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Posts Tagged ‘writing as a practice’

Something about Mess nags at me. I can’t put my finger on it, although I know it has to do with control, wanting a perfect life. Wanting nothing to get out of hand.

It’s not me, I’m not a tidy person. Although there is something there as I age. A desire to finally and at last live without mess.

I think it’s an imperfect thing, this notion that mess can be banished. Messy people, people who walk around with their dramas emanating like steam from their bodies, constantly knocking on the doors of the healthy and sane, looking for something to muddy up.

Much as I don’t want mess in my life, mess finds me. Emotional wrecks and crisis at school or the mess of nerves Mom seems to have become.

And yet, yet, I look around my clean, pleasant space. Nothing on the floor that doesn’t belong there. I notice a water bottle on the table, a third of the water left. I’m annoyed that it will be wasted, and if I’m thinking about it when I empty it, I’ll put the water on my aloe vera plant.

I don’t have many plants, I just realized, not many in the house. Is it because they’re messy, one more life to take care of, dead leaves to sweep? When Jonathan lived here he had the entire east bank of windows filled with plants. Hanging falling tangled plants, and birds, finches and parakeets. I swept bird feed for weeks. Even the people who refinished the floors asked about the seeds, which, it appears, can never be entirely purged. I found one a few weeks ago, almost a year since we bought the house.

I picture mess like I picture fingers, forming in the womb. Slender fingers, or stubby, even in their tiny-ness. And hazel eyes, kinky hair. Big nose with a hump level with the cheekbone. A high tolerance for mess, but one that goes lower and lower over time like water receding, or a man’s hairline.

I first noticed differences in mess between me and Janet. We shared a room until I was nine. I inherited her Barbie collection, two Barbies — one blonde, one brunette. A red-headed Skipper, and Ken. They were perfect, all of them, in two white vinyl cases that smelled like plastic, and tiny hangers, accessories, ballroom gowns with glitter. Tiny slip-on shoes, everything matching and perfect. The pink boa for the pink fringe party dress.

Janet came into the world with a low tolerance for mess, allotted like a small dot on a chromosome. Dark hair, straight, black eyes, an aqualine nose. I wonder what she thought, what I did to that sensibility when I cut Skipper’s hair into a pixie like my own. Cut it and cut it again, trying each time to make it even, but it was thick and would move like a bloc when the scissors came down, causing it always to run uphill.

I drew permanent make-up on the blonde Barbie’s eyes, maybe I wanted her to have dark lines, not clear skin. Who knows why, just that there was no such thing as purity or cleanliness or something that shouldn’t be changed.

I wonder if mess can be like hair, maybe you’re endowed with a mess of it in youth but over time it thins and grows dry, the essential oils leave you and so does that haphazard way about you.

Sometimes I think it’s encapsulated in the notion of “maturity,” that as I strive to finally reach that longed-for place I tell myself it’s time to let go of childhood traits. Messy room, clothes on the floor, unmade bed, or even the tangle of desire and sadness and fear — not even sure which one paralyzes, just aware that I can’t move forward so stuck I am in all my mess.

I don’t know what it is, or why, but I do know I want simplicity and beauty and if there is mess in my life I want to learn from it, I wish it to have a purpose other than flubbing me up.

I threw away the Barbies when at age 14 I noticed that they were completely ruined. No more shoes that matched, no more tiny hangers, no more vinyl carrying cases. The thing I missed most were the clear, transparent slip-ons, a kind of Everywoman shoe, too high, yes, and made for impossible arches, but they went with everything and in the end they were nothing.


-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – MESS

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The world is a messy place. My home? It is messy in spots, little corners, under the living room table, around the computer desk. It finds order when we clean. And returns to chaos again. I usually recognize an order to the chaos. I manage to find what I need. I’m staring out the window at a March snowstorm. It’s so warm that drips of icewater are clinging to the dusted oaks. The north sides of the trees are scaled with flakes. The south sides are completely dry. That seems orderly to me.

