Sunday 24 December 2006
Horizontal shadows score the thick verticals and scooping lines of my willow. The cattails, like microphones, stand catching the ruffles of wind. All of the leaves are gone. My stand of birch trees is transparent. Here is the lake view they sold me on.
Vinnie, a visitor from my very first week here, in early July, came to say hello. Do you remember me? Yes, you were going to play a song for me on your guitar. Vinnie has since bought a new guitar and gave his old one to his teenage son. Vinnie says he's been playing more, which makes him happy. I say, happiness is a good guide.
Diane and Catherine, a mother and daughter duo and frequent visitors, bring a phrase from Margaret Meade, "freedom from load." Is this what we desire? Freedom from load? No, not me. I am constantly supplimenting my load, no sooner is a load carried away then I pile it on again. Like the ancient scarab rolling its little sun across the heavens, how do I know my burden is not also a source of light? And if the goal is to diminish the load? One must learn then to stop nourishing it. One must learn the art of decrease. How is this different from death?
Margaret Meade leads to Jean Houston and Jean Houston to Colin Wilson. "Poetry, Wilson argues, is a contradiction of the habitual prison of daily life and shows the way to transcend the ordinary world through an act of intense attention -and intention. The poet, like the mystic, is subject to sudden ""peak experiences"" when ""everything we look upon is blessed"" [Publisher Comments on Poetry and Mysticism by Colin Wilson]. Do burdens increase or decrease the likelihood of these peaks? What do peaks have to do with freedom? If we are speaking of a certain, restricting chaos of the mind, I agree it is unlikely for sudden and blessed images to enter the strained mind, but if we are speaking of physical burdens, I strongly disagree. I have long felt that the bearing of physical burdens does just the opposite and rather increases the likelihood of such peaks. In fact, I have based my life on it. What do I mean by physical burden? I mean particpating in the moral process of things. I mean the intentional journey. The winding route.
Diane points to Bill Holm. Bill Holm is a direction to explore. She suggests his Box Elderbugs Variations . Thank you. Perhaps elderbugs will clear up the matter.
Pam and David stop to report on their trip to Guatemala. And to thank me for being here. Thank you, Pam and David, for seeing me. That is the part of me being here that means. They tell me of a man sitting in my meadow, at a different desk, earlier this week. "There was someone here in your place. You've got imitators." "Well," I reply, "that pleases me. I'd like to meet this man."
On my walk home tonight, at The Middle Place, I stop to wish for hope for those who have none this time of year. I kick over an imaginary anchor, a sea cross, Christian symbol of hope. Here, take harbor here. As I continue over the bridge, I notice the view from Aurora, between Canlis and the Aloha Motel, down to Lake Union. You can still see through the construction site to the lake, but soon this window will be closed. Walls will be constructed and a facade will go up. This stretch of sidewalk will be just another along Aurora without poetry. And Lake Union will go to the high-rises.
Keep watch over our lake. Care for it. Speak out if someone would harm it.
THE WEIGHT OF A POETRY DESK
When you're standing at the edge of the lake and it is 44F, in the wrong jacket, the wrong shoes, it is a good idea to have a layer of insulation between the ground and your body. It is a good idea to bring heat packs. A cart with which to port your desk. I have been forgetting, for months, these things. The seasons will change. By spring I will realize how I have worked my way through winter without these things. How to explain the value of working around these things, things which would no doubt bring comfort? How to explain the experiences their absence provokes?
The opposite of comfort is not suffering. It is but an alternate way of understanding weights and distances, temperatures and volumes. A way of closing in on the world. On the rivulets streaming in the gutter, glistening in the street lights.
The most significant things I see each day, the things I would not otherwise see, sometimes it takes a desk and eight hours in the rain to see such things. Sometimes it takes wanting a comfort, asking for a comfort, looking for a comfort and then rejecting it anyway. Walking in the rain despite the fact that you forgot your jacket and left your umbrella behind, despite the fact that it is dark and, on top of that, Christmas eve. Then, as you climb over the piles of cut branches from the trees that fell across the way, trees that must have for a night and a day shut down this road, as you are forced off of the sidewalk and into the gutter, into that gleaming stream of water, you suddenly understand, in a way so clear it astounds you, the worth of things, the workings of things and your place in the world.
