Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rumi Day 13: Dead Meat

My father used to say dead meat: “You're dead meat,” he'd shout and chase after us, laughing.

Today I realized that longing comes from knowing that I am a part of something greater.

I must choose how to seek.

Last night, my husband said I was “cold” on the phone with my mother.

This affternoon, I cried for 30 minutes. Then, I went to yoga.

Someone said today: Here you go. Give it your best shot.

I wrote about landscapes and not plots this morning.

Maple syrup on steamed kale tastes good.

from “Empty Boat”

In the slaughterhouse of love they kill only

the best, none of the weak or deformed.

Don't run away from this dying.

Whoever's not killed for love is dead meat.

*translated by Coleman Barks

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rumi Day 12: "This We Have Now"

This we have now
is not imagination.

This is not grief,
or joy, not a judging state,
or an elation, or a sadness.

Those come and go.
This is the presence
that doesn't.

It's dawn, Husam,
here is the splendor of coral,
inside the Friend, in the simple truth
of what Hallaj said.

What else could human beings want?
When grapes turn to wine,
they're wanting this.
When the night sky pours by,
it's really a crowd of beggars,
and they all want some of this.

This we are now
created the body, cell by cell,
like bees building a honeycomb.

The human body and the universe
grew from this, not this
from the universe and the human body.

*translated by Coleman Barks

Me: Cold, bright day. Sunny. The water around the shore of the lake is frozen. I sit on the stonewall at Battery Park and listen to the sound of skates and sticks clacking from the ice rink down by the skate park. It's the crow-flying hour. Only a few pass. Do you know this hour of golden sunlight, when objects seem to sparkle and the sky goes rosy? More fly by and now they're flocking—hundreds of them. Someday I'll follow them.

In the mail a baseball card my husband ordered arrives. I lay it on his desk. He says, this guy has come up through their system, he's a good left hander pitcher: Felix.

Rumi believes we're the physical manifestation of this ever present something. What is this “presence” that does not come and go but keeps? Even in my self induced isolation I feel it near. Someone tells me to take a rest, and I thank her. Anthony Doerr uses the word “unbidden” in more than one story in his first collection, “Shell Collector,” and in a story in his latest collection, “Memory Wall.” Eight years separate the publications. It is a good word, unbidden. Grief feels unbidden. The light is nearly gone; the birds have passed. Someday soon I'll follow them.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rumi Day 11: "Longing"

The hour before sundown—the witching hour—when the light is golden, the blackbirds fly. I don't know, but I suspect they are crows. I have watched the crows fly for a half hours time, through the window of my apartment, one after the next after the next. I don't know where they go to roost. I know they go as far as the road to Oakledge Park; I have seen perhaps fifty of them roosting in trees behind the Waterfront Video plaza. The other day, my husband and I drove past a mom pointing out the birds to her child. She stood on the sidewalk pointing up.

During winter and fall crows roost in groups; roosts have been recorded with as many as 200,000 birds. Crows spread out during the day and an hour or more before sunset the flock back to the roost for the night.

Michael Westerfield's theory is that crows don't always return to the roost every night, and some mated crows might not roost at all. He hypothesizes that the roost serves a social function for crows to find mates and challenge each other: roosts are crow socialization. (Checkout the 7Days Article on Crows in Burlington.


Longing is the core of mystery.

Longing itself brings the cure.

The only rule is, Suffer the pain.

Your desire must be disciplined

and what you want to happen

in time, sacrificed.


The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.

We must get up to take that in,

that wind that lets us live.

Breathe, before it's gone.

Watching the crows flock reminds me of longing. The sky is a form of longing to me—depth of color, distance lost to time, its beauty, a stark and rare nakedness, suddenly empties.

Today I felt that feeling of pressure which I associate with depression. At the laundry mat I knit a hat. Judge Judy yelled at so-and-so on the TV perched above the dryers. Then, Celine Dion and Oprah chatted about Celine's amazing life. The Asian kid, perhaps from the Pho Hong restaurant next door, whispered "shit" under his breath while playing the Pac Man machine. Maybe he was 4 or 5 years old. I thought it was cute, not sad. “Shit, shit, shit.” I threw the plastic laundry basket at my husband (lightly) because I didn't feel like speaking and wanted to get his attention. He said: I don't respond to that. But, he wasn't too mad and later, safely back at home, he made me laugh when I lay in bed wanting to cry.

