The boxes don’t always fit

Look at this dumb picture that I insisted upon. My younger niece said that as soon as she saw this ridiculous thing with the face cutouts at the movie theater, she knew I’d make them take this picture. They complained the tiniest bit, but they also knew resistance was futile. Look at these kids. They love being snowmen. When the legends of all of us are talked about at the dinner table when the family has gathered, there are few legends of me as frequently told as the tale of how I taught the two oldest kids in this picture the danger of eating berries they don’t know are safe: I faked my death. It was a good lesson. They say they are scarred by it, but they aren’t. They eat berries. They just don’t eat them off of random bushes. Which was the point. So I’d say it was a high point of parenting. If I have the great fortune of grandchildren, I’ll do it again.

Last night, after a really great day filled with beautiful generous honest people, followed by some unrelated (or mildly related maybe) bullshit, and some hilarity and honesty with my bro (you know who you are, bro), I got on the TLA Network Council call (there’s a membership sale, never mind the weird bee graphic, join!). I was tired and grouchy and didn’t want to be on a call at all. But I also knew that the only thing in the world I needed was the evidence of these people doing important work on their own and talking about things we can do together. And this poem, from Emilee Baum, the council chair. She read half at the beginning and half at the end of the call.

The whole poem is below, and you should read it, but I really want to call your attention to the two stanzas that are bold. Never take the image of a thing/ For the thing… And of course Know what everyone knows/ Is not knowledge but preference of belief…

Write what you need to, 20 minutes. What lessons need unlearning? What cliches have grown to monsters, what expectations of yourself are based on a box built by others? Get on this, you guys. You have this one beautiful life, how much of it will you spend beating yourself up for not measuring up to a measure you didn’t choose?

It’s Ghostly Workshop (advice to my grandson)

by Ron Smith (hear him read it here)

Remember the memorable and let the rest go.
Of course, some part of everything is memorable.
Savor the detail and the barbarous language
It insists on speaking. Befriend all words.
Never fail to eavesdrop on the exotic or the eternal. Force conversation with
The transient. Son, you can always spare a dime.

Every now and then,
Empty what we are pleased to call
Your mind. Let a cool wind blow through,
Seal it with solitude, open it
To featureless horizons. Yes,
A Roman cistern or flat ocean
Where no one, not even you,
Exists. A long walk on an abandoned
Railroad track can do the trick. It goes
Without saying you must keep your mouth
Shut and always go alone. Call it
Meditation, if you like.

Entertainment? Never mindless entertainment, a form
Of desperation, highly addictive.
Let all your entertainment be mindful.
Monitor cumulus crossing the blue,
Now Australia to Iceland, now Rushmore
To Matterhorn. Study the sky a little each day.
And yes, often at night, but ignoring
Constellations, if you can, making your own
And sweeping them away like sand painting.
Better star and stark nothing than centaurs
And lyres.

Never take the image of a thing
For the thing, photo for face, landscape
For land. Remember always that
Perception is more than half creation,
The mind’s no projection screen, transforms
Whatever it received, shuffles what’s transformed,
Makes of sunlight and synapse what the eye
Has no rod, no cone to encounter.
That plain vision is visionary.

“Too much time on your hands” is the mantra of
The miserable. Shun such judges. Kill cliches
In their cradles. They grow to monsters.
Let others think outside the box they have
Hammered for themselves. Build no box
To begin with. Know what everyone knows
Is not knowledge but preference of belief,
No more the truth than the shade is the shade tree.
Observe how attractions self-assemble
to frame and shingle what the frightened head
Thinks it needs for shelter.

Have faith in the truth
And its hermitage, its ghostly workshop.
Close your mind like a hand on the handle
Of each handy fact, but never forget
An occupied hand can’t grasp the new.
Don’t wield too long nor grip too hard
What you take for truth. Be always prepared
To let it go. Let it go.

For Russell Byrd Whistle Chad Smith

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