A CERTAIN JOY

A pear in a cup. What does it mean? What could it mean? Why is it interesting, even curiously captivating?

Well, to a poet, or to anyone charmed by the unusual combination that stirs the imagination, a pear in a cup could create a certain joy. Yes, joy. The joy of discovery that follows when we are alert and observant and tuned in to the messages of the universe, right?

But, in my case, there is a little story behind this particular pear … this particular cup.

“The final lesson a writer learns is that everything can nourish the writer.
The dictionary, a new word, a voyage, an encounter, a talk on the street, a book, a phrase learned.”
Anais Nin

I did not grow up loving poetry. I did not even love poetry into early adulthood, so I can’t be sure how or why I finally discovered its ability to illuminate the more meaningful layers of life.

Now, however, as a poet, my appreciation for this art form only increases.

Perhaps it is the incomprehensible abundance of words and opinions in our world that seem to weigh us all down emotionally and spiritually; perhaps we see more of the complexities of existence as we mature. The tangled web of darkness and light, for instance. The human quest for truth in an age of nonsensical proclamations. Whatever it is, poetry seems to reach into the very soul of life in ways often difficult to achieve otherwise.

And all of this leads me back to the story … of the pear and the cup.

I found the small, still unripened pear while walking Noah, a beloved schnauzer no longer with us. And the petite white cup had been floating around our house for a few years … blissfully unattached to the other three cups that were part of the “set” we had purchased once upon a time. But, you may rightly wonder, why did I imagine the two seemingly unrelated and disconnected items together. Or did it just happen one day … a fluke, a funny idea? Why, you may also wonder, would I pick up a small (ordinary in every way) pear on the ground and bring it home in the first place … or do you sometimes do things like this, as well?

“We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.”
~ Thomas Merton

I guess I could explain this in several ways but, mostly, I simply felt enchanted by the pear and had no idea what I was going to do with it. It sat on our kitchen ledge for a few days, deepening in color ever so slightly. I sort of forgot about it, actually. But a few days later, it caught my eye again, probably after I’d also seen the small white cup sitting aimlessly on a forgotten shelf. And, thus, this fun pairing was born! Unusual, yes. Yet, the creativity in unusual combinations is endlessly intriguing … at least for many writers, poets, authors, artists, and readers. Of course anyone engaging in research, i.e., scientists, librarians, also will see great merit in looking for that “eureka moment” in unlikely places and situations.

There is a certain joy in this arena of thought. A certain fascination with ordinary items becoming “something new” when paired in less-than-ordinary ways.

But I especially appreciated the creative inspiration of this pairing, enough to take several pictures. Enough to write a poem about it one day. Enough to send the picture to my daughter and ask her to paint it (which she did)! Her painting is framed and on display in our home. I look at it nearly each day with a profound sense of joy, yes, but also with a nod to the unmistakable wisdom of taking the time to actually “see” a small, unripened piece of fruit on the ground (with many other apparently unwanted pieces of fruit). Then to also notice the empty white cup not serving any purpose at all, other than to add “clutter,” right? Haven’t you also had objects in your home that seem to float aimlessly from room to room, shelf to shelf, etc., never really finding a useful purpose? Until one day … they do find a purpose. An artistic and inspirational purpose that no one would have predicted or thought likely.

“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.”
Gustave Flaubert

As you can see from the pictures … I saw this as an opportunity to stretch my imagination, to look for the unspoken, the unseen, even the magical in our very midst … I let my intuition guide me.

So one day, when I decided to write a poem about this experience, I also realized that poetry was something I wanted to spend a lot more time writing. I’d been dabbling in it for quite some time, but that was about it. Now, though, I was feeling strongly drawn to its brevity, depth, precision of thought, the endless juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, seeing what is right before our eyes, yet, missed or overlooked in the mad (sometimes senseless) rush of daily life. Simplicity coupled with complexity also flows from strong poetry and, thus, we are allowed to see more deeply into the days of our lives, but we are also given a glimpse of the inevitable paradox of nearly everything around us.

“You will never find yourself unless you quit preconceiving what you will be when you have found yourself.” ― Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

But, honestly, when it came to my quiet desire to delve into the world of poetry (I’ve mostly been a nonfiction author, to date), it took me quite a while to take myself seriously. At least 10 years, in fact.

Had I read or studied enough poetry to understand the quirks of the genre? Did anyone read poetry anymore, or had the art of verse quietly skittered off the table of life … replaced by fancy phones and such?

