I was walking in the dark, per usual, and as I crested the hill at the end of my road, the clouds broke free and a sickle moon cast in amber appeared, with galaxies and star glitter behind it.
The wind picked up behind me, and though I hunched up in my jacket (Nyana cradled sleeping in my arms) I sung out a piece of verse that’s been haunting me this season:
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
I have Roger Gregg to thank. He has turned Yeats’ poetry into sweet, sweet song:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UA8v17lgNXc
This is the time when our culture gives Thanks. When we at least intend to put down the ‘me me me more more more’ for a few moments to appreciate where we are and how much wealth we have. And where do we start? We have stores that have stuff in them. We have the peace of mind of knowing that when we wake up in the morning, our land is not likely to be wiped off the face of the planet by a storm (or if it does, someones is responsible for cleaning it up). We have the privilege of being able to spend most our waking lives worrying about trivial things.
So, dammit, we ought to be thankful! But, it is something different to feel thankful down to the root of your soul. To sing praises to the universe for a chance at breath, rather than pay lip service before you break bread at the dinner table.
I say all this, but I am as guilty as anyone. I have had the pleasure of working with an incredible team of people to produce FinalRune’s finest production to date (https://soundcloud.com/finalrune/sets/the-cleansed-season-2). Like all our works, I put it out there then try to divorce myself from its reception, just try to keep humble and say, “I don’t care what the world thinks of it, I know it’s good art, and that is enough.”But secretly I keep waiting for the accolades to come ringing in, the glowing reviews, the big phone call about the big deal. And I have had plenty of nice things said about my work – I should be happy. But I’m not. I can’t stop myself from comparing my work to that of other people, and when I see others’ success, in one breath I congratulate them and in another I am cursing quietly to myself, frustrated at nothing in particular and the internet in general. I’m still waiting for the phone call.
Then I stumbled across Neil Gaiman’s 2012 keynote to the University of the Arts grads (http://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012). He says a lot of really nice stuff about art. He also shares a piece of advice given to him by Stephen King: “This is really great. You should enjoy it.”
King was referring to Gaiman’s success with his comic book series Sandman – enjoy what’s happening, ride the wave, don’t worry about what happens next. And while that does kind of sound like something you’d heard at a Commencement address, it was the right advice for me at the right time. Maybe with a slight revision:
Life is really great. You should enjoy it.
You’re not required to enjoy yourself. No one is going to make you. Heck, most people aren’t enjoying it and would be happy if you had a miserable time.
But, why not? Why not remember what it was like when all of your dreams flew unfettered and everything seemed possible? Why not live like the world is not cynical, but instead full of possibility?
Yesterday Amy and I were butchering turkeys. Not the cleanest way to spend a Saturday but it’s honest. We were up with the dawn and about mid-morning, things were moving pretty quickly. We filled up a bucket of guts and I was hauling it out to the woods. Not exactly your textbook poetic moment, but poetry strikes you in some unexpected places.
Just behind our house, there is a moss-covered stone wall, telling us that the trees which look so old and established are but a recent happening. In the spring there are peepers here, but now I just see a thick patch of hemlock and the sun just starting to peek through it. The wind is picking up and the bushy hemlocks rock in the breeze, the sun dancing across their needles. Light and dark, light and dark, as sunshine fights with shade. Not much to it, just a little bit of shadow-play on the trees, but it took my breath away and I had to stop and just enjoy the moment.
There’s a lot to be thankful for. Often times, we forget. Other times, we’re distracted by our view from the ground. There’s a lot of work to be done down here. But before all that, comes the most important thing – being thankful we’re here at all. And I am glad I am.
Fred Greenhalgh is FinalRune’s writer/producer/director. He’s also grateful that Season 2 of The Cleansed is finished (yeah!) and will be available soon on Audible, Amazon.com, Downpour.com and other sources thanks to a renewed distribution agreement with Blackstone Audiobooks. He’s put it up so you can get a sneak preview at: https://soundcloud.com/finalrune/sets/the-cleansed-season-2. He used to have a regular newsletter for FinalRune that talked more about his group and the way they perform audio dramas, but then took this column over for rants about off-grid living, art, random things encountered in the woods, and the coming possibilities of apocalypse.
P.S. The very word ‘thankful’ feels a little bit weak in English. It is trivialized and used disingenuously. Does anyone know a word out there that properly captures the feeling of supplicating oneself to the universe in a deep expression of gratitude?