poetry

Deeply Awake – Guest Post by Zoë Trout

Have you ever come across an essay and thought, “Wow! Another human being understands the way I view the world!” As a writer, a quiet observer of humans, I’m constantly wondering if others have the same sensitive intuition as me. When Zoë emailed asking if she could post on my blog, and I read her essay, I inhaled deeply into her words. She gets it. She’s wired like me, at least a little bit. I’ve got sisters and brothers and sensitive folk out there doing the same beautiful work as me. I feel honored to share her perspective. From one beauty seeker to another, write on.

Author: Zoë Trout
Blog: https://speckonaspeck.wordpress.com/

Her favorite quote: “i thank You God for most this amazing / day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees / and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything / which is natural which is infinite which is yes”  – e. e. cummings

Lately I’ve wanted to write about beauty. When I say lately, I mean for months—
and for months I haven’t written a thing. It daunts me to render something so
vast and brilliant in plain words, and my mind spirals in a hundred directions. I
still don’t know how the thoughts will come together. What I know is that beauty
wants to be written about. It’s been knocking softly over these months of
avoidance, and I’ve come into surrender, and so begin.

. . .

Our acquaintance is long, I’ve always loved beautiful things. When I was little I
slipped into imagination easily and intuitively and no one demanded answers. I
collected beautiful images in a mental folio for daydreams, pouring over
photographs in coffee table books, and copies of O magazine and House &
Garden. I treasured a calendar with pictures of French countryside, and pictured
my own “some day” life nested in fine art and stylish decor in a beautiful setting.
The appeal extended beyond possessions, I wanted my whole being to be a
beautiful thing. I sat on the big purple couch in our living room and practiced
writing in cursive over and over, pouring my attention into the loops of o’s & p’s
& b’s, and the quick, elegant peaks of lowercase r’s—it wasn’t task so much as joy.
I wrote, and drew, and painted; I took pride in helping my mom choose furniture
and fabrics, and in laying out outfits for her to wear. I courted loveliness with the
unspoken belief that it would enrich my life, or really that it already was.

I continued to harbor that belief as I began to grow up. Driver’s license in hand,
many of my first independent trips were to beautiful places that made the world
feel quiet and deep. I went outside, into green spaces and under trees. I went into
chapels and galleries, and visited art I loved. I sat before text and pictures, and let
myself steep in their harmonies. I obeyed the same gravitational pull that lured
me into daydreams, the same finger wagging me towards pockets of delight. I
followed enchantment with beautiful things.

Beauty inspired more substantial decisions, too. In high school I let it direct me
to my first job in a restaurant with windows on a stylish plant nursery across a
little green lawn. At night Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday swam through the
candlelight like honey and kept the restaurant glowing. I wasn’t always excited
for long shifts on my feet but my delight was renewed in going to a beautiful
place, and getting to be part of its melody. When I had to choose a college, an
impalpable charm drew me to the school I attended on first glance. Even from the
car, its campus had the same lyrical poise as a poem, and held me under the same
power of awe.

I would go on to choose apartments the same way, and find myself laying tracks
in beautiful spaces wherever I went. Now, I often get pressed into the fog of daily obligations and then wake up to some physical grace, like a silk scarf, or leaves on
a tree branch, twirling together madly in a sudden breath. Out of the daily plod of
emails, errands, and hourly pay emerges something plainly extraordinary, like
sun on the grass, and my spirit lights anew. Sometimes I don’t watch the road as
carefully as I should in the car; my eyes drag on glassy pond-tops, shop windows
and wings outstretched in the sky; my heaven is a perch with a view.

. . .

The question of vanity is raised, and also the question of escape. Isn’t it
superficial to swoon for aesthetics? Isn’t it irresponsible to abandon screens and
numbers and the high-stakes sport of “figuring out?” What do you get from
simple reverie? The spreadsheet and the checkbook demand an answer. The
insurance company demands an answer, and the accountant, and the banker, and
the boss.

For a long time I asked these questions, too. I thought I must use beauty as a
means to escape or avoid, running away to a false palace of my mind. I assumed
my delight was undisciplined. I reasoned that it was, by nature, a weakness.
It’s easy to confuse immersion with escape.

Today I know the difference. I still seek out brilliance in nature and art, and
anything else that stills my soul. It’s no secret that I know how to escape, and
have plenty of practice, but now I see that beauty never asks me to hide.
Submerging into wonder might look going to sleep, and perhaps it is a kind of
numbing to the outside world. It asks to be prioritized over tasks and lists and
news headlines. It asks that I surrender thinking, and let myself be led. But on the
other side of that quiet I hear my own harmony in a timeless choir. I come to
know myself as lovely and beloved. I come home to my necessity in the great,
mosaicked mystery of everything alive.