Do I believe Rumi when he writes “longing is the core of mystery/ longing itself brings the cure”? Is he saying that in time what I want to happen must be sacrificed/ abandoned? I know this. I know how to turn off my mind and let my feet move me. To heal from longing through pain. To let go of my wants and desires and be led by a deeper path. But I don't always feel like doing this. Some days I don't believe. Some days I don't know what is true and right, real and imagined. 

Rumi gives us the last stanza, a reprieve. As though today he speaks to me directly, “we must get up and take that in/ the wind that lets us live.” His last line startles me. He is really saying, live before its gone. To which I add, Emily. Defiance being at the core of my being.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Rumi Days 8-10: More Fragments

Pale sunlight,

pale the wall.

Love moves away.

The light changes.

I need more grace

than I thought.

Me: I am a little bit frozen today. Sick, passing in and out of sleep all morning, waking to the strange half light of colorless sky. Yesterday things fell apart. I realize I am not someone who can expose herself safely, here, or elsewhere. Exposure wounds me. This is harder than I thought. Dealing with it once seemed okay, but the second time seems stale and rotten. There is a soreness to it. As though no redemption lives here, with me. Instead, I close my eyes and sleep. I tell my husband to get movies and tea and yogurt. I come down with a hideous cold. Dizzy, I dream of strange things: a dog without its front paws that my aunt won't let me keep, a cousin who gets pregnant and gives away the babies, the movie we watched last night. Days when I can't move, I spend my waking hours nervous about not getting things done. I don't like this about myself—life cannot be one big list of things to do.

Still, I dream about living in the woods, in the mountains, and wish the traffic outside would quiet. I am learning something about patience, something about acceptance, something about loving, and something about grace. Grace is a reprieve, a gift given, but perhaps we must be willing accept it, open to it. Patience and acceptance are practiced actions. Loving, remains illusive and yet fully present even if we are not aware.

I dream of a river that flows near the house where I stand in the yard and hang sheets on the line. Little sparrows dip and flutter. I dream of river stones that I find and skip. I dream of the shallow light of dusk, the smell of spring, birds, always birds. I dream of children, their blond heads and laughter.
                                                     (the Connecticut River, Southern Vermont)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rumi Day 7: for Lady L

A thousand half-loves
must be forsaken to take
one whole heart home.

Unions in America

Yesterday I spoke with my sister about the Wisconsin bill that would destroy unions. She noted that Gov. Walker had said “well I have the votes to pass it,” and went on to say that she didn't understand how politicians can totally disregard the concept of what is best for the people and replace it with what's best for the people who vote for me (presumably some of the teachers and state workers may have voted for Walker); bi-partisanship continues to erode our country's well being in this way. Politicians, I'm not saying all of them, I am in fact from MN, home of one of the greatest Senators of all time the late Paul Wellstone, seem to forget that once elected they have a responsibility to uphold the rights and represent the interests of all their constituents.

Something I think about: what would our public schools and hospitals look like without unions? I firmly believe without unions the public schools would go downhill fast and middle-classers would want to start sending their kids to private schools, so we'd get more of them and the public schools would become less and less...and so on and so forth. Recall that public schools are REQUIRED for a democratic society. Recall that studies show that education decreases crimes, povery, and increases the health and overall well-being of communities. Recall that teachers don't get paid well as it is, have to fight on a regular basis to get raises, to keep benefits (currently most have agreed to a pay-freaze), and have one of the most important jobs in America.

Where I come from Iron Ore workers formed unions in the early 1900s. Folks could graduate high school (or not) and start out making $40-$50/year in recent times. At the moment its hard to get in there, but those who do make an incredibly livable wage for the area (av. cost of home less than $100K). These mines (obviously I don't agree completely with some of the environmental problems with mining) have continued throughout the past century and seem to remain a viable industry in the area regardless of paying their workers excellent wages, benefits, pensions. Unions made this small cluster of mining towns into homes for the immigrants who settled there—homes with amazing schools, beautiful churches, and a sense of community. St. Louis County (the county in which most of the mining towns are located) has until recently voted around 80% DFL, however, more amazing, in 2004 when I worked on a voter campaign in St. Louis county, 82% of eligible voters came out to vote. It was a presidential election, but that percentage is incredibly high which leads me to infer that people who come from Union homes understand the importance of voting. If you're involved with bargaining for your wages, you get the importance of your vote--you get democracy.

