The Poetry That No One Ever Sees

Poetry is everywhere.

If you’ve ever lovingly described something, then as far as I’m concerned, you are a poet. Granted, some people are better poets than others. We can’t all be Amanda Gorman, after all.

There is poetry everywhere. Poetry is in the stories that we tell that are unique to each one of us. It is in the way we choose to dress, the flowers we plant, the colors we paint our walls, and the love and care we give our family, friends, and pets. Quite often, there is even poetry in silence.

The poetry in silence is vastly different than the poetry that is silenced. The first is voluntary, and the second is an unacknowledged loss that we all are complicit in perpetuating, consciously or unconsciously, every single day.

If there is a woman in your life, then chances are you are missing out on a lot of poetry. We women are often not heard, not acknowledged, or utterly discounted. I can’t speak for everyone, but after a while, it seems like too much effort to even try to express myself. And if I do put my foot down, if I do raise my voice or insist that the conversation continue, I’m aggressive, crazy, hysterical, and/or loud.

Those who have the great misfortune to live under an oppressive regime, and those whose countries are being invaded by oppressive outsiders, have poetry so beautiful in its unbloomed truth and horror that the rest of us could never come close to composing it. There is no time for words when you are fighting for your freedom, and even fewer words get spoken if you’ve resigned yourself to your fate. Your voice has a right to be heard. No one has the right to cut it short.

If there is a child in your life, that child is brimming with poetry of one kind or another. Children should be both seen and heard. This isn’t Victorian England. Sadly, in this fast-paced world, we often don’t take the time to listen. Children can be wise, but they’re rarely taken seriously.  Every time they’re impatiently silenced, they are taught that it’s better to keep their poetry inside.

If there is an older person or an overweight person in your life, it’s a fairly safe bet that that person feels practically invisible. I happen to tick both boxes, and I can tell you that my sentences often go half spoken. What, after all, is the point, if one isn’t even being seen? By rendering people invisible in this way, we are missing out on a lot of poetry that is teeming with life experience and survival skills. These things matter.

If there is a person of color in your life, or a member of the LGBTQ community, or a disabled individual, then that person has a lot of poetic insight and perspective to impart, but that poetry is ripped up by society. It is burned, twisted into a threat, and oftentimes used against them, to the point where they find it safer to remain silent. This is a tragic loss, because they have beautiful, loving, unique, and intelligent things to say, and we would all benefit from that poetic diversity, if ever we allowed it into our world.

If there is a man in your life who is supposed to be a leader, supposed to be in charge, supposed to have it all figured out, and is never, ever supposed to cry, then rest assured he is holding quite a lot of stuff back. If only he hadn’t been taught that he must be the strong, silent type.

Every worker who is exploited by an employer and prevented from forming a union, every voter who is prevented from voting, every person who has been so politically manipulated that they cannot think for themselves, and every person who bubbles with rage has poetry within that is desperate to get out. I sometimes walk down the street and look at the people walking past me. I wonder what poetry they are holding deep inside themselves that no one has ever seen. It’s like there’s a secret garden within everyone’s mind, and each garden hides aromatic golden flowers that are longing to see the light of day.

There is profound poetry in the outrage, frustration, sadness, disappointment, and sometimes even joy that is expressed by tears. I’ve never understood why so many (men in particular) view crying as a weakness or a form of manipulation. In most cases, it’s actually a release of extremely deep emotion that has most likely been long suppressed. There’s strength in that. There’s poetry in it.

It is important to be mindful of heretofore unseen or unacknowledged poetry. It’s rewarding to take the time to listen to, and learn from, those around you. It’s as beautiful to see as it is to be seen. There is poetry, too, in that.

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Ancient Wisdom

We should take wisdom where we can find it.

It amazes me that so many of us are wont to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is this view of ancient wisdom that seems to go like this: “Everything from long ago was inaccurate and based on myth and magic, so it shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

We come by that belief honestly. No doubt about it, a lot of what was considered truth hundreds of years ago has turned out to be bunk. Bleeding people by hand or with leeches, when they are already weak from illness, generally will not have a happy ending. Dumping sewage into waterways is not a good idea. No sacrifice is required during a solar eclipse in order for the sun to come out again. Drilling holes in one’s head is more apt to scramble the brains and introduce infection than relieve the pressure. Backbreaking child labor does not make for strong, healthy adults. Not every tooth that causes you pain must be yanked from your mouth. Killing all the predators in your area causes unexpected consequences. And yes, sometimes there are answers that are less extreme than amputation.

Those things mentioned above are the bathwater. Feel free to throw those habits out. But, now, more than ever, we need to take the babies where we find them. We need good ideas if we’re going to survive.

