What an amazing day! Training at Old World Wisconsin included visits to the Animal Barn, the Garden curator, and the Collections curator. I met two oxen, each weighing a ton, and stroked their noses and chins. I was introduced to three horses who are each in their 90s in “people years”. I saw a sow who had given birth for the first time just this week and her seven pink little piglets. Oh, how their little faces captivated me (and made me wish I’d brought my camera)! I visited a greenhouse full of tiny sprouting seeds which will become food and decor to an entire community, a future rooted in the present and informed by the past. I browsed through shelves of antique artifacts that illustrate the lives and time of people whose stories encompass miles of external and internal territory. So much to take in, visually, mentally, physically and spiritually! I came home to my usual tasks of dinner and chores and a phone call from my darling youngest…and now I’m sitting at my computer and entering this century of technology for the first time today. It feels kinda weird! I can only imagine how this feeling will intensify as I spend more time in the Old World.
I have one more week of the poetry challenge from NaPoWriMo to complete, and already I can tell that it’s not going to be easy to be in the mood to concentrate on composing verse each day after training! Still, I hope to have a little time to dabble in the word pond. Today’s prompt is to write an “ekphrastic” poem, a graphic description of a work of art. “Ode on a Grecian Urn” is a famous one. I went through some art photos that I had collected for a game I invented, and this one caught my eye. It’s a self-portrait by Van Gogh. Here’s the picture and the poem, and then I think I’ll call it a day here in the 21st century and get ready to go back 150 years again tomorrow!
Freckled, wistful world
Speckled, swirling molecules
Fits and bits punctuating disappearance
Addled, dappled, sparks in the dark
Furtive sideways glance to the canvas
Back to dabbing, daubing, repetition
Poking at the flat reality
Testing the surface, then
Bouncing off again
The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970 and marks what some consider the birth of the Environmental Movement. Of course, cultures throughout history have celebrated and appreciated the earth according to their particular perspectives. Harvest festivals, rain rituals, volcano appeasement, fertility festivals, river ceremonies…I can think of many ways that humans have venerated the earth. Since 1990, when the Earth Day campaign went global, we’ve focused on the planet as a whole. We are the ones who have seen it (at least in pictures) as a whole from outer space, and I think we are realizing more and more how our relationship to the Earth is effecting that picture. Large scale weather patterns, extinction rates, pollution and population are just some of the issues that are “going big” in our consciousness. This is all very well, and at the same time, each of us has a particular and specific and local intimacy with Earth that should never be overlooked.
NaPoWriMo is acknowledging Earth Day with its prompt to write a poem about a plant. I have so many favorite Earth/Nature/Flower/Animal poems already dear to my heart that I’m having a hard time being original, so I think I’m just going to share a few favorites with you here instead. The first one is a lullaby that my mother used to sing to me. I have no idea of its origin. I just hear Mom sing:
White coral bells upon a slender stalk,
Lilies of the valley deck my garden walk.
Oh! Don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?
That will happen only when the faeries sing!
Here’s one I wrote back in March as I looked at my lilac bush:
When will the buds appear this year?
When will the lilac be full in bloom?
When will that perfume make fair the air?
When will that purple bedeck my room?
Soon, oh, soon; let it be soon!
I’ve been wearing lilac oil from a little vial that Jim bought me when we were on Mackinac Island years ago. A few drops on my neck assures me that the fragrance of my favorite flower will not fade too quickly from my consciousness.
I took a walk yesterday to photograph some of my local earth miracles. May I present:
And to represent the hippie protesters and the environmental movement, I have to share one of my favorite earth songs. Nanci Griffith, “From A Distance” (written by Julie Gold). Socks with sandals, passion and integrity. She moves me.
Love our planet, today and every day. Treat her and all life with respect. Please.
I am about to venture out into the retail world in search of shoes that might pass as reminiscent of the 1870s. Having come up empty yesterday at two Goodwill shops, I’m not sure if I will be successful. It’s interesting taking stock of what’s out there in the resale stores. This is the stuff that people give away…and other people buy. It’s not marketed; it’s not about status or brand. It’s about filling a need with something serviceable. I would do all my shopping at a resale place if I could. That’s probably why my kids call me “cheap”. I don’t get the whole “status and style” idea. I just want to get the job done. I’m not trying to fit into a competitive culture of consumerism. My “work outfit” for my new job will be a reproduction of 19th century pioneer clothing. My “work outfit” for my last job was jeans and a T-shirt with the latest musical production logo on it. I guess I have a different idea of dressing for success.