In the end, I didn’t have specific answers to such questions, but kept working on poems whenever time allowed. And it felt “right,” so I stayed with it. Becoming a poet was a quiet journey of reflection, but also a matter of trusting my literary instincts to lead me in the best direction. Now, as I look forward to the release of my first collection in July, I have detected a certain joy. A deepening sense of gratitude.

If I hadn’t been open to a nudge from within … if I’d closed the door on my creative instincts … if I’d tried to push myself in other, more expected or safe, directions … my “poems of time” would never have come to life.

I guess there is more than one moral to this story of the pear in the cup.

Publishing details will follow soon.

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits! Since so many of us are busy with summer projects and vacations, I’ve turned off comments for this post. Apologies to anyone who wanted to leave a note or a question. I hope you’ll save your thoughts and ideas until next week …when this story continues!

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

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THE SILENCE OF MORNING

“I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind.
Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.”
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

This is a book about the mystery of existence, a book that transports the reader into many dimensions. Here, there is much to explore about how we find our way when circumstances feel overwhelming, even impossible. We are all on the same journey; this deeply intentional memoir illuminates that very journey. Even if loss is not part of your life today, The Silence of Morning bridges moments and events that time carves out for all of us … one way or another. Just over the next hill, who knows what we will see or encounter. Who knows what we will experience. The unexpected always awaits. D.A. Hickman, author, poet, publisher, and founder of SunnyRoomStudio  

“Daisy’s book is a comfort to a shattered soul…. Only mothers are able to understand the all encompassing love they feel for their child. No poet, no writer yet has been able to articulate the dynamic of how it feels in the seconds that a mother’s love is intruded upon by unbearable agony. Mothers are supposed to be able to handle everything right up until the second they cannot. We expect that of ourselves. The loss of a child is not just hard, it’s impossible. Our losses take many forms: death, mental illness, addiction, abandonment. The darkest of hours come and go, and comfort can be elusive. Waves of second guessing and unbearable grief wash over a bereaved mother at unexpected moments. The Silence of the Morning is a wonderful companion in those most unmanageable of moments. Thanks, Daisy, I love your book. Peace.” ~ Deborah Twiss Ervin

Since this is Mother’s Day weekend, I wanted to share a few of the incredible reader comments from Amazon regarding my memoir about the loss of my son: THE SILENCE OF MORNING: A Memoir of Time Undone. The absence of a son or a daughter is more noticeable on days that focus on parent-child relationships. Yet, curiously, everyone feels that absence differently. I try to do something positive with calendar dates, because, after all, nearly everyone out there is coping with “something.” It may be unspoken, it may not be conscious, it may not feel quite as devastating as loss, but in the end, suffering is suffering. And being there for others is one of the best ways to contend with personal pain. It may take time to find that kind of energy again after we lose someone we love; it may take longer than we can even imagine. But … when we are patient, the urge to share hard-earned wisdom and comfort returns.

I am the mother of a 19-year-old son whom I lost to an alcohol and pill overdose (possible suicide) in 2014. After the tragedy of Michael’s death, I read several books about the loss of a child but I couldn’t really find one which captured what I was feeling … until I read Daisy Hickman’s book! To quote a phrase from this remarkable book: ‘The searing pain of debilitating sorrow.’ There were so many feelings put into words that I felt she was speaking things I couldn’t describe. This is definitely the most heartfelt, honest, and inspiring book which I have ever read. One does not need to be a bereaved parent to benefit from reading The Silence of Morning. Truly amazing. ~ Kathy Conway Rath

When Matthew’s life came to a close, he was 27. It is 10 years later; and yes, he would be 37 now. Difficult for me to imagine, as the passage of time is so ghost-like. Saying I miss him, is true, but saying we “get over” grief or loss, or “move on” isn’t true. These are popular phrases that sound cold and out of context; they are words we say when we don’t know the deeper story of life and loss. What actually happens after loss is that we learn how to bring the person along with us.  Through our work, our creative energies, our gifts to others, and through our stories. THE SILENCE OF MORNING was written over a 7-year period; it was exhausting … it was joyful … it was incredibly meaningful and moving. 

“D.A. Hickman’s book, THE SILENCE OF MORNING: A MEMOIR OF TIME UNDONE, is beyond revealing. An exquisite account of a young life that ended all too soon, the story includes the events leading up to, including, and the aftermath of her son Matthew’s death by suicide. In the unfolding narrative, the reader steps as close as possible to surviving tragic personal loss and ensuing anguish, without having to possess firsthand awareness or experiential footing.

When the unthinkable happens—a phone call delivers the news of her son’s death—a detonator pin is pulled, causing an emotional implosion that sends shock waves slamming through the author. The aftermath is much like learning to live again without a vital organ, only it’s much more devastating—it’s learning to live again without a son.

