Soul Places

Befriending the Soul through Inquiry and Creativity

Tag: books

A Tantrum Over Attachment

You can barely see it, right?

A beautiful new book purchased as research for writing my fiction sits innocently on the café table.  When I fan the pages to indulge in the fresh press smell, it mocks me.  But I don’t recognize its unfamiliar, bogus tone as I replace it on the table close to me, in order to appreciate it with frequent lover’s glances.  I turn to a gifted, used, older book with great wisdom on how to write dialogue and forget about my infatuation with the new book.  Journaling ferociously about soliloquies and foils, I have gracefully begun courting the Muse.

In my altered state, my fleece entrenched arms reach around my full, carnation-white mug to consult my laptop for definitions and synonyms.  Jersey-cow colored coffee spills all over my new, slighted book with unrequited love, my spill-proof mug sitting nearby, unused.  A puddle rests on my laptop, but I am more concerned about my new book.  My most prized possessions are my books, especially the brand new ones, impregnated with unique word sequences and immaculate odors.

My face falls like the girl who got the wrong Barbie for Christmas.  It’s all wrong.  Ruined.  I throw an internal tantrum at my stupidity.  Having told myself several times to move the mug, I now torment myself with reminders of my responses:  I’ll be careful.  I know it’s there.  Holding my once perfect lover now mysteriously disfigured, I get up to retrieve a towel to begin sopping up the mess.  My writing friends exclaim, “It has character now.”  “It’s not so bad – just a few pages got it.”

And they are right.

Attachment to my books has lessened over the years, but today I realize it still needs work.  They are not my lover, slighted or otherwise.  They take turns sitting on the shelf, sometimes neglected for years.  They are pages that desire a life well lived, not unlike myself.  But instead of being thankful for the coffee stains and dog-ears on my pages, the deeply creased spine and curling leafs, I have been careful with my life, fearful of survival, pleasure and everything in between.

I will forever look at this book and be reminded of that morning in the café with my friends.  I am glad for the stains and reminded to pursue the more adventurous life that I dream of.  And that adventurous life has begun with the shifting of attachment and fear to the willingness and cultivation of the marred, perfectly imperfect page of my life.

Attachment Cured by Rodentia, Tempus and Carnivora

My husband and I finally rented a place together again after jobs kept us in separate states for most of this year.  We excitedly returned to our storage unit on Thursday to begin the moving process only to discover that mice had moved in.  Since February, we had unwittingly loaned all our belongings to an unknown number of rodents. We hadn’t intended on our stuff being in storage so long so we haphazardly packed and threw everything in there.  Every box was fair game as none of them were properly taped shut – only folded.  We proceeded with apprehension as to what we might find.

Our hide-a-bed couch was stored on end so we could see as soon as we uncovered it that the mice had made a nest in it.  A large plastic bin, overflowing with stuff and lidless, was littered with vermin excrement.  A big box, also carelessly over-packed and wide open housed a precious pair of jeans that I have almost fit into since college.  A rodent bathroom – that’s what they were now.  Another pair of jeans I’ve almost fit into for a number of years had become a mouse chew toy.  It suddenly became very easy to let go of my attachment to these belongings.

On to my most prized possessions – my books.  These boxes have the unique experience of never being unpacked in my last dwelling.  After a year and eight months of being locked away from my inquisitive eyes and fondling fingers, I was surprised to find that I could part with a significant number of them.  “I’m not interested in that anymore” – “I don’t really need to keep every book I’ve ever read,” were some of the thoughts going through my head.  Somehow they avoided being tread upon by the twenty-ounce rodent renters so there was no damage done and they brought a fine price at the used bookstore.  It seems as though time had allowed a natural separation from those books.

Having lived for the last ten months without any of these things made it quite easy to slight them.  I have made several trips to the local donation center and the only things I felt a little separation anxiety over were the re-homing of my childhood stuffed animals.  My dog, Dallas, thought this would be an opportune time to acquire himself a new “baby.”  He sensed my angst over these items and took advantage of a small window of opportunity.  He very cutely marched over to my pile of toys, wagged his tail and batted his eyes at me.  With his entire body engaged, muzzle reaching for the stuffed puppy, he asked me, “May I?”

I acquiesced and gave him the first two.  Then he quite confidently took the other three – although he may have to fight my husband for the little Pooh Bear.  Five of the ten stuffed animals I’d been hanging on to for fifteen years were re-homed right under my own roof.  Of course they are now fodder for Dallas’ entertainment.  Their guts will be scattered throughout the living space before too long, but I have let go of my attachment to them as well and will gladly throw them in the garbage when Dallas has completely disemboweled them.  In the meantime, they will bring me much joy as I watch my smiling dog prance around the house with them.

