748. A reminder of the journey

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This past week I put back on my finger a ring I bought in Santa Fe during my first MFA residency, 13 years ago next month. I wrote about this ring in a chapter of Finding Livelihood.

I crossed the street to the Palace of the Governors. Blue, green, and burgundy blankets laid side-to-side in a row the length of a city block as if ready for a picnic if the goods don’t sell. On the blankets were pendants, necklaces, earrings, rings, guitar picks, barrettes, and broaches made of silver, copper, turquoise, coral, and lapis. Each Native American artist or artist’s representative presided over his or her wares from the head of the blanket, seated either on a chair, a low stool, or the veranda floor.

Small crowds gather at each blanket, and so patrons often wait for a turn to look down, crouch, pick up, and try on. I saw a ring but couldn’t reach it. The young woman with long black hair, seated on a stool, smiled and reached out with a long narrow stick she kept on the floor next to her. She slid one end of the stick through the ring’s opening, lifted it from its black velvet display box, and glided it dangling from the stick to my hand. I slid the ring on my finger.

“Did you make this?” I asked.

“Yes,” the woman said, and she showed me where the band bore her maker’s mark.

It was a split ring, open in the middle—for design purposes of course, but also conveniently accommodating the changing ring size of women throughout a lifetime or the month, like elastic in a pair of durable pants. On one side of the split is an oval turquoise, more blue than the earrings and with fewer veins. Along the stone’s perimeter, a hefty sterling silver band curves ever so slightly over its surface as if the stone were floating on hidden water and would bounce right up without the metal’s angled hold. The other side of the split is a vertical silver bar. Engraved in the silver bar and around the band is a zigzag design—a mountain range, the woman told me. It means journey.
— Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure

After buying the ring, I wore it daily for years but then took it off awhile back—no reason—and put it in my drawer. Lately, though, I've been needing the reminder again of the journey. Maybe it's the book project I'm working on. Maybe it's the conversations I've recently had. Maybe it's the passage of time. So I'm wearing it again. Maybe someone reading this post needs the reminder as well.

~~~

[Photo: taken of the mountains outside of Santa Fe.]

740. An ordinary day on repeat

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Over the last couple weeks I read The Turquoise Ledge by poet and Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko. I may not have finished it had it not been a book group reading. The reason I nearly stopped reading several times in the first 100 or so pages is that while the book is about Silko’s life outside of Tucson, Arizona, it is primarily about her morning walks, during which she often finds pieces of turquoise, and the care of her home and yard, replete with rattlesnakes (so many!) and sometimes scorpions. The book goes on repeat of these daily activities and discoveries. Over and over again. Here’s another piece of turquoise. There’s another rattlesnake. But a curious thing happened at about page 125; I got in the rhythm of her walks and her watering of her plants and her care of her pet parrots and her noticing of rattlers, and my interest in her routine and her observations piqued.

The book reminded me that this is what we do in life: one’s daily stuff, but please oh please do it with eyes open and ready to see the extraordinariness of what is around us. Numerous times Silko describes a walk in which then and there, right in front of her in the center of the path, is a piece of turquoise that wasn’t there when she walked the same path yesterday. Or was it? Had it just unearthed itself or had she missed it the day before?

I wanted to post about this book as an encouragement in getting up each morning and doing whatever it is you do over again tomorrow while keeping your eyes open for what you might see or discover that takes on new shape or meaning when you see it, really see it, for the third or fourth or 340th time. Maybe that’s one of the things I was trying to do in Finding Livelihood, challenging myself and you, dear reader, to see again and again, yet anew, what there is to discover in whatever place each of us calls work.

The book made me think about how it takes attending to something over and over again, closely and with reverence, before hidden beauty emerges, understanding emerges, and appreciation for small things becomes large.

~~~

[Picture: taken during our recent Florida trip of a grand dolphin artfully carved in the sand by an unidentified beach artist; in the top left corner is a pelican.]

730. What to think about today

Fall Sky.jpg

This past Sunday our minister's sermon was on this text from Philippians, which gives a gentle push to thoughts of a higher order.

"Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

I needed this reminder and perhaps you do too. These words are a touchstone that serve as not only wise guidance, but permission, yes permission, to at least occasionally turn thoughts away from the evening news, away from fears, away from sorrow, away from grievances, away from social media trivialities, away from [fill in the blank], and toward what is noble and right and pure and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy.

This morning I'm blowing the dust off something I wrote long ago. In Just Think: Nourish Your Mind to Feed Your Soul, I launched from this verse in Philippians to write a bulleted list of reasons to stock one's mind well. Here are some of the bullets in that list:

  • To be catalyzed, expanded, and ignited. Those of use who have battled a blah spirit and lifeless mind on one or more occasions won't find it difficult to draw a link between the state of our spirit and the state of our mind.
  • To stay optimistic and not lose hope or vibrancy. The world is full of wonderful things.
  • To link reason and imagination. To see the chasm between what is and what could be. To see possibility. To see opportunities for greatness.
  • To know the richness, vastness, and beauty of that which has been divinely created.
  • To form a solid foundation from which to launch action
  • To provide sufficient mental content of beauty and joy so that we are less likely to gravitate toward content of despair or fear.
  • To be equipped for creativity.

It's always OK to be a student of what you've already learned long ago and have needed to learn again and again. May your day be one of joy and hope. The world is full of wonderful things.

~~~

[Photo: taken this week of fall trees and sky.]