One of Steve’s favorite fables is The Emperor’s New Clothes. He often sees himself as the little boy at the side of the parade who looks on in bafflement at what everyone else is celebrating and asks, “Why are we doing this?” He sometimes talks about it as being the one who points out the elephant in the room, that glaring awkwardness that no one wants to mention. He’s not judgmental about it, he just wants to discuss it, bring it out into the open, make everyone aware of it. He’s not cynical or sarcastic, he’s genuinely curious. We don’t have a TV, but we do watch basketball games online that often include commercials. Those ads bring up a lot of questions. Why do we sell what we sell the way that we do? Why is sex and violence so prevalent? And stereotypes? Why do we think having a good time is so important? What do we really think is important? And why? Why? What is the Big Idea? Everything comes down to that level, that three year old inside who stands watching and asks, “Why?”
It’s a really good question, I think, and one that I have been trained not to ask. “Theirs not to reason why/ theirs but to do and die.” The military motto, President Bush’s command to go out and spend money rather than debate economic policy, my father’s and the Church’s instructions on being obedient…there are so many examples of hushing up that 3-year-old. I admit that there are times when it’s useful to forgo the philosophical and act decisively and immediately, but shouldn’t we return to the subject eventually and periodically to keep our motivation clear? There are members of society who are watchdogs to our conscience, in a way, and I very much respect them for their courage and thank them for the questions that I forget to ask. I am more characteristically concerned with “How?” I want to do things lovingly, primarily; efficiently, much of the time; and as correctly as possible. That may say a lot about how effective my indoctrination into Judeo-Christian thought was.
Intentionally asking both questions and fashioning a life around the answers we find deep in our experience is the focus of our Saturday Summit (what we call our “relationship discussions”). The poetry prompt I found today on NaPoWriMo’s site challenged me to write a hay(na)ku, which is a recent poetic invention. It’s simply 6 words in three lines of ascending (or descending) measure. One word, two words, three words (any number of syllables) or vice versa. We can link several together as well, we’re told. So, here is my hay(na)ku series and a few photos.
“What is important?”
A good person?”
Shaping my character.
How now, brown cow?
Today’s poetry writing prompt is to write a travel poem about getting from Point A to Point B. I took this with me as I walked with Steve to meet his mom for breakfast at a cafe on North Avenue. Here’s what I came up with:
Suburban sidewalk, cement sanitation
Fighting blight from untidy dandelions
Writhing, withered stems polluted, poisoned
Preventing spreading superfluous seeds
Muddy raindrop crater-pocked parkway
Mini helicopter maples, twin neon confetti
Mossy black trunks, petal-splashed branches
Tinny worm smell, saturated iris-limp toilet paper
Hiking boots treading asphalt pathways
Longing for the purity beneath.
Yesterday’s rain has left a distinct damp chill over everything. I miss the golden sun. My mood is slow and overcast as well, but I think I’ve had an epiphany in the recent “relationship talks” we’ve been having. A serious and positive epiphany, too complicated to explain. I never knew that shock and denial could last four years and then drop in an instant. I feel like a snail without her shell. Perfect for crawling about a rain-soaked environment.
Just when you’re ready to declare that you have had a defining experience, another experience comes along to blur that definition. How do you know what you think you know? Epistemology is enough to explode my brain, I fear. I have to be very careful venturing into that discipline. Taking an open, artistic approach spares me from the pressure to get off the fence. The poetry prompt from today’s NaPoWriMo post helpfully supports that position. They invited me to take a poem that already exists and re-write it so that each line is the opposite from the original. I assume that the fruit of this labor is to see that both are valid in some way.
Does this drive you crazy? Are some of us driven to be dogmatic, the ones who enjoy boxing things up and nailing them down and painting them in black and white? Is this a fear-based activity, presided over by the threat that there is a right and a wrong and you could be Wrong? Is life written in either/or, both/and, neither/nor or without the slash mark altogether? How many school teachers asked you to “compare and contrast” and then told you that you did it incorrectly?
Life is diverse. You could say it is “un-like”. It just is. “Are you, like, for real?” No. I am real. Real isn’t “like”, it is.
Original poem by Emily Dickinson, “Wild Nights — Wild Nights!”. Opposite poem by me:
Dull Morns – Dull Morns!
While I miss Thee
Dull Morns have come
Priceless – the Calm
to a Soul at sea –
Tossed by my longing –
Thrown to the lee!