A Life Unexpected – For a Tree

My father pilots his tree-beaten log hauler through the forest

The season is not fall or autumn, it’s firewood-gettin’ season

I sit next to him – two bottles of water, two apples and my mixed feelings between us

The Ford blue truck halts in front of a colossal, upright, bloodless tree

I watch my mixed feelings drift out the cracked-open window

Like warm breath caressing cold air

We are only after the dead ones – relief like rain after a devastating drought

Roaring chainsaw, crashing lumber, I smile

Surprise at my upturned lips flows into recognition

I am this tree

Standing tall among it’s kind

It doesn’t realize its sap has dried up

The roots have loosened their grip on the earth

It bears seeds no more

No fuzzy buds of new growth

There are no brilliant leaves to shed this year

Its skin is mostly gone, exposing it to disease and infestation

The chain bisects this mighty tree and reveals rot, powdered wood, loosened soul

A dazed, evicted mouse bounces away

It’s comfortable life – interrupted – not allowed to fall in it’s own time

And remain on the forest floor to fertilize the ground as it decays

It’s saplings look on as we claim it for fuel

What once was dead

Brings heat, comfort

Peace of mind in the approaching winter

A second chance to complete its purpose

The cycle of life, soul restored

In the most unlikely of circumstances – for a tree

*Inspired by the lyrical voice of E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News – my current read – and forest excursions with my father

What is Your Inner Child Asking of You?

Nestled between the pages of my current read are two wallet-sized portraits, back to back, laminated for longevity and used for contemplation. The twelve month old looks as though she had been crying, red-rimmed watery eyes, not completely enjoying the experience of being posed and needing to be still.  Nevertheless she is smiling and holds a deep blue ball that stands out from her pale yellow dress and fiery hair.  The older girl looks like a veteran poser and her brilliant red hair has faded a little to a wonderful strawberry blonde.  She is smiling on cue, bright eyed and confident in her Raggedy Anne red dress.  I am the girl captured in each photo.

When I open my book and acknowledge these pictures, I begin to hear the questions they are asking me.  “Do you remember what you were like at this age, before your world shaped and reshaped you to fit into a mold?  What activities gave you so much joy?  What came easily to you?”  Somewhere in those photos is a clue as to my true nature, my gift to share with the world that I was born with and somehow lost track of.  I must simply remove all the barriers that have shown up to challenge my way.  Only it’s not been so simple.

I let these pictures take me back in time in order to recapture my true essence.  I find that most toddler activities will not serve me well in day-to-day life, so I let my mind wander into more revealing activities.  Like when I was in the fifth and sixth grade I had a friend that shared my love of writing.  I would go to her house to play, notebook and pen in hand, and we’d sit on her couch and write the next bestseller.  When this friend moved away after the sixth grade, it seemed as though I lost interest in writing.  Where did the desire to write go?  Was it a “phase?”

With this inquiry into my childhood aspirations, I remembered that I found much peace with my animals and just being out in nature.  I was an excellent observer of my surroundings.  I have also been able to recall that some of my favorite times were spent with myself in my room reading The Saddle Club and Black Stallion series and making wonderful pencil drawings.  For the first time in twelve years, I picked up a pencil and sketched again.  I’m pretty sure I won’t make a living selling sketches, but that is hardly the point.  What I’m in search of is the mission that child came here to fulfill.

Literary Euphoria Disguised as a Bookstore

I found The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (Pulitzer winner 1994) at the Book Trader in Minneapolis.  My husband had spied the store as we were driving to a friend’s house (I don’t know how I missed it!), and bless his heart, he turned around and escorted me into literary euphoria.  I was greeted by that old, musty, used book smell that I’ve grown to love.  The aisles were more narrow than a clogged artery and the book shelves were overworked like the lungs of a smoker turned marathoner.  I floated from room to room, not quite sure where to begin.

One aisle had a three foot tall stack of books about three feet deep.  You couldn’t even get to the books in the back, on the shelves or otherwise.  I walked past this aisle several times.  It was like looking into the proverbial white light and not being ready to go.  I asked for assistance in finding the books on my short list and wouldn’t you know it, they were all down the aisle I was avoiding.  The clerk said, “All the gems are in this pile, but nobody wants to go through it.”

Since I am not ‘nobody,’ I go bobbing for Pulitzer Prize winning fiction.  I have hit the mother load of used, history-making novels and just when I think I am completely through the white light to the other side, I hear my husband ask if I’m ready to go.  I turn to him with a stack of books in my arms – a distraught look on my face – and ask for a few more minutes to pick my winner and say fare-thee-well to the rest.  And like any near death experience, I knew one thing for sure.  I would definitely come back here!