Tag Archives: story

River of Stone

Photo by Andrew Montgomery on Unsplash

I often imagine life as a river and myself in a boat of my own making, floating on it. I don’t picture a sailboat, having no experience of one, but a small boat that glides with the current and can be paddled. I don’t imagine a single river, but a vast network, far more than I could ever explore in this lifetime. Sometimes it’s a river of water, sometimes a river of stars. Sometimes it’s a river of green moss that carves a path through thick forest. Sometimes it’s an air-borne river of leaves and feathers and pieces of sky.

Sometimes it’s a river of stone.

The thing about rivers is they take me where they take me. I can paddle and steer, but whatever river I’m on at any given moment is a living thing in itself. I’m not its master and it doesn’t ask me where I want to go.

Of course, I don’t have to surrender to this kind of movement. I can refuse to make a boat in the first place, refuse to learn how, refuse to try. I can take a short cut and buy a premade boat or jump in someone else’s boat. If I do manage to create a boat, I can still make my way to the shore at any point and stop.

I can always throw myself out of the boat, too … but then I’ll never find out where the river is taking me.

I can also fight with the current.

I know a lot about this.

In the last few days, I’ve been floating on a river of stone.

Photo by Tj Holowaychuk on Unsplash

Photo by Paul Van Cotthem on Unsplash

Stone is very, very, v…e…r…y slow. Oh, it moves, in the deep foundations of life. It shifts and compresses, slips, breaks down, heats and cools. It tells an old, old story, whole volumes of which are faded and weathered into illegibility, or hidden so well I know I’ll never read them. Now and then, though, a period of grace arrives in which I inadvertently enter a river of stone and have an opportunity, which I reject, avoid and try to escape, to hear whispers of stone stories.

During these times, others on the river are out of sight and out of hearing. My calls echo back to

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

me off stone canyons and cliffs. If I reach out for another in my sleep, I wake with bloody knuckles. On the river of stone others do not respond. They don’t follow through. They don’t keep their word. My password doesn’t work. I can’t log on. There is no clarification or confirmation. I’m alone, in my little boat, and I feel adrift and forgotten, unseen and unheard, left behind.

The river of stone tells me a story of foundations, of beginnings, of layers of time and events, of family and tribe. My agenda, my insistence on movement and progress, my puny frustration with things not done, makes less impression than a fragile-winged dragonfly that flung itself into the stone’s embrace uncounted aeons ago and flies now forever in the river of stone.

The river of stone is inexorable. It forces me to slow down. It provides me with no distraction and no easy entertainment. Creativity falls into sleep from which I cannot wake it. Those tasks and activities I call “productive” cease. Frantically, I paddle my boat, one side, then the other, until my hands are bloody blistered and my shoulders are a block of pain. All the old demons in my head leap into life, jeering and heckling, joining hands in gleeful celebration, and they have their way with me because I’m trapped in a river of stone.

I accomplish nothing on a list. I write no pages. Plans fall through. I wait too long to walk, and then it rains. Dirty dishes sit on the counter. All I want to do is get lost in an old familiar book–if only I could stay awake long enough!

Then, gradually, frustration, panic and fear exhaust themselves and lie down to rest. I rediscover the beauty of emptiness. I begin to see veins and gems and stardust in the stone around me. I remember the difference between doing and being, and the delicate balance they must maintain. The stone speaks to me of strength, of endurance, of centering and grounding. I give myself to the pause in communication, in creative work, in the forward movement that I crave. I put down the paddle, the oar, and stretch out in the boat and rest, dreaming of stone-lipped wells refilling with spring water, dreaming of a spray of words leaping off waves or trailing behind stars in a river ahead, dreaming of friends whose faces I haven’t yet seen and broken connection repaired.

I doze, rocked in a cradle of stone. I rest, floating on a river of rock. I sink into the slow, deep, stony heartbeat in the center of all things, imagine inhalations and exhalations that last 100,000 years.

Photo by Brent Cox on Unsplash

I surrender to the river of stone, and in doing so I float out of it.

All content on this site ©2017
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

Rules For Success

I’ve been blogging now for a year.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I remember the first time I stood on a high diving board as a kid. The safe haven of the water was impossibly far away. I did eventually jump, but I stood, hesitating, for a long time.

Beginning to blog was like that. Could I manage the technological learning curve? Would I have time to do a good job? Did I have anything to say? Would I have to deal with spammers, hackers, hecklers and hate mail? Would anyone read it? And, the biggest Boogeyman of all, what would people think when I revealed who I really am?