Exiled from Heaven –
Oh! with thee
Might I but soar – today –
I was up early this morning and sat through 6 hours of information in training for my new job, most of it filling out administration paperwork. My post today is a small escape into creativity, but I fear it lacks the patience and pace of a truly open process. So be it. The poetry prompt from NaPoWriMo for today was to write a poem inspired by a photo. The site provided 3 photos, but I have my own to post, so I let them act as my muse. I promised spelunking and sunsets, and posted a shot yesterday of myself disappearing into a cave in the bluffs over the Mississippi River. Here is what I found:
Spreading fertile earth, penetrated by relentless drops,
Her fragile rock abducted by the wind,
Exposing a shameful cavity of twisted darkness.
The damp mystery in danger of collapse
Now sheltered in a chamber of aged secrets.
Before Steve and I head into training for Old World Wisconsin and a work schedule that would prevent us from putting two days off together, we’re going to hit the road and go camping. So, I’m not going to do a blog post for a few days, and I’m going to fall behind in the National Poetry Writing Month challenge. But, I forgive myself. I’m sure you forgive me, too. Today’s prompt is to write a persona poem from the point of view of someone you’re not and write in his/her voice, rather like a dramatic monologue. Here is an excellent example by Rita Dove. To tell you the truth, my energy is elsewhere, so I’m choosing not to write poetry today. Instead, I will include a persona poem I wrote some 15 years ago.
Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52)
Darkness, like a raging blight, poisons hope and shrouds my sight.
In the dusty, dusky road I lie beside my begging bowl,
Ambushed by the thundering tread of hoof and sole, despair and dread.
Battered, splattered, nothing matters. In this flesh, I’m all but dead.
From a distance comes a cry: “Make way! Jesus is passing by!”
Drowning in my grievous dark, I catch hold of this floating spark
In desperate effort to be freed from hellish want and brutal need.
Hoarse and urgent comes my plea: “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
With a roar, embarrassed scorn swallows the voice of poverty.
Indignation urges me in frantic hope, “Lord, pity me!”
As the torrent cracks the clouds and floods the land with rain,
My sorrow swells and pelts the air in uncontrolled refrain:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy! Jesus, Lord, have mercy, please!”
A strong, brusque arm lays hold of me and pulls me to my feet.
“Bring that man to me,” I hear. I tremble and I weep.
Then, suddenly, the air is still. A wide, warm presence calms me.
A voice so close it sounds within and penetrates the dark and din addresses me:
“What do you want? What may I do for you?”
I strain toward him; would I behold salvation prophets have foretold
Were he not obscured by evil night? “I want to see!” “Receive your sight.”
His breath surrounds my clouded eyes.
The damning dark is pierced by light. I fall to kiss his feet, then rise.
“Your faith has healed you. Follow me.”
“My Lord, I will, for now I see.”
Hallelujahs all around! An all-inclusive Glory Be! Mendelssohn and Rimsky-Korsikov festival music with timpani and brass at breakfast. It feels great to be alive, any day! My Easter-oriented upbringing is always in the background, even though I’m facing Eastern lately. May JOY be universal, however you find it.
Today’s poetry prompt for NaPoWriMo was simply to go outside with a notebook and perhaps a camera and write a poem. So I did. I didn’t go any further than 4 steps beyond my porch stairs, sat down beneath the maple tree, and opened up. Miracles are all around.
Glorious ordinary wholly happy day
Treasure-hunting among the obvious
I shall not be in want
Fresh dandelions, wind-blown chimes
Bacon, my kitchen incense
Strawberries’ radiant red miracle
Greenery below, above; and vaulted space
A sanctuary innocent, unstained by shame
I call it Life.
…well, today I present: Purple Poetry. The prompt for today’s National Poetry Writing Month post invites us to compose a piece based on a color. I have to admit that my first response was to think of the goofy beatnik poetry in Ken Nordine’s Colors album, which Steve has. “Yellow was in trouble…” and “Green can be a problem..” If you’ve never heard these, you must. They’re just too much fun!
So here’s my own word association dream on The Color Purple (no, don’t think of Alice Walker):
Twisting tendrils pulsing poison
Bloody Portuguese placenta
birth marks and umbilicus
bruises rhyme with purple wine
People eaters robed in splendor
Atmospheric skies at sunset
mussels in deep, hazy rain
eggplant mountains majesty
purple cows and penitents
Pimpernel-ish violet babies
Lilac lavender suspension
(dot, dot, dot) of disbelief.