The world may continue to question. All I can offer is heartbeat, and sky reflected
in my eyes. All I can do is continue, pen in hand; there’s more to see and more to
say. I keep an eye out for wonder, and the discovery reminds me I am never
asleep in beauty, but only more deeply awake.


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Zoë Trout was born and raised in Texas and studied English and psychology at the College of William & Mary. Despite living in the Boston area, she harbors a deep affinity for the South and enjoys memoirs, contemplative poetry, and traveling widely. She has previously worked as a university writing consultant and served on the editorial board of The William and Mary Review, and she continues to write creative nonfiction while working in mental healthcare.
You can read more of Zoë’s work by following her blog, where she writes about growing up, living with purpose, and finding meaning in a noisy world.
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July Favorite Things

Every time they say “It’s nasty out there” I cringe. The world is falling apart. Look up the hashtag on Twitter #Americain3words and people are not full of hope. We’re depressed, and scared, full of fear and angry, and hurt and confused.

Some days I am these things too.

How can you not be?

I cringe because by focusing on all the ick we miss out on the good waiting there, like a puppy, hoping to lick the salt from your tear-stained cheeks. Yes, cry, wail, hurt, advocate! But also sit, savor, ingest the magic surrounding the cells that make up your fingernails. You are not an accident.

I’m listening to podcasts now at the gym (any recommendations? Or better yet, know anyone who wants podcast guests? I’ve got a goal to appear on one this year) and I heard mention of this poem tonight. It’s number one on my list of favorites for July.

We’ve got to find delight.

  1. A Brief for The Defense – by Jack Gilbert
A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants. Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick. There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay. If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation. We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. We must admit there will be music despite everything. We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning. To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come.

2. This Anne Boleyn Shirt

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My brilliant and creative friend Lynn Schwebach has crafted these funny, bold feminist t-shirts. Support a local artist, immerse yourself into the feminist narrative. I know this artist does not mean to downplay any harassment or trauma women have faced. Rather she stands in creative solidarity, pointing out just how absurd it is that women have dealt with these issues for the longest time. View her full Etsy shop here.

3. Grumpy Old Ove

I’m reading this book for book group and have been charmed by this grumpy old man. When we suffer it’s easier to want to be alone. In this book, the universe won’t let him. A poignant story on grief, joy, and showing up for others in the most unassuming of ways.

4. Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans

I brought a bunch of these little treats to work and filled up a bowl on my desk. Every time my co-workers go by they curse me under their breath, then pop two or three into their mouth. I’m a treat provider – what can I say. These are yummy.

5. 4th of July Gear

Most of us have complicated connections to what it feels like to be an American these days. I’m mixed on patriotism and still feel so amazingly grateful to live here. We’ve got work to do, yes, but much to be thankful for. So on Wednesday I hope you spend the day with family or friends, in the sun, and have time to lay on some green grass under bursts of fireworks in the sky.

Wear this shirt. People will love you.

This one works is a stupendous option to consider.

Order now. With Prime it could get here by Wednesday!

30 Days of Poetry

When you are doing what you like, 30 days goes faster than you think.

I challenged myself to writing a poem every day for 30 days in a row and the little lines of syllables have been my friends.

As promised, here are all of the poems readers sent in.

To see all of my poems, check out my Instagram.

 

The winner of this contest is @hi_im_morgz.

Thank you for playing!

Come Now, Let’s Begin

I just realized it’s National Poetry Month.

After Dylan’s cousin started posting his haiku’s on Facebook, I was inspired and frankly, copied his idea. For the next 30 days I’ll be posting a haiku on my Instagram.

I think 30 days of haikus will be easier than 30 days of yoga, or 30 days of no coffee, or Whole 30. I admire those Whole 30 people.

But for me, I’ll be a 30 days of poems person. I missed the start of April, but as wise folks say, “Better late than never!”

I’m extending an invitation for you to play along.

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Here are the rules. 

Compile the following and email me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com between now and May 11th.

  1. Email me your haiku. I’d love it if you can write it in your handwriting and snap a photo, but if you need to type it that’s fine too. Bonus points if you write about something beautiful in your life right now.
  2. Include your name and if you’d like, links for how you can be contacted – ie. email, Instagram, or Twitter feed.
  3. Be willing to share the post I create with your content with your network – share on your Facebook, send an email blast, work with others to promote poetry, creativity and writing.
  4. Your entry will then be shared in May in a haiku roundup of sorts on this very blog.

By submitting your materials you will be entered into a drawing to win a few of my favorite things. You also agree that it is ok for me to repost your content on Instagram, this blog, and Twitter. On May 11, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted.

Please note: no violent, hateful, or derogatory poems will be reposted. Swearing’s ok. Making fun of others, not so much. Keep it clean people, keep it clean.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

 

 

 

Mine.

