Monday, April 30, 2012


I have trouble with periodicals, generally. I look forward to getting magazines in the mail - ideally, I’d get one a week to peruse, be inspired by, and discard. But I can’t really justify ordering magazines I don’t read, or read only half-heartedly, which is why I’m lucky if I get one a month. Almost all the journals I currently subscribe to are seasonal, rather than monthly, and the wait can be long between issues. But patience is one of those virtues I always need to work on, so I try to enjoy the anticipation. This past week I was happy to pull the Spring issue of my friend Sia’s journal “Soul Gardening” out of the mailbox. I’d gotten so used to waiting that I’d almost forgotten to expect it. This issue is my definite favorite thus far. “Soul Gardening” is a journal by and for Catholic mothers, with a decidedly crunchy edge, and this edition fell right into my spring-cleaning thoughts and intentions with an article based around the William Morris entreaty to “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. The article soon had me purging the yurt again, but with a peaceful spirit, unlike my many other purges, because the author writes peacefully of her own failings, and because the rain was falling loud and pleasant on the roof.

The other article that inspired was one we are continually revisiting in our house, that of consumer responsibility. There are certain stores I won’t support, no matter how low their prices, and certain stores I return to again and again. There are places I never intend to support, until a late afternoon wireless need drives me to break my good intentions, and the article was a badly needed jolt of encouragement. My husband and I try to avoid buying items made in China, we always avoid shopping at Walmart, we try to buy used, or locally made when we need something, but it’s so tempting sometimes to just coast through and get what’s easiest, cheapest, quickest. I needed a reminder that we aren’t really alone, and that it’s not awful to resort to China-made essentials when nothing else is available, or to spend an evening surfing Starbucks’ wireless occasionally.

Now I’m waiting for my next seasonal journal to come in the mail, consoling myself with old issues, new books, and all the work that Spring has put in my lap. We are trying to prepare for pigs, for transplanting, and for anything else that might come along.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Missing the Moment

Sorry. This week I'm just not going to get the discussion out. At least not today.. I spent the morning hopefully tooling around town, sitting at the auto-repair shop, and the afternoon at the tattoo parlor. Now it's eight in the evening, and I'm in the Tim Horton's parking lot on my way home. I'm tired. But I have a beautiful new tattoo! Pictures will come up soon, and I'll be posting something soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

50 Days..Day 25

What season best suits your personality?

Right now I think it’s summer, in summer I’ll lean toward fall, in fall, winter.. I struggle with commitment. If I’m honest with myself, it’s probably spring, the time of newness and possibilities. I’m good at possibilities, it’s turn them into realities I struggle with.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Rainy-day Mondays

The rain started last evening and never stopped. It varies on intensity but the dark sky never changes. We needed the rain, it’s been a dry spring. Our rain barrels were empty, and the road is packed-down dry, a day of storm clouds and the drumming of drops is ideal for our growing things - the whole earth seems greener today.

The rain gave my husband a day off of work, we slept late and idled away the morning. Yarrow was happy to play with either of us, or laugh at Luba, who watched the rain resentfully and hide under the yurt when we put her out.

I’ve been barely blogging recently. My mother-in-law, who generally takes Yarrow for a few hours so that I can write and post, has been tending to her husband, sick with a bad cough. My intentions to go to town in the evenings to post have generally been superseded by other needs, like sleep and planting. But we seem to be through the busy patch. My seeds are sprouting, my elderberries are taking root beside the chicken coop, the chickens - reduced again by the disappearance of Bodetta - are laying like mad. I’m writing again in the evenings, and sometimes in the morning. We’re preparing for piglets in May, and new growth is everywhere around us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Staying Home in Solitude

"Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still. "
     ~Henry David Thoreau

Jenna’s left me with some questions, which seems like a good way to continue this week, as Mr. Pond has left us on our own again.  First, read Jenna's Post from Monday, and if you haven't already, follow all of her links. The supplementals are every bit as interesting and informative as the primary, and if you don't you'll miss this gem from Mr. Pond:

Writing is a way of life. It’s a way of thinking. We can’t really take breaks from being ourselves, at least not without grave epistemological implications. The process of writing can be nearly continuous. Our subconscious—or, worse, our dream consciousness—continues to create, to explore, to develop, to rephrase.
I actually love the idea of taking a break from myself and running around as someone else for a while, preferably someone with a woodkiln, a horse, and a dog that doesn't eat trash. But it would have to be a very short while.

