Thursday, December 27, 2018

The strange commerce of love

"As she got older, she was discovering the strange commerce of love: Whatever she gave to others (affection, understanding, kindness) she got to keep for herself too. And whatever she withheld (all of the previous things plus peace of mind and communication), she actually ended up losing instead of keeping.

She wondered if love was the only transaction where such an inversion of the fundamentals was possible."

Philip John, 'Labyrinths'

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Was there magic, and did you stop for it?

"At the end of a day, I tend to ask myself, did you contribute something beautiful to the world? Just a little beauty. And, did you live strongly and quietly today? Was there magic, and did you stop for it? Did you attend?"

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Falling more deeply in love with the world...

On the Winter Solstice

...On this longest night, it’s so clear—
the truest reason to write at all is to fall
more deeply in love with the world,

with its trees and its drizzle
and its stubborn shine and its
relentless hunger and its corners
that will never ever see the growing light.

Fall in love with the octopus that can detach
an arm on purpose and then grow it back again.

Fall in love with the elusive lynx
and the crooked forest and the frazzle ice
tinkling in the San Miguel River.

Fall in love even with this profoundly flawed
species that, despite all its faults,
is still capable of falling more deeply,
more wildly in love.

Rosemerry Trommer

And the darkness is not complete

Indeed. "Though much is taken, much abides."  And there's more to admire in men than to despise. My faith has been tested, but remains. :) Wishing you all a great holiday season and fresh beginnings. Thank you for all your kind words. It's been a tough year but it has carved me deeper to receive even more of the world's kindness. As always, I am overwhelmed with gratitude. 


These are dark times. Rumors of war
rise like smoke in the east. Drought
widens its misery. In the west, glittering towers
collapse in a pillar of ash and dust. Peace,
a small white bird, flies off in the clouds.
And this is the shortest day of the year.

Still, in almost every window,
a single candle burns,
there are tiny white lights
on evergreens and pines,
and the darkness is not complete.

Barbara Crooker

Friday, December 21, 2018

If you wanted to be yourself all the time, get an aquarium full of fish

The Virtue of Discomfort

In the beginning of a relationship, she said, both people were happy to be a little uncomfortable. It was a voluntary suffering. She said the Latin root for the word passion was ‘passio’ which meant ‘to suffer’. It made sense, she said. You were so passionate about someone you were willing to make sacrifices. You watched a high brow film and ate salad afterward not because you liked it so much but because your partner liked it a lot and you wanted to see the world through their eyes and you knew they would do the same for you. So at this stage of your love, passion triumphed over authenticity and you didn’t mind it at all. The discomfort made you feel alive.

Then time passed and the desire to be uncomfortable for the other diminished. It was time for frankness, for complete ‘authenticity’. Society made you believe this was the ‘real’ stage of the relationship. Now it was a win-win, you could ‘settle down’ and build an honest, comfortable life together. But, she said, this is where her heart always sank. She hated comfort. And marriage, to her, was really a way of legitimizing comfort and indifference with the carrot of stability, of security.

So here’s the thing, she said. Once you had a relationship that was not so comfortable but very passionate. And now you had a relationship that was very comfortable but devoid of passion and curiosity. Which was better?

After a pause, she said she would choose passion, even if it meant a little discomfort. In other words, she wanted to suffer for her partner and she wanted her partner to want to suffer for her.

She wanted them both to give up a little of their ‘authenticity’ to change for the other. Otherwise what was the point of love?

If you wanted to be yourself all the time, get an aquarium full of fish, she said. Why be with a human being?

Being your true self all the time, being ‘authentic’ was for her not a virtue in relationships but a kind of selfishness.

Philip John, Labyrinths


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Down Hysterica Passio! The Stirring of the Beast Beneath

I used to write down interesting things I read, in notebooks, pre-internet days. I have 5 of them, I think I started in 1982, while I was at school - shy child whose only interactions were with people in books. I copied down this passage at age 21. I did not know then how true it is!

Later on in life I learned the hard way about the need to be angry at the right time, to use rightful anger to initiate positive action, make things better, ensure self-preservation, safeguard one's self-respect. I was surprised to hear myself tell someone recently - you don't have to show anger or be destroyed by it, you can use it as fuel to do amazing things. I wish I had that wisdom earlier, but better late than never. :)

"We all have something within ourselves to batter down, and we get our power from this fighting. I have never 'produced' a play in verse without showing the actors that the passion of the verse comes from the fact that the speakers are holding down violence, or madness - 'down Hysterica Passio'.

All depends on the completeness of the holding down, on the stirring of the beast underneath. Without this conflict we have no passion, only sentiment and thought."

W.B.Yeats, in a letter to Dorothy Wellesley. From 'Yeats: The Man and the Masks', by Richard Ellmann

Notebook 5, 12 June 1989

Related post, on the importance of discovering one's rage:

Picture: Angry Samurai mask, from here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Now I am becoming my own tree

“In my youth I believed in somewhere else
I put faith in travel

now I am becoming my own tree.” 

