a quote from Thoreau

“I wish so to live ever as to derive my satisfactions and inspirations from the commonest events, every-day phenomena, so that my senses hourly perceive, my daily walk, the conversation of my neighbors, may inspire me, and I may dream of no heaven but that which lies about me.”  
Henry David Thoreau

For me, this quote symbolizes the independent spirit while recognizing the interdependency we have with our neighbors and the natural world. That said, the larger world is on our doorstep…through the ever-present media and its variable perspectives, we are bombarded with world events, political unrest, glaring social inequities, climate change, etc. It seems that while it is wise to be present with the commonest events and daily phenomena, we cannot bury our heads in wonder to the point where we ignore the outer chaos. What a helpless feeling though when we look at the state of human affairs.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of sitting outdoors with three wise women poets. We were celebrating a birthday of one of the women, eating quiche, rhubarb pie and banana bread. We discussed that helpless feeling that arises when we ask the question: How does anyone wed oppositions? I, myself, experience my own inner duality…how do I present as a unified whole with such a split? Within families, there are opposite viewpoints, family members polarized against one another. Within my community, there are examples of polarization, immobility, the inability to see the other’s perspective. When both sides claim to have the final truth, how do we meet in the middle? We see how people go to war over opposing ideologies. There is a faction of people (me included) that considers war to be an obsolete way to handle our differences…yet there is ongoing warfare.

I often wonder what my part is today…growing this woman self, growing her out of the past that deemed woman second class, quieted her, effectively erased her voice from history. Writing poetry gives voice to what needs to be acknowledged and furthers the writer’s process. Ideally, it offers something to the readers.

The Future
© by Christine O’Brien

She blazes colors…
If I am to be a vessel for change
I can no longer be invisible,
nor quiet.
I review my early writings
of a woman chained to
outworn, disrespected roles.
Her models were false impressions
of what a woman should be.
Disloyal to herself,
while surrendering her salvation
to him.

She is silent in the midst
of her degradation.
She follows the mores
of how she has learned a woman
“should be, should behave.”
She has depths to which
she hasn’t dared to descend.
She has forgotten her worth,
her right to equal partnering,
muffled her voice,
disguised her face and figure.
She is depressed.

Her fire has gone into hiding,
but it is not extinguished.
Eruptions are scary
when you think you are only
malleable, adaptive, accepting
yielding and penetrated.
What does a spiritual,
grounded activism look like?

Too many of my women friends,
and me too, don’t look beyond today
or tomorrow…
“What’s for dinner,
are my needs well-met
is my family safe,
for now?
Have we defended against the virus,
sufficiently?
Are our cupboards full?
Are the essential workers
able to provide for us, hold us up?
For how long? 
Are the borders secure and
the air space protected?
Do we realize our interdependence? 
Yet?”

For if my sisters and brothers around
the globe–China, Africa, the Balkan Islands,
Indian Reservations, my next door neighbor–
are suffering, thirsty or hungry. 
If my clouded leopard in Malaysia,
my Spirit Bear in British Columbia,
my Tundra Swan’s very existence
are threatened, then so am I!
If the earth’s respiratory forests
are ingraciously removed
will I have the breath to speak
of upcoming peril?
Wouldn’t I rather
see the salvation that comes from
humanity arising,
not only in America
but across this expanse of earth–
our common, ever-shrinking home?

What, dear woman, with inner fire,
are you waiting for?

Perspectives, Presence, People

I don’t write to convince a reader of my perceptions or thoughts.  I write to express what I see through the story lens of my life as I experience it.  Sometimes, I choose to share what I’m discovering.

I read books and watch films for entertainment and/or to expand my worldview.  It is fascinating to be educated to other ways of being and seeing.

When you follow the old adage “walk a mile in my shoes,” there is an opportunity for something to open up inside of you.

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I have a friend who periodically travels to awaken the heightened awareness that is necessary when one travels.  When she visits somewhere new, she experiences a greater aliveness as she navigates the unfamiliar.   Travel, in one sense, awakens her vitality.

The sameness of one’s environment can lead to a sort of lethargy?  It’s all so familiar.  It seems less likely that I can foster a feeling of novelty of experience in my daily routine than I could if I were traveling?  I recognize within myself the need to really cultivate presence in my daily encounters in order to be a witness to the daily miraculous .  Life is not humdrum.  We are, each one of us, walking, talking wonders.  Yet, because we are familiar, even predictable, I can assume the humdrum in my encounters.  For instance…

Typically, my long-time gardener and friend gives me his litany of complaints about his work.  I then respond in the usual way, commiserating.  I have an expectation that he is going to come and complain and I’ll listen and nod my head and hear him out.  In a certain sense, I’m not present with him in the moment.  I link his complaints together with all the other times he’s come to tend my yard.  I put up a certain sort of inner defense.  Today, as he is out there doing the yard work, I wonder about how I can be more present with him.  Can I choose to really see and hear him, his frustrations and his gratitudes, as if I were meeting him for the first time…that old Buddhist Beginner’s Mind.  Besides, having had recent losses, I do know too well that everything and everyone passes.  Nothing and no one lasts forever.  That realization alone can help bring presence to whatever the day brings.  Today, I’d like to be a bit more present with my friend.  To be a witness to his experience.  To see him anew.  To hear him anew.