What is the purpose of carrying a wooden desk these two blocks? How does it change you to know the weight of your desk? How does it change you to know the weight of your desk both before and after the gifts they brought? The chocolates from Bruce, the nuts from Clinton, the cookies from Hayley, the oranges from Joel, the canteen full of tea, the books? Why would knowing this make a difference? I had to stop four times on my walk to PCC, my desk was so heavy. Sometimes now, I carry my desk the entire way without stopping. After all, I am cold by 5pm. Carrying my desk means generating warmth. Carrying my desk means movement. I am happy to carry my desk off and wander home. The sun set half an hour ago. I am tired of standing in the cold.
I am not in exile. I am not in prison. I am not laboring against my will. This is my construction, this weight, this distance, this service. How could I possibly see it as suffering? Why would others see it as such? Cold is cold. Everyone feels cold, and especially today. Hunger is hunger. Heavy is heavy. Shall I avoid all that? Dust myself off each morning, call in the workers to suffer my weight, space and distance? Or shall I pick them up and know them myself?
ON THE DRAWBACKS OF BEING A POET AT THE EDGE OF THE LAKE
There are those who think I come to this meadow week after week for some reason other than poetry. There are those who think I am looking for companionship. There are those who believe I long for a partner. They are, perhaps, hopeful. There are those who think I am lonely or lost. Those who think I am looking for conversation. They are, perhaps, projecting. They see me as a personality, an outlet. They have moved past my purpose. There are those who assume I could walk away. Alas, but I am beholden to this post, this bit of land, this lake. Because of this, for this very fact, I am vulnerable. Still, there are those who would use my limits to their benefit. Siphon my search without beginning a search of their own. With no intention of forging out on their own. Perhaps they have come to direct my search. As if I were not competent to direct my own. As if I needed directing! To these people I say, "Go home. Look at your fears. Find a way to say what silences you. Find a way to explain why you start each day. When you can talk about your path, come back and report on your findings. Do not come before then."
ON THE DRAWBACKS OF HAVING A POET AT THE EDGE OF THE LAKE
ON THE DRAWBACKS OF MEETING A POET AT THE EDGE OF THE LAKE
The compassion you are apt to feel for the struggle of said poet is apt to push you to begin your own search. This will require commitment and work. This will mean risk. And failure.
POLICING THE SPEEDWAY
Just now a little boy outgrew himself, outstretched his boundaries, flew by on his tricycle, helmet proud and steady, a little mass bounding away from his father who stands beckoning on the speedway. His father's hollering grows farther and farther away. He turns his head, but only to me, for he is concentrating too hard to turn all the way around, and screams as loud as he can manage, "What!!?! I can't hear you!" Articulating each word for emphasis. He is behind the wheel of the machine now, going faster than perhaps he can control or imagine. His father begins to jog and then run, really it will take running to catch up to his son, his son is going that fast (perhaps it's time, after all, for a new bicycle) and finally catches up to him and brings his hand down in one stroke onto his son's helmet and stops him in his tracks and picks him out of his seat and turns his tricycle around. Never has a wild ride ended so abruptly. Never has a wanton spirit been more swiftly vacuumed up.
A GREEN LAKE POETRY MANIFESTO
1. A poem for everyone. Absolutely everyone.
2. Seek the poet. Know the poet. Be the poet. This is your work.
3. Begin the search for home within yourself.
4. Seeing is baseline. Hearing follows. Reading is of greater value still. But action is the ultimate. Action must take precedence. Think about your goals. Write them down. Take some small action toward achieving them today.
5. If you insist of walking in circles, walk with intention. Make sacred the ground you cover.
6. You have more in common with those on the path than you have dividing you. Use your common goals. Move forward as a community. Celebrate your differences. Practice sharing ideas. Other way of thinking.
7. It is never too late to hope. To dream. To act.
8. Being here is enough. Learn to be here.
9. Time is not money. Time is time.
10. Buy one poetry book this year. Read it all the way through. Memorize a poem. Change your life.