The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Sixteen — Mary Oliver

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Mary Oliver asked that I meet her on the footbridge over the creek in the east garden before she checks into her suite. I sense a bit of uncertainty as is sometimes common with those who have suffered from a long illness. As I approach her, she turns to face me.

“Good morning Ms Oliver. May I address you as Mary?”

“Yes. Please do, Mr…?”

“My name is Socrates Black, but please call me Socrates. Welcome to the Inn Of Inspiration. I am the Gate Keeper and the one who invited you here. I know you have many questions and I will do my best to answer all of them in time.”

“I thought I was cured of the cancer. The last thing I remember was lying in my bed. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My lungs burned. When I opened my eyes again I was here in this beautiful place of nature. Is this heaven Socrates?”

“No Mary. There is no heaven or hell in actuality. They exist only metaphorically. The energy that is you, your life, to use the term loosely, is still alive in this place of transition.”

“For years and years I struggled just to love my life. And then the butterfly rose, weightless, in the wind. ‘Don’t love your life too much,’ it said, and vanished into the world. Am I now a part of that world? Did I love my life too much?”

“Yes Mary. You have always been and always will be a part of that and this world. They are different and the same as are you. As far as your second question, the answer is no. You inspire in others the ability to love their lives and themselves more. In the end we all must learn to let go.”

“In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.”

“You not only when out into the world. You created worlds. You saw the world with poetic eyes and then translated that vision into words to assist others to see the world differently, with different eyes.”

“I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done.”

“There is nothing else my dear poetess. So many people miss so much because they do not pay attention. They are too busy being busy with their lives to notice the fragile leaf or pattern of the butterfly’s wing”

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work is it not Socrates.”

“Yes it is Mary.”

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder if I have made of my life something particular, and real. I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, or full of argument. I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”

“You partake in this world much more than most human inhabitants Mary. You commune with the life of this world be that life a bear, a butterfly, a duck, or a grasshopper. You reach out to them with your life’s spirit, they receive you and give back to you themselves.”

“The end of life has its own nature, also worth our attention. I don’t say this without reckoning in the sorrow, the worry, the many diminishments. But surely it is then that a person’s character shines or glooms.”

“Unfortunately for most people it takes that long before they come into their own being. They glide along life’s surfaces never choosing to go deeper into the world of which we all are an integral part. I remember the last stanza from your poem The Journey which I read during my time at Esalen and which became a personal guide in my own life. ‘And there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do —  determined to save the only life you could save.’”

“You read my poetry Socrates?”

“Yes, Mary. Your words are a gift to the world. I am honored to say I have read most of your body of work and I look forward to reading the poetry you create and inspire here. In fact, I would like you to give a reading for the guests some evening. Stanley Kunitz, May Sarton, Emily Dickinson and many more have been awaiting your arrival. They know I extended you an invitation.”

“Are you a poet Socrates?”

“Yes Mary I am. At least I think of myself as more of a poet than an essayist. I do both. I think the poet requires a gentle spirit which we both share. The poet writes not to influence the reader, although that is often the end result, but simple to share a part of his/her vision and experience of the world.”

“I feel the same Socrates, but If you are too much like myself, what shall I learn of you, or you of me? Perhaps in either case you will share your words with me someday?”

“It will be my pleasure to share my poetry with you Mary. There is still much we can learn from one another no matter how similar our natures are. I find, and perhaps you do also, that the creative process for the poet or any creative person requires an amount of solitude that the non creative person does not understand. I want to assure you my dear lady, your time here is truly your own. You will be able to create without outside interruption.”

“Thank you Socrates for inviting me here. In my life so often I am at my desk. It is a silver morning like any other. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again is so important to the creative individual. There is no other way work of artistic worth can be done. And the occasional success, to the striver, is worth everything. The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

“You will find no such individuals here Mary. The air here is rich with the energies of inspiration and creativity.”

“I believe I know myself rather well Socrates and my loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.”

“You will find Mary all of the guests here share your view. It is one of the reasons we do not have time in this pastoral place.”

Mary continues her thought. “But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.”

“Here at the Inn Mary, all of your external needs are taken care of with just your thoughts. Your imagination replaces, if you wish, the habits of your physical existence. At one time during my life I had an encounter with a patron at the library where I worked. After I assisted her with her book selection, she started looking in her handbag for her car keys. O’ here they are,” she exclaimed. “Just where I always put them. When you reach my age a good habit is better than a fading memory.” For her it was absolutely true. Your transition will take some time, but I believe you will eventually find yourself free of most unnecessary habits.”

