“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.” ~ Joseph Campbell.
When I was young, one of my aunts sent me a book of poetry. At first I was a little upset. I loved to get books of short stories, fairy tales, children’s magical adventures. Poetry not so much! It was written in the 1920’s or so, probably more suited to her era than mine. It was illustrated, but again, in a way I was unfamiliar with. Children who lived in houses with servants, dressed in outfits I had never worn. But what had me reading the poems was that they were written in a child’s voice, with mispronunciations and crazy spellings. This was a child who lived next door to ‘a nugly little baby’. A child who had a hiding space when the world was against him. Now that I think about it, I couldn’t really tell if he was a boy or a girl. The difficulties of childhood, of trying to figure out adults, of trying to make sense of the world transcended gender. I was hooked on poetry.
There are poets that we know only by their song lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics become well-known when another singer decides to make the words their own. I remember trying to convince my daughter that Mariah Carey was not the originator of ‘Imagine’! The other night I listened as that Queen of Country, Dolly Parton, sweetly sang the words of a Neil Young song written in 1970, adapting the lyrics slightly for the present: ‘Look at Mother Nature on the run in the twenty-first century’. Words may be crafted for one audience and then, thanks to the new vessel delivering them, a whole new generation, or population owns them. When Eric Clapton sang ‘I shot the sheriff’, he introduced Bob Marley and reggae to a segment of the population who may never have gotten hooked otherwise. There are some poets/songwriters who are prolific and prophetic, but despite their love of music their own voices are not classically beautiful. Leonard Cohen’s voice may not appeal to a purist, to a musical snob, but you cannot deny the raw power of his words, the sacred oratory of his songs. ‘Hallelujah’, written in the 80’s has been covered by more than 100 singers, both professional and amateur, in many different languages. It was originally 80 verses long and took him over two years to write! In one interview he explained that the song shows that many different ‘hallelujahs’ exist, and that both the broken and the perfect hallelujahs have equal value.
Sometimes we get hung up on our feelings. We stew and mull over perceived wrongs, letting the thoughts take over our head. I am a master of mulling. I mull day and night, having busy and complex dreams that disturb my rest. Perhaps if I could tame these bouncing thought threads into simple clean lines of poetry I could put them aside and make space for more productive mind work. I read that the poet Rumi wrote a poem describing the sound of the reed (the mouth-piece of a wind instrument). He wrote (and I am paraphrasing badly here), that the reed cries because it is separated from the source, cut from the reed bed and taken away. Words, poetry, also represent a longing to be returned to the source, he said. Perhaps it is in silence, in the spaces in between that we reconnect.
There is a theory that some flowers bloom when stressed, thus beauty emerges from pain. The amazing show of colors in the fall (in those parts of the world that experience fall of course) comes from a shock to the system, as trees experience the dip in temperatures. The best poetry and songwriting also comes from pain, from distress, a cry from the heart. What wonderful creatures are we that like the alchemists of old we are able to create, to paint and sew and knit and cook and sing and write and tell stories. How amazing that we can grow from pain, rise up when we fall, like supple trees we can bend and not be broken.
Sometimes we do not recognize how special we are, and instead focus on what we are not, preferring to hide in the wings instead of stepping out onto the stage. What we don’t know is that many of those who are in the limelight are just as scared, just as doubtful of their talents. And in the scheme of things, in the vastness of a star-filled universe, does it matter whether we succeed or fail? I well remember the night, many years ago, when my father took me up on the deck of the SS Ascania on our first trip across the Atlantic to Jamaica. In the middle of the ocean, no city lights for miles, I first gazed up at a sky so full of stars it took my breath away. There were no words, no poems, no songs that could do justice to that feeling of awe.
This Friday morning I am inspired to try to make space for creativity by emptying my head of the foolish, useless mulled thoughts that occupy too much of my brain. I am reminded that it is from our imperfections that masterpieces may grow. I am cautioned to take the time to appreciate instead of complain. I am encouraged to listen for the cry of the reed, the call of a bird, the laughter of a child. Have a wonderful weekend, Family!