December 18, 2018


Dear A - - -

I've been thinking about new beginnings, fresh starts, hitting the personal reset button, and would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. But, as you know, our phone conversations clock in at, at a minimum, four hours. (When you left voicemail this morning, I was at my workplace's annual holiday breakfast, which I had completely forgotten about when planning my days off this week. Oops.) Regardless, I have too many things I want to do in my days before heading north for the holidays, especially in the studio, to make space for one of our epic phone rollicks. Instead, my rambling, one-way conversation is coming to you as a "letter."
Sure, I could put pen to paper and mail this through the postal service. It's always so pleasant to receive something personal in the mail, isn't it? A lift, a spark, a hug, delivered right to your door or end of the driveway, as the case may be. But, as I know you receive my blog posts in your email and file them away in a separate folder until you have time to sit with them, I thought: Hey! Two birds, one stone. (What a horrid expression! Sorry, birds!) An e-letter to you to sow the seeds for a future conversation plus a "new beginnings" blog post all-in-one.

New beginnings. I've been wanting to reconnect to this space through regular posts (whatever regular winds up being: Weekly? Bi-weekly? Don't know, what in the end feels right and doable, I suppose). But I've been struggling to find my way back in, struggling to interest myself enough in my own words and ramblings to share them here with a wider audience. Even if that audience is only two, that's still wider than the limits of my own head. Struggling, that is, until the format of a letter to you hit like a bolt of lightning. Don't worry, I'm only a little singed around the edges, and plan to cut my hair soon anyway, so no lasting damage done.
Oh dear. I'm cluing in to why our phone calls are epic in length. Because we wander. Even writing to you, imagining this as a conversation with you, wandering ensues. We wander beautifully & curiously & playfully & inquiringly & rantingly & goofily & searchingly & intuitively. Our conversations are like rollicking tromps through the countryside, from meadow to brook, forest to hilltop, thicket to lake shore. Were a couple of lovable, inexhaustible hounds, meandering to and fro, noses to the ground sniffing everything, noses in the air seeing everything. I love our conversations. I wish we recorded them to listen back to later. To be able to take notes. Some of the stuff we stumble upon is pure gold.

Right. New Beginnings. What I have been holding on to, making space for, mostly just reminding myself over and over, is that new beginnings can happen any time. ANY TIME. Every new breath is an opportunity to begin afresh. Okay, not exactly revolutionary or earth shattering of a thought. But still. Instead of putting off starting something - like trying to figure out how to create a cracked open milkweed pod shape with fabric pieces - until tomorrow, next week, the new year, whatever conceivable future time frame feels new and fresh in the moment, I remind myself that this very moment is a new beginning.
With your years of meditation practice, I imagine this is not a new concept to you. And I have to interrupt this train of thought to say that it's not a new concept to me either. But, somehow, in recent years (um, over the past decade perhaps?), more and more time-based procrastinations and avoidances have crept into my daily habits. And I don't like it. It just doesn't make sense to me, intellectually if not in practice, to put off something I want to do or need to do with the justification that tomorrow or next week is a fresh start. I'll do it then. Why then? Why not now? And, really, the "then" in those ego trickster mind games never seem to arrive. Or keep getting pushed back.

Well, I've barely scratched the surface of what I thought I wanted to get down in words for you. But this will have to do for now. I'll leave you with a passage from Dani Shapiro's book Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life on this very topic of new beginnings, a passage I have glued to the inside cover of one of my sketchbooks:
     When I was first learning to meditate, this idea of beginning again was revelatory. It still is. The meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg speaks of capturing the mind scampering off, like the little monkey that it is, into the past, the future, anywhere but here, and suggests that the real skill in meditation is simply noticing that the mind has wandered. So liberating, this idea that we can start over at any time, a thousand times a day if need be. I see many parallels between the practices of meditation and writing but none are more powerful than this. Writing is hard. We resist, we procrastinate, we veer off course. But we have this tool, this ability to begin again. Every sentence is new. Every paragraph, every chapter, every book is a country we've never been to before. We're clearing brush. We don't know what's on the other side of that tree. We are visitors in a foreign land. And so we take a step. Up the stairs after the morning coffee. Back to the desk after the doorbell has rung. Return to the manuscript.
     It never gets easier. It shouldn't get easier. Word after word, sentence after sentence, we build our writing lives. We hope not to repeat ourselves. We hope to evolve as interpreters and witnesses of the world around us. We feel our way through darkness, pause, consider, breathe in, breathe out, begin again. And again, and again.*
Things I did not get to that I'd like to remember to talk about with you:
     1. Spirals vs circles, linear vs cyclical time
     2. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image
(my current read, I'm fascinated with the author's theory that written language is the universal reason varied cultures shifted from egalitarian Goddess worshiping polytheistic societies to patriarchal, mysogynistic monotheistic societies in which God is imagined as male.)
     3. Reading deliberately, list of books to read, books on shelf that remain unread or unfinished

* Shapiro, Dani. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013, pp 109-110.

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