Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I have been thinking about the questions my commentator asked. And as it has been almost a month, I was sort of checking my progress again. On day one, I quoted what Ravi said at the retreat:

Practice itself cleanses our motivation.

I know where I am going by going.

Another comment on a later post, my same friend said

I encountered a great concept in learning to program. Basically it says there are only two things to be thinking about/working on at a given moment: the next biggest thing and the next smallest thing.

And now I am wondering if during writing practice/yoga practice that thinking about the next biggest thing and the next smallest thing take you out of observation/being of the now? In the writing practice/yoga practice the now IS what you are working on, no?

And then, I don't exactly couch my musings and practice as "problems."

Monday, November 29, 2010


First of all, I understand the link from Friday's post didn't work. It must be seen. Here it is:

It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch (or even listen to) it. It might have to be included on the "sure to cheer me up" list of listening. (Largely Aretha Franklin at this moment.)

Does that joyful singing take you out of the moment or more solidly in it?

At any rate, back to my current musings about the writing and the yoga ... intention, attention, retention?

My first purpose was to examine and  practice the disciplines. (Intention)

Second, practice everyday or often enough so that it is as common and natural as cat-petting and pizza-making, something I do with verve, joy, wisdom, and focus. (Attention.)

Third, that the experience, knowledge, and grace I gain from practice infuses and guides other aspects of my life. (Retention.)

Writing is becoming more of a conscious and unconscious part of my brain. Still not doing the physical part of yoga. But I think I am working on the spiritual part.

And so to bed (after a little more Aretha).

Sunday, November 28, 2010


So here is a comment on yesterday's post, so that you don't have to go look it up.

What is it you are seeking? Is this practice for something with a longer development cycle? Or is posting daily the only goal? Either way you are doing fine, but isn't there something more you want out of writing than this? Is it a forest for the trees kind of thing?

From what I understood this blog was practice, a way to get into the routine of daily writing. It is doing scales, training your hands and mind to be prepared for taking on more involved work. 

Writing and publishing everyday, with no plot, no story curve, how could that not be diffuse? Is it becoming an empty task? Think beyond the blog, write outside of the blog. Dig deeper into the hows and whys and wherefores of writing if nothing else, though I am sure there are other things to write about. You have it started, the seed has germinated, now grow it into something bigger and more complex.

Maybe it is too much information, or exposing a deep weakness, but writing every day, sitting down and thinking of something to say that is at least valuable to me as a moment of progress and attention, is challenging.

I don't see it as an empty task at all. Showing up is step one. 

Reading a little further in Ravindra's Wisdom of Patanjali's Sutras, I find this:

"Whenever searchers engage in impartial self-observation, they recognize that it is difficult to have the kind of steady attention which is needed for any sustained study. The cultivation of a non-fluctuating attention requires a discipline, a sadhana (practice). The sadhaka, the one who undertakes sadhana, needs to have the attitude of a disciple—a willingness to search, to listen, to change. There is a mutuality of relationship between a discipline and a disciple: there can be disciple without a discipline, and no discipline can endure without some disciples. 

Steady attention, sustained study. That's where I am starting. And, so far, that may be as far as I've gotten. I am thinking about writing everyday. And I am making a point of writing every day. 

Who knows when the next step will come?

I may have more to say on this comment tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


It would certainly be easy to fall off of the "writing wagon" about now. (The "yoga wagon" has a broken axle ;-)) This is not to say that I don't think about it, but even trying to write every day takes lots of intention for me. And for the past twenty days or so, I have managed to let my fingers do some talkin' every day.

I did have a really nice holiday weekend. I didn't see any of my "blood" family, but I certainly saw lots of my soul's family and was in touch with a few more. As previously reported in these pages, the cooking I did was both satisfying and delicious. Tim and I are going to have to write up our maple/bourbon brined and glazed turkey with bacon. My instincts were with me on the cooking improv this weekend. And it feels good to be accomplished. Not to mention it is so much fun to delight folks with food.

But my overall purpose, the writing and the yoga feel ... diffused? That works. Well, perhaps the intellectual/spiritual culs-de-sac are just part of the process.

On the other hand, I am listening to ... Aretha Franklin, Who's Zoomin' Who? Worth a thought about whether I am "zoomin" myself in thinking I am making any progress. Hard to keep your focus and intentions pure. Easy enough to lie to oneself.

