Friday, June 1, 2012

Day Ten: Ten days of Persian Influence

The way of love is not
a subtle argument.

The door there
is devastation.

Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?

They fall, and falling,
they're given wings.

~ Rumi

This little poem gives me hope.  I gave up lots to pursue a dream. Right now it feels like I might fail.  Like it is not going quite as planned.  It also reminds me of the beautiful image offered in the first stanza of the  Emily Dickinson poem, Hope:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

Feathers and wings,  singing and falling to fly,  I will go on doing what I love.  Doing, making,  not judging, believing...hoping

Day Nine: Ten Days of Persian Influence

Look how desire has changed in you,
how light and colorless it is,

with the world growing new marvels
because of your changing. Your soul

has become an invisible bee. We
don't see it working, but there's

the full honeycomb! Your body's height,
six feet or so, but your soul rises

through nine levels of sky. A barrel
corked with earth and a raw wooden

spile keeps the oldest vineyard's wine
inside. When I see you, it is not so

much your physical form, but the company
of two riders, your pure-fire devotion

and your love for the one who teaches you;
then the sun and moon on foot behind those.


Last weekend I was in Bendigo. Saturday I ate lunch outside. Rugged up to front the crisp air and catch the intermittent sunshine.  I was outside mainly to accompany the pup so that she could play. In the tree overhanging the courtyard where I was staying were bees.  At first I thought they must be wasps as I was sure it was too cold for bees.  But I looked closely.  The tree had just buds of leaves. No flowers and was pretty bare, really.  I couldnt see what would be attracting bees. Nevertheless, the tree was alive with them.  Bees feature strongly in my pantheon of meaningful symbols. I received their surprising presence as a gift.  They were gone when I went outside just an hour later.  I love the idea of my soul being an industrious bee: the idea of having an inner life that is fecund and creative; full of honeycomb. That this might extend beyond me (rises through nine levels of sky).

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day Eight: Ten Days of Persian Influence

 "my thoughts were washing lazily round in a sea of impressions; coming up to the surface in a series of little pictures. Nearly a thousand miles of motoring had given me plenty of pretext for idle dreaming. We had passed through Isfahan only a short while ago, and now were returned there; but I for one did not feel myself to be quite the same person: I felt that something had been added to me -- something which I could never quite communicate to anybody else; an enrichment. It was as though my eyes could see a new colour which nobody else could see."  
- Vita Sackville-West in Twelve Days in Persia
That's why we travel - to become different. To change ourselves. To escape the sameness of our lives. To imagine a life different than our ordinary one. To feel different than we do in our everyday life and maybe, to come back and live our life differently. Like a fresh start somehow. To find ourselves transformed into someone other than who we thought we were. So, even in my imaginary travel I am longing for some transformative experience. I want to be different. To have a different life. To feel different. Even just for a short while. Of course, I'd be very pleased to wake up one morning and find myself much more like person I aspire to be. That one that is much nicer, kinder, less grumpy. The one that is much more creative and far more productive. So am I being changed? Reading 'the Rug Maker of Mazae-E-Sharif', I acknowledge afresh gratitude for the peaceful place in which I live. I am aware of a longing to become a bigger person, someone who's world, and understanding of the world is broadened. When I started this Sixty days of Persian Influence, I didn't think I wanted to delve into history. I am beginning to discover that it might be virtually impossible not to do this. All context has an historical dimension. So I am learning - a lot. And I will continue to explore this learning during my Sixty Days.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Day Seven: Ten Days of Persian Influence

The new moon rose in a cloudless sky at Isfahan on the evening before we set out. We sat in the garden watching Venus and the slip of moon travel together between two tall poplars, in a silence broken only by the croaking of frogs and the distant cries coming from the town.....
So we sat rather sulkily in the garden watching  Venus and the new moon. The month was April, the evening air warm and milky. It had been raining; the smell of the wet earth came up to us as it so often does in England, but so rarely in Persia. Little gold and purple irises grew all along the path, on the edges of the irrigation stream.
 "Twelve days in Persia"
Vita Sackville-West

Friday, May 11, 2012

Day Six: Ten days of Persian Influence


Someone who goes with half a loaf of bread
to a small place that fits like a nest around him
someone who wants no more,
who's not himself longed for by anyone else.
He is a letter to everyone.  You open it.
It says, "Live!"

