They live closer to the bone

humpback-whale

In common parlance, the word ‘soul’ pops up everywhere…Soul music gets us swaying. We want our lover, body and soul. In each case, ‘soul’ connotes deep feeling and core values…Today, studies increasingly show that many non-human beings feel. Elephants appear to feel grief, while dolphins and whales express joy, or something much like it. Parrots can become cranky, pigs and cows terrified, chickens saddened, monkeys seemingly embarrassed. Experiments have shown that rats become agitated when seeing surgery performed on other rats and that, when presented with a trapped lab-mate and a piece of chocolate, they will free their caged brethren before eating. […]

One might even argue that other creatures are more cognisant of feelings than humans are, because they possess a primary form of consciousness: they are aware of themselves and their environment but are less burdened by complexities such as reflection and rumination that typify human consciousness. They live closer to the bone, so to speak. Jeffrey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep (1995), has remarked that animals possess feelings of ‘undiluted purity and clarity’ compared to the ‘seeming opacity and inaccessibility of human feelings.’[…]

Extraordinary examples of ensoulment among non-human animals abound. Ethologist Adriaan Kortlandt once observed a wild chimp in the Congo ‘gaze at a particularly beautiful sunset for a full 15 minutes, watching the changing colors’, forsaking his evening meal in the process. Elsewhere, African elephants belonging to the same family or group will greet one another after a separation with a loud chorus of rumbles and roars as they rush together, flapping their ears and spinning in circles. […]

A particularly striking case of animal gratitude occurred in 2005 off the California coast, where a female humpback whale was found entangled in nylon ropes used by fishermen. As recounted by Frans de Waal in The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society (2009): ‘The ropes were digging into the blubber, leaving cuts. The only way to free the whale was to dive under the surface to cut away the ropes.’ The divers spent an hour at the task, an especially risky one given the sheer strength of the animal’s tail. ‘The most remarkable part came when the whale realised it was free. Instead of leaving the scene, she hung around. The huge animal swam in a large circle, carefully approaching every diver separately. She nuzzled one, then moved on to the next, until she had touched them all.’ […]

In the end, soul may be a profound matter of fellow feeling. The stronger the capability of a given species for fellow feeling, the more that species can be said to exhibit soulfulness. To view things in this way offers another important step in humanity’s progression towards understanding its place in creation – and to appreciate the inheritance we hold in common with other sentient beings on this increasingly small, restive, and fragile planet.

~ Michael Jawer, Do only humans have souls, or do animals possess them too? | Aeon Ideas


Photo: Humpback whale bubbles by Scott Portelli (via lovely seas)

a stone, a leaf, an unfound door


“Colin Firth, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman star in this  drama about the friendship between writer Thomas Wolfe and editor Maxwell Perkins (who discovered F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway).”

Early scenes in the movie have Max Perkins (Firth) reading page 1 of Wolfe’s manuscript:

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

Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.

Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

While the movie gets panned by a good number of reviewers, Firth and Law put in strong performances. And Firth in any movie, is a must-watch movie for me. He doesn’t disappoint.

Find the film on Amazon Instant Video.

Saturday Morning

roberto-gioli-boots-reflection

The way I’d like to go on living in this world
wouldn’t hurt anything, I’d just go on
walking uphill and downhill, looking around,
and so what if half the time I don’t know
what for —

~ Mary Oliver, excerpt from 1945-1985: Poem for the Anniversary from Dream Work

 


Notes:

It’s been a long day

ballerini-dance

I have no bones…
there are days when I could leap up to the clouds —
days when I haven’t the strength to turn the pages of a book.

– Gustave Flaubert, from Intimate Notebook: 1840-1841


Notes:

Pirr, a light breath of wind, a cat’s paw on water

Robert-McFarlane

This is a book about the power of language – strong style, single words – to shape our sense of place. […]

The ten following chapters explore writing so fierce in its focus that it can change the vision of its readers for good in both senses. […] A book that brilliantly shows how such seeing might occur in language, written as it is in prose that has ‘the quivering intensity of an arrow thudding into a tree’. And for over a decade I have been collecting place words as I have found them gleaned singly from conversations, correspondences or books, and jotted down in journals or on slips of paper. […]

Many of these terms have mingled oddness and familiarity in the manner that Freud calls uncanny: peculiar in their particularity, but recognizable in that they name something conceivable, if not instantly locatable. Ammil is a Devon term for the fine film of silver ice that coats leaves, twigs and grass when freeze follows thaw, a beautifully exact word for a fugitive phenomenon I have several times seen but never before been able to name. Shetlandic has a word, af’ rug, for the ‘reflex of a wave after it has struck the shore’; another, pirr, meaning ‘a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water’; and another, klett, for a ‘a low-lying earth-fast rock on the seashore’. On Exmoor, zwer is the onomatopoeic term for the sound made by a covey of partridges taking flight. […]

There are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation, and of which words offer only a remote echo – or to which silence is by far the best response. Nature does not name itself. Granite does not self-identify as igneous. Light has no grammar. Language is always late for its subject. Sometimes on the top of a mountain I just say, ‘Wow.’

