Archive for May 2011

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As long as you are not aware of the continual law of die and be again, you are merely a vague guest on this dark earth.



Posted May 19, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

Santa Fe Post #5, Moving to NM   2 comments

Going away to a war and returning to life in the average town or city on Oak or Elm or Washington Street must be the oddest and most difficult re-adjustment to the old “normalcy.” The times in our lives when we leave one known life for another, changes us. Experience alters our perspective, or should, if we allow.  Just moving out of the country is like seeing the photos of earth the first time, seeing your home from a distance and its vulnerability floating out in space. Its precious greens and blues and all the plant and animal life it supports. Seeing it this way encourages a need to care for it. It also opens a path for questions about the way you have always accepted your old world, your life, your family, your home, and street and neighbors. You see other ways of doing and living and how those others’ view you as an American, as a person, as citizen of this earth. To be confronted with another perspective, not only from other people but your own new view and understanding, excites. It is beyond the old cliché of eye-opening, but creates a place of wonder when something is discovered, learned. A place in this country we call life, in your own life where the landscape cannot return to what it once was but in this case, that is good.

I have lived in another country. England was not seriously different from America, but I learned to see America from not only  English viewpoints but from other foreigners living in England. There are a few other places where I have spent only five days to a week,  but knew I was exiting an experience and returning to my regular life with my personal landscape altered while those around me continued unaware of my change. Responsibility for reshaping our landscapes is all our own. Time does some of it for us. Time, that funny thing we judge by clocks and calendars but it cannot really be gauged that way. When I consider that my married life was 27 years long, I cannot wrap that seemingly long time around my head or my life today. Or how small children disappear into adults, but I know how many mornings we rose together and curled up on the bed, how many meals we ate, how many shoes we fitted and tied onto their feet.

When I heard that some butterflies live only three days, I remembered an injured butterfly that was in a 3rd grade class where I was working with the students. It was just before my mother was scheduled for surgery to remove a mass from her lung. I tried to help the butterfly lift the wing that wouldn’t rise as it should. This brightly colored little yellow and black creature seemed too connected to my gentle-as-a-butterfly mother and I felt such sadness, for myself most likely, because I could not bear the thought of my mother dying. When I heard a reference to the three day life of a butterfly, I researched them and found that depending on the type of butterfly they live a week to nine months. I wondered should I feel less sad if the butterfly with the hurt wing died only a day or two before she would have anyway, or greater sadness because her short life was cut shorter still and those two days were 1/3 of a life.  Questioning the degree of mourning over a butterfly’s demise may seem an inconsequential waste of time, but it’s not.

Twice I have spent a week in the Colorado Mountains with 1000 people gathered for a Buddhist retreat of silence, friendship, meditation, listening and learning. Driving down from the mountains after the retreat ended, the roadside fruit stands standing cheerful and expectant.  Their signs enticed us to stop for cider and jams.  Just being in a car with its shape, smell, and sounds felt odd. Other cars sped around us.  All before had moved slowly. We were coming back as if through a tunnel from quiet to noise, from natural colors to gray cement and stainless steel. The radio informed us. We shut it off and talked about the retreat. It helped with the debriefing, the re-entry to noise and expectations after a week of nowhere to go and nothing to do, but also a week where the mind considers much, works through some things, experiences intense, not always comfortable feelings, and allows questions to rise with no answers.

The next summer, I spent a week on the Yampa River. My call to this trip was as one of several artists invited to experience and then create from what emerged after being on this last free-flowing river in Colorado. We rafted the river in early May. The cold pushed past my neoprene socks and shoes, cracked the skin on my fingertips, and taught me quickly how many layers I needed to stay warm at night. The most impressive landscape I’ve ever seen surrounded me for days. The canyon walls rose bigger and bigger, from light to dark imposing colors, shapes, and markings. We worked hard loading and unloading our gear each night, and setting up camp. Then I just rode on the raft while my captain rowed and watched the river to guide us safely past rocks and through rapids. I trusted a stranger. We give ourselves to doctors we don’t know, to the driver at the intersection whom we trust will stop at the red light, but we don’t trust a man on the street asking for a dollar. Their motives are much the same. Money, safety, both?  I left the river with the same odd sense of re-entry into my “normal” life but with grateful memories and work created by those amazing days.

