Friday, November 14, 2008

Push and Pull

It's interesting to me how being pregnant has affected my relationships. I'm suddenly much closer to my stepmom, who's been the biggest cheerleader since she was the first one I called. Setting me up with free ultrasounds, asking around for cribs and other necessary items, and generally cooing and oohing and ahhing and not questioning every decision we make.

Other new moms have been similarly generous and wonderful -- telling me all the little things no one bothered to tell them, sending on lists of pediatricians and daycares, sharing their own worries and triumphs.

Friends who've been closest previously haven't really been there, most likely because I've never needed much from folks. Still...

And all the stereotypes I've ever had about church people and babies have come true -- from knitting to overwhelming generosity and special care. One woman offered me a winter poncho for when I get too big for my own coats. Another offered to dig out her pregnancy books -- from 20+ years ago! It does make me feel supported and blessed to not be facing this alone.

In general, I'm feeling really good these days. We know it's a girl -- Umea. Perhaps Umea Marie if I can get Eric to cave in. I'm getting big and unwieldy, slowing down, having a harder time sleeping. But generally in good spirits and good energy during the day, at least.

Life is sweet and about to get sweeter. And I have the the sweetest husband of all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Any Night - Phillip Levine

Look, the eucalyptus, the Atlas pine,
the yellowing ash, all the trees
are gone, and I was older than
all of them. I am older than the moon,
than the stars that fill my plate,
than the unseen planets that huddle
together here at the end of a year
no one wanted. A year more than a year,
in which the sparrows learned
to fly backwards into eternity.
Their brothers and sisters saw this
and refuse to build nests. Before
the week is over they will all
have gone, and the chorus of love
that filled my yard and spilled
into my kitchen each evening
will be gone. I will have to learn
to sing in the voices of pure joy
and pure pain. I will have to forget
my name, my childhood, the years
under the cold dominion of the clock
so that this voice, torn and cracked,
can reach the low hills that shielded
the orange trees once. I will stand
on the back porch as the cold
drifts in, and sing, not for joy,
not for love, not even to be heard.
I will sing so that the darkness
can take hold and whatever
is left, the fallen fruit, the last
leaf, the puzzled squirrel, the child
far from home, lost, will believe
this could be any night. That boy,
walking alone, thinking of nothing
or reciting his favorite names
to the moon and stars, let him
find the home he left this morning,
let him hear a prayer out
of the raging mouth of the wind.
Let him repeat that prayer,
the prayer that night follows day,
that life follows death, that in time
we find our lives. Don't let him see
all that has gone. Let him love
the darkness. Look, he's running
and singing too. He could be happy.

Clearing the Pile

I'm definitely seeking solace these days.

What is it about us that sends us seeking ourselves at every turn in our lives? Or is that special blessing of an instinct reserved for a certain segment of the population? And what would that be -- intelligent, curious, egotistical, self-absorbed, un-insightful, unbalanced, or is it, much more to my liking, a not unwelcome side effect of choosing to live an authentic life? A life examined. At least, from time to time.

I think about my childhood more than most people, I think. I had the same best friends from age 2 to 13. I had lots of childhood trauma, which helps things stick in your memory. I read books over and over and over, helping to imprint them and myself thinking of them in my mind.

My mother recently cleaned her garage and finally got us girls to take away all the stuff we'd been storing there, including boxes and boxes of books. Much to my delight, I did a great job as a kid knowing which books to save! I have so many of my favorites now, and I've been reading them voraciously in one or two sittings, night after night. They're exactly as I remember them, and there's such a warping feeling of rightness and strangeness between how I feel now reading them and the illusion of being different while reading them.

Is there continuity in consciousness? In experience? I have to say no. My memory is much more like packets of life [ha, meant to type light] operating as particles versus a wave. Maybe that's just a factor of what I use it for: occasional introspection to get me through the next transition.

Now there's the biggest one and probably second to the last one: dying. Parenthood is more than just about inviting a kid into your life. It's about the last chance to finalize your independent identity as opposed to your soon-to-be always-relational identity of you-as-mom, you-despite-being-mom.

I see Eric facing the same challenge but played out slightly differently. While this new life twist does have me wondering about my professional identity, it's not tied to my worth as a person in the same way as it seems to affect Eric as a man. He's thrust neck-deep in the question of: "Am I a good provider? Am I doing what I want to do in my professional life? Because I'm about to lose the flexibility to make changes easily very very soon."

