Running. With Potpourri.

I’m off. Running. 6:05 am and it’s 76° F, already. Humidity is thick, legs are heavy, body is huge, mind is resisting, all of it groaning under the pressure of NO.

Scenes of the last 3 days flicker by.

pot·pour·ri (n) a mixture of things

In a small patch of grass, with Holly Pond on its right, a guard rail on the left, and Post Road to the North, is a flock. Not of a like-kind. But 2 adult geese, 3 toddlers, a mallard and a sparrow. All quietly feeding as I approach. Mother Goose, protecting her young-uns, approaches, neck fully extended…tall and fierce with her wings spread wide…hissing. This luncheon is human-free, and I was not welcome. All these creatures, peacefully feeding, and yet we, a higher level of intelligence can’t seem to sit in a room and have a civil conversation.

I’m in the dentist chair. Not flat, but with feet higher than head. Hygienist is wearing a face mask and magnified eye goggles. Poking, scraping, suction, flossing. I’m lolling in and out of nausea and claustrophobia. Overhead lamp beams down. I’m Dustin Hoffman in the scene from Marathon Man. Blood rushes to my head. I swallow, shift my legs and grip the arms of the chair. Hygienist notices the discomfort and withdraws. Breathe DK, breathe. I regain my composure.

Feet and legs have been hurting after my runs. Time for new shoes. I’m third in line, waiting to check out at Dick’s Sporting Goods. It’s late afternoon on July 4th. I’m watching one of three check out clerks. She’s large boned, broad shouldered, and tired. I walk up and hand her the shoes – with an intense desire to see what shoes she is wearing. She’s been standing since 10 am on a statutory holiday. She places the shoe box into a plastic bag, drops in the receipt and offers an obligatory “Thank you.” I’m walking out the door. Should have tipped her. Should have. Should have. Should have. [Read more…]

I have found myself thinking of summer fields

I have found myself thinking of summer fields. Fields full of flowers— poppies or lupines. Or, here, fields where the roses hook into the dunes, and their increase is manyfold. All summer they are red and pink and white tents of softness and nectar, which wafts and hangs everywhere— a sweetness so palpable and excessive that, before it, I’m struck, I’m taken, I’m conquered; I’m washed into it, as though it was a river, full of dreaming and idleness— I drop to the sand, I can’t move; I am restless no more; I am replete, supine, finished, filled to the last edges with an immobilizing happiness.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Owls” in Upstream: Selected Essays 


Photo: Bart Ceuppens (Belgium) with Poppies (via drxgonfly)

Miracle. All of it.

baby-bath
I was born in the afternoon of March 14, when a fault opened deep below Bucharest. The inky tips of seismographic recording needles trembled as the tectonic blow rolled through the Carpathians toward Kiev and Moscow, gradually receding. The face of the world was distorted, as if in a fun-house mirror: avalanches fell from mountains, asphalt roads buckled, railroad tracks turned into snakes. Flags shook on flagpoles, automatic guns rang out in arsenals, barbed wire across state borders broke under the strain; chandeliers in apartments and frozen carcasses in meat processing plants swung like metronomes; furniture on upper floors swayed and scraped. The thousand-kilometer convulsion of the earth’s uterus gave a gentle push to the concrete capsules of missile silos, shook coal onto the heads of miners, and lifted trawlers and destroyers on a wave’s swell.

My mother was in the maternity ward, but her contractions had not started. The tectonic wave reached Moscow, shook the limestone bedrock of the capital, ran along the floating aquifers of rivers, gently grasped the foundations and pilings; an enormous invisible hand shook the skyscrapers, the Ostankino and Shukhov towers, water splashed against the gates of river locks; dishes rattled in hutches, window glass trembled. People called the police—“ our house is shaking”—some ran outside, others headed straight for the bomb shelters. Of course, there was no general panic, but this was the first time since the German bombing that Moscow reeled …

Mother worked at the Ministry of Geology and was part of a special commission that studied the causes and consequences of natural disasters…When the maternity ward was shaken by a gentle wave from the center of the earth, my mother was the only person to understand what was happening, and the unexpectedness of it, the fear that the earth’s tremor had pursued her and found her in the safety of Moscow and induced her into labor. The earthquake was my first impression of being: the world was revealed to me as instability, shakiness, the wobbliness of foundations. My father was a scholar, a specialist in catastrophe theory, and his child was born at the moment of the manifestation of forces that he studied, as he lived, without knowing it, in unison with the cycles of earth, water, wind, comets, eclipses, and solar flares, and I, his flesh and blood, appeared as the child of these cycles.

~ Sergei Lebedev, from Child of an Earthquake in “The Year of the Comet


Notes:

  • Photo: Caitie @ ktnewms  (via A Joyful Journey)
  • Post Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Live & Learn Posts: Miracle. All of it.

MORE! (esp. Now)

poem-poetry-wall

“A huge print in black and white, ‘More Poetry Is Needed’ sits on the wall of a shopping centre in Swansea, United Kingdom. The wall art greets the city centre goers, allowing them to appreciate the idea that ‘Everybody and everywhere could do with more poetry.'”


