Saturday, March 26, 2011

Finally some writing

I've taken Chris's advice and have been working on some tanka. It has taken me keeping my butt in the chair and doing some creative thinking about what's been going on in front of my nose. We've had a very unusual winter and spring here in Denver. Huge storms have dumped feet of snow in the mountains west of the continental divide, in the ski areas where they love it, but have only dribbled a little bit of snow on the eastern-facing slopes and foot hills.

This has led to a severe drought and extremely dry conditions from the foothills east to the plains. We've had red flag fire warnings almost every day for the past few weeks, and where last year we had three wildfires by this time, this year we've already had 28, and that doesn't count any that might have started today. I decided that since I was concerned about the fire danger--a good friend almost had to evacuate her home two days ago because of a wildfire--it would make a good subject for a creative endeavor. Here's a tanka that came from that thinking.

   tinder dry forests
   no rain of snowfall for months
   wildfires scorch the land
   the earth's soul seems exhausted
   as if needing God's blessing

The soil is dry and almost pure dust. Leaves and grasses are brittle from the drought. Fires can start from the smallest spark, and we've had strong winds almost every day. Storms come in from the Pacific, drop rain in California, snow in the Sierras, Utah, and western Colorado, and then sweep north and south around us to dump more unneeded moisture in the soggy midwest and east coast. Leaving us with just wind to dry out the land even more.

But the other issue that's been on my mind is the devastation and human suffering that the earthquake and tsunami have created in Japan. I've long admired Japanese traditions and culture because of their stability and sense of the place of the individual in the whole of culture. So I used that to write another tanka about the situation now in Japan.

   an earthquake rumbles
   a tsunami thunders in
   a land of flotsam
   culture and civility
   anchor the Japanese soul

So again, thanks to Chris who is helping me get back to writing and giving me good feedback on what I'm writing. She daily comments on the snow and rain they are having in Birney, Montana, and I read with jealousy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More excuses

Here I am again serving up excuses for not writing. My good friend, who is also an excellent poet, Chris Valentine, suggested that I write some tanka to get my creative processes flowing again. The tanka is an ancient Japanese form of five lines. The first three lines are a haiku, with 5, 7, and 5 syllables. Then add two more lines of 7 syllables each. The last two lines should refer back to the haiku or make some philosophic statement about the haiku.

Here's a tanka I wrote this morning that somewhat explains where I've been emotionally these past weeks:


   I'm in a weird land 
   that feels familiar and yet
   since my heart attack
   my eyes seem not to focus 
   anywhere but in my chest

My heart, of course, is healing, attaching the new arterial material the doctors moved there from my left leg. And the incision in the middle of my chest is healing as is the place where the doctors broke my sternum to get to my heart. These healing processes each have their little twinges and tweaks of light pain or discomfort. But these little tweaks immediately grab my attention, and I lose focus on what I was doing. I've found that reading is the best at ignoring the tweaks.

Chris also suggested listening to some background music. That also seems to help. Now listening to Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A Major. I love the second movement, the adagio. I can't listen to it without immediately seeing Meryl Streep and Robert Redford dancing out in the bush in Out of Africa. What a beautiful piece of music. For me, it's on a par with Barber's Adagio for Strings for the most beautiful piece of sad music. 

So wish me luck as I try very hard to keep my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keyboard to get my creative processes rolling again. 

Oh yes, I did write another tanka this morning to send off to Chris to let her know that I'm taking her advice. 

   set your steps from home 
   relish new peoples and lands 
   broaden horizons 
   let the new refine the old 
   but don't lose your sense of place  

It seems to me that we must have a good sense of place, be it a city neighborhood or a stretch or mountains or a vast expanse of prairie, if we are to be grounded. The prairie has become my "place" and I can't wait to get healthy enough to get back out there. Isn't it an irony that I had just started to walk on the prairie when my heart decided to quit? :-))))


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A sudden realization


tanka of recognition

robin sings his joy
buds burgeon on tree branches 
but I don't notice 
I'm focused inward only
ignoring nature's wonder

Kathy and I were walking yesterday, getting in our daily exercise, trying to build my strength. I looked up once and saw an ethereal moon sitting just above the sidewalk. I had been so focused on putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to trip on the root-tilted sidewalk slabs, that I had not even noticed the moon. And my reaction was something like "Oh that's nice."

Two days ago I happened to glance out the window of the family room where I spend most of my day and noticed that a bud on a branch pressed against the window had started to swell, getting ready to leaf out. My reaction was one of "oh yeah" rather than one of wonder that spring was already starting.

I thought about that a lot and realized that my heart attack, surgeries, and the discomfort and pain they brought on has had me focused entirely inward. I also realized that back when I was bothered by PTSD brought on by Vietnam, I had done the same thing, focusing on what was going on inside and ignoring the beauty and gifts of the world. Nature helped me through that pain, so I know it will help again.

As Kath and I got in bed last night, I mentioned it to her, and she said my reaction was probably normal given the trauma and intensity of the past month and a half. But I decided that I'm going to have to consciously look outside of myself. Rather than just take walks to get my legs and lungs back in shape, I need just to sit outside and glory in nature to get my soul back in shape.

I woke at dawn this morning and listened hard. The first sound was a robin clucking a warning, probably to Nichole's cat. Then, within two minutes, he broke out into that robin-song that defines spring. The males try to out sing each other and at times can be deafening. He has a partner, a nest, and is glorying in it.

My creative recovery started yesterday when I saw that moon and realized I did not have my normal "Wow!" reaction to it. I realized I need to get my soul back in shape as well as my heart. I'll work hard on that. I felt the need to blog my feelings as this feels like a first step in that recovery. Nature will help me with her many shows of "Wow!" as long as I'm paying attention. I promise to pay attention.