I’ve no idea where this post will start, nor finish. It’s another one of those “sit down and write” sessions where my heart is full, my mind inchoate. We’ve just returned from dinner at our local Bodega, where a Spanish influenced charcuterie and cheese board and perfectly aired Tempranillo did their magic in transporting me back to Spain last May, until we paid our bill and bundled up. Then met with a blast of -20 C winter westerly wind, I was snapped back to my senses, my thinking slushy.
It’s been a rich and cultured kind of day, beginning this morning with a short Zoom consult with local poet and poetry champion, Alice Major. I’m participating in her small group workshop to learn how to align and sequence a poetry collection, grounding intuition with the components of a replicable understanding. Then a Zoom hour with my favourite contemporary Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama, hosted by the Rowe Centre. This a “teaser” for his upcoming five session program, “Practicing the Inner Life with Poetry,” I always learn from this master of recitation and interpretation. A brief pause to warm and sweep off my car before driving into Edmonton to catch the final performance of a local theatre company’s world premier, “The Innocence of Trees,” based on the little known life of Saskatchewan born artist, Agnes Martin. A deeply moving production featuring well established local actors, I was again struck by the superb quality of artistic endeavors in my city.
Impressions swirling, what coalesced and landed with gravitas is the question:
“How does ‘making’ – whether that be writing, painting, or any form of creative expression – return me to myself? And is knowing and committing to its gift enough to persist, without the expectation of anything beyond?”
In this afternoon’s theatre, at one point “Agnes” decides to burn her painting because it evokes no feeling from her, nor her younger self. Yet she gives credit to its making for saving her from stepping off the edge into insanity. I was reminded of other wounded artists. Van Gogh, who despite significant odds, profound self doubts, and looming insanity created because he had to, knowing no success, only derision, until posthumously.
Glancing up right now, sitting on my table in front of me is the dried stem from an orchid a dear friend gifted me in the summer of 2021. Then, several delicate white blossoms hung from its two limbs. I religiously followed her instructions to “feed” it three ice cubes every Saturday. Eventually those blossoms dried and fell off and two more stems burst through with over a dozen buds. Those blossoms began to appear just as I was departing for my Camino and lasted, remarkably – brilliant white with life – for six months. As I’d never before had an orchid, I wasn’t sure how to tend to it. But every week, I watched and realized the orchid was showing me how. From one limb, another emerged, now with several small buds. From the base, a new limb is growing, too with flower buds. It became apparent that the second flowering stem was drying, dying, once its flowers dropped. Pruned off and now completely dry, it has become like the hollow reed of which Rumi wrote in the opening of his famous epic poem, the Mathnawi.
“A craftsman pulled a reed from the reedbed,Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks and John Moyne, The Essential Rumi, 2004
cut holes in it, and called it a human being.
Since then, it’s been wailing a tender agony
of parting, never mentioning the skill
that gave it life as a flute.”
Let’s add into this disparate mix some shimmerings from my ongoing study of “Rewilding Mythology,” now in my sixth week:
- Training in liminality – the space in between – via the pre Christian, goddess-centred initiatory rituals of “collective effervescence,” where nature was revered, gender was fluid, and community cohesion was enhanced via altered states of consciousness. Fast forward to contemporary rave culture.
- Ancient traditions of nomadic bards, poets, and song carriers who believed they, as hollow reeds, spoke for the spirit world and that their songs and words existed in another realm, not the past, but the kairos time of now.
- A return to keeping Sabbath, to disturb and disrupt the capitalistic paradigm of ongoing production and growth, predicated on a non-efforting imagining that my work is done.
- The development of “ecological empathy” and language that is more effective at embodying the interconnected relationships between us, and the “more than human” beings.
- Slowness, stillness and silence as intentional, powerful actions to sensing into what is being asked of us.
To borrow a “rewilding” term, without knowing it, here I’ve been:
My day, my week, my impressions.
Threads of connection and webs of relationships.
Apparent and those liminal,
nonspecifically sensed into.
Shimmerings and glimmerings
of how to be returned to myself
by the simple acts of making.
How to be the hollow reed,
saved by slowness, stillness and silence.
Rested and empty and ready
for what and who is asking.
With an ecological empathy for myself
and the more than human beings.
Thanks for companioning me, dear friends. Much love and kindest regards.