thing makes me feel by what I choose to believe about the situation.
( In families, this seems selfish, to want to structure my life in a way that prioritizes my happiness, rather than my children’s? I know that if I am happy, I am a better person. All I want for the people I love to be free in who they are and to not be held back and contorted by what other people want or need them to be. Besides, my happiness and my children’s wellbeing are not mutually exclusive.)
This is nothing new.
Apr 11 (6 days ago)
I painted a tiny picture once
Of a woman on a table
Cut open at the chest
Blue roses spilling forth
From the cavity of herself
And what I meant to say with this
Sitting at my desk in a white painted room
With a window northwest facing
The view of the roof next door
lives underneath the tar
woman at a counter on the bottom floor
A store clerk and a seamstress
behind a wall of glass
While the brush painted blue
The curve of petal and closed lid
The movements of the city
Rushing as a breeze in the bare limbs
Of the tree that grew up between the buildings
And what I meant to say
Years ago, with that tiny figure
Blue roses spilling forth
Was that I wanted to show you
What’s inside of me
12:57 PM (11 hours ago)
Every once in a while, I thought about the indirect consequences of consciousness that may come about by having a regular practice of narrative reflection, of writing down my thoughts from the day, what I noticed and experienced. “Is this affecting the way I live my life, does this shape what I notice, change how I think about experience?”
Of course it did, and does…because despite the fact that I haven’t been engaging in regular practice for the past several months (almost a third of this year!), I have nevertheless persisted in walking through my days like a writer, always noticing the arc of story, the nuances of posture, the way one moment weaves itself with others.
The look and feel of it all, what a scene or exchange, a series of thoughts and feels…how I imagine I might remember it, what it means to me…whatever is happening…what it does in my body and heart, in my mind, the spiritual significance…whether or not it lights me up, shuts me down…considering why I feel the way I do about things, what the origins and consequences of those sensations and the meanings I give them might be.
…as I write this, I’m like -dang – I do a lot of thinking and feeling about thinking and feeling.
There are times I don’t think, for long moments walking in the dark on a trail, moving up a hill over rocks, breathing in the night, playing piano with my eyes closed, watching the water fall from the paddle.
…then, because these moments of not thinking are so blessedly beautiful, to be still in myself in my moving through the world, not harvesting and gathering, analysing and interpreting, not willing myself to remember…because these moments are so beautiful, I will myself to remember, and think about how that memory will situate itself amidst the rest of me, wonder what I might forget, try to notice everything, begin recording.
I forget so much. So many names and fragments.
I have been conspicuously avoiding the act writing, but I have made a lot of memories that I don’t want to forget.
When I began to write down my experiences, I taught myself to remember them, to remember what I was thinking about, what I was feeling, how I saw things.
The more I learned about subjectivity and objectivity, constructs of perception and significance, the more I puzzled over the construction of my own experiential reality.
I learned to take perspective, to be with feelings and to neutralize them, to change the way I feel about something.
I can strip things of meaning to their bare absurdity.
However, there are some things about the basic mechanisms of how I think (my cognitive processing style) and feel (my sensory integration mechanisms and stress responses) that might difficult to change. We’re talking basic operating system, how my brain makes sense of the world.
Every human being is an analytical creature, taking in information, assessing it for threat or reward, weighing out risks, coming to conclusions and making decisions.
We all think about our lives, to some extent or another, to some consequence or another.
On the night before the full moon
I bickered with my oldest child in the wind
About why he could not run off
So we watched the day explode
Glad for the gales that make silence
No need to talk in wind like that
light gold and purple
All across the mountains
Walking in the dark
Across the field of dry grass
Spotlight on our backs
Shadows on the road
Land rising black against the sky
Right under Venus
No lights up there on that rise
feet getting wet down here
shifting stones in the ink of the ground
I was with my children
Taller than I am
Big in the stream, wetting her head
Her feet, like some baptism
But just silliness then
Silly like the geese in the river on Sunday
not to leave one another behind