Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Take a Poet's Pause and Breath(e)

Take a poet's pause and breath.

Look up at celestial heavens as day breaks "our back yard this summer".

From our friend, Ellen Van Horn, in Virginia. One in "Long Island Bahamas," the other is the daybreak. Their own Sistine Chapel.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

John Henrys

What does it mean to know that we are, I am energy, all is energy? I know something about how science defines energy, and the many categories in which we relate to energy and its function in our lives. We put gas in our cars, we pay our electricity bills, we talk about turbines, nuclear power, the power of the water and wind in a storm, we digest food, plants convert energy. We breathe as we live, we get up in the morning if we can, we wake up if we are conscious, we swallow, speak, and share our energy in infinite ways. Why do we still believe machines are more powerful than we are? “Folklore” is full of tales of humans interacting with machines, with Nature, with each other as we have tried to define our human personalities as energy creating matter, without remembering that we are “Gods,” as energy constantly creating matter.

Remember the story of John Henry, that steel-driving man who beat the steam drill? In the 1800s, our history reminds us, when our country was recovering from the “Civil War,” railroad tracks were being laid to connect coast to coast. Thousands of men took on the job of clearing the way and laying the tracks, and some of the most challenging jobs were blasting tunnels through mountains, like the Big Bend Tunnel in West Virginia. Men used large hammers and stakes to put holes in rock that were filled with explosives to speed up the process of laying track. The folk hero image of John Henry reminds us of the “David and Goliath” story, any underdog-versus-the-dominating-force story, and we feel good when we hear of such a will that accepts any challenge, even if we die doing it. Singers and weavers of stories through our history have made this story their own, and the ballad of John Henry is said to be the most well known and often recorded American folk song.

Isn’t it easy to imagine at least some of that drive of John Henry’s? The purely physical pressure of survival, life itself, being proud of feeling full as an able body with the strength to perform, the will to live, the ability to do what we aim to do? Glistening muscles, sweat from exertion, the clanging of steel, the hard rock, the sparks of life and rock and iron and engine competing. So much is in only a few details. In the political news on television I hear commentators point out the presidential candidates’ careful language and the slippery slope of meaning and interpretation's influence – “After I am elected,” “After I win.” I feel a difference in the energy of the words, the determination, or desperation, with which they are delivered. I look at my life in this moment. A friend who recently read my book wrote to me and said, Was there an ending? I laughed out loud and wrote back, Now I remember - life is eternal. The love of life is eternal. Change is constant. Endings, and beginnings, change as I do (ENERGY is real, creating matter). Almost any good editor (one who "goes by the book") would tell me (as some have) that beginnings, middles, and ends must be clearly structured, defined - the reader must have this guide, like an internal clock that helps them feel comfortable. Most of us feel better going into a house that has a good foundation, some degree of order. It's funny to me - I find mine has been more like burrowing in to then blow off the roof and see the celestial beauty both in the heavens and underground. She wrote back: Thanks Margaret! Your ending is "the love of life is eternal. Endings and beginnings change as I do." Now I feel complete. (Guess I got used to roofs on my houses.) Thanks for letting me share your life and book. It was an interesting read.

What is it that moves us to pass a story on, memory to memory, a legacy of iron, steel-driving will, a song we make our own that we sing with all of the emotion of our heart? Hippocrates' teacher is said to have believed violent wrestling should always be prescribed as part of the healing process. Hippocrates disagreed. His focus is said to have been on gentleness, nurturing the body into a healing focus. When I listen to my mother’s voice over the telephone, I hear her lovely laugh, and I also hear the days when her voice seems small, a sound of “hello” captured in a paper cup and lifted out to the wind rather than spoken. I hear the vibrations of my own voice when I speak with her, and when I talk to myself inside my head before I sleep. I am writing songs sometimes. Other times driving steel, carving letters. Today is the paintbrush, tomorrow perhaps the glass-blowing, the abacus. Always the energy is real, and love is what heals.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Recently a friend sent me an Elvis bust made of molded rubber and complete with a good wig, animated blue eyes and lips. He came with his own microphone, batteries, and an adaptor. His lip lifts, his eyebrows rise, his eyes move and shift, his familiar voice comes out. I captured a picture with my cell phone late in the night and sent it to my 19-year-old niece. She texted me back instantly, asking Who is that??? When we spoke, she said it was creepy, she was worried. I reassured her that, in the light of day, and with a clear rather than fuzzy picture, Elvis is actually not scary but very charming. Part of Elvis is now propped on the cedar chest in the sunroom. When a friend walked in, she said, What the hell is that? We laughed, and punched his buttons so he would perform, play with us.

I conceived characters aeons ago, which I would become, each day being its own addition to the adventures (trials and sorrows) which grew into a mountain of joys when seen whole, the view from the overlook, and with some distance from that air.

