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.]

741. The joy of making lists

741. The joy of making lists.jpg

Marilyn McEntyre has a new book out about the joy of making lists, Make A List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts. You may have read an earlier book by McEntyre, including the wonderful Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. I’ve been reading her new book, after seeing an ad for it (some books do still get advertisements!) and ordering it. The topic grabbed me from the start. I’ve made plenty of to-do lists and to-buy lists and to-write lists but have seldom made a list that could possibly achieve a higher purpose, such as spiritual practice, as suggested by McEntyre.

There was a list I made in high school as part of an assignment in chemistry class to make 100 observations about a lit candle. There was a list I made as a young woman of things about which I needed to keep reminding myself. There have been lists for prayer. But overall, I have very few lists of substance to show for my life to date.

McEntyre Make a List.jpg

McEntyre suggests that we should make lists freely and joyfully, even playfully; that we should add to them with anticipation and excitement about what may be discovered as the list evolves. According to McEntyre, indeed something worthwhile is usually is discovered. She writes,

“In the process of making a list, I generally find that I can, as a therapist used to advise, ‘go to the place in me that knows.’ Line by line, I can take myself there. It’s a place of deep, lively, somewhat amusing, sometimes daunting encounter with the self and, often, encounter with the indwelling Spirit who is more present, available, reliable, and forgiving than we may think.

When you make a list, if you stay with it and take it slowly, take it seriously but playfully, give yourself plenty of permission to put down whatever comes up, you begin to clarify your values, your concerns, the direction your life is taking, your relationship to your inner voice, your humor, your secrets. You discover the larger things that lists can reveal.”

The book is loaded with ideas for things to think about via lists: things to let go of, how to enjoy what I have, what gives me joy, what comfort might look like, and so much more. I’ve got some new lists underway

~~~

[Photo taken of a beautiful scene in Gulfport, Florida.]

734. Progress report

734. Progress report.jpg

Those of you who receive my newsletter, Dear Reader, may have already read this, but I wanted to say it here as well. I've recently made some changes to the website I started when my book Finding Livelihood was coming out. A couple months ago I changed the name of the "Finding Livelihood" website to "The Livelihood Project." I think that name is like a dome over the topics I've written most about in books (work/leisure, thinking as spiritual practice) as well as the newer topic of hope, which is my work-in-progress. I also reorganized the content on the website so as to feature those topics, including sorting contents from this blog along those themes.

One of my goals is to start to share more about my current work-in-progress on that website as well as on this blog and others place where I’m online. Back in October I went to a one-day workshop led by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew on the topic of her new book, Living Revision: A Writer's Craft as Spiritual Practice. Andrew is a beautiful writer who lives here in Minneapolis, and I’ll post more about her book another time. One of her encouragements to us was to write out a key description of what our book-in-progress is about and post it on a bulletin board or tape it to the wall so that it's visible while working. Change it as needed. Keep it in one's mind, particularly when making decisions about the writing. She had us do this exercise during the class. I picked a section from my hope manuscript and I've since posted it at The Livelihood Project website along with a hope-related essay, "Knotted Gossamer," first published at Art House America. Perhaps you will want to take a look. My progress on this manuscript has been slow and often unsteady, but I'm very much trying to give it a significant push forward this year, hopefully to completion. Stay tuned!

~~~

[Photo: taken of the fresh snow outside my window this morning]