As my old friend F. Michael Baker said about a million years ago, "As we get older, it gets easier to believe the little lies we tell ourselves." I think we were in our twenties at that point. Little did we know.

I am still questioning myself, although I am surrounded by dimmer lights, good music, and some nice Torrontes instead of bright lights and hard chairs.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I am showing up here tonight, very tired. That's one of the prices to be paid for over-focus and non-modulation. I really did spend the last two days mostly cooking. And it was splendid. A success and a joy. But I have scarcely been able to function today. I tried sleeping, but the most I could do was doze.

And now I really should get some sleep.

But this morning, friends (Kim, Michael, Richard) had posted this.
I listened to it about three times.

I really don't get Christianity. I am not even sure if I condone it. But when I hear this music, and see the power of passion and joy, I wonder if there isn't something there.

Fully as vibrant as Aretha Franklin singing gospel. And absolutely from the same place.


but only by a few minutes. And believe me, I was in the "attention to the path" mode.

I was out of the house, fully functional by 10:15. Tim LaGasse and I made some to-die-for turkeys. I  spent most of the day in the kitchen with only about 45 minutes or so watching Nurse Jackie. Mostly I was standing up cooking.

No complaints. Just that lovely ability to focus on one task and not want to be anywhere else.

And then there was just the simple pleasure of working with others, Tim and Melissa, to make a killer, stand-out dinner. Which we did.

Sigh. A really lovely time. And someone brought Lagavulin. Heaven. We had a great time. And tons of food, as always.

And I'm still working on the thankful mode. For now, I will say that I am thankful for a beautiful day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Non-sectarian, really. All about food, friends, family (the three "fs") and for some, football. With my foodie friends, it is an occasion to stretch our "cooking legs" and see if we can make folks squirm in their seats and moan. So I guess fun is another "f."

This is the first time in her 83.8 years my dear mother, Janet,  is without a single family member to share the holiday. I was just in California and will be there again in 2.5 weeks. My older brothers, Michael and David, are with their wives and families. And, my younger brother Carl checked out in May of 2009. She is having dinner with a dear family friend, Peter S., so technically she is not without family.

Carl's birthday was 11/22. After a year and some change, there are still frequent occasions when I want to stand in the middle of the street and scream that it cannot be so, that he cannot be dead.

I manage to maintain on the outside. The inside beats the cage to no avail.

I miss Carl all the time. He did love his family, although we older ones did not convene so very often. We always laughed and talked about music. Music is the bond that is the most missed for me, and, I believe, for my brother David.

I write this list somewhat late at night after some cooking and wine imbibing. Darlings, please forgive omissions.

But this year, I can be thankful for some things. I reconnected with my another friend, Kimberly. We listened to Joni Mitchell, and Fleetwood Mac, and who knows what else through high school. Kim can answer all my questions about the difference between the Statocaster tone and the Telecaster tone. She can listen to Aretha Franklin and Richard Thompson repeatedly with all of my enthusiasm. And for this I am thankful. (Now Be Thankful, lyrics)

I am thankful to meet Kim's partner, Ginny, who has a unique grace and brings a quiet attention to my life.

Kim introduced me to Larry and Liz of Schroon Lake, New York. Fast friends at first sight. As well, Kim and Ginny's next-door-neighbor; Brenna M. is a sistah of the wine and literature kind.

I reconnected with several of my childhood friends, Darlene, Theresa, and Kathy.

I am thankful for the excellent work I did with Elizabeth Swados, Roz Lichter, and Preston Martin.

I am thankful for the collaboration of Louise Gikow, Robert Wurzburg, Nanette Kuehn, Iris Sroka, and especially my soulbrother, Jason Rosen.

I am thankful for the close and supportive relationships I have with Betts Brown, Reeves Blakeslee, and the guy who always has my back, John Volny.

I am thankful to meet my dear friend Pamela Earlene Manley LeGault's son, Michael and his beloved Michelle. I am thankful that Pammie has the energy to continue to fight her physical problems and pain and stay with us.

I am thankful for the time off I have had, which has allowed me time to read read read. And I am thankful for all the great great books I have read.

I am thankful for the friends who have surrounded Janet with love and support: Teri, Debee, Fico, Peter, as well as her friends as church. And Ariel and Max, her cats.
And her lovely next-door neighbor, Scott. And Pammie.

