"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Rocky Road


To see nothing anywhere but what you may reach it and pass it,
to conceive no time, however distant, but what you may reach it and pass it,
to look up or down no road but it stretches and waits for you,
however long but it stretches and waits for you.
~ Walt Whitman ~
"Song of the Open Road"

When my friend Catherine flew out to visit me a few years ago, she spent her time on the plane reading Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts On Faith. She loved the passage about the Virgin Mary's frustration with her teen-age son: "What on earth did Mary do when Jesus was thirteen? Here's what I think: She occasionally started gathering rocks." Lamott imagines Jesus driving his parents crazy and sassing back: "'You're not the boss of me. I don't even have to listen to you.' And what is Mary doing this whole time? Mary's got a rock in her hand" (98 - 99). And so does Lamott, though of course she never throws it. The tactile sensation of its polished solidity calms her heart, absorbs all the anger. She and her son resolve their conflict. Rock gathering as natural therapy.

When I picked Catherine up, she insisted that before going home we stop by my favorite bookstore, VON'S, where you can get, in addition to books, every kind of way cool bauble, bangle, bead, magnet, or lucky rock imaginable. She bought not only a brand new copy of Plan B for me to keep, but also a handful of the most beautiful rocks ever! I love them all, but my favorite has to be the rose quartz, a soothing stone believed by some to convey unconditional love and tolerance. I keep it along with my rose quartz necklace and earrings (gifts from another friend) in a pink seashell dish, right beside my bed, along with my Little Book of Peace of Mind, which may sound trite but is not.

Quite the opposite, this little book by Susan Jeffers is full of accessible mantras that help me think better: "When entering a room . . . focus on what you are going to give rather [than] what you are going to get in the way of approval"; "Visualize those who [are] nourished by your gift"; "In everything we do, we have been handed the Kingdom. May we always remember this"; "By definition, if we say THANK YOU often enough, any trace of poverty consciousness disappears; we begin feeling incredibly abundant!" That sort of thing.

In the introduction Jeffers writes, "I'm amazed at how obvious are the causes of our upsets in life, big or small." She recounts an ancient saying: "'The road is smooth. Why do you throw rocks before you?' We all throw rocks before us, sometimes making our Journey very difficult. So let's begin clearing the debris to make way for a more joyful, abundant . . . and peaceful . . . life! (ellipses, Jeffers). Later, she says, "Feel the relief this freedom brings. Feel yourself lighten as you let go of all the unnecessary burdens you have created for yourself" (Jeffers, xii, 30; see also 67 - 77). When I read these words about throwing rocks and letting go, the strains of an old favorite song -- "By My Side," from the Godspell soundtrack --echoed through my head, a song whose verses have intrigued me for years with their concept of making a CHOICE on a DARE, to put a pebble in your shoe; then to take it out again and give it back to the Universe -- "Meet your new road!"

Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Will you take me with you? . . .

Oh please, take me with you
Let me skip the road with you

I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I'll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk, watch me walk

I can walk and walk

I can walk!

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will walk, we will talk together
We will talk
About walking
Dare shall be carried

And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing:

"Meet your new road!"

~ lyrics by Jay Hamburger

Ah ha! Now, I think I know what the Wise Fool answers when the Wise Old Sage asks, "Why do you throw rocks before you?"

I do it to dare myself!

seeker of truth

follow no path
all paths lead where

truth is here

~ E. E. Cummings

And in closing:

Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. . . . Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My question has meaning now. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

Carlos Castaneda

from The Teachings of Don Juan
("Chapter 5": Monday, January 28, 1963)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lucky Rock

Vernal Haiku:

Equinox wonder
and worry; the Wabash has
overflowed its banks.


My dad worked at Rocketdyne from 1962 - 1967, writing systems & procedures manuals in the Quality Control department. Neosho is a small town in southwest Missouri, where I went to school K - 4th. This picture was taken when we went back to visit in 2002.


For me, nothing tops those moments when Life offers its own theme to a strand of apparently accidental events, and everything hangs together for a moment in such an uncanny way that you'd swear it was all planned out somehow!

I can easily spend an entire day sidetracked from my initial focus by a trail of coincidences that I just have to follow. For example, not long ago, I went to facebook where my friend Jan mentioned her extra short story about a tell tale heart. So off I headed (www.jandonley.com) to hear the heart beat (very Wordsworthian!). Then back to facebook to ask some of Jan's friends to be my friend (mission accomplished). Then back to Jan's website to read "Trash Talk" (very reminiscent of my years in Philadelphia); and THAT is when I noticed Jan's link to my blog and for just a moment felt overwhelmed by her great faith in this enterprise.

Next, I had to check out Jan's play, "It's Just the Wind" (very Godot but funnier!) and make a mental note to ask if she had noticed that in Linda Pastan's poem, the father says "don't be afraid / it's just the wind." Then I had to feel guilty that I've loved this little poem for so long yet never taken the time to look up Pastan's reference to Goethe's "Der Erlkoenig" (which I then did, but that's another story):

from "The Months"
by Linda Pastan

When the Earl King came
to steal away the child
in Goethe's poem, the father said
don't be afraid,
it's just the wind...
As if it weren't the wind
that blows away the tender
fragments of this world—
leftover leaves in the corners
of the garden, a Lenten Rose
that thought it safe
to bloom so early.

And to top it all off, as I came downstairs this morning, planning in my head a letter for Jan, what were the first words I heard? My son Sam saying: "It's my lucky rock; Mom gave it to me." Turns out, Gerry was asking about the shiny rock that he had just seen Sam pick up from his desk and drop into his pocket. I was touched by Sam's belief in lucky rocks and by his sentiment of hanging on to a talisman from his crazy old mom. It was, however, no more than a fleeting morning moment -- yes, sweeter than most but still fleet -- until it suddenly took on a life of it's own. Why? How? Because, taking another moment to peruse Jan's website, my eyes fell on the title, "Pocket." How had I missed this entry, pocketed as it was, right there in between "Heart" & "Fable," which I had read several days ago? Well, can you imagine my astonishment when just a few lines into the story, I read her words, "Not even a lucky rock"? A lucky rock?

Sometimes, life is so full of coincidences that I think my head will split open trying to take them all in! It's enough to make me believe in the whole Universe at once! Here I was, sitting alone, reading a story about the very object my loved ones had been discussing a mere thirty minutes earlier. And not just any object, but a lucky, magic object, "something to keep forever." And now I know why I overlooked "Pocket," the other day -- the goddess was saving it up for me, a lucky story to read on a lucky Friday! Because we all need stories -- "clear, round, and easy to carry" -- in our hearts.