Wings of Words

I am riding on the wings of words as I prepare for my pilgrimage to Jack London’s home, a national state park in Glen Ellen, California.  My preparation for this pilgrimage surprised me, immersed me into worlds, deeper and wider than my comprehension.  As I read his works, the most recent, “Love of Life,” a survival of the fittest story about two soldiers traveling together, until one becomes injured and left to die, I am transported into the thick of London’s story, waiting and watching this man, fight for his very life while living in the awes of nature. 

As I read each of his sentences slowly, intently, I dive down, rise up, roll with the rich rithym of London’s language–relish in his stark writings on the power of will, on unconfined individualism, on Darwanism in its exploration of the laws of nature, they make me think of my own humble place in nature.   

With each word, I become fascinated with London’s own fascination with nature’s superiority in relation to man.  I immediately think of the tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and devastations raking havoc on our world right now.  London’s stories of nature’s hold on man could not have greater relevance and meaning for humanity today.  

London also had a deep love and appreciation for nature’s soothing and inspiring ways; just his being in nature, being one with nature, provided him the ability to write from the point of view of a wolf, of wild animals seen and heard in Call of the Wild and White Fang. 

His love for nature gave him the purpose of purchasing and dwelling on 39 acres of fertile land, deep canyons, and high hills.  His enthusiasm for his farm, ranch, vineyard was unquenchable:  He eloquently wrote: “The grapes on a score of rolling hills are red with autumn flame.  Across Sonoma Mountain wisps of sea fog are stealing. The afternoon sun smoulders in the drowsy sky.  I have everything to make me glad I am alive. I am filled with dreams and mysteries. I am all sun and air and sparkle. I am vitalized, organic.”Jack London

Jack London’s intense energy that rioted in his work, inspires me to fuel my own writings with vigor and verve.  His literary success, the most prolific writer of the 20th century, stimulated him, and so moves me to greater and wider efforts.  We share a working-life philosophy. 

For my visit to Jack London’s sanctuary this coming week, I pack a Picasso designed, hard-bound notebook into my backpack, (a gift given to me by a good friend insisting that I write); a blue barrel Bic pen, Yerba mate to drink (an Argentine tea) a sacked lunch, and London’s, Love of Life to read once more. 

I will observe, write, and ride on wings of words, his mixed in with mine, taking us to places, far, far away from ourselves. 

A Woman’s Pilgrimage

For a while now, I have been meditating on what I want to do with my life once my children leave home.  In 2002, after 25 years of working in corporate management, I left that demanding world and slipped sweetly into the full-time role of mother without trepidation or regret.  I found home in the rightness of my life, in the immediacy of now, in the juice of life’s present moments.

Years have passed and with my eldest boy entering high school and my youngest soon to complete elementary, I sense the natural fork in the road approaching, when one day my boys’ lives will go in one direction and mine will go in another.  Where the practice of letting go will become more of a necessity, than the day in and day out control and gentle guidance that comes with parenting.

I am still in the ‘thick of it all’, my boys remain (inter) dependent on me, not fully grown and gone yet, and I have no intention of rushing this season of true happiness, but change is in the air, it is a comin’.

As I look more closely at my own life, I feel compelled, pulled, called to take a spiritual and literary journey, a quest for the truth, a woman’s pilgrimage to writers’ and artists’ birthplaces and sanctuaries throughout not just the United States, but foreign lands.  To travel near or far and rediscover their timeless writings, relish in their art, uncover their eccentric and/or simple ways, relive their passions for living, and share their profound philosophies on the meaning of it all.

Right here in the wine country, the spirits of Jack London and M.F.K. Fisher inspire me to visit and write of ‘turning point’ moments in their lives, of London’s love of the wild, of Fisher’s love of pots and pans–letting their thoughts, words, passions and writings breathe into mine.  Further south, John Steinbeck and Henry Miller, to name just a few call to me to write of their one time on this precious earth.

Circling with the literary, artistic and mystic greats of the past, marinating in their brilliance, inspires me to take a pilgrimage of my own making, letting my life unfold through the love of words and wonder.

“As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow.” —Arthur Christopher Benson (English Writer, 1862-1925)

Zen Habits

Today, I look for inspiration.  I spent hours this morning cleaning my sons’ closets, sorting through clothes that no longer fit them. I have a number of things to do, things to catch up on, things that need my attention.  To dos, that at best feel like meaningless distractions.

With the rain, I prefer experiences over chores.  I would rather watch an old classic film, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with a hot cup of tea; I would rather take my German shepherd Jeb for a long walk through the wine country and search for multi-colored rainbows; I prefer to read a juicy book or write one.  But are these good habits, when there is so much to get done?  Then, I thought of these simple Zen habits:*

less TV, more reading
less shopping, more outdoors
less clutter, more space
less rush, more slowness
less consuming, more creating
less junk, more real food
less busy work, more impact
less driving, more walking
less focus on the future, more on the present
less work, more play
less worry, more smiles

With those Zen habits, I will return to my ‘things to do’ today.  I will get back to washing the laundry, taking out the trash and going through paperwork.  I found the inspiration to do and to be.  “Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” ~Shunryu Suzuki

As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds, “Smile, breathe and go slowly.”  


The Guest House

On Mother’s Day, I think of the great responsibility that comes with playing the role of Creator–an eternal responsibility that asks and demands much of women, of me, of caregivers, day in and day out.   Every day, what hangs in the balance is the difference between what we need to do with our lives and what we want to do with our lives.

It is said, ‘Necessity is the Mother of Creation.’  And at the root of creativity are needs waiting to be met.  I notice how my life is driven by need right now, not want: the need to cure my son’s intermittent vomiting condition, the need to pray, the need to write to understand this life.

The need to welcome each unexpected visitor who arrives at my door whether it be an illness, a sadness, a joy.  I think of The Guest House, by Sufi poet Rumi, a poem my sister most recently shared as I grapple with the likes of uncertainty and know this is everyday reality.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

I am reminded of our impermanence.  How precious it all is.  I am a mere visitor on this planet.  A guest in this house we call life.