When you find a kindred spirit in the parking lot.
At the shopping mall
where she bought the onesie
for her sweet little niece,
five people were shot.
She wonders who would do such a thing
– and why?
Just the day before, she walked
by that same cosmetics counter
to the Children’s Department,
spotted the rack of pink,
saw the embroidery,
“Lock up your sons, my daddy has guns.”
Had it boxed and gift wrapped.
Something is wrong with the world, she thinks,
then kneels down to pray.
If you love this poem, then you’ll love EVIDENCE OF FLOSSING: WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND.
POEM ©2017, Jen Payne
The contemplative life
of the kitchen spider
on the eve of the
blue moon full moon
yet neither made a sound.
The spider –
in the horror of invasion
and slow death –
The moon –
in its rare and wild
traverse across heaven –
Yet my mind chattered endless –
what small worries creep?
what large burdens travel?
what of death? and heaven?
This contemplative life
aches for the enviable silence.
IMAGE: Blue Moon, Terry Frost, 1952. POEM ©2018, Jen Payne. National Poetry Month 2018, #1. If you like this poem, then…
One of the most inspiring art exhibits I’ve seen in recent years was called “Suddenly This Overview.” On display at the Guggenheim in New York, it featured 250 small sculptures by artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. The sculptures were made of a pale gray, unfired clay, and were presented individually on white pedestals around the curving spiral ramp of the museum. Clean, Times New Roman captions explained Pythagoras Marveling at His Theorem, Jesus Walks on Water, the Fish Are Amazed, and (my favorite) Mr. Spock Looks at His Home Planet Vulcanus and Is a Bit Sad That He Can’t Have Any Feelings.
At the time, I was in the middle of a blogging challenge to write a poem a day for the month of April – National Poetry Month. A friend asked what it felt like to write a blog post every day, and I couldn’t help but think of the Fischli/Weiss exhibit.
In an interview with Artspace, Weiss explained “The intention was to accumulate various important and unimportant events in the history of mankind and of the planet—moments in the fields of technology, fairy tales, civilization, film, sports, commerce, education, sex, biblical history, nature, and entertainment.”
That’s a sweeping, broad source of inspiration for them—and for us! (Aren’t those the very things WE write about, think about, create about?)
One of the Fischli/Weiss sculptures was a plain block of clay entitled Without Words. Their starting point, perhaps — a blank page of clay onto which they were challenged to put their thoughts and ideas. It’s that place we all start when we first listen to our own inspirations—what will we create today?
Blogging is like that block of clay. It gives us a place to start and a medium to shape into whatever our Muse suggests — a poem a day, for example. A book review. A photo essay. Random musings about mankind and the planet.
A blog can no more sit idle than that block of clay. It’s very nature is to be used, shaped, molded. To be a vessel for our creative efforts is its raison d’être.
All we need to do is show up…and shape it.
Photos of Without Words and A Copy of Jack Kerouac’s Typewriter by Jen Payne from “Suddenly This Overview,” by Peter Fischli and David Weiss at the Guggenheim Museum, April 2016. David Weiss quote from “The Pleasures of Misuse: An Interview With the Irreverent Swiss Artist Duo Fischli/Weiss,” Artspace, February 2016. (https://tinyurl.com/yc6cz5yh)
In addition to blogging, Jen Payne is the author of LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, and the new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. Both books are available for purchase from Three Chairs Publishing.
For the second time in five years, I successfully completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge, reading 50 books in 2017! In a year fraught with way too much reality, fiction was the name of the game: magical children, brave creatures, curious characters, time travelers, mystics. Yes, yes. yes!
This year’s tally of 11,193 pages otherwise included 8 books of poetry, 10 non-fiction, and 4 children’s books. Also on the list were a few Young Adult novels including the final book in Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series, as well as the Last Survivors series by Susan Beth Pfeffer. (The first of which, Life As We Knew It, remains the most haunting book I read this year.)
According to star-ratings, my least favorite books in 2017 were The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō and Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi.
There were a few other low-star rated books—mostly me wandering out-of-genre (Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Jaren Russell) or buying into hype (The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman).
I was generous with my five-stars this year, but I always am. If it captures my attention, makes me wonder, keeps me interested to the final page? Yes! Bestsellers like Dan Brown, Amy Bloom, and Mary Oliver, of course, but even more so for friends and local authors like Luanne Castle, Robert Finch, Gordy Whiteman and Nan Meneely. What delights!
