Getting in the Way of Focus

Digital illo: Getting in My Own Way

As always, the calendar teems with To-Dos and the brain busies itself with what-ifs and irksome things done and not done. End of summer, beginning of the school year, change of work seasons, all push against the calm of normalcy and pester for attention. I get too subdivided and distracted and forget that merely doing what I’m doing is, in fact, Enough.

Good to be reminded that if I let go of yesterday and let tomorrow come when it’s good and ready, I can see a clearer view of where I am, what I’m doing, and who I am meant to be in the midst of it all. Note to self. Yes, that’s Enough.Digital illo: Coming into Focus


photoGetting smarter is a lifelong thing, in and out of school–for the fortunate and attentive.

Me, I’m sad at the end of every school year. Those students and colleagues of my husband’s who have become such a big part of our lives and are now graduating or moving on to other jobs or retirement are about to disappear from immediate view. Even the ones who remain close with us after relocating are now to be infrequent contacts rather than the people we happily run into in the hall on a casual basis. I get lonesome for them even before anyone leaves.

The lovely inverse of this, happily, is the ingathering of ongoing and new compatriots as the school year is once more underway. New faces, new voices and new personalities are integrated into the weave of the community and once again it becomes the rich underlay of the year, the pleasant buzz of the bass line, the light up ahead growing ever so slightly brighter as the weeks and months pass and we travel through them.

It’s funny that I sort of forget this changing of the guard between times. Between my years as a student myself, the nearly two decades of my own teaching, and the time spent observing my husband and his colleagues at work, you’d think I would be so irrevocably inculcated with the cycles of the academic and concert seasonal years that I would have a sort of song of it playing internally at all times. In real life, though, I am not so consistently observant.

It’s only when I am right in the moment of it that I recognize what is such a piquant part of my emotional life and I mark these transitions. It’s in these times, in fact, that I most benefit from my spouse’s longtime practice of getting his choirs and groups to sing or play through transitions. In music, this helps performers to internalize a multi-movement piece as a whole and not be stuck performing it as a disjointed, choppy conglomeration so that it loses its sense as a unified entity. It helps a song avoid sounding horribly like a bunch of unrelated anecdotal verses interrupted by further disconnected refrains that act more like speed bumps than gateways between the events of the expedition.

In life, I’m working to find the balance between living and operating while fully engaged in the present, letting that part always be led by the best of the past, and moving toward the best of what is yet to come. I know I’m enjoying the present verse immensely even though some of the singers, players, conductors and teachers of the last semester have moved on to other places and joined in other songs, and I expect that the current moment will lead to yet more marvels of music and camaraderie. I just need to pay attention, follow the score, and be ready whenever a bit part is offered, because I keep humming along in the background and every passage tends to be more illuminating than the

Wag if You Know What I Mean

photoA Whiff of Happiness

While all you two-legs types are mired

And wallowing in wintry fear,

I see spring’s hints and am inspired

To smell the happiness from here

What gain or merit mankind finds

In only frigid, dormant joy,

When you could wag those sad behinds,

Dance forward, every girl and boy—

Hold on to sorrow if you must,

While I lap up those thrills made dear

By breaking through the frozen dust:

I smell the happiness from here!

Keeping Watch

Now that everyone seems to have the technology to make cheap watches (which I must designate in my heart mere instruments for marking time, not timepieces), I get to wondering whether the beauty of true clockworks will always be preserved or will only serve as curiosities and fodder for art. That precision we take so nonchalantly to be ours is a museum of measurement and the poetry of a mechanism we should keenly regret to lose if we value something more than the rigid math of time, the seamless meeting of Doing and Deadline.

digital illustration from a photo

Que Lindo Sueño (Life is but a Dream)

No matter what the language, no matter the land, if one is purposeful, hopeful, loving and a little bit lucky, life is full of dreamlike beauty. My recent wanderings on holiday reminded me of it in the larger sense of being with beloved people and going to marvelous places, having plenteous desirable free time (and deeply-loved sleep), delicious food, and delightful small adventures. I was also reminded of it in the more intimately tiny sense of prettiness all around me and well-being inside of me. So I give you a selection of small, visible tokens of those joys and remind you that whether you say it ‘Que Lindo Sueño‘ or you row your boat around singing that Life is but a dream, whether you’re in Russia or Morocco or Iceland or Texas, the astonishing and lovely is all around you for the looking, listening, tasting, and holding. Sometimes all it takes is to be aware; to pay attention. I wish you a year full of beauty!photophotophotophotophotophotophotophotophotophoto

It’s Good to be Otherworldly

At times, time should just stop. Hold its breath, keep confidence with every secretive thing because some little happening occurs, a tiny treasured thing appears, as small as dust in air perhaps but so perfect in its lack of discipline as to be solace beyond words, a wonder like a young child’s hair lit by a momentary ray of sunlight to become more beautiful than all the votive flames that ever lit the night, like a killdeer’s evening call fluting out from where it hides in the tall grass.

graphite drawing

. . . an hour in which enforced quiet time in a waiting room is transformed into time for invention in the sketchbook . . .