I researched. I read dozens of articles on blogging. I made lists of do’s and don’ts. I bought a book on blogging.

I hesitated. I worried. I doubted myself. I clung to limits, obstacles and fears.

Then, in the middle of a personal and emotional catastrophe, the very last time I would have chosen or planned such a risky, frightening new endeavor, I suddenly started. I suppose I felt I had nothing more to lose.

This summer I’ve been taking stock of what I’ve created, what I’ve learned, my long list of mistakes and my intentions for the future. Now I’m a member of She Writes  and Medium . I follow several other bloggers. I went into my Favorites and deleted most of my Blogging folder and then started filling it up again with new articles on Intermediate blogging.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of articles about blogging on the web. What I notice is that 19 out of 20 are geared to successful blogging, which is to say blogging with the most possible likes, looks, shares, clicks, referrers, subscribers, advertising and side bar businesses, all of which can translate directly into income for the blogger. The Holy Grail is to go viral with your blog. To this end, the advice is repetitive. Use sentences of five words or less. Use short paragraphs of two or three sentences. Use a lot of images, video, bullet points, colors, fonts and section titles. Keep your blog short and to the point. Carefully construct a title that will result in as many clicks as possible. Convince the reader you have something of value that they need. Don’t be emotional or personal. You can’t be successful unless you have several active social media accounts.

I read, saved, took a few notes, and then realized I didn’t want to do most of what these articles said I should do. I paused and thought about that for a couple of days. I looked at my stats. I talked with my partner. I groped for a bottom line.

I absolutely love blogging/writing.

Why?

Because when I do it I’m real. Every single week I write about something real. Most weeks I struggle with what other people might think, but at the end of the struggle I again chose to be seen. I stare down that fear of using my voice and speaking up. I’m taking my power back, week by week, post by post, line by line.

It’s my hug, my love letter to the world, my kiss of peace. 

Blogging and writing are my way of building bridges and fostering connection, to myself, to others and to life. It’s the medicine I can offer to aid in healing. It’s my hug, my love letter to the world, my kiss of peace. It’s my outstretched hand, regardless of whether or not others choose to clasp it, ignore it or spit on it.

Photo by Alona Kraft on Unsplash

My feeling of success about writing a book and creating a blog isn’t attached to any of the general markers of success among bloggers. We have all kinds of programs that help us gather statistics on the web, but my heart doesn’t thrill to hundreds of clicks or fall if there are only five. None of these stats tell me anything about the quality of my contribution to my readers, and that’s the only stat that interests me. I don’t have anything to sell you. I don’t assume I have anything of value to you. I never expected to make money on my blog.

I just am. Myself is all I have to give, and what I really want from you is just … you.

I’ve been honored to achieve that simple connection with others through Our Daily Crime. Some I know about, because people comment. I may be making other connections that are invisible to me. Contrary to the best advice, I don’t have social media accounts. I don’t have a Facebook page. If a reader connects with my words or finds some kind of value in the experience I share and doesn’t comment or email me, I don’t know anything about it, but I have faith. I believe there are others out there who think about relationships, empowerment, being a woman and what it means to be alive on Earth today. I think there are readers who can deal with sentences more complex than five words and read a paragraph of several sentences. I think a blog about rules for success should be titled, clearly and honestly, Rules For Success. I’m not a click bait engineer.

I don’t regret a minute of research or reading I’ve done about writing and blogging, and I wish those writers the success they seek. They’ve helped, especially their content that I couldn’t use. All those rules set off a lot of feelings. I hardly ever met a rule I didn’t want to challenge, and my feelings showed me the way into my own definition of success.

I find it useful to have goals and intentions, to know what kind of outcome I want, but the fact is I don’t always know. Some things are so unknown and such a personal leap of courage or faith that to insist on exactly defined goals before beginning is to never take action. Jumping inelegantly off the high dive into blogging was all I could manage last summer. I couldn’t define an audience, a goal or an intention, except that I was damned if I would let fear stop me from trying. It’s only now, 50 posts later, that I begin to understand what I’m up to, and it’s not necessarily the same as what other bloggers are up to.

Here’s my favorite story about success. This version is from One Bird One Stone by Sean Murphy.