W. S Merwin  

Sunday, November 4, 2018

But sometimes restriction creates more freedom

This gave me goose pimples.

How Did Hokusai Create The Great Wave?:

I had used the image in here:

It matters that you care

"The great Katsushika Hokusai was an artist, a Japanese one but ironically least like a typical Japanese artist.  Japan's best known woodblock print, his Great Wave, is also typically un-Japanese. "

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing

He says look forward to getting old.

He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive --
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn't matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn't matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.

It doesn't matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your veranda
or the shadows of the trees
and grasses in your garden.

It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.

He says don't be afraid.
Don't be afraid.
Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

Roger Keyes

Listen to this poem here:

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Ox Cart Man

For some strange reason, this felt like a  chant, a litany. I read it many times. The smell and feel of all those earthy things, and the long walk to the market with the ox, brought me peace.  [20 Dec 2012]

Ox Cart Man
Donald Hall

In October of the year,
he counts potatoes dug from the brown field,
counting the seed, counting
the cellar’s portion out,
and bags the rest on the cart’s floor.

He packs wool sheared in April, honey
in combs, linen, leather
tanned from deerhide,
and vinegar in a barrel
hooped by hand at the forge’s fire.

He walks by his ox’s head, ten days
to Portsmouth Market, and sells potatoes,
and the bag that carried potatoes,
flaxseed, birch brooms, maple sugar, goose
feathers, yarn.

When the cart is empty he sells the cart.
When the cart is sold he sells the ox,
harness and yoke, and walks
home, his pockets heavy
with the year’s coin for salt and taxes,

and at home by fire’s light in November cold
stitches new harness
for next year’s ox in the barn,
and carves the yoke, and saws planks
building the cart again.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Nevertheless, live!

The Second Sermon on the Warpland
For Walter Bradford

This is the urgency: Live!
and have your blooming in the noise of the whirlwind.

Salve salvage in the spin.
Endorse the splendor splashes;
stylize the flawed utility;
prop a malign or failing light—
but know the whirlwind is our commonwealth.

Not the easy man, who rides above them all,
not the jumbo brigand,
not the pet bird of poets, that sweetest sonnet,
shall straddle the whirlwind.

Nevertheless, live.

All about are the cold places,
all about are the pushmen and jeopardy, theft—
all about are the stormers and scramblers but
what must our Season be, which stars from Fear?
Live and go out.
Define and
medicate the whirlwind.

The time
cracks into furious flower. Lifts its face
all unashamed. And sways in wicked grace.

Whose half-black hands assemble oranges
is tom-tom hearted
(goes in bearing oranges and boom).
And there are bells for orphans—
and red and shriek and sheen.

A garbageman is dignified
as any diplomat.
Big Bessie’s feet hurt like nobody’s business,
but she stands—bigly—under the unruly scrutiny, stands in the
wild weed.

In the wild weed
she is a citizen,
and is a moment of highest quality; admirable.

It is lonesome, yes. For we are the last of the loud.
Nevertheless, live.

Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Friday, August 3, 2018

And suddenly all that matters

Walking Through the Prehistoric Journey Exhibit

And again I recall how small we are,
how ninety nine percent of all species
that have ever lived are extinct,
how thin our stripe in geologic time,
how remarkable that we are here at all.

And suddenly all that matters
is that I love you—and what are the odds?
How many billion years in the making,
this rush of gratitude, this burgeoning
joy, this thrill in the sheer Cenozoic luck
to feel the concurrent burning and quenching,
the simultaneous bite and salve, the Quaternary
gift of thriving and failing at the same time?

If it feels as if it’s taken forever to get to this place,
lover, it has. Think trilobite. T-rex. Cave bear.
Wooly mammoth. Think how little time
has passed, and how lucky, how lucky we are.

Rosemerry Trommer

Friday, June 22, 2018


The Thing Is
after Ellen Bass

To trust life, that is the thing.
To trust it even when there are gaping holes
in the walls of your certainty.

To trust it even when your foundation
feels like a strange place filled with strange people
who all feel more at home in you than you do.

And when fear enters you like a bear in your basement,
or like three bears, all of them famished,
all of them rummaging through your emergency stores,

yes, when fear offers to give you its name,
when fear brings you a ladders and says, Here,
climb down into yourself, into this chamber

of strangers and bears,
when you would rather go anywhere but in,
that is when you step onto the rungs and go down,

one rung at a time. No gun in your hand.
No bear spray. No knife. There is honey
in here somewhere. And tea. So much here

to offer these hungriest parts of yourself.
And you are ready to make peace.
You are ready to meet them and share.

