Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Riverbed


If you have taken this rubble for my past
raking through it for fragments you could sell
know that I long ago moved on
deeper into the heart of the matter

If you think you can grasp me, think again:
my story flows in more than one direction
a delta springing from the riverbed
with its five fingers spread

~~Adrienne Rich (1989)

Poet Adrienne Rich writes from the soul, often questioning the falsity and destructiveness of societal expectations, a pioneer unafraid to resist the tide so prescribed by the majority. Similarly, I share a conflict that she endured in her past, a roadblock that seems to linger in my conscience almost continuously—that life’s responsibilities often threaten one’s art, one’s growth, one’s self.

Still, with two children and a marriage, Rich pushed forward, attempting to shed light on the deep thoughts and struggles of contemporary woman, a task that seems daunting to some, natural to others. For me, I find this to be a rather natural extension of self. This, perhaps, is due to what I perceive as a vastly complex adulthood, one mottled with a sweeping array of peaks and valleys.

Many of them are rather fulfilling and comforting—relationships with highly introspective, strong women who’ve served as sounding boards and personal mentors. Some are rather fulfilling and crestfallen—relationships with pensive and brooding men who’ve coveted high honors for their writing successes but could not figure out interpersonal skills.

And then there are the pitfalls of nature, life events that have molded me, for better and for worse. It is with pride that I wear this tapestry of affairs—positive, negative, Switzerland—for every moment had made me into the woman I am today.
In the end, however, this expansive reservoir of experiences has allowed me to question the sheep, those who follow paths without ever knowing what awaits us on the other side. Those who follow standard procedure because, well, that’s what good girls and boys do. They fear change, fear letting go, fear riding the bike with the dog in the baby seat and not giving a shiitake mushroom about what the neighbors think.

Several years ago, I was fortunate to hear Rich speak at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, a haven for beatniks, scholars, free thinkers, risk takers. And the clarity and conviction in her voice remains as a haunting image to me. The unblemished articulation, the emphasis on pause, the depth of vernacular that pierces the tongues of those who get it, of those who want to get it and are trying so desperately.

For my story, too, flows in more than one direction. I cannot be totally grasped by anyone, even my best friends, my mentors, my parents, my husband. Myself. For as each day passes, I continue to evolve into the person I was meant to be, the person who has learned to use her own rubble to rebuild a stronger, more focused woman, a more passionate writer, a more loyal soldier to her charge.

So when he tells me that he had 10 meetings in 8 hours, I want to say: Why? Why do we live like this? Why can we not escape the trappings of corporate, the rigid rules of institution, the repressive collar that chokes the sprinting dog in all of us?

I cannot fathom such restrictions in life, people telling me who I should be, how I should be living. That's why I silently howl that I am the starving animal who must run to the riverbed, drink in its springs, satisfy the thirst that lives within. Keep your leash, for I will not even sniff at the collar. You can wear it; you can live it; you can die in it.

Not I. Not I ever, for I move on, deeper to the heart of the matter, the heart of living.


KJ Birdsong said...

I would love to venture inside your mind and see the world from your perspective--I frequently ponder what things look like through your sapient eyes. Of your insight, I am in awe.

As always, thank you for providing us with a morsel of your beaming light in your writing.

Denise said...

Little Bird: If I could create a mini-me, she would gingerly follow in your path. I think we should collaborate on something some day...

KJ Birdsong said...

Wow. Some day, when my writing ability can comparatively correlate with your's, that would be the most tremendous honor.