Unearthing Essence

Since I began this blog, I’ve been paying more attention to the words I use, to their energy in the world, and to the things they convey. I’ve noticed that the subject matter I choose is often about the pain of the past. Many beautiful poetry, prose works and other artistic expressions arise from the rubble and hurt of people’s lives (think Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemmingway). I get judgmental about my writing when I continue to pull the darkness back over myself; like putting my head under the covers when it’s a beautiful day outside. Maybe that’s why, when I was a teen, my Dad woke me up by flicking the light off and on and announcing loudly, “You’re missing the best part of the day.” I didn’t like it at the time but now I see that he appreciated mornings and was grateful for the renewal that a new day brings. 

In my recent writing, I’ve tried to ease up on rehashing the past and spend more time becoming aware of the lessons that are right in front of me. I am aware that by telling stories over and over again, I am peeling off layers in a search for the essence buried under the mundane events of my life. Many days are not very interesting, exciting, or dramatic, the very things I use to create stories and poems. Perhaps that’s why I write, to relieve the tedious and repetitious nature of things. So I asked myself this morning, “What could I be writing that would be neither pained or boring but true to life?”

I could write that it was my daughter’s birthday today and that she loved all the Facebook messages she received and she is looking forward to her birthday supper with friends. I could write that her puppy, Jax, is the cutest grand dog ever, and I love that he communicates so much with his quizzical facial expressions. I could write that I finally got a good night’s sleep after a couple of long awake nights and I’m feeling more perky today. I could write that my husband makes the best oatmeal porridge, which is much better than mine probably because he uses the large flake oats and cooks it a long time.

Anyone can write about ordinary everyday stuff like this but some writers like to unearth the essence of things. They try to link today’s birthday with previous significant birthdays like turning 18 or 30 or 65 or describe the animated messages on Facebook. They try to write the thoughts a dog might have. They try to portray a peaceful night’s sleep or one with horrid nightmares and by doing so, understand themselves. They try to take the reader step by step through the precise measurements and cooking style of an oatmeal specialist. They try to write with appreciation, gratitude and renewed amazement at the darnest things.

What fascinates me is digging deeper than the surface fluff in search of treasures that exist at a spiritual level. Spiritual for me means writing in awareness of and integrating ordinary physical, emotional and intellectual experiences to find the extraordinary and connect that to All That Is. That’s one of the reasons I love metaphor. It’s a tool to connect concrete things to a spiritual abstract. I’ve been known to include a bit of twisted humour in my poems, a paradox or two, and find weird relationships between unrelated subjects. Riddles and puzzles stimulate questions about the Mystery and create synchronicity too.

Let’s consider a dog’s perspective, for example. Dogs are very intuitive, sensual creatures, present and focused on whatever they do, totally in touch with their natural instincts. A dog teaches me to stop and listen. I follow this inclination whenever I can because it feels like meditation when I pick out individual sounds and follow them until they are gone. One caveat I hold to as a general rule is… Steer clear of dog kibble and milk bones. 🙂

Here is a poem I wrote in 2001 that captures a dog’s imagined perspective on spring.

spring cycles

my dog teaches freedom
tugs at the leash
rushes headlong into the walk
she knows where she is going

i follow in her wake
believe her instinct
go where she goes
she has untamed advantage:
singular focus on scented breeze

here I stand
distracted by a plural mind
caught up in the colour of new lilacs
squeals of children at play on bicycles, water gurgling in gutters

but my dog knows better, raises her nose
obeys the call of the wild wind
with the smell of God in it

05/15/01

I believe spiritual essence lives underneath everything including the mundane. I’m always looking for it, asking questions, and listening for messages about the mystery of life.

If you like the idea of poetry as a spiritual quest, check out my poetry books on my Bookstore page.

 

 

 

 

Bouquet for a Friend

 

There is nothing better than the encouragement of a good friend.

– Katharine Butler Hathaway

 

A few days ago, my husband and I had lunch with friends. Our conversation included chitchat about food, creativity, computers, weather and all manner of commonplace things. Afterwards, we shared lattes and more chat, about websites and the “work” we undertake, our processes and expression. I was happy to hear that others search for the purpose of their creative endeavours as much as I do. This kind of conversation lightens my heart and gives me hope. In the same way, after many years of creatively writing about life, I realize that my journal is also my friend and advisor because its pages also listen, without interruption or judgment, then help me formulate alternatives for moving forward.

As we drove home that day, ominous clouds raced along the horizon and autumn leaves chased each other across the highway, and as I watched them, I reflected on the pages and pages of unfinished writing projects waiting for me on my computer. They include keynote speeches, e-courses, workshops and three large writing projects in various stages of completion. What struck me was how, with a few words of encouragement from my friend, the spark of my enthusiasm for long neglected plans was fanned by cheerful words.

As I often do when a word pops into my mind during a conversation or in my thoughts, I search for it to learn its history and etymology. The word encourage, comes from a root word used the early 15th century, the Old French encoragier “make strong, hearten,” from en- “make, put in” + corage “courage, heart.” In short, my friend had given me a shot of courage!

Another word that comes to mind when I think of these friends and our lunch date is gratitude. That’s a blog for another day but suffice it to say, this word is older still, from Medieval Latin gratitude, and even earlier, Latin gratus, meaning thankful, pleasing. This is one of the attributes of my love affair with words. I can see the way a word travels through history. Courage and gratitude are timeless virtues that not only motivate our actions, but are also a consequence of them.

I offer you this bouquet of roses, my friend. I am feeling excited and motivated to move ahead. I really appreciate your love and encouragement.