Saturday, September 29, 2012

mindful adventure

Every day
I see or I hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It is what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

orange of my soul
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagent -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

tiny blue beauty
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

steeples? or wizards...
of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

fall profusion
~ "Mindful" by Mary Oliver, from Why I Wake Early

I hope I can be forgiven for quoting all of "Mindful" here. Normally I would just quote a section of a poem out of respect for the author, but, well, I just couldn't help myself. Plus, it's up all over the web, but whoever put it up first missed the second "I" in "I see or I hear," so they all seem to have it that way, and having heard it the right way on one of Mary Oliver's recordings (and verified it in my copy of Why I Wake Early), I just had to fix that. Seriously, it changes the whole rhythm of that section, right?

This poem has been wonderful company for me lately. I go through spells of memorizing poetry to try to keep my mind agile, since I'm hopeless at crossword puzzles and electronic brain games make me nervous. Mary Oliver's poems resonate so deeply with my soul, I love to have several memorized to recite when I'm surrounded by beauty, like today on Cheekwood's sculpture trail, or just in my daily wanderings. You can only imagine how excited I am about her new book of poetry, A Thousand Mornings, coming out in October! [Also, if you live in the Boston, NYC, DC, or Milwaukee areas, she's doing readings this fall. I'm keeping my fingers crossed she adds some dates within driving distance of Nashville...]

Saturday, September 22, 2012

annie adventure


So the magic continued this week. While at Squam, I received a lot of encouragement from Marie Manuchehri about the role of writing in my life. You may have noticed that I love to go places and do retreats and attend workshops, so of course I spent the first part of my week back Googling different writers and teachers and seeing what classes and workshops they offer. It isn't lost on me that I could have been using that time to actually write, but it was great fun to explore and dream about the Sun magazine writing retreat and Natalie Goldberg and Susan Piver's workshops out west.

And then on Wednesday morning I woke up and couldn't get dear Anne Lamott out of my head, even after I got to work. So I did a quick search just to see what her schedule looks like these days. Imagine my amazement when I saw that she was to speak that very evening in Knoxville, of all unlikely places!

It just seemed unthinkable that she would be in Tennessee and I wouldn't see her, so I called the church that was hosting the event and when they said they had a few tickets left I found myself buying one, cancelling my afternoon obligations, texting Rodg who I was sure would think I'd either been kidnapped or possessed, and figuring out which bus would get me back to my car in time to be in Knoxville by 6:30pm EDT.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Anne Lamott speak, I strongly encourage you to do whatever it takes to get there. Even a six-hour round trip drive melts away in her presence. Her topic for the evening was the search for meaning, and mixed in with stories about her son and grandson, writing, and Jesus, she talked about the power of letting go of perfectionism, deeply accepting one's own "neurotic, screwy self," and connecting with people to whom you can say anything.

She told a beautiful story about a scene in the documentary From Mao to Mozart (now streaming on Netflix - guess what I'll be watching this weekend) in which Isaac Stern tells a young Chinese girl, "Sing it to me" after hearing her play a piece technically beautifully, but seemingly without emotional connection. I loved her description of the importance of having people in your life that you really honor and trust and who say "Sing it to me." And how you find that you can and that you can pass it on.

The talk ended around 9pm and it seemed like the prudent thing to do would be to skip the booksigning and hit the road, but when I exited the church it was like a Grateful Dead concert had let out - people streaming out to their cars and total gridlock - plus I didn't really know exactly how to get back onto the interstate and was happy to let traffic die down. And, with so many people leaving, all I could picture was Anne Lamott sitting by herself in the church basement. So I called Rodg and he encouraged me to stick around.

It might have been smartest to go look at the line first, but I was high on the experience and relieved there were still books to buy, so I got myself a copy of the classic Bird by Bird, feeling like it would be a good totem for my writing life, even if I think we have another copy somewhere in the house. When I made it to the front of the line, which actually had been quite respectable and Anne was looking pretty exhausted, I told her a quick version of how I'd had her on my mind all morning, found out about the talk, and driven from Nashville on the spur of the moment. In classic Anne Lamott style she replied dryly, "That God is such a show-off."

amazing anne lamott

Thank you Anne! I'm ready to take your advice, to be in the holy moment, to carry a pen with me at all times, to write what I'd like to come upon, and to write badly so I can write something good. I can't wait until you come back to Tennessee again someday!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

squam adventure

path flowers

This is what I want to say about Squam:

early morning dock

I love this place - the land, the lake, the trails, the cabins, the trees, the list goes on...

brae cove from lake

I love the people - dear friends, new friends, amazing, inspiring people all around...

dock with amazing cabinmates

I love the workshops - the support, the challenge, the processing, the integration. Intuition and Creativity with the lovely Marie Manuchehri and Earth Art with the equally lovely Penny Dullaghan was the Perfect Combination. And yummy Gentle Yoga with another lovely woman, Michelle Madden Smith, was the icing on the cake!

proud artist

release acorn swirl before

release acorn swirl after

I love the food - two words: Breakfast. Potatoes.

arthur's way

I love looking forward to it and I love the after-effects - how it resonates and ripples through my spirit long after my return home.

airport moose

Thank you, dear Squam, and all the incredible people who move mountains to create this space for us. I am so grateful.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

indeterminacies adventure


The highlight of the week was most definitely Rodg's amazing performance at Zeitgeist Gallery with our dear friend Sam Byrd! We had been looking forward to the evening for months and months, which made it almost surreal when the day finally came! And we were definitely not disappointed. As you can see in the photo, Rodg got to play a real piano, which was very fun and of which he took full advantage. Unfortunately, Sam is pretty well hidden by his drum kit, but you can see another wonderful friend, Stan Link (in white), who is a local composer and professor and who moderated the talk - he did an awesome job. How often do I get to be compared to Yoko Ono? The standing-room-only audience seemed to really enjoy the evening, which included lots of great conversation. (And you may also notice a surprise element. Event organizer Lesley Beeman thought it would make it even more interesting to invite some dancers to come do their thing - and to keep it a secret from the musicians... Ah, chance elements!)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

greatness adventure

school flowers

While chatting with a fellow participant at the Shambhala Training weekend in Birmingham, I learned about A Touch of Greatness. This documentary came so highly recommended, and I was looking for something about that length to watch on my Kindle Fire back at the hotel anyway, that I decided to give it a try. And it blew me away!

I haven't been able to stop recommending this film to anyone who will listen. Albert Cullum was a teacher in Rye, NY in the late '50s and early '60s who was so present to his students and who so saw in each of them a touch of greatness, that he completely revolutionized education in his grade school classrooms. Amazingly, his friend Robert Downey, Sr. captured this on film - his black and white footage is devastatingly beautiful.

I can't do this film justice. Learn more about it here, watch the trailer here and scenes from it here, and if you're lucky enough to be able to stream it on Netflix, put it at the top of your queue!