This book came in the mail today and the above poem was written on the Dedication page. A little piece of synchronicity that I didnt want to let go unacknowledged.  Right now I live in a house with lots of space. One day I would like to live in a much smaller house.  I'm not sure how I would do this, as I hoard. Books and fabric mainly.  But the idea of living in a cottage, of taking up less space and having less things fits my ideal of living more simply.  I'm hoping this book will have lots of ideas that might help me, one day, accomplish this goal.  I guess I believe this Rumi poem.  If I had just read the poem without the context of a book about little houses, I would have thought it was perhaps about finding space away from the world to be quiet and alone to be renewed, inspired and invigorated.  To return to 'life' more alive.  It makes me think of going for a day's walk in bushland.  Linking the poem to everyday living, to living in a small place is more challenging. Especially the not being longed for.  But contentment in oneself as well as in those we live with is truly a wonderful companion.  What a lovely thought - to be truly content with what I have.  What a gift that would be!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Day Five: Ten days of Persian Influence


Do not worry if our harp breaks
thousands more will appear.
We have fallen in the arms of love where all is music.
If all the harps in the world were burned down,
still inside the heart
there will be hidden music playing.
Do not worry if all the candles in the world flicker and die
we have the spark that starts the fire.
The songs we sing
are like foam on the surface of the sea of being
while the precious gems lie deep beneath.
But the tenderness in our songs
is a reflection of what is hidden in the depths.
Stop the flow of your words,
open the window of your heart and
let the spirit speak.
– Translation by Azima Melita Kolin
 and Maryam Mafi

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day Four: Ten Days of Persian Influence



The sky gave me its heart
because it knew mine was not large enough to care
for the earth the way
it did.

Why is it we think of God so much?
Why is there so much talk
about love?

When an animal is wounded
no-one has to tell it, "You need to heal"; so naturally it will nurse
itself the best it can.

My eye kept telling me, "Something is missing from
all I see." So it went in search of the cure.

The cure for me was ... beauty, the remedy--
for me was to 
 tr.Daniel Ladinsky

Rabia of Basra (717–801) was a Sufi mystic who lived in the eighth century. She was regarded as the first female saint of Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam.

You can read more about Rabia here

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Day three: Ten Days of Persian Influence



Spiritual joys come only from solitude,
So the wise choose the bottom of the well,
For the darkness down there beats
The darkness up here.
He who follows at the heels of the world
Never saves his head.

Tr. Phillip Dunn

This poem reminded me of Haruki Murakami's The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and the way the main character, Toru Okada needed time spent in the bottom of a dry well to restore to him what was lost.
In the begining of the story his cat goes missing, then his wife fails to return home from work and he begins to get phone calls from  a mysterious woman.  He is kind of going no-where, has no goals and little motivation for anything until, like Alice, he falls down a hole.  It is here, buried in the dry well beneath the earth that he begins to find places within himself that transcends the everyday world.  It is in this place of death that he begins to come alive: to feel, to grieve, to know what he cares about and to 'get outside of himself'.  Acknowledging that passivity is not an appropriate response to the shattered world, Okada is forced into a series of very definitive actions that bring his wife (and his cat) back.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Day Two: Ten days of Persian Influence


Sit with your friends; dont go back to
Dont sink like a fish to the bottom of the sea.

Surge like an ocean,
dont scatter yourself like a storm.

Life's waters flow from darkness.
Search the darkness, dont run from it.

Night travelers are full of light,
and you are, too; dont leave this

Be a wakeful candle in a golden dish,
dont slip into the dirt like quicksilver.

The moon appears for night travelers,
be watchful when the moon is full.
translated by Kabir Helminski

I've chosen another Rumi passage to reflect on today.  I was struck by the lines "surge like an ocean, dont scatter yourself like a storm".  It has got me thinking about what it means to live deep.  I spend so much time on the internet, looking up anything I want to know but I also usually speed read what I find there and half the time dont even read all the text.  I like pictures.  I like blogs with pictures.  I feel like my attention is diffuse. I think it is getting harder to zoom in and focus; such is my habit of flitting from this to that.  This is not what I think it means to live deep. I want to live deeply. Just like Thoreau, who wrote in Walden
I went into the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
~Henry David Thoreau
The culture I live in encourages breadth.  Lots of experience, lots of difference and diversity, lots of stimulation, lots of everything.  Masses of information.  Masses of material objects. Masses of choice. There isnt much any more that points us towards the depths.  Perhaps understandably because life usually manages to send us there - via pain of one sort of another.  That is where many of us grow and become wiser, deeper.  But how else, I wonder?

