Echoes of Bliss

English: Frontispiece of the 1922 edition of R...

1922 edition of Rootabaga Stories by Carl Sandburg. Illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A poem is an echo,
asking a shadow to dance.”
Carl Sandburg

A lovely way to define poetry, but what does it mean? Pretty words undefined by our  experiences are just pretty words.

For a long time I did not appreciate poetry—possibly due to a Canadian literature course I took at university that seemed to hone in on Canadian poetry that defined our great nation as a cold, forbidding, and sterile place—which was the exact opposite of my experience. Mind you, I live in an area (southwestern Ontario) where we brag about being the “southernmost” part of Canada, so we possibly experience much more moderate weather conditions than many of our northerly brothers and sisters.

I have found that there is certain poetry that “speaks” to me, and it is generally poetry that talks of everyday things in a way that makes me look differently at the world. Each of us sees the world with a unique vision, and these visions can expand our experience.

I now collect poetry, but the poetry I collect speaks of everyday things. It is not dark and dank and angst ridden. There is a poetry contest in Canada that asks us to write poems and enter them to win a good amount of money and publication. I have read some of the poetry that has won this contest in past years and it is generally not “happy” poetry about daffodils, or hanging out the wash, or planting tomatoes. It generally has a depth I cannot plumb. I guess I like poetry that is expressed simply with beautiful language.

In an attempt to write something I think would be considered for the contest—I went to my dark place and came up with the following:

Not Safe

The shadows are cast

Shutters open to reveal a life broken

Exposed.

Just outside the door a welcome mat beckons

But it lies

No one is welcome here

Pain, hurt, and agony

Make their home here.

A red couch long abandoned

Its pillows ripped and frayed and soiled

Pillows strewn on the floor

Pretty fringed cast offs

Carpet muddied and matted……………..

Then I stopped writing the poem. It is not me. As angst ridden as the next person, I could not sustain this attitude long enough to write 500 – 600 words. I kind of depressed myself. It is apparent to me that my dark side is not dark enough, or sustainable.

Daffodil & Summer-snowflake

Daffodil & Summer-snowflake (Photo credit: ericdege)

Granted, I may live in a world of denial at times, but I like pretty words and pretty worlds, and what I so painfully came up with in my lame attempt to be considered for a prize is not authentically me. So I will write about trees with lacy limbs, snowflakes melting on tongues, and baby chuckles—and leave the dark side to those who can do it justice.

If as Sandburg says: “A poem is an echo, asking a shadow to dance” then mine is a dance of hope whose shadows are shallow.

Bliss is realizing what is authentic, and what is not. What do you think?

Or Not

Carl Sanburg's house where he lived while he w...

Carl Sandburg’s house. Now a Chicago landmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is necessary ….for a man to go away by himself …to sit on a rock…and ask, ‘Who am I, where have I been, and where am I going?’”* So said Carl Sandburg. My answer: “Or not.” Admittedly a succinct, even superficial response, nonetheless I sometimes wonder if we should really be so navel gazing. I have noticed in my numerous decades on this earth, that too much introspection can be harmful, and that those who do not put in the time to ask the questions that Sandburg put forth are perhaps happier than those of us who delve into these depths.

According to Wikipedia (that repository of somewhat questionable knowledge for the lazy), Carl Sandburg was born in 1878 and was the recipient of not one, not two, but three Pulitzer prizes. He was a much celebrated writer and editor–so, he can be forgiven for being a deep thinker—it obviously paid off for him. But I am still wondering about his choice of a rock to sit on to contemplate his wherewithal.  Why not a couch before a roaring fire, or a comfortable bench overlooking the park, or even a sandy beach? It seems we need to contemplate life from a hard place, or the proverbial spot between it and a rock.

Of course I am not a great philosopher (or even a poor one), but if I take my cues from my cat, strangely named Kitty Bob (try shouting that out your front door when you want your cat to come home), I note that he takes no comfort from hard places, nor do I think that he contemplates life much beyond eating, sleeping, partying hardy all night away from the house, and getting all the attention in the world from three of the four members of this household (yes, I am the holdout—but in my defence I feed him and clean out his litter box, and on occasion at the urging of those who love him, pet him).

Now, I am not saying we should all act like cats (or maybe I am), but a house cat with a good home and people who love him, has it made in the shade. (What would this post be without its clichés—I am single-handedly bringing them back into vogue).  My cat thinks he owns the place, and in essence he does. Pretty well anything Kitty Bob wants, KB gets. Here is an excerpt from some of the conversations that go on around this house all concerning the cat:

1. “Oh, let the Kitty Bob sit in your chair. You don’t need to work at your desk right now, do you?” (For some reason Kitty Bob has taken to sitting in my desk chair of late, and is quite put out when I have to move him.) He is very indignant when I unceremoniously dump him out of my chair and he must sit somewhere else, and it seems the members of this family think he should be able to sit where he pleases too. (For those of you taken aback at my dumping him out of my chair—really, I just gently lift him out and put him in another chair—I don’t want the Pet Police after me.)

2. “Kitty Bob likes sitting on my suitcase—I’ll get him another one to sit on, so he will be happy.” It seems that Kitty Bob’s happiness is a priority at my house. No rock for this guy. The back story: When my youngest son Tyler was home for Thanksgiving, he left his suitcase laying out flat in the hallway upstairs and Kitty Bob started to use it as his comfortable place to nest, so that when Ty needed to gather it up to go back to school, he went and found another suitcase (mine!) for the cat to lie on. And the cat is still using it as his upstairs “getaway” every day—taking his leisurely naps on it. He does leave it to eat and do his duty, but he spends hours on this suitcase. Who knew?

3. “Pet the Kitty Bob, mom, he wants you to pet him.” I do not think the cat cares if I pet him, but I give him attention to make the other humans at this house happy. And their response always is: “See, he is starting to purr, he doesn’t purr when I hold him.” The secret here is that I feed the cat; the cat knows that I am the purveyor of all things “meow mix” so of course he purrs–he wants to be fed, and he recognizes me as the giver of food.

Anyway, my whole point in this is–why go sit on a rock, question life, ruminate over your failures, and make plans to make your life more worthy if you are a cat? It is just us foolish humans who have not yet found the meaning of life: eating, sleeping, and getting a lot of love, who need to make ourselves uncomfortable in order to ask life’s questions.

*Thanks to grosenberg.wordpress.com for the quote.