Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dark to Light

I began to learn how to let light shine into corners of my mind very early. The act coincided with using a flashlight to read under the covers at night, or when we had to use kerosene lamps to light a room or path. African sunsets had a way of infusing images into my mind, such intense beauty. A teacher reminded me that the way we open our mind to new thoughts, a real education, can be seen in the way we live our own history as humankind. Having sex, making babies, we did “in the dark” for centuries, both literally, banked by leaves or tangled in sheets, and not knowing how this “miracle of birth” happened, until our science caught up with our procreation practices and we illuminated the sperm/ovum, embryo to baby pathway. Wiping the sleep from my eyes as a child and peering into the beginning morning light, I remember the way objects came into view, how clarity happened. New questions and wonderings continued as my feet hit the floor and I began to move through the house, into the bathroom, the kitchen, out into the yard or gravel driveway, listening to all kinds of sounds.

The weight of our experience, as people, as cultures, as a society, hangs with us, creates shadows that can be seen and felt in our eyes, faces, our lifestyles, our silence and our speech. What keeps us up at night, or awakens us in the morning shows us where we have been, and what corners we may have taken, what hills we have climbed, what rivers we have crossed. “The Great War” is a reminder. My father had a beautiful brother killed when his ship was bombed. Men of a certain age, and growing older as we do, have the weight of all such experience as a collective that is tangible, though diminishing as they are dying, a species unto themselves. Their  women hold this too, though theirs is a different weight, a certain light it seems that honors the men, the time, the changes asked of them as a collective. I think of families, how they change as “life happens.” With my parents both dead, I too have a new view of change, as I sense their presence, as I remember moments – moments of laughter, moments of pure joy, moments of diminishing light and occasional storms, sometimes lingering for a few days, as grief passed through them. Always joy returned, and a steady, steely resolve which was fed from childhood, and a sense of life being eternal, the day-to-day work a gift of moving on, of seeing the days through from light to dark and light again with dawn. 

As I watch the news these days, with people infusing themselves with the contagious motivation and power of change, I marvel at the shadows that we cling to, and what urges us to make changes, sea-changes, when we do. We help each other as the tide builds. In my own world, as Spring begins (though today feels more like winter!), I watch the abundant birds and the heads of daffodils bobbing with the wind, and I feel so happy to know the changes that come, that they are a cycle of nature, including human nature. How do we, how do I best honor the changes that are designed and enfolded within as energy beings? One way is by listening, listening to all of the sounds and communication of life, such as the bird-song, the way the rain drips onto brick, the way even the plastic bag feels as we fill it with leaves and sticks and all matter of brush in our choice of clean-up. Memories fill me as I quiet my mind and let it soar, instinctively sinking into the warmth that love reminds as the chill outside persists, for this day, this hour, this moment. Knowing what moments of new thought mean to me is a gift, a bouquet which shines its beauty beyond just what my eyes can see, but to every memory I will ever know. Let the good live, shine.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ready to Live

Lately I've been reading Patti Smith's award-winning memoir, Just Kids. I've read it in pieces, dipping in here and there before bed mostly. With this book, and her style of expression, I can do this and thoroughly enjoy the dips. I've always been drawn to Patti Smith's bits of poetry, some of the stark images of her I've seen over the years. I never went further than reading some of her poems, but my memory of certain images and words prompted me to immediately want to read Just Kids when I first read about it.

Today I read an essay she wrote for Details in July of 1991, We can be heroes. The sub-head read, "Patti Smith on the poets and pop stars who rescued her from teenage hell." She studied carefully selected images in her mirror, along with her own. It was 1962, a time, she says, when "roles were rigidly assigned." Joan of Arc definitely made the mirror crew, the "tomboy who talked to God." Studying her face, Patti read, "ready to die," and shook her head. "Ready to live," she whispered. "For I desired, as Youth does, to be taken by the hand and hurled into the world. But who would do the hurling. And what would I wear?"  I love this. She learned, and knew inside, grew into knowing, that ultimately we are not seeking others to worship but to Know ourselves. What Bob Dylan and others gave her (along with the ability to choose just the right dark glasses) was the ability to fend for herself.

"Mine the quirks," indeed. I can relate to what Patti Smith writes about mirrors, about wondering, about words, to some degree about music, to art, and to the raw wonder of sharing a life. Last night at our Spiritual Philosophy meeting we talked about this lesson of self-sufficiency as human beings. With the word "sustainability" almost everywhere these days, self-sufficiency has its own expanding rewards, benefits, joys, and challenges. Today, in Japan, the Earth heaved, and continues heaving, shifting, as rubble gives way to shaking and the force of water. People gather in the streets, seeking shelter as they can, and wondering how life is, will be, now. People are shaken to their roots, and we who are far away send love, help, however we can or will. Each thought adds to others.

Being born one of triplets has given me a distinct experience and exploration of what it means to be "individual" and "three-in-one," one of three. This morning, the first bright blue-sky day in a week or so, I walked to the flower bed by the road where we've planted bulbs. Some were dug up as soon as they were planted by eager squirrels or maybe rabbits. The ones that held on are coming up, with the good rain and Spring urges. Purple tops with yellow centers, bright orange leaves with elegant tips, each showing its colors in a row of others. Each one is beautiful, and all together their beauty is more evident, more beautiful. 

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Love, love, love

There is nothing like the sense of Spring coming into being. For some reason (it can only be Love!), I have been thinking of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover as Spring has begun. It has been a very long time since I thought of those words, though I also remember scenes from film adaptations of Lawrence’s words (Alan Bates, figs, a spread of food on white tablecloth, outdoors, interactions of another kind of “boating party.”) How do brain cells remember? Sometimes in visions full-sprung, Venus on a half-shell, Adonis (not necessarily Charlie Sheen) beckoning to the gods of life and love.  Lady Chatterley is instructed by a rough-hewn man who knows of intimate joys of the body she has never contemplated. Ah, how we teach each other when we want to learn!
It is delightful to think of love. 

I once wrote a story about a young woman whose lusts for life were abundant.  She wore white cotton muslin gowns, simply layered over when cooler winds blew, and she wandered far and wide the countryside in wind, rain, and the splendor of sun. When once she came upon a young man asleep, with the innocence of a young girl, she bent slowly by him and with just a whisper of a finger’s motion moved aside his covering to see his manhood naked to the sun, to her eyes all new with such a view. She smiled endlessly as she let the covering return to its resting place, and blew the young man a kiss as she continued her wandering.  These vignettes of life are a pleasure, if trite and sentimental. As my brother told me when he reported to me of my niece’s latest favorite word: fabulous.  She always tries to use her favorite word in every possible sentence. And why not? he said, why shouldn’t she? What a great word! Innocence overtakes us as our minds expand into love. The profound difference between innocence and ignorance is the depth and energy of love leading us, willing “lovers,” into greener pastures, into laughter, into lighter forms of being, no matter the weight of our steps on a stairway.