One fall a few years ago, I spent four or five days in New Jersey at the Dodge Poetry Festival in the historic Waterloo Village, a huge park with great old trees. Thousands of people wandered between tents where poets read or panels of poets discussed poetry and their work and lives. The listening was intense, and shared by so many at the same time in a different way of being with others. Billy Collins spoke in the largest tent with hundreds of people listening. The unusual quiet with words spoken in images, and this continued throughout the four days that my partner and I were there. We left “feeling” just “feeling.” And again it was with a sense of re-entry, a leaving of one space where strangers linked in an unusual, experiential way.

This month I move from Nebraska to Santa Fe open to ways of seeing, sensing, feeling.

Posted May 11, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Essays

Santa Fe Post #4 Moving to NM   Leave a comment

Since deciding to move, and not writing my weekly newspaper column, my head seems  filled with just moving details – finding a buyer, finding a job, getting boxes, seeing friends and family, scheduling a truck, changing the oil in my car, last haircut with the perfect stylist, calling the vet about Prozac for  my dog, transferring accounts etc. I can’t seem to write anything that matters or even read the latest book I bought, “The Map of Love” by Ahdaf Soueif. It’s a good story if I could concentrate on it. Other than Obama producing his birth certificate,  kidding, right? And hearing the celebrations that Bin Laden is dead, I can’t settle down to hear the news, and just felt sadness not elation over how many people have died since the U.S. used Bin Laden’s evil work as an excuse to attack a different country than Bin Laden’s.  Why not send special forces to seek out Bin Laden instead of causing how many deaths of young men and woman, how many families have no father or mother, how many head injuries and traumatized people have forever altered lives, how many people have been imprisoned without trial, how many tortured, how many Iraqi and Afghan children have known nothing but war to base their view of how the world works and conclude that revenge is a normal life goal. Creating terrorists is easy.  Just kill someone’s brother or children’s parents and call yourself liberators. Moving details cause less anxiety than the news.

Moving continues to cause odd memories to surface. This morning as I packed books, I thought of a young girl in Washington State.  I met her shortly after moving there. I think I was with her just one afternoon, can’t remember her name, but her face remains fresh in my mind. Cute kid with chin length dyed-blonde hair, dark roots, dark eyeliner, tough talker. She coughed up blood and clutched her stomach, said she had an ulcer and it seems there was no mother or person to phone for help. I always had someone to call. I think she may have been in a foster home. It may be good that we don’t know what happens to all the people we’ve met. Too many stories would weigh heavy.

When my mother was 38 years old and I was 10 she told me that she was going to have a baby. “You are? Oh, good!” I said.

She smiled at me,  “I knew you would be the person who would be happy at this news.”In the previous two years, my mother had a full-term  stillborn baby boy and before that my handsome little red-haired brother was born when I was eight.  I can’t blame my grandmother for not being excited that her daughter who already had four kids and not much money or security was adding to the mix. I think my mother did not want the red-haired toddler to grow up without a close-in-age sibling. Our oldest brother would be 17 years when the baby was born, my sister 15, I would be 11 and the little red-head would be three. It’s good to have someone in your family stand behind you even if your decision may not always be what they think is a wise choice and even if your support is just a ten year old’s enthusiasm.

When talking with my daughter about my move to Santa Fe, she said, “I feel like you will finally be living the life you were meant to live.”

Is it possible to not live the life you were meant to? Our gut wins out, good or bad, right or wrong, the gut wins. Choices trick us up, but the gut rules. Maybe following your gut results in following your bliss. My mother had no regrets over her last three pregnancies. She wished that Baby Thomas had lived.  But against others seemingly better judgment, she had another cherished baby. She followed her gut with no regrets, hard times and all, because why not?

Posted May 4, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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