I am thankful for my supporters/mental health workers: S, K, and P.

I am thankful for my in-house mental house workers, Cooder, Miep,

and Maria (who left us this year).

I've had a wonderful time with my old friend Martha and all of her family, Jay (hubby ... and he would kill me for using that term), and the kids Brett, Anna, Emily, and Brett's gf Allison.

Laura, Chris, Carol, Karen, Matt, Kit, Eleanor, Michael W., F. M.B., Antonio, all the great folks I know from AOTM Splitters, Beth, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Erika T., Charlie Haas (novelist par excellence), Stuart, Lili, Janine, Wendy, Charlie S., Ken O...

And Bill G., and Susan U. and Leslie McGuirk.

For Eric and Kira Ryder and their kindest invitation to the Ojai Yoga Crib.

I could go on.

With my gratitude and thankfulness for all of you who cheered me on, held my hand, and kept me here.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010


"The conditions right now are the conditions we need for work..."

Yes, it is late again. However, I am not quite as sleepy and I did a little more research and thinking today.

"...It is not a matter a waiting until conditions are better, when the situation is calmer or when we have more time, or more information. Now, in the the midst of our daily life, engaged in our professions and households, we can and should undertake the practice of yoga. If not now when?..."

Hmm, heard that before, have you?

"...The word 'yoga' is derived from the root 'yuj' meaning 'to unite.' This word is a cognate of the English word "yoke." It speaks of an integration of all aspects within a human being as well as of the connection with subtler levels of reality. Any spiritual path towards this integration may be called a yoga. Thus, yoga is both the goal and the way to the goal."
Ravi Ravindra, The Wisdom of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras

I haven't made it very far through the book, but I am keeping on the path, the writing part of it, at least.

There are days when it is great. I'm in the writing groove, or the thinking about writing groove and almost everything feeds that. Other days, I just don't feel it. But these days, I am sitting down for a bit with whatever I have or haven't.

"Violinists practicing scales and dancers repeating the same movements over decades are not simply warming up or mechanically training their muscles. They are learning how to attend unswervingly, moment by moment, to themselves and to their art; learning to come into steady presence, free from the distractions of interest or boredom."
Jane Hirschfield, Poetry and the Mind of Concentration, from Nine Gates

... attend unswervingly... how difficult that seems.

Monday, November 22, 2010


In which we postponed writing and thinking until we were very sleepy and really wanted to go to bed.

I did spend minutes earlier today looking at some (possibly) inspirational material. Then again, I spent a couple of hour watching the last season of King of the Hill on Netflix. What happened to Connie/Kahn, Jr?

I must cry "uncle." Although today wasn't a waste or total straying from the path, I did not give sufficient time and energy to today's post. (Big yawns here.)

I started to do this first thing in the morning, before I was swallowed up by the day. Perhaps this will be a lesson?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


"Words bother me. I think it is why I am a poet. I keep trying to force myself to speak of the things that remain mute inside. My poems only come when I have almost lost the ability to utter a word. To speak, in a way, of the unspeakable. To make an object out of the chaos ... To say what ? a final cry into the void?"

Anne Sexton, Letter to Brother Dennis Farrell, August 2, 1963, from Anne Sexton, A Self-Portrait in Letters, Edited by Linda Gray Sexton and Lois Ames.

The book is highly recommended.

Anne was confused and depressed, but she certainly channelled that into some writing of beauty. I wonder if the near loss of speech was a kind of concentration, a burrowing down into herself until she struck such a chord in herself that music poured fourth. I don't particularly think that art requires suffering, it just seems to. (Although I can't see a lot of superficial evidence that Picasso was tortured. One wonders how such a first-class narcissist could have come up with Guernica.)

I could so wander in various musing directions, but I am trying to make an "object" out of "chaos" ... the object being a neater, less distracting apartment. Everywhere I look I see something else I have to "do" which certainly diverts me from the writing and the yoga.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Determined to write while still in possession of a slightly clearer mind, she sits down to her task before any alcohol or sleeping medication has been consumed. (And thanks for reminding me, I didn't take my anti-depressants, either.) Be right back.

All sane now.

Having not made any progress in the organization of my oasis/disaster, I thought I would return to the scene of last night's crime.