"I have a great deal of company in the house, especially in the morning when nobody calls. "

This week Jenna asked what I mean by the need to "strike a balance"? She wants to know if "balance [is] something defined by personal situation, or by outside law, or both? " I see balance as entirely situational, and the situation is always fluid. In my life, creating balance generally means reminding friends and relatives that my little retreat in the woods isn't isolating so much as inspiring. It involves working to build on the moments of silence I do get, instead of mourning the ones I don't. Balance is personal, it requires that each person find the place where she  has her feet on the ground. It is not the even division of time, time doesn't divide that way. If I spend a whole afternoon chopping up the front garden, all night writing, all morning wandering the house in sunglasses, sipping coffee, my time feels balanced.  But everybody's different, and everything is always changing.

Jenna also asked what it means to be "too much the recluse". And again, it's a personal definition. Emily Dickinson wasn't "too much" of one, nor was Mary of Egypt, nor anyone whose pursuit of beauty took them away from the crowds.  I remember once in high-school a post-prom day trip was planned. I wouldn't go, 15 hours was too much time to spend with anyone, let alone eight other teenagers. No one understood. "Too much the recluse" for me, is when I start thinking longingly of kareoke bars or mall shopping. It means I've been spending too much time in my own mind. Sometimes, it also means trying to avoid making those I love feel rejected, which can be a difficult line to walk.  Not everyone feels it, maybe Jenna and Mr. Pond never think, "you know, I'm going to throw a party or something, soon. Maybe." But then maybe they have their own moments, or ways of dealing.

"Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it."

 " Society," writes Jenna, "by default, is run on the extroverted principle, and its little social rules are not made with either the introvert or the artist in mind." I agree, which is in part why I am constantly forgetting those rules, they're easier to remember when they make sense.  "Should we take its dictums on what is and is not acceptable keep-to-oneself-ishness as moral law?" Of course not! In any situation, societal dictums are flawed at best, but here, in the very heart of our individual lives, society's rules are often oppressive and unnatural.   Defending solitude, our own and each other's is an on-going challenge, but an essential one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Defending Solitude

input in the discussion with Jenna St. Hilaire and Mr. Pond
"I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other. "
    ~Rainer Maria RIlke
       This week, Easter week, my time is overfull. We are eating again, with a big celebratory bonfire in the planning for Thursday, my parent’s are visiting, and Yarrow is teething. I am taking advantage of rare morning quiet to write, but the sun is up, and I can see everywhere the things I need to do. Last week, planning Easter week, I had to explain gently to three different people that, no, I couldn’t really handle having a social event every night of the week. Even with two evenings at home, the introvert within is exhausted and my writing suffers. This will be a lazy discussion week, but I hope still interesting. I want to discuss the pursuit of that necessary solitude in the wake of daily life. Most artists, it seems are somewhat introverted - and solitude is necessary in order to create, but our lives are not lived out in a vacuum, and the experiences of living are also essential to art. How do we strike a balance? How do we defend our solitude without becoming too much the recluse?

As much as possible, I try to take advantage of the darkness - the late nights and early mornings, when the whole world is quiet. In the dark-before-dawn, when even the coyotes are sleeping, but using that time requires energy I often don’t have - especially during times when we’ve been busy being social.

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people and if you could keep from making engagements, each day had no limits. People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”
 ~Ernest Hemingway

 Generally, when we have guests, or a week of busy days and evenings, I tend to count the time as lost, artistically speaking, and commit to making up time when the activity has died down. Now though, I'm seeing the flaws in this plan. Time cannot be reclaimed, I end up frustrated and overtired. This morning I realized I've been living on capital, I haven't really been seriously working for at least a week, and I've gotten comfortable in my distracting, in just anticipating solitude. Defending solitude, for myself and my family, involves actively creating spaces for solitude - hours in the day that welcome quiet and reflection, that encourage the pursuit of beauty. Collapsing on the bed doesn't actually count - but yawning over hot tea and marking up old poems does. Even when that hour could be used to regain lost sleep before the distractions of life come again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

50 Days..Day 23

What was the last thing to make you cry?

Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales, actually. Especially The Young King. We’ve recently found a book of all nine of them (written for his sons) and have been devouring them. His sense of the motives and attitudes of other people is amazing and hilarious, but the tales themselves are often incredibly sad. The Young King is so powerful, Wilde writes with such a sense of love for his characters, and, it seems, a hope for mankind. It was a good cry.

Monday, April 9, 2012


These days, I blame Yarrow for my lack of routine. I sigh and invent memories of consistency in my college days, and of routines embraced in my single days, my husband isn’t fooled. Before Yarrow, I blamed him, before him I blamed the demands of work, before work I blamed college life. The truth is, I embrace routine in memory, or in anticipation.  Never in reality, it’s one of the reasons I can never actually get addicted to coffee or cigarettes - habits are too hard to form, and they require more memory than I have avaliable to them.

