That summer, everything changed in my life. I left New York, a job, a relationship—it was a life I had wanted a great deal, but which was ultimately just not working. I packed up my apartment and office, and boarded a plane to India, where I would travel and live for the next several months. One October evening at an ashram in Rishikesh, a city in Northern India in the foothills of the Himalayas, I waded into the Ganga, tossed flower petals, placed a divo (a small flame in a vessel fashioned from leaves) into the river, and greeted the holy water rushing over my feet—a makeshift birthday ceremony I hoped would help unmoor the past and open new paths into the future. While not a specific Hindu ceremony, this ritual connected me to two earlier, improvised art rituals I undertook in New York, when I began to dismantle my life there. I flung smooth stones gathered from the Rhode Island shore—as well as daisies, dried petals, shells, and even a silver ring into the East River. I had walked the few blocks from my apartment to the river and stood, before emptying my pockets of petals and shells and the silver ring—before flinging all, one by one, in some sort of prayerful gesture. I implored both sky and water for some similar release, transformation, and peace.
NPR, on nostalgia.
For an individual, nostalgia is a function of memory. But for a culture, nostalgia is a kind of travel. It is about somewhere else, somewhere different but vaguely recognizable, another place to look at the sunset. If we were really looking for a time when things felt easier, after all, we wouldn't love times of war and social upheaval; we'd be making shows about the dot-com boom. But we don't, because it isn't different enough yet. It has to be elsewhere; it cannot be here, because we cannot be here, not always, not every day.
What's eternal about nostalgia is the same thing that's eternal about travel: It will always happen, not because what's out there is so special that it will pull us out through the windows, but because what's in here is, at least some of the time, so difficult that it will push us out through the door.
Or, more accurately, I had forgotten my fear — partly seeing that it was no longer appropriate, partly that it had been absurd in the first place. I had no room now for this fear, or for any other fear, because I was filled to the brim with music. And even when it was not literally (audibly) music, there was the music of my muscle-orchestra playing — “the silent music of the body,” in Harvey’s lovely phrase. With this playing, the musicality of my motion, I myself became the music — “You are the music, while the music lasts.”
Mikio Hasui talks about his photography in an interview with FvF.
Words, they’re difficult. I’m not a good writer. When I write, I feel like my thoughts get whittled down, smaller and smaller. With a photograph that I think is beautiful, eight out of ten people will also think it’s beautiful. The other two people may think it’s sad, and that’s okay by me. With words, beautiful is beautiful. You don’t read the word ‘beautiful’ as ‘sad’. The reaction people have to my photos can be unexpected, and I like that.
When I went to shoot these images, it just happened to be foggy. I was thinking, I can’t shoot today. I couldn’t see anything, so I waited a bit for the fog to clear. When the fog lifted for one moment, I saw the mountain, covered with trees in bright autumnal colors. But I was thinking that if the fog wasn’t there, and it was just a mountain covered in autumnal leaves, the experience and shot would’ve been pretty boring. It was beautiful because it was hidden, and because it was only revealed for that one moment, just that one part of the mountain.
I felt like it was a metaphor for my life. I’m living in a fog. Even though I’m facing forward, I’m not sure which direction that is. I don’t belong to or work at a company, and I live life day by day. Sometimes I’m like, is this all right? Is this okay? But that’s the kind of thing everyone thinks about. I wonder what’s ahead. Work, marriage, kids – everyone has those questions. But when you’re inside the fog, when everything is foggy, you can’t see (what’s ahead of you). When that fog lifts and you can see even a bit of something, you’ve got to believe in what you just saw, right? When the fog lifts, there’s that mountain covered in trees with beautiful leaves and colors – you can’t see it right now, but it’s there. You’ve got to believe in that.
I come back to this over and over again. Interview with Mary Oliver (by Krista Tippett of On Being), transcribed.
And also when you write about that — the discipline that creates space for something quite mysterious to happen. You talk about that "wild, silky part of ourselves." You talk about the “part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—a heart of the star as opposed to the shape of the star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious.”
Enjoyed reading this post written by Sandy Stotts: "In Celebration of the Citizenry of All Things Within One World" where he celebrates Henry David Thoreau and Mary Oliver, "two voices that I turn to when I want to hear from and of the earth, which is another way of saying every day."
Who then can resist “sailing
in the rain” on April 22, 1856
or sailing with today’s rain coming
on, or the rippling east wind
and finding that even Henry
tried as he held the tiller
to hold too an umbrella
to keep himself dry? Or
knowing that a sudden
“seizure of happiness”
can come on at walk’s end
on this quietest of mornings?
Rebecca Solnit's "On Finding Time"
The conundrum is that the language to describe the ineffable splendors and possibilities of our lives takes time to master, takes a certain unhurried engagement with the tasks of description, assessment, critique, and conversation; that to speak this slow language you must slow down, and to slow down you must have some inkling of what you will gain by doing so. It’s not an elite language; nomadic and remote tribal peoples are now quite good at picking and choosing from development’s cascade of new toys, and so are some of the cash-poor, culture-rich people in places like Louisiana. Poetry is good training in speaking it, and skepticism is helpful in rejecting the four horsemen of this apocalypse, but they both require a mind that likes to roam around and the time in which to do it.
Ultimately, I believe that slowness is an act of resistance, not because slowness is a good in itself but because of all that it makes room for, the things that don’t get measured and can’t be bought.
Musings on wildness:
One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; you will outlive the bastards.
― Edward Abbey