Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It Is Not

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.

- Seneca, Moral Epistles, 104.26

* * *

Aphorisms can be maddening. They tend to be turns of phrase, clever word play to reveal a supposed truth. They simplify what is otherwise convoluted, complicated and thorny with contradictions. But they endure and attach themselves because of this selfsame madness. We call them memes these days, but once they were the work of philosophers, not trolls, and they helped explain our human nature, however imperfectly.

* * *

I have been taken with this idea lately: creativity is motion. For anyone who is fucked and stuck and going nowhere, the idea of motion, of being able to move again is as a glass of cool water to a thirsty man: the promise of relief. But if you're stuck, if the gears are mucked with sand, the notion of movement is more mirage than relief. How to move again? How to overcome the inertia and gravity bearing down on you and stretch your legs? The weight of our troubles makes it difficult to imagine. Despair and fear compound the merely difficult and make it impossible.

As real as that is in its effects, it is, in truth, an illusion: a trick of the mind deployed to protect ourselves. That's not to say our circumstances can't be dire, or tragic, or filled with stupifying loss. What it does say is that our response to those losses (our defensive crouch, the fetal ball, the dolor of inaction) is based on the past - where we've been hurt, rather than what comes next - where who and what we are is yet to be determined. We look at the past and project the difficulties into the future as if there can be no change and so find we cannot move. We are mired, stuck, unmoving. In a word: fucked. We add to our difficulties when we do so and we do so because the pain is familiar and we know a response: defend the illusion that we are victims, or are helpless, or somehow incapable of meeting the moment.

It is wildly human of us to do so, even though it adds a further weight and pain to our circumstance.

The tonic, the get-out-of-hell-free-card is found in any act of creation, creativity or making.

But, but, but, didn't I just say we're stuck and unable to move? Yes. But that was a lie.

It is impossible to be stuck. It is impossible to be inert. Your thoughts can grind to a halt and you can convince yourself you can't move, but the truth is you are an on-going act of creation and re-creation that is without end. Here's the idea I've been playing with: everything in the universe is in motion, from the sub-atomic to the vastness of the visible universe, everything moves, hums, vibrates, changes, morphs, dies and is re-used in other forms. Now I know this not as a physicist would but as a poet. It is a metaphor that happens to be actual. When we cease to participate in the dongs of our lives, our times because we've lost the thread of our soul or had it yanked from us by chance or neglect, we do not cease to be. We remain verbs though our spirit is freighted with confusion and therein lies the escape route. We, despite ourselves, continue to feed ourselves, to bathe and clothe ourselves. There may be no joy in it, but we continue in these basic forms. Surely, you have felt the odd wonder of cleaning the dishes in your sink as a vast accomplishment. Why would that be so? Because we are of the universe, the carbon in our bodies the gift of dead stars, and the universe is in motion. When we move, we are met by further motion. It may seem reciprocal or not, but when you can recognize that despite your suffering you are in motion still then you have a template for extending that idea: create.

It doesn't have to be art, though that's cool. It can be the creation of a clean sink or flossed teeth. But there is an objection to define creation down to include such mundane things. Yes, if you only think of creation as works of fine art. That is utterly limiting and misses the point: you are creation itself because you live. You are here and regardless of what has held you in its grasp, you are still contributing to the further creation of your life despite feeling lost. It is impossible not to. It is however, possible to not believe it and to act on that non-belief in such a way that the world does pass you by like a rock in a stream: over, under and around.

What's gotten fucked is your sense of movement. Stagnation is easy. Daring to test the strength in your legs is hard. But Seneca was right: it is hard because there is no daring. Fear of failing, of embarrassment ride high in the mind. But there is also this: the fear of losing what is known, even if it is difficult, can be the most powerful force in play. Without your losses, who are you? What will you be responsible for? Inertia keeps those questions at bay.

* * *

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly wrote in Flow: "It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were."
 