Source: Book Mania!

It’s been a long day

paul-apalkin

Here is what I love about the brain:
How it remembers.
How it sews what soft it can
into a blanket for the nights
when I am cold with trouble.

~ Sean Patrick Mulroy, from “The Offering” in Tap Lit Mag (Fall/Winter 2016)

 


Notes:

This morning I’m thinking of recounting mine

heart

I heard on the radio that
we creatures have about a billion and a half heartbeats to use.
Voles and birds use theirs fast…
while whales and elephants are slower.
This morning I’m thinking of
recounting mine to see exactly where I am…

~ Jim Harrison, from “Sunday Discordancies” in In Search of Small Gods


Photo: Cover of Pijn via amespeciale

Is there any other way?

why-poetry

Excerpts from A Few Questions for Poetry by Daniel Halpern:

Why Poetry? Well, yes. Most books of poetry sell a couple of thousand copies, at best. So in a quantitative sense, what’s the point of supporting it? […]

A question I often ask myself is why so many people (and we’re now talking about millions of people) turn to poetry for all important rites of passage — weddings, funerals, toasts, tragedies, eulogies, birthdays. . . . Why? Because the language of poetry avoids the quotidian — but the best poetry simultaneously celebrates the quotidian. Language that’s focused in such a way that true meaning and emotion is redolent in the air. The poet W.S. Merwin once said: “Poetry addresses individuals in their most intimate, private, frightened and elated moments . . . because it comes closer than any other art form to addressing what cannot be said. In expressing the inexpressible, poetry remains close to the origins of language.”

Why poetry? I sent out a few emails to see what various people had to say. The poet Louise Glück, on the subject of book sales, wrote back, “The books may not sell, but neither are they given away or thrown away. They tend, more than other books, to fall apart in their owners’ hands. […]

[Read more…]

It’s been a long day

fingers-massage

Take me to your trees.
Take me to your breakfasts,
your sunsets,
your bad dreams,
your shoes,
your nouns.
Take me to your fingers.

— Margaret Atwood, from Good Bones


Notes:

It’s been a long day

spaghetti-pasta-cheese-dinner

If one day you become sick of words, as happens to us all, and you grow tired of hearing them, of saying them; if whichever you choose seems worn out, dull, disabled; if you feel nauseated when you hear ‘horrible’ or ‘divine’ for some everyday occurrence – you’ll not be cured, obviously, by alphabet soup.

You must do the following: cook a plate of al dente spaghetti dressed with the simplest seasoning – garlic, oil and chili. Over the pasta toss in this mixture, grate a layer of Parmesan cheese. To the right of the deep plate full of the spaghetti thus prepared, place an open book. To the left, place an open book. In front of it a full glass of red wine. Any other company is not recommended. Turn the pages of each book at random, but they must both be poetry. Only good poets cure us of an overindulgence in words. Only simple essential food cures us of gluttony.”

Héctor Abad Faciolince, from Recipes for Sad Women


Notes:

It’s been a long day

dance-car-traffic

I-95 N.

Leaving work early.

Traffic has slowed to crawl at the notorious rush hour bottleneck at Exit 8 in Stamford, 10 minutes from home. There’s a towering billboard overhead shouting: Think Train. (Or something like it. Let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story.)

My Speed: < 5 mph and slowing. Red tail lights flashing and aglow in all directions on six lanes.

There was unusual calm in this moment on the asphalt.

And then ––

There’s the unmistakeable crush of metal on metal…

I snap my head up to see an oncoming car bearing down on me in the rear view mirror.

Everything moves in hyper slow motion now…

I brace for impact. [Read more…]

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call: A Passion for Work

 

mary-oliver-cdt-rachel-giese-brown

In books: truth, and daring, passion of all sorts. Clear and sweet and savory emotion did not run in a rippling stream in my personal world— more pity to it! But in stories and poems I found passion unfettered, and healthy. Not that such feelings were always or even commonly found in their clearest, most delectable states in all the books I read. Not at all! I saw what skill was needed, and persistence— how one must bend one’s spine, like a hoop, over the page— the long labor. I saw the difference between doing nothing, or doing a little, and the redemptive act of true effort. Reading, then writing, then desiring to write well, shaped in me that most joyful of circumstances— a passion for work.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Staying Alive” in Upstream, Selected Essays


Notes:

A temple – or a green field – a place to enter, and in which to feel.

forest-woods-morning

Whitman kept me from the swamps of a worse uncertainty, and I lived many hours within the lit circle of his certainty, and his bravado. Unscrew the locks from the doors! Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs! And there was the passion which he invested in the poems. The metaphysical curiosity! The oracular tenderness with which he viewed the world— its roughness, its differences, the stars, the spider— nothing was outside the range of his interest. I reveled in the specificity of his words. And his faith— that kept my spirit buoyant surely, though his faith was without a name that I ever heard of. Do you guess I have some intricate purpose? Well I have . . . for the April rain has, and the mica on the side of a rock has.