 I am trying, on a semi-daily basis to build a routine and to cultivate the ritual of my life, but I haven’t quite made it yet. Pursuing ritual though, makes me think of the people I know whose lives are rich in it. A friend out west, whom I haven’t seen in years is distant enough now to live as an example. I see her photos, write occassionally, and wonder at her energy. Four children, a happy husband, a lovely home, a quarterly journal, and food to die for ~ I’d love to know how her days go. Not to imitate, but to be inspired. If I didn’t know better, I’d try to blame my “artistic temperment” and claim she’s mundane enough to settle into routine, but I have some pots from when she was throwing, and her pots are better than mine, they have more character, more depth, more artistry. I see her sketches in her journal and know it’s not the lack of art that produces consistency in her, rather, it seems she has chosen to truly make her life a work of art. Her home, her family, her statement to the world whereas I am always distracted, first by one project then another, I forget they need to be formed into a whole. Into a life that can be enriched by writing, by pottery, by buttery croissants and layered cocktails, but which is, in itself a thing of beauty. This doesn’t require a strict routine, but a sense of rhythm, a rightness to each activity, an attention to detail, and a consistency of attitude. Perhaps viewed this way I will be able to truly embrace ritual in the present, even with Yarrow, with my husband, and with the inconsistency of my own restless mind.

Do you have a real daily routine, a semi-routine, an order for your day?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

In my hometown, on Good Friday, churches are open noon to three, and people go to pass the hours when nothing can be done but to pray and mourn. I remember going one year, when the rest of the family was in Ireland, with a couple a barely knew, to St. Stanislaw, to the Polish hours. I wore black, with dark eyes and new black boots and spent more time reflecting on my mournful style than the sacrifice of Christ, but I meant well. I was eighteen. I am only a little better today.

Here, the three hours are spent at home, and on bright days it’s hard to remember that today is a sorrowful day, a day to keep watch beneath the cross.

I am drinking coffee this morning and eating my oatmeal without honey, the sky is beautiful. The Icon Christ looks down on me with sad eyes and out in the woods, a bird cries.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

50 days.. Day 24

What is your favorite flower?

Sunflowers. They’re so overwhelmingly cheerful. They’re big and bright and enthusiastic. They look like summertime and they always look as though they’re tripping over themselves in their eagerness to be seen and loved. I always want to fill the house with them. Someday, when we’ve got a big area cleared, I want to plant the whole thing in sunflowers and, on some big feast day, actually fill the house with them. It would be thrilling.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dark Night of the Artist

"Fear not suffering - the sadness
Give it back to the weight of the Earth
the mountains are heavy, heavy the oceans.
Ah, but the breezes, ah, but the spaces - "
   ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Last week we began breaking down the discussion of the romanticism of the writing life with a discussion of the work of the artist as a part of the daily tasks of living. Mr. Pond led us to a lovely story of his, which gives a living picture of his understanding of the balance between the two, and which I highly recommend. Jenna gave a beautiful reminder that daily life gives the artist experience, which truly is "necessary for the creation of good art."

This week I have in mind the artist suffering.  In the romantic ideal, the writer is a brooding soul, and sorrow feeds his muse. In college, I argued against this ideal constantly, and even now I feel that art can come equally well from both joy and suffering, but I do think that there is a tendency for the artist to feel deeply, and feeling deeply, to suffer in and for the world. That suffering, mingled with the joys of life, with the daily things, is boiled down in the soul of the artists until all his works well forth from these rich, fully infused memories, what Rilke described as "blood remembering".

I feel as though I am almost a stranger to suffering, and so I don't like the idea that suffering is an essential aspect of art. My life has had it's delays, it's frustrations, it's pains, but true suffering, depression, I don't know. I don't pursue suffering though, in pursuing art, instead I trust life to send me what I need. And, though Rilke tells me I must suffer long, I hope that maybe I can make art out of the little pains, forming them into beauty and raising them up to the Good.

"Long you must suffer, not knowing what,
until suddenly, for a piece of fruit hatefully bitten,
the taste of the suffering enters you.
And then you already almost love what you savour. No one
will talk it out of you again."
    ~Rainer Maria Rilke

I don't want to pull my discussion partners into painful thoughts, but I would like to explore the necessity of suffering to the artist. Some suffering is inescapable in life, but what do you say - is it on equal footing with joy, or does it create better and richer than the happy times? Are the romantics right to write in despair?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

50 Days..Day22

What are three books that have changed how you see the world around you, and how did they do it?

Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling”. I read it for the first time in high-school and fell in love. Kierkegaard’s writing gave me the leverage I needed to really throw myself into faith, and a language with which to understand that faith.

Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Diary of a Young Poet”. In my existential phase, my sister recommended Rilke for his beauty. Most of the good in my artistic development is his influence. Now his poems live in my head and form a large part of the background to my life.

Kathleen Norris’ “The Cloister Walk”. It wasn’t until a few year’s ago that I discover Kathleen Norris, but her effect has been strong. She teaches me how to use the richness of monastic tradition in my own life, in my writing, and in my pursuit of beauty.