Certain Lonelinesses

If you ask about sleep: poorly. Or thinly, maybe. Often when I sleep it feels as if I travel, and last night was a long road on which leaves were falling. It’s better now, after walking and with a coffee nearby.

When I don’t want to write – as now – it’s because there is something I don’t want to (or just can’t yet) say. I woke up repeatedly and looked at the clock, as if worried, as if . . . what? And talked to you as I walked – literally out loud – not really wondering, is this okay? Certain lonelinesses are more than I can bear, at this time.

Better but not by much. I can’t really handle the writing, but I have to handle the writing now. Nor do I feel safe with the need that is becoming obvious. The distance is a blessing, but for me it is starting to shrink, or fade.

What does that mean exactly? Maybe I am a leaver but what are you? I don’t leave so much as fall back and watch from a distance what I believe I was never worthy enough to have. Nor can I stand another loss.

Each sweetness unhinges me a little more. Each sentence carefully written somehow reminds me it’s okay. Or it will be. Though when, I cannot say.

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Nurturing Ground

One walks just barely ahead of the many stories that forever tag behind.

The moon was a dim blur behind rain clouds, growing dimmer – like certain memories (and unlike certain other memories) – as the walk continued.

Killdeer settled in the hayfields spook away as we pass.

And half a mile later the beavers remember to thunk the fire pond with their heavy (tear-shaped) tails.

“Orgasmic” was the best word, actually. Revelation is intensely sexual – or perhaps it’s better to say that intense sexual experience approximates (poorly and briefly!) revelation. Hence desire, hence repression, hence et cetera. I talked to a Buddhist monk a long time ago about celibacy and he thought about it and then said, giving up sex is not hard when life itself is ejaculatory. My own efforts to describe revelation have failed precisely because I’m sensitive about using “come” as a verb in mixed company. In other words: your point was well-taken and not in any way mis-taken.

Be patient with your lust, and its absence, and try not to judge its various incarnations. We aren’t bodies, but we aren’t red-winged blackbirds either, and we manage to love them just fine. I appreciate a tall glass of cool water after walking and guilt doesn’t enter into it so . . . like that.

Some of the stories mentioned a few sentences back are painful and insistent. For example, I told you my cousin has four sons but in fact she has three – Jayce, Braden and Patrick. I woke up the other morning (the morning we made up), and thought: why did I imagine a fourth brother? And then felt very sad and empty, thinking: I know why I added the fourth brother.

Right now I’m making coffee. The last of last year’s winter squash is on the counter, fitting as we this week begin nurturing ground for the new garden (the new community). The twentieth sentence, properly understood, is the end of nothing.

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The True Ecstasy

You forget the moon sometimes, or I do, and then when you see it – as this morning, through the flowering dogwood (which is still working on leaves, never mind flowers) – you are caught up, you are surprised. My literary theory was twofold: first I believe that writing heals ignoscency (attentive writing does anyway) and second, in terms of aesthetics, I believe in parenthetical afterthought, which is a fancy way of saying it’s okay to wander in search of what you mean and the right way to write it. Last night I may have added a third: it’s a way of saying I’m okay in the face of insufficient (in terms of both quantity and tenor) opportunities to just say so aloud to someone who cares.

We are – to me anyway – a kind of writing project. Mostly a writing project? I was this morning brought up short by the moon – still relatively high off the western tree line – and looked for a star upon which to wish but then turned back to what I was doing (feeding chickens, filling bird feeders, pissing by the rose bush, looking at the moon, etc.).

When one is writing privately, the writing owns the quality of a diary. When one invites a special reader, it perhaps assumes the tone of disclosure. I am less aware of the image, for example, and much more interested in being clear, understood and in getting to something – what? – that resists being known.

That impulse intrigues me – the one that longs to be clear, as if to brush away dross to better see a source of light. But is clarity naturally inherent in anything? Our relationship – our mode of relating – to certain spiritual texts also intrigues me.

I suppose to that list one might add, “the terms of inherency,” which is kind of a code for truth, which is what I am lately bent on. I predict you like the private writing less because it is less coded. Also, please know that I have long considered us a spiritual community (of two, but subject to expansion for the right brother(s) or sister(s), despite the distance, and despite the many externals which appear as blocks (like everyone, we are learning to see the blessing behind all form – and “all” matters there, because it is the absence of exceptions that renders anything divine).

I collect bottles on my walks, when I find old ones, floating up through the soil after rain. Our Christmas tree is cheerfully growing, each limb adding a soft – and unspeakably beautiful green – extension and so it’s time to plant it. I like your relationship with the word “settle.”

I also liked talking to you yesterday which, despite the urgency, had a sort of easy and simple kindness to it, which one might say could helpfully be the terms of all relationship. I am more comfortable with God as unknowable – one recognizes the unknowable and does not resist (by trying to know it) but rather melts into it, into happiness, an inexplicable oneness that is the true ecstasy.

