Aimless Love: a poem by Billy Collins

Aimless Love
by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lake shore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Original source: Billy Collins, Nine Horses, Pan Macmillan and Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003, accessed via Pan Macmillan on 9 August 2018. Continue reading

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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

Getting out of my own way

For years I told myself I wasn’t cut out for a 9-5 job. When I ditched that story, I found a job that ultimately inspired me to move across an ocean. As of last week, this has officially been my longest stretch of employment ever (not counting the years I worked for myself) and I’m not planning on leaving any time soon!

I mentioned Rachel Meyer’s piece, You Are Not Your Story, for Down Under Yoga. I just adore Rachel’s writing; check it all out (and sign up for her e-newsletter!) on her website!

 

It’s alive: My first vlog (aka an invitation to collaborate)

Per my last post about how nobody ever reads YouTube descriptions, here’s the description in most of its glory (I took out bits that are irrelevant in this context):

Dear friends: I miss you… and yet my life is so much better without social media. (“But YouTube is also a form of social media!” “I know, I’m embracing the contradiction!”). Can we figure out a way to transcend time zones and busy schedules so we can connect and collaborate around the BIG, JUICY STUFF that’s beyond what can happen via social media? I hope so!

You can sign up for my e-newsletter here.

And here’s a link to my very awesome brother’s Instagram account, where he showcases his very awesome life.

Also a note – just because Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat don’t work FOR ME doesn’t mean they might not do wonders for you! I don’t mean to judge anyone who finds that these platforms do in fact improve your lives. And I’m still hoping you’ll join me here somehow 🙂

Tech details: Continue reading

What does the American flag symbol currently represent?

My friend Annie recently mentioned a grocery trip during which her daughter insisted upon wearing her American flag dress. “What does the American flag symbol currently represent?” she asked. “In my opinion, it’s ignorance and greed at best. What can we do each day to resurrect the pillars this county stands on? We’re so much better than this.”

Annie: I hear you! I don’t claim to have any answers, but I love this question, particularly as an American abroad at this moment in history. I also love that children, like your daughter, aren’t caught up in the outer OR inner turmoil.

To further the conversation, I’ve just dug up this article I wrote some years ago for the Bolinas Hearsay (then my local newspaper). If you don’t want to read the whole thing, at least scroll down to the Wendell Berry poem at the bottom!

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The Psychedelic Seniors: StuArt and friends

A bit of context for those of you unfamiliar: Bolinas is a town that takes it’s July 4th celebrations Verrrrrrry Seriously. It’s easily the biggest celebration of the year, drawing tourists from far and wide for the parade, a showcase for small-town agrarianism, creative genius, and a heavy dose of progressive politics. The day also features a tug-of-war between Bolinas and Stinson, the small town across the lagoon channel.

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Bolinas women about to win the tug-of-war against Stinson 2015

I almost used the tug-of-war metaphor to represent the place we find ourselves in today, as citizens of countries and as humans with hearts, but as Annie says, “we’re so much better than this!” What about something along the lines of… let’s forego sides and ALL take up the rope and use it as a tool to achieve some shared goal? I want to stay optimistic, as angry as I am. Tonight I’m joining a class on Buddhism, social change, and non-violent action. I am curious to see what tools present themselves, and hope to report back soon.

***

Bolinas Hearsay, July 2011

On the afternoon of July 5th 2010, I was wandering up from the beach on Wharf Road. I followed the stars and stripes painted in red, white, and blue along the road, beaming at the memory of watching them magically appear a day earlier behind the tractor during the parade, our latest gift from the always-inspiring, always-surprising Gospel Flat Farmer-artist-provocateurs.

Just then, Mickey and Sam Murch themselves drove up in the farm truck. Still grinning, I told them that they – the farmers and their art – were the highlight of my Fourth of July!

But Sam’s look was somber. “Some people complained to [name omitted]. We’re here to clean up,” he told me, nodding toward the pressure washer and lengths of hose in the back of the truck. “Apparently people aren’t necessarily mad that we painted on the road – it’s that they don’t want to look at American flags.” Continue reading

Resources for dating in small communities

For most of the decade from 2007-2017, I lived in West Marin. Bolinas was home for most of that time but I also spent a lot of time in Point Reyes Station (where I rented office space for a couple of years). These small towns are nestled amongst some of the most beautiful places I have ever laid eyes upon, much less had the privilege of living in.

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West Marin’s relatively small population presented (and still presents, I assume?) some challenges in the realm of intimate relationships. Though serial monogamy seemed to be the norm, it wasn’t the only relationship structure practiced within in this constellation of towns. We dated one or more of our neighbors; we became exclusive and shacked up for a spell; we broke up, moved away, and/or moved on to new partners… and not always in that order.

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Continue reading

Don’t rob yourself of the now: Timmy’s tribute to José as a balm for those who grieve

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My interview with climber, comedian, friend, and _____* Timmy O’Neill is now live on Xero Gravity, please check it out!

Timmy was a consistent presence during my Yosemite years, and he recently wrote a beautiful tribute to our late friend José, asking:

How do you bring someone long gone, back to life, and what are the physical and emotional artifacts that allow you to personify him?

I feel similarly trying to describe Timmy; *there are precious few words for describing those people who just vibrate at a higher level, even when they are still with us Continue reading

Chris van Leuven: my other “brother”

chris-vlChris van Leuven spent quite a bit of time at our house in high school, so much so that I often thought of him as the third sibling in the family. Things at his house weren’t going that well, we gathered, but neither my brother nor I asked many questions. Instead, we would bring him home after our afternoon sessions at the local boulders or climbing gym. We’d let his endless stream of words, spoken in such animated, rapid succession that anyone else would have struggled to comprehend, melt into our own stories from the day. Often, all three of us would be speaking at the same time, but that didn’t hinder our understanding.

In the Spring of 1996, I was just finishing my first year of college in Montreal while Chris was actually living our high school dream of dirtbagging in Yosemite Valley. Continue reading

Appreciating the wizards behind the musical curtains

Last night I drove up to Sonoma to see, among other bands that I like, Sandy’s play in a barn at the Huichica Music Festival.

One of the things I really appreciate about live performances, and especially intimate ones like last night’s, is that we get to experience all the work that we hear the results of but never get to see on the records: the load-in, the sound checks, the broken strings and forgotten lyrics, the moments of accidental ear-piercing feedback, and the communication between the musicians and people like Jeremy Harris behind the soundboard supporting Sandy’s.

Jeremy ripped it up onstage during Vetiver‘s set later in the night. A lovely human being in general, Continue reading