learning to pray…

wild-geese by Mary Oliver

Hello hello hello. We are here to do a bit of a November experiment.

I am feeling so fricken awful these days. Like I don’t DO anything. Like I will never finish anything (writing wise) ever again in my life and so… Of COURSE I decide to sign on to participate in NaNoWriMo – because –

Look a month long challenge that you will be able to MEASURE and get a prize for at at the end! (even if the prize is just braggin’ rights)

Heh heh.

So it goes in this brain/heart of mine.
2016nanoMy project for the month is titled you do not have to be good after the wonderful poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. Always an inspiring poem for me that has offered me…solace.

A new layer of wonderful was added to this sense of solace when I heard an interview with Mary on a wonderful podcast I follow called On Being. She reads the poem — which is so so SO wonderful. I love hearing work in the author’s voice. But she also says:

“This is the magic of it. That poem was written as an exercise in end-stopped lines. Period at the end of the line. Not every line is that way. I was trying to show the variation, but my mind was completely on that. At the same time, I will say that I heard the wild geese. I mean, I just started out to do this for this friend and show her the effect of the line end is — you’ve said something definite. It’s very different from enjambment. And I love all that difference. And that’s what I was doing.

I was trying to do a certain kind of construction. Nevertheless, once I started writing the poem, it was the poem. And I knew the construction well enough that I didn’t have to think about, just if I need an end-stopped line here or… It just worked itself out the way I wanted for the exercise. That’s kind of a secret. But it’s the truth. It was there in me. Yes. Once I heard those geese, and said that line about anguish. Where that came from, I don’t know…”

I love that this wonderful wonderful poem that has touched so many came to her as she was working on CRAFT. She was doing and exercise and also listening to the world.

I want to do that this month.

I see this as a way of re-invigorating my writing practice with the added bonus of playing “in community” with other writers in NaNo land.

My plan is to take up inspiration wherever I find it and… let myself run with it for a few hours each day.

The “end product” won’t really be a “novel” pers se but I had the idea that a woman finds these scribblings, this notebook, somewhere … like on a Greyhound Bus and she reads it and then… she leaves the notebook somewhere for someone else to find and begins the same sort of notebook for herself.

As I begin this work, I recognized my growing frustration with the way I am always… chasing of my tail, trying to round things up and pin them down, save them for later.

The way that I spent hours the other day down the “playing with apps” bunny hole. My aim was to find a simple, elegant, way to … REMIND myself of something. Some wisdom gleaned from my weekly adventure with Jennifer Louden over at the Oasis. Jennifer provides us with lovely worksheet pdfs each week to DO JUST THIS. I don’t need to re-invent anything at all. I was just looking for way to… not just fill in my form and file it on my computer and …not look at it again.

An Oasis companera mentioned that she takes a pic of her weekly wisdom on her phone so it is always at her fingertips.

Great idea, right? Sure. Except that this week, instead of filling in the lovely form Jennifer sends us, I made a big sprawly drawing entry in the Scrib and I couldn’t find a way to take a picture that would show the whole thing and be readable, so… I thought, “Well maybe I can use an app to make a nice picture…” and THAT sent me down the bunnyhole of playing with Phonto and Evernote and finding old things on apps I no longer use and … “oh oh oh remember when I was doing that? Remember when I tracking the things that make my life wonderful and making notes in The Book of Me on the Paperless app to remind myself of these things. Because… I am always forgetting always forgetting always forgetting” and when I looked up… hours had slipped away and I still didn’t have a damned picture/reminder.

I do this ALL THE TIME.

I turn my life into lists and reach for apps that will keep things at the forefront of my mind and really really really all I need to do is… listen. To pray in the way that Mary Oliver prays in her poem The Summer Day.

The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver (from New and Selected Poems, 1992)

To be idle and blessed. To pay attention. To fall down into the grass.
Oh yes please.
Yes please.
Yes please.

My aim is … To carry the wisdom of both of these poems with me all month and to write from this place. This sacred, wonderful place.
Let’s see how it goes.

Go easy~p

PS – if you are playing in NaNoLand and want to find me – look for MulliganStew

The Oasis with Jennifer Louden: http://jenniferlouden.com/the-oasis/
On Being blogpost: http://www.onbeing.org/blog/mary-oliver-reads-wild-geese/5966

Mary Oliver reading Wild Geese: 

Mary Oliver reading The Summer Day: 

5 Comments on “learning to pray…

  1. Pingback: Wild and Precious Life | Lauren Carter, Writer & Creativity Coach

  2. Pam, You can have no idea how much I needed to read that “Today’s Inspiration” piece this morning. Thank you, dear friend.

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