“If life were measured in steps, I fear that many would hoard them for as long as possible, going nowhere, tasting nothing. Simply being alive, but never living.”
“How does that happen?” Matthiessen asked me rhetorically, posing the question of the novel. He referred back to the novel’s epigraph, a poem by Anna Akhmatova that wonders, when we are surrounded by so much death, “Why then do we not despair?” Matthiessen looked at me, eyes dancing, beating on his leg in time as he said, “Something, something, something,” unable to name the mysterious life force that allows us to rejoice…
~ Jeff Himmelman
Peter Matthiessen, 86, died last night. R.I.P.
The quote above is an excerpt from Himmelman’s April 3, 2014 NY Times Magazine article titled Peter Matthiessen’s Homegoing.
From today’s front page story in the NY Times Peter Matthiessen, Lyrical Writer and Naturalist, Is Dead at 86:
“Zen is really just a reminder to stay alive and to be awake,” he told the British newspaper The Guardian in 2002. “We tend to daydream all the time, speculating about the future and dwelling on the past. Zen practice is about appreciating your life in this moment. If you are truly aware of five minutes a day, then you are doing pretty well. We are beset by both the future and the past, and there is no reality apart from the here and now.”
Matthiessen was an American novelist, naturalist, and wilderness writer. He was a three-time National Book Award-winner for The Snow Leopard and Shadow Country. He was also a prominent environmental activist. According to critic Michael Dirda, “No one writes more lyrically [than Matthiessen] about animals or describes more movingly the spiritual experience of mountaintops, savannas, and the sea.”
Matthiessen’s new book, In Paradise, is scheduled for release on April 8, 2014.
- Image Credit
- Notable NY Times: You Can’t Take It With You, But You Still Want More
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan,
stays just long enough
to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark source.
As for me,
I don’t care
where it’s been,
or what bitter road it’s traveled
to come so far,
to taste so good.
~ Stephen Dunn
Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Millicent Weems: What was once before you – an exciting, mysterious future – is now behind you. Lived; understood; disappointing. You realize you are not special. You have struggled into existence, and are now slipping silently out of it. This is everyone’s experience. Every single one. The specifics hardly matter. Everyone’s everyone. So you are Adele, Hazel, Claire, Olive. You are Ellen. All her meager sadnesses are yours; all her loneliness; the gray, straw-like hair; her red raw hands. It’s yours. It is time for you to understand this.
Millicent Weems: Walk.
Millicent Weems: As the people who adore you stop adoring you; as they die; as they move on; as you shed them; as you shed your beauty; your youth; as the world forgets you; as you recognize your transience; as you begin to lose your characteristics one by one; as you learn there is no-one watching you, and there never was, you think only about driving – not coming from any place; not arriving any place. Just driving, counting off time. Now you are here, at 7:43. Now you are here, at 7:44. Now you are…
Millicent Weems: Gone.
In memory Philip Seymour Hoffman (July 23,1967 – February 2, 2014)
A good book
Pandora on loop
A Snow Day
Wood cackling in fireplace
Dog wagging tail
Pancakes with maple syrup
Tomato Soup and Grill Cheese
Hot chocolate with marshmallows
Piping hot chicken noodle soup
Hot Tea with honey
An unexpected call from a friend
Softness of skin after shaving
Hot apple cider
Long afternoon nap
Warm tropical winds
Poetry I understand
Poetry about spring
~ Nancy Thayer
- Nancy Thayer Bio
- Image Source: Red Deer in UK by Peter Kralik via Darkface.
- Poem source: Stalwart Reader
“…Instead, I found that in quiet, ordinary, every day life, I would hear the word whispered to me in simple moments: give that car the room to merge ahead; give that person your full attention – remain quiet and let them talk; spend a few moments in conversation with the building custodian when leaving work, give that compliment to the woman in line ahead of you with the gorgeous hair; tell the person who helped you that they made an impact; express gratitude to the ones who are there for you all the time; give a moment a chance to happen instead of taking over…”
~ Bonnie, “How Will I Be Changed” @ PageKeeper
20 cancer patients participated in a unique makeover experience. They were invited to a studio. Their hair and makeup were completely redone. Here’s the outcome.