Not succumbing to social norms—pat remedies, mind-based attempts at closure, and getting on with one’s life—it’s in the hollowed out spaces that Hickman is able to find solace, strength to process, and slowly and quietly nurtures, curates, and finds herself again.

Though we bloom briefly, then fade, the universe always returning to itself, when we allow life to touch us deeply, even in sorrow, somehow, it extends our mortal view, and our glory. —D.A. Hickman

A timeless journey, THE SILENCE OF MORNING: A MEMOIR OF TIME UNDONE offers light where there’s dark, courage where there’s fear, peace where there’s distress, and hope where there’s none.” ~ Laurie Buchanan, PhD

We are more than our losses; we are resilient. And loss, when understood at the level of soul, transforms us. If we allow it; if we dedicate ourselves to understanding the path of life; and if we find the courage to explore the deepest life mysteries that inevitably become more compelling during times of profound grief. The invitation to explore anew the aspects of life we have always shied away from is part of the grief-experience. But it is only an invitation. Noticing it, accepting it, and growing with it … those things are up to us as individuals. I hope if you are feeling the pull of the universe to better understand the deeper aspects of existence that you decide to explore those feelings. Your intuition will guide you. The love for those you have lost will also guide you. 

“How does one deal with the death of a child? Author and mother, Daisy Hickman, explores addiction and the deep, inner entanglement she found herself in when at 27 years of age, her son Matt, took his own life. Through intense grief we follow her on a journey of looking honestly at addiction and suicide, asking difficult questions, and looking for answers that only a quest for spiritual connection can bring her. A must read for those dealing with children who are crossing the line into drug and alcohol use.” ~ Joan Z. Rough

As I was working on this book, I was also working on a book of poetry. Slowly but surely. Feeling drawn to a genre that allowed me to explore everything I was learning and experiencing along the way was a gift, I’m sure. Creativity opens many doors to the things we are thinking about or feeling on a variety of levels. Poetry, with its brevity, gave me yet another way to dig more deeply into time — its power and allure, its firm, halting nature, its constant chiming in the background. Like a train moving in our direction ever-so-slowly … we can always sense our own end days on some level, can’t we? My book of poetry will be released in late June. Soon I will share the title and the cover. I have a feeling you will find both intriguing and, hopefully, beautiful.

“As a memoirist, I’ve read my share of memoirs. The Silence of Morning accomplishes what every writer tries to, but not always successfully. D.A. Hickman’s story is brutally honest. She takes us to the bone of her personal tragedy and the journey to not only live through it, but to learn to thrive again. We’ve all suffered losses, some bigger than others. When we’re told by well-meaning people that time heals all wounds, yet, we know they are wrong and hope they never have to endure the same. Time and depth of character might provide us with insights and tools to get up every morning and live the life we’ve been given. We may never know why we were chosen to endure the worst, but in Hickman’s case, it may have been to rise above her personal and private pain and share her hard-earned insights with others who may not have made it to shore. I recommend this book to everyone.” ~ Camille Cole

So, Matthew, know that you are always in my thoughts … not just on special days, or holidays stipulated by the calendar. You have been with me since the end … and since the beginning … if that makes sense. You inspire me to write and to share your story with love and concern for the human condition and all that that implies. My book of poetry has several poems written about you or about the experience of your loss. Though you aren’t here to read them, our lives are forever intertwined, and I’m quite sure these poems would not surprise you or puzzle you. You were never a “big reader,” but you had a gentle heart and an old soul. You also had trouble fitting those qualities into today’s world. The same thing happens to so many other people. We are all born into the confusion and angst of the human condition; finding our way can be extremely challenging when external circumstances don’t fit our perceptions.

“I highly recommend Daisy A. Hickman ‘s book, The Silence of Morning. Daisy shares with us the excruciating loss of her amazing son (a suicide) and weaves in the raw truth of the influence and complicity of our addictive society. Addiction in its many forms touches far too many families. The wake of addiction’s destruction calls us all to come together for transformational change. I hope you will purchase Daisy’s book, read it and then reflect as I am on what is possible.” — Audrey Denecke

As I wrote in the book: “So what, after all, is left to be said after a sudden death–when everyone departs and you are frightened and alone like never before? Only this. ‘Your voice, my friend, wanders in my heart like the muffled sound of the sea among the listening pines’ (Stray Birds, Tagore). A spiritual voice that seamlessly finds expression within mine–not only in this book, but during each moment. A voice that, one day, will merge with eternity, providing the elegant continuity nature seeks and displays, as if perpetually eager for the next second, the next ray of sunshine, the next apple blossom. And I am comforted by this miracle of life, overwhelmed by its exquisite beauty, soothed by the bright and brilliant love a young mother once knew (and still knows) for her newborn son named Matthew. An indestructible force that, yes, is nature’s secret.”

