Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Love

After stepping into the world again,
there is that question of how to love,
how to bundle yourself against the frosted morning—
the crunch of icy grass underfoot, the scrape
of cold wipers along the windshield—
and convert time into distance.

What song to sing down an empty road
as you begin your morning commute?
And is there enough in you to see, really see,
the three wild turkeys crossing the street
with their featherless heads and stilt-like legs
in search of a morning meal? Nothing to do
but hunker down, wait for them to safely cross.

As they amble away, you wonder if they want
to be startled back into this world. Maybe you do, too,
waiting for all this to give way to love itself,
to look into the eyes of another and feel something—
the pleasure of a new lover in the unbroken night,
your wings folded around him, on the other side
of this ragged January, as if a long sleep has ended.

- by January Gill O’Niel


For D,

... this poem, chanced into my mailbox this morning... Jeanette Winterson, when I heard her speak a few years ago, recommended reading a poem a day to keep the soul alive. I subscribe to a daily poetry post, and there are misses at times, and then there are hits like this one...

The long sleep has ended. I have stepped back into, no, I have been startled back into this world... I can see you, fingers red with strawberry juice.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Spirits of the Dead


Thy soul shall find itself alone
‘Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.
Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness—for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.
The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.
Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.
The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

- Edgar Allan Poe

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Protected

Written yesterday, in another context, to another person:

"I saw a movie with my parents earlier today called Enough Said. It was a pretty good film. A few lines in it stayed with me though. It was one of those moments that something holds you, because you're open to it, and perhaps you need to hear it.

The female protagonist in the movie is symptomatic of our generation. She's single, divorced, a wonderful person, searching for a partner, smarting still about her past, trying to live her life fully... but in her effort to protect herself, and a few bad miscalculations, she fatally undermines a very promising relationship. (I'm not a movie buff by any measure, but I wanted to give you a bit of context.)

After the she's messed up their relationship, her now-former love asks her
"why?" [she acted out the way she did]
"I wanted to protect myself", she replies
"and what about protecting us?" he asks back

and therein lies the heart of the human condition
what about protecting us?

We go to great lengths to protect ourselves, and with each hurt, we tend to find more ways to protect ourselves-- financially, physically, recreationally... but the one that is possibly the most important-- emotionally. We hesitate to give up that fear, lest we get hurt again. We are our worst enemies.

In my last relationship, I think I tried, in all that we went through and experienced, to "protect us". What I didn't realise was that I was the only one doing that. When we ended it, the hurt wasn't about regretting that I didn't protect myself, but about being disappointed at the end that I hadn't been protected, and more importantly, had purposely ignored that reality. We might have loved one another, but we were not right for each other. More importantly, he was not the right person for me.

I look back, and there are many points at which I should have known. I can't do it all over again, and I can't absolve myself of responsibility either, but I know what I need to feel the next time around-- "protected", by my partner, too.

One can never measure these things, or value them, or weigh whether it is enough, but one can know the presence of it, and learn to recognise the absence of it too.

To sleep at night, knowing that you're looking out for the people you love, and as you drift to sleep that you're looked out for too, especially by the person who lies beside you, and breathes gently into the space, and into the memories, and into the life that you share."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rest in Peace our beloved Maya Angelou

on my fridge door

A selection of Maya Angelou's quotes, collated by The Guardian.


"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain."

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

"I do not trust people who don't love themselves and yet tell me, 'I love you.' There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt."

"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."

"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them."

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."

"Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud."

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life's a bitch. You've got to go out and kick ass."

"The love of the family, the love of the person can heal. It heals the scars left by a larger society. A massive, powerful society."

"Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently."

"Nothing will work unless you do."

"It's one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody."

"I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

My Normal Heart

I just got back from a screening of the film adaptation of The Normal Heart
I'm staggered, by how we (as in people) can let so much come in the way of something as simple and honest as love. The purity of grief, the honesty of tears, the willingness to love.
We are our worst enemies, just as we are our best friends.
I'm sitting with these feelings.
Aware of age, of time, of stories that are being told, and of my own.
This will have to hold them for tonight....

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sea and Rain: Lake Michigan

There is a dance at water’s edge,
a movement between the lake, its sand
and the horizon where lake becomes cloud.