~ Robert Macfarlane, from Chapter 1: “The Word-Hoard” in Landmarks


Note: Portrait –  Wharfedaleobserver

Permitting shame, error and guilt…

brian-blanchfield

Brian Blanchfield, 43, was born in Winston-Salem, NC and now resides in Tucson, AZ where he teaches at the University of Arizona. He is an award winning poet and recently published his second book of essays.  The essays from his new book “Proxies: Essays Near Knowing were written from memory, no referring to the internet or other “authoritative” sources. To give you a taste of his talent and his authenticity, here’s an excerpt from his opening “Note”. I shake my head in awe…

At the end of this book there is a rolling endnote called “Correction.” It sets right much— almost certainly not all— of what between here and there I get wrong. It runs to twenty-one pages. It may still be running. Susceptibility to error is a hazard inherent to Proxies. From the beginning…I decided on a total suppression of recourse to other authoritative sources. I wrote these essays with the internet off. I determined not to review again the books and other works I consulted in memory, and I did not stop thinking through the subject at hand to verify assertions or ground speculation or firm up approximations. Que sais-je?, Montaigne asked his library shelves one day late in the sixteenth century, and increasingly that seems a good start. Having determined that this would be unresearched essaying, analytic but nonacademic, I was almost immediately drawn to a second constraint— or, better, invitation: to stay with the subject until it gives onto an area of personal uneasiness, a site of vulnerability, and keep unpacking from there. The formula I found for titling the individual essays was generated very early on, to operate this request of self. Clumsy as it may be, I claim as part of a personal sortilege a devotion to the words I had bannered across the top of each new developing piece, an invocation of sorts, a ritual.

Permitting shame, error and guilt…

~ Brian Blanchfield, excerpt from his opening “Note” from Proxies, Essays Near Knowing (June, 2016)


Note: Find “Proxies” Book Reviews here – Goodreads.  Portrait from Poetry Foundation.

It’s been a long day

hair-pony-tails-bird

Once I witnessed a windstorm so severe two 100-year-old trees were uprooted on the spot. The next day, walking among the wreckage, I found the friable nests of birds, completely intact and unharmed on the ground. That the featherweight survive the massive, that this reversal of fortune takes place among us — that is what haunts me. I don’t know what it means.

~ Mary Ruefle, Remarks on Letters from Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures


Notes:

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

colette.jpg

My goal has not been reached; but I am practicing. I don’t yet know when I shall succeed in learning not to write; the obsession, the obligation are half a century old. My right little finger is slightly bent; that is because the weight of my hand always rested on it as I wrote, like a kangaroo leaning back on its tail. There is a tired spirit deep inside of me that still continues its gourmet’s quest for a better word, and then for a better one still.

~ Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954), shortly before her death at the age of 81 from “Earthly Paradise: An Autobiography of Colette Drawn from Her Lifetime Writings”


Notes: Quotes: Brain Pickings. Portrait: ecritsdefemmes.fr

It’s been a long day

hands-art-cullen.jpg

My hands.

In the kitchen, at the stove.
In the prairie. The shed.
Under the blanket. In the bath.
Behind the barn. In the garden.
The cornfield. The river.

By stone. By thorn. By childbirth.

Slow. Like fog.

Jeanann Verlee, Said the Manic to the Muse 

 


Notes:

It’s been a long day

rest-fatigue-float 

I empty myself with light
Until I become morning.

— Charles Wright, from “33,” Littlefoot: A Poem


Notes:

It’s been a long day

donatella-marraoni-enough-is-enough

There is joy to be found in the most minuscule of choices, in the pockets of slowness concealed inside each ordinary day: ten minutes in the morning in which to write down our dreams, five minutes in the late afternoon in which to stand by a window and watch the changing colors of the sunset, another pause before bed for a brief moment of prayer. Such things do not demand an inordinate commitment. From outside, our lives may look much as they have always done. We alone will recognize the small, rejuvenating pleasures, the invisible sustenance: the difference between skimming a text and taking the time to read it slowly and in depth; between emailing our friend, and making time to sit with her and talk; between rushing through our days, and honoring “the space between,” allowing space to muse and brood and wonder and exult, to bask in our accomplishments.

~ Christian McEwen, World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down.


Notes:

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call: A dream can weigh more than iron

train-passenger

And then there were the poets, those unbelievable people so different from other men, who told anyone who would listen that a wish is more important than a fortune, and that a dream can weigh more than iron or steel. What nerve they had, those poets, but how right they were! Everything, they said, comes from inside us, passes through things outside and then goes back in. And that to them is the meaning of life, feeling, understanding, love.

