Monday, May 31, 2010

If Only for a Moment

Yes, it is hard when drops are falling.
Trembling with fear, and heavy hanging,
cleaving to the twig, and swelling, sliding
- Karin Boye

I am inspired to let go. If only for a moment.

Throughout the last week I’ve had a dilemma.
My husband says, you don’t need to rush the decision.
My friend says, you don’t need to rush the decision.
Inside me, there is rush, rush, rush. A sense of urgency.
Sometimes even buying a liter of milk, can shoot adrenalin through my body.
And this was so much more than buying a liter of milk.

then, when no fear holds back any longer,
down in glitter go the twig's drops plunging,
- Karin Boye

I am inspired to let go. Of the rushing. To let those drops fall, dance, enjoy.
If only for a moment.

Karin Boye - Yes, Of Course It Hurts, from For the Tree’s Sake (1935)
Translation by David McDuff

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Change vs. Growth

“Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking.
Why else would the springtime falter?” - Karin Boye

I have received a bagful of clothes from a good friend. She has gained weight somewhere - her heart, her hair, the toes on her left foot, I’m not quite sure. All I know is I am standing in front of the mirror trying on one chic garment after another. And I must admit it - I look pretty cool.

But is this me? I mean - Me? 

My friend looks stunning in these tops and dresses; the see-through and glitter, the low cut neckline revealing whatever is to be revealed. They suit her, they underline who she is.

But me? Well. I look into the mirror and I’m not quite sure I recognize the person in front of me. She is changed. There is still that same smile (or laugh in fact, for I cannot avoid it!), still the same hair. But she is different. 

Is this why I am reluctant to change in general? Because I am frightened I will not recognize my own self?

A whole library of books talk about change these days: “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body”, “Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life”, “When Everything Changes, Change Everything”. It seems to be the thing to be doing - to change.

Still, I, or we, tend hold on to the now, for at least we know what we’re dealing with. Better to swim in familiar waters than dive into the unknown future. Also, if I always need to change and be different, can I ever relax and be satisfied with who I am today?
Change is closely linked to the word growth. They both signify the hidden to be revealed - the unknown to come into being.
Yet, where change asks me to replace, growth offers me expansion. Where change tells me I need to do things differently, growth grants me the permission to be more of who I already am.
Which, of course, can also grant me a few challenges. 
“Yes, of course it hurts when buds are breaking,
hurts for that which grows
and that which bars.” - Karin Boye

Karin Boye - Yes, Of Course It Hurts, from For the Tree’s Sake (1935)
Translation by David McDuff

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Monday, May 24, 2010

Buds Breaking

I am grateful for my teachers, they surround me. Heaven above. The earth below. The sun. The seasons. My loved ones. The passing minutes, months, years, all contained within the word experience

Then there is my camera.

It says, where you point my lens, is where I will focus.
It says, where you direct your eyes, is where your attention goes.

Like hunting for red. If you move around in the world looking for red, you will find it. (Go here to do a small experiment.) 

And there are poems

I live in the midst of Karin Boye’s words - Yes, Of Course It Hurts
She talks about spring, about buds. About how it hurts when buds are breaking. For -

Why else would the springtime falter?
Why would all our ardent longing
bind itself in frozen, bitter pallor?
After all, the bud was covered all the winter.
What new thing is it that bursts and wears?

I have walked some paths this spring, pointing my lens at buds bursting. Those outside of me. And those inside.

Karin Boye - Yes, Of Course It Hurts, from For the Tree’s Sake (1935)
Translation by David McDuff

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Thursday, May 20, 2010


William Wordsworth has set the tone - it’s all about daffodils and clouds these days.
The succulent green and yellow sprouts originating from the earth.

The clouds from the sky.

Me somewhere in the middle. 

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lonely as

Thrilled about spring, I sing :-) while walking these lines by William Wordsworth:

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

But then I wonder - lonely as When I gazed towards the sky this morning, the clouds did not seem lonely at all. They were more like holding hands, merging into one happy crowd.

Also, can clouds be lonely? There is, of course, that single, white dot alone on blue summer skies.
But lonely?

I suspect Wordsworth needed a cloud to underline the notion of a poet being the lonely, pensive chap. Also “cloud” fits snugly next to its brothers in rhyme. 

