It’s been quite a year. And sometimes I sit and wonder which direction to take next. I’ve been mulling over the idea of not writing poetry any more; of setting aside my cameras; of moving into some new territory where I might find acceptance and peace – from myself as well as from others.
Life has become a competition: Who can write the best poem and win the top prize? Who can create the most amazing photos with the most public applause or “likes” on Facebook? Who can garner the highest level of support for his or her position/views/candidacy/social status? And increasingly, I wonder why some of us even bother to enter that gushing stream. I wonder why I, in particular, bother. It’s rocky and the water can knock us over. In the end, what’s left but to fall and get thoroughly wet?
If I define myself by “success” – whether it’s placing in a poetry competition or getting a ribbon for a photography prize or being named to some committee or other – that seems like a narrow sort of frame. Maybe it’s time to walk outside the canvas and head into unknown lands. My view is shifting. Success doesn’t mean what it once did. Maybe I’m just too old to be taken in by veneer. I want the real wood underneath, even if it’s rough and grainy.
I have many sins to count and correct – or at least to cancel somehow. Regrets. Atonement. Stubbed toes and twisted ankles. I’m not the person I was in my younger years; none of us can remain as we were. For me, this is a good thing. We can never go back again; we can change not a single blip of time past. We can only live in the moment and hope it will matter to someone.
A poem – like a photograph – is an in-the-moment sort of creation, which is probably why I’ve enjoyed writing this form or wandering around with a camera in hand. But still, I sit back and reflect on whether or not my own moments are worth recording. It seems egocentric. Writers in general are an egocentric lot, I think. We have to be in order to push out and tame those ideas and memories, like having too many babies and not quite knowing how to afford them. There’s an uneasy line between too much of self and not enough of it; between embracing the reader and retreating behind a barbed fence. More than any other genre, poetry bares us to everyone else. We pull out our still-beating hearts and lay them bloody on the ground at our feet. We’re either mad or out-of-touch or stuffily outdated. We draw in the trampling crowds and we also drive them away.
I’m a solitary soul these days. This, too, might be part of aging. Gradually, the companions of my way have fallen behind or wandered off the road and gone somewhere else. I still hear footsteps around me; I still watch tiny figures in the distance. Whether or not I join them, or they wait for me to catch up, I can’t say. Robert Frost spoke of stopping by woods on a snowy evening – alone except for his little horse – and he seemed okay with that. Some people make camp in those woods, sit in circles around cheerful fires, talk into the late hours, with mugs of hot chocolate or beer. I’m the one stopping to gaze among the trees but going no further than that.
Meanwhile, it’s cold outside and my house hasn’t yet acquired its morning coziness. I’m sitting here in stocking feet without so much as a fire in the stove. This, friends, is what being alone can do to a person. We simply forget to worry about things, even basics like striking a match or putting on slippers. And then younger folks call us senile.
This ramble hasn’t taken me anywhere. My camera still sits at my elbow. The words still gestate in my head. A blue jay in the hedge reminds me of birds and baseball. Flight and defeat; hope and resignation. My empty coffee cup begs for attention. It’s unfilled – like me, I guess. I need to pour into it the steaming brew of bone-toasting joy. One gesture at a time, right? Then the fire, and the footwear. All is well with me; may it also be well with you.
Sandra, you, like Brenda are often an inspiration to me. Thank you for your heartfelt response ro Brenda’s feelings of indecision. I have no idea where you may decide to ramble, Brenda, perhaps on the “road not taken,” with the current most swift, on the lake most calm. Whatever you choose will enter your heart and fill it up again. Give yourself time to laze about in bare feet, old PJs, hair awry. Relearn the meaning of pure JOY – a feeling that, once felt, may prove illusory at times, but retrievable once felt and lodged in your heart. Treasure your ability to just be, for you are unique. Your abilities astound me so I am confident that the next “life” you choose will astonish both you and me. Soar close to the sun, my friend. Rose-Marie
thank you you Brenda for sharing your wonderful thoughts. Xo
Thank YOU for reading and for this lovely comment!
… excuse lousey grammar. Lousie? Lousy?
You have given me so very much to ponder. So MUCH! I’m grateful and awed that you would take this kind of time to respond to my blog post.
Thank you from the well of my soul, dear friend. And you’ve said what I needed to hear and to absorb.
Brenda, I have a feeling that you’ve been crossing a lot of finish lines and are simply to pooped to pucker as it were. I suspect your energy level is at an all-time low and that you’ve been sucked dry by life events. I think that’s a very natural “condition.” I also believe that we have to allow ourselves those days (weeks if needed) where we don’t give a damn about socks or lighting the fire. I used to think this was linked with depression. Now I think it’s as simple as not having the energy to put lift our feet and put the bloody things on. Why bother? Some animals have it right. They hibernate. Seems like we need occasional “time outs” from people, meetings, doing stuff, FB, etc. Why not?
As to stopping to write poetry or take photos. Allow yourself to do that. But I don’t think this will be a long-term thing for you. We both know that we do this first for ourselves. It’s our way of making sense out of things. In my case, anyway, it’s a way to keep grounded; sane even. Sometimes I share what I write/photograph; sometimes I enter competitions. But it’s never ABOUT sharing or entering competitions. That’s never part of the motive. That notion (or act) comes after-the-fact. Sure, if we win prizes, or get a pat on the back, that’s a bonus and much fun. But it’s not why we do it in the first place.
As to success. Stopped defining myself by that word years ago. Losing the farm and our home (albeit a “successful” farm by most people’s standards) was life-altering. Measuring sticks for “success” are all over the map and have little to do with core values … the internal kind that make us tick and let us sleep at night.
It just occurred to me that the gods and goddesses may have something in mind for you. Maybe it’s time you learned something new? Discovered a new hobby? Unearth a passion for XYZ? Or maybe you simply have to hibernate for awhile.
Meanwhile, come visit and have a tea with me. With or without your socks and slippers on. We’ll watch the river go by. Seriously.