“Look wider still” was a slogan used by the Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in the 70s for their program curriculum. My mother was a leader at that time and this phrase stuck with her. She connected it to all sorts of insights and still does, even now when she is just about to become an octogenarian. I’ve always thought of this phrase as it relates to the way I am stimulated and entranced by a panoramic view. As a very young girl, I loved looking at a spreading seascape or landscape. I was born in Massachusetts, grew up in Illinois, vacationed in Michigan at a beach cottage, and then lived in California for 15 years. My personal panoramas are waves on the horizon, infinite prairies and fields, and vast mountain ranges. These always make me feel that there is a bigger picture. My anxieties are founded in the smaller loops of stress and the claustrophobia that comes from forgetting to look up. The best way to look wider, to look up, to get a healthier perspective, is to climb to the top of something. James Taylor might suggest going up on a roof, but I prefer to be in a natural setting. Up there, I feel calmer, more peaceful, like I belong to something bigger, more ancient and more durable. There my petty problems fade away, and I breathe easier.
© 2014, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved
This week’s prompt page from The Daily Post says this about monuments: “They insist on their own importance, but at the same time allow locals and tourists, pilgrims and accidental visitors, to share a moment and to get a taste of each other’s stories.” The same can be said of the photographs we take and treasure and post. They are monuments of our journey, where we’ve been, what we’ve seen, the stories we’ve told and heard. So, I’d like to share some monuments from my journey on Friday. Steve and I are trying to take a weekly field trip out into the more rural areas of Wisconsin. We are researching a new life, a new home, a new way of embodying what we value: simple, honest work in a lifestyle that respects the planet and is less dependent on human systems. We drove up into the North Country, beyond the oak savannas of southeastern Wisconsin, through the Driftless Area (unglaciated during the most recent glacial event) with its windswept sandstone outcroppings, and into the cranberry bogs and pine forests of Ho-Chunk land. The monumental feeling of this expedition is built of adventure, re-connection with the Earth, the joy of being alive, and the peace of being open to whatever we encounter.
I’m tired and indecisive this evening, so you get two interpretations of this theme. The first is this one:
It’s my daughter, Rebecca, at her sister’s bridal shower. A couple of months after this photo was taken, her boyfriend proposed, and now she’s poised to be the next bride in our family. Perhaps she’ll be carried over a threshold shortly after that. (But that’s a pretty old custom; maybe no one does that any more.) Here’s another go:
This one’s probably a bit less literal, but maybe more poetic. I like the ascent from darkness to light, from the cool, barren rock to the wall of mossy fecundity. I like the passage littered with dead leaves that gives way to the vault of sunshine. Steve and I have been talking about the joyous urgency of blooming. He is in midlife, going to turn 50 in November, and he is eager to do something important with his life. And soon! So we are aware of this threshold and urging the “joy of change and movement” into our lives. Not sure exactly how that will be manifest, but stay tuned!
NaPoWriMo!!! It’s SPRING and it’s POETRY and the world is a wonderful place! I feel the excitement, the bloom of emotion, the fascination of symbol and script! It’s romantic, pedantic, nostalgic, elegiac, existential and full of potential. WHOOOOOT!
Okay, with all of this enthusiasm, you’d think I was about to bust out a whole anthology of poems that I’ve just written. Sorry to disappoint, but it’s also Spring Break month (because, really, no two school districts plan this for the same week) and things at Discovery World Museum are pretty hectic – meaning that after being indoors with 600 school children for 7 hours, my ears are ringing and my head is aching and I haven’t been in my quiet, creative place all day. Still, I have looked up the prompt from the NaPoWriMo site and consulted the Bibliomancy Oracle. It has led me to a wonderful poem called Parable on Fish & Fire. Coincidentally, I made tilapia for dinner tonight, and after sitting down and offering my thanksgiving for fish, I recalled the saying by Kabir, “I laughed when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.” We are thirsty fish, we are celebratory poets. We celebrate the mundane, the environment of being human. Love, life, beauty, truth, concept and experience…we make it up and tear it down. We’re social animals with big brains, but we’re only minimally distinct from all the other carbon life forms on this planet. Isn’t that a riot? Sure it is. So let’s riot…but stay a little aware. ;)
– A Poem I Wrote sometime before 1997 –
God is a poem
Infinite in meaning
Economical in expression
Clothed in symbol and harmony
A breathing Word
Engaging all perception
This is a story of urban development. This picture was taken from the Milwaukee County Grounds about 2 years ago. This land surrounds the abandoned Poor Farm and Insane Asylum that I wrote about in this post. The area to the south and west of those abandoned buildings was identified as a migratory monarch butterfly trail and maintained by a local group who call themselves The Park People. In the last 9 months, this area has been raked over by bulldozers, trees cut down, and the habitat reduced from 239 acres (in 2005) to just 11 acres…which may never recover from the disturbance and resemble this photo again. The construction project was undertaken in order to create “Innovation Park”, UW Milwaukee’s research accelerator and business campus. In addition to this construction, the freeway you see in the background has been re-routed and upgraded to accommodate more traffic. Massive construction vehicles – earth movers, tree destroyers, and jack-hammers – can be heard around the clock from my bedroom window. This had been the largest green space in the county for many years, and I counted myself lucky to be within walking distance from it. But the life of the street, of urban expansion, has depleted the life of the wild and taken over its habitat. In the words of a famous song, “We’ve paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” The metamorphosis on display now is not the caterpillar changing into a butterfly. It’s Caterpillar Construction Company changing green space into concrete and steel. Try telling that one to the school children when they start their first grade science class.
Victoria Slotto’s prompt post invites me to share a poem written in the second person. She says, “It is less rare to encounter poetry in the second person. As poets, we love to address our “audience,” celebrity figures, other poets or teachers who have an influence on us, people we love (or hate), God, mythological figures, people from our past.” I went through the book of poems that I self-published back in 1997 and found one that I like. Back in that decade, I was extremely rooted in a Christian identity and was rather prolific in my writing to God. These days, I do not identify myself as Christian or even theistic per se, but I still have a great sense of appreciation. The world is an amazing place; the beauty of it often makes me weep. My brain is accustomed to seeking a source for manifestations, but I now realize that is more about me than it is necessarily about the way Life is. I often find myself wondering, “Who do I thank for this?” It’s more likely that there are myriad contributing factors to the conditions that arise, the harmonious conjunction attributable to all of them simultaneously without hierarchy. So I simply say, “Thanks be,” and leave it at that.
Did I ever thank you for the sky
spread far around like an open field
piled high with moods and structures,
a playground for my soul?
This space above bids my thoughts expand
to climb the heights of an anvil-cloud
and teeter on the edge of a dazzling glare
or slide down the shafts of the sun,
To swim to the center of its lonely blue
where I find no mist to hide me,
and lie exposed to the western wind
like a mountain braced for sunrise.
Or clad in the shroud of brooding gray,
it coaxes me to musing
far removed from the minutiae
that chains me to my life.
I search for light and openness
to shadow the bonds of earth,
exploring the vault of heaven
for its meaning and its truth.
Thanks for this cathedral speaking glory through its art.
Thank you for these eyes admitting You into my heart.
© 2014, words and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved