“You are trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bells at twilight.”
“Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.”
The lines above are from the poem I posted earlier, The Art of Disappearing. Some of the poem describes a way of being I can only just imagine—turning away from someone who’s come up to me in a grocery store to say hello, for example—but some of it is so necessary, so close. Like a very slender, extremely sharp knife just touching a spot between my ribs. Pointing to mortality. Pointing to the silence to come. Pointing to my heart and its songs. And being beautiful.
I haven’t written here much at all over the last few months. For a while I was feeling really guilty about my “absence” from these pixilated pages. Since winter solstice, though, and since breathing in the Shihab Nye poem again and again, I have realized some things that bear sharing.
I try to peel open the still-green petals of flowers. I try to help the butterfly open his wings before they are pumped-up and dry. I sing my new songs, and just as I open my mouth and croak out the first few notes, I lose the tune, the words, the reason for singing in the first place.
I have what you might call a small problem with instant gratification. With demanding connection with other people. With distraction from the inside by all the shiny things outside.
It’s why I know enough not to have a television. It’s why I know that cross-stitch is good for me, its maddening slow progress. It’s why I think I really should check my email, say, two or three times a day. (These people who do it only once…well, I bow and kiss the ground.)
This malady is why one of my 2012 goals is to practice the Pause. Pause before speaking. Pause before sharing. Pause before suggesting. Pause before assuming that what has happened to me is “just like” what has happened to you. It isn’t. It is mine. Yours is yours.
You are the expert in your own pain. Teach me, if you’re willing. Let me listen.
Not only do I need to pause before speaking, but I need the longer, creative Pause. I need to let things rest. Let them germinate and take their sweet time coming up. I need to be still enough that I can notice when the dirt starts to move, just making room for the shoot that’s coming up. My breath and the breath of the wind will strengthen the shoot’s upright standing. The rain will water it. The putrefied, liquefied, broken-down bodies of those I’d lost and let go—so many—will give it more and more life.
One day there may be a flower. You may smell it if you don’t disturb the air too much.
One day, if there is fruit, I will bring a basket or perhaps the Dish—the tool for community sharing. Then, in the letting go, there will be some for everyone.
But if there is to be some for everyone someday, then there must have been lonely sidelong glances and focused cultivation. There must be waiting. And stillness. And silence.