Let the treasury of life be honored by our awed obeisance, however brief, as we take our meditative pause to contemplate those little motes of sweetness that make up, in total, something so ethereal and grand–the sharp, resinous perfume rising from a path through piny woods on a sun-baked day; that bright mercurial flash of a school of tiny fry all turning in the shoals at once, glinting; an amorous bird showing off its vocal flashiness from a leafy grove across the way . . .

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. . . a piece of rustic dark bread with butter melting into it . . . .

May we never forget to stop, if only for that little moment, to absorb the pleasurable surprise of living in the midst of millions of small miracles each night and every day, even if they’re often lost to us as too minute to catch our notice. The air we breathe is redolent with them–each step we take can draw us further into that precise great incident of wonder that should startle every heart into eternal admiration.

State of Abstraction

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Foiled again! Or not, if I grab the reins . . .

Yesterday’s post still stands: I am gradually renewing myself in a seasonal fashion of sorts, regaining my typical Spring-like attitudes as I begin what is for me a long and gradual process of Spring Cleaning in home and heart. I never realize I’ve been letting myself get quite so cobwebby until I’m nearly mummified. But I usually recollect my senses eventually, as now, and begin removing all of the crust and crumbs and detritus and down-dragging inhibitors I’ve been collecting over the last while. So, out with the old tinfoil (above) that is best recycled when it’s no longer leak-proof. Out with the burned out porch lights and in with the new (hurray for the companies now making those oddball shapes and sorts in LEDs). Out with my overcast persona and back to my native optimism.

This is not to say that all is perfection and clarity in my little corner of the universe, only that it’s once again slanting toward an upward trajectory as it should be. I also find, in these times of slewing back ’round to my intended direction and sweeping out the junk, that as I begin and jump in, I can get a little confused, overwhelmed or just plain distracted by the plethora of perfectly acceptable but sometimes competing directions I can take or the complexity of attempting to sort and stratify the tasks. But rather than turning into an emotional hoarder and becoming either unwilling and unable to do one single part of the heap of projects and therefore unwilling and unable to begin, let alone attempt the whole–or, worse yet, getting so bogged down in the process that I am entombed in my own attempt–I find it’s reasonably helpful to let my mind wander a bit and pick at bits and pieces. A zone of blurry, abstract thinking is quite all right with me at the moment. It’s the pseudo-zen that allows me to blandly go about picking up a stray button or used cup here and there, set them down as I pass their proper places, and along the route-to-nowhere, discover the manageable task that I can tackle for this few minutes of my time, all the while letting my brain meander until it lights on whatever else it deems necessary for the next bit of progress.

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Slanted and distorted as the point of view may be for the moment, the calm in this unfocused state allows me to safely unbar the windows that had become clogged with cloudy thinking and blocked by barriers of other kinds . . .

So while it may look to anyone else as though an event of Random Nuclear Catastrophe has taken place in the house, I’m actually accomplishing a lot of tiny deeds that had stacked up both on my lists of incipient doings and in unseen corners that evaded such evaluations. I’m pulling out the one straw here or there that opens a peephole through the big haystack that has been surprisingly stealthy in building up, removing one brick of rubble from the demolition that lets a ray of daylight through. And yes, each peephole or ray reveals yet more loose straws and bricks until I feel like a Big Good Wolf about to knock down the piggish house that’s been unnecessarily but inevitably building up in secret, because all of its weaknesses have been revealed bit by bit, button by cup, task by task. All on a sort of hazy autopilot wherein I can let my mind wander, so seemingly relaxed but as it caroms around in slow-motion also more astute than large amounts of frustrated puzzling.

It may look fairly directionless and mildly crazed in mid-process, but strangely it’s quite calming to me and gives me a greater sense of purpose and direction after all. It all begins to take shape, swirling around as it does and gathering speed, and at some point, coalescing into more sensible plans. But until then, I can go along with the current of this abstract flow and while my mind is relatively free from restrictions in it, maybe come up with some surprising new reasons to be content just living in the moment and letting go of my worries.

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The beauty of structure is that it can evolve out of seeming randomness quite naturally--if I let it be so . . .