“Listen, This Day is MAGIC,” She Said: Everyday Magic, Day 827

“Listen, this day is MAGIC and I’m not kidding,” Kelley Hunt wrote today on Facebook, and I knew at once the truth of such moments.

It helped that I’m tunneling out of one of those bad colds that makes a gal feel like she’s been lost in the underworld with only some chicken soup, a lot of over-the-counter meds, and old movies of a young Brad Pitt fly-fishing in Montana (which isn’t a bad way to be lost). It also helped that the first phone call of the day was from one of my dearest and oldest friends who, that several projects I’m involved in are going remarkably well, and that the bath was the hot and coffee was strong.

Yet what Kelley wrote spoke to me not just about this day. Everyday, without cliche-ing the point, is magic in its would-be form, kind of like what I describe poems as for students: those little capsules you drop into water so they can expand into a sponge animal you couldn’t have anticipated. In a sense, every day given to us is its own poem: something we can open our wide perception and soften our big heart toward to find what’s beyond the obvious, hear the rhythm of the life force in our most local realms, and see image after image of reality in its singular, moment-by-moment originality. It takes a tilting of the head, willingness to let go of what we think the world is to connect with what actually is, and, most of all, gratitude.

I don’t say this lightly. It’s been a helluva fall with many deaths, lots of funerals, sad stretches of news, heart-breaking wreckage of the world in Ferguson, Syria, Liberia and other points, and sometimes, anguish in watching our beloveds suffer. Because of how fragile we are, how unpredictable life is, how difficult the journey and how strange the changes that insert themselves in our days, the gratitude to feel the magic of a moment, any moment, matters more. It helps us see in the dark, and as William Stafford writes, “It will take you into/ yourself and bless you and keep you.” So here’s to listening to the day and its magic even and especially when it’s hard to hear beyond what hurts.

For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid

There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot—air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.

~ William Stafford

Are You the Pretender?: Everyday Magic, Day 491

I was rushing about the small kitchen of Turning Point: The Center for Healing and Hope, making coffee and putting fruit on trays, when an elderly man stopped his walker in front of me and said, “Are you the pretender?”

“The pretender?”

“For the poetry class.”

“Yes, I am,” I told him, realizing he meant “presenter” or maybe I just heard “pretender,” but in any case, I am the pretender. Some people are born to take to pretending like dogs take to trash bags, and I’m one of them. As a kid, I remember frequently running down my suburban block to the bus stop while deep in fantasy that I was rushing to the stage to accept my Oscar. “I want to thank the Academy, and especially all the little people — you know who you are — for making my dream come true,” I would announce.

Not surprisingly, my report cards often had two comments: “Caryn daydreams too much” and “Caryn could do better if she just tried harder.” I didn’t have time to try harder because I was daydreaming elaborate scenarios of publishing books, holding art shows, marrying the love of my life on a mountain top, and touring with my imaginary band, the Rootin’ Shootin’ Tootets (I was lead singer and lead tambourine-on-thigh banger).

Fast forward to now, and I make a living largely out of helping others pretend. “Trust yourself,” I always tell each writing class, and most of my students at Goddard too. “And if you don’t trust yourself, pretend you do until it’s true.” The only way to do what feels impossible to many of us is to suspend disbelief (e.g. pretend otherwise) so that we can make changes in ourselves that we couldn’t have fathomed otherwise.

Writing is an act of both daring and imagination channeled through moving fingers and held afloat by pretending it will amount to something (if not now, in time). I started this post thinking only of that scene in Turning Point without any idea of what I would be by this paragraph. I love what William Stafford says about words inventing words, and what Robert Frost points to about way leading to way. Whether I’m writing poetry, fiction, non-fiction, a blog post or a song, I put on my pretend hat, game for where imagination, luck, rhythm and voice will take me. Just like Emily Dickinson parodies  — “Split the lark, and you’ll find the music” — I can’t get to where I don’t yet imagine by mapping it out ahead of time or taking apart what keeps the lark singing.

There’s something else I’ve learned which fuels all all I do: making stuff up and making things (out of words and other arts) is the fastest road and most scenic way to get to what is most worth knowing in life. Because by pretending — like invoking all the names of God on the basis that we can’t truly name such expansive mystery and grace — you can get closer to the fire of what’s real.

The Girl, The Ego & The Comfortable Room: Everyday Magic, Day 382

‎”Your goal on the spiritual path should be to free everyone else from your ego.” – Ken Wilber. That’s what my friend Scott posted on facebook the other day, which stirred some polar opposite reactions, from my “wow” to others certainly not in agreement. It got me thinking about how much am I impose my ego on others here and there without noticing. Then of course, I had to ask what constituted such an imposition. If I interrupt someone to say something funny, am I kind sort imposing my ego? If jostle for attention or avoid dealing with a mess, I’m clearly not freeing others of my ego.

And all this made me remember the best quote on the ego I’ve ever heard, from Pema Chodron:

Ego is like a room of your own, a room with a view with the temperature and the smells and the music that you like. You want it your own way. You’d just like to have a little peace, you’d like to have a little happiness, you know, just gimme a break. But the more you think that way, the more you try to get life to come out so that it will always suit you, the more your fear of other people and what’s outside your room grows. Rather than becoming more relaxed, you start pulling down the shades and locking the door. When you do go out, you find the experience more and more unsettling and disagreeable. You become touchier, more fearful, more irritable than ever. The more you try to get it your way, the less you feel at home.

I think about this often since like many of you, I love a good room: at the right temperature, with the food and sounds and smells I like best, and absolutely with the people who most please and least challenge me. Yet, as William Stafford in his poem, “Pretend You Live In A Room,” writes:

 

You have this world.  You wander the earth.
You can’t live in a room.

So from this girl’s vantage point, I write this from a room, a nice room in the back of the cottage, with windows overlooking the green unfolding of the Vermont woods, and inside this room, one of my colleagues quietly napping on the couch, her sneakers hanging over the arm. But I tell myself as much as I like this room, this isn’t just where I live. There is the world, and finding ways — small as nodding at someone I pass on the path to the dining room or large as deeply examining my motives in wanting to go to town over trying to change someone — to free the world of my own ego is the work. It’s what’s required for us to treat each other with greater compassion as well as to open our eyes and hearts to the other-than-human world buzzing and unfolding around us. It starts with doing this very work in whatever room I’m in at the time, comfortable or not, navigating from where I’m free from my own ego.