****
When I am given presence, I recognize it.  And I’m appreciative.

 

Truthbound

Sometimes a quote stays with you.  This one is from the 1956 film, Anastasia, starring Ingrid Bergman:

“Truth serves only a world who lives by it.”

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In their later years, when things were so difficult with my aging parents, I was taking a creative writing class.  The instructor, a wise woman, witnessed my turmoil.  One day at the end of class, she took me aside.  She knew some of the challenges I was facing with my parents and family.  She challenged me to write a type of sonnet called a Sestina.  I didn’t know what a Sestina was.  I asked her for a timeline.  She said I should write it that evening.  I went home, studied the form and this poem virtually flowed out of me.  It was the perfect vehicle for what was happening in my life.  As art, poetry and writing can do, it shifted the energy for me.

Truthbound
© by Christine O’Brien

Truth lies in a shallow grave

while perspectives hang out everywhere.

Semantics argue with the unwary

as he admonishes “feelings aren’t facts.”

She remonstrates that mine is not the only opinion!

I inquire “How does one unearth truth?”

 

A sly animal is truth;

in its lair as silent as the grave.

Taunted by every brand of opinion,

each certain that his truth binds everyone, everywhere.

Scientists are burdened with facts.

Buying facts carte blanche is for the unwary.

 

My mother has been unwary,

living my father’s lies, denying truth.

Out in the cold, the stranded facts;

a story of lies they take to the grave.

Wounded healers, their children lay everywhere.

On unalterable facts I do base this sad opinion.

 

Really, what is there to opinion?

What warning can I give to the unwary?

The pain from his misdeeds is everywhere;

his forked tongue can’t speak the truth.

“Oh Dad, set yourself free before the grave

takes you and the unspoken, faltering facts.”

 

Weakening into old age, do they matter less, the facts?

That my mother be separated from him was my opinion.

Yet, there they are growing fragile together, headlong to the grave.

His rage bursts her peaceful ending, she the constant unwary.

In this sad scenario, can one find the concealed truth?

Fragments of perspectives and hurt feelings lay everywhere.

 

When division and broken hearts are everywhere,

are they less important now, the historical facts?

Is forgiveness the elixir of truth?

It seems opposition only supports an opinion

as egos argue in the territory of the unwary.

Let’s bury our perspectives in a grave.

 

Though facts, feelings and opinions are strewn everywhere

is it only the unwary who bind them to truth?

The grave is the end for all; is it wiser to pave the path with love?

 

It’s Not a Popularity Contest

cairnfinal.jpg

 

Authentic writing, telling the truth (as you see it) and being brave are a few of the requirements of being a writer.  Aside from showing up to the page regularly (daily?), the writer strives to connect with something deep within and then to impart what she or he discovers.

When my parents were in the last few years of their lives, emails flitted back and forth between me and some of my eight siblings.  Having eight siblings means that there are nine different perspectives on how to handle any given situation.  Within such a web of words and voices cramming the ethers, how do you retain and impart your own truth and integrity?  Especially when the topic is one with emotional impact?

I’ve found that doing something that centers me–a walk in nature, yoga, calisthenics, cooking, Tai Chi, whatever–helps to bring balance.  And then I write what feels true in the moment.  And then, I write it again and again until the truth is distilled to something that I truly believe is worth sharing.  I’ve learned not to expect to be understood by everyone.  Ears hear what they hear.  However, as a human, I have a multitude of opportunities to practice expressing myself on and off the page.  Life does seem to present these opportunities for me,  for you, for everyone to practice using our voices.

“And the speaking will get easier and easier.
And you will find you have fallen in love
with your own vision, which you may never have
realized you had.  And you will lose some friends
and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them.
And new ones will find you and cherish you…
And at last  you’ll know with surpassing certainty
that only one thing is more frightening
than speaking your truth.
And that is not.”
–Audre Lorde–

WRITING PROMPT:

Remember a time when you spoke what felt true for you.
How did it feel in your body to speak the truth?
Did you lose friends or lovers?  Write about it.
Conversely, remember a time when you didn’t speak what felt true for you.
How did it feel in your body not to speak the truth?
Did you lose friends or lovers or disappoint yourself?  Write about it.

Do something fun today.