So after thinking for a little while these are some of the ways that might lead to "surging like an ocean":
*doing things over and over.  Not always seeking the new or novel
* to know and accept both light and shade within myself and others
* to know my limits. to set limits by making deliberate choices.  To keep boundaries
*to have high hopes and to set realistic goals to move towards these
* to work towards mastery of a few skills rather than trying everything
*to love questions and to live with them
*to be able to sit with pain, mine and others
*to be able to critically reflect.
*To know what I value and let what matters most to me to shape my choices
*to be curious about everything (and respectful and restrained, where appropriate)
*to listen well
*to wonder
*to enjoy solitude

Well, that is just for starters.  I'm sure I will think more about this as the day goes on.  What about you?  What do you think about living deeply and how do you cultivate this within your own soul?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day One: Ten Days of Persian Influence


There is some kiss we want with
our whole lives, the touch of

spirit on the body. Seawater
begs the pearl to break its shell.

And the lily, how passionately
it needs some wild darling! At

night, I open the window and ask
the moon to come and press its

face against mine. Breathe into
me. Close the language-door and

open the love-window. The moon
wont use the door, only the window.
translated by Coleman Barks

Lately, she has been longing for that kiss, that fleeting touch. That one that is gone so quickly the mind doubts it ever was. The body though, knows it did.  She felt the flicker of flame, melting that frozen sense that there is more to the world than meets the eye and now she is hungry for more of this. Mystery.  She cant command it. Or control it. Or know when and where it might come or even if it will. And so she breathes.  Deeply. and watches. and waits. and begins to see... to feel. Connected to the sea. To the lilies. to the moon. Most of all to the moon. Connected by an invisible thread of breath ... to life. and this is enough

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ah, that's the life!

My alter ego lives in a tent.  In a forest. By a river.  With a waterfall for showering and a lovely warm pool of spring water for relaxing in. Not far from the sea.  Which is every wonderful shade of aqua and azure you can imagine. She spends her days reading books she borrows from the library, just a short train ride away.  That is, after she has foraged for delicious fruits and fresh herbs. On weekends she embroiders works of arts which sell for just enough to keep her in the style to which she is accustomed and to have a reserve for any, as yet unwarranted medical expenses and the occasional holiday to somewhere new and different.  She doesnt quite know what to make of the real me who lives surrounded by books and fabric and art supplies. Who watches way too much TV - albeit recorded or on DVD so that she doesnt have to watch the adds.  Who lives in the city trying very hard to grow delicious veggies and herbs in her back garden. Wishing she had a swimming pool.   Occasionally the real me is reminded of my alter ego.  Like when she reads about women who live in tents. Like the character in Cloudstreet.  Or like Kathryn Carroll in "Spirit of Progress".  That is when she remembers who she would like to be... just sometimes.
My alter ego would not get cold and die from pneumonia like Miss Carroll does.  Nor would she make the newspaper, or be the subject of a painting. Even one that wasn't famous.  She would also have lots of friends.  Four legged and two legged.  And she would not turn away from the kind Mr Skinner who brings her fresh milk, cream and butter.  She would be feisty though, just like Miss Carroll, and self sufficient, and free.  She too would have a light in her tent at night, casting a soft yellow glow of hope for those few who might chance to see it, and who might find comfort in it.  Just like Miss Carroll, she has a lovely nephew named Michael but unlike Miss Carroll, she also has a lovely nephew named Jack.  And she likes visiting art galleries.

The Spirit of Progress, a work of fiction by Steven Carroll, is inspired by Carroll's great aunt Kathryn who was the subject of Sidney Nolan's  1946 painting Woman and Tent, housed in the Nolan Gallery, Canberra, a copy of which is shown above.