Lonely as a cloud. I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils. It sounds lovely. Undeniably.

And then I wonder - how, exactly do I pick and chose among words and ideas to make my life rhythmic and melodious? Am I as careful with my sounds and metaphors as Mr William?

If life can be likened to a poem that is......

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Friday, May 14, 2010

Spotting RED

So here’s the thing. A mental experiment.

 (If you have no idea what I am talking about, scroll down to the previous post, or press here.)

This experiment / experience will cost about 2 minutes of your life, but will add multitudes, believe me. (Please don’t charge if it doesn’t....). Also it is both harmless and non-toxic.

The aim is to illustrate my last posting: shadows are not just evidence of gloom. "Where there is much light, the shadow is deep,” said Goethe (quote kindly submitted by Marion). Which is also to say that where shadows are extra dark, sunlight is also extra strong. 

But to let the shadows come, and to focus on them, are two separate things. As similar, and as opposite as the North and the South Poles.

This experiment, by the way, demands some discipline on your side. When you see these words STOP READING, then do exactly that, stop reading. Do not peep further down the post till you have done the required.

Okay. So off you go into a room where there are lots of things and colors and mess, ideally a place where you don’t go very often - a shed, a loft, your husband’s or wife’s or dog’s secret hiding place, the garage. Anything will do, really. 

Then, with your keen eyes, spot anything and everything containing the color RED. Memorize these items, and then come back to the screen. STOP READING!

Are you reading these words without having hunted for the RED?

If so, go into the corner - or doghouse - and find a few red items. Memorize them. And come back.

So. How many things RED can you remember? Depending on your shed’s content, of course, I’m sure you can recollect at least 4 items. Or 7. Or even as much as 9 (or 10 if you’re a genius!): The red letters on the insect repellent, the red cork on the soda bottle, the red covered paperback, the red feeding bowl, the red plastic watering can.

Yes? How many?, you are a genius.......

Now then, WITHOUT going back to the place of red, tell me all the things you noticed which contained the color BLUE. Yes, blue. How many this time? 1? 2? None???

Well, you’re normal. Most people will have one or two things on their list, despite the blue being right next to the red: The blue spray can with red letters. The blue shelf with the red cork bottle. The blue paperback next to the red paperback. The blue can of dog food next to the red feeding get it.......

For this is the thing. You notice what you focus on. If I ask you to make notice of every single minute of rain next week, you will diligently spot every single drop that falls on your ground. The sun will just be that thing in the middle of the sky. You will forget to count the sunny minutes. Sunny hours. Sunny days.


So, what is the most prominent feature of this photo here?

Photos © Grete S. Kempton

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I exist!

Why am I so preoccupied with shadows these days? I read Wendell Berry of course, about how to let what I am afraid of just come.

Also I walk the May mornings, drenched in light. It confirms what I know already: the more sun, the stronger the shadows.

I was thinking today, how shadows really give evidence to your physical being. Wherever I go, I see myself reflected. There’s no denying it. I exist!

There has been times when I thought I was lighter than feathers. That if I jumped from a high place there would be no thump. No blood. No crying. Humans are strange that way. It is possible to count your two arms, your ten toes and ten fingers, and still doubt you are alive within a body.

I imagine it has to do with owning your own will.
But that is a different story.

So I have been standing in a window, wondering. It sounds like a sad story. It is. And it isn’t. For this is the strangely obvious but sometimes forgotten fact: shadows are proofs of the sun’s existence.

So shadow talk is not just about accepting the dark. It is as much about the opposite.

But to let the shadows come, and to focus on them, are two separate things. As similar, and as opposite as the North and the South Poles.

In the next posting I’ll conduct a small mental experiment to demonstrate the difference........

Photo © Grete S. Kempton

Monday, May 10, 2010


The thing about repeating a poem over and over, is that the lines get a life of their own. They start talking back to you, and make echoes in you mind like reflected trees and leaves by the river’s edge.

It can happen when you least expect it. Or when you need them most.

This morning I woke with an ache. The thing itself is small, but with roots deep into the underworld of my being. In this, the small is really no more than old fear repeated. A (relatively) little thing that reminds me of a bigger thing, and therefore carries meaning outside of itself. Like a mouse with the cloak of a Raptor.

“Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.”

I woke with an ache. And a song. Lines from Wendell Berry’s “I Go Among Trees and Sit Still” had started talking to me.

I cannot let this poem go. I know it has the power to save me.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shadow Talk

Wendell Berry’s “I Go Among Trees and Sit Still” has lead me to shadow talk.

Thank you, Indigo, Marion and Erin, for comments. They have inspired me to write this post.

Day and night, light and dark. A time to weep, and a time to smile. Nature makes balance. Without it, the world would tip over.

Without the sun, there would be no laughter. Without the shadow, there would be too much arrogance, overconfidence, self-assertion.

Yet I’m no romantic in the face of Shadowland. I know its place on the map, there’s no denying it. Still, the land of Shadows is not a place I enter by free will. The landscape can be fierce and wild and hilly. Many people get lost there. Some people die.

I have great respects of the dark. I am humbled by its existence. I have walked paths I had no idea existed, let alone where they would lead me. The air was dense with fog and night. I had to crawl on all four, or lean on great sticks to keep the balance. I had to tiptoe around huge rocks, run across open fields, cover myself in camouflage clothing.

I know the activity has made me strong. My legs have muscles. Though sometimes I forget, and behave as if there was not a single bone in my body.

I have seen great clouds covering people. Right now there is a huge one above the head of a loved friend. Had I the magic wand, I would have spelled SUNSHINE with giant letters. Had God asked if I meant the 12-o’clock sunshine where shadows are right beneath our feet, you might guess at my answer.


I know the good of shadows. The people I value most have been through dark nights of the soul. They have that extra glow. The extra dimension. By accepting their smallness, they have become big.


So, let me rephrase a sentence from the last posting. Had God asked me if I would like a life of sunshine without the shadows, I would have screamed from the top and the bottom of my lungs - YES, YES, YES! Then, since I’m a sensible girl, I would have said, okay, Sweet Lord. I know I’m not the creator, I know I’m only a grain of sand of the great beaches. I know that I really don’t know.

Except this, of course. that I want the fruits of the shadows.

But that, I suppose, is like saying I want to eat cream cake all day and still stay slim and healthy as a gracious tulip in May.........

Ps. This subject intrigues me. If anyone has a poem to share, please do. I welcome any insight into the mystery of the shadows.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Among Shadows

When I walked out this morning, the sun was all around me. So were the shadows. I couldn’t deny them, they marked the very ground I walked on.

I don’t want to seem too clever or clich├ęd, but is this not life as well?

Had anyone (or God, to be more precise) asked me if I would like a life of sunshine without the shadows, would I have said a plain yes? Of course not. I would have shouted it with all my might, YES YES YES! No modesty here. I mean, who wants darkness?

Yet, I know this. Life on earth rests on certain principles. Where there is sun, you find shadows. To deny it, proves as hazardous as denying the law of gravity.

If I don’t track down my shadows, they will track me down. I have some experience. I know.

Yet Wendell Berry in “I Go Among Trees and Sit Still” comforts me. He walks. He sits.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

When I started this blog, I wrote about anxiety. It can become a habit, like writing from left to right. To live a poem, to walk it, breath it, was and is a way of getting out of my automatic thinking, to inject some new thoughts.

When I walked out this morning, the sun was all around me. So were the shadows. I couldn’t deny them. And perhaps there is no need.

Monday, May 3, 2010

One among many

The dilemma of choice was upon me yesterday. I was trying to find the very poem to live this week, the very poem to be my inspiration, information, soul-stirrer, walking companion.....

Bringing a poem into my life is no small thing, I am a demanding reader. I skimmed first lines, second lines, last lines, looking for the right feel. But nothing seemed to click.

There is something about abundance. Too much choice, and my mind starts spinning. At times I wish there was just the One. The One opinion. The One right way of doing things. The One Poem.

Yet if anyone would offer me that One and Only, I would run for my life.

Still. She who seeks, shall find.

Suddenly my mind went quiet, the spinning stopped. I was out among trees, and all my stirring became quiet.

I Go Among Trees and Sit Still

by Wendell Berry

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

From A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997