Union numbers are dropping across the US, along with viable working class jobs. My mom told me that MN has recently passed a number of anti-union laws. I had my own run-in with an anti-union busting nonprofit board at a homeless shelter, which unfortunately ended with no-union.

There's nothing to sum-up here. Just a concerned citizen's ramblings on Unions in America.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rumi Day 6: Fragments and Fragmented

Between Wisconsin voting to do away with collective bargaining union rights and South Dakota voting to legalize killing Abortion Doctors, I feel that lost in a sea of mania. It seems pointless to ask why after living through the Bush 2 years such questioning fails to get at the extreme nature of GOP insanity. What I don't understand, what I will never understand, is how anyone who isn't a CEO or better yet in at least the top 10% of the nations income bracket wouldn't support unions. Unions gave us the eight hour workday, weekends, sick time and vacation days, as well as healthcare. Nurses, teachers, and government workers are some of the last of the working class to maintain dignified working conditions. Why isn't it obvious that we as a group of workers should have the right to bargain for fair wages and benefits? I don't understand the disconnect.

In terms of South Dakota, I have no clue what there problem is or who even lives there? Actually I know one person who lives there and he's a great person. What scares me is that I just don't know if my peers really understand the magnitude of Women and Workers losing rights. Perhaps many of them do, I know I haven't been talking about it lately and every time the VT Workers Center calls to ask for my support or update me on what they're doing I make an excuse to get off the phone.

About Rumi: I chose this because we are now all waiting for spring.

Come to the orchard in spring.

There is light and wine and sweethearts

in the pomegranate flowers.

If you do not come, these do not matter.

If you do come, these do not matter.

*translated by Coleman Barks

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 5 Rumi: The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture, still,

treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

Translated by Coleman Barks

Me: My friend Faith, who moved last year to CO with her small son, favors this poem. When I found the poem in my book this morning I remembered her reading it to me in the small space of her kitchen which she continually rearranged changing it from dining area to study lounge to play space. I don't speak with Faith often, she's a full-time student and mother, but I remember certain things about her and the time we spent together. For example, I remember the way she greeted everyone with a smile and a hug, always knowing something of their life enough to ask after their mother, their daughter, their dog. We called this about her “people pleasing.” It got her into dicey situations like someone's bridesmaid for a wedding that was thankfully canceled.

I on the other hand was not keen on chatting up people, and had a difficult time withstanding the men that Faith would kindly entertain for moments when caught on Church Street (the downtown area of our town) until I would roll my eyes and drag her away. During the time we spent together, Faith and I, we were both single. It was shortly before I started dating and married my husband. We were both going through some difficult issues (divorce/break-up) in our life and she was pregnant when I met her. I was working at a coffee shop, and she, at a department store, and we had a lot of free time on our hands which we spent drinking coffee, going to the beach, and thinking up emails I could send to a man I had met and felt certain (wrongly so) that I was destined to marry. It will I think be remembered by me as the last of my “girlhood.”

In a way my girlhood was lost to marriage and partnership. I still keep my ladies incredibly close, but its not the same. The center of my intimacy is my husband. Before him it was with my lady friends. Faith knew this when I married him because she'd been married, and she cried once for her loss, though I didn't at the time understand.

We were relentlessly goofy: Faith would entertain any and every fantasy of mine and in a way this helped me have the strength to do certain things—write and direct a play, start graduate school, continue writing. She loved to believe in me. Part of this has to do with her desire perhaps to ignore herself and her own condition because she did and does struggle with demons, more I think than most. But she was there for me in the dramas of my misguided love, my sense of endless loss, and the intensity of my lust for adventure. She let me be ridiculous and never once questioned the legitimacy of my wildest imaginings—of course I should fly down to New York for the weekend to have breakfast with him!

The intensity of our bond was bound to go bust, how could it not? However, I don't think it matters that our relationship has changed; relationships need to change because we change. Even (or especially) a marriage evolves. Still, sometimes I wonder if Faith laments this change and this is why she doesn't call.


Faith understood that to be human is to be a guest house and she welcomed everyone she met; I do think, to a fault, but that doesn't dismiss her unique beauty or her love of people. I know often it was fake, often it seemed in fact to kill her, and she'd go “underground” for a couple of days or weeks, but I am not willing to fully judge this part of her as some psychological oddity. She like all of us is in the evolution of a lifespan/ soul growth.