As an aside, something I've learned about myself recently. I follow through. I used to think of this as being anal or having a high work ethic or being a perfectionist or something. Now, I'm thankful every time I find myself bending down to pick up a string on the carpet and throw it away, or unpack that box even though it contains a bunch of junk that I have no idea what to do with.

My mom came over to help me around the house for a couple hours -- bless her -- and I found her the same way, only more annoyingly so. She kept saying, let's just do a little more so that it feels good to have it done. And I knew just what she meant.

When I was little, I used to clean my room by piling up everything from on top of my dressers, everything out of place around the room, etc., into the middle of the room. Then I'd dust, make the bed, generally clean all the surfaces I could suddenly see. Then, one by one, I'd start to put things away from the pile. If I couldn't find a place for it, I'd throw it away. It was a painstaking process, and pretty slow. But it felt good from the beginning. Good to see cleared off surfaces. Good to have portions of the room done (if you could ignore the gigantic pile in the middle of the room). Good to restore order piece by piece as the pile shrunk.

I sometimes feel I take the same tack with the rest of my life, trying one by one to clear off my commitments, trying to make the other pieces of my life feel good and set and clean, even as I work to shrink my pile of should's and have to's.

I only have another 4.5 months to shrink my pile before it leaves my control more than ever before.

On Prayer - Czeslaw Milosz

You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word 'is'
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No Time for Introspection

Suddenly find myself in an internal cycle once again. I should be able to recognize the signs by now, but ... life is too immediate to see sometimes.

Coming out of the most intense project at work - high pressure, fast deadlines, huge expectations, historical import. The whole shebang. It's laying in wait at the moment. Gathering comments. The onslaught will ensue next month, I'm sure.

In the midst, I discovered I've got new life growing inside me. No time to think about it, I mostly tried not to focus on how intensely uncomfortable pregnancy is!

I'm 4.5 months in now. Bought a house and moved. Still living out of boxes. Worrying about how to pay for new bills and a new mortgage. Wondering how other people do this, when we can barely do it, and I know we're better off than most. The financial collapse. The blazing political contest.

I have to admit it feels like a world in its last days. Biblical. Epic. Death throes of ideologies. All that.

And such internal silence! Amidst the sound and the fury, such thin worries! Such interim thoughts, bridging the gap between days with grocery lists. House needs. Future expenses.

What I do for myself personally these days is study "planning" to pass a certification test in November. Edifying...

It is a comment on where I am these days that my biggest joy is television shows: Pushing Daisies. Heroes. Others too embarrassing to mention.

Facing the most traumatic, life-changing times possible in life, I feel the rising panic to reestablish friendships and support networks. All after November. All in the future. All tomorrow when the pressing of today is not quite so insistent.

Several high school friends contacted me recently, which felt like a sign, but I haven't followed through. I'm not sure what I have to give, and having felt like I abandoned them before, I'm hesitant to promise what I won't or can't deliver.

But maybe all of it is crap. And life's moving so fast, there's no time to take anything back. You just have to try to do as much as you can right in the first place. Try to make the heroic efforts to fight the relentless succession of days. I wrote a graduation paragraph once that said Baudelaire was right: time is the enemy.

I am such a sad soldier. Doesn't really matter. There's always the marching.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Navajo Chant

I see the Earth
I am looking at Her and smile
Because she makes me happy.
The Earth, looking back at me
Is smiling, too.
May I walk happily
And lightly
Upon Her.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

couple(t) - Chris Blakeley

three blocks later

they're still kissing

Reincarnation - Phebe Jewell

When I am born again
make me a drum,

make me an anchor
of rhythm for your hands.

Make my song
break locks,
open windows,
fill bellies.

Play me
til I shudder and break
between your knees.

Set me afire.
Watch me spark,
rising, twisting,
to darkness.

Why Dreams Are Like Babies -- Erin Malone

Otherworldly, they may be naked
& speaking a language
you can’t understand.

They test you
on long division.
You’re unprepared—

This one is familiar
but wears another’s face.
You can’t run. He wakes you,
wakes you, wakes you.

