Tag Archives: david whyte

The Embrace of a New Year

The new year dawns amidst heavy rains, as if the tears of 2020 continue to overflow.  There is a relief in this new day, this new year, even if in reality, it is just another day.

In years past I might have greeted the day a little weary from an overnight of music at Arthur’s house with many of my most treasured musical mates.  Alas, our tradition like so many this dark and difficult season, was simply not to be.  And so we had some curry and watched When Harry Met Sally.  I of course would rather have been playing music.  But that said, it was not a bad way to spend the turning of the year.  I am grateful for that.

So here we are.  A new chapter.  At least according to the calendars.  This feeling of a new beginning is refreshing after the sense of doomed Groundhog Days of the past several months.  The early half of this day I refreshed my studio chalkboard with a new focus word to contemplate for the year and some reminders to keep in mind of goals and plans for the months ahead.  Not so much “resolutions” really, rather ‘things to keep in mind’.

This year’s word is EMBRACE.  It is fitting on so many levels.  At the basest level, I just need more hugs in my life.  I’ve read that hugging more releases the hormone oxytocin into the body, creating happiness.  I am keen to try this as I’ve been a little blue of late.  But haven’t we all?

Embrace also is a challenge to myself to take more seriously all of the gifts that I have,  specifically in my working life.  I don’t take my art work for granted and I have worked hard over the years to improve my craft and get my work out into the world.  But that said, there is always more I can be doing to put the work forward.  I am considering setting up a Patreon page to ask my subscribers if they might like to pay a small patronage toward the making of my art work in exchange for patron only content and thank you rewards.  A bit like kickstarter and other funding platforms, but ongoing and not necessarily project specific.  I have heard wonderful things about the relationship that develops between artists and their patrons.  Money is a difficult concept for artists some of the time, but Patreon allows for people to throw a few coins into the proverbial hat so that artists can do what they do.   So we shall see.  I am still researching it all.  Don’t worry though, the blog will always be here in some form or other.  For free.  I promise.

With 2020 came so much change and grief and anxiety and a necessary re-thinking of the world in general.  The final tenet of my notion of Embrace, is to take what comes -to embrace the challenges of our time right along side with the small joys and achievements.  It is a time of  ‘yes, and’.  It is an era when we must learn to carry sadness and hope together in the same basket a lot of the time.  My goal is to embrace this concept and it’s inherent yin-yang quality and see where it takes me.  It feels like a good, multilevel word I can chew on for a good year or so.

The latter half of the day we met our daughter and her dog for a beautiful winter hike at a place called Glen Helen Nature Preserve.  It was magical with patches of fog and melting snow on bright green mosses.  There were streams and springs there filled with iron-oxide and the rocks at some of these waterfalls dripped a bright orange-red.

This fallen tree had been cut away from the trail we were hiking along. I looked at the growth rings and wondered, ‘how many other difficult years are represented here?’

There was an Adena burial mound just in the woods off the trail and it occurred to me that perhaps this place was sacred to early people in our area.  I am glad it is still treated well now.

Philomena continues to grow and change.  She has ‘divil dog’ moments when she is all wild instinct and needled teeth and it is difficult not to lose patience with her.  But we are all learning together.   As I type this, Charlie and I have escaped upstairs to the studio and Tony has taken over puppy duty.  When she is awake, we have to keep a close eye on her.

When she rests, one of her favorite things is to shuffle herself under her bed in the kitchen where there are radiant floors.  We think it might feel a bit like a weighted blanket to her.  She came up with this funny concept on her own.

Sometimes when she is all the way under, and merely a lump under a dog bed, she reminds me of a passage from The Little Prince

A favorite of mine.

As we attempt to bring our shoulders down out of our anxious ears, and gain an even footing in the world again in the next few months, I wish you a brave new year.  A year where the good will outweigh the heartache perhaps.  A year of mending what has come undone and weaving together all of the lessons of the past 10 months or so.

Sweet dreams everyone.  Tomorrow is another day.

Start Close In

by David Whyte

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way to begin
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To hear
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice

becomes an
intimate
private ear
that can
really listen
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

A David Whyte poem from
River Flow: New & Selected Poems
Many Rivers Press

Lying low in Splendid Isolation

“This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.

Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.

If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.”

~John O’Donohue

“Hiding is a way of staying alive… One of the brilliant & virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world.  Hiding, done properly is the internal faithful promise for a future emergence.”

~David Whyte from Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and meaning of everyday words.  (I was reminded of this snippet via the lovely Tanya Shadrick who’s work you should read as well.)

Here we are.

Our worries so collectively numerous as to be overflowing.  Amidst all this corona-consumed madness it is difficult to sort out the complicated feelings we are all experiencing as we navigate an unprecedented global crisis.  I find it hard to believe that just a week ago I was newly home from a few weeks away in a land blessed with color and volcanic breezes.  I’ll admit I am a bit homesick for lovely Guatemala.

Now I am on lockdown here at home.

