Creative Wordshops December 2018 Writing Letter

SEE: Once upon a Life – a shared wordshop publication – 2019

Mind the Gap

Dear writer, storyteller, reader, lover of words, images, silences… I know that nothing has ever been real without my beholding it. All becoming has needed me. My looking ripens things and they come toward me, to meet and be met. (Rilke: Book of Hours)

This month – a meditation on attention. Observing. Listening. And how when we do this, a gap opens up and we enter. We see with the ear and hear with the eye. It’s as we as writers need an internal magnifying glass, microscope and stethoscope. This kind of attention offers us images as we begin to see connections – how this is family of that. As we zoom in, focus and open to this granadilla, this wave, this cappuccino, details lead us deeper into patterns, intricacies, rhythms, correspondences. Sight invokes insight… we see with Wordsworth “into the life of things.” We leave the experience not through the door we entered by, but find a hidden aha way back via words into the world.

In The Art of Attention: The Poet’s Eye, David Ravell observes, I see that poetry is a form of attention, itself the consequence of attention and too I believe that poems are presences, themselves the consequence of vivid presentations that may be called in Dame Julian of Norwich’s words ‘showings.’ An Auden poem also offers us an example of this kind of cycle: Look, stranger, at this island now The leaping light for your delight discovers, Stand stable here And silent be, That through the channels of the ear May wander like a river The swaying sound of the sea.

Here is a recent experience in the library of the Buddhist Retreat Centre at Ixopo while teaching a mindful writing retreat, some weeks ago, taking Machado’s insight as cue:

Three Lamps in a Retreat Library
Between living and dreaming
there is a third thing. Guess it.
(Antonio Machado)

in this rondavel, white-walled,
books float like water lilies
in a pond of knowledge
and ripples of unknowing.
shelves line the outer circle
side by side with other images.
a brass pot embossed with leaves
holds an imagined shrub.
a silken mandala opens her face.
Japanese women under umbrellas
glide round a long-necked vase.
pagoda photos, angled
into the heavens, point at clouds.
an architect’s sketches
of a giant Buddha to scale
and a vision map for a retreat centre
brim with heart possibility.
beneath the thatch
with its wooden spokes
that wheel the roof
in a circle of sky,
a spoke rises centre-point.
black wattle hewn from
this forest and hill place.
half way up this pole a switch,
half-hidden in surprise,
clicks on with a finger flick.
three lamps, hanging from the pole,
shine on the spines of these volumes
to light the hours of this world.
in this ringed room I allocate
one light for living,
one for dreaming.
I guess that the third thing,
shines its light for the space
that breathes and beats to the
rhythms of lung and pulse.
this globe opens to silent sitting,
to lotus, gongs, raked gardens,
leaves and streams, to sages
and their labyrinth of letters,
a for Awake to z for Zen,
to the doorway between words
where the be here now bird
chirps its wake up call.
here, cover to cover, page by page,
I inhale the lived wisdom
in these cherished texts.