As I slowed down things became brilliant. Grass growing through a cement crack, a stop sign
…suddenly mattered, because I saw them.
~ Natalie Goldberg (from Living Color – A Writer Paints Her World)
On the way to the hair salon, I pass the gourmet creamery that makes small batches of yummy ice cream. It’s impossible not to peek, see what’s on the board. The elevated sidewalk in front of the short row of small businesses is narrow.
This is herb season, so the day’s special flavors are tumeric, black cardamon, and ginger. I chose ginger, surprised cardamon didn’t woo me. I also got a taste of what’s next, but not ready to serve: rose-green tea, and thyme-lemongrass. We can tell a lot about a person by the flavors he creates, I thought.
As I sat eating what seemed too small a taste of sweetness for this heavy heart, I looked at the pristine sky. Listened to the sound of leaves in the trees fluttered and rifled by the wind. I thought about a line I just read in a new book by Sheila Blanchette. How her character described the sound of oak leaves in the wind as like silk rustling. I thought of the morning I believed I heard water running, and looked for the source. Only learned on my way back it was two tall trees shimmering in the breeze. I couldn’t think what the sound resembled that particular day I ate ice cream. Only that it was all around me, that I was surrounded by trees. And how we can go in our minds to where we’re nourished if we let ourselves.
I’ve been very quiet inside for days. Some of the time feeling I’m in a semi-fog. I thought eclipse energy, or the fullness of my new Monday night writer’s group where they show up open, sharing, and bringing their best, even on their bad days. Perhaps it’s me simply needing space inside so I can write stories and poems, I thought. What worked before – writing with others to prompts – hasn’t worked. I was stepping back to a quieter space and it felt like goofing off. My thinking mind wondered what might be falling thru the cracks. And strangely, something else inside me said this pause was completely necessary.
Then Charlottesville. The sounds of division and hate. In counter, the intellectual conversations, points of helpless and hopeless. None of it OK.
I am not neutral on this.
What is the whole of our existence but the sound of an appalling love!
~ Louise Erdrich (from The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse)
I’ve been here before, sorta. It rolls in like big ocean waves. I talked here about the hard truths of differences. How I’m the liberal my sister despises and my efforts to understand the thinking. I’ve shared here my stance on immigration, refugees, and value of difference. I’ve shared here what I care about as a heart-filled person. And here what I call my shame points that some call badges of honor. I talked about how loving oneself can feel so hard. And my hopes we turn to the better angels of our natures. My belief we all cast ripples, that it’s our choice what ripples we cast. Neale Donald Walsh puts it this way in ‘Conversations with God:’
“Your life is about everyone whose life you touch.
‘It is about how you touch them,’ God told me. ‘How you touch them determines how you experience your Self–and how you experience your Self determines how happy you are.’
In this sense, my life was about me…but in a *reverse English* kind of way.
I was to pay attention to myself by paying attention to others.
I was to help myself evolve by helping others evolve.
The fastest way for me to be happy was for me to make other people happy.”
The first day of my Monday night group was August 7. We introduced ourselves. I told them they could read my website for the regular stuff. I wanted to share what matters to me in the work I do.
My goal, I told them, is to contribute in creating great reading and writing so people are exposed to something beyond themselves, or their experience, or what they think they know. So they can find, see, and hear fresh perspectives. Can experience the both/and of Life. Meaning the good/bad, and the shades of gray of differences that live side by side. For me, this means using my genius to free writers’ Voices, so they can release their stories. Because the power of connection for us humans is in stories.
Sharing those words, I realized this work I do empowering artists’ and writers’ Voices is my Resistance to division and hate in the world. To the two H’s, hopeless and helpless, too. It’s my contribution that stretches beyond my dot on the planet. Because writers and artists can be powerful. Their influence so strong they’re executed in some countries.
Author Barbara Kingslover says it this way:
“A newspaper could tell you that one hundred people, say in an airplane, or in Israel, or Iraq, have died today. And you would think to yourself, “How very sad,” then turn the page and see how the Wildcats fared. But a novel could take just one of those hundred lives and show you exactly how it felt to be that person rising from bed in the morning, watching the desert light on the tile of her doorway and on the curve of her daughter’s cheek. You could taste that person’s breakfast, and love her family, and sort through her worries as your own, and know that a death in that household will be the end of the only life that someone will ever have. As important as yours. As important as mine.”
And then Charlottesville.
I am not neutral on this.
Over the past month I created collaborative relationships with two artists in Santa Fe with the intention to co-host workshop & retreat immersions that combine writing and art. One on Sept. 22, a nature immersion. The other March 1-4, 2018 called ‘Madonna: Contemporary Ally,’ an immersion into all aspects of this powerful icon for today’s time. Once solidified, I wondered how the heck this fit my goals. I considered my inexplicable love of nature. The need for something grounded beyond Wonder Woman. And it came to me. . .this is how we go home to Life that sustains our humanity. This is my activism in counter to hate and division in a way that uses my genius. Nature (think, forest bathing in Japan), and the strength of a steadfast teacher centered in principles of nurturing life.
There’s a weekly column called Free Will Astrology. Friday it said I have a cosmic pass to ‘loiter and goof off…to put off making hard decisions.’ That I’m in a time one might call the equivalent of pushing the reset button, re-establishing default settings. Yes, I am.
“Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.
We will march by the millions. . .
We will be courageous with our love. . .”
~ Sherman Alexie (from his poem Hymn)
Many of us won’t march or join rallies, petition representatives, canvas door to door, wait for an audience outside a closed congressional door, lick envelopes, or stand in freezing weather to protect our beautiful planet & its creatures. Many of us can, do, and will use our genius in ways to do the good work beyond loving those who look like us, think like us. Beyond supporting our own comforts or profit. Beyond railing against others with the same hate we don’t want. We do the good work to sustain the expansion of life, not the contraction. The hard conversations, the listening, the advocacy, the feet on the ground. I know. I’ve done it before. And I know we can.
Look to the better angels.
”In my dream, the angel shrugged & said, if we fail this time, it will be a failure of imagination & then she placed the world gently in the palm of my hand.”
~ Brian Andreas
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
Photo by Marc-Antoine Dépelteau
Like what you read? Get updates in your inbox.