For example, I don’t really understand why so few westerners are willing to try acupuncture. We may not understand how it works, but it’s been around for centuries. I’ve written about this before. I swear by it, and I know a lot of people who have had positive results with acupuncture when no Western medicine seems to be working. So why not try?

I’ve also written about bee pollen. I recommend it to people all the time. But I’m usually ignored. Which is a shame, because I haven’t had an allergy problem in 5 years, and have only had two colds. That’s saying something.

And as this article attests, there’s a lot of native knowledge out there that we’d benefit from if only we took it more seriously. For example, having a holistic view of the ecosystem, as aboriginal peoples do, is very important to species survival. They know that an increase in beaver populations will reduce spawning habitat for salmon and that means less prey for whales. The great web of life should not be ignored.

Indigenous people have much to tell us about how to cope with climate change. They know about the use of controlled burns to manage our forests so that catastrophic wildfires will not occur. They are also more sensitive to altered migration patterns, which are early warning systems of change. They also knew about the importance of biodiversity long before we even considered the concept.

It’s about time we checked our egos at the door and take wisdom where we can find it. Before it’s too late.

Ready to Dance

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A Fever of Stingrays

I just heard on the radio that a group of stingrays is called a “fever”. I don’t know why, but that just makes me really happy. I love how creative our language can be.

But it makes you wonder, who got to decide the “official” name for each grouping of animals? Was it a person? A committee? If so, that had to be the most delightful job in the world. (I think that’s the only occupation that’s cooler than my own.)

I can just imagine some people sitting around a table in silence, and then one of them perks up and says, “I know! Let’s call it a Tower of Giraffes!”

After general chuckling, someone else says, “Motion carried!”

Brilliant. And it’s quite obvious that this person or group had a lovely sense of humor. How else would they come up with a Confusion of Guinea Fowl or an Intrusion of Cockroaches? How about a Rhumba of Rattlesnakes? A Wisdom of Wombats?

I feel like jumping on the bandwagon, so I am coining a phrase that I can’t seem to find anywhere on the internet. Let it be known throughout the land that henceforth a group of Bloggers shall be called a Rambling.

A Rambling of Bloggers. Yup. I quite like that.

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When I’ll Know I’ve Arrived

I’m a painfully frugal individual. I’ve had to be, simply to survive. I would never have gotten this far if I hadn’t learned how to delay gratification and resist impulse buys. I’ve given up imagining that I’ll ever have even one room full of furniture that matches. I’m more of the found-on-the-side-of-the-road school of decorating.

For the most part that’s fine. I’ve long since learned that it’s not things that make me happy. I get more joy from the people I love, and my dogs, and writing this blog, and having a job that I look forward to going to, and exploring this world.

But I have to say that there’s one thing that I want like it’s killing me. There’s a shop called Earthenworks Gallery, and in it they include furniture by an artist named Sarah Grant. She makes tables and benches and headboards and trunks… all manner of furniture, and it’s absolutely delightful, colorful and thought provoking.

I want one of her dining tables. Not only are they stunning and whimsical, but all along the outer edge are sayings that make me smile. “Tell your story.” “Believe.” “Live life to the fullest.” “Enjoy the changing seasons.” Those are just a few of her pearls of wisdom.

When I’m able to buy one of these tables, I’ll know I’m a success. I say this not just because I can’t imagine ever being able to treat myself to a 3,000 dollar splurge, but also because to own a table like this, one needs to have a lovely room to put it in, and wonderful people to sit at it with. One would also have to have the confidence to know that things were going so well that there would be no regrets in buying such a wonderful work of art, and enough space to never feel the need to cover its beauty with clutter. I crave all of those things.

And then, of course, with a table like that you’d need some really nice chairs. Oh, and I also want one of her trunks, and a grandfather clock, and I’d love to sleep in one of those beds, and those benches are really cool…  It never ends, does it?

What Perishes is Not Real

For the life of me, I will never understand people who don’t like to read. There is so much wisdom out there. Reading is like accessing the brains of millions of other people. There is more knowledge in this world than one brain could possibly hold. Think of books as thumb drives that enhance the memory of the computer that is you.

For example, a friend of mine reminded me recently of the beginning of one of Rumi’s amazing poems.

Each form you see has its unseen archetype. If the form is transient, its essence is eternal. If you have known beauty in a face or wisdom in a word, let this counsel your heart: what perishes is not real.

“The Body is a Rose” ~ Rumi

Now, I’ve read Rumi before, and been moved by his words, but I can’t keep everything in my head. That’s why reading is so important. I particularly needed to hear this passage on the day my friend shared it with me, as I was going through a stressful situation.