Between those lines our world’s
a thin wash of muted tones, beige
and gray with a hint of white,

almost abstract, until the dancer
steps out into the pool.
She makes the whole thing real.

- Keith Taylor in after James McNeill Whistler, 1865

Monday, April 7, 2014

Wherever a lamp goes

Wherever a lamp goes it sheds its light.
Wherever a flower goes it sheds its fragrance.
So also spread your love wherever you go.

Try to live your life like that.
Just love.

Wherever you go, just spread your love.
Just keep your candle of love going.
Wherever you find a candle unlit,light it up.
Get it going everywhere.
There's no other way than that.
Remember this principle.
Hold on to this principle.
All answers lie with love.
Suffering is all that's left after losing love.

- Swami Kripalu

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Our deepest fear...

"Our Deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
- Marianne Williamson

(Shared with me by Ryan A)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lighthousekeeping

Read Lighthousekeeping -- yet another one of Jeanette Winterson's wonderful books and wanted to share a few excerpts from it that moved me. I try not to seek out her books, so that from time to time I might chance on them, and always feel like I haven't yet read them all.

"Try and put your finger on the solid thing and it scattered into separate worlds."

"... this past would have to be dragged into the future, because the present had buckled under me, like a badly made chair."

"... a man may know himself, but he prides himself on his character, his integrity -- the word says it all -- integrity -- we use it to mean virtue, but it means wholeness too, and which of us is that?"



"He doubted her. You must never doubt the one you love.
But they might not be telling you the truth.
Never mind that. You tell them the truth.
What do you mean?
You can't be another person's honesty, child, but you can be your own.
So what should I say?
When?
When you love someone?
You say it."

"The world is nothing. Love formed it.
The world vanishes without trace.
What is left is love."

"'Why are you afraid?' I asked myself, because fear is at the bottom of everything, even love usually rests on fear. 'Why are you afraid, when whatever you do, you will die anyway?'"

"What should I do about the wild and the tame? The wild heart that wants to be free, and the tame heart that wants to come home. I want to be held. I don't want you to come too close. I want you to scoop me up and bring me home at nights. I don't want to tell you where I am. I want to keep a place among the rocks where no one can find me. I want to be with you."

"I used to be a hopeless romantic. I still am a hopeless romantic. I used to believe that love was the highest value. I still believe that love is the highest value. I don't expect to be happy. I don't imagine I will find love, whatever that means, or  that if I do find it, it will make me happy. I don't think of love as the answer or the solution. I think of love as a force of nature -- as strong as the sun, as necessary, as impersonal, as gigantic, as impossible, as scorching as it is warming, as drought-making as it is life-giving. And when it burns out, the planet dies.
My little orbit of life circles love. I daren't get any closer. I'm not a mystic seeking final communion. I don't go out without SPF 15. I protect myself.
But today, when the sun is everywhere, and everything solid is nothing but its own shadow, I know that the real things in life, the things I remember, the things I turn over in my hands, are not houses, bank accounts, prizes or promotions. What I remember is love -- all love -- love of this dirt road, this sunrise, a day by the river, the stranger I met in a cafe. Myself even, which is the hardest thing of all to love, because love and selfishness are not the same thing. It is easy to be selfish. It is hard to love who I am. No wonder I am surprised if you do.
But love it is that wins the day. On this burning road, fenced with barbed wire to keep the goats from straying, I find for a minute what I came here for, which is a sure sign that I will lose it again instantly.
I felt whole."

"I looked back at you. These moments that are talismans and treasure. Cumulative deposits -- our fossil record -- and the beginnings of what happens next. They are the beginning of a story, and the story we will always tell."

"There is so little life, and it is fraught with chance. We meet, we don't meet, we take the wrong turning, and still bump into each other."

"Not many of them [baby turtles] make it to the sea, and once there, the sharks are waiting for them. Days disappear and get swallowed up much like that, but the ones like these, the ones that make it, swim out and return for the rest of your life.
Thank you for making me happy."








Friday, January 17, 2014

On security, and the absence of it...

The sun is in the sky in LA, and have just read excerpts from Alan Watts' meditations on being present. Sitting here in a ubiquitous Starbucks, very much present and at peace (or what passes for it), I want to share one of those excerpts. 

"To put it still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet."