Passing Of Time, Robert Frost, Poetry & Meditation Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.
It’s November 4th, 2008 and history is being made in the United States of America. Liz and I voted this morning at our local precinct in Minneapolis; ybonesy is out in New Mexico continuing her good work. I take comfort in the realization that we all contribute to the process in the ways we are able. Some are out canvassing, some write articles for the newspaper or on their blogs, some work at the polls, some pray and hold the space, a kind of quiet peace.
All contributions matter in times like this, from the most subtle to the most vigorous. And I have a great deal of gratitude that we live in a democracy that allows us to have a voice, to vote our conscience, whoever that may be. Yet it occurs to me that the ordinary day-to-day things continue to go on around us. We don’t stop living our lives.
Yesterday, we got a new roof on our house, called the dentist office, cleaned the living room, folded laundry, stocked up on groceries in preparation for a long and busy week. Tomorrow night we’ll attend the next Poetry & Meditation Group with Langston Hughes. Yesterday, ybonesy and I celebrated 2 years of writing together on red Ravine. Tomorrow we’ll know the results of the election and a long, tumultuous, political process will come to an end.
The extraordinary lives by the ordinary. Practice continues. Writing continues. Life continues. Someone will be born; someone will die.
In our last few Poetry & Meditation groups, we continued with the Dead Poets series. Since we can no longer send the poets postcards, Teri addressed cards to the directors of the Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson homes, thanking them for their Great Effort in keeping poetry alive.
We all signed our names in a gesture of gratitude and kindness. Because in moments when we are unsure, or times when we want to give up, these people, places, and books become our mentors. The preservation of literary places is vital to our creative livelihood.
So on this electric Tuesday, I’m celebrating the historic; I’m celebrating the ordinary. November 3rd and 5th are as important as November 4th. Every day counts. If you feel anxiety about the election results, sometimes it helps to go back to basics — writing, journaling, a practice. Both Frost and Dickinson wrote about everyday events in their lives.
In times of uncertainty, I find peace in expressing gratitude for the people who came before us — because they pave the way for the history being made today. A prize-winning American author of children’s literature, Virginia Euwer Wolff (not to be confused with British novelist, Virginia Woolf) shows her love of Emily Dickinson in the Introduction to I’m Nobody! Who are You?, a children’s book about Dickinson’s poetry.
Here’s an excerpt from Virginia Wolff’s tribute to Emily Dickinson:
In my studio I have a quotation from Emily Dickinson: “My business is Circumference.”
Near my desk I keep a photo of Emily Dickinson’s bedroom and writing table. The photograph reminds me that writing — yours, mine, ours — is important in our relationship with the world, even if no one else ever sees it. Even if it was to stay in bundles in our bedrooms, it would still have pungence, spunk, and heart — if only because we had the courage to put it on paper.
In our time, this secret woman who thought of life as “mystic territory” is listed in the Academy of American Poets and crowds of eager tourists visit the large brick house she lived in at 280 Main Street in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Some thoughts on what to call her. I feel that calling her “Miss Dickinson” shows respect for her dignity and her veil of seclusion. But in the privacy of my own Home, looking at the picture of her writing table on my windowsill and reading her “Circumference” statement on my wall, I call her Emily. You’ll decide what seems right for you. I think she would want it that way.
-Virginia Euwer Wolff
What strikes me is that it’s not a photograph of the poet herself that Wolff holds close to her own writing life. Instead, it’s a place, an ordinary object, a moment in time — an image of Dickinson’s bedroom and her writing table — the place Emily rested her hand when she penned her last poem.
–posted on red Ravine, Election Day, Tuesday, November 4th, 2008, historic day, ordinary day, with gratitude to all who have led us here