Devils, angels, incubi, dart-throwers, gargoyles – all the fantastical creatures of allegory have been conceived by men and carved in every manner of medium, even (and often, especially) skin. We have made ourselves into the distorted images we see in our dreams, or the touched-up versions we see in our magazine spreads. Temper tantrums called up by children when pressed by fatigue, frustration, and a moment of emptiness show us what we adult characters grow into, with a little more costuming and maybe more flair. My parents taught us that tantrums are not acceptable, or desired, by thinkers. To be alive is to think and to do, to love life. I have thought about this a lot.

I think about how perfect this pattern/process is in relationship to how we act in our world with each other. How often are we propped up, wait until our bunches are punched, then rise to the occasion? Do we wait to be “plugged in”?
I think of the icon Elvis was and is. I never saw Elvis perform, but have seen plenty of monuments and trickets made and sold in his name. What would Elvis himself think? Elvis as Jesus. I don’t mean to blaspheme, but this is one of the points in my mind. We create images to worship, to manipulate, to suit our fancies, and converge upon them the powers that we want them to have in our world. Beyond a pure enjoyment, this symbol is scary. It’s only scary because I recognize how mammoth our lesson is – we ceaselessly search for ways to entertain ourselves, and yet we do not relate our images to every image we create and the roles our images perform for us.

Friday, October 10, 2008


“Each time that we live an emotional experience that emphasizes our finite nature as physical beings, we expand our level of conscious awareness of our eternal Divine Nature.” (The Journey Home, 482)

Today my brother sent me two recent poems, “Because I am his son,” and “Between these waves.” Since I read them they move gently in my mind. “Between these waves” begins, “I draw you close, My loves”; “Because I am his son” begins, “Because I am his son, I go.” Reading the poems in succession, I feel their rhythmic beat, the energy of all they mean to him, and now to me, rippling like the leaves touched by wind, sand moved by water. The “his” refers, here, specifically to our Dad, whose physical energy diminishes and still charms. I cried a little as I read Mike’s words – not because they depressed me, though sadness was there, and reached me; because the love shared expands me.

The quote above from Kathy Oddenino’s The Journey Home fits, again and again. As Mike wrote, we are “forging a beautiful simplicity between these waves.”

Another bit I read in computer-land today was about the LilyPad Arduino, a washable, flexible fabirc circuit system you sew together with conductive thread, so that your whole body becomes circuitry - Leah Cuechley,the creator, a fabric designer, says, “I am interested in integrating ‘feminine’ activities like sewing with computer science, mathematics and technology. I think that social issues more often than lack of talent discourage women from entering math, technology and science-related fields.” She hopes to help create environments where women’s interests are explored and represented. This may seem a strange or “invisible” segue with the above, but I find it fascinating – light-up clothing, snaps that say “here I am” by light, clothes that go dark when you put your coat on. I am learning about the reality of energy, and therefore how science, art, visuals and perceptions of all kinds of minds interpret themselves as expressive energy. The diminishing or expanding energy of us as people (physical energy) is a phenomenon in my mind a lot these days, therefore the infinite fields in which we create are becoming more apparent to me. Without the add-on circuitry, I am learning to know the language of my nerves within me, and the absolute intimacy of this language of life. Love lights me up. Fear frames the dark. How do we keep our circuitry going? What is our true nature as “spiritual beings”? I see signs all the time of our continuing to separate the reality of “the physical” (our belief in the physical as Real and absolute, even as we reinforce our belief in the invisible as simply “faith,” or “heaven” or….) from our appreciation of the love with which our senses invite and experience life when we know and support our true nature.

When I look at ideas, things, patterns, people whose thinking I’m attracted to, I know more of what makes me human, and why my personality is as it is in this moment of drifting time.

Borges, Crowley, epigrams, ephemera, symbols of stairways, ladders, nests and eggs, hatching –All invite me into the tunnels of my neuronal pathways which begin to enlighten me as I open my mind to the reality of us as energy first and matter second. We are our own creators, as made in the image of God. In an article called Metamorphosis (2007) about Rosamund Purcell’s “natural history” (2007), John Crowley writes, “An overarching category (if Purcell’s extreme nominalism can permit such a thing) is the category of the sublimely diminished, things that, as she says, are bereft of their original potential yet still familiar. “I have chipped these things from the matrix of the almighty thingness of our all-American world, and, as I did not stop to mourn their demise, why not revel now in their inevitable disintegration?”

Read again the quote from Kathy Oddenino'sThe Journey Home, “Each time that we live an emotional experience that emphasizes our finite nature as physical beings, we expand our level of conscious awareness of our eternal Divine Nature.” (The Journey Home, 482) I think again of Mike’s poems. I marvel at the moments of healing that happen always, the sun rising and setting, the moon phases as I know them. As energy we are never bereft of our original potential. As energy, we grow. Revel.