We become more when we take action for no reason other than to be in motion. No other reward, no motive, no nothing other than the will to take action. If you are fucked and stuck any action will do (see "clean dishes" above). It is re-orients you to the basic truth of being alive: you are in motion as everything around you is in motion and the most flexible muscle is not found in your body, but in your mind and is your consciousness.  

Unfucking your life is unfucking your mind. It takes the habit of being open to what's next to get there. The way to instill that habit is to move.

* * 

I found this note among some older writings of mine:

Why do I seek God? 
Because you refuse to see that God is already here, immanent, in motion, part of you.

The mystery: you and it are one - though you don't trust that. That is why you PRETEND TO SEARCH.

* * *

You're not stuck, love. You are pretending to be because you fear what happens next. But happens next is unwritten. You get to create it and with every breath you already are.

* * 

I wish you well.

__________




Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Power To The

Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people
Power to the people, right on 


- John Lennon, Power To The People 

* * *

Sometimes, when you're trying to make some headway, when you are pushing at the door to open, the best you can manage is to open it a crack. Sometimes that is enough for it gives you hope that, yes, the door does move. Other times the door simply flies open without you doing a thing other than standing in front of it. Now, it may have taken you years to get there, to stand in that place, but the door knows none of that. All it knows is how to open.

* * *

A brilliant woman I know said this to me: "People choose all the wrong things trying to reclaim their power." We'd been talking about road rage, frat boys, the Klan, gun violence in Chicago, gun violence anywhere, MAGA voters, corporate greed, plain old greed, religious tests, the NRA, Fox News, white privilege,.. The conversation wasn't as dire as that appears to be on the page. It was a conversation filled with wonder at what we come to believe, as in wondering how is it we come to choose to believe and act on things that are plainly not in anyone's self interest. And then this brilliant and beautiful woman said, "People choose all the wrong things trying to reclaim their power."

And the door I'd been standing in front of for years flew open.

The premise behind writing this blog, this on-going inquiry into unfucking one's life is that we fuck ourselves when we cede authority for our lives to others, to cultural prerogatives, to pressure from our families, to the love we hope to get in exchange. To be fucked is to be without autonomy, is to be powerless in the way you respond to the circumstances of your life. Man's ultimate freedom, the one  that he can retain despite all outward circumstance is the freedom to choose how to respond to those circumstances. So says Viktor Frankl. So say I. But what happens when that too is ceded? What sort of life is lived without that singular authority, the last freedom? 

One that chooses all the wrong things trying to reclaim its power, its authority, its inherent freedom.

We take on ready-made identities. We become tribal. We wear badges identifying ourselves not simply to join with others who wear the same badges, but to stand in opposition to those who do not. The work of our days is reduced to a zero-sum battle: if I hold the gun, I hold the power; cut me off in traffic and I'll endanger everyone on the road to get back at you; take my job and I'll exclude your family from this country, even though they had nothing to do with it. We spend our days burying what was lost in the shallow comfort of power politics. 

We choose all the wrong things and wonder why everything is so fucking hard.

We grow addictions the way fallen trees grow moss and mushrooms: multitudinous, myriad, insistent. We excuse our behavior because "whatabouthim." We so relinquish authority for our lives that the ones whom we have identified as our tormentors dictate our actions instead of determining for ourselves what is the right thing to do. It is easier to be fucked than unfucked. It is easier to wear a uniform than to dress yourself. It is easier to believe you are righteous than to consider your self-righteousness. 

Why is this so?

Here's my answer: fear at being found out that one is afraid and shame that it could ever be so.

* * *

Fear is latent. It lies below the surface. It is born from the story of absence: you lack x therefore you are deficient. Perhaps this x factor is something familial, perhaps physical, mostly though it is an emotional gap, a disconnect between the life you know exists in your veins and the feedback you get from the world around you. You can succumb to it, resist it, bury it, deny it, but until you face it you cannot make peace with yourself.  You can feel its power over you, over your choices, yet it is hard to name the thing driving you. Many folks don't bother and simply assume the identity that is offered to them, that is born out of the time and place of their birth, of their family's expectations. By not questioning their faith, their assumptions and expectations they must, by needs be, stand in opposition to those who are not like them. It is the first step to dehumanizing others, to counting their lives as cheap, to discounting their lived experience.