Perspective is something I always struggle with. It’s hard for me to remember that what I might consider to be a crisis is usually a mere blip on the radar in the overall scheme of things. So much that I worry about and agonize over is actually trivial when compared with mortality.

I remember being really aware of that right after my boyfriend passed away. People would be griping over how well a coworker was cleaning the toilet, and I’d be thinking, “But you’re ALIVE!!! Don’t you get it? Who cares about the bloody toilet?”

But with the passage of time, I find myself falling back into my old bad habits of taking things entirely too seriously. So now I try to remember to say “what perishes is not real” as often as possible. Perspective.

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A rose for you.                       [Image credit: loramatz.com]

On Being Enlightened by a Guru

Once upon a time I was a freelance editor. I suppose I still am, technically. I just haven’t pursued work in that arena for quite some time. I enjoyed it, yes, but mainly did it to keep the wolves from the door. The wolves are still out there, but my door is a little more solid these days.

Anyway, early on I was approached by an owner of an independent press to edit a new age book about enlightenment. The author, basically, felt that he was enlightened and had written a book so that others could reach that same state. He claimed to be “beyond ego”, and yet he felt he had all the answers. The book was basically one long conversation with a woman who was seeking enlightenment, but apparently was going about it the wrong way. The author spent the entire time explaining how wrong she was and how his way was the only correct way.

About halfway through our professional relationship, the owner of the press asked me my honest opinion about the book. It’s never a good idea to ask my honest opinion, because I’ll most definitely give it to you. So I told him that the guy came off as arrogant, egotistical and full of himself, and I therefore found it impossible to take him seriously.

That’s when I found out the owner had written the book himself under a pseudonym. I was mortified. My opinion hadn’t changed, but I was still mortified. And I was also politely told that clearly I didn’t have much experience with new age books, because that was simply “how it was done”.

I wasn’t fired, but he certainly didn’t thank me in his acknowledgements. Actually, he thanked no one. I don’t suppose it would do to admit that you needed any form of help or support if you are supposed to have all the answers.

What did I learn from this experience? From that day forward I couldn’t take any new age book seriously. I think it’s natural to seek answers and attempt to improve our lives, but I’ve never personally known anyone whose life was completely transformed by reading a book. Even followers of the most widely accepted religious tomes are inherently flawed.

It’s good to expose yourself to other philosophies, it’s great to be inspired by others, but it’s rather insane to think that one person writing one book is going to solve all your problems. Life just doesn’t work that way.

The world is full of gurus. I would like to think that many of them are sincere, albeit overly confident. Others see the weakness in people and decide to profit off of it. Either way, you should always maintain a healthy skepticism.

I sincerely believe that there are many paths, and each of us has to find our own, and while you may meet a lot of people who can impart wisdom to you on your journey, to fixate on just one is pure folly. Travel with caution.

wrong-path

[Image credit: imgkid.com]

Spanish Proverbs

One of the things I love most about the Spanish language, and one of the reasons I chose to learn it, is that it is full of wise sayings. There is no exact translation for some of them, and that’s a pity, because a lot of them are gems. We can learn a great deal from Spaniards who bristle with platitudes. Here are a few of my favorites, which I’ve translated as best I could.

  • Mejor perder un minuto de la vida que la vida en un minuto. – It’s better to lose a minute of your life than your life in a minute. (In other words, patience is a virtue.)
  • Cada martes tiene su domingo. – Literally, every Tuesday has its Sunday. (In other words, every dog has its day.)
  • Lo comido es lo seguro. – The thing you’ve eaten is the sure thing. (In other words, you can only count on the food that’s already in your stomach.)
  • En tiempos de guerra, calquier hoyo es trinchera. – In times of war, any hole is a trench. (In other words, any port in a storm.)
  • Mucho ruido y pocas nueces. – A lot of noise, and few nuts. (In other words, much ado about nothing.)
  • Entre bueyes no hay cornadas. – Between oxen there are no horns. (Hard to say this one. Basically, you can trust those you have something in common with.)
  • Un paso a la vez. – One step at a time. (Exactly as in English, but it just sounds so much cooler in Spanish!)

That cultural tendency to want to share wisdom is one of the things I love most about Spain! There are tons of Spanish Proverb sites on the web. Check ’em out. You might learn something.

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[Image credit: dondrummstudios.com]

Unexpected Wisdom

In times of confusion or grief or despair, my first instinct is to find answers. Often there are none, but it’s a reflex action to reach out to grab something when you’re falling. Usually I turn to books.

At the scattering of my boyfriend’s ashes, a friend gave me a good one. “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times” by Pema Chödrön. This book is so profound, so deep, that I can only read it in short spurts. Read one chapter, let it sink in for week or so while I read something less intense. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this book in the future.