When my best self is operating this meat suit, I do write in my journal (no "journal" is not a verb no matter what Ronald Reagan says) and take notes from books and magazines. And as the years go by and I stumble across these gems, I am always glad I did. Maribeth Fischer's book, The Language of Goodbye has been marked with book darts for several years, waiting for me to transcribe those passages.

"It's almost frightening ... But you see what you want to. Isn't that always the case? Isn't that what allowed people to have affairs and fight wars and get married to begin with? You close your eyes to the stuff you can't handle and you keep going and you keep believing that somehow it will all work out. You pray or you take alternative vitamins or you collect lucky coins or make wishes on birthday candles and falling stars."

"Within" will? (I still haven't figured out "without" will.) On a side note, in French "within" is dans, without is sans as in going without, which is not what I mean really, but interesting nonetheless. I suppose dehors would be closer. Those of you who are fluent, please illuminate me.

All of that little paragraph seems to describe "within/dans" will, but without much consciousness or determination (which is another way of saying "will", no?) ... That sounds like walking the path with closed eyes, which is only recommended (by me at least) when you ARE frightened and that is the only way you can make yourself move forward. You know, like Don Juan telling us to just jump. Or Nike telling us to just do it.

At the Ojai Retreat (see, I am still tying this together), Eric Schiffman said:

"The only force that can overcome fear is wonder."

And Schiffman, and Ravindra, and Hirschfield have all advised me/us about paying attention to things, which is not generally easily accomplished either with closed eyes or with fearfulness.

Now, where is the path? Where is the yoga? (I have the writing going on!)
Miep looks as if she is paying attention.

Friday, November 19, 2010


Just picking up a book, floating around the oasis/disaster that is my desk.

"How do you reach your destination if you do not begin on the right path?"
Maribeth Fischer, The Language of Goodbye

Now that is a hell of a question.

Not sure that there is a wrong path, other than anything that leads you to hurt other beings, or be out of integrity with yourself.

I had no intention of throwing myself still another curve of questions.

I worked a lot today. And, again, I thought about this post, this responsibility, this practice. And again, I waited until I could not give it the best of my attention and intention.

Which is interesting in and of itself, no?

Everything else is more important that than which is crucial to me, my being?

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I should just start out by saying that, once again, I left this until the end of the day. Now, I am a Stella Artois and half a glass of Montepulciano toward sleeping and feeling not so much like writing.

This is not to say that I did not muse and ponder upon today's post, as well as what I wrote yesterday in particular. I continue to struggle with the concept of will, within and without.

Sometimes, I don't think I have much of a strong will. On the other hand, I might just be romanticizing the concept (as I do so many other things).

I do have the will to change some painful, not-really-working-or-serving-me things in my life. That feels like a "within" will directive.

As I am wont to do, I perused some of the books piled around my desk. I have a fondness for books of aphorisms and quotations. One of them is Influencing Minds: A Reader in Quotations by Leonard Roy Frank. No idea where or when I picked it up.

Does this relate to will, within and without?

"One ought ... to be part of the world and also outside it. One has to be both involved and detached at the same time."
The Kotzker (1787-1859), quoted in Abraham J. Heschel, A Passion for Truth.

A detachment for achieving the goals my will and I have set?

Or is this the mad ravings of a sleepy-time gal?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Thinking on yesterday's post, and Hirschfield quote, I am musing and trying to understand "will."

Here it is again: 
"Attentiveness, and even craft, are not the same as will. Knowing and not knowing are equal parents to a poem [practicing yoga]; to learn from what lies outside the self requires stepping beyond what lies within."

What is the "within you/without you" of will?

Try to realize it's all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you...

— George Harrison on lyrics there.

Ravindra would say that we are not small, that we need to step out of our smallness. But that is for
 another moment of contemplation.

Will: The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action

Okay, so choosing to do something purposefully. That sounds like the within of practice. What lies outside the self here? Stepping into what? Or is that the not knowing?

Diligent purposefulness; determination

Again, the within is clear, the without, not so much.
A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority

That "authority" would be me, or whichever practitioner ... 

Deliberate intention or wish

The doing of it. Okay, I get all the within of it. But the without of it eludes me entirely. Maybe I'm tired. Would love to know what others might think.

Here's what Cicero said about motive that might relate:

"Of all motives, none is better adapted to secure influence and hold it fast than love; nothing is more foreign to that end than fear."

