Existential Loneliness

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This painting had an evolution…it started off as three women disco dancers, then two polar bears, then a single polar bear with a different landscape and now this rendition.  Finally, I wrote the following sonnet on the canvas as a part of the background in the meadow.  It’s not meant to be legible, only a design element.

One cold night at the beginning of another long winter in the mountains of northern California, I fell into that state of existential loneliness.  I happened to have this painting in process on the wall in front of me.  My own loneliness expanded to include the polar bear at the north pole.  I considered his solitary life, that his habitat is dissolving due to global warming.  There is the real possibility of his extinction.  In writing this sonnet, I connected to the polar bear and as a result, I felt less lonely.
Is that the secret to existential loneliness–to expand our circle to include more of the life that is?

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© by Christine O’Brien

It’s cold and I’m alone again, at night.
The stars, so far away, no comfort there.
Is the polar bear aware of its plight?
Ice floes are melting, does anyone care?

Across the tundra the northern lights dance;
radiant colors blast the starry sky.
If we change our ways, would he have a chance?
“Global warming; couldn’t be helped,” we sigh.

We’re safe in our cozy habitats, home.
The borders of our lives within these walls.
The far arctic circle, his place to roam
outside of our range, his frozen cry falls.

What’s it to us, a whole species demise?
Could it have gone better if we’d been wise?

“Water Water Everywhere Nor Any Drop to Drink…”

When Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, he was surrounded by an ocean of undrinkable water.

The upcoming art show at Siskiyou Art Museum in Dunsmuir, California has the theme of EBB AND FLOW.  It is an open call to artists of any ilk to create something to do with water–“celebrating water in all its forms.”  We have come to call water our most precious resource.  There are those in the world who deny global warming.  There are others who are ready to prove that global warming is without a doubt something we need to face –yesterday!

Drinking tea in the morning is the way I begin my day.  I do like my tea…and a cup in the afternoon or at the end of the day is a pleasant ritual.  What would I do without my tea…I began this painting a few years ago before this art show was conceived.  Now, it has become timely and I think I’ve finished it.  Just a few touches and then it’s ready for the show in July of 2019.  And I am calling it “water, water everywhere…”  Doesn’t she look a bit parched?

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Permissive Poetry

An intrinsic premise of poetry is the permission and freedom to TELL THE TRUTH!

When I first began writing poetry, I was in a state of unrest.  Old inner worlds were crumbling as new ones were being born.  What I had built my life structure upon was proving false.  What was trying to form was insubstantial and unknown.

Poetry can chart the course between what is known
and what is unknown.

Do you think this statement is true?  It isn’t the route for everyone, but it certainly has been the permission-giver for me.

In those days, while I might not speak my truth to my husband or father (both of whom inspired fear), I found I could write it (finally) in my journals.  And then, poetry entered my life.  A form that could hold both emotion and unravelling beliefs and the uncertainty of what was next.  Pretty amazing.  And it could do all of this in a succinct way!

Throughout known history, poetry has been the “go to” for sensitive souls.  The minstrels were the storytellers, often in rhyme or rhythm.  The poets were the sensitive touchstones of a particular era and culture.  They could talk about what was right, wrong, intolerable both personally and in the context of the larger society.

Poets and artists are the heart of any culture or era.  They are the sensitive underbelly and resonate with deepest feeling and often, what the culture needs to embody or embrace in order to healthfully evolve.

Writing Prompt:
This is my perception of permissive poetry.  Has poetry, whether you read it or write it yourself, given you permission to tell the truth?

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An Unexpected Turn…

Life is full of the unexpected.  I was reminded of that last week.  Planning on a getaway from the smoke that has preempted this summer, I headed an hour and a half north.  I planned to be there for one week, Ashland, Oregon.  I planned on enjoying good films, good food, the fun and creative shops, the beautiful park, meeting a friend for dinner and people-watching.

My first morning there, I woke in excruciating pain.  This can’t be happening?  I won’t go into the details…longish story short, I ended up in emergency twice and spent one overnight in the hospital.  The whole odyssey was traumatic…and woven into this were miraculous encounters.  I had to make some choices under duress and away from friends and what was familiar.

This unexpected turn of events left me reeling afterwards.  I process things through body movement, massage, talking about the experience and through creativity.  This wild piece came through to help me to work with my experience.  The process continues as I integrate and heal.