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The Next Long Walk Through Creation

I walked this morning trying to choose which writing to write. Distance is an excuse for avoiding what would awaken us. The only time I was hurt, truly, was when you named me at the end, and chose the wrong name. Well, but it was right for you, and that was always the purpose.

We stay up while the kids play in the other room and talk. Death – dying – unites us that way. The waning moon rendered starlight thin, but walking is less troubled with a little light. I am grateful for the ones who take me outside familiar patterns, even briefly, and my gratitude doesn’t end simply because we fall back into more manageable roles.

Need of any kind – mine or anyone else’s – frightens me. The call is to attention, and honesty, and away from the specialness of “nobody really gets me.” When you finally learn how to be alone, you learn that direction actually does matter but there are only two: outward and inward. It’s not the body that’s problematic, but our ideas about the body, and in particular the idea that it owns – and is not separable from – stories.

I never chose to be a writer, but I did choose to be an attentive one. God does not think apart from us. A lot of people who read me – in particular women – have a dream of ascending beyond their body, outside desire, and into some poorly defined light. And that’s okay!

Last night my sisters and I talked about our cousin (whose diagnosis breaks my heart) but really we were talking about someone who died a long time ago, and whose death has always been “my” fault. Some stories are harder to tell than others, that’s all. So long as we insist on credit for feeding the poor, we’re left with crumbs. Thus the next iteration, the next slow unfolding, the next long walk through Creation.

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A Particular Invitation

At 4:30 a.m – or thereabouts – the birds are already singing. Joy is never out of reach though it can own a certain sadness. How do you know what you are doing is right? When you’ve convinced yourself the whole point of these bodies is to make mistakes and learn from them.

I long to merit a particular invitation but longing of any kind is simply a childish refusal of Heaven. One walks to the fire pond in order to sanctify a certain conversation, one types outside in the morning and – at 4:33 a.m. – remembers how cold it can be in early Spring. And yet. The moon does nothing really and we love it anyway, we way it reminds us of her.

Bohm urged a certain attention to enfoldment which – once perceived – lent any activity a certain “it all work out eventually” vibe. Your comment about cadence was well-received and I choked all night thinking on it. I am here, as always, in the only way I know. Like moose tracks in early Spring, like the otter, who watches from a distance as I walk slowly, musing on the word “swale.”

At 4:39, one wonders if writing the twenty sentences outside was a good idea, or a declaration of love – otherwise no longer mentionable – or simply a kind of penance. Name a blessing that’s gone unfumbled and you’ve left me out! Cars zoom by on 112, mostly going to work. And the birds are getting louder.

He once wrote “I don’t want to want you the way I do but I do” and it’s still true, but differently. How much learning can one manage in what we call a lifetime? Please remember that when I thought you were not well I dropped everything and reached out despite not knowing if that was acceptable or even potentially harmful. I’m not walking, I’m writing, and at 4:44 wondering – still, even now – if it’s okay – or ever will be again – to say, “hey, you.”

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We Fumble The Blessing

One steps outside and see the moon, full and liquescent, sinking into rain clouds, which are silver and dense. The body moves and something trails along behind it, both delicate and pure. The neighbor’s rooster tries its voice, settles back into its perch.

When the sun rises later, I will be writing and teaching and driving. Yesterday, walking home the long way after several hours of meeting, a pine branch fell and landed near me with a satisfying thunk. And I saw clearly what was wrong and what was right and resolved to heed the interior guide.

Yet a mile or so later, passing the cemetery where I have dug so many graves, I forgot the truth altogether, and the guide or God who gave it. Something – a deer perhaps – was pacing in the hay field, little more than a ghost. I do imagine, John, all the time, and nobody ever shows up to help!

Loneliness is a consequence of relying on the external. Sartre was right about that God-shaped hole. Thus the mail, which never quite arrives the way we want.

And yet, and yet. The dog stays close as if sensing what is truly needed. Near the brook, we pause, and for a few minutes the cool air seems to hum, seems to whisper, and I forget altogether my conflict with prose.

One sketches an outline for a community of resistance, a community that nurtures. Sometimes I see so clearly what needs to be written, and other times it’s like I’m blindfolded in a closet. Perhaps I’m a fool for even trying.

How I have grown to despise the highway, that ribbon that exonerates distance! We fumble the blessing and grace arrives anyway.

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A Glimpse Of The Luminous Voluble Center

We enter the forest late – the sun bright on our shoulders – and push it forward. The trail unfolds as yesterday, quartz breaks the soft yield, and chickadees articulate the perennial warning. What is distance but a poor way of defining Heaven?

