Elizabeth Gilbert, wise personal-struggle-and-strong-tea guru (Google Eleanor Roosevelt, women, hot water, and tea to get that reference) that she is, once told a story that not only stuck with me, but has given me endless comfort over the years. She said that after Eat, Pray, Love, she was stuck while writing her next book. It wasn't so much that she was daunted or intimidated by the success of EPL, but that she was simply uninspired to write, despite her continued love for it. All she wanted to do was garden, even though she'd very little experience with things green and growing.
But instead of talking herself out of this untraceable desire and forcing herself to work on something that would, undoubtedly, show the efforts of her forcing, she gave herself a year to follow her curiosity. And, of course, long story short, in that decision to follow the path of her own footsteps, she stumbled across inspiration for her next book.
A friend, recently back from retreat in San Diego, brought back a (sustainably foraged) gift of white sage. White Sage (Salvia Apiana), as you may or may not know, has long been a sacred herb, used for healing, for clearing energy and (as an antimicrobial and antiviral) purifying a space vulnerable to illness. Indigenous people have used sage for ceremonial purposes in North and South America, but (if you really wanted to) you could trace its use back to ancient Babylonia.
We aren't going to do that, though. I trust the plant; that's all the legitimacy I need.
ANYway. What a gift! All this fresh sage (which is only native to the Southwestern US). I set it aside with the intention of making smudge sticks, and headed out for my hike. Now, in the snowy remains of winter, there is little green and growing. However, another windfall of white pine littered my hike and I gathered what I could carry on my walk home.
Et violà: East meets West in a windfall of a gift that reminded me that most of t...
I am a master at background dissolving. I don't know if that's a thing, but I can make it a thing, right?
At first, this skill was a matter of survival--we moved around a lot and, being a self-consciously introverted kid, it was so much easier to hide in the bathroom, the dark classroom, the library than it was to risk the wilderness of the lunchroom, the crowded halls. And though the fear of discovery isn't really worth the hiding, the ability to observe while unobserved taught me more than barreling through the halls, announcing my presence.
Although, in retrospect, the latter probably would have been better for my social development. Ah, well.
Then in college, I was suddenly popular. It was a shock, and I didn't know what to do with it. I was still uncomfortable, but I was loud, I think, to cover social awkwardness. I remember an older student, a grad student--marvelous and self-possessed, easy and gracious and graceful--pulling me aside at a party one night and saying in my ear...
My masters degree is in poetry, which I can never quite bring myself to regret--you know what I mean? So many of us lament our useless or misused degrees (my BA certainly falls into that category, so I hear you), but my MA? That two-year study of language and meaning, subtlety and simplicity and the impossible complexity of both was (is) essential. Essential to this soul, yes, but I'd argue it's essential to every soul, though school most certainly is not.
We have inherited a language. No matter what language you speak, that language has been fought for, died over, wept over, bled over, transcribed, illuminated, evolved, abbreviated, lingo-ized, abused, and foolishly worshiped.
Adherence to dogma, after all, is just as dangerous, just as ugly as is willful vandalism.
Poetry is offered in language, in text, of course. But that's not where it happens. It happens in the moment you can't describe, don't want to describe because description somehow pulls everything...
You know, I don’t regret a lot--a fact for which I’m grateful. I’ve never regretted my travels, my adventures, but I might regret what they've cost me. Or maybe I resent what they've cost me. Regret has never felt like the right label—I don’t long for a person, a place, an object not taken, traveled, or met. Maybe it’s not in my nature or maybe I just have a different definition.
But resentment, there’s a word with which I have intimate acquaintance. And maybe that’s worse. I’ve never been a grudge-holder, but I am a resentment holder. I resent that I’m uncomfortable in my own skin. I resent that I become a complete flustered mess when talking to a stranger—any stranger. I resent my lack of solvency and neediness of any kind—in myself or in my orbit. I resent being depended upon because it traps me, closes off my escape routes.
So I love this landscape that needs me not at all. I love that the snow falls with no regard of how it will disrupt my day, my muscles, my plans. I love that...
Just because you work so hard, all the time, doesn’t mean you have to show up here, today, with your best idea, your cleanest clothes, your most presentable face, all tied up in your finest ribbons when the risk of the wind tearing those ribbons to tatters is the only guarantee you have.
It’s okay to be tired.
It’s okay to say no.
So, no. I can’t show up today, and I may not show up tomorrow. I don’t know. It’s a new thing I’m trying.
But my ribbons are quite pretty, especially when the wind behaves.