the luminous detail
Last Friday night, I was lucky enough to hear a talk by Natalie Goldberg at the Book Passage in Corte Madera. Natalie's book, Writing Down the Bones, has been such an inspiration to me all these years so I was naturally very excited to meet her in person.
She started her talk by telling us to sit and be quiet for a couple minutes, to close our eyes and just be. Then she called a friend who sang a lovely song about a wallflower who wants to dance, and I don't know how it happened but I suddenly felt so alive, so present.
"Sometimes I'm shy, sometimes I'm slow/ I fall out of step, I step on your toe/ I'm wanting to waltz more than you know/ Teach me to waltz."
Of course the feeling doesn't last long because after 5 minutes or so, I started to feel self-conscious and couldn't help but open my eyes to see what the others around me were doing. Why is it so hard to sit and just be, without the mind wandering elsewhere, without feeling the need to do something? I think it's even harder to do this now with the abundance of social media tools and our need to over document everything.
Natalie shared an anecdote about how she decided to start a writing practice by showing up at the same cafe at noon for 7 days and write everything that she sees in front of her without bringing herself in. Do you know how difficult that is, she said. I can only imagine. Speaking from my own experience, the old adage of showing instead of telling is definitely easier said than done. This also reminded of what the poet Ezra Pound said, that the role of the artist is to present the luminous detail but not to comment.
To pay attention, to simply notice. This is my hope for all of us in this month of poetry.