(Was it shameless of me to include my own book, Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, in the mix?)
A few classics showed up this year—The Long Christmas Dinner by Thornton Wilder, and A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas—and a few personal favorites returned (Thanks Elizabeth Gilbert and Alice Hoffman!)
The most memorable books of the year? Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick, and The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.
But my most favorite (also probably most recommended) was definitely the Roland Merullo Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner with Buddha series. I thoroughly enjoyed each book with equal measure and still pine for Rinpoche’s humor and wisdom—some seven months since turning the last page.
That this year’s collection of favorites included the counsel of a Buddhist monk, pages and pages poetry, and a dystopian end-of-the-world series is not ironic. It is, I think, reflective of this new and startling world in which we find ourselves.
Thankfully, so is the book I’m reading today. In Braving the Wilderness, social scientist Brené Brown outlines a clear path out of our “spiritual crisis of disconnection” by advising that “People are hard to hate close up, move in; Speak truth to BS, be civil; Hold hands, with strangers; Strong Back, strong front, wild heart.”
And so we bravely go…2018. Are you ready? And are you reading?
If coyote has shown up, you may wish to ask yourself…Are you being too serious? Have you forgotten that play time is essential to health? Are you complicating what is really simple? — Ted Andrews, Animal Speak
From the trailhead…
the colonnade of maple
the brook, the path sub rosa
the slight overlook
a shaded crest
relieves the wearied
a slow curved decent
to somewhere else.
Here, the primeval sweep
reveals its community…
tree and shrub and vine
glade and pond, stand
silent in the morning still
but pine song and robin trills
an earthy incense lingers
on low draped mist
night to day
weary to worship
then sudden breath.
We see each other
I heard you singing
I say to her without words
Yes, she nods, and I
heard you breathing
We stand as if in prayer
silent, heads bowed
Can I stay with you?
Greet the day on all fours
howl at the world
rising with the southern wind?
But she is suddenly shadow
Namaste, I whisper
heading east to meet the sun.
If you like this poem, you’ll LOVE Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, the new book by Jen Payne. Click here to buy your copy today! ©2017, Jen Payne
Today, I’m a guest blogger on Writers Pay It Forward, sharing my thoughts on…
THE BRAVERY OF STORYTELLING
Several years ago, I was meeting with a client I hadn’t seen in a few years. We started with the usual Hi. How are You? I’m Fine. How are You? small talk protocol, but then she saw a reliquary hanging on the wall in my office.
The reliquary — traditionally a container for holy objects — was a mixed-media collage I had created. Within the shadowbox frame was a painting of an angel, decorated panels, pieces of a poem, and symbols: an alpha and omega, a feather, a heart. An artist herself, my client asked about the piece, and I told her the story of lost love and deep sadness that had inspired it.
When I was done, she took my hand and thanked me. Then she told me her story — the disappointment that had shaken everything she thought she knew, her attempts to heal, and how the process changed her.
So there we were, two almost-strangers, pushing through the ordinary to the extra-ordinary moments in our lives. There was no protocol for the rest of our meeting that day, instead we talked about our common experiences, the different paths, the shared emotions.
“If we can sit together and talk about what’s important to us, we begin to come alive,” writes Margaret J. Wheatley in her book Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. “When we’re brave enough to risk a conversation, we have the chance to rediscover what it means to be human.”
Ultimately, isn’t that our charge as artists? As writers? To communicate the human experience — to bravely tell our own stories in an effort to share, to teach, to connect with others.
Make no mistake — it takes courage. It takes courage to be honest, to talk about love and loss, about success and disappointment. You have to be brave to talk about your passions and fears — both out loud and in your creative work. Writing, creating art, is not for the faint of heart. No. Writing, creating any kind of art that tells our story, takes big, brave hearts. It is from that place, from that wide open courageous place, that we create what is indeed, holy.
(Image: Divine Inspiration, mixed-media collage, by Jen Payne. Quotes from Wheatley, Margaret J., Turning to One Another, Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future. San Francisco: Berrett-Kohler Publishers, 2012.)
>>CLICK HERE to read the whole post.
This post is part of a month-long, nationwide blog tour for my new book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind, hosted by Wow! Women on Writing. Buy the book today!