— De officiis, 2.7, trans. Walter Miller, 1913.

Again, I get the "within" which might include self-love and esteem and that could keep one on the path, but what is the "without"?


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The soundtrack remains the same, Aretha singing I Say A Little Prayer, which is nearly a call to communion for me. I have the sense that Aretha and this song will continue to percolate through this writing.

Still perusing Hirschfield's Nine Gates, this time dipping into the chapter titled Poetry and the Mind of Indirection. Um. Yes, that would be me. I do dearly love to trip around the internet and other places of information just following a wandering path of inquiry.

"Attentiveness, and even craft, are not the same as will. Knowing and not knowing are equal parents to a poem [practicing yoga]; to learn from what lies outside the self requires stepping beyond what lies within."

I'm not yet sure about writing (my poetry is nowhere near this level of subtlety), but I do know that my yoga practice is always better, more emotionally and spiritually rewarding when I am listening to my body, and the energy of my fellow-students, and the instructions of the teacher ... and not stuck in my projection, even nano-seconds in the future, about how it will feel, how much I will be able to do, etc.

In a daily practice or discipline, it is knowing enough to be able to engage in the practice, and not knowing enough to really show up, be fresh, and get what else might be there for you. Stepping beyond your current body of knowledge and expectation.

Monday, November 15, 2010


When we last left our heroine, she was floating down the frozen river on an ice floe, headed straight for the not-so-frozen falls. (Way Down East, not Perils of Pauline.)

Oh wait. That was just me having to drive down the Taconic from Albany today. And it was a lot easier than driving up on Friday night. What a little sunlight will do for you.

Being from California, and a Western girl in my head and heart, I can never get over the wonders of the East. The Berkshires! The Adirondacks! The Hudson River. Trees. Water everywhere! Trees that have leaves that really change color. Farms with cows! Deer hunting! Real colonial houses. Markers for the War for Independence. Honestly, I am still fascinated by almost every country road and apple orchard I see.

So, I did take a longer route, opting not to take the NY State Thruway. This time I managed to navigate over to Route 9 at Renssalear and head down to Hudson. And as I drove I saw lots and lots of cool buildings and monuments. I mean, who wouldn't want to tour Kinderhook and visit Martin Van Buren's home if you happened to be in the neighborhood.

And, even though I had no appointments or actual deadlines, I felt I couldn't stop. I had to keep going.

And I keep thinking "Some other time."

Some other time? "Some other time" I will probably be working and not be able to natter about the countryside contemplating blogging and listening to Aretha Franklin with the fullest measure of my finest OCD attention.

And that brought me to "If not now, when" and how much time we all spend in our bodies being somewhere else, with other people, worried about other things. And there isn't much attention or thought or consideration being paid to NOW.

Just like yoga, before you settle in, and are still thinking about what you have to do after class, why can't you actually get your palms on the floor, why are you such a wreck, how much money IS in my checking acount, etc. Instead of yummmm, that hamstring stretch is delicious. And ohmygod, getting the pressure off my lower back is heaven. And my neck is looser than it has been for weeks. And, I AM SO GLAD I AM HERE.

Um... what was it that Baba Rum Raisin said to us in the 1970s, Be Here Now. Because if not now, when?

(I did not stop to visit Martin van Buren's house, but I did stop at two of my favorite thrift stores outside of Hudson, and at the very excellent JoJo's Pizza, just before you get on the Taconic.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


It can be great to get out of my house, my routine, and just see what happens next.

What happened next today was that my dear old pal, Kim, and I listened to music. What a wonderful pleasure it is to just meander through music. Kim and I have been listening to music for decades, since we were teenagers playing to death Joni Mitchell and early Fleetwood Mac (Oh Well).

Today, we were more in the mode of Richard Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Ani DeFranco, and a bunch of other stuff. Ginny joined in to the listening. Really, quite a bit of joy to listen to music with friends. And we all did a bit of dancing. Something I think we don't do much as adults. And how sad that is.

I spend a lot of time alone, which is fine with me. It is always an interesting challenge when I go visit folks to BE with people for extended periods of time. I do forget myself to some degree. I forget some of what I need and what I am doing in the excitement and "high" of hanging out with friends. Hard to know if I am falling off of my path, or just taking a different route for awhile.

Still in Albany.
Coming down from the pizza high (I made about seven or eight pizzas between last night and this afternoon).
Too tired to drive.

