I was first drawn to her twitter name: @WaterBaker. How interesting, I thought. When one bakes water, one ends up with nothing, yet when I read her words they were poetic and clever: definitely a beautiful something! I later discovered that Arushi Nayar was an amazing multi-talented artist, guitarist, and poet. Our exchanges of creativity and words led to friendship.
After Moon Full of Moons was published, Arushi requested that I send a signed copy to her in Delhi, India. As we chatted about the book, I said how much I loved her paintings. The Great Art Swap was born! Arushi graciously offered to create a painting for me that would be small enough to send halfway around the world: from India to the United States.
Mailing internationally can be challenging. Shipping a book was one thing, but shipping a piece of fine art required ingenuity. Just then, her friend Danixia Cuevas kindly agreed to put the carefully-wrapped painting in her luggage as she traveled from Delhi to Florida. From Florida, Danixia sent it via postal mail to me. (Thank you so much, Danixia!)
When the painting arrived, I was speechless. Even now, I cannot find words to describe the incredible beauty of this painting or how deeply touched I am by the story of how this came to be in my home. It’s a painting of the Full Moon.
The painting literally leaps from the canvas with perfect, lush impasto. It’s a painting that one could fall into.
Arushi says about the piece, “The poetry in the book resonated deeply with me. So it was only natural to paint the full moon. I don’t know if it’s just the lighting in my room, but I found when the painting was high up and far from where we stood, in sufficient lighting, it seemed almost as though it was luminous – radiating light from within the painting. I love how art does these unexpected things.”
(She’s right. Her painted Moon IS luminous. I wish the beauty of it could be fully appreciated here.)
In Moon Full of Moons, the Full Moon symbolizes happiness. There are two chapters named after the Full Moon: one describing an easy, innocent happiness like that of childhood, and a second describing a hard-won happiness, like a happiness chosen after times of sadness. To me, Arushi’s painting depicts the symbol of the book: it reminds me to be happy! I hope she knows that by giving the Full Moon, the light of it cycles shine back to her as well.
Arushi launched a website showcasing her art: Art by Arushi. Add some beauty to your day and check out her collection of paintings on her online art gallery. I hear they are ready to spread their wings and fly to a new nest!
When I can, I try to find a nugget of human commonality between the words I write. I like to tell you about me in a way that I am actually telling you about all of us.
Although I am reluctant to tether a poem with too many ropes, I thought it would be fun to share and discuss a poem from my book Moon Full of Moons. Below is “Still Life”.
I am a snapshot of now,
without the struggle or
as a flower in a vase,
I am cut roots, observing
and waiting for rain.
A still life of me
pinned to a scaffold,
a butterfly folded
in silent gaze –
exhibiting the shape but
not the substance.
A mannequin posed
in perpetual curtsey.
To me, “Still Life” describes the feeling of being recognized only as I exist in the present moment, rather than as the rich, serpentine journey that brought me here. Like when you meet someone new and you realize what they know about you is your superficial and recent persona. Some people never get past that stage. It’s something we all experience.
After a personal transformation or life change, it can feel even more as if the people sees us only as “a snapshot of now”and not the fullness of who we are. We are left a bit two-dimensional in their eyes; they miss the depths and the heights. As the poem describes, it is as if we are mounted butterflies or mannequins posed politely. A flower picked and waiting for something more.
After Moon Full of Moons was published, I suddenly became a favorite recipient of divulged family secrets and personal confessions. It was not something I anticipated happening (although perhaps I should have). Even so, I was glad to have bridged some connection with those who felt they wanted to release their three-dimensional selves.
I found myself being drawn into conversations about how they felt no one knew about or understood their journey, their depth, or the challenges they faced. The book made them feel comfortable telling me about what they personally overcame and how it shaped who they are now. Invariably, the lines “I am a snapshot of now, without the struggle or the darkness” would pop into my mind during these discussions, and I would share the poem with them. “Yes, that’s how it feels,” they would tell me.
The irony is that by sharing words about isolation we become less isolated. Perhaps with openness, an artificially-posed still life can find a more authentic connection. In sharing, there is hope.
Songs combine the rhythm of musical instruments and the rhythm of words. Songs are a mix.
Poetry, on the other hand, and all writing really, is an a capella song. Poetry carries its music through only the instrument of words.
I think Leonard Cohen would understand this. He writes poems and sings them. Songwriting adds more instruments to the music of words.
Sometimes I sit on my favorite river rock and write. The river’s white noise cancels the restlessness of my mind, and in the rustling I find my inner river of thoughts. It is a clearer water I seek, a signal in the noise. I do not play a musical instrument well, and so the rhythm of the river comes to me in words.
Lately, to get away from my own rhythms, I have started listening to my music again. In my world of parenting young children, I rarely listen to the music of my choice, let alone hear the words. I’ve rediscovered the private oasis of the CD player in my car, an island that I control completely. I’ve found myself drawn to what I call “poets who sing”.
An an obvious choice, there is Joni Mitchell’s Blue. Her odd tunings and seemingly off-key singing adjusts my inner sense of melody and expands the possibilities. Joni and Richard Buckner remind me what it means to bleed through words. Leonard shows me that the space between the words is where all the wonderful meaning lives. The songs of Tom Waits and Vic Chesnutt birth an odd beauty out of the darkness.
I am rediscovering my music slowly. The songs that are most intriguing to me now stand on their own as poetry but add the voice of music to blend a new harmony. It is a collaboration to explore as I sing my own a capella songs.
Here is the latest poem added to the poetry page! Thanks for reading them.
braiding her hair
so wild like mine
we are women
present and future
published in Moonbathing 12 (2015)
Chuang Tzu said, “A man does not seek to see himself in running water, but in still water. For only what is itself still can instill stillness into others.”
This can be generalized, I think, to other virtues. I started to write about this, but realized it had already been written:
Martin Luther King, Jr said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
The light and the love are multi-faceted.
Kindness increases kindness; indifference cannot do that.
Peacefulness increases peace; belligerence cannot do that.
If you want to bring stillness and serenity, then you cannot be part of the cacophony.
It can be the most difficult thing to do, to avoid surfing the cresting wave that tries to carry everything along with it. Yet finding the internal calm when all else seems agitated is the most important time to do so. If intention falls apart with every excited moment, then how strong was the implementation?
Like a muscle, it takes practice. I practice, and I keep practicing. Every time the wave carries me along, I hope it took a little more force to budge me from whatever inner oasis I’ve cultivated. That’s really the best any of us can do.
Simplistically, it’s like math. When the Number 100 wants to divide itself, moving itself more and more into the negative, what does adding more negative values do? To counteract the trend, be a function for the positive, or at least try to stay neutral…
And if you slip, if you get the wrong answer (and sometimes you will), be open to a new equation, a reset. Stillness is patient, and ready to be found when the waters settle.
“I look at the stories. So many stories poring between my fingers. Each expressing its transient becoming and being and quiet dissolution, netted and knotted with others while time stops in the oneness, expanding and contracting with each connected breath.”
Excerpt from “The Language of Beauty” from Moon Full of Moons.
During these summer days at the beach, I think about these lines while the sand pours through my fingers.
The sand is stories.