The Journey: a poem by Mary Oliver

Here is a poem that Spring Washam included in her 2017 book, A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, And Wisdom in Any Moment. I love how it dovetails with William Stafford’s The Way It Is:

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations —
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Continue reading

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The problem with sharing poetry on the internet: how to properly cite poems found online

I’ve been taking Buddhism classes at the Auckland Buddhist Centre almost nonstop since the beginning of the year, and on top of that, have been reading a lot of books by / about / for people committed to living Buddhist practices more fully. One of the unexpected results of this activity is that I am regularly encountering poems that are both “old friends” and many that are completely new to me.

These days I’m far more interested in keeping track of my favorite poems than I have been in the past. As someone who appreciates both accuracy and giving credit where credit is due, sharing poems on the internet feels fraught with peril… and it gets worse when I’m often using the internet to track down poems I encounter in the wild, remembering only fragments. Copyright infringement and amplification of errors and misattribution, Oh My!

Example: the Countee Cullen poem I shared recently is actually quite a bit longer than the portion that I (and many other people before me) shared online. I certainly didn’t realize how much more there is to it until I went looking for a reputable source; I considered including the whole thing in my post, but in the end opted to reproduce the “error,” Continue reading

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters: a poem by Portia Nelson

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I fall in.
            I am lost … I am helpless.
                       It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I pretend I don’t see it.
            I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
                        But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I see it is there.
            I still fall in … it’s a habit.
                       My eyes are open.
                       I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
            There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
            I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

Continue reading

Self care and art as acts of resistance

It’s hard to deny that there’s a lot of shit going down in the world right now. As the daughter of two immigrants (into the US) and an immigrant (into NZ) myself, what’s happening at the US border hits me in a particular way, and there are so many other examples we might point to around the world.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to stay open to and present with this sort of unpleasantness, for a couple reasons. First, I believe it is important to actually SEE and GRIEVE these atrocities, rather than pretending they don’t exist or that they don’t hurt. And more importantly, I believe we must be present to what is going on if we might hope to effectively address any issues that are not in alignment with our own values.

And so I have been super inspired by a few things that my friends have shared this week. They remind me that there are so many ways to contribute to upending the status quo, and so many ways to take care of ourselves as we do that work. Continue reading

The Solstice is Our Anniversary

The paradoxical thing about monogamy, for me at least, is that it took someone who doesn’t insist upon it to inspire me to live it so willingly.

Read on for two poems (one that speaks to the inevitably-ephemeral nature of relationships, and one that speaks to the phenomenon I described above), the story about how Scott and I came to find ourselves in a relationship the second time around, and a bit of Wendell Berry’s ever-inspiring wisdom. Continue reading

Dancing with our demons: artistic perspectives on inner struggles

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There are a lot of things that art, broadly speaking, does for me. During tough times especially, I appreciate the opportunity to get beyond words and into something deeper, vaster, and paradoxically more accessible, if less explicable.

Here are four dance performances that illuminate the challenge of staying on one’s own path, which to me often feels a lot like going against the grain. The differences, gross or subtle, between what I believe and what I value, and how I live. The various arguing inner voices, the wrestling-with-angels, the sleepless nights.

I highly recommend watching full-screen with a good headset or speakers. I have to believe the third was inspired by the second, but who knows? The last one gives me the most hope, though I reject the implication that we need to buy anything in order to liberate ourselves, as it were.

I’d love to hear how you interpret any or all of these performances, how the lyrics resonate with you (or not – honestly I’m so moved by the physical performances it’s hard for me to pay attention to the lyrics!), and/or to see any art you’ve made to represent the struggle of remaining true to yourself when it feels like you’re supposed to stay within the lines. ❤

How to use privilege effectively: a lesson in two parts from Hank Green

I am thrilled about these videos from Hank Green.

If you’re not already familiar with him through any of his video series (including vlogbrothers, CrashCourse, and SciShow), Hank is a very influential person within the YouTube universe. He is also a heterosexual cis white male who uses his position of power to advocate for YouTubers who don’t necessarily hold that privilege… many of whom are trying to make a living (or at least, earn some money) by sharing their videos on the platform.

Short context, which he does cover in the first video below: there are some YouTube policies that are currently affecting the LGBTQ+ community in a way that simply boggles the brain. As in: certain religious groups are paying so that their anti-gay videos will run as “ads” before videos created by and designed for the LGBTQ+ community. Meanwhile, YouTube has also changed certain policies so that it’s harder to earn money by posting content that is LGBTQ+ inclusive.

Hank’s righteous anger, condemnation of policies, and his very firm request that YouTube fix the problem — complete with suggestions for how they could do it! — give me hope that humanity might prevail, even when The Algorithm fails us.

Thanks, Hank, for showing us how to use privilege effectively!

The Way It Is: a poem by William Stafford

The Way It Is
by William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

Getting over the fear of failure (I crashed my bike)

I made this video ages ago for work and even though we decided not to publish it, it’s still one of my faves 🙂 especially as it’s all about the inevitability of crashing, which I hope can paradoxically motivate all of us to get over our fear of failure.

Thanks to my colleagues Cat and Nadim and Kylie for the motion graphics savvy — turns out it’s not easy to, say, “draw” a red circle into a video, much less one that moves! — and to Luda for moral support always, including encouraging me to share this one ❤