I Was Supposed To Be Writing

3.'Laid to Rest 80,000...Spirits (west)'--Cat Fink
Laid To Rest 80,000 Obstructing Spirits (west)

You who love words and books, you know this.  The inability to stop reading a story.  The not caring what other responsibilities are sitting to the side.  The vaguely conscious decision of being okay with missing an obligation and figuring out an excuse later.

I was supposed to be writing my blog post after lunch today.  I promised myself, after not getting time to write yesterday and being cranky about it.

Now it’s today.

I eat my lunch (hummus, tzatziki, chunks of fresh tomatoes, pepper ham, oh yum).  While eating, I read Natalie Goldberg’s new book Let The Whole Thundering World Come Home.  I finish lunch.  I keep reading.

I can’t see a clock from where I’m sitting, and I don’t care.  I know I promised myself I would write the post, and I don’t care.  I keep reading.

How can I stop reading when someone offers me the truest, barest, words of their shot-through-the-heart life?

Natalie’s words in this book are stark.  She offers no consolation and no place to hide, not for herself and not for me.  I can’t stop reading.  These words are her life, everyone’s life, pared to the bone.

Finally, I am done, the book finished, Natalie’s story complete for now.

I feel like crying.  Empathy, recognition, sorrow, relief, love for a fellow human being.

I decide I’d rather write than cry.  I get up and walk to my studio at the opposite end of the house.  I carry Natalie’s book with me.  I am still wrapped in the experience of her story.

I sit at my work table.  I pull loose leaf paper towards me.  I pick up a pencil.  I don’t start writing.  Instead, I remember a September afternoon, years ago.  It is the third or fourth day of a silent writing and meditation workshop.  The air is warm.  There is no air conditioning.  I can smell the wood of the building, hot from the sun.  We are doing walking meditation, a slow circle around the room.  Natalie walks beside each of us in turn, taking our hands, gentle, quiet.

“You’ve got it,” she says to me, smiles wide, and moves to the person behind me.

Why am I remembering this?

The woman who walked beside me for a few moments was teaching me to find the truth in my words, and to settle for nothing less than meeting and loving my life and writing with both hands and my whole heart.

I am not all the way there yet, to the deepest truth, but I am walking the life that stands before me every day, finding a way to love all of it, laying one truest word after another.

Thank you, Natalie, for your hand, your heart, your words, and your teaching.  You are present in your books in my studio, every day whispering “You’ve got it.”

_______________________

In this post,

Natalie Goldberg, book Let The Whole Thundering World Come Home: a memoir, Shambhala Publications, 2018.  http://nataliegoldberg.com/

Pleasures Of The Day

Coyote Calls to the Protectors-detailIt’s the Summer Solstice.  My husband calls this the lightest day.  (The Winter Solstice is, of course, the darkest day.)

We have sun and the bluest sky.  There’s a breeze running through the house, in and out the open windows, playing tag with itself.  It’s carrying the scents of cedars and maples, warm from the sun.  There is the dusty, sweet smell of arbutus leaves, and the perfect scent of wild roses blooming next to the studio window.

The house is quiet at the moment, only George Winston’s Forest album playing on my Ipod.

I am at my studio work table, writing.  Iced coffee at my side, in a decades-old McDonald’s “Good Morning” mug.  Another mug next to it, half full of cold water from our well.

This is Heaven.

My days are made of Heaven moments, when I remember to become present to my life and notice what is here.

These moments remind me of my Dad.  We began going for walks together when I was three and he was thirty-three.

Our walks were slow, not only because of my toddler legs.  We were slow because we were busy noticing beauty, pleasure, and joy, noticing the day we had around us.

Stop and notice the perfect, round, grey stone at our feet.  Notice the feel of the wind pushing against our bodies, and the sound it makes as it moves through the branches of the fir trees.  See the clouds scraping the tops of the hills, leaving tatters of white behind.  Notice the hot, earth smell of the dust clouds raised as we step, and the sound of crows we cannot see, squabbling over something they both desire.

This is beauty, pleasure, joy, receiving the gifts the day offers me.

Yesterday I didn’t do so well at noticing.  Now I am making up for it, deliberately moving slowly, feeling one by one the pleasures of today.

When I allow it to be, this is Heaven.

_______________________

In this post,

George Winston, music Forest.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Winston

In Love With The Words

1.'Containers for the Soul'--Cat Fink
‘Containers For The Soul’

I am halfway through reading Mary Karr’s book The Art Of Memoir.

I’ve yet to read her other books (my friend just lent me The Liar’s Club), but this particular book’s title showed up three times in the past two weeks, twice in random emails, and then at my friend’s home where I was visiting.  When something shows up repeatedly in my life, it’s a clue.  I need to check it out.

I love how Mary keeps moving back and forth between her passion for memoir and the truth of how fugitive our memories can be.  There’s a fascination with the words, and how the words make her feel, and how odd memory is when we try to pin it down into a story.

