I awaken. I arise each morning. We all do. At first seeing, what is not seen — is the blank page. Upon it are wisps, remnants of elusive, felt dreams from sleeping. They haunt the unseen blank page like vivid watercolor drops that fade as they dry. Each new day, when we arise, pages have already been written… in dreaming, and other days, and then we awaken again upon a new page where we write our lives by living, breathing and being.
Blinking eyes, happily taunt-stretched limbs, the loud yawn of awakening, the guttural bellow of the flexed stomach releasing…
we may wake up with expectations and a schedule. We may be woken up by interruptions and demands. We may arise alone or crowded, or something in between… and we may want it, or not want it. We may wake up peaceful and content, afraid and worried, or neutral, or excited, or confused.
Still we wake up living and so we write upon the blank page of morning. Each blank page becomes filled with feelings, thoughts, actions, words — the seen and the unseen, and by choice and by no-choice — consciously and unconsciously.
For me, in the past year and three months, ever since a kitten was unexpectedly adopted… every morning, my blank page begins with the most persistent shower of warmth and affection — a cuddle like no other on my tip-top upper area of the chest with a complete nuzzling-in of a little face deep into my neck, where he purrs… and then sleeps, if I let him there long enough. He is soft as a marshmallow and just as sweet. He is a being who comes to me like a patiently timed magnet instantly attracted — upon my awakening. I do not write this on my page exactly, it is a repeating miracle shining upon me by a little mysterious being of love, brought here by my life partner. So, our pages can change in certain ways that are beyond us alone.
This young cat’s constancy, his persevering affection and gratitude changes my page of awakening. He softens and warms my voice and has been applying a medicine to my heart each morning that it has not known in this way and sorely needed at this time. The unseen blank page and what I write upon it is up to me… because it is me… living and breathing. No one else can actually write it. Though others may influence and affect it. A life partner doesn’t write my pages for me but he writes beside me, and I with him. We fall asleep holding hands, waking up we are next to or near each other. Yet, everyone too… because everything and everyone are connected to all that is. We are all connected. If I forget that… my page can lose its strength. And if I forget that I am writing my own life by living it and that no one else can… then my page can lose its magic. That has happened before. That was something I wrote on pages of my life at one time. And… it is not happening anymore. Today I am writing a poem, as the silence holds my breath, writing, and being in spaciousness. That, for now, is all there is in this moment upon the page.
There is one more thing to say about all of this… shining sunshine upon others may not write upon their pages exactly, because it is our own pages we write on. Yet, what it does, is it uplifts and warms, it comforts, relaxes, and inspires, and can help to welcome in all kinds of goodness and healing.
Please Note: The article below was originally written and posted on a former version of this site. This article from 2012 has been edited and re-published in honor of Dr. Mary Oliver, who died earlier today.
Before you read the following article that I wrote after meeting Mary Oliver back in 2012, I would like to say a couple of things about her now, for today. Some of her childhood consisted of neglect, sexual abuse, and loneliness. Her life as a poet was the truest self she could be in this life, and the best. When young and throughout life, she found comfort, life, and what is sacred out in nature and with animals. She was a contemplative poet, with a naturalist’s passion for nature and simplicity. Every part of that encapsulation of her has given me hope and saved, affirmed, and encouraged me—as a survivor, poet, human, and naturalist soul. I send her well wishes on her soul journeys that begin today, and so much love and gratitude for all she shared with us. Shine on, dear Mary Oliver, holy voice for this earth—and what is so precious in this life.
Nov. 13th, 2012
Did you happen to feel a big bliss vibe yesterday? It could have been from me. I got to meet my favorite poet of our time, an inspirational goddess of poetry–Mary Oliver–yesterday. Because of this, I have residual Mary Oliver bliss that I know must be radiating out into the rest of this place. *big smile* Read on to learn what it was like to: see her, listen to her read her own poetry, get writing advice from her via the Q & A, how it was to meet her, and what it all meant to me.
I went to Marquette University with some of the best poetry loving friends, in order to witness Mary Oliver receive an honorary doctorate there. Mary Oliver’s smile, in reaction to the donning of the Doctorate robe, was such a revelation to me! In general she has a serious and drawn face. And quite suddenly, it burst open like a shimmering flower of tropical sunshine. It was a jolt–an amazing joy to behold. We then listened to Dr. Oliver read her poetry to us. It was an hour, which passed like a few minutes. After, there was a Q & A, and then a line formed for book signing. My best poetry buddy, Marci, and I got to speak with her briefly together, when our turn approached for signing—more on that later.
The main and briefly summarized impression I had from the poetry reading itself was of: Mary Oliver’s affinity and compassion for nature, her dog, and for the real connections of this life that she expresses in ways that soothe, affirm, and stir my soul. This is why she is beloved–her poetry is transpersonal and deep, yet accessible. The whole experience was holy.
In person, Mary Oliver is small, and she is older now, so she has a cane and white hair. She was very much like a fairy-godmother presence, especially while delighting in choosing which poems to read to us. She seemed to me to be mostly: witty, cute, wild, rebellious, tender, open-hearted, bold, wise and magical. Also, Mary Oliver’s heart and mind seem to have beams of focused energy, clear and strong, that are able to shine out upon the world–wherever she may be sitting, standing, or speaking in the moment. There is an air of serious concentration about her. And, it is clear, she adores the natural world, and has a passion for it beyond simple observation—she is in deep relationship. It is also clear, she deeply cares about people, no matter how humble, shy, and introverted she is. She made a tremendous effort to transmit her love and appreciation to us with grace, humor and oomph.
