What caught my attention was the shape, an inverted right triangle of words nearly perfect on the page. I admit that I read it several times to appreciate what this poem held for me. Could I? Would I do that?
To borrow Eugene Peterson’s insight about the poetic language of the Bible, I’d like to say that this poetic language also “both means what it says and what it doesn’t say.” The first time I read the poem, I relished the actual words becoming the shape. I had a hunch that there was a how-to-lesson for me hidden in what the poem doesn’t say. Are these lessons I learn over and over, troubling things I do over and over?
How to Do Absolutely Nothing – Barbara Kingsolver from How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons)
Rent a house near the beach, or a cabin
but: Do not take your walking shoes.
Don’t take any clothes you’d wear
anyplace anyone would see you.
Don’t take your rechargeables.
Take Scrabble if you have to,
but not a dictionary and no
pencils for keeping score.
Don’t take a cookbook
or anything to cook.
A fishing pole, ok
But not the line,
leave it all.
I remembered and responded:
If I have on sandals will I be able to hike where there are rattlesnake warnings? I walked the length of Whiffin Spit in the same shoes I wore to the wedding party.
Do I want to have lunch where there is a dress code? My favourite jeans have ink marks and bleach spots and my happy pants (the real name) have baggy knees.
I lived 40 years without a cell phone or the internet. But, what if a Tsunami is coming or democracy fails?
I do need a dictionary. I don’t always have to keep score. I let go of many cookbooks because “close enough” recipes are online. Is that just more work? I don’t fish but I do ponder my need for the “hook, line, and sinker” on most days.
The real trouble is I think too much.
In Where I Live Now, Sharon Butala writes about what I believe is true for me.
I think too much, I go over and over events from the past as if by re-thinking and re-thinking them I can finally tease out from between the strands of memory, intertwined as they are, the real meaning, the answers to the questions that I don’t even know how to ask.
I go over events before they happen in addition to rethinking what has already happened. I anticipate what someone might say or think or do and what I could say or think or do. My strands of memory are laced with future speculation or, perhaps, wishful thinking. What am I looking for?
There are moments I think I do nothing. Except, I cannot-not think about it. How do I stop all those words that pile up in not-so-pleasing arrays?
The truth is; I’m not sure. I will find out what is left when I leave the words behind.