Meeting ourselves where we are
Not having sent out a newsletter in too long has been nagging at me like a fly against a windowpane. Perhaps its for this reason that illustrator/author’s latest missive (her 200th!) struck a particular chord:
I send a text message to someone saying that I’m trying to get this newsletter off the ground, and then immediately wonder why it seems so urgent. Like a weightless yet lumbering hot air balloon before it goes anywhere, it would remain happily grounded were it not for intervention. Why, I think, are we so quick to intervene? Why, exactly, are we always so determined to avoid meeting ourselves where we are?
Where we are, much of the time, is not worthy of announcement, or exclaim. We are, usually, in situations of small-to-medium struggle and stress, perpetually used up or distracted by the business of maintenance—though the buildings all seem to have been built by someone else.
Amidst my own “business of maintenance”, I don’t feel like I’m in limbo exactly, but rather in a state of in-betweenness, where certain things are exceedingly clear, while much else remains infuriatingly murky. Rilke counselled his young poet friend to “live the questions now” and perhaps I need to live—and love—them.
It is strange and a little disconcerting to be hurtling through late May already. Time seems to be melting away like a snowflake in the Sahara; I feel like I’m living life in fast-forward. This helter-skelter leaves me wondering whether there is too much skimming over the surface of experience, rather than deep, lingering immersion. There is much to be said for slowness and stillness (though to reap their benefits, I am cognisant that one needs to move beyond platitudes and actual slow the hell down).
Here in rural Northern California, tentative early spring has been replaced by something bolder, the garden unfurling into a rambunctious, dazzling array of new-leafed greens. The birds’ year-round orchestra seems enlarged, singing new and hitherto unrecognised symphonies; lizards scurry and saunter; pollen-drunk insects sail across blue flower seas. It’s intoxicating to be surrounded by so much aliveness, the thrum and pulse of it.
I’ve intended to read short stories by Katherine Mansfield ever since a beloved English teacher sang their praises to me in high school. 17 years (!) later, I finally have: the wonderful, just-published collection Wild Places which commemorates the 100-year anniversary of her death1.
Up next, the Old Book Club will be reading the Nobel Laureate Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country; we’re convening (via Skype) on 13 June to discuss. Drop me a line if you’d like to join us!
She was my age (34) when she passed away, leaving behind hundreds of published short stories, many of them rather marvellous. This got me thinking: if I died tomorrow, what would I be leaving behind?