During the Q & A, a fiery passion came forth as she responded to a question, giving advice about how to be a successful poet. I can’t quote her word for word, but it was something I can paraphrase as this:
Forget about being successful! Spend every day caring about your writing. In this economy, forget about the nice car and nice apartment. Focus on doing the best you can, writing every day!
She did answer my question, which was something like, “Does poetry flow from you in the same way it did 10-20 years ago?” She revealed, in not these exact words, that inspiration doesn’t hit as hard as it did once; that things have slowed. And yet, there was a new book in front of her and she mentioned another was on the way. She told us that she never had trouble with writer’s block. That if there was a little of it, she knew the answer was always connecting with the earth and being grateful, and it would come back, and flow. She also mentioned that, if anything, she wrote too much. I could tell that having inspiration leave her would be like an athlete suddenly becoming immobile with no hope of future mobility. It would be devastating. But I don’t really think that will happen. Her very being has become poetry, just as Whitman had described.
Her eyes are full beams of mystical presence…they struck me as powerful, yet gentle–a concentrated energy that I really haven’t ever seen in someone before. Her eyes are full, with presence–that is it—fiery, grounded, watery, elemental. Her life has been a discipline of not only presence, but deep relationship with all presence.
Speaking of those poetic goddess-like eyes, I had a chance to look right into them, across a table, at the book signing. I was feeling extremely shy and in awe, but I managed to say awkwardly, but honestly, “Thank you Dr. Oliver. I love you.” There was a significantly silent pause as she looked down at the book I had given her, before she wrote in my copy of Swan, then she said quite slowly and deliberately, “Well…I don’t know you, but…I love you too.” Then, she looked up and gave me the gift of presence, looking intently into my eyes–really looking. All I could do was smile at her with love and gratitude. It. was. awesome.
What I have always known, since I was 12 years old—was presented to me in the flesh yesterday, as pure and utter gift: A great poet speaks for and to the soul, as much as to the person. She is voice for the soul, for presence. She is also the medicine.
”For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry.” ~ Mary Oliver
Those words of Mary Oliver’s came to me as we all listened raptly to her, reading her poetry to us.
I felt, indeed, that I was hungry and cold, and maybe even a bit lost, and that she was feeding me (us) and my deeper self–like a mother bird feeds her babies. Yes, I felt that yesterday with Dr. Mary Oliver, and it was bliss.
I remember in college when I was going to art school that I kept a postcard up on my locker. It was a photograph of a golden eagle soaring in a clear blue sky. That photograph reminded me of a spiritual experience I had at the top of a mountain in the Rockies on my 13th birthday. It was a long, tiring climb, and it was my first ascent up an actual mountain. At the top was a revelation that engaged my whole being. At the top I could see across the range of mountains. At the top were trees, and ponds with tiny fishes or tadpoles, and very close above me was the silent grandeur of golden eagles soaring. Everything I saw and was a part of transformed me. It is an indelible experience and memory for me. The postcard was an image that kept that kind of energy present in my consciousness. It set the tone for every day that I earned my Studio Art degree. The meditation for today is photography, and specifically images that are meaningful to us.
When Autumn begins, the leaves fall, the air gets chilled, and I naturally begin to look forward to bedtime when I snuggle under the weight of blankets at night like a little squirrel in a nest. I delight in having reason to heat up some hot cacao to drink, and my inner bear feels the deep pull into, not hibernation, but into the inner cave of introspection, where I look back at what the summer was, in photos and dream journals mostly, and then look at what is changing outside, and what my goals are for the coming winter. As much as winter can be a challenge sometimes, there is nothing like transitioning from season to season, embracing each one as much as possible, flowing with the ancient rituals of our Earth’s rhythms and cycles.
I push aside the stresses that would demand my attention. I shut off the social media. I walk away from the phone. I resolutely choose, over and over, in each season, to walk in nature with my beautiful little dog, Samantha and with my husband and daughter. I choose to write and photograph what I see, what grabs me in the moment. And that is what they are, passing moments captured on digital photography. And it becomes not only a memory preserved, but also awakens a deeper appreciation in me of what potential, wonder, and beauty there is in every moment.
“People take pictures of each other
just to prove that they really existed…”
~ “People Take Pictures Of Each Other” by The Kinks
If that statement in the song by the great British Invasion era rock band, The Kinks, is true–there must be a fevered desired like never before to prove our existence to one another and ourselves. Yikes. Yet, I would like to think that even as we try to grasp beyond chronological time and the fleeting moments that slip on and on, just like the waves upon the shore of our ocean–that each art piece, photo, and movement for creativity is a stepping stone on a wonderful journey that is actually filled with mystery.
My inner bear of introspection is feeling very happy to share some of my favorite pics that journal moments in this past summer leading up to now. I have added some in-the-moment poetry with the images. May this be a joyful meditation and moment of recharging for you. Happy Friday!
This concludes this fun series of daily poetry that I began in honor of poetry month. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have. I love the discipline of the haiku. I have been writing poetry since I was 13 years old, but have rarely had a regular practice of parameters like the sonnet or the haiku. It is worth doing! In mid-life now, writing poetry is as joyful and mysterious a flow as ever–and even more satisfying. Poetry, at its best, is a voice of truth and of the soul. Thank you for listening to mine.
April 23 One inch closer to my goals. Meanwhile this world has lost its mind alright.
April 24 Everything shifts with weeding, letting go. Garden of what is real now.
April 25 Dreams are riddles decoded in patterns of the following day.
April 26 What do you like so much that you want to chase it? And what chases you?
April 27 Perpetual waves of ocean, sun rise daily— our love, enduring.
April 28 That weight is gone like heavy snows melted turning into bright lit Spring.
April 29 The kids frolic as we step into our deeper selves of skylark too.
April 30 I know the dragon that bites you. For she bit me too…insomnia.