Monday, March 30, 2015

did you hear that winter's over?

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.”

- Jiddu Krishnamurti

I've been reading about a Japanese term, Ichigo Ichie, on the site, "Zen for Life."

"Ichigo Ichie literally means “one opportunity, one encounter.” The terms is often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a life time.”
Its better translation may be “Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur.” 
The term is derived from Zen Buddhism and concepts of transience, and it is particularly associated with the Japanese tea ceremony and it is often brushed onto scrolls which are hung in the tea room. In the context of tea ceremony, ichigo ichie reminds participants that each single tea meeting is unique that will never recur in one’s lifetime, therefore, each moment should be treated with the utmost sincerity. 
It can be applied to one’s daily life, “all we have is today, so let’s live it to the fullest.”

And so I come back to the question, how to live? 

Of course I do.

I think sometimes we look at advice like: be attentive, look at the clouds, drink your tea mindfully etc and it comes to sound a bit cliched. A bit worn. 

I've been trying to sit with the idea of treasuring every moment because it will not recur, and to do so with sincerity. I want to be able to bring this to my encounters with people, which I think will help me be more fluently present. I want to bring this to my walks in the morning, so that I don't feel as though I need to hurry home and get to the task which has been set for the day. 

When you think about how each moment will not recur it's going to be easier to banish doubt, banish fear. To 'fumble around in the light."

So, as usual, I'm engaging in that beautiful and futile activity, I'm scavenging the internet for the secret to the universe, for those things I need to hear. I'm looking for the message, the magic words, the key to life and everything. And I come across this by the American writer, Joy Williams

"The writer must not really know what he is knowing, what he is learning to know when he writes, which is more than the knowing of it. A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light. The writer is separate from his work but that’s all the writer is – what he writes. A writer must be smart but not too smart. He must be reckless and patient and daring and dull – for what is duller than writing, trying to write? And he must never care – caring spoils everything. It compromises the work. It shows the writers’ hand. 
The writer doesn’t want to disclose or instruct or advocate, he wants to transmute and disturb. He cherishes the mystery, he cares for it like a fugitive in his cabin, his cave. He doesn’t want to talk it into giving itself up. He would never turn it in to the authorities, the mass mind. The writer is somewhat of a fugitive himself, actually. He wants to escape his time, the obligations of his time, and, by writing, transcend them. The writer does not like to follow orders, not even the orders of his own organizing intellect. 
The writer doesn’t trust his enemies, of course, who are wrong about his writing, but he doesn’t trust his friends, either, who he hopes are right. The writer trusts nothing he writes – it should be too reckless and alive for that, it should be beautiful and menacing and slightly out of his control. It should want to live itself somehow."

- Joy Williams from the anthology, Why I write: Thoughts on the Craft of Fiction

This definitely bears repeating:

“A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light.”

This thing that she's talking about, too, at the end of the quotation, about the writing being slightly out of control. When it's going well, this is exactly how it feels - as though it's beyond you, and you're just trying to catch up somehow. You're fumbling around in the light, but the dark also surrounds you, and it's disconcerting, it's bliss, it's crazy, it's excruciatingly difficult, and it's good.

It's the memory of this, when you're not lucky enough to be in that space, which keeps you going, keeps you wanting back in.

Alright, a small aside, to say, yes, I know it's a bit absurd, a bit laughable, to punctuate all this talk about writing and how to live with photographs of macarons. 

But there they were at the Save-on-Foods one grey and smudgy day after another big snowfall, followed by melting and all the dirty, gritty, slushy business one finds between seasons. And I promised myself not another post of gritty slushy snow photos. So. Instead, these. 

And anyway, did you hear that winter's over? (Winter takes so much longer to be over when you live at latitude 53....)

The Music We Are

by Rumi

Did you hear that winter’s over?
The basil and the carnations

cannot control their laughter.
The nightengale, back from his wandering,

has been made singing master over
all the birds. The trees reach out

their congratulations. The soul
goes dancing through the king’s doorway.

Anemones blush because they have seen
the rose naked. Spring, the only fair

judge, walks in the courtroom, and
several December thieves steal away.

Last year’s miracles will soon be
forgotten. New creatures whirl in

from nonexistence, galaxies scattered
around their feet. Have you met them?

Do you hear the bud of Jesus crooning
in the cradle? A single narcissus

flower has been appointed Inspector
of Kingdoms. A feast is set. Listen.

The wind is pouring wine! Love
used to hide inside images. No more!

The orchard hangs out its lanterns.
The dead come stumbling by in shrouds.

Nothing can stay bound or imprisoned.
You say, “End this poem here and

wait for what’s next.” I will. Poems
are rough notations for the music we are.

