Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Searching For My Father's Voice

My dad in his office, mid 1980's
Daddy? I ask the tape player,
Is that you?
It is Tom Clark. Not Dad.
The jovial
joking commentator on
NPR
WPR
takes me right back
to my mother's bedside
listening to Chapter a Day
falling into nap.

This man is not my father,
nor the next, a guest on Jean Feraca's show.
I look out the window at the crocuses
just now popping up in my late-blooming
yard. Twenty-four years ago
these bloomed in my mother's shade
mid-March, the day Daddy died.
Now it is late April,
two hours south
and I am still searching for his voice.

I put in another cassette. These are
promising - Maxell from the mid-80's
and the shows are ones I know
they listened to together.
I listen to silence, silence, silence
90 minutes of it on each side. 
I am rapt with anticipation,
dread. The last time I heard Dad's voice
I was in my teens and accidentally found
him yelling at the end
of a radio recording.

Here I am hoping I will find his voice.
Hoping I won't.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Wilderness


This writing is by a student named C. V. Clark. She is relatively new to the practice, but empowered instantly, as is often the case. Call it "beginner's mind," but her direct hit on wilderness (the prompt from a few weeks ago) was insightful, vivid and real. Her insights reflect many of those that arose all week - questions about whether humans are wild or nature is, about solitary/solitude/loneliness and nature, and about the edges of danger meeting beauty.

In particular, the closing line really struck at the paradox of the prompt:
"The wilderness of humanity is not always so welcoming and reaffirming."

Please read for yourself...

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Wild. Wilder. Wilderness.

Instantaneous pictures: Painted Desert. Great Plains. Badlands. Congaree Swamp. Ice caves

and frozen-over Great Lakes.

Awesome and inviting in their sheer lonely, empty, overwhelming beauty. Nothing distracts

me. That is what I first recall.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Inside/Outside

I struggle, as so many do, with prioritizing self-care. I also struggle with scheduling/not scheduling, especially on a day off after many days in a row of working.

Yesterday, this struggle looked like this:
Energized by the strong winds and 60 degree weather, I ran bunches of errands until, part way through, my inner child voice said, "Um, can we go home now?" I responded, "Is it ok if we just run two more? Then we can be done." The completist voice, which always wins because it is so logical. Inner child shrugged, looked away. Aha. I see, the question I was actually asking was an order: "We will do these last two, I'd like it if you were ok with that." Even seeing that, I persisted, and by the time I got home, I felt all befuddled. I had time to do both these things: go out into nature, and also snuggle with cats, but I was frozen. Acute anxiety/depression kicked in, and I got locked down.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Smiling Like My Mom

Last night I dreamt my mother, now dead for seventeen years, was alive and happy.
This is an unusual dream - meaning, I can't recall it happening before, though I am sure it has.
Usually we are in conflict, fighting, or she is distant in some way.

In the dream, there was no plot. Simply the image of my mother smiling, happy, facing me, sun on her face. It was glorious.

In fact, she looked quite a bit like me in the photo above, from almost a year ago. Our faces are very similar, with notable differences, but especially our noses with the line in the middle...and because the camera was above me, you see my glasses below my eyes. She often did this in order to read. And our smile - a bit mysterious, no teeth, turned up at the edges.

For years, when I took my glasses off to eat, when I caught a double chin in the mirror, I'd do a double-take. I did not. Want. To. Be. My. Mom. What woman wants to be her mom? I know a few, but they are rare. Most of us want to be our own person. When my mom died with me so young, nineteen years old, it became panicking-ly difficult to remember: who was she? Who am I not being?

As I grow older, instead now I want to know: who was she? Who am I becoming?

Slowly, bit by bit, I play out the same irony so many people do as we age: increasing interest in our families, who are already gone or fading. It would be convenient if as teenagers we wanted to know all that geneology our parents might be researching. But that's not how it works most of the time.

So, instead, I look to my dreams. And there I see that when I am happy, I look a lot like her.
And that is good.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Power of Trees

Tree Prayer, Deer Park, 2012
A few weeks ago, I gave a prompt about trees in my contemplative writing class. Out of the deep cold of winter, many students pulled memories and palpable experiences. Just the week before I'd asked them for what brought them joy. When they couldn't find it asked directly, a lot of them found it in trees.

There was an article recently in the New Yorker where the writer debated whether or not plants have intelligence. In the article, one scientist was quoted as saying, paraphrased: They can turn light into food. Isn't that intelligent enough? The student poetically captures this thought in this line:
All words grasping at form, imagery that belittles the magic of life essence, the simplicity of warm transmuting into life.

This piece resonated along those lines: really appreciating the ordinary magic of trees. It has a lot of specificity - the writer has become the tree! And yet, it is so spacious and open. Enjoy.

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I am an outlier. I am the tip of the tip – round, full, bulging. An ever so slight pulsing puts me in close association with my world; the world beyond my borders, my edges. I feel clear and warm – a bubble of a cell. Green. Clear. Light beams into me, through me. The sun is warm. 

I lie on the edge, the boundary of something and nothing. The boundary of shape and shapeless. My shape shifts slightly with the pulse of the warm sunlight as I form sugars and sweets that pass, that get passed – sucked – shloop, shloop and shloop – steady, unremitting giving up my sweetness that comes from the sun and moved along. Shloop. Shloop. Shloop. Moved along the channels, the pathways that connect me on the outer edge of this internal world. The sweetness sets out on its own journey from the edge of shape and form; pulses along the channels. The sweetness gathers and is joined and formed and becomes more intense. 

The outer reaches are where birth happens but it is at the centre in the main trunk of movement, the solid form, the upright channels of life that support the edge, the boundary of form and no form. The heat on the edge is sun-warm, today anyway. 

But further along, deeper in, is the life warm, the essence warm.  Factory? Engine rooms? Control central? All words grasping at form, imagery that belittles the magic of life essence, the simplicity of warm transmuting into life that is anchored deep in the earth to the outliers of where form and no form rests in the cool damp earth. I am warm. The tip of the edge where the sun touches, caresses and makes magic. 

Far below is the edge which opens to receive the moisture of the earth; the shapeless pulsing edge of life. Our edges never touch. We do not know about each other. We stay on the edge. This edge is for now. Tomorrow there will be another edge; the separation between form and formless and we will continue to be where we are.

By Miriam’s novice student, February 2014 (this was how the student asked to be credited)