Thursday, June 14, 2012

what was bliss but the ordinary life?

poet rita dove
how long it took me to make peace with the incessant and fast cycling pattern of chaos and order involved in keeping house.

how long it took me to figure out that the minutia, the quotidana, were the real stuff of life--so much more of that stuff, that mundane stuff, than of the so-called major events.

this week has been one of restoring order to my mind, house, family, work, and health after a period of debauchery, depression, and loss of faith in the small things that make life work.

for instance:

1) ingrid cleaned the "hair drawer".  this is a space that gets much use in a household of five girls/women.  it contains brushes, headbands, elastics, gel, mousse and hairspray, barrettes.  but over the year it also began to contain: my 2008 planner, 7 dead batteries, gum, turkish currency, black lipstick, 12 bottles of dried up nail polish, one fake eyelash, and so on.  it is now neat and orderly.

2) i cleaned my dressing table (the top and underneath).  it contained old multiple copies of manuscripts (a whole box) a stack of things i should always instantly recyle, such as the sarah lawrence alumni magazine, kid art, receipts, single earrings, and at least a dozen dried up bottles of nail polish.  it is now clean and dusted.

3) i submitted 14 poetry manuscripts this week.  haven't done any submission since february.  i don't get acceptances that often.  i try to feel okay about that, to keep writing and sending anyway, just like i keep filling and emptying my kitchen sink.

4) saw friends last night and at lunch today.  so nice.  i forgot how good people are, and how lucky i am to know these particular friends.  i get too introverted without realizing it.  i need to make myself externalize more often.  this is part of my love of the color red--it reminds me not to retreat to far into the tar pit of my soul. . . .

5) reading tons and tons of poetry throughout the day, every day.  never have i read so much, simply for pleasure, wonderment and comfort.  i came across this piece today, and it seemed to connect with today's thoughts.  rita dove was the first poet i ever heard read at arizona state university, where she was teaching, when i was 18, and hers was the first book of contemporary poetry i ever owned.  i still like her work a lot.

Life's spell is so exquisite, everything conspires to break it.
Emily Dickinson

It wasn't bliss. What was bliss   
but the ordinary life? She'd spend hours   
in patter, moving through whole days   
touching, sniffing, tasting . . . exquisite   
housekeeping in a charmed world.   
And yet there was always   

more of the same, all that happiness,   
the aimless Being There.   
So she wandered for a while, bush to arbor,   
lingered to look through a pond's restive mirror.   
He was off cataloging the universe, probably,   
pretending he could organize   
what was clearly someone else's chaos.   

That's when she found the tree,   
the dark, crabbed branches   
bearing up such speechless bounty,   
she knew without being told   
this was forbidden. It wasn't   
a question of ownership—   
who could lay claim to   
such maddening perfection?   

And there was no voice in her head,   
no whispered intelligence lurking   
in the leaves—just an ache that grew   
until she knew she'd already lost everything   
except desire, the red heft of it   
warming her outstretched palm.

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