Rosemerry Trommer

Thursday, May 17, 2018


"I'm making a list of things I'm not allowed to say:

That I'm lonely. And that I fear this loneliness will crush me, slowly and by degrees.

...That I feel like I'm stuck behind a glass wall watching everyone else live a life I've only ever dreamt of. That it is isolation in plain sight.

.. That I have become greedy for affection. And I fear there is some threshold for loneliness that should I pass I may never recover. That it sometimes rushes in like a tidal wave, flooding levees and toppling internal infrastructure, leaving me at a crowded dinner table afraid to look up from my plate for fear that someone may see the sadness in my eyes.

That loving someone does make everything a little bit easier. There is this construct in psychology called transactive memory. It is the idea that we store information and ideas - memories even - in the minds of the people around us. I cannot help but wonder if this is true of joy and sadness too? If it is possible to share emotion in this way? And what must it feel like when a person you love carries your heaviness, if only for a moment?

That there is exposure in living one's life alone.

And that for a stretch of time I walk north on Sixth Avenue each morning and pass a man who spends the whole of his day yelling upwards at the sky. I wonder if we aren't more alike than not. It would be easy to say, No, of course not.

But loneliness, stripped of the many layers in which we dress it, is fundamentally the same."

Pages 99-100,   'Places I Stopped on the Way Home, A Memoir of Chaos and Grace', Meg Fee


"I wear sadness differently now than I did at eighteen or 25 or any of the years in between.

I'm more comfortable with my own brokenness - more at ease with the notion that it's the well from which I draw empathy and kindness and humour. It is so telling of what it is to be human and alive in this world."

Page 42, 'Places I Stopped on the Way Home, A Memoir of Chaos and Grace', Meg Fee

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Teaching oneself joy, over and over again

Barbara Kingsolver was introduced to me by a random foreigner who saw me at a flea market sale and ordered me, "You MUST read this!" ('The Poisonwood Bible'). I am always moved by people who take that effort to make my experience of life a little deeper, whether or not they know me - hey, don't we share the same planet, what introductions are we waiting for? - :) - so I bought it. And was completely blown away! Kingsolver is an amazing writer.

I can so relate to this passage, it's something I do. :) On my worst days, I go out early in the morning, bruised, hollow, empty - and look at every fallen leaf and flower, every spot of colour along my way, every squirrel going crazy at the return of the light ("Oh my God, it's back!"), and allow them to fill me, one by one.

“In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again.

Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.”

Barbara Kingsolver from 'High Tide in Tucson'

From here:

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Our every day life is what will save us

"Adams raises the questions, “Is art a sufficient consolation for life? Can Beauty make suffering tolerable?” His answer, while not an all-out endorsement for art, is real, and tangible. He says: “The fact is, I think that they are only partly sufficient. If we are not too burdened by disappointment or loneliness or pain, there are certainly times when art can help; there are moments when great pictures can heal. Views by Masaccio and Rembrandt and Cezanne and Stieglitz, among others, have all been important to me in this way.”

He goes on to say:

“Sometimes it has been enough to search out a cafe blessed with a jukebox, rattling dishes, and human voices. Family and friends are better though. What a relief there is in an anecdote, a jumping dog, or the brush of a hand. All of these things are disorderly, but no plan for survival stands a chance without them.”

Our every day life is what will save us, perhaps, in the end. The beauty of that, whether it's captured in a photograph, or in a poem, or paragraph."

Shawna Lemay

Saturday, February 10, 2018

It just opens a door, quietly

A Poem Never Says Anything
Uttaran Chaudhuri

translated from Bengali by the poet

A poem never says anything.
It just opens a door, quietly.

Sleepless and bent
just like my aged father
waiting for me in a lonely winter night.

Reaching for each other

That Winter Evening
for Billy Miller

When the man pulled my father
from the icy waters of Lake Michigan,
he did not know years later my step-daughter
would need someone to buy her a sweater
so she would feel nurtured, did not know

that my son would need someone
to make a mosaic with him so that he
could feel loved, did not know
that my daughter would need
someone to tell her that she
was beautiful. When the man

pulled my father from the water
when he fell in while fishing alone,
that man couldn’t know that
years later this daughter
would sit beside her father and hold his hand
and weep at the simple gift
of being able to hold his hand.

The man was doing what he knew to do—
to rush to the person in need of help.
He didn’t think then of the other lives
blessed by the man. Did not think
of the other lives blessed by his hands
when he chose to try, though the odds
were low. He knew only to reach.

Years later, my mother still sleeps
beside the man that was pulled
from the winter lake.

Give us hands that know to reach
for each other—stranger, neighbor,
friend. Give us hands that unthinkingly
choose to save the family
we’ve never met.

Rosemerry Trommer

Monday, January 15, 2018

When loneliness comes stalking

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or not.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn't long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

Mary Oliver

From The Leaf and the Cloud: A Poem

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