To ever move away from the attempt to reclaim authority by demonizing others, the other in what ever shape most sets your teeth on edge, you must somehow know that you've traded what was best in you, what was possible in your days, for the cheap thrill of being an ass.

* * *

I don't want to buy the world a Coke and I don't sing kumbaya.

No, the aim is not universal love (that's just another come on), but universal respect. It begins inside you when you are able to respect the still, quiet voice of your conscience, your soul, calling out through the mire of your fear and building everything else around that voice. Act from the deepest well, not the shallowest ease, and nothing you do will harm another. Least of all yourself. 

The power, the authority for your life has never left you. It waits for you to embrace it.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

One Is Too

One is too many
Billions ain't never enough
Don't take the easy road
There's no shortcuts
Spirit kingdom do
What we can't do for ourselves
Don't put nothin' down
Without lovin' everybody else


- Dr. John, The Night Tripper, "My Children, My Angels"

* * *

There is within us a desire to know and understand. For some this is cosmic, a desire to get to original causes. For others, it is borne out in the how and why of day to day survival. But this impulse to know is innate in the creatures we are: no claws, no hard shell defenses, just our minds to guide and protect us. Except when it doesn't. Except when the gift of our consciousness is weaponized against ourselves as doubt, fear and shame take up more space than we could have imagined was possible. 

We get lost. There is simply too great of a distance between who we are and what we've become.

When this happens, when you recognize that you've gone off the rails from what was possible in your life, when you see there is work to do to set things aright, when you see the distance you might despair of ever closing it and just give up; or, you might start on a program of self improvement: lose weight, exercise, read self-help books, go back to church, go back to nature, walk 10,000 steps a day.  It's all good, man. Any one will do, all won't make a difference if self improvement is the goal. The language is telling. Improvement is defined as "a thing that makes something better or is better than something else." There is judgment in it. Better implies worse. If you are to be self-improved, you must start from the proposition you are somehow worse to begin with. I know the intention is good, but this is horrific bullshit and does great harm. Don't fall for it.
Being lost is not a failing. Not knowing something is not a failure. Struggling does not mean you are deficient. You need no improvement, love. You need to be complete.
The word "complete" comes to us from the Latin word complere, which means to fill up, finish, fulfill. You need to fill yourself up. There's nothing to improve, only fulfill.

Following the track of improvement, of studying the habits of highly successful people, of being indoctrinated into the mysteries of religion, of learning the optimal combination of amino acids and protein to build muscle, of getting that MBA are fine in and of themselves, but no wholeness will arrive through them. When you place your identity outside of yourself, when it is tied to outcomes you are forever at the mercy of those outcomes. There is a distancing here. No matter how hard you work it is a distraction from the primary work of your days: to be who you are, as you are without judgment or shame.

Now, if training for a marathon, or getting an advanced degree, or turning to faith are expressions of your filling up, then all is well. Things move from the inside out. No one ever believes this because we live in a time and place that emphasizes the external, the accoutrements, the trappings of what is alleged to be the good life. The good life is the life waiting to be lived inside you right now. It has nothing to do with money, faith, sex or accomplishment. It solely has to do with restoring yourself to yourself, as you are, without the doubt that has plagued and tripped you, without shame for being the creature you are, without fear of judgment.

How is this done?

One is too many
Billions ain't never enough
Don't take the easy road
There's no shortcuts
Spirit kingdom do
What we can't do for ourselves
Don't put nothin' down
Without lovin' everybody else

* * *
Tell me 'bout your desires right now. Quick, before you start censoring them, filtering them through everyone else's expectations. Can you do it? Listen, the spark is there. It is in you because it is you. Your work is to uncover it and go where it leads you. Remember, improvement is useless without it. To improve without the spirit of being complete is harm itself, it makes you a hungry ghost, always searching, always finding the flaw, always being judged, always being judgmental. That don't serve you. Not a bit, love. 