I think a lot about the contrast between banality and wonder. Between disengagement and radiant ecstacy. Between being unaffected by the hear and now and being absolutely ravished emotionally by it. And I think one of the problems for human beings is mental habits. One we create a comfort zone, we rarely step outside of that comfort zone. But the consequence of that is a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation. Overstimulation to the same kind of thing, the same stimuli, again and again and again, renders said stimuli invisible. Your brain has already mapped it in its own head and you know longer literarily have to be engaged in it. We have eyes yet see not. Ears that hear not. And hearts that neither feel nor understand. There is a great book called “The Wondering Brain” that says that one of ways that we elicit wonder is by scrambling the self temporarily so that the world can seep in. Henry Miller says that even grass when given proper attention becomes an infinitely magnificent world in itself. Darwin said attention if sudden and close graduates into surprise, and this into astonishment, and this into stupefied amazement. That’s what rapture is. That’s what illumination is. That’s what infinite comprehending awe that human beings love so much. And so how do we do that? How do we mess with our perceptual apparatus in order to have the kind of emotional and aesthetic experience from life that we render most meaningful. Because we all know that those moments are there. Those are those moments that would make the final cut. Only in these moments we experience a fresh, the hardly bearable, ecstasy of direct energy exploding on our nerve endings. This is the rhapsodic, ecstatic, bursting forth of awe that expands our perceptual parameters beyond our previous limits. And we literally have to reconfigure our mental models of the world in order to assimilate the beauty of that download. That is what it means to be inspired. The Greek root of the term means to breathe in. To take it in. We fit the Universe through our brains and it comes out in the form of nothing less than poetry. We have a responsibilities to awe.
~ Jason Silva
British Columbia. 1970’s:
Mountain firs line the banks of the creek bed.
Shadflies, flit in from the shadows, and back out into the sun.
Mountain run-off, clear and pure, glistens, sparkles.
I’m standing knee deep.
I pick the line with my forefinger, click, cast and release.
The bait lands with a plop.
I start working the stream.
I’m Working it.
“One of the saddest realities is most people never know when their lives have reached the summit. Only after it is over and we have some kind of perspective do we realize how good we had it a day, a month, five years ago. The walk together in the December snow, the phone call that changed everything, that lovely evening in the bar by the Aegean. Back then you thought “this is so nice”. Only later did you realize it was the rarest bliss.”
“Do you see it? Do you see what a special, precious opportunity each day of your life is?
Look more closely…
You can feel. You can touch. You can agonize in despair and giggle with glee. You can make jokes. You can cry at movies. You can weep in bed at night. Then get up the next day, refreshed.
You can taste an orange, a lemon, a mango—and describe in detail the difference in each of those tastes. You can smell a forest of pine trees. You can hold your friend’s hand and feel how he trembles because he’s afraid.
You can stumble and fall and feel abandoned, then get up and suddenly, in one moment, understand that lesson you’ve been trying to learn. You can jump out of airplanes, feel the smoothness of your lover’s back, and hold your child to your breast…
…help me to use this opportunity, this life that I have been given to the best of my ability every day.”
Most of you reading this post are WordPress followers. I’m sure that you, like me, often wonder who the human being is behind the curtain for certain members of your comment “community.” Sonia is one of those followers for me. Except she’s not a WordPress follower, but an email subscriber. I continue to shake my head in wonder at the wonderful network that is established in blogging. I reached out to Sonia following a comment interchange and I asked her to share a bit with me about her.
In April, 2012, ~ six months after this blog was launched, Sonia signed up to receive email posts. Sonia, 25, is a Muslim. She is from Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan and the third largest city in the world. (Pop: 23 million.) Sonia is pursuing an MBA in Human Resources and is two courses and a thesis away from graduation. She also works as a Corporate Coordinator at a major multinational Health Insurance Company.
I asked Sonia how she found my blog. She said that she “was searching the internet for articles and ended up in the world of Blogs. Now among the millions of bloggers, why did I subscribe to your Blog? A million dollar question! I used to have (write) conversations with life (in a childish diary that I have) and I was surprised to find you having a conversation with your Mind in one of your posts. I was awestruck because in last 5 years of my conversations, I never came across a person who did that. So I subscribed to follow your blog.“
(Note to self: Someone halfway across the world types “Bloggers Talking To Themselves” into the Google Search box and on Page 1 of the Google Search landing page they find me. Oh Boy.) [Read more...]
“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.”
Related Post: Blue Nights
Same. Time up each day.
Same. I-95 route to work.
Same. Desk. Chair. Computer.
Same. Head down. Back to back. 12 hours.
Same. 1-95 Route home.
Same. Time to bed.
Try. Take a different route to work.
Try. Take a walk. Leave phone behind.
Try. Call a friend. Catch up.
Try. Find a space. A moment. A breath.
Image Credit: Telegraph.co.uk - Photo of Footprints are carved into the floorboards by monk who has prayed at the same spot for 20 years
Related Posts: Driving Series
We have this life. We live it day by day. It passes quickly. Sometimes not quickly enough- we get despondent, sullen, downcast. Those are good words. In those slow moments something might appear- a chance to fall through our blistering fast-paced lives to the other side, where we can turn around and view ourselves, take a curious interest. Underneath everything we long to know ourselves. We wouldn’t know it though by the way we act- chugging down another whiskey, not listening to our daughter at breakfast, going sixty in a twenty zone. Reaching to get away; longing to come home. In writing, in sitting, in slow walking, a flash, a moment appears when we fall through and what we are fighting, running from, struggling with becomes open, luminous- or, even better, not a problem, just what it is. Look for those small openings.
