Miriam’s Well blog will be on vacation until early next year. See you then!
I was recently talking to someone who claimed to have been happy only six times. This person listed life changing events like a wedding as the only happiness inducing events. Of course I wanted to quarrel with this. Major milestones may by definition be few and far between. But these are not really moments of happiness. Or, not the only moments.
I tend to be happy about six times a minute–and unhappy too. I’ve grown to understand my nature as mercurial—and I am easily pleased.
“You get a lot out of a little,” my friend Kath observed when we were in Iceland. She was commenting on my enthusiasm for a pot of chives in the alley between our apartment and the convenience store. I just loved that pot of chives, blooming away in the long Arctic days. I loved the charmingly Icelandic store, too, with its salted fish and knitting supplies. Of course I loved the volcanoes and the black sand beaches. But I do love the small detail.
My father, may he rest in peace, was a high energy and focused traveller. But he cared only for major monuments—cultural icons. I remember being a sullen teenager in a foreign capital, dragged from cathedral to cathedral. I saw a little cafe, with yes, an alley behind it, and a grey cat cleaning its paws. All I wanted to do was buy myself a hot drink and sit at a round table and watch the world. But alas, this was not on my father’s agenda.
I did grow up, however. And set my own pace. When I was an artist in residence in the Everglades I’d drive down to the end of the park (where there wasn’t much, post hurricane) and buy a bad cup of coffee at the bait shop and sit on the dock. I was rewarded by numerous crocodile sightings—those scary shy reptiles that like brackish water. And I was rewarded by very little, just that moment.
I’ve always loved Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge’s poetry. I have to slow down and mull as I read it. It has a quality of complexity, but one I find enticing. It might be a cousin to Language School, but is also very original, and sensual as well as abstract. Here is part of an excellent interview with the poet.
MB: I think of a poem as an energetic whole, because the way I reach an expression of energy is through language. I definitely think about the so-called idea or meaning of a poem, but for me, it is more about keeping the energy high. I also want to mention that when I write a poem, I often have no idea of what I’ve said. I make assemblages of notes and put them together, but it’s at the unconscious level that composition occurs, and I think there are more profound gestalts of understanding to be found that way. So I am not somebody who thinks complex thoughts by my will; I find them. A lot of people now say that there are more neurons in the heart than there are in the brain.
A shroud of snow covers Lake Saranac,
Stretching beyond the frosted firs of Hardy’s Island.
The Iroquois named her Lake of the Silver Sky.
Lone moose call –
Then sound frozen silent.
Blood splotches in the snow,
Fresh rabbit kill –
Wolf family dinner.
My mother loved this Lake beyond love – spoke its silent language,
Sang gentle songs to her lapping shores,
Listened to the rise as the wind crossed the water,
Knew her secret coves with darting bass and plucky pollywogs,
Adirondack guide boat skims between lily pads,
With wee wobbly son and proud husband…
Watching us ride the Old Ford “Woody”, with no roof or windows,
Down the hill out onto the Lake with five feet of ice,
Our mad sleigh spinning ‘til Bucky and I fly off the bumper…
Laughing all the way.
Until the day Mom’s muscles froze stiff.
All hope gone, we opened the frosted window one night,
Let the chill air fill her gentle lungs –
Winter’s final blessing.
On another day my wife slid across a snowy bridge,
She dearly loved those frozen crystals – called them “snew” –
Another winter’s benediction.
They return to the Lake, my ladies of winter,
Catching plump snowflakes on pink tongues,
Falling down dizzily-giddily,
Making snow angels who fly up into the starry night,
Playing tag above the Lake of the Silver Sky.