A week after her son was born I spent an afternoon at her home. I lay him on my chest, he was so small, and he fell asleep there. Faith told me that infants fall asleep on your chest because the sound of the heartbeat comforts them, reminds them of the sound of their mother's heart in their former home.

Months later she and her son were visiting me and we decided to baptize him. I opened my Bible to the Parable of the Mustard Seed and read it...the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed...the smallest seed makes a big tree whose branches stretch into the sky and birds come to perch upon them....I trickled a few drops of water on his forehead. I think, perhaps, he giggled at us.

Since she's been gone, we've rarely spoken. Occasionally we'll send each other a card, email, or text. But we never actually speak. I don't exactly know why. But I know that she was and perhaps still is indirectly a “guide from beyond” in an atypical way. Perhaps, that is the best kind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rumi Day 4:"Love Dogs"

One night a man was crying Allah! Allah!
his lips grew sweet with praising,
until a cynic said, "So!
I have heard you calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?"

The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.

He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.

"Why did you stop praising?" "Because
I've never heard anything back."

"The Longing you express
is the return message."

The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.

Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.

There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.

Give your life
to be one of them.

Me: Time is slow and fast at once. I have a clock that actually ticks in my kitchen. I feel sorry for myself. There are no clearly formed thoughts, just swimming. I've been trying to write a story all morning/afternoon. It isn't working. It is at first too far from me, then too close. Death figures prominently in my stories; is this cheating?

The Sufi poets believed that dogs were great teachers of devotion and humility.  Love Dogs is hard to swallow because in a way my faith either goes unquestioned or begins to unravel with doubt. I don't understand God. In my better more philisophical moods, I have many thoughts on the presense of God in life, on the world of the spirit, and on surviving and thriving from grief. Not today. There is a fear in me that it is my longing that arrives at the presense of God. That it is my grief that leads me to communion/connection. I don't know what I want to be true.  But I know that our small lives are miraculous.

You can also see Sarah's wonderful blog entry about this poem.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rumi Day 3: One Swaying Being

Love is not condescension, never
that, nor books, nor any marking

on paper, nor what people say of
each other. Love is a tree with

branches reaching into eternity
and roots set deep in eternity,

and no trunk! Have you seen it?
The mind cannot. Your desireing

cannot. The longing you feel for
this love comes from inside you.

When you become the Friend, your
longing will be as the man in

the ocean who holds to a piece of
wood. Eventually, wood, man, and

ocean become one swaying being.
Shams Tabriz, the secret of God.


Held like this, to draw in milk,
no will, tasting clouds of milk,
never so content.

Me: Egypt has shown the world revolution. Mubarak resigned yesterday. Rumi was born in Afghanistan, died in Turkey. "Shams" was his great and beloved teacher. To Rumi, the soul is always journeying back to the source, God.  Love, in each of us, draws us to the source, this is our journey. "Eventually, wood, man, and ocean become one swaying being," he writes.

I try to remember what the mind and desire cannot see.

Rumi writes that "longing" is the love within you, again, he believes this love was planted there as longing that we --on our journey-- would travel back to God.

I try to remember to feel my way through. All my best thinking leads me into a lonely room of "what ifs".

Today is Saturday, and Josh spent the morning creating a FB profile for his character "Freddy." A Vermonter "red-neck" that has appeared in Josh's stories and plays. Our apartment is so tiny I call it the toy-house. Our bed is in the living room because the heater is in the living room and the back bedroom's too cold right now. Since we don't have a couch, I lounge in bed while I write. He is over there, ten feet away, giggling about Freddy who is actually Josh (he plays the character in the play). Josh did a photo shoot of himself as Freddy: Here is one of the photos (yes, I am married to this man).

Josh can't stop laughing about Freddy. He's dreaming up plans to randomly friend people he doesn't know. He killed off Freddy's girlfriend Karen because he says I'd be pissed if he did another play and Freddy made-out with Karen. I don't know if this is Freddy or Josh talking. Josh also has a character named Randy who rarely comes out these days (thank god) but who used to come out in emotionally charged situations. For example on a beach in Nova Scotia when I was asking him something serious about our relationship. Randy started shouting "sea glass" and running up and down the beach. You probably think I'm married to a maniac. But, he is actually quite a wonderful man. He feels his way through the world.