~ Natalie Goldberg
Natalie Goldberg, 65, is an American popular New Age author, speaker, teacher and painter. She is best known for a series of books which explore and practice writing as Zen practice. Her 1986 book Writing Down the Bones sold over a million copies and is considered an influential work on the craft of writing. Her 2013 book, The True Secret of Writing, is a follow-up to that work. Goldberg has studied Zen Buddhism for more than thirty years. She has been teaching seminars in writing as a practice for the last thirty years. People from around the world attend her life-changing workshops and she has earned a reputation as a great teacher. The Oprah Winfrey Show sent a film crew to spend the day with Natalie for a segment on Spirituality that covered her writing, teaching, painting, and walking meditation. (Sources: Wiki & NatalieGoldberg.com)
Eric is four. Relentless. “Come on Dad. It’s time to go swimming.” Pulling on my hand. “Come on Dad. Dad, come on!”
The marble floor in the bathroom is cool and smooth on our bare feet. I watch him struggle tugging on his suit. His little white bottom contrasting against his milk chocolate tan lines. He lets out a whimper in frustration as he can’t pull on his swim shirt.
We step outside.
We had lived in Miami for four years. The sweltering summer heat was still a shock. Swallowing up oxygen. Mixing with the heavy pool chlorine…filling nostrils and lungs.
10am. 91F. And there is still August to go.
“Is happiness a lesser version of joy, or something totally different? I’d argue it’s different and not only because it’s more prevalent. Many more things can cause happiness than joy. Also, happiness is somewhat within our control. We can create it through our decisions. Joy happens to you. It’s unruly. You submit to it. It usually comes as a surprise, as it did every morning with our newborns
…Certain experiences lift you out of yourself. They enable you to exist fully in the moment. (A singular serving of French toast in my late teens on the corner of 62nd and Lex at Burger Heaven; Christmas 1963, when Skippy, our first dog, popped out of a box pocked with ventilation holes.)
…What distinguishes joy is that it doesn’t come around that often. Indeed, you’re rather aware of its perishability, its evanescence, even when you’re in the midst of it.
…But it may be the thing that unites French toast and lifting a newborn out of its crib in the morning and bringing the child into bed with you. I’m not necessarily talking about one-on-one love, but the universal, John Lennon “All you need is…” variety that connects us to something beyond ourselves, and seems to be floating out there…
…We spend the majority of our lives worrying, even when we’re happy. We’re worried about catching the bus or subway or whether there’s a cab that isn’t off duty; we’re worried about our work; we’re worried we offended somebody; we’re worried about money; we’re worried about sleep; we’re worried about being worried.
…If there’s any dread, it’s in the way we create barriers, denying ourselves access to it (joy) more frequently.”
~ Ralph Gardner, Joy Spills Over, Wall Street Journal (Excerpts)
Six days back at work…after a two week vacation.
Tension. Decompression. Recharge. Ramp-up. Escalation. Full engagement. Tension.
Full loop restored.
And, cycle time is compressing year over year.
Meetings. Emails. 2013 Planning. Events. Phone calls. Problems. Opportunities. Running. Faster.
In a momentary gap in my schedule…a mental image of this photo flickers by…a photo tripped into during the recharging phase of vacation. Image darts in and out for days. Pulling me back to a time when life was simpler. When picking sweet, juicy Bing cherries and filling the bucket was the task of the day.
I am here on purpose... [Read more...]
Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?
Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?
When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life -
What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?
- William Stafford (The Way It Is)
“The snowflake moment we idolize, that final and glorious crystalline state which Bentley captured on black velvet time and time again, does provide justification for everything else. It is the end, and so must mean something, must make a bold statement about the substance and quality of our existence. But the snowflake moment is just one of a countless million moments, an isolated still shot of an existence that is predominantly defined by its very motion. We are what we do every day. Nothing more.
~ Scott Schwertly, The Snowflake Moment
Image Credit: Thank you headlikeanorange
“We spend great energy in mental processes wishing things were different than they are. Wishing the traffic jam didn’t exist. Wishing the boss were a little nicer, wishing our children would take our advice, wishing, wishing, wishing. Acceptance is a key to a happier life. If we can just try to accept what is, and that wanting otherwise is often wasted energy, we will be happier. We would be better able to experience the moment more fully with this state of mind.”
Image Source: vicforprez via teachingliteracy. Quote Source: Pyschology Today. “Every moment in our lives has the potential to be (and generally is) a completely unique experience. Absorb every bit of the moment. Treasure it by completely experiencing it. Congratulations, you are Zen.”