Cellar wells and spring sites where rotting staves release their rusting bands. Stories arrive like skunk cabbage. On the ridge, deer freeze and let us pass, mocking our ideal of stillness.

One yearns for the old clarity, dimly remembered, and commits to paper what they recall of its tenor. Mergansers circle the broken cattail, then disappear in flight. It is a game, until it is not, and then it beggars description.

Jeremiah asks when the newts will come, and the sunning turtles, and the fireflies. The frog eggs are here, already torn at by hungry crows. I tell him last year’s dates but caution against reliance: one never knows because it all depends.

And later we all knelt at the flat rocks where I prayed and cried alone when Jake died. A beaver once floated past this spot, eyeballing me from the slick currents, making me smile. We note how each Spring the brook returns to form, as if there really is a reality that can be once and truly known.

Bukowski is right that our songs about beautiful women don’t matter all that much, though we – him included – still sing them. Coming home, one waves at the neighbors, admires the daffodils and ponders aloud why the church bells are ringing. Our voices rise like little balloons, pierce the veil and offer a glimpse of the luminous voluble center.

So a little work remains. It is the purview of angels, and the least amongst us.

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Lapping Gently The Distance

I am trying to write about it. I want to but the words aren’t there. What is given in love assumes many forms. That’s close but not it exactly.

It has to do with the slow bend, like a river. What is smooth has borne time gently, like a stone, like a stone in a river. The space at night of watching stars alone and knowing you are not alone. How can I share this?

It also has to do with what is pale and warm, like the wild morning glory tangled in grass as spring turns to summer, and the fawn you find nesting there once every ten years. One longs to be worthy of her, there when the calf died, there beneath the bridges of Dublin. Held just so, the curve of the shoulder intimates the luminous circle of eternity. And of course those who dwell in the spinning cones of language long for that which brings them to silence.

The swans that summer watched as I swam, the water rippling as we circled one another. In the middle of the day is when I’m loneliest. The necks of horses in sunlight. And Ireland, where I held her as she slept, and listened to the sea lapping gently the distance.

Words won’t do it. They simply lay a trail that might – in this world or another – be followed. The Pieta moves me less than the loveliness of what she offers. It’s not this, it’s something else, always.

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Raked By Insatiable Hunger

One steps outside – beneath Spring stars – and she is there, waiting. The lilac bush extends the rigid folds of its leaves, smooth and hard as the carapace of June bugs. Chickadees shift in the shadows of pines. You walk and she follows, speaking quietly.

The brook quietens in late April. In the forest, rocks groan, pressing the soil and close up, the fine silt of their effort glistens. One longs for the moon in the presence of stars, one heeds the interior gnomon. The dog races ahead, fanning east to west in a broad arc, and sometimes tracks back, as if to ensure the center remains in motion, pointed north.

She compasses what distance cannot manage. When I am not with her, I want to be, and when I am, I long to be at the temple her presence suggests is both tangible and near. How long must one stumble through the marketplace, coins falling from their fingers, raked by insatiable hunger? Near the pond, at last, the sweet cry of peepers, the call to creation, electrifies what is forever outside the senses.

The past is never not at hand, and what is new is always being forced into ideals. An empty bookshelf is perhaps a sign of wisdom! Coming back, one pauses to admire the milky way, the semen-colored strip of sky, the great seam one longs to open, the loveliest proof, the most intimate design. She takes my hand, she offers tea.

As always, lonely is what lonely does. I make coffee and come to my corner to write. The sentences lift me, each its own breath. With her consent, the dense matter of my body continues its affair with form.

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A Sort Of Compass

There was a softness to the sky this morning. Little lights – more like little clouds – seemed to sift down from it and float along beside me. The trees were quiet, as if pleased with a season of creaking. When the dog scuffed to cover her piss, the noise made me start. How can you not name the stars?

Contemplation and service is the mode. The gift is not for speech, but for knowing speech’s limits. I was reminded yesterday of the hermitage at Agape House a few towns over, and how D. joked with me one time there was more sex in it than any other place on the property. We don’t want what we think we want. That which is external (that which we long for) can function – at best – as a sort of compass, directing us to inner peace.

In other words, nobody has to do anything but pay super close attention and be grateful! The Shaker cook book (a surprise gift from C.) provided hours of reading at bedtime. What did men like me do when they weren’t allowed to work in the herb garden and write poems? And yet what I wouldn’t do for Mother Ann Lee, those eyes . . . Thank you for elevating my literary poverty to riches, if only by association.

The coffee boils, the old cat staggers into my shins. Twenty years ago I saved him from death in a now-forgotten city and he’s never not said thank you, in a deep and sustained way. The Easter candy from my parents gathers dust as usual. Tell me it’s okay to write for you still. We hang by a thread, we figure it out.

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