I am working on my book. I have to be serious now. I'd almost forgotten how serious the writing of a book is. I can't play with centered text that meanders down the page as if it had nowhere else to go. I am sitting in a room a little too cold, there is only one light on next to me, the six parrots and four dogs are asleep and Coco the love pug is snoring, Babs the wee little deaf black girl is on the double cushion bed like the Princess and the Pea. Moe is stretched out on the couch and Sampson is attached to my body as per usual.
I am sitting in an oversized chair just like the self portrait of me at the top of this page, eyeballs rolling behind glasses, books everywhere around me. What are the books? An odd conglomeration...
* The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work," by Kathleen Norris
* Passionate Minds: Women Rewriting The World, by Claudia Pierpoint
* Hunab Ku: 77 Sacred Symbols for Balancing Body and Spirit, by Karen and Joel Speerstra
* The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, by Jim Harrison (His book, Just Before Dark, is among my top ten favorite books...)
* Holy The Firm, one of my favorite of Annie Dillard's books...
How can you not be blown away with prose like this?
"Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down, splintered down and wrapped in time like a husk, a husk of many colors, at dawn fast over the mountains split."
* Journal of a Solitude, by May Sarton...
While I have read and reread all of Sarton's books, taught them, and in the end, would become a dear friend of May's and she mine in the last years of her life, I had no idea, though I loved her books, how prescient was the reading of those books and the actual meeting of May. I wasn't just reading those books, I was reading the outlines of my future life, the one I'm living now. Alone, writing, a dog at my side, filling the feeders for the wild birds, gardening, and writing, following a strict routine that does not waver. And I deal with my own demons, as all writers must, as May did, but her books keep my steady on my course...
* Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home, by Sue Bender
While I read and loved all of her books -- Plain and Simple; Everyday Sacred; and Stretching Lessons; it was the second of her series of three that changed my life, set me on my ear, and altered my DNA radically. I have read it so many times I've lost count and I bought a second copy. I bow to Sue wherever she is. Namaste dear Sue.
* And last but not least by any means, the book I have long called my writer's bible, Earthly Paradise, the collected writings of Colette. It was published in 1966, 12 years after her death, an auspicious year for me. I was born in April of 1954 and she died in August of the same year. I think our souls brushed shoulders as I came in and she went out. I adore her, she is my Muse. I have read and reread this book so many times, studied it, clung to it, slept with it near me, carried it from here to there, that it has been glued and reglued and I hope Colette would forgive the copious notes in the margins, the tear stains, the pressed pansies from my garden between the pages, the indelible mark she left on my soul.
Robert Phelps wrote the introduction to the book. I have always loved one of his descriptions of her that paralled my own heart so closely I have quoted it often in my writings (credited of course), tattoed it on my heart, and worn it like an invisible locket that I could touch to ground myself when nothing else made any sense. Phelps wrote:
'But she knew -- perhaps the word is 'trusted' -- that to be born sentient and watchful is a daily miracle: that the paradis terrestre, the earthly paradise around us, is as wondrous an index of heaven as any we shall ever know; and that to abide here, even as an exile, for seven or eight decades, is a blessing -- because it is a chance to watch, 'to look for a long time at what pleases you,' and to find 'un mot meilleur, et meilleur que meilleur, a better and better word,' with which to secure it for others.
'And when we, in turn, watch Colette watching, we realize that, along with love and work, this is the third great salvation, or form of prayer, which we have been given. For whenever someone is seriously watching, a form of his lost innocence is restored. It will not last, but during those minutes his self-consciousness is relieved. He is less corrupt. He is very close to that state of grace for which Colette reserved the word, 'pure.' "
There is so much more. I could write pages and pages of quotes and how each moved me, but this says enough. I am re-entering the purification ritual called writing, where all the dross and flowery prose must be cut away, realizing that life itself offers enough. And if I don't write about the wider world where wars take place, where the news is born, where tragedies occur, it is no less important that I write about the early narcissus in a cobalt blue bottle blooming on my desk and perfuming the room, that I have a teddy bear of a dog lying, always, on my person, with 2 other pugs and a big black dog around me. It matters that I write of a wee little boy who calls me Grandma, and it matters that my mother, at nearly 82, is dying, here three years after she was given but a few weeks to months to live, and we have watched the gradual deterioration right alongside her indomitable spirit.
It matters that I wear a grey parrot on my shoulder all morning as he sips the foam from my latte, talks to the big white bird we've recently taken in, and sits on her cage with her talking, even though he is dwarfed by her, this cockatoo is a shy, gentle, loving bird, and she has found a permanent home in a place that she is no longer afraid, with 11 other animals who have found the same. This, too, matters.
I think it matters that this Catholic raised girl turned Buddhist can meditate and minutes later reach up and touch the St. Francis medal on her neck. I wear a St. Francis medal, a beautiful dragonfly, my totem animal as well as the meaning of my last name, Libellule, in French, along with a Buddhist mindfulness bell and a mala for my rounds of silent meditations. I pray to God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, along with Mary Mother of God and all the Goddesses of realm, to the angels and my special guardian angels , to my spirit guides and animal guides, and if all of that makes no sense to anyone but me, let it be known that my eclectic spirituality serves me well and I don't apologize for it or feel the need to explain it.
That the woman I love, and that I love her so deeply, would confound pretty well anyone who knows me, bothers me not one whit. She and I understand, and that's all that matters. It's no one else's business, but I celebrate my love for her every day of my life even as I go around the daily rounds of the cottage and weave my dreams and do my fiber work and plan my future life.
I would rather tell you that beside me here are 2 fountain pens, 3 quill pens from Paris, pen cartridges and 3 bottles of ink along with a very large sketchbook. This is more important to me than who I'm going to vote for for President. Oh, I'll vote, but still in all I'll live my little life no matter what happens. I will spread seeds of love wherever I go. I will love animals and children and flowers and others, and while becoming Mama Maitri is not something I planned on, I have taken on the mantle and try to serve it as best I can.
Sometimes I need to sketch out what is inside of me and then the words come. Sometimes I am designing the cottage that is in my heart, a small but unusual cottage that meets my needs. Sometimes I am just staring off into space writing my book on the air currents. How the words fall onto the page is beyond my imagining but it all seems to come out in the wash.
And so as I sit here in the weesmas, now, on Sunday morning, in a quiet cottage with sleeping animals, more at peace than ever, I am warming up my syllables so that the book I write might have resonance as well as something tangible to hold onto. Tonight I am laying my words out on paper like Sampson lies on me. My pug has taught me how to write.
That's all for now. I'm off to chase dangling participles.
Maitri, about to open a bottle of ink and dip a quill pen in it, watching in fascination as the ink drips onto the page. My ink, my blood. It's time to open a vein...