Saturday, September 21, 2013

This Is the Book You Need

It's sort of late on a Saturday night and I'm sitting alone listening to the rain. My life is so full and I have just recently decided to love the chaos, love the mess, love all the sweetness therein. I've been back in Vermont a good three weeks now and a bit adrift as always, a bit lost in the transition, emotional and moody, bitter and grumpy. Transitions always offer a crisis for me. I don't know why. I mean, I do, but I don't find it interesting or helpful to know. And so I've been trying to ride it out and seeking my path and my voice and my heart and finding so much love in my husband and son. They root me to the earth, they offer breath and life and water. And I try to see that every day. I try to practice gratitude for all the blessings. But I fall short, often.

And lately I have been looking hard for the little magic in me that seeks out the holy, the divine in us all, that feels alive, only I don't think I realized that I was seeking it. I think I felt like if I only got a bit more organized, a bit more accomplished, a bit more dedicated, a bit more well-established, a bit MORE... well then you know... Maybe I'd feel better. And maybe not. Maybe I'd just want more, probably I'd just want more and there would never be enough.

Today I went to the Burlington Book Festival to listen to the Pulitzer prize winning poet of twenty books, Yusef Komunyakaa read. I ran into Jon Turner at a table in the lobby selling his second book of poems published by Seven Star Press in Vermont. Jon, his wife Kathy, their son Forrest, and dog Sadie were the previous occupants of the apartment my family and I rent. I've heard him read his poems, know of his work with Veterans Against the Iraq War, and my husband knows him and has always spoken tenderly of him. Jon sent us a care package of beautiful earth things he'd made for our son after Moses was born. A rattle and a little incense burner made of stone and feather, some incense.

At his table we exchanged words about writing and life, his new baby boy, Sage. I bought a copy of his book. At home I began to read "Reasons to Find a Stream" on the front stoop, waiting for my husband and son and some other family to return from their outing. I knew as I read his introduction that it was this book I had been seeking.

Maybe it is funny to say that. Maybe it's too dramatic or something. But I'm saying it.

from the intro...

Jon writes: ... The roots of these stories and thoughts have helped me make conscious decisions to chisel away all that is not my true self and embody the wisdom and love known to be seeded within me.

Read it again.

These are words to live by.

I know there is something in the earth, in nature that heals, and that the sky and the water, the mountain and the breeze speak if you are willing to hear. I know too that what is true, what is holy, what completes us will never come of my own doing--my willful ordering of the world--but of patience and the willingness to listen, of the practice of faith, of God, of seeking what is divine in each one and thus all things.

I know that the divine is within and all around and I am want for a practice of faith that I can connect with, that helps me to be free and alive and more capable of love, unharnessed to the MORE culture we live in.

Jon's poems remind me of all this. I can hear in each word rendered the force of love that has healed the grave and haunting pain left in him like shrapnel after his time as a marine in the Iraq War. In the turn of a phrase such as "How long has this ancient wind/ passed before us un-noticed" or "In the unwritten letters and poems/ are the true faces of war" I feel the hours passed in silence, in meditation, in communion with nature and God, with great spirits and ancestral teachers. I sense the prayers offered, the smoke and shadow of a man as he makes his way through trauma, to meet his ancestors at the foot of the mountain and climb with their hands in his to the peak, to give offering and rejoice, to find gratitude.

I have been told that it is from gratitude, love comes. It is in gratitude we open ourselves to love and not the other way around.

This little book makes me grateful that there are poets like Jon Turner who sings his soul on the page with sincere love and the unabashed confidence that what he offers must be voiced--a gift to the world, hard won, blessed, eternal.

Thank you.

from Old Ways

you will ride your horse
to greet the lightening
the herd, the eagle
but your body will be gone
your life a memory
your breath
the wind

Buy the book at Send an email for a copy.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Late Summer Storm, Time, and Xu Bing's Phoenix

Xu Bing, Phoenix

Late summer thunder storm. Lying in bed beside Moses, half asleep, half sleeping, half nursing and singing, the thunder rings and when the lightning flashes through the trees I am again reminded of the way that I feel my entire life exists unspooling not in linear fashion, but like water moving and expanding and filling this present with what has passed and perhaps—though I cannot say—what will be.

The lightning flashes and the outline of the leaves on the tree in the yard, the tree just beyond the window, imprint in memory, summer at the lake cabin in Northern Minnesota and my Auntie Kris with her poof of hair and flamboyant maternal love, her sunflower seeds and cigarettes. It flashes and Moses curls into me and I press on with my singing—a crackling, nasal sound only beloved by a child of his mother. I think of the awful pain of time and the way—I heard a poet say this today on the radio—myth connects us to eternity. I think of the part of me that would somehow prefer a life as a hermit in the woods, though with a family, with children. How much I love children and never knew until I had my own and my sisters had theirs and they clung to my side with their sticky hands and hot breath and whispers. Their voices so sweet, one might cry over them.  

And then sometimes I think of the depth of my inner life before I had a child, a husband, an incessant need to clean, keep house, make money. I think of the way I lived in collusion with poets, and how their words spoke to me in my bones, my organs, my skin, the ends of my fingers, my hair—in the place that we go when we stand at the window with the lightning so near and the thunder booming (finally the downpour that will lift this humidity so that we can all get back to work and quit walking around like zombies).

Mostly I regret the loss of time in this way: there was the time I lived in that one apartment all alone and really I was devastated by loneliness but it allowed me to enter into books and words and thoughts and ideas so deeply that I lived in another world and yet that world was this world, only the best of it. And the time when I was a child and I played in the woods and I told myself that I would grow up and become a grown-up, but that I must never forget what it was like to be a child. But of course I did, because to be a child is to live free of worry—I know, this is sort of a privilege and not every child gets to live this way, but I do think it has something to do with not yet comprehending the boring game that the grown-ups have created with life, working and paying the bills and worrying about this and that. And the time this summer when we all sat around on the beach watching the toddler-babies play and running after them and feeling exhausted from the heat and from taking care of the babies with all their wonderfully complex needs—that time, yes, I miss it tonight.

I think too of the wedding we attended just a few days ago, of my dear friend from graduate school and her sweet, sweet love, married in the Mass Moca. We all ate dinner under Xu Bing’s Phoenix birds, lit up and hanging, the size of large sail boats, made completely of scraps found in construction sites in urban China. Moses running beneath them, tossing his toy horses and yelling “giddy-up,” breaking a plate as we all—my writer friends and I—ate breakfast for dinner because Sarah is yes, that amazing that she would have breakfast as her wedding supper.

And then the storm quiets and Moses sleeps and I kiss his cheek and my husband’s cheek and go into the kitchen and eat some ice cream and listen to the silence and think of all the other silences, and all the other landscapes that weave in and out through my mind at any given moment, in time. But the Phoenix, my god, it was brilliant to see.