Sunday, January 17, 2010

Now, in the new year

(Sound track today: Graceland, by Anonymous 4. Sorry - I don't know how to post sound files, but there are samples at the link.)

I've just spent an hour or two rereading a series of writing exercises I did a bit more than a year ago. This was a process outlined in a book I found in a church basement sale (where I also got four little matching bone-china plates with vines etched around their rims): Writing the Mind Alive: The Propriaceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice.

In brief, the method involves a 30-minute span of time, writing while listening to music by Bach, a candle flame burning nearby, employing an approach of writing-while-listening to the thin trail of the most authentic possible inner voice, asking (and answering) from time to time the question, "What do I mean by . . . ".

What I wrote about, over and over (through the four months that Peter and I did this exercise sporadically together, often late in the evening, at the dining room table) was my long-standing question of life purpose, or purposes, I guess. I reflected on the core tension of my life, haunted by a yearning to be a writer but instead plunged into the more public/pragmatic work of raising a family, working with students and student services administrative apparatus, along with part-time teaching. Throughout has been the quest for a spiritual path and commitment to my Quaker community - which is another way of saying, a search for the Divine.

In the wavering but faithful light of these months of reflective, candlelit writing, it became clear that the compartments of my life were still one life, and at the core was the question of attention - of being aware, of being wholly present, in whichever activity I engage in.

Today, I made the decision to stay home from Meeting or shopping or other errands that would require me to drive, as the pump that supports the power steering in the car is beginning to fail. I'll take the car in to be fixed as soon as I can. I had a fearful fantasy of having the power steering fail and trying to wrestle the un-powered steering wheel on my way to or from activities today, and decided to let the car sit.

Perhaps what I really needed, this last weekend before the spring semester starts at the University, is to finally take some concentrated time reflecting on this year's turning from the deepest dark to the slowly strengthening light of a infant spring. Now that I am really "pushing 60" - or at least willing to accept it - what might change? Is it time to let go of the tensions that held me for so many years: the pull between creative introversion and competent outward activity? What's next?

Part of me, inevitably, feels this reflection is self-indulgent - well-known voices from childhood onward, no doubt, pushing me to productive activity, instead of wallowing in whatever feeling or fantasy has captured my attention. But long years of the inner-outer dance have taught me of the importance of pulling myself out of the usual round of activities, of taking some time to gather the threads together, to recognize patterns, to discern the next steps.

Writing does seem to be part of the enduring pattern. It is one way I have of celebrating the gifts of my life - the weak but growing sunlight on the tired snowbanks outside; my family of origin (some now down in Baja, Mexico, basking in the stronger sun); my tawny, curly, inadequately trained little pooch; my life companion upstairs napping. Both the inward quest and the outward bustle are gifts to me, in their faithful constancy. Music is a gift. Friendship - a gift I don't reach for enough. The gift of sleep. The gift of reasonable health and strength. All of it - given over and over, changing and slipping away, renewed past hope. The life I am carried along by, more than orchestrating. I do create within this life, but I am also more a witness to its flow, its unexpected or long-predicted turns and tumbles. So let me let go of fears to flow most joyfully, most open-heartedly, in this cascade of time and turning years.

Here's something from Gloryland - sums it up: "SAINT’S DELIGHT" (lyrics Isaac Watts.

When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
I’ll bid farewell to ev’ry fear,
And wipe my weeping eyes.

I feel like, I feel like I’m on my journey home,
I feel like, I feel like I’m on my journey home.

Should earth against my soul engage,
And fiery darts be hurled,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage
And face a frowning world.

I feel like, I feel like I’m on my journey home,
I feel like, I feel like I’m on my journey home.

There I shall bathe my weary soul
In seas of heav’nly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll,
Across my peaceful breast.

I feel like, I feel like I’m on my journey home,
I feel like, I feel like I’m on my journey home.

1 comment:

Madame DeFarge said...

This is a profoundly interesting post, one which deserves to be read several times over. It is also very moving - I'm rather humbled by it.