Death of An American Poet

This past week, I learned about the death of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Mary Oliver. I had just been introduced to her work via the infamous poem Wild Geese, which had been read at silent retreats and yoga sessions I’ve attended.  Poetry has re-entered my life in recent years, particularly with the assistance of the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett.  Krista interweaves conversations about our daily spiritual lives through talking with astrophysicists, monks, priests, psychologists, politicians, poets, and numerous other professions.

Listening to poets share their reflections in interviews is such a beautiful experience.  Their language is full of metaphors.  They have the ability to capture themes that seem unspeakable and relay the messages into bite size bits for us to chomp on.

In tribute to Mary Oliver, On Being replayed an interview with her from several years ago.  Throughout the interview, Mary was asked to read several of her poems. This poem below, I Happen To Be Standing, I couldn’t help but listen to again and again.   Witnessing the interview felt like prayer.  I was driving as I was listening, but if I was at home perhaps I would have knelt down to the ground as I took in the rest of the interview.  Perhaps the prayer vibe will arise in you as you take it all in from the link below:

“I don’t know where prayers go, / or what they do. / Do cats pray, while they sleep /      half-asleep in the sun? / Does the opossum pray as it / crosses the street? / The sunflowers? The old black oak / growing older every year? / I know I can walk through the world, / along the shore or under the trees, / with my mind filled with things / of little importance, in full / self-attendance. A condition I can’t really / call being alive. / Is a prayer a gift, or a petition, /         or does it matter? / The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way. / Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not. / While I was thinking this I happened to be standing / just outside my door, with my notebook open, / which is the way I begin every morning. / Then a wren in the privet began to sing. / He was positively drenched in enthusiasm, / I don’t know why. And yet, why not. / I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe / or whatever you don’t. That’s your business. / But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be / if it isn’t a prayer? / So I just listened, my pen in the air.”



New Year, New Clutter Free Me

It is a new year and with that I binge watched Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up series on Netflix.  Marie and her translator visit various homes within the Los Angeles area to assist families in getting their homes organized and revitalized.  Although I have read the book, seeing it visually has been inspirational.  What’s particularly interesting in this show, is it highlights people of various ethnic backgrounds, ages, and life circumstances.  Clutter is a universal issue.  And since it’s the new year, and I am attempting to move within the next month, I need to get started decluttering.

Last year I attempted to get rid of 365 items, one for each day.  I landed at 225ish.  Not bad, but not enough.  At this point, I am going to try to rid of 365 items from January 1stto May 2nd, my 40thbirthday.  So far, I hit 61 items.  Not bad for January 13th.

But as I began discarding more and more, I began finding gifts from others that I had not even looked at before.  Sometimes I receive so much or end up having so much, I pile it to the side, and don’t even have the chance to appreciate it.  This week, I actually took the time to wear three gift items that I have yet to utilize. Sometimes I value these gifts to the point of waiting for the right moment to “premiere” them, but then the moment never comes. And I forget about what was given to me with care and thought.

As I looked closely at the gifts given, particularly two necklaces, I noticed they were given with such care.  One even had my initial carved into it, another offered various precious crystals that were well thought out as to what I may need to welcome into my life. I wore one shirt with my beloved foxes with pride.  Why did I put these gifts off?  My room was full of clutter, I didn’t have space to allow them to shine.

It’s easy to start having negative thoughts about who we are as a friend or family member when we recognize the lack of appreciation and disregard we may have had for what has been given to us.  How could we be so thoughtless as a recipient?  But it’s never too late to change.

This is going to be a new effort of mine, to actually appreciate gifts that are given to me when they are given to me.  Live the joy in the moment, versus waiting for the right moment to come.

Portland: The Happiest City in America

As a wanderluster who has travelled the world non-stop for the past five years, I would like to make the big jump to guess that Portland is the happiest city in America.  Although I am an American, I haven’t lived in the country for over five years.  Therefore, each time I come to the US, I feel as if I’m a visitor.  Most times I connect with family and friends, but sometimes I squeeze in a new city to explore.  This is the case for Portland. At the age of 39, this is the first time I visited and I am solo.

 I am exploring places to relocate to when my time for repatriation nears.  Moving back to America from Europe will be quite shocking, especially during these times.  I want a city that can ease the blow.  Many people have encouraged Portland, and therefore I took the jump to squeeze it in during the holidays.   

My interaction with Portland is quite limited, as I am travelling solo.  But what I have witnessed is joy.  People are happy here, despite the gray cold weather, grittiness, and numerous homeless that grace the streets, bridges, and sides of the highway.  My brother tried to correct me saying that some of these people choose this lifestyle and are not homeless per say but known as “wanderers.” 

On two different occasions, when I tried various coffee and donut shops the staff were dancing.  It was not a gimmick, they were simply jamming out to either Michael Jackson or some hipster song.  What a joy to witness that.  Dancing and joy are contagious.

Portlanders also exude this sense of Midwestern kindness.  As an Ohioan, this is comforting to experience in other towns.  It’s odd when a large city that is full of pedestrians, bicyclists, tourists, and people overall actually take the time to be kind. Each store I went into, the staff made an effort to say hello and good-bye.  They may have even offered up a chat.  In many other metropolitan cities, staff members will opt to ignore you while staring at their phones hoping you may leave.

Being pet-friendly is another reason why this town may be so happy.  Dogs may come in and out of establishments.  I have heard from someone who recently located from San Francisco that one of the draws of the town was this feature.  All the homes they looked at renting were open to welcoming their large older dog.  She actually felt bad about turning down potential landlords because they were all so kind.

 “Keep Portland Weird” is one claim to fame here, which you may definitely witness.  I saw someone wearing a Ramen Cup onesie during the day time. Nobody glanced twice.  Crazy hair colors, piercings, mismatched clothing, excessive tattoos….all are welcome. Numerous stores even boasted on their exterior walls how accepting they were of everyone.  It’s a liberal town that embraces all.

There are hidden spots of refuge such as the Lan Su Chinese Garden, which transports you to a different country after you enter it’s walls.   Drop in tai chi classes were available, or you could opt to have a tea ceremony in their tea shop. 

Powell’s Books, one of the most notable independent book stores in America, can also be a place of wonder.  With the decline and closure of many bookstores throughout America, it was awe-inspiring to see a type of place exists here. Perhaps it’s the love for literature that brings happiness.

Maybe it’s not a huge jump to make this conclusion of Portland being the happiest city in America.  The Nordic countries generally place in the top 3. One would think with the minimal sun and cold temperatures that people would automatically grumble.  But perhaps these towns carry what the Danish like to call “hygge”.  It’s coziness with friends, coffee and tea, delicious sweets which you don’t carry guilt for, books, being warm and comforted by your wool sweaters or layered attire, bicycling, nature, and kindness. 

Although I may not be relocating to Portland anytime soon.  I can appreciate it, and would definitely return.  I can see why people are drawn to the laidback lifestyle, eclectic vibe, and warm hearted locals. 

“Portland was a dream both in the literal sense and the metaphorical sense, both tangible and not – a fleeting affair you want to hold on to but can’t, so you try memorizing her every detail only to fail to do so in the consumption, in the savoring, in the absorbing of yourself into her. When she’s gone, she comes to you in snippets, replaying in your mind like a fragmented picture show.”
― Jackie Haze, Borderless

“How was I supposed to survive here? These Portlanders were an entirely different breed of white people.”
― Gabby Rivera, Juliet Takes a Breath