Dr. John wants you to know there's no shortcut, but there is help. Every step you take in the direction of being whole, of being filled up is met with hundreds of steps rushing towards you to meet you, to lift you, to assure you, to dare you to take another.

From Joseph Campbell:

"For when the heart insists upon its destiny, resisting the general blandishments, then the agony is great; so too the danger. Forces, however, will have been set in motion beyond the reckoning of the senses. Sequences of events from the corners of the world will draw gradually together and miracles of coincidence bring the inevitable to pass."

Do you believe that? Do you believe that is possible, or is wishful thinking? I hate wishful thinking. It destroys, makes weak what could have been strong. No, this isn't wishful thinking. It is a description of how things fall into place when you abandon improvement for being who you are, no part left out. It doesn't mean riches or peace or health. It means you can finally be as you are and you can move and act and do from the deepest well of being. And here, if this is where you have gotten to, it is impossible to put something down without lovin' everybody else.

Honest.

It is why I keep at this.

* * *

Cheers.

__________

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

You Better Take

You better take your time
You know there's no escape
The future sends a sign
Of things we will create
Baby it's alright
And so have faith
Oh yeah, you invent the future 

That you want to face

- Fleetwood Mac, "Future Games"

* * *

Everything you need is at hand, is within your reach right now. It may not be what you imagined and it may not take the shape you'd hoped for, but everything you need to begin is already here. You do not need to search for it. It is not hidden and it is as elusive as you want it to be. 

The Buddhist concept of "the supreme meal" touches on this. It says, with care, the ingredients you have on you - no matter how few or how common - can be transformed by your attention into a supreme meal, a meal shared with others. What transforms water, rice and onions into this supreme meal is the mind that touches those staples, the hand that crafts them, the spirit that offers it to others. There is no longing for what is not there. There is no guilt in its humble state. There is only its transformation in the heart and mind of the cook.

Everything you need is at hand. It's what you want that is killing you.

* * *

How often have you postponed doing something because you were waiting for some more perfect moment, a moment when you felt you had everything under control, all the questions answered? It is one thing to plan, it is another to act. I can tell you, from the bottom of my soul, that choosing to act is how you bring about change. If you are fucked and stuck you have failed to act, failed to act from the well of your being. 

Paralysis. Doubt. Fear. These are the bedfellows of postponement, delay, excuses. But know this as well, not all acts are equal, or viable, or to be desired. Only those acts that are drawn up from the well of your consciousness, only those acts that are awake and aware of themselves, only transformative acts like rice, water and onions bring relief. It is by using what is at hand, and not wishing for anything else, that you free yourself from the traps and snares that limit you.

No one ever believes this. No one ever believes this.

We are told from our earliest memories to want the sun and moon and stars, to look at what we have and only see what we lack. There are entire nations without clean water and we value a green lawn. I say this not to create a false equivalence, but to remind you that you have more than you know. When you wake up in the morning you have two types of water: hot and cold. This is a miracle easily taken for granted. If you are mired in the muck of doubt and fear remember you have a mind capable of transforming rice, water and onions into a supreme meal. This, too, is a miracle easily taken for granted.

It is this innate, untapped, latent power that we each possess that is the answer to the question of how do I unfuck my life? You begin by boiling some water, cooking the rice, chopping onions. When you're done clean your tools, care for them so they will be there, ready, tomorrow. Do nothing absently and all things are transformed. If you rush, if you cheat, if you cut corners and are satisfied with good enough, you will never move from the spot where you are glued.

* * *

1971. Worth, Illinois. Through the open garage of our neighbors, the Lahey's, I hear Led Zeppelin pounding out about levees breaking. I had no idea what a levee was, but my hand to God, I wanted them to break. Music poured out of that garage: Zeppelin, Edgar Winter, ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, The Who, The Stones and Fleetwood Mac. Future Games was the odd man out in that lineup, but that was where I first heard it, first heard Bob Welch's high, nasal voice see-sawing thorough the lyrics. I fucking loved it. Time and tide and no one really remembers the Bob Welch era of Fleetwood Mac. Maybe the Peter Green moment, but with all that came later, Future Games disappeared. 

