Hurry: words in brief

This afternoon I sit by a fire in a Toronto ravine, drinking hot apple cider and watching red-tailed hawks soar overhead, talking with two dear friends. Our children roam the valley with the outdoor program that has been part of each of our lives since our kids were tiny. The trees around us are bare now, the creek low, November’s bold deer once again slipped under cover. The last few weeks we’ve circled up to sing at day’s end under the fiery pinks and oranges of the setting sun, last week with a nearly-full moon rising opposite. The kids return laughing, muddy, with stories of animal sightings, games, adventures, gratitude. I treasure these unhurried afternoons, these slow friendships. Each year there are changes in our lives, departures, losses of one kind or another. Community is a more porous, more fluid organism than I could have known. But it is a resilient one too, I am slowly and most gratefully learning, once I open the doors wide and let it breathe.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: hurry.

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Nocturnal: words in brief

There is a truth that comes out at night that shakes me awake, looks me in the eye when I try to look away. I used to hide my face from it, try whatever method I could find to sleep when I was supposed to. I fought nightly with insomnia for years and lost. When my children were tiny, I learned to engage with the torment of their constant wakings by being staunchly present to whatever the night might bring. This kept me kind to my children and to myself, although many mornings I would stumble downstairs in stupefied exhaustion and weep. Motherhood taught me the courtship of night, the slow and patient welcoming of its stark wisdom. Now when night speaks to me, I stay awake and listen. I am astounded by the secrets it whispers in my ear.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: nocturnal.

Interview: words in brief

I interview my parts:
my limbs today are strong and stretched,
yoga widening space in my lungs and heart.
Each day my body’s new-found sweetness
shifts away lifetimes of clutter,
clears space for joy.

My heart is softer now,
appreciative of ordinary kindness,
awake to simple possibilities.

Sometimes I fear the future; or mourn
the enthusiasms of earlier decades, or grieve
my heart’s attachment to a village
that was always more a dream than a plan.

I keep vigil with the fears, let them
travel through,
remember that this world is provisional,
my place here is temporary,
and has always been.
But I am still here, finding delight,
finding peace.

My feet are connected to the earth;
I am at home within myself.
My mind is open to the trees and sky,
engaged with poetry and wisdom,
and with my own gleaning of words to fill my hunger;
My hands find ways to make small things beautiful.
My soul can handle truth.

Moods drift past like clouds;
I watch, let them drift where the wind blows,
try not to hold on to anything,
except presence,
except love.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: interview. Closer to 200 words, I believe, but this wanted to be said today.

Reunion: words in brief

I’ve always avoided reunions, the official kind, where I imagine people standing around awkwardly sipping drinks and listing accomplishments. I find my life hard to sum up in a line or two. I only want to talk to people who are truly listening, and who will tell me the truth about themselves in return. But I’ve been heartened lately to realize that most of my peers have passed the age of competition. This is the gift of middle age. None of us has quite the life we expected. We’ve lined up our mistakes and disappointments, grieved our losses, stripped away the superfluities, felt doors closing behind us. It grants us a certain clarity, a certain generousity, and curiousity in abundance.“What is your story?” we ask each other now. “I really want to know.”

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: reunion.

Mistake: words in brief

I’ve rarely knit a sweater all the way through without unraveling a sizeable section. This seems to be my process: I notice that the fit is off, something doesn’t add up, but I persist. “It will be fine,” I think, “It will work out. I can see it through.” A month of knitting later, I can’t ignore it any more: the sweater is too tight, too loose, awkwardly striped, not what I intended. I pull the needles out and unravel, either with resignation or with a strange glee. “Look at me practicing non-attachment. I can retrace my path. I can start again.” And I do.

I’ve completed many projects this way.  And yet… Why not value my time and labour?  Why not trust myself in the first place? Why not stop at the first suspicion, the first misgiving, the first hunch that something isn’t right?

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: mistake

Fencing: words in brief

I argue with the fencing every year, and every year it wins. Low wire-mesh edges our narrow backyard, the house facing off against the sturdy cement shed at the rear. In the summer, we eat dinners on the roughed-in patio, chatting with our neighbour to the north as he stands over his barbeque, steps away. Two doors north a small table is arrayed with bright cloth and long-stemmed glasses; from our back steps we compare rat-trapping tips. South, we are gifted pears and grapes and marvel at the roses. Further south, a surly watcher sits, appraising us, smoke drifting. I long for privacy, a shady outdoor room with tall cedar fences, instead of these crowded cubicles. But each spring the flowers bloom, and I sit back and leave it be.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: fencing.

Bruise: words in brief

I wonder if what sets the artist apart is a fascination with bruises, prodding at them to test their tenderness, obsessively studying the colours of impact blooming on sensitive skin. I once watched an interview with Louise Bourgeois in which she traces decades of fertile art practice to the pain of discovering her father’s infidelity as a small child. Again and again she re-creates the moment of revelation, the shattering of her world. There is not much of a story in letting go. Narrative survives through obsession, through ever fingering the same moments, the same questions, the same wounds, like beach-worn pebbles, made unnaturally beautiful by constant handling. Art is a forest of meaning grown from the smallest seed of experience. The skill is in the tending, in knowing how to be both gardener and garden, in knowing how and when and how much to share the yield.

From 100 Words: The Beauty of Brevity. Word prompt: bruise.