But friends, pizza, Richard Thompson, and plenty of Aretha Franklin. Some of the best of what my life contains.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I can at least speak to, momentarily, the yoga of pizza. Yoga, pizza, wine, brilliant women, and Aretha Franklin. Babe, what'd I say?

Here in Albany, New York at the home of my childhood friend, Kim. I experienced the union, the oneness, the ultimate unity of pizza making. And eating it. Interrupted only by the moments of dancing to Aretha Franklin.

I will say that when I am making pizza, I am whole. There is no thought save for the pizza at hand. Not wanting to be anywhere else. Not thinking about doing any thing else. No desire. No guru, no method, no teacher. Just you and I in the garden of pizza making.

Wish you could have all been here.

Then again, I would still be cooking instead of going to bed.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I'll spare us all more Aretha Franklin indoctrination (for now ... bwaaaaaaahhhh-ha-ha). However, I might be on to something about how many of her songs ARE about transcendence and transformation (cf. You Make Me Feel Like Natural Woman.)

It has already been a frustrating morning for me. Albeit with a share of pleasure. Forgot to move my car, so I have yet another parking ticket. Not ready to get meself to Albany yet. House in a state of more-than-usual disarray.

Am I lacking some attentiveness here?

The real question might be, can I accept that I messed MYSELF up, make the best of it, and move on, or will I make myself wear the crown of thorny dark clouds of self-disapproval?

Well, I leave for today contemplating this from Ravindra's book:

"A clear and tranquil mind results from contemplating friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion towards those who suffer, joy towards the virtuous, and impartiality towards wrong-doers."

Sutra 1:33

I suppose that should include me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Something has to be done about my addiction to the black hole/rabbit hole that is the computer/internet. Once I turn it on, who knows what will follow.

I've started, by way of diversion, to stop at the stereo on my stumble toward coffee. This rather helps tear me away from the tyranny of the screen (oh, go ahead and blame the inanimate). Yesterday, it began and ended with Peter Gabriel's Secret World Live (mostly disc 2 and n.b. that most of the reviews I have seen GREATLY underrate the musicianship).

Today, it was Aretha Franklin.

Where are all of you? Do you know realize the magnitude of this talent? Come over. I'll school you. There's a moment, actually 2:30 in her recording of I Say A Little Prayer (this isn't that version. I understand that someone else had a hit with this song, but once you hear Aretha's version, you'll know who owns it) that is an/the essence of transcendence.

Let's talk transcendence.


 adj \-dənt\

Definition of TRANSCENDENT

a : exceeding usual limits : surpassingb : extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experiencec in Kantian philosophy : being beyond the limits of all possible experience and knowledge
: being beyond comprehension
: transcending the universe or material existence — compare immanent 2

I'm with Kant here. Aretha's voice, her joy, her command of her voice, her piano, that band all combine to take my being away from the mundane experience of my life.  And shit, it feels so good. Nirvana. (A place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivionto pain, worry, and the external world.) When Aretha sings that note, that's where I am.

I am at Home with her. (I wonder if Aretha practices yoga.)

More on this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I am Home—home to Myself—that region from which one must begin if one is to find any sort of real Life at all.
Barbara Dana, A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson

How is this different from the opening of Hamlet's soliloquy?
To be or not to be?

And what is it that you, one, whoever is being?

And why does contemplation of this make my heart pound and make tears spring to my eyes.

Do you know this one, In the Garden,  from Van Morrison? (Don't watch the graphics, such as they are. Just listen.)

The fields are always wet with rain
After a summer shower 
When I saw you standin' 
Standin' in the garden 
In the garden

Wet with rain

You wiped the teardrops from your eye in sorrow
And we watched the petals fall down to the ground
And as I sat beside you I felt the
Great sadness that day

In the garden

And then one day you came back home
You were a creature all in rapture
You had the key to your soul
And you did open
That day you came back

To the garden

Reading those words, "you had the key to your soul/and you did open" makes me weep. Every time.

