Eighteen Days

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The countdown is definitely on. With eighteen days left to pack and say goodbyes, I wish my head was a little less fixed on the logistics of navigating just everyday life. Long work hours and normal to-dos tend to overpower the well-meant urge to go through my things and pack the car slowly over time to avoid to the last minute box-dump. The exhaustion that arises from hours of people interaction at work (I love it, but it can be draining) plus so many almost sleepless nights often overpowers my desire to meet up with all the people I want to see before I go.

Eighteen days.

The studio is a mess. I started in on some boxes yesterday–stuff I brought here from Michigan. I stopped in the middle of a few piles of clothes and books so I’d be more motivated to pick it back up this morning. Instead, I am writing this post and planning on finishing up those piles and starting new ones after work tonight. Wanting so much to move slowly and attentively throughout the day…or maybe just steadily. Steady as she goes, a friend told me when I was preparing to leave New Mexico the first time. Steady as she goes. Steadiness denotes an inner strength and attention that remains intact regardless of pace.

Eighteen days.

Steady as she goes.

 

Don’t Forget Dear Heart

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Playing with words helps to ease this transition between endings and beginnings, goodbyes and hellos.

 

Don’t forget dear heart
to welcome the joy
and the pain
order and chaos
the beginnings and
the ends of things
One welcomes
the other and
becomes itself
You welcome
all things and
become yourself

Don’t forget dear heart
to remember what
was and what is
the beauty of small
moments in time
immortalized
by acts of
remembrance

Don’t forget dear heart
to notice how the
chemistry of your life
is altered by each
small thing
You are made of
everything
your life has been
altered by
touch

Ah, poetry…

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Tonight I went with a friend to a local showing (at the coffee shop where I am currently employed) of The Dead Poets Society. Carpe diem. Suck the marrow out of life. O Captain, my Captain. We don’t read poetry because it’s cute; we read poetry because we are part of the human race. 

It’s a good movie.

On the drive home, I found myself considering how often poetry works its way into my thoughts. I’ve been reading Cavafy, W.S. Merwin, Christian Wiman, Adam Zagajewski, Mary Oliver, Nina Cassian…and the list goes on. There is something unique in each poet’s style, something that connects with some facet of my own voice. Naturally, then, I’ve been putting pen to page. What often appears on paper is sparse — broken into lines that slow my mind enough to take in meanings other than those intended when I penned the words.

In the spirit of seizing the day:

 

Ruins

These words,
going out and
coming in,
emerging from
darkness
and returning.
These images
conjured
out of nothing
and everything,
these memories
of other places,
times—
other selves.

What are we
becoming
in these ruins
of bone,
blood, and
tears?

Zagajewski

Adam Zagajewski is a Polish poet I only started reading a few months ago. His work is intensely exilic and awe-struck, mournful and luminescent. Every line is rich and bracing, riddled with a kind of quality I can only equate to the feeling I get in my chest as I take in the starkest of landscapes.

Here’s one poem that’s found particular resonance as I ponder another couple of essays.

 

Don’t Allow The Lucid Moment To Dissolve 

Don’t allow the lucid moment to dissolve 
Let the radiant thought last in stillness 
though the page is almost filled and the flame flickers 
We haven’t risen yet to the level of ourselves 
Knowledge grows slowly like a wisdom tooth 
The stature of a man is still notched 
high up on a white door 

From far off, the joyful voice of a trumpet 
and of a song rolled up like a cat 
What passes doesn’t fall into a void 
A stoker is still feeding coal into the fire 
Don’t allow the lucid moment to dissolve 
On a hard dry substance 
you have to engrave the truth 
   

When they appear…

I used to write things down a lot. There are two large boxes stacked in the studio, filled with my old journals. I return to them every once in a while, skim through their pages to dip a toe in the waters of who I was then. 

My handwriting was ridiculously small and neat during the busier, more stressful seasons. It loosened up over time, became almost illegible as I scribbled frantically my three pages of free writing, every morning for ninety days before I finally decided to leave my home state.

I wanted to capture everything. All the details of what I was feeling and what was going on around me because it all seemed so monumentally important in the grand scheme of my life. But they were all such small things that if I turned away to obsessively scribble them down, immortalize them on paper, I missed a thousand other small things that would have given themselves to me if my eyes hadn’t been lost in my scribblings.

I still write things down. My handwriting, at the best times, is illegible. But I don’t write things down as much anymore. More than wanting to look back and understand who I was, I want to experience who I am. The past six months have overflowed with new things–all of them seem rather large at the time, then they tend to shrink. Some of them get bigger. Some of the new things are big things that have yet to come…so they are smaller now and will enjoy a decent growth spurt this fall, or later.

So many new things. But I don’t find myself attempting to capture them in all their detail. Little bits here and there. When I look back on these journals, it will seem that I was simply obsessing in between the appearances of these various graces–because when they appear, I usually drop my pen.

It’s an act of trust, really. For me. To experience life more fully and risk losing some of the details. It’s an act of trust in my memory to hold on to the most important things, and in my imagination to faithfully fill in the details.