Last night he told me, we were arguing about something, that he had no interest in thinking about how he would be with our imaginary future child. He said he believes in being in the moment with children, his only self instruction is his practice of openess. Continually open yourself to the love of the child. Josh currently teaches four year olds at a preschool. Yesterday they had an hour long dance party. He said the kids kept running to the bathroom to splash water on their faces because they were hot and sweaty. I don't know if I could acutally engage in an hour long dance party with kids, but I guess I kind of hope so.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rumi Day 2: From "Soul, Heart, and Body One Morning"

Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other,
doesn't make any sense.

Me: I sleep late. The sun is prominent in the sky. Sound of traffic from my bed. A heaviness, without a name, waits with me. Go and move into the day.

I have always needed the permission "Let the beauty we love be what we do." Writing is not a hobby. Art is not a past-time. If I did not live in the world of money, this thought would be immediate. It is hard work to keep up, to not be discouraged, not give in to the fear, to remain the fool who despite failing again and again, goes on trusting herself, the world, her art. But if we do not do what we love and exist in the world of our beauty, the soul and the spirit will not thrive. Who we each are must be released, loosed upon the world; who we are must exist in communion with the world, that it might remain a part of the world in its right place and yet alter it and be altered.

The sober mind can lie down in the field and see of the world what remains--rightly so--nameless. Why am I obsessed with what is nameless? All of writing to me seeks to touch the nameless space of our world, our existence. What does this mean? What remains nameless? Most of what makes up beauty to us remains nameless.

In  the book, "The Spirituality of Imperfection" this quote is given: "Those who know do not say, those who say do not know." It's explained in terms of the scent of a flower. Do you know what a rose smells like? Yes. Explain its smell.
You cannot name it, it remains elusive. But all art seeks this place, which might be called the place of the sublime, of the other, of God, and so on.

This is what Rumi means in his last stanza:

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other,
doesn't make any sense.

But it takes so much to let down theses walls. To sift through, to fall into that place, a spiritual place. Or does it? I don't know. I've sensed this outer region, this rim, margin, gap...visually mostly, in nature, especially when working around farm animals, oddly enough. Being close to birds or death.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

My father builds things, my mother reads, my sister runs, my friend makes books and pottery, another friend makes political art, cooks, bakes, holds the hand of a small child and listens to her...

Yet, I try to remember also, that in all that we do we have the chance, we can choose, to do it with Holiness, with devotion, and with love. This thought brings me joy.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rumi Day 1: The Road Home

An ant hurries along a threshing floor
with its wheat grain, moving between huge stacks
of wheat, not knowing the abundance
all around. It thinks its one grain
is all there is to love.

So we choose a tiny seed to be devoted to.
This body, one path or one teacher.
Look wider and farther.

The essence of every human being can see,
and what that essence-eye takes in,
the being becomes. Saturn. Solomon!

The ocean pours through a jar,
and you might say it swims inside
the fish! This mystery gives peace to
your longing and makes the road home home.

Me: Certain common experiences abhor me: The realization that I am like other women (millions, billions?) who have come before me and will go after me in my longing for a child; the realization that we are fundamentally changed by giving birth (women and men) or by adopting a child; the realization that certain life experience will choose me. This time when I lose the pregnancy--when I begin to bleed and bleed--I refuse to stay home. I find myself at a job fair amid dozens of various folks all vying for a position at a call center selling garden supplies and goods. While I peck away at a keyboard in a cubicle searching for "plant stands" and writing a pretend letter of request to my pretend boss, tissue slides out of me, while I stroll through the call center staring at the personal photos of other people's children, blood clots ooze forth. I'm laughing, hysterical, carrying on with a woman in an interview like I'm on top of the world as the pad I'm wearing fills up with blood. Good job she says, good job. My stomach is in knots as I drive away after two hours of job fairing. The phone rings and its the midwife calling to give me the official news of the miscarriage.

 I don't want to mourn this. I will not find a stone, a piece of yarn, a wooden angel....yet, this morning I stand in the hallway looking at a bookshelf. On the shelf there are two wooden angels, one I've had for years, the other a close friend gave me after my last miscarriage. I have a vision of a shelf filled with wooden angels, dozens of them all representing miscarriages: dancing angels, leaping angels, sleeping angels, angels bowing deep in prayer. I have miscarriages like crazy old women have cats.

Doctors call miscarriages "spontaneous abortions" and I can't help thinking of something fun when I hear the word "spontaneous." I think of my mom telling me as a child to get outside and do something. What Mom, what? I don't know be spontaneous, go on an adventure. Medical terms are usually so dry and dead, not this one.