Except in my head, because my memory is like velcro holding onto bits and pieces for no good reason.

I've been playing this song over and over for a month or so and I still fucking love it. It teeters right on the edge of completely drippy and awesomely cool. And as I sat down to write this morning, it was at hand. Right there. Within reach. Present. I always need a push from something I've read or heard to get started on these things. Sometimes it is a direct link, sometime oblique. No matter. It gets me started and that is more valuable than any attempt at consistency.

The future is unwritten. It needs a hand to write it, to form it. Waiting on occasions will not fashion it. Only those who act, only those who work with what is at hand, available, within reach can transform what happens today into the reality that brings tomorrow into being. And those acts are transformative to the exact degree that they are mindful, shared, wanting nothing more than to be.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________

Monday, May 8, 2017

I've Been Blinded

I've been blinded but
You I can see
What in the world has happened to me
The prince of stories who walks right by me


- The Velvet Underground, "I'm Set Free"

* * *

Ages, epochs, eons, eras, they do but one thing: they end and are birthed again with a different set of eyes and hands.

* * *

The easiest thing for anyone to do is to glide along, to not notice time, to move the day in and day out to the year in and year out until it is life in and life out. Closed parenthesis. So it goes. So it goes. If you happen to stumble, if you fall, if you are stopped in the glide by forces larger than your intention you are given the opportunity to leave the glide path. Make no mistake: what has stunned you offers you a new way of being in the world. The question is will your attachment to your losses keep you silent, or will you find a voice in your throat?

This is bitterly unfair. But there is no time left to speak of fairness, only of what are you going to do about it?

* * *

If time has slipped a bit too fast, if the works you'd imagined for your self are drafts, or unstarted, if you have meant better than you have shown, I can only say you must begin now. You must bury every scrap of self-recrimination, every scrap of fear and make one brave push to complete the tasks set before you, the ones you create, the ones you finish, the ones that demand a new iteration, a new genesis, a new shot at coming to fruition. This is not because it is about you and your, as yet, unknown genius. No, love, it is about those who might see your work and so get started on their own. Hiding your light under a bushel leaves the path darkened for those who follow.

It is never about you, but what follows, what is coming into being: emergent.

You do your work because you must. You fail to do your work because you feared it. In either case, others will follow and you either hand off something useful or you fade into the shadows. And what is the most useful thing? Companionship, friendship, love, the sense of not being alone: confidence in your life.

* * *

The only way that I am aware of to do your work so that you can give voice to the forces that move you, that dreamed of you and brought you here is to do it with unabashed commitment. You must soak in it. It is the only way to learn what you are capable of. If it isn't all, then it is nothing. I know that sounds awful, for it is easier to give something, but if you want to sound your depths, then deep you must go. 

Many years ago, I was taught by, mentored by and worked for John Schultz. He was as maddening as he was generous: engaged all the time, fierce in his opinions, fierce in his loyalties. Not everyone dug it. He intimidated the foolish and supported those who tried. John lived a life of depth, of immersion, of always working with the materials at hand to fashion some new thing. Though he was a writer, his true work was as a teacher and the materials he fashioned were the lives of those who encountered him. 

He died a few days ago. I hadn't seen him in 16 years and never will again. Our relationship was complicated, but he was unfailingly supportive of me, of my attempts to find my voice and use it some.  This blog, this website, these words would not exist if not for his influence. When I learned of his death I could only breathe in and hold it there, suspend the news while I checked my pockets for all I owed him. And this is what I owe him: my best effort, a further completeness, a deeper immersion, a re-write based on what is at hand.

* * *

When I was a child, I loved going to church. It was so odd, so beautiful. The buildings seemed bigger inside that outside. My favorite part of the church was the large bank of votive candles off to one side of the altar: dark red glass and white candles. I always asked to light one and I always lit several, taking the light from someone else's prayer and using it in a new one, using it because I liked the light they gave. Though all candles gutter and die, every Sunday that bank of votives was always lit in a new pattern. The light never dying because it was tended to: new life at its term.