“The different and the novel are sweet, but regularity and repetition I find are also teachers… And if you have no ceremony, no habits, which may be opulent or may be simple but are exact and rigorous and familiar, how can you reach toward the actuality of faith, or even a moral life, except vaguely? The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real. In the shapeliness of a life, habit plays its sovereign role… Most people take action by habit in small things more often than in important things, for it’s the simple matters that get done readily, while the more somber and interesting, taking more effort and being more complex, often must wait for another day. Thus, we could improve ourselves quite well by habit, by its judicious assistance, but it’s more likely that habits rule us.”

“I completely agree with what your say Mary. Our habits are also teachers. Perhaps the issue here is one of semantics. Here at the Inn you are free of the habits which ruled your physical life. I like the word ceremony or ritual over habit because a ceremony requires attention, while most habits are automatic. At the Inn, the automatic is taken care of for you. You are freer to engage more in the ceremonies supportive of your own creative energies. You asked about my own poetry. Perhaps this simple poem will explain what I mean. ‘The Ritual’ is the title.

It seems
ritualistic,
the way I step
across the bench,
face the sky,
squat down,
adjust my hips,
straighten my back,
and breathe deeply.
All to just sit—
and listen
to the sea.

“Yes Socrates. I understand. You are a poet. It has frequently been remarked, about my own writings, that I emphasize the notion of attention. This began simply enough: to see that the way the flicker flies is greatly different from the way the swallow plays in the golden air of summer. It was my pleasure to notice such things… Attention without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report. An openness – an empathy – is necessary if the attention is to matter. In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities. Ritual is a part of the creative process whereas habits may sometime be a distraction from the creative process. Thank you my new friend.”

“It is my pleasure always Mary, but please tell me now, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life now?”

“O’ Socrates. Only the philosopher poet would ask me that question using my own words. I am still eager to address the world of words – to address the world with words. There is instilled in me this deeper level of looking and working, of seeing through the heavenly visibles to the heavenly invisibles.”

“Again. Welcome my poetess. Shall we join the others?”

“Yes, by all means let us do so.”

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F9E4CC3F-0C63-44E1-90C7-90A30C893522 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Seventeen — Randy Punch will be published on February 24, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark. 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Fifteen — Steve Jobs

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I am walking through the art studio at the far end of the lake. The visual artists love this area. They create freely here from their own inspiration and that of their fellow guests. Picasso is in one corner painting an abstract portrait of his mistress, Adriana. I have never understood his art but I have great respect and admiration for his creativity and imagination. I think he must add a little something to his tea throughout the day to see the world as he does, but that does not matter. He graciously nods at my presence before returning to his task at hand. Unless asked for my opinion, I do not disturbe an artist in the mist of his/her work.

I walk out into the garden. The white Easter Lillys are in full display swaying gently in the warm breeze. The small creek is full of tadpoles anxious to become frogs and turtles who bask in the sun on an old fallen tree branch. I notice Steve Jobs sitting quietly in one of the forest alcoves. He waves for me to come over.

“Good morning Socrates. What a beautiful day.”

Yes it is Steve. How are you doing?

I am well Socrates. Thank you. I have been completely free of any physical pain since my arrival… Socrates. May I ask you a question and will you answer truthfully?

“Yes and yes.”

“I know I did not want to die. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. “

“That is all true Steve, but what is your question.”

“Socrates. Am I dead?”

I paused for a moment before answering because I realize Steve’s fragility, as he is newly arrived here. “Yes Steve your body is dead.” Before I can explain further, Steve interrupts.

“What of this body?” Steve pounds his chest. “It is solid and healthy. I am pain free for the first time in…” Steve stops in mid sentence. “How long have I been here?”

“Time is not measured here Steve so I am unable to answer your last question. You are in transition. The pain free body you have now is based on the memories of your body from when you were still alive. You are your same consciousness but in a transitional body.”

“The last thing I remember was being surrounded by Laurene and the kids. I tried to remain conscious despite the medications. Remembering that I will be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that I am going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking I had something to lose. There is no reason for one not to follow his own heart.”

“And that is exactly what you did Steve. You changed the world by following your heart. I had a similar experience myself during a recent heart attack. You realize nothing else really matters in the pursuit of your life. Everyone else is a guest in your life. You assign their roles and importance.”

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward but you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

“That simple approach to life is still true here Steve. We can only understand life by looking backwards, through it.”

“Where is here, Socrates?”

“This place is not a location. You are a guest at the Inn of Inspiration so you might continue with your creativity and expand upon your imagination. As you know all of the guests here are very creative in different fields of art, music, literature, politics, and science like yourself.”

