Wednesday, December 14, 2016


In an earlier post I wrote about my literary version of the Buddhist meditation on death, immersing myself in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry about the inevitable. This practice has taken many turns, one of which was deciding to have a natural burial at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. Though I hope my death is a long way off, I love the idea of going back to earth in the woods, with a natural marker. 

Without the barrier of a coffin between me and the earth, my molecules can easily mix with those who've preceded me, and I'm delighted to imagine the company I'll join. Among the many names on my growing list are Virginia Woolf, Frida Kahlo, May Swenson, Pina Bausch, Karen Horney, Rainer Maria Rilke, Charlie Mingus, Jiddhu Krishnamurti, and -- most recently -- Marie-Louise Von Franz and Carl Jung.

Somehow this practice of drawing others' spirits to me is affecting my work and my art. My painting has begun to speak to me -- sometimes giving instructions on how to render a scene more real, sometimes reminding me to simply rejoice in what flows from the brush. 

Often, now, I experience the emotions of a client prior to a call -- not always realizing the mood's source until we're in contact. A friend said, "They're playing the strings of your guitar." I so resonate with that image, which echoes my lifelong favorite among Rainer Maria Rilke's poems, "Lovesong" or "Liebeslied" (the original follows the translation by M.D. Herter Norton):
How shall I withhold my soul so that
it does not touch on yours? How shall I
uplift it over you to other things?
Ah willingly would I by some
lost thing in the dark give it harbor
in an unfamiliar silent place
that does not vibrate on when your depths vibrate.
Yet everything that touches us, you and me,
takes us together as a bow's stroke does,
that out of two strings draws a single voice.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what player has us in his hand?
O sweet song.

Wie soll ich meine Seele halten, dass
sie nicht an deine rührt? Wie soll ich sie
hinheben über dich zu andern Dingen?
Ach gerne möcht ich sie bei irgendetwas
Verlorenem im Dunkel unterbringen
an einer fremden stillen Stelle, die
nicht weiterschwingt, wenn deine Tiefen schwingen.
Doch alles, was uns anrührt, dich und mich,
nimmt uns zusammen wie ein Bogenstrich,
der aus zwei Saiten eine Stimme zieht.
Auf welches Instrument sind wir gespannt?
Und welcher Spieler hat uns in der Hand?
O süsses Lied.
Yes, everything that touches us takes us together as does a bow's stroke that draws a single voice from two strings.