Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolution 2016

One yellow figure, there among
the piles of yesterday’s ambition,
counting, reconstructing plans
stacked so long ago.

The piles are high but sorted
into like things, femurs here
and there the scapula, here the teeth,
the bones of a fabulous creature.

The yard is on the flats beside
the still-fast-running river,
half a mile of sticks and stones
left piled there in the fall.

Cold and windy, shrouded with fog,
and still the figure moves
and plans to build and sees the future,
there among the parts.

Can I call that future’s bluff?
There beside the river,
mind stiff with the cold
and frosted memory.

I cannot do any less.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

River Bend

Before the slow, wide turning
there is still so much to see:
to learn, to understand,
to use the best of me.

Before this bridge I made my plans
from tumbling misting water
rushing fast across the dam,
what does and does not matter.

From here I see the bend ahead,
and what it means to me,
the time I have before the end,
then flowing to the sea.

The river here seems very broad,
still full of mystery,
mesmerizing in the sun
and sparkling just for me.

The currents that I started
when I broke across that wall
now swirl and curl and draw me in
to swim among them all.

To dive and turn and break the waves
submerged in cool, clear time;
to learn, to understand, to use
the very best of mine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Forgetting Myself

It is hardly surprising that old people forget who they are. 

Over and over I have experienced the Aha! moment of remembering something I thought I would never forget: peak experiences, insights, knowledge of my inner self, lessons learned. Come to think of it, I am amazed that, after so many years of existence, I can remember myself at all, considering how easy it seems to just leave important information lost in inaccessible memory. So many memories! What is it that does or does not bring each of them back to us?

Perhaps I am tethered to reality a little more loosely than most, but given the opportunity to let my mind roam around an issue or create a dialogue about an event, I am astonished at how often I come across a nugget of myself learning a personal truth that I swore I committed to memory, but apparently did not. Because here I was discovering it all over again – the I knew that! syndrome.   

Personal themes and memes from the past remain salient now and in the future, but very often I seem to start again from the beginning when they come up. Rumination will often find the shortcut to an answer that I had worked out before, but why can’t I just start with the answer and expand on it instead of forgetting I already know where to begin? Why is it that previous realizations are not part of my conscious mental arsenal? And how many other answers will I NOT encounter, NOT bring into the present with me? 

If I can forget these ultimately important insights, it is an easy step to see that it would not be hard to leave behind even my name and address in the confusing fog of so many memories. 

Still, these easily forgotten epiphanies and personal decisions are entirely internal, entirely in my memory only, while the facts of my existence are shared with a large community, verbal and written, a safeguard to forgetfulness. We assume we know who we are and, in the scheme of things, we do. But I think it is important to have interactions that reinforce those assumptions. People call us by name, we get mail at our address, we are listed in the phone book, our children have expectations. 

But what happens when people who we have counted on for years disappear, when our living circumstances change, our children move away, our partners die? Certainly less contact with the pillars of our existence encourages forgetting.

Perhaps more important, it takes energy to sort all those memories and pick out our own thoughts from dreams, lies we have told ourselves, other people's stories, even movies and books. We need to be motivated to spend that energy, to have some purpose for continuing to know ourselves. Such purpose comes from intensities, from passions, from love now and in the future. And from continued reinforcing contact with others.

I am afraid that if you have lived your life for those who have gone or as only a reflection of your culture and your surroundings, it will be more difficult to find that golden thread that is you. Not only will you have less motivation to “find” yourself, you will have less skill at deliberate recall of a “yourself “ that you never were very aware of to begin with.  So easy to get lost.

All this is not to say that collapsing brain cells will not interfere with even the strongest sense of self and passion. Certainly this kind of deterioration is a wicked way to lose your self, a sad and despicable facet of physical decay that confuses, perhaps eliminates our memories. But these are exceptional circumstances and I am only now referring to the exigencies of living a typical life to a typical end – the difficulties in keeping it all straight in our minds.

And once more (for perhaps the hundredth time) I come to the conclusion that first, continued involvement with life is essential. But just as important is the specific practice of rumination, musing. An examined life is the road to retention, no matter how often I astonish myself with my forgetting.  No matter how much longer it takes as experience piles up. No matter how much energy I need to sort those piles. There is no other way.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Definitely Dilettante

I have discovered another third stage joy.

Sampling!  At least, that is what I am calling it now, after years and years of trying so hard to finish what I started. To be an adult about it all. It has always been a chore for me to actually take a project to its end: master's degree instead of a Ph.D., gift quilts not ready to give for years, an unframed painting on my wall for decades because I intended to add the final details. I have worked hard to overcome this disorder, this not finishing what I started, in order to run a viable business, to reap the rewards of whatever I was after, and to feel that I am being taken seriously by other "adults."

But now, as lately I have taken my own advice and started trying out things I used like to see how they might fit me now, I find it is to my advantage to be able to let go. I am only sampling, I don't need to finish anything!  And so the return to classwork to finish a degree ended almost immediately with a very specific dream about driving too fast in the wrong direction; and I have spent a semester singing with a choir that was fun but not perfect, and so I am done. Just like that. It is an amazing freedom!

Sampling things in my stage of life is all about pleasure. I like the singing but will find another venue. I discovered I am a faux academic. These new insights can only help me waste less time in finding what is right for me, what most gives me pleasure. I take to heart the old saw that these are my golden years, and I will make them shine!