I loved hearing stories long before I started school, yet I know for sure I became a different person the day I learned to read for myself.

I see flashes of this particular memory.  Sitting with my classmates at the back of our classroom.  New reader open on my lap, the hand-painted pictures, and the words in large black print underneath the images.  Words printed so big, they feel like they are yelling.  I can smell the reader, its singular dusty, papery odour.  I can feel the stiff round edges of the cover in my hands, the coolness of it as it lies on my bare knees.

I don’t know if I took this reader, or the next, home.  I do know at some point in Grade One I began taking home each new reader as I received it, and read the whole thing in one huge swallow.

I needed the words and story and how they made me feel.  I could not go slowly with a new book.  I had to eat it all right away.

A new book burned in me.  Fierce anticipation.  Curiosity that yelled “Now!”  Satisfaction—too dull a word for the fire I experienced.  Fulfillment and wholeness are closer, yet again nowhere near the wild, bright joy I felt, and still feel, with each new book in my hands.  I understand why ‘voracious’ is paired with ‘reader’.  Even the sound of ‘voracious’ when I say it out loud echoes my feelings.  The word growls.

I became a different person the day I learned to read.  I became hungry for words and story and books.  Addicted.  Completely.

There was a wild, bright, fiery space in me waiting for words, story, reading, books to show up.

There is always a wild, sharp, open space in me waiting for the next new book.  Words have taken over my life.  I read.  I write.  I play with crosswords and Scrabble.  I even write on my drawings; plain image is no longer enough.  My friends are readers and writers.

Some might mutter “obsessed” with a kind of tsk-tsk tone.  I say “Glorious!”

At six years old, in Grade One, I did not know the words I’m using here.  If someone had asked me what I felt when I was reading, the word I would have answered with is “Love.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you Mrs. Johnson, for teaching me to read and love words and story and books.

_______________________

In this post,

Mary Karr, The Art Of Memoir, HarperCollins, 2015; and The Liars’ Club: a memoir, Penguin Books, 1996.  https://www.marykarr.com/

It’s true.  We human beings can’t help it.  We are words and memory and story.  We create and recreate ourselves and our world when we say “let me tell you a story.”  It happens every time.

Sunny With Cloudy Breaks

rainbow.flowers 017How happy am I allowed to be?

This question has been coming up since the weekend.  I’m not getting anywhere thinking about it, so I am writing about it instead.

I had an awesome good Sunday.  Everything and everyone was sweet in some way.  Basically, I swam in joy all day, no matter what I was doing.  Play or household tasks (there were a few), it made no difference to my mood.  I sailed through the day, fair winds prevailing.

I woke Monday feeling the opposite.  Monday, my mood was resistance and struggle, no matter what I was doing.  Reading?  I love reading.  Monday, I could not find a book that satisfied me, and I have a lot of books.  Word puzzles?  I love those too.  Monday, I had no patience for them.  They made me feel angry instead.

Monday’s mood continued on and off, mostly on, through Tuesday and Wednesday.  Today I have had enough of this miserable weather.  I am writing it out of me and onto the page where I can see it.

Something happened after the sweet Sunday.  Something said I’d used up my quota of happiness, and I turned off the flow.

Yes, I did that to myself.  I am the one who chooses how I feel about everything in my life.  Here, now, I can either choose to find ways and help to lift my mood, or not.

How happy am I allowed to be?  How happy do I let myself be?

These are not the same question.  The first implies someone else puts the cap on my happiness.  The second says I own the happiness control in my life.

My heart is my happiness control.  I learned how to open my heart to love, and I know how this feels.  I also know how my closed heart feels.  Sunday, my heart was open to life.  Monday, I closed down and stayed closed.  I was missing my Dad, and it hurt too much so I closed my heart.

That simple.  I closed my heart, and then all felt like struggle.

Enough struggle.  I have an idea about my happiness level.  Yes, I miss my Dad fiercely, and I also love him fiercely.  So, I choose I can miss him and love him at the same time.  Let my heart be open to both feelings.  My heart is big.  It can handle it.  I know how much Dad loved me and still loves me though he’s not here in body.  I feel it every day, and I love him right back.

I choose.  I give myself permission to be happy as much and as often as I please.  I give myself permission to not be okay when I need to not be okay.  Be happy and be sad, and let my heart play fully with all in my life.  Not bittersweet.  Sadsweet, and more sweet than sad because the love is so huge.

I feel sunny again.  There are clouds too, but fair winds prevail and the clouds will pass.

_______________________

In this post:

I learned how to open my heart to love through Dee Wallace’s Red Dot exercise, and I wrote about it here   https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/2014/12/23/   and here   https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/2014/12/24/  ,  with Dee’s permission.

You rock, Dee!  Thanks, with love as always.  https://iamdeewallace.com/