got gas?

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.
– Kenji Miyazawa, poet and story writer (1896-1933)

Personally, given this as the alternative, I’m not so much bothered by paying $3 a gallon. Yet this does remind me of a passage from Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:

Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on. Now, if you ask me, what’s going on is that we’re all up to here in it, and probably the most important thing is that we not yell at one another. … “Ah! Stuck in the shit! And it’s your fault, you did this …” Writing involves seeing people suffer and, as Robert Stone once put it, finding some meaning therein. But you can’t to that if you’re not respectful.” [Bird by Bird, page 97.]

What a fine little book Bird by Bird is. I keep it handy all the time. It’s one of those books that serves as a sort of tuning fork for my creative world, and it’s in no way to blame for my stuttering, atonal FAIL. I’ve never been able to confirm the Stone quote, but it’s cool too.

In my experience, pain isn’t a good fuel. Recovery is, maybe. But pain is like a wildfire; it makes it’s own weather. It’s self-propelling, whether physical or psychic, because the stress of being in pain makes the pain worse. And the best path from pain back into recovering life is a good nights sleep, such as only comes when the pain subsides. That’s why the driving force of human advancement is as much pain relief as enlightenment, maybe more. But neither Miyazawa or Lamott are saying that pain itself is the creative groundwork. It’s the burning of it, the finding of meaning therein that serve the artist. Am I right?

Lamott goes on to call the writer, “a person who is standing apart, like the cheese in ‘The Farmer in the Dell” standing there alone but deciding to take a few notes. You’re outside, but you can see things up close through your binoculars.” Interesting. Compassionate detachment.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still

Ash Wednesday

So the poem I posted earlier this evening, Shelter, is about compassion. It’s something to hope for, standing on a high place, because I do not hope to know.

where is sacred?

The words, “sacred spaces” have been bubbling around in my brain for several days, like a snippet of a song I can’t quite remember. I think it started while I was listening to music. Maybe it’s the title of a piece of instrumental music. Doesn’t matter. I’ve been thinking about the spaces that have served the sacred in me.

This shouldn’t be confused with sacred places, like a church. I’m thinking of something more personal, subjective, and intimate than that. Otherwise, what I’m thinking about would exclude those of us not given to the practices of priest or acolyte. Even if you are not religious, I maintain that your experience includes time abiding in spaces that are sacred to your soul.


I’m mulling it over, and a certain lost kitchen keeps appearing in my mind, with a soft light, people now with God, and hopefully there will be smells of cooking. You can mull it over too, if you want, and see what comes up for you.


a conversation

I was just sitting here, thinking about my big project, and wondering what it might be like to talk to a ghost. I don’t mean the way they do it in movies and those ghost hunting TV shows. I mean, what if you could have a normal conversation – no howling medium, ectoplasmic interference or spooky ethereal music – with someone who is dead.

I guess it depends on whether you believe in ghosts. My Dad and I were checking out his TV, which is acting up, and Ghost Hunters happened to be on. He asked me if they ever catch any ghosts. I said it depends on whether you accept their premises. He said no, it’s a yes or no question. I said baloney, it’s totally subjective; if you don’t believe that ghosts exist, it’s logically impossible to catch evidence of one. If you do … well, I guess you’ll need to ask someone who does, and who has watched the show.

I have watched the show, many times, but remain a profound skeptic. Sure, they present evidence of paranormal phenomena, and it’s fun. Makes for an hour of TV distinguishable from Law & Order and House. But even if we concede that their evidence is real and empirically sound, we’re still stuck.

Let’s say I believe in paranormal phenomena. ESP, telekinesis, etc. Which is more likely, that a camera or recorder caught an event in which the physical world was manipulated by a dead person’s spirit, or that those instruments were manipulated by the unconscious – maybe deliberate – psychic abilities of the “investigators?” I mean it seems reasonable to suppose that living people have greater paranormal powers than dead ones, at least in this world.

In my novel, my character Marty claims he and his house are haunted, but that he does not believe in ghosts. He says that he is haunted by memories, and that memories have life and reality and power beyond the limitations of his recollection. Memories abide, he says, a priori, apart from direct human experience and remembering. Thus it’s possible to be haunted by someone you never met, an event outside your own life. It is a twist on the old adage that someone doesn’t die so long as he is remembered. Marty says memory lives on, even if it is forgotten. The world remembers, love remembers, in spite of us who still live. And in that way, we don’t die.

Now, if I could just get Marty’s memories to sit down with him for a cup of joe and a chat about orchard-keeping, we’ve got ourselves a story.