the writing life
I walk a lot on empty beaches. It helps me breathe from muscly places in my belly that otherwise I can’t feel because they’re so deep. So last Monday I guess it was, walking along the roiled and wilen coast, beholding the brown and black and steel greys of Hurricane Maria’s deeps, there came this fleeting thought. You could go camping Thursday, if so and so falls into place…there’s a window you could squeeze it in and camp until work Friday at noon.
I went camping because I could and because it meant forcing myself, because it’s lofty camping on your own, the reality of it, and takes work to follow it through.
I set my tent on the bayside of one of our barrier islands that is also a national park. Basic. Satisfied. There was a natural arbor of wild grape vines behind my little dome that opened into a wooded purple stained path leading to the water. I cruised to the beach. It was a gorgeous day, windy still from the passing of Maria, a storm whose effect was surged and shuddered oceans, thankfully no impact on our lil mid-Atlantic spits of swampy forest and farm lands. It was 17 mph that day and the sea stacked her sets, breaking two and even three peaks one on top the other, crossing and cursing currents also ripped by longshore tides. I got to the beach and no one was in and barely anyone was there. Far out were two surfers catching nothing. I used my fins to swim and the lifeguard watched from a truck for 10 minutes before leaving me to my whim.
By the end of the swim I was restless. I went camping because care for my soul life and nurturing it is, at the end of the day, up to only me. It is not a pill I can take, it comes down to how I choose to feed the parts I feel but cannot see. I went back to camp, then walked out to the Bay. I wrote just to write, the other sure fire practice that personally illumines my life, helps me feel like I’m living my hours in a way that’s more filled in.
Now, it is harvest week, the last full moon of the growing season. Growth: concept of momentum, of stored energy completing its cycles of motion, of sugared sun translating from storage to fruit. The moon peaks full Thursday. From there on the cycles wheel us deeper and deeper underground.
I spent yesterday’s quiet practice reflecting on all the experiences of the year. It’s been a hard one. A flippen lot of pain, death and illnesses and other loss. It has also been rich with celebration and good relations: women’s medicine, and being close to the earth, to family joy, to art, to nurtured time with dear friends.
And in all, deep-tilling the ground from which I’ll grow my dreams.
Back at camp, over the bay the sun dropped. For a half hour or so I beheld the experience, did nothing other than witness just to see how that would go.
Walking back to my tent was twinkly twilight glee, an energy pouring into and out of me like a child. The fire I built was from kindling I hatcheted myself!! I ate fish cooked over the grate and these two experiences alone fulfilled me like nothing else I can really say…
Then the stars, how every one that appeared signaled some new part of myself that showed up and I want it to be clear, how the glee passed and how uncomfortable that was, sitting still with the funked out shit of my personal experiences this year. I sat and sat, unplugged 100% and decompressing from that, because I know unquestionably that while it isn’t always immediate: Nature heals the soul.
Eventually, many hours into the night, came peace, and the sweetness of being inwardly still, a being among beingness, with the burnt down embers of my fire and the marvel of all those specs of sparkle stars.
Nature restores my inward settings, it has yet again helped me process which is how I keep moving. Of that knowing, and the reality for me this year that writing and creative downtime are not only non-negotiables but that this has zero to do with production for commodity value, I am proud to say my Harvest this year is part of my day to day.
I emerge this Harvest week sure of the same ol medicine. The soul life is up to only me to tend for me, and its absence manifests in all ways physical and mental, of that it’s a guarantee.
That’s a lot of bounty I’d say, and so it was that Poetry came through to reflect it for me the next morning at camp over hot coffee and stunning late September blue, as Poetry expressing the Wild Nature does oh yes, oh yes it does!!
There is a deeper fact in the soul than compensation, to wit, its own nature. The soul is not a compensation, but a life. The soul is. Under all this running sea of circumstance, whose waters ebb and flow with perfect balance, lies the aboriginal abyss of real Being. Essence, or God, is not a relation or a part, but the whole.
From “Compensation”, in Essays and Poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s been a million days of this I think, and as I write such words I see the gray slant of my ceiling in the morning, the days leading up to, but especially following, Aunt Mary’s death. Grief, which sits like a bone in the air. Its smooth, cold, calcium-yearning. Always there, blocking the place in your throat where you draw oxygen. I would lay in bed morning after morning, awake but not really. Asleep, but not at all. Just clinging there, some place in-between, my eyes in a sorta dull stare.
Funny, what it means to come back to you again: oh words, oh sacred meaning-making, oh holy process–humbled understanding. It means I come back to me. I was reading an interview with Tony Morrison last night and was struck by an image of her, a working mother, up at dawn to find time to write before her kids, open-eyed, began to sigh and taunt out Mooom! What excuse have you, I thought. It’s simple, and clear as that. I felt a satisfaction that has been a long time missing. A triumph from the well of me, gold struck and electric, so body-strong I nodded my head. Yes, what excuse indeed.
I’ve been up between five and six for a solid two months of mornings. Restless. Tested by the ceiling’s gray slant, its oceanic pressing, its whale-back depths and want for air. I have told myself this is just June gloom. Diddled away on Facebook, even began running on the beach to break that terrible habit of mind-numbing waste. The skylight with the peek-show of flat clouds. The words, which would begin in strings of lit sentences that would trail off the moment I tried to set them down.
This life, said Poet-priestess diPrima, for which
…you can’t sign up as a conscientious objector
the war of the worlds hangs here, right now, in the balance/…a war for this world, to keep it/a vale of soul making
the taste in all our mouths is the taste of our power/…bitter as death
…the war…the war for the human imagination…
…to keep it/A vale of soul-making…
Yes indeed, for this is what I chose…AND MUST CHOOSE, again, again…lastly, devastatingly…AGAIN: That this soul-making, this commitment is what it would be, what it is. My very life a testament…Holy Poetry, maker of, liver of Psyche. Twelve short years ago, on a bouncy bed in a purple house, three months out of college, in the candle-lit magic I acknowledged destiny. I made a Decision. To this would I be subsumed…to this all else would fall into submission. Lead it where it would take me, take me where I’d follow–and so on and so on in the creatrix magic of such dance.
A vale of soul-making…
Thursday on the eve of New Moon I lit the charcoal, burnt the resins, a form of devotion I haven’t practiced in years. Kat brought them to me, a cherished gift. I prayed on my knees, open-hearted, kept a whole day of quiet yesterday to honor within. I tended my soul, peeked its mirror, stayed there with me to see myself when my reflection came back. This morning I woke in dreams and was awake long before I realized I’d been laying there, tending gray.
Oh reflection, here it is.
Here it is.
I am ready again–it’s been two straight months on the Bardo—to begin.