Intention

Icelandic Morning, 2018

I’ve been thinking about intention – what it means, or more accurately, how I’ve interpreted what it means to have and to hold an intention.  I’m wondering if maybe I have it all wrong. That maybe, contrary to goal-setting parlance (think SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely), when I have been too “smart” as I strive to realize my intentions, I have created suffering for myself and even others in my life. This, taking shape over the past few weeks as I’ve been in conversation with several women older than me – creative, inspiring, bold women who are arriving for me at precisely the right moment when my sense of self has been wobbly. Further, my Dream Maker offered confirmation today, wherein her gift of a predawn dream I see and hear two of my elder “heart sisters” describe their knowing about the current plight of our world and the compassionate actions needed to respond. Too, I am with a younger “sister,” each of them, not coincidentally, published writers. In response I say, whispering for the feeling welling up inside me, that it is not about the “what” or even the “how,” but about who these elder women are, who they have become as they have lived their lives day by day, that has shaped what they now know about the truth of these things, about the wisdom they are and offer us now.

A bit of the back story…

Over the past several months, I’ve stepped into what I have understood is a writer’s world – conferring with my local writer-in-residence, participating in virtual “open mic” nights where I read my poetry, submitting to calls and contests (and learning the requisite skill of rolling with  rejections), attending workshops on the logistics of publishing and-or getting an agent, reading other poets and writers, following a national writers’ group on social media, joining a local writer’s circle (short-lived). A few weeks ago, following a well-meaning suggestion, I made application to an adjudicated, online writer’s retreat. While I had a few misgivings, and a lot of ambivalence, I went ahead, spending time creating the required documents and a bit of money for the admission fee. The boon was having tangible evidence that I had, for the past decade, been making steps – soft and slow and steady – towards this dream of becoming a “Writer.” Then, within days of pressing “send” on the application, I received an invitation to be a “participant-observer-scribe” at a creators’ retreat in the foothills during the same week. Apparently, who I was and how I had “shown up” in an earlier conversation with one of the artist-hosts was enough to be asked. I needed only a breath, a pause, to say “yes” to this sweet, juicy invitation.

A month ago, after submitting my story of aging with grit and grace (one previously invited but rejected by another journal), the editor emailed not only her delighted acceptance of my story, but her intuitive sense that we shared enough of something to engage me in co-visioning the next iteration of her life’s work. We’ve now had our first and second telephone “dates” and like the retreat, I’m sensing something sweet and juicy in this imaginal space of possibility.

Then, in last week’s Zoom call with another older, wise woman, our hellos quickly shifted to her acknowledgement of me as her role model for embracing a creator’s life. This became the last of a curious, totally unanticipated trifecta of affirmation.

I have friends and acquaintances who are “Writers” – published, with agents and royalties, followers and fans, accolades and awards. In my mind, this has been the bar to which I would aspire and intend. I now realize I borrowed a trajectory of “success” that by thinking I would, or should follow, I’ve nearly missed other signs and opportunities, invitations and affirmations – different from what I’d expected. I forgot that now, in this stage of life, I am to discover more how to “move at the pace of guidance,” (Christina Baldwin, The Seven Whispers) and how to trust a different value, that of my being, of who I am.

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Last week we finally got to see the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibition after nearly four months of postponements due to covid. I’d first heard of this show in 2019 when my roommate in Morocco would be seeing it when she visited Paris after our trip. Upon entering the hall, we are reminded of Van Gogh’s story – of being deeply sensitive, impoverished with mental health challenges, and of never having been seen nor valued for his remarkable, innovative creative expression – an expression that tremendously influenced the world of art in later years. As I stood surrounded by huge images of his priceless paintings – paintings that in his time were ignored, even disdained, I was moved to tears by this evidence of his unquestionable brilliance and devotion that, despite a prescience revealed in his letters that he would die unnoticed, persisted to his last days, when he died at his own hand.

(Edit: I just received this link from one of my readers – a short excerpt from an episode of Dr. Who, featuring Vincent Van Gogh. It moved me to tears, and is an answered prayer of sorts, as when I stood last week at the immersive exhibition, I prayed that Van Gogh would know of the impact and influence of his art in the world today. – https://youtu.be/_jjWtUpqV9w)

I thought, too, about local musician Ellen McIlwaine, a pioneer slide guitarist, who with her magnificent voice and masterful, intuitive playing, blew the doors off contemporary music genres. She died last month, within a few weeks of a diagnosis of esophageal cancer, leaving in her wake world-wide accolades and tributes. In her last years, virtually ignored by the music world and unable to get gigs, she drove school bus. Hearing her last interview recorded shortly before her death, I was struck by the stories of her immeasurable brilliance and tenacity, she a woman in a man’s world of music, going unnoticed in her final years.

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So perhaps it is about intention, though discovering, or maybe it’s remembering, some vital criteria:
It’s less about “me” (ego), and more about “thee” (creator), and learning to discern the subtle differences.
It’s less about striving, and more about noticing the nuanced and the nameless. It’s less about being “smart,” and more about sensing signs and saying yes to invitations.
It’s about soft and slow and steady…staying the course…surrendering.
It’s about what tastes and feels sweet and juicy.
It’s about following a thread that is often more apparent in retrospect.
It’s about trusting, in however it is to be revealed, that:

“What the world needs more than anything else is for each of us to have the courage to follow our calling, step into our true vocation and share our creative gifts with the world such that we conspire to co-inspire each other (a true conspiracy theory!) to do the same, thereby virally activating the collective genius of our species.”

Paul Levy in Carolyn Baker and Andrew Harvey, Radical Regeneration: Birthing the New Human in the Age of Extinction, 2020.

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Essaouira Edges, Morocco, 2019

Lately, I feel quite fluid in what I write in this space. It’s certainly less about what I “definitively” know and more about attempting to describe the edges of something honest and necessary – a “felt sense” of things that matter to me, and might, perhaps, to you. Maybe after all this time wishing “to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding” (John O’Donohue, Fluent), this self named daughter of Niagara might be.

Thanks for reading along, dear friends. Much love and kindest regards.