Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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One skill that is central to peace of mind and well being is listening. We hear sounds all the time. People talk to us with varying degrees of sincerity and interest. Our job is to distinguish and sort the grain from the chaff. By paying attention it is possible to harvest harmony from the symphony of sounds and sentences we hear. To listen with compassion is a difficult task. Defending our own position rather than truly comprehending other points of view is one of the most common substitutes for listening. Understanding others is not a sign of weakness but a sign of maturity. We can’t agree with everyone, but we can look for ways to increase loving kindness in our lives. To love thy neighbor as thyself involves a degree of allowing that neighbor to express himself. As we in the United States fall deeper into the political season each day I expect some wild rhetoric. To remain happy, detached and centered is my goal. I am setting guidelines for myself ignored to keep my cool and enjoy life while those around me might loose it.
By conscious meditative contemplation I will not only survive but will find my center during the presidential election hoo-ha. I can admit that the last two elections disturbed and distracted me. I became enraged at the robo calls and the parties making them. Now I know that this too shall pass. I am gearing up to listen with compassion and a distinct sense of humor during the political crazy season. I wish you a sane election season, gentle reader. Best of luck.
I have achieved one of the goals I stated in my first post here. I have been to the U of A Poetry Center this week. The free reading on Thursday evening was part of series on the poetics and politics of water. Sherwin Bitsui, a Navajo poet, read from his works. The were haunting and evocative of desert landscapes. He was generous in his explanation of the background and muse for the works he presented to us. This gave us both biographical information about him, and a sense of how long he worked on the books he had published. Mr Bitsui is now a professor of creative writing in San Diego, but he comes form the Navajo reservation. In his introduction he was recognized for his support of other Native American poets. He mentored and helped a number of people during his time at the University of Arizona who have gone on to publish books of poetry. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him read. Ideas from the reading have been resonating and reverberating in my mind…a good sign that those poems hit home in ways I have yet to understand.
Yesterday, for Valentine’s Day the Poetry Center docents presented a reading at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Poetry in the Garden is a regular series open to the public held in the natural setting of the gardens. Our broad subject this month was birds as symbols of love. These readings are enjoyable for all ages and stages of poetic interest. The docents compile a packet of poems and read from the collection. The audience is invited to read too, and discussion takes place after each reading. The docents encourage the audience to express thoughts and feelings about the meaning or the sounds in the readings. The discussion is broad and not academic. The programs are very well prepared and produced, this one being no exception. We heard from e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, some other well known writers, and less famous poets with all kinds of styles. The setting and weather were ideal as we were visited by singing birds before and after the session. They seemed to be voicing approval or applause.
Both of these very well produced events are an example of the very good luck it is to live near the Poetry Center. Having access to these high quality readings is a gift. Some of the attendees at the evening readings are enrolled in a University of Arizona seminar on the poetics and politics of water. They spend class time with these visiting poets as well as the public reading time. There will be 3 more in this series. I plan to go to all of them because they touch a very serious subject for us in Arizona…water. The fact that they are all Native American is meaningful. In history tribes respected natural resources while the invaders worked to deplete them. Our situation today is precarious. We have less security about water every minute. The scientists involved in this seminar agree that poets bring something to the study that pure science can not.
I am still writing, listening and learning about the lives of poets in my own practice. I have expanded my subject matter a little, but nothing too impressive. The best thing I discovered through listening at these readings is that you can write poetry any way you want. There are no forms that are rejected. Free verse is square, some poems are drawings of shapes with the lines, some use sound with mysterious meaning, still others rhyme and are held together in quartrians. It is all good. I still notice my preference to hear the sound rather than see it written on the page. The garden readings are particularly pleasurable for me because I am sitting in a favorite spot with someone reading stories to me. It is a big luxury to glance around the gardens and take in the poems. It is like having a limousine instead of driving yourself. Do you like to listen to spoken word, gentle reader, or do you like to read it in print? My dad used to read to me, and he did recite a few poems, so I think this reminds me of my childhood in a good way.