Well, I guess Van is as good as detour as any. Greil Marcus published an uneven (in my humble opinion) book about listening to Van this year, When That Rough God Goes Riding: Listening to Van Morrison. I disagree (respectfully) with much of Mr. Marcus' assessment of Morrison's oeuvre from 1980-1996 (c'mon Griel, don't review the process of becoming, man). But I do love and agree with other aspects, which, of course, related to yoga, writing ... (get ready for a long quote here)

    "Van Morrison's music as I hear it holds a story—a story made of fragments. There is in his music a kind of quest: for the moment when the magic word, riff, note, or chord is found and everything is transformed. At any time a listener might think he or she has felt it, every glimpsed it, a realm beyond ordinary expression, reaching out as if to close your hand around such a  moment, to grab for its air, then opening your fist to find a butterfly in it—but Morrison's sense of what that magic moment is must be more contigent. For him this quest is about the deepening of a style, the continuing task of constructing musical situations in which is voice can rise to its own form.
    'When I was very young,' the late Ralph J. Gleason wrote in a 1970 review of Morrison's album Moondance, 'I saw a film version of the life of John McCormack, the Irish tenor, playing himself. In it he explained to his accompanist that the element necessary to mark the important voice off from the other good ones was very specific. "You have to have," he said, "the yarragh in your voice"—and to get the yarragh, for Morrison, you may need a sense of the song as a thing in itself, with its own brain, heart, lungs, tongue, and ears. Its own desires, fears, will, and even ideas: 'The question might really be,' as he once said, 'is the song singing you?' His music can be heard as an attempt to surrender to the yarragh, or to make it surrender to him; to find the music it wants; to bury it; to dig it out of the ground. The yarragh is his version of art that has touched him: of blues and jazz, for that matter of Yeats and Lead Belly, the voice that strikes a note so exalted you can't believe a mere human being is responsible for it, a note so unfinished and unsatisfied you can understand why the eternal seems to be riding on its back."

Germane for me: ... the magic word, riff, note, or chord is found and everything is transformed. At any time a listener might think he or she has felt it, every glimpsed it, a realm beyond ordinary expression ...

A realm beyond ordinary expression ... or experience. Why that sounds like transcendence! Transcending the you that is uncomfortable and maybe outside of yourself. And the you that doesn't quite know where you are or what to do. And then you feel that deeper parter of yourself.

For me it is the part that responds, unbidden and without thought, when I feel/hear/see/type those words "you were a creature all in rapture/and you had the key to your soul/and you did open." Yes I am crying now. As Van said elsewhere, "straight like a cannonball to your heart."

Transcendence into unification. Feeling like you are one with yourself. At Home. Something is True. Something is Real. You can feel it. You are It.

For him this quest is about the deepening of a style, the continuing task of constructing musical situations in which is voice can rise to its own form.

Right. Perfecting his practice. "The progressive freedom to be attained in pursing the yarragh (yoga) is an increasing freedom not for myself but from myself." Am I stretching too far here? Van's music, his successes and mistakes make me think not. 

In my first post of this blog, I quoted Ravindra "...the central question of our life: How can we become a suitable instrument for the Truth to be expressed?"

Here's a bit from an interview with Greil Marcus.

“I think the difference is that Morrison has a different kind of musical gift from Dylan,” he says. Morrison “has this rich expansive voice”, he says. “Elvis Costello was talking about Van Morrison recently, and he said that he couldn’t sing like Van Morrison even if you put him up against a wall and threatened to shoot him. It’s not physically possible. And that is true. Dylan works with far more limited natural musical abilities, and maybe because of those limits he has to create in a much different manner.
“Whereas Morrison can take this table and sing about this table, and the table suddenly begins to change shape and begins to smile. It can give you a dirty look; it can fly up to the ceiling. And so it is very different. Morrison’s transformation of all this stuff around himself is different because, at its deepest level, you can barely be aware of it and you can’t trace anything back to its source."
Van's working it. He is changing the world with his regard, his attentiveness. 
He helps me get Home. (I think our addresses are similar.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010


There was a crash this evening on the other side of the apartment. Not the damn squirrel foraging around again. A high-up shelf of POETRY Magazines had crashed to the floor. As I was picking them up to replace tomorrow in the daylight, I thought perhaps this might be a random signal to look through issues that had been long closed. I opened to this one, and it seemed to speak, here and there, to some of the other musings going on with the writing. So here it goes. Thanks, John Canaday. Let me know if I am infringing on your copyright.