Unofficial titles I’ve had at work over the years. Levity Lady, Head of the Fun Committee, Social Activity Coordinator.

I like spending some of my work hours planning social outings, celebrations, and bringing humor to the office.

Some other words to describe my impulse to want to make people feel happier – encourager, coach, mentor, supervisor, friend, writer.

Whisperer of beautiful things.

As I work and I process and I heal my childhood wounds of the confusion of complex emotions, I realize just how many of my coping mechanisms involve trying to fix other’s happiness levels.  It comes out at work and it comes out in my family and I am wondering if it’s coming out here too.

I wrote this post at the end of 2016 about how hard it can be to encourage others. How challenging it is to look for the light. How lots of people prefer to yank us out of our seats and into the stinky mud on the ground. There is always more mud on the ground.

Because I feel for people, deeply, and I have trouble not dragging my empathetic toes into the circles of others. Because I care. And I want you to see the light. All of the glorious light that exists when we lift our chins.

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A beautiful friend boldly told me to start saying, firmly in my brain, “that is NOT mine.”

That grief, that conflict with your co-worker, that gut wrenching diagnosis. The government shut down, the fight with your mother, that unemployment and dashed dreams. All NOT mine.

It’s a new tool for survival. A safety shield for the ever-feeling heart.

Anne Lamott wisely says,

” there is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of lasting way, unless you’re waiting for an organ. You can’t buy, achieve or date serenity and peace of mind. This is the most horrible truth, and I so resent it. But it’s an inside job, and we can’t arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers. You can’t run alongside your grown children with sunscreen and ChapStick on their hero’s journey. You have to release them. It’s disrespectful not to. And if it’s someone else’s problem, you probably don’t have the answer, anyway. Our help is usually not very helpful. Our help is often toxic. And help is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Don’t get your help and goodness all over everybody.”

This quote got me thinking. Is that what I’m trying to do here? Acting out my need to save others by sharing what’s good. Sure, I hope my words cause epiphanies in your lives and spark you to think about small, simple blessings that dance through your days.

But I’m not sure it works, and that shouldn’t be the point.

The beautiful, beautiful point, is I do this work for me. I look for the beautiful to make me feel sane. And if it works for you too, my gosh, let’s cheers with some bubbles. I don’t want to be toxic, I want to be balm. I don’t want to be controlling, I want to be free.

And looking for the beautiful helps me, me, me, my, MINE to do that. That process of healing, of unhooking from other’s drama, of allowing me to stand on my chair, chin up, arms open and up, tears streaming down my cheeks.

I also read this funny article about writing on Medium today. Poet James Avramenko writes about what he’s learned from writing a poem every day for the last six years. I love this nugget of truth that he shares,

  • The ones you like often get no play, the ones you think suck often explode

My most visited post on this blog is about the tv show Friends. I’ve poured out my heart and talked about grief, and shared bravely about MY own stuff. And the light hearted post about my obsession with Friends is most frequently read. The deep stuff gets glossed over and often ignored. I thought last week’s post was awesome. No comments. Crickets. Doubts. Temptations to press delete.

As an artist, that’s frustrating. But James is right. We don’t get it, we just write. We don’t know what’s going to stick and we can’t anticipate the impact. Maybe there is none.

So for this year, I’m changing my intention for the blog. I don’t want to get my help all over you. I want to help myself. Help myself heal, love this magnificent, magical world, build gratitude, dream bigger, and experience new things. I’m going to write about it.

If you feel it’s beautiful, consider sharing. As James also says, “Once it’s in the world, it’s out of your hands.”

Thanks for joining me.

 

 

Ode to the Eggnog Latte

It’s pretty simple this week. I choose to share a poem.

Because I’ve never met an eggnog latte I didn’t like.

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Enter a caption

You come a teasin’ every November first

in pretty red cups, taste buds ready to burst

But you know my rule, hard deadlines a must

no holiday drinks til turkey bones turn dust.

With each pass by coffee shops, a favorite of places,

your scent escapes wafting right in our faces.

The vanilla beans mixing with nutmeg and spice

taunting, ‘You know just one sip might be nice’.

You beckon me bashfully right in the door

breaking rules, pushing boundaries just a little bit more.

“One eggnog latte” this woman requests

ignoring her scruples and feeling distressed.

The coffee comes quickly, in that beautiful cup.

One sip. Sigh. Two. Now drink it all up.

You may be bad for me, BUT you fill me with cheer.

How many magic concoctions will be consumed this year?

Thursday Reflection

Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. Stop on Gold.

I saw this poem in my Facebook feed and just wanted to share it. I love it and I think it is thought provoking. Thinking deeply and critically can be beautiful things. What do you think?

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“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

Naomi Shihab Nye