That, or its a demonstration of a profound lack of discipline. Jury’s still out [insert smiley-face emoticon].

Cavafy

Candles

The days of our future stand before us
like a row of little lighted candles–
golden, warm, and lively little candles.

The days gone by remain behind us,
a mournful line of burnt-out candles;
the nearest ones are still smoking,
cold candles, melted and bent.

I do not want to look at them; their form saddens me,
and it saddens me to recall their first light.
I look ahead at my lighted candles.

I do not want to turn back, lest I see and shudder–
how quickly the somber line lengthens,
how quickly the burnt-out candles multiply.

C.P. Cavafy

Easter Sunday

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I didn’t go to church this year.
That’s a first.

Last year, I visited a friend’s church. “The saddest passage in all of Scripture…Jesus showed them his wounds, but some doubted…”

I belong in the saddest passage in all of scripture?

The year before, I led music at a friend’s church. “On Friday a thief, on Sunday a king…this is what we live for…

What am I doing here?

The year before, I visited another friend’s church. “Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? This is our reason for living.

This should be enough. 

All the years before that, I attended the church of my childhood. Seems a lifetime ago.

A shrouded face, a muffled voice, arms extended and bleeding. Eat this flesh, drink this blood. Do this in remembrance of me.

I cannot see you.

This year, I enjoyed a weekend out of town with little to do but simply be with another.

An open gaze, a clear voice, arms enfolding and warm. Eat this…drink this…enjoy this moment. Be here.

I see you.

So many things that were beautiful–are beautiful, that I no longer find imbued with life or with death-to-life–have shifted.

This is enough.

Or perhaps I am the one who has shifted and they have remained unchanged.

I am here.

Body, blood
that which is
kneaded and baked and broken
that which is
plucked from the vine to flavor and ferment
A lifetime ago
these were merely symbols

This year, I didn’t go to church.
I’m glad.

Rain

A tiny piece of this morning’s scribblings.

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Rain

Hydrogen, oxygen, bound together, reduced, reused, recycled. A drop of rain on your open palm changes your skin, looses itself in your biology, becomes a part of you. In the absorption, do you become everything else those molecules have touched? You are only yourself in drought.

 

Thoughts on Thirty

30

Thirty.

U.S. Highway 30 stretches clear across the northern half of the country, Oregon to New Jersey, touching a lot of country and intersecting a lot of other roads along the way. On the map, it misses Michigan by a hair.

 

My thirtieth birthday is fast approaching. I’ve looked forward to this, with more enthusiasm than I’d care to admit, for the last three years. On my twenty-seventh birthday, I wondered what the point was in years twenty-seven, twenty-eight, and twenty-nine. Especially twenty-nine. Why not just knock those years off the calendar and make me thirty already?

But those three years turned out to be three of the most painful and formative years I have known. I wouldn’t be me without them, who I am now has deep roots in those three years that I would have tossed aside, bleeding a red spray-painted, “POINTLESS.”

“They” say (the infamous and completely anonymous “they”) that your thirties are the good years. You come into your own, settle into a stronger sense of yourself and life as a whole — not in the sense of obliterating mystery and uncertainty, but of becoming more okay with yourself in the midst of those things.

But then, I know plenty of people in their thirties who have no idea who they are or what they are doing.

I’m suspecting it will be something in between.

 

Interstate 30 connects Texas and Arkansas, picks up somewhere in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and drops off around Little Rock. A blip in the complex system of roads spread like a web across the country, a web spun by a rather disoriented spider.

 

In traditional astronomy (not the newspaper horoscope kind), I hear, there’s this thing called the “Saturn Return” that happens between ages 28 and 32. The old stuff withers, dries up, falls off; the new is free to grow. However you feel about astronomy, the idea is intriguing. It resembles the Christian tradition’s “Paschal Mystery,” in which death gives way to life, crucifixion affords resurrection and redemption.

Like a phoenix. In its end is its beginning.

There’s some more T.S. Eliot for you.

 

NM 30 is a whopping 8.9-mile stretch of road that bridges the gap between Espanola and a nameless point on NM 502, which–if followed West–leads to Los Alamos.

 

In my end is my beginning.

Yeah, I know. Thirty is hardly old and decrepit. If you think 30 is old, get ready for the downhill run…

But it’s olderAnd there is certainly a strong sense of losing something, letting go. I feel an almost visceral movement from one season to another.

Words strain…

Rereading T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets over the past week, I am astounded, as I am with every reading of this work, by its essential understanding of the mystery at the heart of life and faith and creativity–three undeniably inseparable threads, each intrinsic to the others. Here are a few pieces of those threads that have been marked (numerous times) in the copy I carry around:

 

And the way up is the way down, the way forward is the way back.

‘Fare forward, you who think that you are voyaging;
You are not those who saw the harbor
Receding, or those who will disembark.
Here between the hither and the farther shore
While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.

Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers.

 

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without
love
For love would love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the
dancing.

Old men ought to be explorers
Here and there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.

 

Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

Twenty years largely wasted, the years of 
l’entre deux guerres*
Trying to learn to use words, and every attempt

Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it.

For most of us , there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts
.

 

*Time between two wars.