Thursday, March 12, 2009


There are two women who change my life every time I encounter them, who remind me in no uncertain terms of the incontrovertible contents of my heart -- my ideals, my dreams, my values, myself.  

The first is Ellis, a folk singer from Minneapolis (by way of Texas) who embodies a generosity of spirit our Keyboard Player likes to refer to as the Lifeglow.  I first saw Ellis in 1998 or so when she had just started her solo career; she was totally mesmerizing and I think I floated instead of walked for the next week!  When she's onstage, it's like witnessing a beating human heart opening up and spilling out light.  I think you'd have to be as imperturbable as...I don't know, the Borg? -- not to be moved by her performances.  You just missed her Club Passim show last night, but if you dig deeply felt, engaging acoustic music, check out her tour schedule-- she plays in Plymouth, MA on Saturday.  If you can't attend a show, her CD's are available here.

The other is Nikky Finney, a poet from Kentucky (by way of South Carolina) who is like the best and most difficult teacher you ever had -- she's passion incarnate.  And while she does teach creative writing and was the best of teachers to me, beyond the classroom, Nikky carries this same challenge.  It's like she is constantly charging you, through the way she speaks and moves and looks you in the eye, to do only the kind of "work" you can feel good signing your name to.  Nikky will be reading her work Monday, April 6 at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education ($3).  If you can't make it out for that, her books are available here and here.

As for changes in my life... for now I want to defer to the words of another impassioned poet:  Rilke.  I think about change a lot, probably because I seem to always be aware of some transition or another (life being the constant whir of becoming).  This is the most brilliant thing I have found on the subject, and I think of it often:

I believe that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension that we find paralyzing because we no longer hear our surprised feelings living. Because we are alone with the alien thing that has entered into our self; because everything intimate and accustomed is for an instant taken away; because we stand in the middle of a transition where we cannot remain standing. 
For this reason the sadness too passes: the new thing in us, the added thing, has entered into our heart, has gone into its inmost chamber and is not even there anymore, is already in our blood. And we do not learn what it was. We could easily be made to believe that nothing has happened, and yet we have changed, as a house changes into which a guest has entered. We cannot say who has come, perhaps we shall never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters into us in this way in order to transform itself in us long before it happens. 
And this is why it is so important to be lonely and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and stark moment at which our future sets foot in us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and fortuitous point of time at which it happens to us as if from outside. The more still, more patient and more open we are when we are sad, so much the deeper and so much the more unswervingly does the new go into us, so much the better do we make it ours, so much the more will it be our destiny, and when on some later day it "happens" (that is, steps forth out of us to others), we shall feel in our inmost selves akin and near to it. 
And that is necessary. It is necessary and toward this our development will move gradually that nothing strange should befall us, but only that which has long belonged to us. 
We have already had to think so many of our concepts of motion, we will also gradually learn to realize that that which we call destiny goes forth from within people, not from without into them. Only because so many have not absorbed their destinies and transmuted them within themselves while they were living in them, have they not recognized what has gone forth out of them; it was so strange to them that, in their bewildered fright, they thought it must only just then have entered into them, for they swear never before to have found anything like it in themselves. 
As people were long mistaken about the motion of the sun, so they are even yet mistaken about the motion of that which is to come. The future stands firm . . . but we move in infinite space.

How should it not be difficult for us? 


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