Floating a Little



 

• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

Ideas About Thriving

I read a bit of Mary Oliver’s book of essays, Upstream, on a friend’s FaceBook page, and this grabbed me:

And this is what I learned: that the world’s otherness is an antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness—the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books—can redignify the worst-stung heart.

Reading, difficult for me since electroshock, takes determination and much effort, but Mary’s book is on my Kindle now, and I dip into to it every day. As my cycle shifts out of depression, her words help me open to ideas about thriving.  Here’s what I’m trying so far:

•Commune with the Trees

I have an open invitation from my friend, Martha, to show up in her garden—to wander or make art or write, to breathe in the green and listen, to put my arms around the trees and mend my torn connection to them.

I’m also determined to find green places to walk.  Arthritis and despair have held me back, but today I tried out Cody Creek Trail.  The pain was worth the trees and their bits of discarded, lichen-covered bark that they left for me.

•Finish

For whatever reason—fear, despair, boredom—lots of projects languish, tucked away so their half-heartedness can’t hurt me.  These pieces deserve my respect and my care.  I deserve their beauty and the sense of stewardship their completion brings.

Today I hung the art quilt I started years ago when a friend in Marshalltown gave me her shop’s old upholstery sample books.  I took those pieces and centered them with a scarf my grandma used to wear wrapped around her head (the reddish cross in the middle).  I love the subtle colors and the way some of the fabric falls apart like melting butter.  It hangs in my sitting room, waiting for other pieces to join it.

I’m working again on a small art journal that I started when I moved to Muskogee.  It’s called The Zen of Bipolar Disorder.  Each spread is a “lesson” I’ve learned and try to practice.  I’ve used lots of natural elements—feathers, leaves, bones, sticks, raw wool—sewn to chiffon or cheesecloth or other semi-transparent media.  It’s wild, and startling, and unlike anything else I’ve ever done.  When finished, this little book (made from an antique Swedish almanac) will be my next submission to Art Journaling Magazine.

Today, I’m going to start the finishing of my Wall of Flowing Yellow.  Not long after I moved here, I found a wholesale fabric warehouse and bought yards of various yellow chiffons and silks (and a shimmery orange prom dress at Goodwill).  The idea was to drape this huge (14 feet by 8 feet) blank wall in the center of the duplex with the Feng Shui-accurate color of Health.  Some panels are beaded, some beribboned.  All that’s left is to sew nine panels together and hem the whole piece.  A few days work.

•Choose to Thrive

This last idea is an experiment in alchemy.  How do I combat the Place Hatred that takes over when my symptoms cycle into the Black?  Hating where I live stops any chance of growth.  It poisons the air and turns people into monsters.

One small shift—repurposing a journal—is the only idea I have right now.  I used this journal to analyze my Place Hatred, to be specific, to sort out what I could change and what I couldn’t.  I used about half of the journal to that end.

Now I will use it to explore Thriving.  What makes me feel alive and well?  How do I stay open to the possibility?  This will be a place to tuck notes and ideas, to jot down little joys and brainstorms.  As I experiment, I’ll practice proper scientific technique, keeping track of results, near-misses, and magic.

Oh, it’s a relief to know that I’m still on an Adventure.

Floating a Little

 

• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

Floating a Little

 

 

• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

Floating a Little

 

 

• Post Title and Inspiration:

Mary Oliver — Still, what I want in my life is to be willing to be dazzled–To cast aside the weight of facts–And maybe even to float a little above this difficult world.

Quiet

Quiet.

Emmett is done breakfasting for the moment, his fresh bowl of moist food sampled, ready for him when he returns, now that he is sure of it.

The furnace clicks off after smoothing out the early morning chill.

The shades are up, inviting the gray light that creeps color into the ribbons on my door, the pens in my cup.

Birds warble far away, filtered by thin walls, thin glass.

The day opens.  I will not rush to fill it.  I will allow the quiet.  And breathe.

Pickles

This is a bit out of a story I wrote a long while back.  My stories are all the same—Bipolar Girl Finds Acceptance/Love.  It’s a need I work through on paper when I can’t manufacture it in real life.  Recent events have shown me that I am both characters in this scene.  That is a great comfort

So, I’m in the guest room, sleeping through tea and dinner.  Amanda has told the children to leave me alone, but by bedtime, Grace can’t stand it.  She comes in and gets on the bed with me.  I’m awake, groggy, slow.

“What’s wrong, Auntie,” Grace asked.  She snuggled close and laid her head on my belly.

I bunched a pillow under my head and watched her pick at the pink lace on her shortie pajamas.

“Well… “

It was hard to think, to even scrape together words that might make sense.  How could I answer her question?  I wanted to do it right.  You’re supposed to answer kids’ questions simply, not give them more than they ask for.  That’s right, isn’t it?  Isn’t that how you’re supposed to explain sex?  Jesus.

