The best thing I got for Christmas this year was a book of poetry by Billy Collins. It was actually the second book of poetry from my friend John, but the first time anyone ever sent me a kindle book. Did you know you could do that? Because I didn't and it was a perfect surprise to open something beautiful to read at midnight on Christmas Eve when both my house and my heart were too quiet for comfort.
Billy Collins writes the only poetry I've read that makes me want to be a poet myself. ME! She who hates poetry! (I literally did sit down and write some poetry too! Sure, it's erotic haiku, but STILL. Mama wrote some 5-7-5!) Collins is that good though. I have tons of favorites, but this poem from The Trouble With Poetry: And Other Poems felt like it was written just for me.
In the Moment
It was a day in June, all lawn and sky,
the kind that gives you no choice
but to unbutton your shirt
and sit outside in a rough wooden chair
And if a glass of ice tea and a volume
of seventeenth-century poetry
with a dark blue cover are available,
then the picture can only be improved.
I remember a fly kept landing on my wrist,
and two black butterflies
with with and red wing-dots
bobbed around my head in the bright air.
I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more
than to be in the moment -- but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one
or any of those that were scuttling by
seemed perfectly right for me.
Plus, I was knotted up with questions
about the past and his tall, evasive sister, the future
What churchyard held the bones of George Herbert?
Why did John Donne's wife die so young?
And more pressingly,
what could we serve the vegetarian twins
who were coming to dinner that evening?
Who knew that they would bring their own grapes?
And why was that pickup
flying down the road toward the lone railroad track?
And so the priceless moments of the day
were squandered one by one --
or more likely a thousand at a time --
with quandary and pointless interrogation.
All I wanted was to be a pea of being
inside the green pod of time,
but that was not going to happen today,
I had to admit to myself
as I closed the book on the face
of Thomas Traherne and returned to the house
where I lit a flame under a pot
full of floating brown eggs,
and, while they cooked in their bubbles,
I stared into a small oval mirror near the sink
to see if that crazy glass
had anything special to tell me today.
I have lots of New Year's resolutions for 2011 (save money regularly, travel, read to my kids, join a Roller-derby team, have (even) more sex, find an agent for my novel or publish it myself), but the most important one is also my cheesiest one:
Work on my spirituality.
I know! I hate that word too. It just screams patchouli oil and dusty church basements.
There are two things about me that lead me to believe this is a worthy cause:
1. I absolutely CAN NOT think about my breathing or I have an anxiety attack in which I can't breathe.
I mean, that's not normal, is it? I should have been able to practice lamaze breathing without wishing that xanax was pregnancy safe. I should be able to do yoga without having to stuff my face in a paper bag, right? And I'm talking about Wii yoga, here people.
But I can't breathe.
And I need to figure out why.
2. This one is even more embarrassing:
I cry at church.
Every. Single. Time.
And I'm an agnostic! Who doesn't believe in SQUAT! So why the tears, UNIVERSE?
INQUIRING MINDS WANNA KNOW.
There is this big CHUNK missing from me and this is the year I'm determined to figure it out.
The place I plan to start is here: in the moment.
I suck at moments.
I blame my stupid silly writer's brain for it, too, because I only think in WORDS. Literally. If I'm thinking about clouds, the letters: W-H-I-T-E and F-L-U-F-F-Y are literally scrolling across the screen of my brain. I can't think about cheese without seeing V-E-L-V-E-E-T-A. Basicallly, I can only think with subtitles on.
So my goal for the year is simple (well it SOUNDS simple at least): Turn the subtitles off. Stop labeling. Exist without words.
Even if it's just for ten seconds.
Wish me luck.
And also - because I can't seem to nail down a definition for myself - what does "spirituality" mean to you? I'd love some ideas on where to start.