We Are the Same

Not long ago I had conversations with two different poet friends, both about the connective power of the written word.

Shari Wagner said she sees her poems as vehicles for connecting human to nature, living to dead, young to old. Here’s a lovely example of this, her poem about young Orville and Will Wright, and their dream of flight.

Later that same day, Shannon Siegel spoke of writing as a way of “feeling with” someone, as in a Buddhist meditation. She had read a book called The Golden Theme by Brian McDonald. McDonald asserts that the writer’s essential task is to show our commonalities.
By Mike DelGaudio, via Wikimedia Commons

By Mike DelGaudio, via Wikimedia Commons

Shannon sent me this passage from the book:

“Stories are the collective wisdom of everyone who has ever lived. Your job as a storyteller is not simply to entertain…Your job is to let people know that everyone shares their feelings—and that these feelings bind us. Your job is a healing art, and like all healers, you have a responsibility.

Let people know that they are not alone. You must make people understand that we are all the same.”

In a time when our focus is constantly nudged toward what divides us, it is a tonic to understand that yes, everyone on earth has experienced every single emotion that has ever swept through us.

By Kahuroa at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

By Kahuroa at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Here’s Shannon’s poem, stretched out to you. Do you feel it?
oceans within

Sounds of water…sounds of water…sounds of water…
The Long Way, Moitessier

Memories lock selves
in place, deep within
the cells, those
inner chambers.
Recall rises up
like magic, aroused,
liberated in an instant,
a rush, an echo,
a ripple through time,
a feeling, just a feeling,
something I felt once,
something I felt before,
I feel again, I now feel again.
A swell crashes the shore,
then recedes. Waves
ebb, then flow, an ocean
of promise and possibility
rushing through my veins, life
unfolds with a touch,
a whisper perhaps, a word
spoken, a gaze, a persistent
recurrence of what was,
is now is, again, somehow.
Deflecting logic, defying reason,
this heart sings a joyous
song, thrums love’s lyric,
hums a tender entreaty:
Come with me. This
way. Look for me.
Find me.

—Shannon Siegel, (c) 2013

Finding Refuge

Some days you wake up thinking, What is the point of any of this? Why do I self-inflict all this work, all these expectations? Your writing feels stale, your tasks stretch before you like so much drudgery, your paperwork piles to the ceiling.

And you think: I will never, ever catch up. I will never move through the world without this exhaustion. I will never be able to fully focus on my writing the way I need to.

Then a note appears in your inbox from a woman you contacted months ago. You mailed her your application in slim hope of gaining entry to a selective writers’ retreat miles away. The first words in this email are “I am delighted to inform you…” You read the note again. And again.

And the whole sky can’t contain your gratitude.

By Frank Schulenburg, via Wikimedia Commons

Tomales Bay, which is overlooked by Mesa Refuge from its bluff. Photo by Frank Schulenburg, via Wikimedia Commons.

For two weeks in October, I will reside with two other writers at Mesa Refuge, a retreat for people exploring the intersections of nature, economics, and social equity.

It’s a precious gift—a chance to dive deep.

“The landscape of sky, marsh, and bay flowing to the sea helped concentrate my mind. I loved the quiet. I loved the wild garden overlooking the wetlands below and the hundreds of birds circling above. It is rare and wonderful to feel so quietly cared for—so completely supported and encouraged.”

—former resident Chris Desser

Some of the authors I admire most have found the solitude and focus here to create their transformative books: Michael Pollan. Terry Tempest Williams. Frances Moore Lappé. Natalie Goldberg.

These are writers whose work has changed my life. There are no words adequate to express how honored I am to gain a place in this residency program.

And what a thrill to get this tweet from an alumna today:

Already I feel renewed by a beneficent universe.