I am of course Rumi's ant, clinging to my small seed, my singular body, my one god, my one path. Again, I do not want to mourn this. Much to my chagrin, when I denounce God to two of my close mentor-like women friends one says "fuck god" and the other says "good for you". They are both, mind you, very spiritual women--one is in fact a minister. So now I have nothing to grasp at, to pummel; I am terrified that God can be so easily tampered with. It's not like I don't know that bad things happen to "good" people; it's just that I'm not "people."

What is the essence of every human being? What is it that the essence-eye sees? I don't read Rumi like a scholar, I read him like a drunk, an addict, a lover, out of desperation, hunger and need. How do we look wider and further? How do you? How do I? Let the path open forth, let the heart hang its tendrils like unhidden organs, let the mind be silent, practice and be humble. What is the essence of our humaness?

The last stanza grabs me, takes me, satisfies. What does he mean? I react to this stanza with joy, but my mind lingers here trying to chop it up, cut it down to size, excavate something. The ocean, the ocean? I know what it means to make the road home home, but what does it mean to say the ocean swims inside the fish? And, why does the ocean pour through a small and simple jar?

The sun sets over the lake. Bare treees in the park. The snow is over a foot deep, its surface a smooth untouched layer. I hear my husband on the steps. The door turns and he is home. All the snow of the miles and miles of roadside snow banks turns brown, gray, sooty. I bought another sweater on sale today.

Make the road home home.

Thirty Days of Rumi

Because Rumi has a way of healing us, because Grace first gave me Rumi, because Sarah wrote about Rumi's Love Dogs and made me remember, because for the second time I have lost a pregnancy and don't understand how to make sense of it, because today I looked down at my hand and saw my thumb with its inverted joint and realized I have my mother's hands and that her hands were holding the book that I read, and for a strange moment I knew she was sitting beside me with cheap dime-store cheaters slipping down her nose, reading with me, a story about alcoholism, and because at the end of these coming thirty days waits a baby, Georgia's baby Claribel, for whose birth I will travel on the 8th of March (my sister Sigrid's birthday) to northern California.

Because I want to make the "road home home" and remember that we don't finally meet somewhere but are in each other all along.

Because of all these things....I give you: Thirty Days of Rumi from The Book of Love.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Small Story About the Sky by Alberto Ríos

The fire was so fierce,

So red, so gray, so yellow

That, along with the land,

It burned part of the sky

Which stayed black in that corner

For years,

As if it were night there

Even in the daytime,

A piece of the sky burnt

And which then

Could not be counted on

Even by the birds.

It was a regular fire—

Terrible—we forget this

About fire—terrible

And full of pride.

It intended to be

Big, no regular fire.

Like so many of us,

It intended to be more

And this time was.

It was not better or worse

Than any other fire

Growing up.

But this time, it was a fire

At just the right time

And in just the right place—

If you think like a fire—

A place it could do something big.

Its flames reached out

With ten thousand pincers,

As if the fire

Were made of beetles and scorpions

Clawing themselves to get up,

Pinching the air itself

And climbing,

So many sharp animals

On each other’s backs

Then into the air itself,

Ten thousand snaps and pinches

At least,

So that if the sky

Was made of something,

It could not get away this time.

Finally the fire

Caught the sky,

Which acted like a slow rabbit

Which had made a miscalculation.

It didn’t believe this could happen

And so it ran left,

Right into the thin toothpicks of flames,

Too fast to pull back,

The sky with all its arms,

Hands, fingers, fingernails,

All of it



The sky stayed black

For several years after.

I wanted to tell you

This small story

About the sky.

It’s a good one

And explains why the sky

Comes so slowly in the morning,

Still unsure of what’s here.

But the story is not mine.

It was written by fire,

That same small fire

That wanted to come home

With something of its own

To tell,

And it did,

A small piece of blue in its mouth.


Friday, February 4, 2011


Battery Park Across the Street, iphone pic.
Two days ago we got over a foot of snow, everything was cancelled and Josh and I snuggled in bed over books and tea watching the park fill up with snow. The next day was one of those bright, blinding sunny winter days that make you feel so Vermont--like maybe 4-5 months of snow a year isn't so bad afterall.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Story Checklist

What is at stake?
What is the conflict?
What is the key relationship?
What is motivating characters?
What is the image/thematic pattern?
What do the characters want?
How can I keep my characters from getting what they want? Scene by scene.
Find the moment that dismantles your character's identity; start here.