Author: <span class="vcard">Gudrun</span>

underpetalsWhen I finished the last chapter of the novel draft I’ve been working on, I took a walk on a trail I used to know very well. Things have changed. I pushed through sage, oak and manzanita, whose leaves, branches, and even roots have made the path nearly invisible, but I didn’t mind. Loving the smell of native plants close to my face, I thought, perhaps, it’s best the trail is now so overgrown. I stopped at a point where I have sometimes gotten lost in the past. Wilderness still exists, and this gives me hope.

I returned home to read the last paragraphs of the novel once again. Will these words survive another draft, if there is one? At the time I wrote the ending, I find myself, unexpectedly, crying. If emotions are transient movements, then, does that create the best exit for the book?

That night, I woke up before 5:00 am with a word on my lips from the novel manuscript, and I knew from which chapter the word came. The word came to me, because the word was the wrong word. I was acutely aware, in that moment, why I had been writing and editing so intensely. I wanted to hold the novel inside my being like a poem. Each word in a poem carries water. With the novel such an endeavor has not been totally successful, but the intention to do so was there, nevertheless.

A Novel Excerpt:

             I do not talk about the part of last night’s vision that appeared to foretell a meeting with phoenix. I don’t feel the need to try to explain….Instead, other words come out. ‘Thank you everyone for coming. I had a dream last night. In the dream, there was a part where I saw nothing but light, and the light seemed to chant: I am coyote singing. I am the lion, the vulture, I am all that endures, all that roars, all that is strong, and, most of all, I am grateful to be alive.’ As I repeat these words, light shines around all the walls in the room, along the ceiling and along the shapes of the celebrants. I see myself standing inside the light.

Forthcoming Work The Process of Writing

photoblogI have been contemplating a problem with one of the characters towards the end of the novel. Eventually, I realized that the troublesome character faces similar challenges that I recognize from my youth. When I look back in my life, I see that self-knowledge has been hard won. The ability to self-reflect is a skill that has developed over time, and I am still working on it.

In examining this particular character’s evolution in the book, I am able to see my own life more clearly–areas of weakness, areas of strength and the constant need to keep learning. To see one’s own shortcomings is the first step. Insight cannot come when there is denial or a lack of effort to keep growing.

Now, I look forward to making necessary changes. My approach to working on the final draft of the novel has changed. New ideas have emerged. I celebrate that creative doors open the more I let go of tendencies to contract, to defend, or to be overwhelmed.

While I wait for the rest of the line edited copy of the manuscript, I have ordered my life as much as I can: Bills paid. Social needs and commitments met and enjoyed. I bought extra copy paper and a new gel ink pen. I returned the publisher’s contract.

Once the line edited pages arrived, reality sets in: many long days, the house cluttered with books and stacks of paper on every table surface. Still, I am excited to see improvement. I am happy to note evolution in clarity and purpose. And now I have three days to finish reworking the final chapters, and this draft will be done if the forces of spirit and grace choose to help me do so.

Forthcoming Work The Process of Writing

July 16, 2014

 

palacio            On one of the PBS globe trotting shows, the hostess is in Barcelona. I am seeing locations known by Salvador Dali and Picasso. I am intrigued. I am also reminded of a comment recently made by one of my blog readers. My writing style reminds her more of Latin American and European writers than those of North America. It is not the first time I have heard this, and I was tempted to say, but I’ve never been published in Europe or Latin America. Instead, I listen and consider. Yes, I do love Pablo Neruda, Kafka, Elizabeth Borchers. I have also immersed myself in Kabir and Rumi.

 

I am equally fond of Thomas Merton, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, Leonard Cohen and others. Though labels sometimes get in the way, what cannot be denied is that we love what we love.

 

On today’s walk, picking up deadwood in the forest area of the land under our care, I felt a sweet peace. I was wearing the toe shoes my daughter bought me after I broke my foot and felt well balanced in my stride. I could detect varying textures of earth underneath my feet, which somehow gave me a strong sense of belonging, after so many years of displacement and disruption in my life. This way of walking, that sensation of connection to earth, has a name given by the indigenous people of Borneo, I was told by someone born there—one is said to have “jungle feet.”

junglefeet

July, 17, 2014

 

We had a guest today, a long-time friend, who moved away, leaving a hole in our lives. There wasn’t much time, just enough for a cup of tea and conversation that felt unfinished at the end.

 

How difficult goodbyes can be, bringing to the foreground the direct experience of life’s constant movement. Yesterday, the day seemed solid and steadfast; today, I am faced with a stark sense of impermanence. And yet, there is something more.
The Presence of Absence

Between your departure and absence
my longing to have said what I didn’t
expands through space like a sound
that can’t be heard.
When you drove far away
consciousness extended until the currents
are as subtle
and powerful
as silence.

And between two points of separation
lies a vibrant electromagnetic field..