Erin Malone

Courtesy Seattle's Poetry on the Bus

See more of these gems here.

I think this would make a great poem to "workshop," swapping out your own place-words to achieve a new feel.

Great Jones Wide Awake Now

dreamlife at
the great jones café
was more bar
than chow
more smoke
than booze
more t.v.
than jukebox
more motel
than barstool

now & then
a regular escaped
more sparrow
than keepsake

the rest of us
were hammered
into place
more vinegar
than oil

more fencepost
than jailbreak

April De Nonno

Friday, February 08, 2008

EVERY CASE —Wislawa Szymborska

It could have happened.
It must have happened.
It happened earlier. Later.
Closer by. Further away.
It happened not to you.

You survived because you were the first.
You survived because you were the last.
Because you were alone. Because you were with others.
Because to the left. Because to the right.
Because it rained. Because there was shade.
Because the day was sunny.

Fortunately a forest was there.
Fortunately no trees were there.
Fortunately a rail, a hook, a bar, a brake,
an embrasure, a curve, a millimeter, a second.
Fortunately a razor was floating on water.

As a consequence, because, and yet, in spite.
What it would have been if a hand, a leg,
within an ace of, by a hair's breadth
saved from a combination of circumstances.

So you are here? Straight from an abrogated moment?
The net had just one mesh and you went through that mesh?
I am all surprise and all silence.
how quickly your heart beats to me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Except that there's this career thing...

If you have been working toward a promotion or a raise, things might finally start to loosen up on the job front now that Mars is again pushing forward in your 10th House of Career. But don't expect too much too fast or you will be disappointed. Your rewards could fall short of your desires, but it may take a few more weeks until you see the full results from your efforts.

And I have been, and oh boy does it help that the stars are aligned to make that a bit less painful and arduous...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Today and Every Day. Amen.

Perhaps you have reached a phase in your life when work starts to lose its prominence. Of course, you must be dutiful enough to meet your responsibilities or everything could fall apart. But in order to do something extraordinary, you might have to push your own personal envelope and take a risk. Talk about your fears now, for it will be harder to deal with them later.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Next Two Years

January 2008, here's what the stars have in store for me:

You are in a transition in which you are fundamentally coming to terms with yourself. That change is about getting relief from nervousness and instability, and calling your life into focus. It is about having the confidence and substance to stand up to the world, which is so rare to find. Finally, this transit is about finding the ability to go deeper into yourself, your ideas and your sense of existence. These things have life on more than the level of thought or concept. Ideas are powerful, and you have reached a point of maturity that you have been working toward for a long time.

To the extent that you are fundamentally passive, Saturn will compel you to take an active role in your life and in your relationships. To the extent that you understand that authority is something we embody or we don't grow, you will be granted enormous assistance in taking on your true role in the world. In doing so, we take away the authority that others seem to hold over us, whoever they may be.

In ordering our lives, we liberate the energy we need to persist in our creative work and our service to the world. You are, by nature, a sober and sensible individual. You understand that life is an opportunity and a profound responsibility, only magnified by our commitments to others.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Father with Cigarette Twelve Years Before the Nazis Could Break His Heart -- Philip Levine

