Saturday, September 8, 2012

Where is the Softer World?

I found the softer world this summer.  Have you read that poem, by Mary Oliver, called Mindful?

by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

. . .

I found it in this book I am reading, a book left in a mailbox for me (along with wasabi nori and a sweet note) from Megan.  Twelve by Twelve is essentially about a guy who does international aide work in developing countries for a decade and then comes back to the States and into "the flat world" as he calls it.  He feels so lost, unsure of how he fits, and if he wants to fit.  He hears of a woman, a doctor, who takes the lowest pay possible, and lives in a 12 x 12 dwelling in the woods.  Her life on this wild land, only 5% of which is developed, is simple.  She invites him to live there while she is away, and he says yes.  His life changes, or he does.

I am in the middle of it, still, but it resonates so much with me.  Because this summer, I found a softer world, the world Mary Oliver speaks of, and the thing is -- it's not just softer.  It's a different world.  Different than this one anyway.  I know many people who are living good lives in the States - rich, deep, fulfilling lives.  I know it's possible to live well in many places, but I don't really want to do it here in the concrete and capitalism.

This country makes me itch.  I don't want to slather calamine lotion on it.  I don't want to scratch.  I want out.

And this softer world?  It really exists.  I found it on the farm in Italy this summer in the wild chestnut forest.  This cheese-making, unschooling, self-sufficient family taught me so much.  When you are sweating, in the sun, eating from the garden, drinking from the stream, chasing little wild mostly-clothes-free kids around green grass, squishing green chicken poop with your feet, your mind just kind of drops and something else takes residence.

I suppose I sound naive now, cliched at the least; all this talk about another world, a softer world, but I had it in my hands, my mouth.

I didn't come back to the States with the intention of staying here permanently, but I don't want to trash my precious moments here writhing in angst and running in place.  It is taking every ounce of my will-power not to waste away my days doing internet searches, back in the squirrely space of searching and seeking.  This is a dangerous space, as I can attest to from experience, because you are likely to say "Yes!" to a plan that isn't in your heart.  The ego, a true Type A, loves plans.  Titles?  Even better.  Anything with a capital letter (Teacher, Writer, Girlfriend, Student) is just fine.   And is there a schedule to go with that?  Now we're talking.  When I start creating spreadsheets, I'm calling my sponsor.  That'll be you, K. 

These days my steps are careful to non-existent; my mind, as Anne Lamott says, is a bad neighborhood I try not go into alone.  Although right now I am on the edge, ready to chop my hair off and hop on a plane, I know enough to wait.  Sometimes you trust and jump (like when I quit my job), sometimes you trust and sit.  It doesn't score you as many cool points, it doesn't ease your itchy skin or jittery limbs (at least not at first), but nothing ever got any worse when we just sat still and breathing.

I came home with a vision for my life and now is the time to trust in that vision, trust that life will move through me, that life is moving through me.  So even though my breathing isn't going as deep as my heart, there is one thing I know for sure.  It's not where I'm going (sorry guys), but it's that my feet?  Yeah, these beat-up things from hoofing around Italy this summer -- they're meant to be on earth.  Soft, cakey earth.  Just gotta find the right chunk.  
. . .

Or, an alternate version of this entry might look like this:



  1. beautiful. hang in there! at least you recognize and reject all the hollow bullshit -- that's more than most folks are capable of.

    1. <3 "the usefulness of a cup is its emptiness" . . . i wonder how this applies to the metaphorical kind of hollow.

  2. Love you more than the fish pee in the sea;) I'm so happy to be you and that you are me:)


    1. That's a lot of love but I love you more than vida loves to pee on the porch. ;) <3!