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Writing Prompt:
What are your ways of dealing with trauma?  The unexpected?  Write down what supports you when you are rallying from an unexpected or traumatic experience.

The Versatility of Poetry

This is one reason I love poetry.  It can hold any subject.  Poetry is both amorphous and  it can claim a form.  It’s a perfect container for a variety of human expression.

the fog weaves through city streets
in and out of the avenues
twining round golden gate bridge towers
dampening moods and refreshing spirits
what season is it, I ask
summer you say, summer in San Francisco
coaxing one to build a fire on the hearth and cuddle
fog deceiving one into false seasons
Is it love I feel for you or
simply lust
long shrouded desire
and you the sun that penetrated my dark nights
stripping me of my clothes, my inhibitions,
tricking my hormones into believing I was unseasonal
everlasting
and so sexy

© by Christine O’Brien

In this short verse excerpted from a poem I wrote entitled Weather Report, notice how a story is told using place and mood.

Were you drawn into the story via the setting?

Each and every poem has a point of entry.  As does any story.  The writer and/or poet gets to decide what that entry point is.

Writer’s Prompt:
Experiment with using a place as the point of entry to your own poem as you write about an emotion you are feeling.

Follow the flow of your writing.

 

The Stream of Consciousness

Is it an actual stream?  Could I go and sit beside it on a rare lazy day with a basket of food, a great book and thou?  I would hope for fresh air on this day.  So that I could breathe without dread of inhaling smoke and other toxins bred of fires.  I finally got an air purifier for the house.  When you can’t open a window for weeks on end due to unhealthy air quality, you begin to consider what you can do to protect your lungs.  I also bought an Eco-gear N95 anti pollution face mask through Amazon.com.  I haven’t worn it out on the street yet, I’ve been warned that I should.  The air quality index has been unhealthy at 166 with PM2.5 as the “dominant pollutant.”

Who would have thought it would come to this in our lifetime?  Who would have dreamt this as a possibility?  Weren’t we warned?

Yet, we still hear of people who deny global warming.  Hmmm.  What’s it going to take?

We go about the daily details of our lives.  Call the phone company to request a less expensive rate package, water the garden, check in with a friend in declining health, go to yoga class, find time for something inspiring and fun!  Write a blog.  Work on your book.  While you’re at it, pick up some food for the artists’ gathering later on today.  And, figure out a date and time to Skype with your family who, thankfully, live in a smoke-free zone.  And, of course, if there is time, begin to clear out the things in your little home that it’s time to shed.  Business as usual, right?

Yet nothing is usual.  My sister, living an hour south of here, has literally had the fires in her backyard.  She has requested “normalcy”.  I wonder if this is the new normalcy.  Things are not going to reverse by themselves.  We’ve tipped the scales.

Writing Prompt:
Over the course of your own lifetime, what has notably changed?  Is there a new normal?  How do you adapt? Do some stream of consciousness writing.

Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

Is this then…

Is this then
© by Christine O’Brien

Is this then what Armageddon looks like?
The face of the moon has turned red.
She peers through a window of gray smoke.
Tonight her expression is one of concern.
Did she realize that things would come to this?
Has the world savior raised her hands, surrendered
and retreated to some far off secret cave, irresolute
about how the story of humanity concludes?

I’ve been praying for a friend for the end of the world.
He literally showed up on my doorstep
a couple of weeks ago.
To paint my house.
I dreamed of him first…
that he would come
that I would ask for comfort
that he would oblige
then want more.
That I would send him away
that his drug-lost son
needed him.
“Away, go away.”

The air quality is unhealthy again today.
Another day indoors
sipping teas and taking herbal remedies
to soothe the throat and lungs.
There are things I have yet to say
to offer to a weary world
the one we continue to create
through our indifference.

Yet…

Even when we rise to smoky skies and
fires that aren’t easily quenched–
Even when the fire is battling back
and only 41% contained
and we are dependent upon
the direction of the wind.
While firefighters use the elements
to battle one against the other
coupled with chemical pollutants
because we are desperate
to protect all that we built
even when we know that life is
transient.

Even when the old dreams go up in smoke and flame
and we finally fall to our knees
and join the world savior in surrender
(for you too are her)
we feel the flutter in our secret heart caves
that something is going to be born,
something better, truer.

We hold vigil
while finding ways to speak
ways to act.
Even while we are uncertain,
we understand that there is now
and we can do this,
for now.

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