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend filled with meaning and the eagerness to explore the deepest life mysteries … no matter where the search takes you. It certainly took me to places unknown.  

“Through our mortality we all share the burden of grief, along with its inevitable light. Thus, to speak of healing is to speak of something that impacts humanity as a whole, and despite the seemingly haphazard nature of everything, I sense we are all growing toward something ineffable. Even my awareness feels sacred, undeserved. Letting go of notions of ‘personal healing’ is to embrace a much bigger idea by looking within for a boundless essence that, containing everything, needs no healing at all.” ~ The Silence of Morning (from the Afterword)

AUTHOR INTERVIEW : “We Need Memoir” (posted by author Richard Gilbert on his wonderful blog: Draft No. 4)

FIND the book on Amazon (print or Kindle): The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone

“I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. It is possible, in deep space, to sail on solar wind. Hone and spread your spirit till you yourself are a sail, whetted, translucent, broadside to the merest puff.”
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Thanks for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
See you again in a few weeks.

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WRITING WITH PURPOSE

WHEN a poem, a chapter, a book begin to take shape … it can feel like a revelation. “Something” is there … but what? We wait. And wait. And most of all, we listen. To the wind. To the silent clouds. To the birds or the voices in a dream. To whatever seems suddenly … there. Where were those insights before? What is it about time that causes the wind to shift … internally? Or … do we imagine the entire process in the first place? Questions of time and awareness may not be on the minds of too many people, but, perhaps, they should be … perhaps.

“If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.”
Leo Tolstoy, Essays, Letters and Miscellanies

Maybe, however, those of us called to the writing table are simply more persistently drawn to the mysteries of life.

The existential. The vague, the fleeting, the profound. The intuitive nudge. Nascent, yet, compelling ideas that seem to defy expression on the page.

The motivation to explore the poignant depths of the human experience flow, for me, from a desire to escape the trite, repetitive nature of generic information that seems to be everywhere. Surface analysis. Superficial analysis. Nothing that actually manages to penetrate the darkness of existence. The interminable suffering. Or human nature and how it never seems to evolve, not much … anyway. Layers of unspoken observations no one dares to “see.” Ideas of “polite” conversation bordering on ridiculous, boring, artificial and compliant, even nonsensical.

“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.” ― Voltaire

Writers are gardeners.

Always tending to a sentence, carefully choosing words, lest confusion or misunderstanding flow from the page. An urge that seems to beckon from somewhere beyond time itself, the need to write can feel like being trapped in a funny dream that won’t let me wake up until the story (nonfiction, fiction, memoir, poetry, essay) is told.

What to make of all of this?

“What makes you think human beings are sentient and aware? There’s no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told-and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity … .” ― Michael Crichton, The Lost World

Yes, conformity is clearly something most writers shun.

While formula fiction exists and certain themes are grossly overworked (just walk through any bookstore or browse online), when I set out to write it’s because I want to find the creative edge. The place I haven’t gone before in the creative sense. It’s an adventure, a challenge, an opportunity to explore the depths of the soul.

“Rather than being your thoughts and emotions, be the awareness behind them.”
Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

What questions motivate you to dig deeper, to move beyond the repetitive dictates of your mind? How might you explore them anew? While this kind of thing may not be at the top of your to-do list, why not put it there … why not?

Maybe that is the secret to life. We’ll never know, for certain, but I can’t help but believe that our true purpose is something other than we think it is. So each time I encounter the blank page, I write with this in mind. Try to push myself to find the kernel of truth in an experience, an encounter, a feeling that comes and goes so quickly, I can’t quite catch it. When I write poetry, for example, the last line often comes to me just when I think the poem will never fully reveal itself. To me, to readers. A fascinating process I could never tire of or take for granted. One that begs for patience and persistence. One that honors the mysterious layers of intelligence that surround us.

The funny thing is that seeking awareness doesn’t require a great deal of “seeking.” It simply requires an openness to encountering whatever is unknown, and that is nearly everything. ~ dh

“All it takes for generosity to flow is awareness. By actively pursuing awareness and knowledge, we can make choices that cause less harm and greater good to others in the global community of our shared earth.”
Zoe Weil, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life

Thanks for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
See you again in a few weeks.