Can you see the light from my body
surge faster than your car?
Will you know me when I wait to greet you
at your destination?

 

© Gudrun Mouw

A Poem Personal Updates

 

After the Super Moon


We are having monsoon
weather, air heavy and moist,
predicting possible July
thunderstorms and flash floods
to assault our two year drought.

I have taken walks,
protein powder,
and stocked up on vitamins
not knowing, what am I
preparing for?

Watching the bleached-blond hillside,
a mother and fawn
marauding what’s left
of our garden, I sit
suspended.

Do I spread my arms,
yell, or hide?
None of the above.
My silence is not my silence.
This silence moves everything.


(c) Gudrun Mouw, July 14, 2014



 

A Poem

tallStackBooksDuring my college graduate years, I discovered a love for teaching. Much to my surprise I felt myself more alive in front of a classroom. I already knew I wanted to write, because I would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night to write a story or a poem in a lucid, dream-like state as words came pouring out.

So, when I realized I was not just the shy, indrawn person I thought I was as a result of having been assigned to give presentations to classrooms of fellow students, I had a new vision for my writing dream—teach during the school year and write in the summer. Now, I am living that vision. With my weekly teaching responsibilities much reduced for the summer, I am spending my days on the final draft of a novel scheduled for release next year.

When I received the line editor’s copy of the first 94 pages two weeks ago, it appeared to be a daunting task. Fortunately, I had already received her summary letter which gave me encouragement to move quickly through even a threat of paralysis.

Every day I feel consumed by old draft and research boxes, the line editor’s questions and suggested changes, which I know to be helpful and clarifying, but which take some pondering as well as further research. I have awakened during the night more than once with additional questions or, more rarely, with possible answers. The subject matter, also, is emotionally intense, and I am very grateful, at such times, for my background in yoga and my meditation skills. Today, a yoga teacher friend came for brunch and tea, and we did asanas (yoga postures) together. I had not planned to do that, but it was perfect. We both felt relaxed and refreshed afterwards, and I was ready for another work session.

My current situation, as writer and teacher, though it fulfills the vision I had for myself many years ago, as is often the case, also has some unforeseen consequences. Loving what I am doing when I write, I may lose track of time. I may forget to take a break, or to drink enough liquids. It is important for me to keep up my yoga practices, a good exercise program and to maintain a healthy social life.

To be passionate about one’s work feeds the soul. To stay balanced feeds sincerity, which reminds me of one of my favorite raja yoga sutra’s:

           Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to…in all earnestness

–THE YOGA SUTRAS OF PATANJILI

Forthcoming Work The Process of Writing

LotusCloseupMomI finished the final hatha yoga class of the spring series this morning. We don’t usually go this long into the summer, but there had been unique difficulties with space.

After teaching the class, I sat down to continue my contemplation of a verse from the HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA by Swami Muktibodhananda, sent to me by a fellow yoga teacher as a birthday present. Yesterday, I was puzzled when reading the verse about not “bathing in the morning…,” and I also wish to examine further, in the same verse, the instruction about avoiding “tasks which produce pain in the body…” I have violated both “rules” in the last two days. Today, I study Swamiji’s commentary and am relieved to read how she clarifies the first part of the verse by adding that one should not bathe in the morning with cold water when the weather is wintery. I nod, of course.

The second caution, which I try to practice and often relate to my students, about avoiding tasks which produce pain, is sometimes hard for me to follow when I am doing yard work. Years ago, I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. The health practitioner who told me this also said: “You are the most healed patient with this disorder I have ever seen.” When I heard this, I thought I was home free; but every once in a while I see a recurring symptom, especially, when I push myself without realizing I have gone beyond my capacity to finish some outdoor project such as weeding, fire clearance, planting and watering.

Taking a warm bath before teaching the class this morning, however, is something I instinctively did to counteract the back pain resulting from too much yard work the other day, even before reading the clarification. Today’s study of the HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA verse also reminds me of my guru, a raja yoga master. I heard him say more than once, “Yes, there are various ideas a yoga practitioner may find useful to follow, but you might also have to make an adjustment for the sake of your health.” I am grateful that I have not felt the push to blindly adapt arbitrary belief systems.

What I have always loved about being a student and teacher of raja yoga is the encouragement I get to investigate and decide about the many practices and suggestions for myself. No yoga dogma is the happy result. At the same time, I’m aware there is more for me to learn—I need to work shorter hours; I need to work smarter.

Still, if my goal is to experience peace, love and freedom, how can dogma be helpful? My experience of Raja yoga is that it begins with an ethical foundation, moves me through mindful, physical, mental, emotional and energetic explorations with an eye towards an ultimate goal, whether it be samhadi, satori, freedom from suffering, clarity of mind, ease of body, or other visions about what my ideal human experience might be.

 

Gudrun

Personal Updates