* * *

Thank you, John. Thank you.

__________

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Waking's My Care

Waking's my care-
I'll make a broken music, or I'll die.

- Theodore Roethke, from "In Evening Air"

* * *

The only measure of poetry that matters is its ability to startle, to plunge a knife and keep moving.

* * * 

The task set before us is to live the life we have: the one with the imperfections, losses, fears, strengths, joys and desires that are unique to our shape, our skin, our presence. There is no other work for us. What we call work is the carving and parsing of that essential task. What we call ambition or hope is the manner in which we go about being in the world. There are lots of answers, lots of ways to respond. We travel through various forms and stages trying things on, trying them out, believing without knowing why, knowing why, but not believing. We move through our days often, it seems, on a conveyor belt to the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. It is as if our feet are still and the world whirs and spins on ball bearings: mere passengers, we.

This is the how and why of being fucked: a lack of agency. Which is bullshit, of course, because that is the one thing that always remains, always is at hand, a tattoo on your soul: choice. For you always retain the freedom to choose how you will respond to the unbidden facts of your days. If you glide by, that's your choice. You did that. That's yours. It will remain in place as long as you allow it to. But if you want to unfuck, what's gotten fucked, then read poetry:

Waking's my care-
I'll make a broken music, or I'll die

* * *

None of it is easy, but it can be beautiful. Easy is the glidepath to your grave. Beautiful demands your commitment. It is a daily thing, an hourly thing, a breath by breath thing. It is never fixed in the sky, but changes as you change, moves as you move. What is static is dead and gone. What pulses creates. By your wit and will you bring forth the future. You alter it by adding your voice. Nothing is predetermined. Should you remain silent, another voice will take the place you could have held and the thing you could have given will be lost, unused.  Should you give half, then half is all we'll know. And if you hesitate because you are unsure of yourself, or find that your voice cracks, or is somehow, in your mind, lesser than the gifts of others you've misunderstood the question. All music is broken. All of it. What Roethke called music is simply his voice, his life standing where he could, John the Baptist-style, and crying out what it was like to be in that skin, with that soul, at that time, in that place. 

It is what each of us, in our own ways, are called to do.

Roethke wrote. Constantly. Less than 2% of the lines he wrote made it into the final poems. He burned, burned out and burned again. My father, no poet, but an embalmer, put his hands to over 10,000 deaths, 10,000 lives, families, hundreds of thousands of friends and acquaintances. He could give one last look, when one last look was the way things were, and he helped bridge the sudden gap. That, too, is a broken music.

* * *

You are here to move your body in space. You are here to fill the wilderness with your voice, broken as it may be. Its brokenness its virtue. We bring forth life when we do so. Neglecting it, or working against it brings misery and desolation. That is why the easy glide to the next and the next and the next must be resisted, fought against. That sort of matriculation does not serve you, but serves the well-worn grooves of the powers that be: the cults of youth, money, politics, religion. No, to serve the truth that only you can express requires one thing of you, a choice: make a broken music, or die trying.

But, if the choice is so stark, why bother?

Easy: you don't know who is listening and what effect you might have on their lives, their music.

When you are awake to this, when you see this in your own way, by your own effort, you will see that instead of being just one voice, you have become a choir - no heavenly host, but flesh and bone birthing the future.

* * *

I wish you well.

__________


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Was Better

What was better then

Than to crush a leaf or a herb
Between you palms,

Then wave it slowly, soothingly
Past your mouth and nose

And breathe?

- Seamus Heaney, "A Herbal"

* * *

A prideful thing: my children refer to him simply as Seamus. As in, "I'm reading Seamus' Beowulf." Or, "Was reading some Seamus last night." Such things make me glad.

