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Journal, Day One
I’m doing this on Sunday for my first post Monday morning. I was saying yesterday on my own site that I was resisting writing, that it felt like work, while playing my harmonica was, well, play. Then I was driving back from running (usually I do gym stuff because I get shin splints from running, but today I just wanted to run & be outside, & it was lovely & gray & there were eucalyptus everywhere, & weeds & flowers coming up through the mudslides, & dogs & women walking together & a man riding bikes with his kid, handing the kid a bottle of water as they rode & just that one gesture made me somehow wildly happy, seeing a father and son out together like that)—but anyway,
I was flipping through the CDs in my changer, & caught this bit from The New Earth by Ekhart Tolle: “We are learning that the act of creation may involve energy of the highest intensity, but it is not hard work, or stressful. We need to understand the difference between stress and intensity . . . Struggle is a sign that the ego has returned, as are negative reactions when we encounter obstacles.” I hadn’t listened to this CD in some time (I’d in fact been playing a harmonica instruction CD over and over—mostly I play and drive). It was the perfect thing to hear, to remind me of what I’m really up to when I write. It has taken me a long time to get to a place where I began to glimpse that the less ego involved in it all, the better. I have always had a “look at me” feeling, a need to be seen, a fear of invisibility and worthlessness. So writing has always been wrapped up with that—with a striving to Become Someone. As Muddy Waters said once, “I want to be a known person.” Then there’s also great ambivalence about that and a real shyness and privacy operating at the same time.
More Tolle: “Not what you do, but how you do what you do, determines whether you are fulfilling your destiny. And how upi fp ejsy upi fp od (oops, mistyped) And you how—” I’m having trouble here. Once more: “Not what you do, but how you do what you do, determines whether you are fulfilling your destiny. And how you do what you do is determined by your state of consciousness.”
The poetry you write is determined by your state of consciousness, too. Poetry as psychic map, as thumbprint. Poetry as spiritual practice, or poetry as ego fulfillment.
I’m starting to memorize Cavafy’s “Ithaca”; I’m having my students in my workshops memorize poems, & it’s always a good prod to get me learning more of them by heart. Here’s the opening:
When you start out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge.
I’d quote the whole thing here but I’m not sure it’s legal. If you don’t know it, Google it. Great poem.
Other stuff that is happening: I’m reading Dean Young, who is a really interesting poet to me right now. I’m rereading parts of Stephen Dobyns’s Best Words, Best Order, which I think is a superfine book. I just finished Rumi’s The Glance, translated by Coleman Barks. Right after 9/11 when I & everyone else was blown away by those events, I was living alone in Colorado where I was teaching, & desperate for something to help me out I put in a video from one of those Bill Moyers series, and there was Coleman Barks quoting Rumi poems & it was a great solace. I’m listening to Little Walter’s “Roller Coaster” & thinking I want to learn it one day. I’m looking through some red voile curtains I just bought that are over my desk & feeling really happy about them; they’re kind of transparent so I can look out the window but not feel like people are looking in at me. Maybe that’s a metaphor. Also, what used to be a bunch of sticks & vines out the window have turned into lots of hanging purple flowers I think are wisteria. I think this might be getting tedious now so I’ll stop. I’d like to say things that are interesting and useful to whoever is reading this, but I’m not sure what those things might be.