Often I feel guilty about the thank you notes I haven't written, the empathy cards never sent, all the people in and out of hospitals without even giving them a thumbs up on Facebook.
Do men have these worries?
Sometimes I wish for simpler times when there was nothing to do but spin yarn and can for the coming winter*, though it's most likely I'd still have the exact same hangups.
What to give in return for the renewal of a spirit? While trying to come up with the perfect gift for my friend, she sends me a book.
And for weeks, I keep reminding myself to write a thank you, or at least a text, but don't. Finally, today, I peck out a lame thanks.
And she immediately writes back, apologizing profusely that she feels terrible she didn't include a personal note and how she feels extra bad because of all the notes I have sent her over the years.
Of course, making her feel bad was never my intent. Nor, most likely, was her intent to make me feel guilty over the book she'd sent.
But knowing that doesn't make me feel any less guilty for not having replied promptly with a handwritten card.
*It must be acknowledged that this nostalgia never includes the more undesirable characteristics of "simpler times" such as no dentists, no vaccinations, no antibiotics, no sewers, no rights for woman and minorities, no fresh drinking water, boredom, etc.
the Plains Folk are a hardy breed
whose ideals are direct reflections
of the horizontal line of the land and sky
in the evenings they sit on the porch and play the banjo
while the sun streaks across the plain
while children's voices rise from the prairie like a song
(listen to some Plains Folk banjo:)
when your daddy asked you to play
the record off the top of your dinosaur castle
you didn't know the power in those grooves
until you heard in that song your own heart beating
watching your daddy take on the badger
with a six pack and a shotgun
you found the tap root
with the teachers scolding
and shaking their heads
when will he ever learn?
Oh, that Charlie!
feels it deep in the bones
and when he sings a song
you know it grows
from all our marrow
thank you for playing
for traveling all these miles
for ditching out of school
for showing us how to see
that we all have dreams
of scrapping it all
for a sailboat on the open ocean
in your songs I hear voices
of those dead and gone souls
their spirits rattling though you
we wish you a safe journey home
"What I achieve is not the product of an act of my will but of my will's surrender."
Pessoa, section 152 of The Factless Autobiography.
Though Pessoa sees surrendering as a sign of defeat and weakness, it leads to his salvation. By surrendering, he finds his voice.
Two of my friends told me about their gloom, one a young professional artist, distraught because she is in the midst of a dry spell and is beating herself up about it, even though she has done so much this past year; and the other, a middle aged writer with an MFA lamenting that she's afraid she's destined to be "just" a critic, who wants to write funny poignant essays like Meghan Daum, but is still searching for how to start.
I've been trying to notice resistance and trying to find the root. I often wonder, why pour energy into resisting what is most natural?
A tree pours all it's energy into creating beauty that nourishes it. Then the tree must let go of its creation and withdraw for a season. The tree that forces itself to bloom in winter does not survive.
And isn't a critic's most valuable job making connections between art works and movements in order to illuminate, to verbalize, to demonstrate a way of experiencing art? What is an opinion and why do we offer it? What are the connections between our opinions and our experiences? Why do we take opinions as absolutes, as reflections of truths, rather than reflections of personal narratives, emotions, biases?
It seems to me there's nothing "just" about that.
tad neuhaus, organ
joanna dane, vocals
i just want to sit in the sun and wonder
what i've done with this life i've been given
thank you for encouraging me not to get discouraged
by those compelling twins jaded and bitter
thank you for giving me permission
to keep going no matter folly nor foe
thank you for looking me in the eyes
and urging me to keep going
just keep being who you are
just keep being who you are
without waver or doubt
without worry that there is no capital I
only small i's and smaller
until we disappear into a star
la de de la de do
how much for a tow to the other side of the galaxy
where no one knows you my friend
where everyone's a stranger
with the hope of starting out new
if i had to do it all over again
i'd be braver sooner
i'd linger longer
at times both beautiful and depraved
la de de la de do
someday we'll all be
over done kaput bye-bye c'est fini
the last box to check on the to do list
la de de la de do
sitting in the sun
wondering about this life
we've been given
drew a birdman in a grave
with fancy boots
a snake winding up his leg
standing on a corpse
as he holds up the smiling moon,
while the corpse
|drawing by Elyse Mische|
|questions by Joanna Dane|
What are you thinking as you turn through these pages?
What are the stories you bear?
Does Birdman visit in the night?
Can we hear him over our judgments?
How long until I must go?
Do you think you could do better?
Why are we so concerned with good and bad?
How many ways to the moon?
Are you wondering why this and not that?
Do you believe in magic?
How many times a day do you wonder what time is it?
Why am I always hurrying from one thing to the next?
What am I running from?
How long do we need to study a picture before we can truly understand it?
Why do we so often rely on our initial reaction
when so often it is clouded by
jealousy, greed, contempt?
When Birdman calls, do you run and hide?
Do you curl up in a ball?
Do you slide down into a hole?
Do you scream and cry?
Does your heart shatter?
Do you walk for miles and miles on dear trails
that lead to the middle of nowhere?
I asked the students what they thought we should do in mindfulness class and one suggested we plant something. So today she brought in dirt and another student brought in seeds and I scrounged some containers from the art room.
One girl didn't want to touch the dirt because she thought it was gross so I encouraged her to stick her arm in and pull out a handful though she only managed to pinch a small bit between the fingers.
We played with the dirt and smelled it and studied the seeds and planted them and accidentally sprayed them with rubbing alcohol.
The girl who didn't want to touch the dirt, the same one who said she hates meditation because of her ADHD, was unusually lively and kept apologizing that she forgot to take her meds this morning.
When I asked them to draw the dirt, she said she can't draw anything, but then she drew the dirt and said she could draw it because it's all lines, shapes, dots.
I've never seen her smile so easy like she did today talking about how she hates dirt and can't draw anything.
Now that everyone is talking about David Bowie, I realize that I knew almost nothing about him. Yes, certain of his songs were highly influential but most I couldn’t have told you were David Bowie until I heard them playing on the radio this week.
Now there's a constellation named after him.
From a biography on display at the library, I learned that he predicted before anyone knew about him that he would soon be a millionaire, though he did fail so hard after saying it that he almost quit music to join a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.
But the most interesting thing I've learned about Bowie is from Len who's in mourning, who told me about Bowie’s cut up method of writing lyrics, where he would cut words and phrases from magazines and newspapers and rearrange them.
Why haven't I heard anyone but Len talking about this?
Once, long ago I heard an interview with Bowie where he said that he hates the repetition of a tour, that the excitement for him is in the creating of a show, but once accomplished, to repeat over and over is torture.