Accepting What is and Walking in the Flames
I see it from the kitchen window. The plum tree behind the what-used-to-be-the-chicken-house. It exploded into fragrant bee-laden blooms overnight.
And I know those tiny bunches of purple-puckered balloons weren’t there yesterday.
Last year I forced forsythia inside because I was so desperate for joy color. But it’s already burst into fire in the shade behind the fence. Flame tongues lick the breeze, and I come close like Moses drew near the burning bush.
Something flickers inside.
Here I am.
Do something with me.
The weather is crazy warm. Hot even.
My mom would have loved it. And the birds. I don’t remember her taking such an interest in birds before those last weeks.
I choke a little as I begin to fill with the smoke of grief. And not just the loss of my mom, I think, but grief over what could have been and what is not.
Has your work lost its meaning?
Have you forgotten the goals you hoped to achieve when you began your career?
Are you afraid of pursuing your dreams?
Maybe this book is not for me since I no longer walk halls with a stethoscope draped around my neck or a syringe in my hand.
I wish I’d read it years ago, before my work as a nurse lost its meaning. Before the fear of responsibility for a life overcame the joy of caring for a life. Before the calling became a job. Before my soul got swallowed in paperwork and speed and numbers.
Back then I’d leave whatever shred of self-image I had at home to change into OR scrubs and shoe covers and wonder which doctor would yell at me that day. Which doctor would throw an instrument. Back then I was afraid to sleep in the OR lounge when I was on call because of the anesthesiologist who pinned me against an OR table after a late night case.
And I stopped writing.
Later in a job I thought I’d never leave, and after poking thousands of needles into tender skin and checking hundreds of heads for lice, I came home to care for needy adolescents–and now for grandgirls.
It makes me sad sometimes. I think I’d dig deeper and see deeper today. I’m more confident in myself. But this is my work now in the Corporation of the King. Finding poetry in a spaghetti-stuffed bib, a plush Minnie Mouse, and a Ragu-pinned bat.
David Wythe says we need to embrace our grief and our failures as well as our joys.
“It is the embrace of failure and grief, harrowing as these are, that forms the vessel for the joyous votive flame of creativity.”
Accept things as they are, he says. The gold lies within. ”We must make a hearth and home [for our creative fire] at the very place where the life we feel we are stuck with and the life we desire meet and overlap.”
Without the fiery embrace of everything from which we demand immunity, including depression and failure, the personality continues to seek power over life rather than power through the experience of life. We throw the precious metal of our own experience away, exchanging it for the fool’s gold of a superimposed image, an image of what our experience should be rather than what it actually is, the final element in the act of creation. ~p.113
Wythe tells the story of an old master potter whose whole life focused around finding a new glaze for his porcelain vases, but no matter what he did or how hard he tried, he could not achieve his vision. He could not create the beauty he imagined. Finally he gave up. He decided his meaningful life was over and walked into is own oven. “When his assistants opened up the kiln and took out the vases, they found the glaze on the vases the most exquisite they had ever encountered. The master himself had disappeared into his creations.”
Work is the very fire where we are baked to perfection, and like the master of the fire itself, we add the essential ingredient and fulfillment when we walk into the flames ourselves and fuel the transformation of ordinary, everyday forms into the exquisite and the rare. ~p. 113-114
Something stirs inside me there in front of the forsythia, and my heart is strangely warmed. Maybe it’s time to walk into the oven.
Joining my friend Lyla and the Tweetspeak Poetry gang in the study of David Whyte’s The Heart Aroused. I’m lagging behind. They’re on chapters 5 and 6. I’m still hanging in chapter 3, “Embracing the Fire.”