How I love that ending:

"Poems are rough notations for the music we are."

calling card

by Kristjana Gunnars

the many small ways of being human

removing rust from old windowsills
sandpapering blue paint off the railing
then paint that has peeled off in straggles

once again shining silver goblets never used 
once again wiping rain off the veranda tables

moving rose buses from one spot to another
planting another lilac tree in place of the one lost
yet again watering the everdrooping fuchsias

an endless core of small services
observations on daily life forever incomplete

the many ways of going on and on 

{from Silence of the Country by Kristjana Gunnars}

One of my favourite Canadian poets is Kristjana Gunnars. And she was also one of my professors way back in my undergraduate days. It's been a while since I've taken her books of poetry off my shelf, but they caught my eye during one of my early morning reading sessions. One of the many things I like about Silence of the Country is the fact that it has a preface by the author in which she talks about the way the book came into being. She begins by situating things:  "This collection of poems was written after I had lived in Norway for half the year of 1997." She returns to her home in B.C. "Because you return home to a place you imagine has stood still in time, and you have been away in a pocket of your own, and a time zone not shared by anyone you know. Your friends and relatives are people who suddenly seem strangers to you."

She sets up her house again, sets up her writing space. She tells herself, "I could write whatever I wanted. There would be no censoring of anything.....I could go over those months in Norway at whatever pace I liked, and write myself back into my own existence."

It's true that sometimes the answer to the secret of the universe is sitting on your bookshelf, in a book you haven't read for a while. In a line or two that you'd taken the trouble to underline so many years ago.

And there it is. There are "many ways of being human" and "many ways of going on and on."

Also: that it's possible to write yourself back into existence. From wherever you last happened to be, from whatever lost place.

I'll be away from the computer for a few days - looking forward to spending some quality time with my camera :) It's spring break here and it's actually starting to feel a bit springish - hallelujah! The real spring is a ways off, yes, but in the meantime, I've been comforting myself with tulips, and soaking up the beautiful morning light in my kitchen.

Meanwhile, you might have noticed the slight redecorating of the blog. It's a bit like the urge one has to rearrange furniture in one's house, I think. Gives you a new outlook on life, and all that :)

Wishing you a lovely week, and a lovely spring break for those of you who are off.

- Shawna


  1. Though we have fresh snow on the ground this morning, I know the spring will come soon. I enjoyed these selections very much, the same lines resonated for me as did for you. I hope this means my mind is becoming more poetic. :)

    1. So glad you're enjoying the poetry :) Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. We have snow here too, and the forecast looks more like February than spring. Sigh. Thanks for the beautiful photos... I'm off to the florist's.

    Oh, and I really love the concept of writing one's self back into existence. Or oneself? We'll see what happens.

    1. Hope you found some beautiful flowers! It snowed here again last night....the flowers help.

  3. Once again, I find in your blog (and you) poems I know & love, and poems I don't know & immediately embrace. Thank you.

  4. Such a beautiful post… so much nourishing inspiration (not excluding the colorful macaroons)

  5. I needed this today. Today of all days when I thinking of how I might put myself back into writing a project that has occupied my mind for a while now. Over the years, I've picked it up, only to abandon it again. I was ready to let it go entirely but just this last weekend, I felt it is something that needs to be written and I'm the one to do that because I need to "write myself back into my own existence." Thank you.

    1. This makes me happy to hear. If it keeps calling to you, I think that means something.

  6. I am intrigued by Gunnars' line, "an endless core of small services" - and my impulse to discount these as if I should be doing much larger things, and yet much of living is made of these small services, and to miss them is to miss much.

    1. Beautifully said, Margaret, thank you.

  7. I love that term "Ichigo Ichie". I am going to hang those words and their translation on my refrigerator as a reminder. I too heard that winter is over, although it doesn't completely feel like spring yet...we seem to be taking baby steps here. It certainly looks like spring in your house with all that gorgeous color, between the lovely pastel macarons and the beautiful tulips...and that light, wow! I hope you have a wonderful spring break, Shawna and I look forward to seeing your photos. Love the new look of your blog.

    1. Baby steps, for sure. It snowed yet again here last night....sigh! :) But I did take some nice photos. I need to put that term on my fridge too! Good idea.

  8. As always, you've made my week.

  9. Thank you, again, for your CALM delights. Enjoy your spring break!

    1. Thanks, Sharon! I can't believe how quickly it's going!

  10. I bought your book, "Hive," this week and have started reading it. I am quite enjoying it. I, too, am intrigued with what is hidden and unseen.

    1. You are too kind!! Thank you. That means a lot to me. xo

  11. Very interesting blog. A lot of blogs I see these days don't really provide anything that attract others, but I'm most definitely interested in this one. Just thought that I would post and let you know.


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