I was at Sears yesterday to repair a flat tire. I always buy the RoadHandler agreement and it pays for itself 10X over the life of a 60,000 mile set of tires. The gray rugs were covered with grease spots. The windows between me and the repair bays were spotty and smudged. But the TV area (I turned it off and did a Writing Practice) was neat as a pin. Cardboard box of Brew-Rite stirring sticks, packets of Sweet’N Low – Not For Resale, N’Joy Pure Cane Sugar in an orangish-red container, navy creamer to match, coffee pot with dialed clock, Craftsman tool brochures all in their places.

There was the familiar smell of Gojo, grease, and tire rubber, the clanking of iron on steel, and a sign that read, % of Jobs Meeting Our Commitment Time To Our Customer, with a dry erase board underneath. Empty. Devoid of a number. I wonder if tires are still made from rubber? So many things are plastic. The earth will never reclaim them.

I see art made from discarded tires. Tabletops, lampshades. A few hunks of snow drop on the deck, leaving BB hole footprints. The ice skating pond was a puddle a few days ago. It’s covered with new snow. But I wanted to say, that when I did the Writing Practice at Sears in my notebook by hand, everything dropped away. And it brought order to my mind. I spent most of the day dealing with the car. It can feel like a waste of time. But I made the most of it. And for an hour or so afterwards, visited with my friend. A few days ago, two female wild turkeys started showing up outside of her home. Out of the middle of nowhere.

Turkey in the Medicine Cards is about the give-a-way. Generosity. Not so much about giving time, energy, information, art, writing, away, like so many of us do. But about giving for the good of the whole. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand. But no need to push things over the edge. To become combative and aggressive. Because that’s how the world becomes a messy place. A flat tire? That’s life. That happens. There is no particular meaning to it. Bashing other people – that is a choice. We get to choose where we want to put our energy.

I get sad all over again when I see all the racist comments ping-ponging around. It’s on all sides. No one is immune. As soon as people are reduced to “us and them,” there is no going back. To be honest, I am sick of it. No one should be bashed because they are white. No one should be bashed because they are black. No one should be bashed because they worship at a different church. No one should be bashed. Chaos ensues. That makes the world messy.

I’m oversimplifying because I don’t want to get into details. Did I earn the right to say what I feel, to generalize in emotion? Probably not. But I can’t help but think, that every single snowflake is uniquely patterned, and falls with the same amount of grace. I walked out on the deck and took a few snapshots, pointed the lens straight up into the sturdy oaks. I thought of the Practice of haiku. The Practice of writing. And wondered if the world might be a better place if people made a spiritual practice of their politics. Instead of forcing them on everyone else.

I had no intention of writing about this. But for the last few days, it’s what has surfaced in my Practices. Should I post it for my Practice on messiness? I don’t know. Relationships are messy. Political relationships are messier. Emotions color the truth. They can also make it clearer, if people would only focus on the heart underneath. Turkey medicine. Unity. The good of the whole. It doesn’t mention winning by any means necessary.

What I see in front of me is kind of messy. But it’s an order I understand. A Taos drum I bought at the pueblo in the early 80’s. Rows of budding leaves atop the umbrella plant on the stereo case, lime orderly patterns drooping over the birch. Each leaf has its place in the order of things. Green prosperity candle. A bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Miniatures next to a bag of York Peppermint Patties.

Steve Almond’s Candy Freak, Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing, New and Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples, a red and white Canon video recorder box. A 10” by 10” sign next to the CD player scribbled in my all-caps block print, each letter a different color. It says, I Love Lizzie, heart as exclamation point. I smile everyday when I see it. It’s leftover from her birthday.

Maybe I should make another sign that says, I Love Every Person On The Planet, No Matter Who They Are, and hang it from the snow crested oaks for everyone to see. I imagine people passing by will either smile and give me the thumbs up. Or shake their heads, turn to their friends and say, “What a fool.”



-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – MESS

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