Back…back…back.

Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down…
Who was I at age seven?

Sixty-eight years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.

– Jim Harrison, from Seven in the Woods from Dead’s Man Float


Notes:

  • Inspired by – “We go back … and back … and back … through the layers of fear, shame, rage, hurt, and negative incantations until we discover the exuberant, unencumbered, delightful, and lovable child that was, and still is, in us.” By Melody Beattie (via Bright, Shiny Objects)
  • Photo: Ivanovo detstvo (Ivan’s Childhood) • Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky 1962 (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

feel the steady pull toward your center of gravity

From Greek, Zeno is derived from Zeno’s Paradox, which asks how a person can walk from one point to another if they must first carry out a series of ever-shrinking steps, + Mnemosyne, the personification of memory in Ancient Greek mythology. How can we live our lives while each passing year feels shorter than the year before?

[…]

But soon you feel the circle begin to tighten, and you realize it’s a spiral, and you’re already halfway through. As more of your day repeats itself, you begin to cast off deadweight, and feel the steady pull toward your center of gravity, the ballast of memories you hold onto, until it all seems to move under its own inertia. So even when you sit still, it feels like you’re running somewhere. And even if tomorrow you will run a little faster, and stretch your arms a little farther, you’ll still feel the seconds slipping away as you drift around the bend.

Life is short. And life is long. But not in that order.

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:

The blind man himself saw, and the sighted one close behind him knew it

sky-cloud-summer-memory

In order to guide me better, Jean had invented a code. The pressure of his hand on my right shoulder meant: “Slope on the right. Shift the weight of your body to the left,” and vice versa. Pressure in the middle of my back said: “No danger in a straight line in front of you. We can walk faster.” Pressure on my back but on the left side was a warning: “Slow up! Right turn ahead.” And when the weight of his hand became heavier, it was because the turn ahead was a hairpin bend…

Jean and I ran into a hard fact — the fact that limits do not exist. If there are any, they are never the ones they taught us. People around us seemed satisfied when they said that a lame man walks with a limp, that a blind man does not see, that a child is not old enough to understand, that life ends with death. For the two of us, in our summer of green fields, twilight and dawn continually revolving, none of these statements stood its ground. We had friendship on our side. We had ignorance and bliss, and we looked at everything through these channels. They taught us all we knew. The blind man himself saw, and the sighted one close behind him knew it. Life was good, very good.

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


Notes:

 

T.G.I.F.

Photo by Caitlin May


Photo by Caitlin May (via Banished Again)

 

Perspective of time and distance alter substance

pascal-campion-drawing-illustration-jump-child-youth-memories

In the poems I have been thinking of and writing the last few years, I have grown aware that childhood is a subject somehow available to me all over again. The perspective of time and distance alter substance somewhat, and so it is possible to think freshly of things that were once familiar and ordinary, as if they had become strange again. I don’t know whether this is true of everybody’s experience, but at a certain point childhood seems mythical once more. It did to start with, and it does suddenly again.

~ Donald Justice, from an interview with The Missouri Review, quoted by Linda Pastan, “Yesterday’s Noise: The Poetry of Childhood Memory,” Writer (vol. 105, no. 10, 1992)


Credits: Art – Pascal Campion. Quote: Memory Landscape

 

Driving I-95 S. With A Distant Fire.

driving-lights-highway

6:28am.
I hit the ignition, the middle aged lady groans but fires.
It’s 23°F and she’s not liking it.
You and me girl, still firin’. Going down with our boots on. Till death do us part.

’70s on 7 are spinning on Sirius.
Drums and Horns lead – and then the band comes in.
YOU only need a FEW bars, and you can feel it: HIT IT.

And I’m off…
Foot leans in on the accelerator.
Traffic in speed lane clears for the DK Express.
Head’s bobbin’. Shoulders’ rockin’. Karaoke winds up.

And here she comes… [Read more…]

Riding Metro North.  With a Legend.

Castlegar-Ice-Arena

Wednesday.  5:07 am to Grand Central.

I lift my briefcase to store it on the overhead rack and I jam my Oxford into the steel girder under the seat. I look down to assess the damage.  A thin sheaf of leather dangles from the toe cap.  Expensive miss. Damn it!

I take my seat. I wiggle the toes on my right foot triggering a flashback. A tumble back, way back.

I was 14.

The ice rink. It was a Campbell Soup can without the label, rough cut vertically, flipped on its side and dropped on frozen dirt.  No insulation.

Fans, mostly parents, sat huddled on one of three wooden benches that circled the rink, standing to stomp their feet and slap their mitts to keep the blood moving. It was cold, always cold.

An oxidized chain link fence protected the fans from the pucks.  Players did not have face masks. It was skin to fence. No, better stated, face to fence. Cage matches before cages were a WWF sport. [Read more…]

Inhale

noxzema

Sometimes all you have to do is open a jar. The smell of Noxzema takes me back to the summer of 1957, and the front seat of the old Hudson my boyfriend drove, and how we parked at the Amagansett beach at night and made out like crazy, and afterward I was afraid I was pregnant, even though we didn’t do anything but kiss. The fear and the pleasure are as fresh to me every time I smell the stuff, and I keep a jar around so I can remember being young.

~ Abigail Thomas, Thinking About Memoir


Image: gabysbeautyblog

 

We seldom long for a future where our bodies are less but our spirits and insight are more. Yet, that future is there.

man-on-bench

They just look like old men. And because of that, they are seen as elderly rather than wise. But there is a wisdom that comes with age. The old have walked the path we tread. They have seen the landscape through which we are traveling. They have felt our passions and known our dreams, though perhaps in different shape and in different measure. In their eyes we can see our future. In our eyes they can see their past. In some fundamental way, they know the place where we are going.

The look I saw in the eyes of both those older men in the past two days was a look of deep compassion and understanding. They understood something about me, just as I understand something about the hopeful, headphone-wearing twenty-year-olds in that gym. It is knowledge unspoken, but it is knowledge, nonetheless. They also know that few will seek them out. They have accepted the fact that few will ask them to share what it is that they have come to understand. Their time has come and passed; the younger generations want little more from them than reminiscences.

I was honored to speak to both these men. I hope I showed them proper respect in our conversations. I hope, too, that I was listening to them for what they can teach me about life, not merely for what they can reveal as witnesses to the past. For each touched me deeply. In their presence, I felt both judged and understood. It was as if their eyes, still bright, saw something I myself could not see. Their gazes gave me silent comfort, as if to say, “It’s all right to be where you are. It is exactly where you ought to be.” It was the kind of comfort that I hope to give my son as I see him moving through choppy waters — a look of understanding that says, “You are not alone.”

We live so strongly within the boundaries of our own experience. If we long for anything, it is usually for a time past, when we were younger, stronger, better looking, and not yet so bound by decisions we have made. We seldom long for a future where our bodies are less but our spirits and insight are more. Yet, that future is there. It is in the eyes of those who have lived longer, seen more, and come closer to a resolved understanding of their place and purpose on this planet. I feel better as a man, better as a person, and filled with a new sense of challenge and responsibility for having encountered those two old men. Their mortality, so close to the surface, has touched me in some deep and irreducible part of my own being. I feel observed and, in a strange way, renewed. They have given me the gift of their witness and the blessing of their understanding. May I take that gift, learn from it, and find a way to pass it on.

~ Kent Nerburn, Two Old Men in Ordinary Sacred


Photo Credit: va.gov

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