For 40 years, a fisherman in China used a straight needle to fish. When someone asked him, “Why don’t you use a bent hook to fish with?” he replied, “You can catch ordinary fish with a bent hook, but I will catch an extraordinary fish with my straight needle.”

Word of this came to the ear of the Emperor, and he went to see this fool of a fisherman for himself. Laughing at the sight of the fisherman’s straight pin, the Emperor asked, “What are you fishing for?”

The fisherman said, “I’m fishing for you, Emperor.”

Photo by Steinar Engeland on Unsplash

Thank you for reading my blog. You’ve helped make it a success.

All content on this site ©2017
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted

 

Living Around the Bones

I first began thinking about bones 25 years ago when I was given a copy of Clarissa PInkola Estes’s book, Women Who Run With the Wolves. She writes about discovering stories of bone people in the Southwest. Bone people are old ones who collect bones in a desert between the worlds and bring dead animals and humans back to life.

Reanimation is a common creative and spiritual theme. Bones are like seeds; they are the remnants of life, and thus the base material from which to build new life. Bones are the simple starting point, the hidden scaffold and the substance that survives.

Several times in my life I’ve found myself walking in a trackless emotional desert, alone, lost, frightened and injured. Old stories tell us during these times we must seek and gather our discarded, stolen and lost bones in order to call ourselves home.

Bones can be hard to see under layers of clothing, flesh, distraction and scar tissue. Perhaps that’s why it was the desert dwellers who kept bone people stories alive. The desert is clean and uncluttered, and the vast sky and sweep of land hold space for stillness and inward journeying.

Bone collecting is like treasure hunting. The first time I went bone collecting, I traveled backwards and excavated memories of my child self. I compared those memories to my adult life and began to sift for my bones, those indestructible pieces of self that have always been present, come what may, and sustained and shaped me from the beginning.

I discovered I’d thrown a lot of bones away over the years. Some I rejected because I judged them as ugly or misshapen. I refused to claim them. Others I grieved to discard, but I believed they were useless, unworthy and/or unlovable, so I dropped them and walked on without marking the spot where they lay.

The desert between the worlds has become a home to me now. The sands know the scent of the naked sole of my foot and the soaring vultures recognize my figure as I wander below them, insignificant as an ant.

The sands know the scent of the naked sole of my foot …

I’ve crawled and searched, remembered and listened for my whispered name when my missing bones feel me draw near. Some are broken and stained, incomplete fragments that no longer tell their entire story about me, but I’ve learned patience and persistence, and I save every shard and splinter. I’ve traveled miles in the desert to reclaim all those bones, groping my way through old memories, feelings and bits of conversation, sifting my bones from the garbage dump of words that did not belong to me, expectations, rules, beliefs and storm debris from storms that were never mine in the first place.

Over and over, I’ve felt that I’ve come to the end of everything, only to find a whole new horizon just a few steps away, at the top of a hill I didn’t know I was climbing. Each time that happens, I pause and inventory my bones. Bone collection has become an external practice as well as an internal one. I’m less and less interested in obscuring the essentials in my life with distraction, objects and complications.

This summer I have a new dimension of perception in discerning the bones of each day, each week and each season, in addition to my own. Living simply as we do, having time to stretch out mentally, spiritually and creatively, I’m experiencing for the first time the joy of casting myself into a day with no list, no agenda, no expectations and lively curiosity.

This is, for me, a summer of wood. We’re clearing a knoll of land in order to build a cabin, thinning a grove of spindly alders and cutting an occasional small tree that has rooted in the field which is our building site. As each tree falls, I haul it into the wall of forest surrounding the clearing. In the sunny field, the growth is waist-high, and as I drag trees through it, the sweet scent of milkweed mingles with the smell of fresh-cut wood. Wild cucumber catches at my feet, which are hidden by the thick growth, and I fall, and fall again, getting up hastily because, although my clothing is doused in bug repellent, rolling on the ground is a foolish exposure to ticks, not to mention the rampant poison ivy that grows everywhere.

In Maine in the summer, this kind of work is done in light-colored pants and long sleeves to protect from black flies, mosquitoes, poison ivy, nettles and the inevitable ticks. Five minutes of exertion leaves me sweating heavily under the necessary layer of clothing, breathless in the heavy, humid air.

Stepping from the field into the forest, the air cools and I’m shaded from the sun. Here, the undergrowth diminishes and mainly consists of huge ferns, but I still slip and fall, as the forest floor is littered with rotting tree debris and liberally scattered with moss-covered boulders and stones. I drag the cut trees in under the canopy so they can gradually rot and feed their living brethren and the rest of the forest system.