“I know creativity is just a matter of connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

“You helped many creative individuals realize that truth Steve. You inspired and provided the tools for inspiration to an entire planet of people. You helped connected the citizens of the planet with the same interconnected circuitry you used in the tools you developed.”

“I realized when I got ill how my time on earth is limited so I refused to waste it living someone else’s life. I refused to be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. I refused to let the noise of others’ opinions drown out my own inner voice. And most important, I had the courage to follow my heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“Exactly Steve, exactly.”

“One more thing Socrates if you don’t mind. How long can I stay at this beautiful Inn sharing time with so many gifted and talented individuals.”

“As I am the Gate Keeper here at the Inn Steve and you are here at my invitation, you are free to stay until you are ready to transition solely into spirit.”

“Thank you for your time and insights Socrates. I made plans to meet with Picasso and Adriana for tea and I see they are waiting by the lake. I would not like to keep them waiting any longer. Why don’t you join us. I understand Picasso makes a “spirited” cup of tea.

“Thank you Steve. It will be my pleasure.”

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fa30726e-80c4-46be-a93b-c86437e7d8e2 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Sixteen — Mary Oliver will be published on Sunday, February 03, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark.  

 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Fourteen — William Blake

85E45954-28E8-4929-9FA3-F1D1898277AFOne of my everyday joys is walking around the lake. The grey cobblestoned trail is the equivalent of the yellow brick road. It carries my body wherever my thoughts wish to take me. This walking meditation awakens me to the new and unfamiliar parts of my being. I asked the caretaker to extend the trail up to my cave so it might be easier to reach when it rains. This morning I am planning to walk it for the first time. Like my cave, the trail is only visible to me. To other guests it appears as dense undergrowth and forest. However, before reaching the new trail I see William Blake pacing in one of the wooded alcoves. 

“Good Morning William. I hope I am not intruding. I saw you from the path. We have not spoken for a while. How are you my friend?”

“Socrates. No, you are not an intrusion. I am very happy to see you.”

Socrates knows William is an intense personality. It is from this seeming endless energy his creativity is derived. 

William continues, “I am well Socrates. Thank you my friend. And you?”

“I am also well William. From my observation you seem a bit perplexed. Is there anything I might assist you with?”

“Yes, there is Socrates. I was wondering, as usual, about the duality of the body and soul. Although the body is gone after death, I believe the soul continues to live. I know that our deceased friends are more really with us than when they were apparent to our mortal part. Thirteen years ago I lost a brother, and with his spirit I converse daily and hourly in the spirit, and see him in my remembrance, in the region of my imagination. I hear his advice, and even now write from his dictate. People think I am insane.”

“I have had similar experiences following the loss of loved ones. The body is mortal but the soul is eternal. You are not insane William and no one here thinks you are.”

“Thank you Socrates for your support. I cannot help myself. In this mortal life I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man’s. I will not reason and compare, my business is to create. I wish to do nothing for profit. I wish to live for art.”

“And you do William. Everyone here is enamored with your poetry, your painting, and drawings. Your creativity is beyond the realms of mortal man. It comes from your soul.”

“I believe part of the problem is first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged: this I shall do by printing in the infernal method by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite which was hid.”

“Your poetry does that as well William. It examines the nature of mankind and slowly peels away the layers of his existence until his core, his soul is reached. Your description of heaven and hell were instrumental in my understanding of mankind’s multilevel nature. We are not our bodies and unfortunately most of us lack understanding and appreciation of the soul’s role in our creativity and inspiration.”

“I think that is the problem I have with organized religion. It only examines mankind’s human behaviors and attempts to control his natural desires with outdated rules of morality. Men are admitted into heaven not because they have curbed and governd their passions or have no passions but because they have cultivated their understandings. The treasures of heaven are not negations of passion but realities of intellect from which all the passions emanate uncurbed in their eternal glory.”

“Once again I agree William. Inspiration and creativity come from the soul. You are an example of the creativity which is possible in man once he has discovered and accessed his own soul.”

“You never know what is enough until you know what is too much. I have not reached that point of my soul being one hundred saturated with the spirit of God yet Socrates. My creativity knows no bounds.”

“It is that spirit which is an inspiration to everyone here.”

“Thank you for your time and insights Socrates. I am ready to return to my studio. I am ready to record the undertakings of my soul. I know some think I am foolish but I do not care.”

“No one sees and records the soul’s creative processes better than you William.”

“I must only remember the tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way…A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.”

“True. So very true. My wise friend.”