I also bought another book on line. “Yoga for Grief Relief” by Antonio Sausys. I have to admit I haven’t even started on this one yet. I know when I do, it will require that I pull myself out of this fetal position I’ve been in for the past month and a half, and I’m not quite ready yet. But I like to look at the cover and I take comfort in the fact that there are steps to take to feel better. Some day. Soon. I hope it’s good.

But what’s interesting is when wisdom comes along from an unexpected source. You’re sitting there, minding your own business, and WHAM! Insight. That happened to me a few minutes ago. I was reading “Odd Hours” by Dean Koontz. That is the light fare I am currently using to clear my mental palate between Pema Chödrön chapters. I wasn’t expecting advice. I was actually looking forward to having none. That’s part of the beauty of most Dean Koontz books. Pure escape. But there you have it. I don’t seem to be in control. Dammit. So I’ll leave you with this quote from Dean Koontz, because it sums up everything that I’m feeling right now better than I could ever begin to explain it myself.

“Grief can destroy you—or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. Or you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything, it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”

Namaste.

free-sunrise-wallpaper

[Image credit: bestwallpaperhd.com]

Note to Self

I was thinking today about all the really good advice/ideas/concepts that I, myself, have ignored in my lifetime. I really ought to write them on little post it notes and stick them up all over my house and review them daily. But that’s another idea that I won’t follow through on.

So without further ado, here are some pearls of wisdom that I’ve cast away at least once in my life.

  • If the little voice inside your head is saying, “Don’t say it. Don’t say it…” Seriously? Don’t.
  • If you’re trying to lose weight, then don’t bring the entire bag of cookies into the TV room with you.
  • There’s really nothing you should say to a police officer other than, “Yes, officer.”
  • If your dog is doing the pee pee dance on your landlady’s carpet, you really need to drop everything and take him for a walk. None of this, “Just give me a minute” stuff. Dogs have their own timetable.
  • If you break up with a guy once, there’s no point in second chances. You’ll only break up with him again sooner or later.
  • If every single solitary person you know tells you that something is a bad idea, oh yeah, it’s a bad idea.
  • Take a picture of your butt when you’re 19, because someday you will miss it.
  • If everyone you know tells you that they don’t like a friend of yours, sooner or later you’re going to discover that the person in question is not a friend of yours.
  • It will never hurt you to actually obey the speed limit.
  • There are, in fact, quite a few situations where it doesn’t pay to give someone the benefit of the doubt.
  • Just get it over with.
  • Never forget that things could always be a whole lot worse.
  • Your dogs will always be better judges of character than you will.
  • If you’re waiting for someone else to make you happy, I hope you brought a really good book with you.
  • It’s a rare occasion when you leave a bar feeling better about yourself.
  • Actually, it is better to hurt someone else’s feelings if it means you’ll stop torturing yourself.
  • Time outs shouldn’t be just for children.
  • If you spent as much time washing your dishes as you do feeling guilty about not washing your dishes, you’d have no dirty dishes.
  • If you have a boss that likes to throw you under the bus, don’t wait until tomorrow to start job hunting.
  • If you’re tempted to say, “You know what your problem is?” Stop right there. It never ends well.
  • There will never be a better time to make love than right this minute.

And on that note, I’ve got to go. 🙂

worse

“Even Cheerleaders get Pimples on their Behinds.”

Those words of wisdom came from my mother on a day when the teenaged me was lamenting the fact that I wasn’t popular, and also complaining about a pimple on my posterior. When insight is put forth so colorfully, it tends to stick with you for life. And while it was meant to apply to a very specific situation, it does have wider applications.

What my mother was trying to tell me, basically, was to be careful what you envy. It’s often not as bright and shiny and flawless as you assume.

For instance, I know a millionaire. He owns a mansion on a lake, a beach house, a sailboat, and he travels to the Caribbean every month or so. At first I bought into his philosophy that everything is possible if you have the right attitude. I actually thought maybe I had been doing something wrong all along, and that happiness and success were within my reach if I’d just look at things differently.

And then I got to know him better and discovered that he’s a binge drinking alcoholic in the midst of losing everything in a nasty divorce. He’s not happy. His life isn’t a huge success. In fact, he’s pretty darned miserable.

I know another guy who has an amazing future ahead of him, but he’s the loneliest person on the face of the earth. It’s really sad, too, because he’s a wonderful person.

Don’t we all know people like this? The exterior looks awfully good, but scratch the surface and you discover that what lies beneath isn’t particularly attractive. My mother was right. It does you no good to waste your time with envy. Your time would be better spent working on your own life. It’s a much better investment.

cheer

(Image credit: archive.adrian.edu)