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READING EDWARD HIRSCH

His son was named Gabriel, and when esteemed poet Edward Hirsch decided to write about his son’s untimely death, the elegy grew into a book-length poem. Of course, it is called Gabriel.

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For me, this was a captivating piece of work. Like an artist painting a portrait with features so very real, Hirsch describes his son in vivid detail, often including snippets of conversation. The words exchanged with Gabriel are telling. I sensed the energy of the continual “trying” that seemed to envelope their relationship; Gabriel’s restless behavior patterns encumbering them like an unwanted third party in their familial relationship. Attempting to  connect with someone in this context can be exhausting. Like trying in vain to see a person’s face through a dense fog. Like imagining personal lifelines that are frayed, or nonexistent. I also sensed the love that existed between father and son. Despite it all, there was enormous caring and concern. I hope you’ll read this book. Offering profound insight into the human condition, Gabriel: A POEM, is much more than a wonderful literary contribution. It is a story of loss that conveys the tragedy of what can’t be fixed or healed for reasons unknown. And many things in life are like that. Human limitations abound. It’s just who we are: all of us. ~ dh

Edward Hirsch has published eight books of poetry, five books of prose. He is also president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. From the book jacket (Knopf, 2014): “His landmark poem enters the broad stream of human grief and raises in us the strange hope, even consolation, that we find in the writer’s act of witnessing and transformation.”

Gabriel-Individual-Book-Image

Has grief shaped your artistic efforts?
Has loss found its way into your life?
Can poetry help us to better understand the fragility of the human condition?
 
Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
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A TIME, A PLACE

I’m working on poetry this month. Editing, writing, editing. Until the lines stay put in a way that feels right, and true, and possibly even, poetic. I’ve read about poets who stick with a first draft, period. Good for them. Every now and then a poem arrives like a gift, and only minor tweaking is ever needed. But not on a routine basis. Usually, like fine wine, a poem needs time. And if I’m dedicated, returning to it now and then and not rushing the process, it will eventually reveal itself to me … often in surprising ways.

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and
poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
― Leonardo da Vinci

The creative process, when it works, is actually quite enjoyable. Lines of poetry can feel like an invitation to another world: another time or place. But I have to be a good listener to write a poem I truly love. Does that sound strange, or unexpected? If you’re a writer, I’m sure you know that all forms of writing involve listening. But knowing this doesn’t mean I won’t forget; it’s all too easy to get in my own way. To assume where a poem is going. To fall in love with a certain word, or a line, refusing to hit the delete key.

IMG-20130605-01202“A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness.”
Robert Frost

Frost is correct. A poem begins in the far reaches of my consciousness, and only when I’m a patient listener does writing become fruitful, focused, and rewarding. Sometimes a new poem begins with a question, one that can’t possibly be answered. Still, I must begin. I must grapple with the question knowing there is no precise resolution. But eventually, I hit upon a single word that seems to point me in the right direction. Somehow I know to follow that word … somewhere.

  • If you write prose or poetry or both, what is your process? Has it changed over the years or not really?

Finding the right title for a poem is also interesting. Sometimes a title seems perfect, but hours later, it goes by the wayside. Perhaps it’s just a little off-center, doesn’t quite hit the mark: illuminating the essence of the poem. Then, sometimes in the middle of the night, a better title surfaces. When I’m lucky, I write it down, so the idea isn’t forgotten by morning.

The poet doesn’t invent. He listens.
~Jean Cocteau

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Long story short, writing poetry is a bit like waiting for rain. Sometimes a dry spell is prolonged. Luckily, since it’s National Poetry Month, I’ve been inspired to stay with the process — to dig in and tackle poems that still need “something,” to write new ones, striving to get at the core of the poem in ways that are unique and compelling. Listening for nuance, for a deeper truth. It’s nearly always there. And if I’m persistent, something new is born. My reward? Creative joy, a feeling of grace and lightness, a sense of completion.

“Summer night–
even the stars
are whispering to each other.”
Kobayashi Issa

  • I also write prose, but love dedicating time to poetry; it pulls something different from me — insisting on many things. Wouldn’t the world benefit greatly from more poetry, more readers and students of poetry? Doesn’t a good poem leave you in awe, in a state of wonder?

  Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.
Jack Kerouac

Thanks so much for dropping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. But now, it’s back to work. Despite inevitable moments of poetic frustration, the stars seem aligned just so this month, and I’m deeply grateful for those lines that take me (and hopefully, others) to a certain time and place. One I can’t reach any other way. Poetry helps us feel our way through life, doesn’t it? Taking us beyond the rough edges into a bright, sacred space that is momentarily captured, then released. Thanks again, see you next Friday, April 24th. ~ dh

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