“I get sad sometimes, Gracie.”

“Why?”

“Well… my brain doesn’t work quite like yours does.”

“Is your brain broken, Auntie?”

Oh, it was too hard.  I didn’t want to scare her, but I also didn’t want to just brush her off.  She looked at me with her huge, round eyes.  Her little elfin face a perfect combination of her parents’.  I brushed the white-blond fluff away from her eyes.  I loved this little girl—the daughter of my best friends on earth—a tiny, precious creature with a scientist’s curiosity.

“What grade are you in now, honey?”

“I’m in Seconds,” she said proudly, the squeaky little voice with the perfect British accent.  It went straight to my heart every time.  But my heart was already too full.  I felt tears leaking out the sides of my eyes.

“Okay.”  I fingered the pink lace next to her hand, trying to pull myself together.  “You like pickles, yes?”

“Oh, yes.  I LOVE pickles.”

“And pickles live in their jars with juice all around them.”

Brine, Auntie.”  She was very smug.

“Yes, that’s right.  Brine.  The brine is always green.  Whether the pickles are sour, or sweet, or spicy—always green brine.  Well, let’s say you and I are pickles.”

Grace giggled.

“What kind of pickle do you want to be?”

“Gerkin!” she shouted.

“Good choice.  I’ll be Bread and Butter.”

She giggled again.

“You have beautiful, clear brine.  The most delicious brine in the world.  But my brine is brown and smelly.  My lovely Bread and Butters live in that nasty brine.  Sometimes they don’t taste very good.”

Grace blinked at me.  “Then, we must rinse your jar, Auntie.”

“What a good idea, my darling.  But it’s hard to do that to a real brain.”

Grace sat up, her little face puckered in thought.  She looked just like her father right before he let loose a string of profanity.  “You can have some of my brine, then.”

I took hold of her hand.  “What a generous gift, sweetheart, but I’m afraid you need your brine to grow up to be Prime Minister.”

“Pew.”  She wrinkled her nose.  I’m going to be a Maori princess in New Zealand.”

Of course, she was.

“I shall live with the kangas and the wallabies and be their queen.”

“May I visit Your Highness in your realm down-under?”

“You may,” she said magnanimously, “but only if you hop.”

“Your wish is my command.”

Inside, I breathed a sigh of relief.  That wasn’t so bad.  And she didn’t seem to be scarred for life.  But I was exhausted, and looking at that vulnerable sweetness filled me with a melancholy that would spew soon.

“Off to bed now, Grace,” I said, turning on my side.

She slid off and stood at the edge of the bed considering me.

“‘Night, ‘night, Princess,” I said, tears wetting the pillow.  I wanted her gone before I started sobbing.

Grace reached out and put her hands on my head.  A royal blessing, I thought.

“Poor pickles,” she whispered.

A Conversation in the Void

“Where have you been?” she asked him.

You left me, remember? Said it was easier.

His eyes were still kind, his voice still quiet.  But she couldn’t read him anymore. And she couldn’t believe she was trying to.  “Why are you back?”

His face shrugged. You called.

“I did not.”

Okay. You called out. So we came.

Startled, she peered into the dim behind him. Figures stood there, waiting. Figures she recognized.  “All of them?” she whispered.

He half-turned.  Most of us.

“It’s a mistake.”

One side of his mouth quirked up. Is it?

“I can’t do this again. It’s too hard.”

You’ve said that before.

“I do other things now. I don’t need you.”

How’s that working out?

“It’s the same story over and over.”

So, change the story.

“I’ve tried. It stays the same.”

Some parts. Not all of it.

“I don’t want to.”

Ah. He took a breath. You’ve said that before, too.

She pressed her hands against the sides of her head. “I don’t know what to do.”

Good. He smiled. That’s good. Maybe we can help. If you let us.

He raised his hands in surrender. Only if you want us to. No pressure. We’ll wait back here.

“I won’t be able to leave you alone if you stay.”

His kind eyes found hers. I know.

When There is Nothing to Be Done

Discomfort.

My mind is itchy, scabby, oozing where it’s scratched itself raw.

My body aches and pinches, the hollow parts filled with vinegar and steel wool.

Gravity increases.

Distraction telescopes out of reach, leaving only the rote movements.

My hands do them anyway, a prayer, a coax, a thing to do

when there is nothing to be done.

Saved, Forgotten, Found

Pray for Peace

Pray to whomever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah. Raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekhina, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.
On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,
for everyone riding buses all over the world.
Drop some silver and pray.

Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.
Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already prayer.
Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile cases we are poured into.

If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.

When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:
less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas–

With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.

Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Scoop your holy water
from the gutter. Gnaw your crust.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

—Ellen Bass 

(thank you, Carol)

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