It’s always interesting, this business of feeding each other with our art and poetry . . .
Paula Kuitenbrouwer (Mindful Drawing), a Dutch nature artist, told a story one day, a sweet tale of the near-death of a beetle at her home in the Netherlands.
The tranquil garden-drawing Paula completed to commemorate the day is lovely and the first line of her post is both an homage to her unutterable respect for life and absolute poetry filled with the promise of story.
“I found a Carabidae beetle in a bucket with water and regretted its death by drowning . . . “
“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills . . . “
Something about those perfect sentences lets you know there’s a good story to come. And there was.
“It lay there for at least an hour and I hoped so much it would give a sign of life. Then I did the most crazy thing imaginable; I turned it on its back, squeezed it gently, and gave it heart massage (don’t ask). Three drops of water came out. I have no clue why I did such a weird thing. Would somebody tell me he or she had given cardiac massage to a beetle, I would have laughed out loud.” Paula Kuitenbrouwer
And so the inspiration for this poem ~
the garden floating in violet and ruby hues,
by the side of the house, a beetle floats too,
so jewel-like, amethyst and brilliant against
the dull gray water, it does not move
it lies there still as the dead of noon across
a bone-colored desert, and her hand so white,
wing-like flutters against its rigor, laying it
on the table, by a pad to sketch with pencils
that minuscule life, no will to release it
into whatever beetle heaven there might be,
laying tender finger to knead a tube-like heart
holding her breath, willing air into spiracles
wishful thinking? a flicker from the antennae?
slight movement of a leg? perhaps, perhaps
some healing pressure, one gentle push,
three drops of water, success in late hours
to heal a beetle, to sketch in varied colors
with time to hug the child and sip hot tea …
a creature saved from a sad death by drowning
and cherish the mindful drawing for a memory
I love the line of Flaubert about observing things very intensely. I think our duty as writers begins not with our own feelings, but with the powers of observing.
AWARDS: Mary Oliver’s fourth book, American Primitive, won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984. She received the Shelley Memorial Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Achievement Award; the Christopher Award and the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award for House of Light; the National Book Award for New and Selected Poems; a Lannan Foundation Literary Award; and the New England Booksellers Association Award for Literary Excellence.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
How often we turn to certain poets for certain healing, to those greater “technicians of the sacred” (to borrow from Jerome Rothenberg): Jane Hirchfield for her gentle Buddhist sensibility, John O’Donohue for his lilting Celtic reflections, W.S. Merwin and his deep ecology. Not the least among the greater technicians is Mary Oliver. Our hunger for spiritual healing is underscored by her popularity. The New York Times declared her the best-selling poet. Poet, activist and critic Alicia Ostriker writes of Oliver that she is as “visionary as Emerson.” Where there is criticism, it tends to be among feminists and others who feel she idealizes the feminine connection with nature.
Mary Oliver’s work is deeply rooted in nature and a sense of place, the Ohio of her childhood and the New England of her adult life. More recently Florida, where she moved to be with friends after her partner of forty years died.
Influenced by Thoreau and Whitman, she’s a keen observer. She has said that she found healing in nature and the greater beauty of the world. Nature was her refuge through a difficult childhood and from an abusive father. She writes about her experience of her father in Rage from Dream Work (the Atlantic Monthly Press, 1989).
You are the dark song
of the morning…
But you were also the red song
in the night..
When the child’s mother smiles
you see on her cheekbones
a truth you will never confess
and you see how the child grows
timidly, crouching in corners…
In your dreams she’s a tree that will never come to leaf..
in your dreams you have sullied and murdered
and dreams do not lie.
However dark Rage might be, Oliver’s poems are more often filled with light and encouragement. Journey is one such:
You strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do,
determined to save
the only life you could save.
excerpt from The Journey, in Dream Work
… and Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. […]
The world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
excerpt from Wild Geese in Dream Work
When we want to breathe the clear air of nature and the best of the human spirit, we turn to Mary Oliver and the singular meditative grace of her poetry.
garden speaks through its flowers ..
a dharma talk on cosmic truth, its syntax
is the rush of joy in different hues
written on the harmony of loam,
on sturdy leaves and gray rock ~
an elemental symphony
a webbed raiment as transient as foam, a
feral scent flirting with a lilting breeze,
a few sleepy stepping-stones along the path
and then the budding, the blooming, the
falling into decay, undisturbed by worldly
cares, a green nirvana of prickly branches
and cherry trees, the wildish thorned
rose and the innocent daisy, palm fronds
and color spectrums, no burdens, just an isness of small beings embracing the earth,
dancing in the sun, sleeping with the moon
With this issue, we bring to center stage a relationship in which we are all engaged in one way or another – our relationship to this Place. Call it Nature or Earth or Gaia or Creation, this is where all of us are born, where we will live our lives, and where we will die.
Does this place have a Spirit of its own? Does it have a will? How does it relate to us?
Those are some of the questions behind the pondering, the exploring, the dreaming and the planning that is communicated here in our writing, in our songs, in our art, and in our work.
Taking the lead in preparing this issue has been a great adventure for me. It has challenged me to hold the lens of Place in front of my eyes more intentionally and to listen more closely to the voices of those who look through different spectacles. It is my hope that the contents here will encourage sharper focus on this relationship for all of our readers.
I am delighted to have Michael Watson’s piece “The Gift of Relationship” to launch our journey. The essay “I Love This Place!” follows and establishes the Lead Features. John Anstie offers “An Alternative View of Nature” so that we might ponder not only joy, but also humility and personal cost in this relationship. This piece also ushers in our first Poetry section for this month. Nature provides so many metaphorical images that bloom into greater understanding as we ponder our interaction with the world. We have a marvelous cornucopia of poems from Zen-like to Romantic from our core members and newcomers to our group, a true garden of delights, broken into two sections: shade and full sun. (Can you tell I enjoy running with a theme?!)
So often the weight and depth of a crucial relationship is handled most gracefully in a good story. Naomi Baltuck is one of my favorite storytellers! She makes me feel the magic of my purest attempts to make meaning, the ones I began as a child. And she always includes great pictures! She offers a selection of her tales in our Story Corner.
Art and Photography are natural mediums for portraying this beloved Place. In this section, Michael Dickel will challenge your assumptions about the Holy Land and show you the true Nature of that country in personal photos…and then invite you to examine your perspective further in “Capturing and Interpreting Light”.
Two exceptional Essays put some real heartwood into this issue. “Staying Wild: How the Wilderness Act Changed My Life” by Annick Smith describes living the idea and practice of wilderness and illustrates a real alternative to human ‘trammeling’. “Let’s Hear It For The Bees! (Parts 1-3)” by Tish Farrell provides some important information about a current environmental crisis – a wake-up call to the vulnerability of Nature.
Liliana Negoi next surrounds us with Green Light – two creative non-fiction essays to stimulate luminous musing.
After the Full Sun section of our Poetry garden, we offer some cool Music with tight harmony and a timeless message.
In More Green Light, we gaze on “Life in Ordinary Time”, “Unseen”. Finally, “Who Is She?” introduces our Getting To Know You subject, the poet Joseph Hesch.
Variety, diversity, fecundity, liveliness – yep, this issue looks like Wilderness, Gardens and Green Spaces. I hope you enjoy exploring and engaging in this small space and that it inspires you to deeper and broader and higher interaction with the larger Place where we all live. –
Access to the biographies of our core team contributing writers and guest writers is in the blogroll to your left on The BeZine site along with archived issues of The BeZine, our Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines.
Thank you for sharing the love of art, literature and peace.