This is not out of fear for my own safety, but rather a trust in those who study the paths pathogens take, and knowing that to hide away for a few weeks, or more, is to be a good citizen of the world.  I worry for my older relatives and friends and hope they keep to their promises to lie low.  This too shall pass, yes?

An old friend and co-worker of mine, who’s name I won’t mention here, is treating this time of crisis with online mockery.  He is, thankfully, one of just a few.  I know his mocking stems from fear.  Fear of losing his income with gigs drying up.  I remember when he was tenderly tending his ailing father many years ago, and I wonder, would he have mocked if this crisis occurred then?   I do not know.  I try not to judge.  I really try.  Those he mocks are panic buying all the essentials – yet another behavior borne of fear.

Fear and anxiety are so thick in the world just now one can almost smell it.

As a country and as a world community, we are being asked to come together (or rather more truthfully, to stay apart) for the good of those most vulnerable among us, and to allow the hospitals to do what they can with the inevitable scenario as it plays out.  It’s been generations since this level of selflessness was asked of us all – especially of Americans.  Our overriding culture is not one which rewards selflessness, or slowness, or quietude but these are the very things necessary at this crucial time in history.  As I write that though, I am also struck thinking about all of the beautiful offerings I have seen online from people reaching out to one another to give assistance in some way or other.  Propping each other up with offers to pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, offers to help with child care, calls to be kind to those manning the shops and stores still open with necessities.  And I think, perhaps our WWII era ancestors might be proud of us after all.

What would the twitter feed look like back in WWII???  I wonder……

One can almost hear a shifting of universal paradigms.  This morning I went outside with the dog and a cup of coffee.  Sunday mornings are often comparatively quiet, but this hush was exceptional.  The occasional car went past on the local highway which usually sounds like an angry seashore.  Birdsong was raucous and beautiful.  A sign of spring, yes, but also a sign of the human world having hit the pause button for now.  It’s eerie and beautiful, this quiet.  It’s a quiet I have been craving my entire life.  I find it sad that it has to be a crisis of this level which brings about such a wished-for hush.   But I’ll take it.

A sad time of year for the world’s social calendar to get canceled. As you may have guessed, St. Patrick’s Day will be a quiet one this year.

In the coming days, weeks (and who knows? maybe months) we are all adjusting to this slowing down.  Yesterday my hub and daughter spent the day painting with Bob Ross.  They chose a “calm” painting video of his and got to work.

I too did a bit of painting myself……

….. in a little book I obtained in Antigua and which I covered with a beautiful textile “scrap”.

I painted abstractly from photos I have of the ruins……

I wonder about the state of the world and feel that we find ourselves in a new and unexpected era.  I wonder what we will learn from it, if anything.

With St. Patrick’s Day essentially canceled, many of us are woodshedding tunes we hope to learn.  I like to call these “quarantunes.”  One is called Splendid Isolation, which is apt.

And another couple of tunes….. (I about have the first but still working on the second. And oh, June, your tone.  What is your secret?????)

Sometimes during times of strife, I turn to the music and remember that many of the old-fashioned Irish tunes were composed and shared in times of great turmoil and sadness.  During mass emigration and scattering of loved ones, during times of brutal occupation and ensuing troubles.  I am reminded that we can get through this, together and will once again rollick as one.

We are all just doing the best we can just now, and this is crucial to remember.  We must go gently.  Those unaccustomed to staying at home with little to do might feel a bit stir crazy in coming weeks.  Those unaccustomed to the constant undertow and thrum of anxiety will have some adjusting to do.   This gives me a chuckle as an anxiety-prone introverted wanderer and I think, ‘finally, a scenario I was built for!’

There is a lot of pressure via the online world to turn this time of quarantine into a hub of productivity.  There are posts about Newton and his genius calculus figuring.  And Shakespeare and his writing of King Lear in the time of the Plague.  While I do plan to paint and play music,  these are things I do anyway in my day to day.  I reject this notion that we must produce in order to have value somehow.   Let us give in a bit to boredom.  To not doing all the time.  This slowing down to think and feel on a deep level may be the greatest thing that comes out of these dark days.

Like many, I am nervous about the future.  Besides my day job at the concertina shop (and thank the gods for it!!)  Nearly ALL of my paying work comes from my travel journaling workshops.  We got Guatemala done and dusted just as the virus was beginning to really affect travel plans and the psyches of my participants.  I have canceled my yearly spring trip to do the 2-day workshop in California.  Perhaps things will have come back to some level of normalcy by June and Taos will go off without a hitch.  But I do not know and I am steeling myself for all possible scenarios.  As we all must do in uncertain times.

As we move forward in the coming days, let us merely be gentle.  Gentle with ourselves and kind toward one another.  Most people acting badly are doing so out of fear.  I believe it was fear that elected our current president (and will ye look where that’s gotten us?!).  May we feel our own fear and honor it while at the same time not acting from that place of fear, but rather from a place of love and tenderness for one another.  Keep reaching out online, keep digging in those gardens if you can (dirt is good for the immune system!), keep playing and creating if you feel like it.  Allow yourself to just shut down too if you feel the need to.  It will all be ok.  Somehow.