would never pause to worry as I do
about mixed metaphors. He contradicts
himself on principle. "Words are a curse.
They tempt wise men to think their thinking's thoughts.
Even a rock knows better." Then, to prove
his point, perhaps, or punctuate his lapse
from silence, he kicks a good-sized stone.
It doesn't budge. His expletives resound
like Dr. Johnson's "Thus!" The shiekh loves stuff
and nonsense. Nothing less. He'd grunt and hope
about like this without a second thought,
but generally it never comes to that.
His motto might be, "No ideas, just things."
among which he would count these words the way
Ben Sikran holds a gold piece on his tongue.
So much for hospitality, one thinks:
his tent no doubt is threadbare and his tea
is thin. He'd dress in rags, like Lear's Poor Tom,
except like us, he's no one else's fool.
Indeed, his poverty is ours, or ought to be, of mind
and body both. Yes, we should have such luck.
To chatter like rocks through broken teeth,
to hesitate like rain before it falls,
to vibrate like the purple air at dusk,
each needs a barrenness I haven't got.
And yet, I ooh and aah, hoping to form
a word that sounds an echo of the sheikh's
palatial palate. or I cup my hands
as if it might be possible to hold
his emptiness, and molecules of air
dance like a host of angels on my palm.

John Canaday, there, ladies and gentlemen. This was published in Poetry, November 2001. I like it better for having typed it out.

"to hesitate like rain before it falls..."


"The sutra literature is a genre in which teachings are expressed in abbreviated and mnemonic form which need to be made our own by wrestling with them, standing under them and being open to their profundity."
(This is still the Introduction to Ravindra's Wisdom of Patanjali's Sutras. We  are going slowly here.)

I was struck here by the idea of wrestling, of an ongoing struggle.

1. wrestle - combat to overcome an opposing tendency or force;
2. wrestle - engage in deep thought, consideration, or debate; deliberatemootdebateconsiderturn over - think about carefully; weigh; 
3. wrestle - to move in a twisting or contorted motion, (especially when struggling); 

Those all work.
I am not in the slightest a Biblical person. I have never read nor studied it. Any Bible stories I know must have just seeped in from general Western civilization. (Although now that I think about it, I did go to Vacation Bible School for awhile. Other than cutting out stuff and competing to get gold stars put next to my personal cowgirl, I do not remember a thing.)

For some years now, the story of Jacob wrestling the angel has been my mental metaphor for my life. (I probably read this in one of those Bible series that used to get left around doctor's waiting room. Glad I didn't latch on the Goofus and Gallant so forcefully.) I have had a couple of dreams about it over the years. And there are particular times of struggle that I feel I am searching for a blessing.

Yes, wrestling with things, sutras, and poems, and quotes, and art, and myself.

A few weeks ago, when I was feeling fairly rotten, I went to see an exhibit of the American artist Charles Burchfield. I ran down to the Whitney Museum cafe (such as it was, and it wasn't much) to scribble this out

"I had a ... maybe transcendent moment  — hard to use those kinds of words once you are out of them. Thinking about the Biblical image I most relate to: Jacob wrestling the angel for the blessing. And I thought how I wrestle with the angel of creativity for some blessing, for some ability to see and own the creative process — to have some sign or word or knowledge about how to proceed, how to be plugged into a current that will both free me and move me to work and to see. I don't know how to get from here to there. That is quite an admission or something from someone who specializes in understanding process, at least media production process. I understand, relatively, the external process but not the internal process. It's as if the dots inside of me can't connect or coalesce. Even to take care of myself or to be motivated to look for work or something. Yet, in the outside world, I can predict and see things, see very often how they will play out - but not for me.
In some ways another phrase, I feel as if I don't know how to live. Maybe that's a process I don't understand. Sometimes I'm not "in myself" enough to pass for someone living.
Is that strange?
I wear the uniform, the meat suit, of a live person, but it doesn't quite connect.
Is that because on some level I felt like a slave, or at least a paid subservient most of my work life.
So often, I didn't even understand the compromises I was making along the way. Well, I suppose no one does.
I can see the appeal of a lobotomy in a way, or something to take off the pressure between my eyes.
I wish I could be made whole.
I need to go to a creative revival meeting. To get touched and moved by the spirit and to move confidently in the expectation that I am on the path to righteous creatvity.
An art breather. And some tea. And some contemplation."

And then I went to Ojai, and I could begin to see the way to connect the dots.

 (Not to give away the whole story, but I have an inkling that I am Jacob AND the angel.)