755. Beyond work

755. Juniper Berries.jpg

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I watched the 2016 film Paterson for the first time. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Paterson the film is about Paterson the man who lives in Paterson the village. Paterson the man, played by Adam Driver, is in his late 20s or early 30s and drives a city bus. He is married to Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani, who is passionate about many things, including home decorating, learning to play guitar, and baking and selling cupcakes at a weekend community market. Paterson does more than drive a bus; he also writes poems.

He writes poems in his head as he walks to work each morning. Before he drives his bus out of the garage, he writes down the lines that came to him during that morning’s walk in the notebook he always carries with him. At lunch, while he eats his sandwich and drinks coffee from his thermos, he again takes out his notebook and adds the lines that came to him while he drove. At home, he goes down to his basement office—a desk and some shelves in an unfinished basement—and adds a few more lines. His wife begs him to read some of his poems to her, and he keeps promising he will but never does. She begs him to send his work out to some magazines. Instead, he just keeps writing, line by line.

The world around him seems to give him signs that what he’s doing matters, although the signs are not profound or recognizable to anyone else. No readers show up cheering his work, and no agents or publishers suddenly appear. He has no social media account that magically gains followers. The signs are more along the lines of “I see you.”

As he writes line by line in his head and in his notebook, he has a steadiness about him and an inner drive, not toward success, which is usually how the word ‘drive’ is used today, but a drive to keep putting the words together until they fit, and the final click unlocks some inner release and the eyes widen and the soul opens.

I wish this film had been around while I was writing Finding Livelihood. It probably would have made its way into one of the chapters. While the film features a man writing poetry while he also drives a bus, the broader implication can be a fill-in-the-blank sort of prospect for any of the rest of us. What else are you about beside your work or alongside your work? In what ways do you seek the opening of eyes and soul to what is beyond your work?

~~~

[photo: taken of the juniper berries on the table at the American Swedish Institute while I drank my coffee last week.]

748. A reminder of the journey

748. A reminder of the journey.jpg

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

740. An Ordinary Day on Repeat.jpg

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.]