"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)


  1. March 26, 2009 ~ Diane Felicio: For weeks I have been listening to two songs over and over again while driving to and from work: "By My Side" and "Day By Day." Favorites of mine for years. I used to sing both in the folk group at church in the late 70s. The pebble has had new significance for me lately, especially as this is the Lenten season - full of sacrifice and dare.

    March 26, 2009 at 12:17pm · Like

    Kitti Carriker: Wow! Connections! Thanks for telling me!