In the driveway, we are processing enormous piles of tree debris from trimming two live trees and from a fallen maple. The maples we trimmed provide us with welcome shade as we work. I fork wheelbarrow load after wheelbarrow load of twigs, small branches and dead leaves off the driveway and tip them over a steep hill out of sight below the house. My partner works with a chainsaw, and its snarl, along with the smell of cut wood, becomes one of this summer’s bones.

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A generous neighbor loaned us his splitter, and once the maple (rock maple, which dulls chainsaws at an alarming rate) is cut into wood stove lengths, we heave the rounds onto the purring splitter, and the smell of the gas engine and sound of the relentless maul cleaving the wood becomes another of summer’s bones.

The healthy wood parts smoothly, revealing ivory, cream, and pinkish-red grain. The diseased wood breaks open, showing honeycombed defects, or crumbling, blackened rot that smells, oddly, like vomit. Heavy, thick bark peels from the wood like scabs as we work. Here in the driveway, I risk working in shorts with bare arms, but the wood is heavy and unwieldy and my legs and arms are bruised and scratched. The way I hold the rake invariably rubs a blister on my left thumb. We sweat through our clothes and I have to keep wiping my forehead and upper lip with my bare forearm and gloved wrist. Hard wood is heavy, especially when still wet, and the inside of my wrist is bruised from supporting two or three pieces as I carry firewood to the wheelbarrow, into the barn or into the cellar for stacking.

Some of this wood has been piled in the driveway for a year. As we work, we uncover an insultingly large woodchuck hole. We find a red salamander, about two inches long. My partner rescues a grass snake from a brush pile and relocates it away from the pitchfork tines. We accidentally lift away a shrew’s roof, and my partner catches the grey velvet covered creature in his gloved hand and releases it over the hill in a safe place. We brush away crickets, earwigs and worms. We split one huge round and little red ants swarm over it, hysterically collecting a broad swathe of exposed white eggs. My gloves are covered with them, and the ones who run fast crawl onto my arms and bite before I can brush them off. We set those pieces of wood aside before splitting them further to give the ants a chance to find a new nursery.

We have birdfeeders along the driveway, and the birds are the backbone of the summer days, stretching from dawn to dusk. As soon as we take a break from work, the woodpeckers gleefully swoop in for uncovered insect tidbits, and the nuthatches scurry up and down the trunks of the standing trees with their fluffy, uncoordinated offspring. The finches and sparrows return to the seed feeders from their observation posts high in the surrounding canopy.

Our resident chipmunk is so curious he can’t stay away, but as we disassemble all his best hidey holes he scolds endlessly, like a shrill and irritated metronome, glaring from under the hostas or the gap in the porch floor.

Nesting Phoebe
birdsandbloomsblog.com

Strangely, the shy phoebes like best to nest in the barn, in spite of my partner frequently playing music and our wood stacking and other noisy activities. They arrow in and out of several broken windows when the barn is shut, but on days when we’re working, they use the same door we do. Because of them, the cool barn is a haven of shade and free of flies and mosquitoes. We know where the nest is, but we’re careful to ignore it and whichever motionless parent is sitting on the eggs when we happen to be present. Even the nestlings are still and silent as stone when we enter. The phoebes are currently raising their second brood, and their first set of offspring darts all over the place, hunting insects and filling the days with their distinctive cry, which gives them their name.

The bones of summer in this place mingle with my own bones. We are a bruise, a scratch, a sticky film on the skin, a sly mosquito bite. We are birds strung on the lace of trees; the private life of snake, shrew, salamander and woodchuck; the determined persistence of insects. We are tree and water and moss-covered stone. We are the smell of rotten wood, of sweat, of blossom. We are the breeze in the tree, the sound of the phoebe questing for insects, the tapping woodpecker, the hunting hawk’s cry as it circles, and the clamor of the tools we use to work on our land.

The days saunter through the season, leading me forward by the hand, and I follow, stopping every now and then to collect and record the ravishing experience we call life in words, and each word is a miniscule bone, too, each page a scatter of tiny bony seeds that wait for warmth and light, water and the soil of life and death in order to take root, grow, blossom, fruit and die, again … and again … and again.

All content on this site ©2017
Jennifer Rose
except where otherwise noted