I dwell in possibility.
~ Emily Dickinson ~
one needs to hide
~ Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser ~
BRAIDED CREEK: A Conversation in Poetry
Tonight I am reading a very slim volume of poems no longer than haikus that have a rather extraordinary story behind them. And even further, this one particular poem, a whisper of a thought, took me back through time to one of my other favorite writers, Emily Dickinson, who, while having written, seemingly, the polar opposite of the second quoted verse, somehow came together in just the right way to make sense of my world tonight.
I have to say a few words about Braided Creek. This is simply a stunning and extraordinary book, in many ways, but the thing that I love is that the poems are a dialogue, via letters, between writers Jim Harrison and his friend Ted Kooser after Kooser was diagnosed with cancer. They chose not to sign any of the poems. On the back of the book the publisher writes:
"When asked about attributions for the individual poems, one of them replied, 'Everyone gets tired of this continuing cult of the personality ... This book is an assertion of poetry and against credentials."
I found that simply stunning. In a world where celebrity is a cult of chaos and often catastrophe, and yet an addiction like a drug, from troubled families and aging stars on reality shows, to "superstars," to young people wanting to just grow up to be famous for anything, two gifted poets quietly wrote back and forth to one another and published this little volume without signing a single poem. I find this deeply moving, and heartening somehow too. One can live to both dwell in possibility, and hide from it. Emily did it. Blushing to put myself in the same paragraph as these three gifted writers, I will tell you that I have found these seemingly opposite thoughts to be, not only present, but necessary, in my own life.
Living at a crossroads, any crossroads, when the life you are living is about to change radically and you have yet to cross the threshold, you are in a position of both needing to plan for the time ahead (... dwelling in possibility.) and needing to both rest and shore yourself up for the changes to come at the same time. Some days I am filled with hopes and dreams and projections and plans for my future. In the next moment I am terrified of what lies ahead and I need to pull back, like a turtle in it's shell, and just hide and be. (... hiding from possibility.) It reminds me of the old saying, "Two steps forward and one step back." The step back is every bit as necessary as the steps forward. The steps forward are when we are taking great leaps in our imagination, believing everything possible, reaching for the stars. The step back is, not the quashing of dreams, but perhaps, better put, the balancing of the dreams with the life one has.
When I say "the life one has," I am not saying that in a derogatory or demeaning way, nor one devoid of potent possibility abundant. I am saying that in a realistic way. I am saying to myself that yes, there are many possibilities for me, and there will be many changes, and some are very exciting, and some, yes, scary. But while part of me is planning a trip to the moon, another part of me has to keep my feet on the ground. If my feet aren't planted squarely on this terra firma, I will topple over on my head. That's when it's time to stop gazing at rainbows and be very quiet.
It all comes down to -- as it always does -- the need to live in the moment. No one can do it all the time, or only a rare few in history ever have and I have an idea that perhaps, if only for a second, their mind wandered. In the midst of "dwelling in possibility" I run headlong into a full-blown panic attack, one of my issues, and have to reign in the galloping horses that are taking me faster than I am able to go. Everything will happen in due time. It needn't all happen at once. And in midlife I can now savor the almost unseen forces that are moving me across the threshold from one stage of life to another. When I try to make things happen, I end up with a mess and a muddle, not to mention sleepless nights and almost unmanageable terrors. And then there comes a day when unseen forces seem to move me foreward without my realizing it until some time later.
Just a couple of days ago I was telling one of my dearest friends that a very odd thing was happening to me that I didn't know how to explain. It is as though for some time I have been fighting my own life -- trying to find things that couldn't be found, starting projects that would not come to fruition, trying, trying, trying until I found myself in a state of collapse and despair, huddled in a chair, unable to move.
In the past week I have found myself, without planning or trying, walking into rooms and just putting my hand on things I have looked for for months, I have done things that long needed doing, effortlessly. I have begun projects that I am carrying through, and all of a sudden I realized that this was happening and found myself almost in shock, there were no words, it was unconscious, there was only the realization that life had knocked me off the lily pad and was moving me downstream again. I am preparing. For what? you ask. I haven't a clue. Oh, I could tell you some of the facts, a few details, but they don't matter. What matters is that we needn't worry so much about what to do, and when to do it, and what if this happens, and what if that doesn't happen, because Life will happen, and then it will all be decided for us. Then we will deal with whatever we need dealing with, and all of the resources needed to move through that phase, when it comes, will be at hand, just like this somewhat peculiarly surprising passage I am traversing now.
One day I got off the phone hysterical over what felt like an unimaginable heartbreaking unexpected jolt. The next day I pulled back into myself and became very quiet. The next morning I got up and without giving a thought to anything I might do or not do, I simply started moving swiftly downstream. I am living my life. It is as simple as that. All of a sudden I am reminded of the beautiful Sanskrit writing...
“Look well to this day, for it is life, the very life of life. In it lies all the realities and verities of existence: the bliss of growth, the glory of action, splendor of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day, for it and it alone is life! Such is the salutation of the dawn.”
Possibility exists. To dwell in it or hide from it matters little. Possibility is life. In the end I think the only thing that matters is that we recognize life for the gift that it is, and live each moment with as much grace, humility, love and kindness as we are able. More than anything, this is my goal.