* * * 

I'll ask, is there anything better than crushing a leaf and slowly breathing it in? The oils in the leaf are released and your nose becomes the conduit for those smells to touch deep centers of memory: I know this place. I have been here before. And if the place is already familiar, known to you through daily encounters, then that fresh perfume renews your vows to that place and you know your part in it. The simple, almost absent-minded pleasure of taking in a fresh, green smell - mint, grass, hay, woodruff, lavender, creeping thyme - has the ability to place you outside of time, to hold you for the length of time it takes to breathe in and out, above past, present and future, to arrest your thoughts and bring you to an unnameable, wordless understanding of your life, all life and your place in it. And as quick as another breath it fades. But it was there and your body and mind know it now and become alert to the possibility of its return.

My father had the habit of taking a handful of grasses and rubbing them slowly in hands while he talked to you. He'd occasionally bring them to his nose, take in a deep breath and go back to rolling them back and forth in his hands. It was a habit he learned from his grandfather, a farmer at the turn of the 20th century, who, it was said, spoke few words, but could listen for days. His name was Alphonso Burdell Child, known simply as A.B.. Taciturn, hard working, gentle, a church-goer, A.B. passed along to his grandson the quiet habit of taking in what pleasure there was and so stay rooted in that moment listening to others talk, or to the wind whistling a bit. Somewhere near Castledawson, in County Derry, around the same time, Seamus Heaney learned that same habit. In time it became part of a poem to that place.  I learned it from my father and when I read Seamus' poem I was held, caught in the memories of green oils and my father as a young man. I could see him and smell the grass and time was nothing to me.

Poems and crushed leaves are the same thing: they hold you for a moment, lift you out of the toil and moil, and anoint you with their fresh relief.

All of which is to say, that the means of renewal are ever at hand. You simply need to reach out and breathe.

* * *

It is green today. It is that deeply saturated green infused with yellow that only appears in April. It is a rain soaked green. It looks like a velvet of moss on cool, wet rock. When you walk on it the ground gives an inch or two (or so it seems). The world, for now, is lush and cool, inviting, unconcerned with anything whatsoever, and everything what so ever is at peace in it.

My yard is a playground for crows, fat, lazy rabbits and a neighborhood cat who likes to sun himself on the drive. The tree outside my window is active with cardinals building a nest. Red-winged blackbirds, juncos, starlings, sparrows and swifts pierce the view as well. It is a reminder to not focus on the self too much, to not build up thoughts about the problems and trials of the day. For it is green and wet and Spring is promising to stay this time and though you know it won't, you indulge its optimism and feel it leak into your bones.

Old men crush leaves and herbs and grasses and so reclaim the green of their days. They draw in the freshness of it and for a moment they are not old, but wise and lithe and strong to know the way leaves smell when crushed. The green of April is the same: not old, but wise, renewed in a breath, a relief from what is weathered and worn.

It never leaves me, this notion that our cure, our balm is always at hand. It is in the paths of swifts rising like smoke and sparks; it is in the tiny purple and white flowers insisting upon their rights in all this green; it is in a half-feral cat making himself at home. It is also in the eye willing to notice such things, the mind that alerts the eye to be on the lookout for the return of a green and fragrant idle: cityside, exurb, emptyfield, no matter - it surrounds.

* * *

This green will harden and then brown out. With each day's turning everything changes, if only by degrees and it takes months to notice. But it is in those degrees of change, imperceptible, persistent that the cure for what ails you remains ready and at hand. The problem we fucked fuckers encounter is a problem of too much mind, too much pacing back and forth over a thought, a slight, a wound, a betrayal, a tragedy, a missed chance to be who we thought ourselves to be. While I will never suggest that anyone stop thinking or learning, it is not, on its own, an absolute good. Context matters, and if you cannot see the paths of birds, or know enough to stop and crush a leaf in your hand for no reason other than the pleasure it brings, then you have trapped yourself in your pain, or worry, or fear.

To know which leaves smell best is to know something other than your pain or worry or fear and that, my best beloved, is the start of something that can carry you for a while while you regain your footing.

It is right at hand. Crush a leaf or herb between your palms. Breathe, and you will understand.

* * *

May your well run deep.

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