~ Jacques Lusseyran, And There Was Light: The Extraordinary Memoir of a Blind Hero of the French Resistance in World War II


Notes: Photograph: philippe conquet with Pas 5.  Related Posts: Jacques Lusseyran

It’s been a long day

hossein-zare-end-of-rope

But what happens is that when I finally leave my work
abandoned inside, on top of my desk,
I desire a wordless world, desire nothing
more than the silent vines of my mind
feeling into dark places—blood-sweet—
like a tongue exploring the hole left by a tooth that’s been extracted

~ Aleida Rodriguez, Extracted from The Face of Poetry by Margaretta Mitchell

 


Notes: Photograph: philippe conquet with Som 15. Poem: Thank you Beth at Alive on All Channels. Related Posts: “It’s Been a Long Day

 

Orlando. Pulse. I’m not seeing it either.

red-blood-orlando-pulse

I’ll say God seems to have a kind of laid-back management style I’m not crazy about. I’m pretty much anti-death. God looks by all accounts to be pro-death. I’m not seeing how we can get together on this issue, he and I.

― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest


Notes:

Lightly child, lightly

light-bulb-inspire

I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come…. Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.

~ Toni Morrison, excerpted from Roderick MacIver’s Art As a Way of Life

Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you Roderick MacIver
  • Photo: Kat Mix (via Banished From Camelot).
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly child, lightly

art-bird-lightly-ribbon-wings

I cannot cause light;
the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.
It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind.
Light, be it particle or wave, has force:
you rig a giant sail and go.
The secret of seeing is to sail on solar wind.
Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail,
whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.

~ Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you Beth for your ongoing inspirations: Alive on All Channels
  • Art: Silvia Angelova (Bulgaria) (via The Sensual Starfish).
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Related posts: Annie Dillard
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly child, lightly

trees-black-and-white-woods

I part the out thrusting branches
and come in beneath
the blessed and the blessing trees.
Though I am silent
there is singing around me.
Though I am dark
there is vision around me.
Though I am heavy
there is flight around me.

~ Wendell Berry, “Woods” From Collected Poems, 1957-1982.


Notes:

  • Poem: Thank you Beth for your ongoing inspirations: Alive on All Channels
  • Photograph: Albert Renger-Patzsch – Beechwood in Fall, 1936 (via Newthom).
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Monday Morning: An Insistent Beat

anka-zhuravleva-dreams

Where was I when it started.
At my desk?
Scribbling in a notebook?
On the bus?
I don’t remember.
Just the sense of something bubbling up from underneath,
not words so much as information:
an ache,
a rhythm,
an instant beat.

~ Christian McEwen, World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down


Notes:

 

Protect those early mornings: A symposium with the self

handwriting-light

Kim Stafford’s father was the West Coast poet William Stafford, a man whose “rich beginnings” lay in the calm and quiet of his own sleeping house. Every morning for more than forty years, he would get up at 4 a.m., at least two hours before the rest of his family, and settle down to work. Stafford himself described his practice in terms of “just plain receptivity.”

When I write, I like to have an interval before me when I am not likely to be interrupted. For me, this usually means the early morning, before others are awake. I get pen and paper, take a glance out of the window (often it is dark out there), and wait. It is like fishing. But I do not wait very long, for there is always a nibble—and this is where receptivity comes in. To get started I will accept anything that occurs to me.

Years later, Kim Stafford wrote a memoir about his father entitled Early Morning. He described William’s steady practice as a “symposium with the self.” A particular day’s writing might include images from a recent dream, news of the family and the world at large—and a couple of poems. Often, these first drafts didn’t seem to amount to very much. Stafford himself said that they were “often so colorless, so apparently random, so homeless and unaccountable,” that most people wouldn’t have bothered to work with them. But by making time for them, by lending “faith and attention” to what he called those “waifs of thought,” a total of more than sixty books made their slow way into print.

“A good life is partly a matter of luck,” wrote William Stafford. “I can look for it and cherish its intervals. But I can’t control it.” Still, he could choose to set aside that time: to protect those early mornings. “To get up in the cold, then make a warm place, have paper, pen, books to hand, look out at the gleaming rain, shadows, the streetlight steadfast. You could stay awake all night, not give away those hours.”

~ Christian McEwen, World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down


Notes:

 

Lightly child, lightly

legs-light-color-bare-feet

And now an inaudible breeze, a mist, a silence, a kiss almost,
gathers them together,
erases them, caresses them, and very gently mends them.
Now they are as they are.
Now they can be recognized.

~ Vicente Aleixandre, from “The Class,” A Longing for the Light


Notes:

  • Vicente Pío Marcelino Cirilo Aleixandre y Merlo (1898 – 1984) was a Spanish poet who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1977 “for a creative poetic writing which illuminates man’s condition in the cosmos and in present-day society.”
  • Image Source: mennyfox55. Poem Source: the distance between two doors
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
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