I remember the room in which he held
a kitchen match and with his thumbnail
commanded it to flame: a brown sofa,
two easy chairs, one covered with flowers,
a black piano no one ever played half
covered by a long-fringed ornamental scarf
Ray Estrada brought back from Mexico
in 1931. How new the world is, you say.
In that room someone is speaking about money,
asking why it matters, and my father exhales
the blue smoke, and says a million dollars
even in large bills would be impossible.
He's telling me because, I see now, I'm
the one who asked, for I dream of money,
always coins and bills that run through my hands,
money I find in the corners of unknown rooms
or in metal boxes I dig up in the backyard
flower beds of houses I've never seen.
My father rises now and goes to the closet.
It's as though someone were directing a play
and my father's part called for him to stand
so that the audience, which must be you,
could see him in white shirt, dark trousers,
held up by suspenders, a sign of the times,
and conclude he is taller than his son
will ever be, and as he dips into his jacket,
you'll know his role calls for him to exit
by the front door, leaving something
unfinished, the closet light still on,
the cigarette still burning dangerously,
a Yiddish paper folded to the right place
so that a photograph of Hindenburg
in full military regalia swims up
to you out of all the details we lived.
I remember the way the match flared
blue and yellow in the deepening light
of a cool afternoon in early September,
and the sound, part iron, part animal
part music, as the air rushed toward it
out of my mouth, and his intake of breath
through the Lucky Strike, and the smoke
hanging on after the door closed and the play
ran out of acts and actors, and the audience --
which must be you -- grew tired of these lives
that finally came to nothing or no more
than the furniture and the cotton drapes
left open so the darkening sky can seem
to have the last word, with half a moon
and a showering of fake stars to say what
the stars always say about the ordinary.
Oh, you're still here, 60 years later,
you wonder what became of us, why
someone put it in a book, and left
the book open to a page no one reads.
Everything tells you he never came back,
though he did before he didn't, everything
suggests it was the year Hitler came
to power, the year my grandmother learned
to read English novels and fell in love
with David Copperfield and Oliver Twist
which she read to me seated on a stool
beside my bed until I fell asleep.
Everything tells you this is a preface
to something important, the Second World War,
the news that leaked back from Poland
that the villages were gone. The truth is --
if there is a truth -- I remember the room,
I remember the flame, the blue smoke,
how bright and slippery were the secret coins,
how David Copperfield doubted his own name,
how sweet the stars seemed, peeping and blinking,
how close the moon, how utterly silent the piano.

-- from The Simple Truth

My Life Coming to Get Me

Been pretty unhappy w/ work for a while now - up and down, certainly, but more often down than up.

Been vaguely dissatisfied with the way I've been living my life, too -- too much sitting around and not enough digging deep. I've told myself I'm still resting up after 20+ years in school and working, running myself ragged and so busy as to be blind to most everything else.

Took the time to attend a meditation retreat, with Rilke by my side and on my mind. What rung through me clearly is his admonition from Sonnets to Orpheus:

"You must change your life."

And this one --

I am too alone in the world, but not alone enough to make each hour holy.
I am small in the world, but not small enough to simply be like a thing -- just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones—
or alone.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

I would describe myself like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtimes;

like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.

- From Rilke’s Book Of Hours translated by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy

So of course, the universe opened up, testing me with new opportunities, throwing my current life into bas relief, forcing me to question just how dissatisfied I am with it, and which parts I wouldn't, couldn't, shouldn't throw away.

There are things I want more of --
  • Money to save and not worry about each purchase and unexpected expenses/emergencies
  • Time to meditate, to read, to follow my interest & development
  • Focus to study and pass my AICP exam for planning, which opens the door to project management and career advancement
  • Teaching, because it rockets me to understanding and challenges me to question everything -- and write about it
  • Inspiration -- to go where my life takes me, joyfully, fully, present
  • Kids
And so, what path will lead me toward these things, and which path will make it harder, or impossible? Which lets me ride the wave, and which leaves me paddling on a calm ocean, trying to surf?

It's a blessing to be presented with this moment to make choices. That is clear to me. And even the opportunity to do nothing, change nothing, except my attitude and gratitude at what I already have, is valuable for me now.


It's such a huge opportunity to change so much that it's hard not to feel fate's hand.

I must listen and calm myself in order to hear clearly -- both what the universe whispers or shouts to me and what my own instinct says.

What's the biggest move I can handle that would make Rilke proud? Isn't it interesting that the more you allow for the possibility of fate, the more you feel the press of its hand?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rilke's Book of Hours -- Selections from Barrows & Macy Translation

God, give us each our own death,
the dying that proceeds
from each of our lives:

the way we loved,
the meanings we made,
our need.


You who know, and whose vast knowing
is born of poverty, abundance of poverty --

make it so the poor are no longer
despised and thrown away.

Look at them standing about --
like wildflowers, which have nowhere else to grow.


I thank you, deep power
that works me ever more lightly in ways I can't make out.
The day's labor grows simple now,
and like a holy face
held in my dark hands.


You too will find your strength.
We who must live in this time
cannot imagine how strong you will become --
how strange, how surprising,
yet familiar as yesterday.

We will sense you
like a fragrance from a nearby garden
and watch you move through our days
like a shaft of sunlight in a sickroom.

We will not be herded into churches,
for you are not made by the crowd,
you who meet us in our solitude.

We are cradled close in your hands --
and lavishly flung forth.