But first and foremost, I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple— or a green field— a place to enter, and in which to feel. Only in a secondary way is it an intellectual thing— an artifact, a moment of seemly and robust wordiness— wonderful as that part of it is. I learned that the poem was made not just to exist, but to speak— to be company. It was everything that was needed, when everything was needed. I remember the delicate, rumpled way into the woods, and the weight of the books in my pack. I remember the rambling, and the loafing— the wonderful days when, with Whitman, I tucked my trowser-ends in my boots and went and had a good time.

~ Mary Oliver, from “My Friend Walt Whitman” in Upstream, Selected Essays


Notes:

Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the middle of the night and sing?

touch-feel-fingers

One tree is like another tree, but not too much. One tulip is like the next tulip, but not altogether. More or less like people – a general outline, then the stunning individual strokes. Hello Tom, hello Andy. Hello Archibald Violet, and Clarissa Bluebell. Hello Lillian Willow, and Noah, the oak tree I have hugged and kissed every first day of spring for the last thirty years. And in reply its thousands of leaves tremble! What a life is ours! Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the

middle of the night and
sing?

~ Mary Oliver, from “Upstream” in Upstream, Selected Essays


Notes:

My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive

mary-oliver-upstream

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist. […]

It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Of Power and Time” in Upstream, Selected Essays (Penguin Press, October 2016)


Notes:

It’s been a long day

rainy-evenings-red-hair-bird-in-hand

The phoebe sits on her nest
Hour after hour,
Day after day,
Waiting for life to burst out
From under her warmth.
Can I weave a nest of silence,
weave it of listening,
listening, listening,
Layer upon layer?
But one must first become small,
Nothing but a presence,
Attentive as a nesting bird,
Proffering no slightest wish
Toward anything
that might happen or be given,
Only the warm, faithful waiting,
contained in one’s smallness.
Beyond the question,
the silence.
Before the answer,
the silence.

~ May Sarton, from Beyond the QuestionA Grain of Mustard Seed: Poems


Notes:

A Whole Life

a-whole-life-robert-seethaler

According to his birth certificate, which in his opinion wasn’t even worth the ink on the stamp, Egger lived to be seventy-nine years old. He had held out longer than he himself had ever thought possible, and on the whole he could be content. He had survived his childhood, a war and an avalanche. He had never felt himself to be above doing any kind of work, had blasted an incalculable number of holes in rock, and had probably felled enough trees to heat the stoves of an entire town for a whole winter. Over and over again he had hung his life on a thread between heaven and earth, and in his latter years as a tour guide he had learned more about people than he was able fully to understand. As far as he knew, he had not burdened himself with any appreciable guilt, and he had never succumbed to the temptations of the world: to boozing, whoring and gluttony. He had built a house, had slept in countless beds, stables, on the backs of trucks, and even a couple of nights in a Russian wooden crate. He had loved. And he had had an intimation of where love could lead. He had seen a couple of men walk about on the moon. He had never felt compelled to believe in God, and he wasn’t afraid of death. He couldn’t remember where he had come from, and ultimately he didn’t know where he would go. But he could look back without regret on the time in between, his life, with a full-throated laugh and utter amazement.

~ Robert Seethaler, A Whole Life: A Novel 


Notes:

 

 

It’s been a long day

fly-wind-free

One day I’ll fly away
Leave all this to yesterday

~ Moulin Rouge! (2001), dir. Baz Luhrmann


Notes:

Saturday Morning

float-cross-dive-water-peace

I’m begging for stillness.
For calm at the centre of the storm.
When the dawn comes, let it bury me;
let it swallow me whole.

~ Michelle Tudor, from Excerpt


Photo: Ed Freeman with “Underwater” (via Precious Things)

It’s been a long day

hair-red

Beyond ambition,
beyond attainment,
is home.

Contentment,
without content;

peace,
uncaused.

—A.H. Almaas, Ripening of the Soul


Notes:

Walking Cross-Town. With a String of Pearls.

pearls

What’s the significance of words strung together like gleaming pearls lassoed around your neck.

a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.

I roll them around my head like a handful of marbles in my right hand, glassy, smooth, and manufactured in absolute perfection.  My Marbles. Mine.

As Firth read Thomas Wolfe’s passage, it was lightning, an electric current, the body shivering from a forced seizure.

I grabbed the remote control to pause the streaming. There was Firth, in the frozen frame, holding the pages of the manuscript, waiting patiently for me to catch my breath, to digest the words.

Yet there’s been no digestion. I float down a slow moving river that loops, bathing in the beauty of the words, the rhythm of the passage and the mystery of their meaning.

…a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; a stone, a leaf, a door. And of all the forgotten faces.

What unfound door?

What forgotten faces?


Notes:

Thomas Wolfe: Who better to talk to than the man who created something immortal. More and more I trouble myself with that. ‘The Legacy.’ Will anyone care about Thomas Wolfe in 100 years? Ten years?

F. Scott Fitzgerald: When I was young I asked myself that question every day. Now, I ask myself, “Can I write one good sentence?”

 

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