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26d035f1-fb0d-421c-ba53-0d50579fe158 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Fifteen — Steve Jobs will be published on Sunday, January 20, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by   Emilee Petersmark.  

 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Thirteen — Virginia Woolf

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William and I are walking toward the massive front doors of the Library when a hand softly grabs my arm from behind.

“Socrates. Might you have a moment?”

I turn to see Virginia Woolf standing stunningly behind me with a stack of books under one arm, but before I can respond, I hear from William.

“Please go ahead Socrates. We can continue our discussion of truth another time. Good evening Virginia. I will see you both later at the evening’s event.”

“Thank you William. Please excuse my interruption.”

“No problem at all my dear lady.” William opens one of the Library’s doors and leaves.

“I so love this Library Socrates. It has every book I will ever want to read and I have all the time there is to read them. This is a book lover’s heaven. I have sometimes dreamt that when the Day of Judgment dawns — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say when he sees us coming with our books under our arms, ‘Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.’”

“I agree Virginia. This is where I come to listen, to connect the silent energy between the word and the brain. The voices here speak in whispers audible only to those who truly listen. The voices of all those who have ever put ink to paper speak to you here and are silent when one does not need their intervention.”

“This is what concerns me Socrates. I do not know my voice. One moment it is this. The next moment it is that. Polar opposites exist in this, my one body.”

“Do you think this tension of opposites is detrimental to your creativity?”

“No I do not. I believe in each of us two powers preside, one male, one female… The androgynous mind is resonant and porous… naturally creative, incandescent and undivided.”

“True Virginia. Then why fear it? Perhaps you should continue with your examination of your own words.”

“I want my writings to be true Socrates, but how much of the truth do I tell? Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition will not need to be told the story in detail; how he wrote and it seemed good; read and it seemed vile; corrected and tore up; cut out; put in; was in ecstasy; in despair; had his good nights and bad mornings; snatched at ideas and lost them; saw his book plain before him and it vanished; acted people’s parts as he ate; mouthed them as he walked; now cried; now laughed; vacillated between this style and that; now preferred the heroic and pompous; next the plain and simple; now the vales of Tempe; then the fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”

“This again is all true Virginia. So I must ask the question, ‘For whom do you write?’”

“The habit of writing thus for my own eye only is good practice. It loosens the ligaments… What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through. I should like to come back, after a year or two, and find that the collection had sorted itself and refined itself and coalesced, as such deposits so mysteriously do, into a mould, transparent enough to reflect the light of our life, and yet steady, tranquil compounds with the aloofness of a work of art. The main requisite, I think on re-reading my old volumes, is not to play the part of censor, but to write as the mood comes or of anything whatever; since I was curious to find how I went for things put in haphazard, and found the significance to lie where I never saw it at the time.”

“Truth is not an absolute Virginia, but please tell me, how would you write about the place where these two energies reside? Your soul?

“One can’t write directly about the soul. Looked at, it vanishes, and yet, how beautiful a street is in winter! It is at once revealed and obscured. Here vaguely one can trace symmetrical straight avenues of doors and windows; here under the lamps are floating islands of pale light through which pass quickly bright men and women, who, for all their poverty and shabbiness, wear a certain look of unreality, an air of triumph, as if they had given life the slip, so that life, deceived of her prey, blunders on without them. But, after all, we are only gliding smoothly on the surface. The eye is not a miner, not a diver, not a seeker after buried treasure. It floats us down a stream; resting, pausing, the brain sleeps perhaps as it looks.”

“And that stream Virginia has brought you here at my request.”

“A moment, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length my dear friend and I have taken up much of your precious time.”

“You can only receive what I freely give. Time changes everything and we adapt as best we can. You have not taken my time. We are both a part of this shared moment Virginia.”

“Are you saying Socrates that a self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.”

“Yes Virginia. I am. We are.”

1D1B4FEB-F353-495B-A03F-ED62E5EB2F50.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Fourteen — William Blake will be published on Sunday, Jauary 06, 2019.

Cover Art “Aries” by  Emilee Petersmark. 

 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Twelve — William James

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I am taking a leisurely stroll through the garden to the west wing of the Inn, still unable to put words to my other worldly dragon experience with Ursula. The morning fog still holds the intoxicating scent of the night blooming cactus as the rays of the sun change the mist into invisible sweet air. I am on my way to the Library to meet with William James. We are both concerned as philosophers and psychologists with the decline of truth as a pillar of leadership in the affairs of states and of the world. 

I begin to cross the walking bridge over the stream and pause midway to stop and listen to the sounds of the water rushing over the rocks. The stream is strong after three nights of rain. It is spawning season for the salmon, and one of the guests favorite activities is witnessing their exhaustive trek each year to their birth place. They swim freely here without threat of capture. They are going home to give birth and to die. Much like the dragon Orm Irian. We must all complete this cycle of life and death. None of us are immune, but here we get to decide how, when we are ready.

I love this wing of the Inn. The Library is designed after the reading room in the New York Public Library only not as large and unlike the reading room, there are many nooks and crannies with a fireplace in each. Guests can arrange for a room and for requested texts or manuscripts to be delivered whenever they wish. There are no out of print books in our Library. Every book  ever written is available upon request. No book, however is permitted to leave the Library. William has asked to meet in Room #3.

I knock on the door.

“Please come in Socrates. I have been expecting you. Thank you for meeting on such short notice. Would you like a brandy?”

“Yes. Of course William. I will be happy to join you in a brandy. I too would like to continue our previous conversation on the subject of truth. Are you interested?”

“Yes. Of course my friend. I agree with you that truth can not be an absolute for as you so rightly argued, an absolutely must be complete in and of itself. Truth in and of itself is not complete. We have the truth, the half truth, the right out lie, the little white lie, the lie of convenience and many more aspects of what we call truth.”

“But William. Is absolute truth even a reasonable thought or condition to strive for? Does truth prevail over lies? Are not both truth and lies equal contenders for human consciousness? The lies of advertisers for so many industries mislead and destroy the health of millions of citizens with no real detriment to their profits and they continue.”

“True Socrates but who controls the truth? Any person at anytime can claim a hold on the truth and later another can also claim he holds the truth. Who determines the truth? What qualifies as truth in a world of lies?”

“When one human is asked to testify against another, he swears ‘to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ so help him God. Is that even possible William? Are our political systems asking for the impossible in the search for truth?”

“There will always be shades of truth Socrates, but as a pragmatist I see a concept like truth as a tool for prediction and problem solving and reject the idea that truth can in any way be used only as a means to describe or mirror a reality. I contend there is no such thing. The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.”

“Yes, my friend. Truer words have not been spoken.”

The two men then toast each other on their realization as the chimes sound for the evening event.

585DC05E-15F0-4BD2-A6E2-7511152FF190.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Thirteen — Virginia Woolf will be published on Sunday, December 16, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by  Emilee Petersmark. 

 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Eleven — Ursula K Le Guin

85E45954-28E8-4929-9FA3-F1D1898277AFSometimes in the early hours of the day I like to hike the forest trails surrounding the property. There is something special about watching the sun rising through the branches of trees from the floor of the forest. I see life being regenerated in everything, from the opening blooms of flowers to the hungry sounds of baby robins tormenting their mothers for food. I have been thinking about words today and their power and impact upon society. Up ahead I see the bench where I usually stop to rest is occupied by Ursula K Le Guin. I attempt to back away but I unintentionally cause a break in her meditation and she looks up.

“Good Morning Socrates. I was just enjoying the feel of the sunrise through the trees upon my face. This land reminds me so much of home. I love this magical place you invited me to.”

“Good Morning Ursula. Please excuse my intrusion. I thought I was alone on the trail and I must have been thinking out loud to myself.”

“No apology is necessary Socrates. I welcome your presence.”

“Thank you Ursula. You mentioned home. Did you mean your home in Portland?”

Ursula laughs. “No my masterful friend. I was speaking of our home on The Farthest Shore.”

“The home of dragons?”

“Yes, of course.”

Ursula sees I am confused by her words, but continues. “I believe one of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience.”

“Yes. I agree.”

“It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When I read good poetry, I often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.’ Poets get the words right!”

Although it was my desire to speak with Ursula about words and storytelling, right now I am at a total loss for any words at all. I am still lost in her words, “The Farthest Shore.” I mange to pull my thoughts together enough to ask, “Is this the reason you started to write Science Fiction? “To give readers the necessary vocabulary for life possibilities beyond this one?”

“Yes, partly. Words do have power. Names have power. Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.”

“We are both poets. We know the power of words, but where does the science come in?”

“Science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside. Science explicates, poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe. We need the languages of both science and poetry to save us from merely stockpiling endless “information” that fails to inform our ignorance or our irresponsibility.”

“You are a gifted storyteller Ursula. It was your poetic language which led me to read your EarthSea Trilogy. These books were my first reading adventure into science fiction. They changed my life. I began to feel free again.”

Ursula pauses for a moment, then continues, “As a writer, I want the language to be genuinely significant and mean exactly what it says… If you believe that words are acts, as I do, then one must hold writers responsible for what their words do.”

“I know and believe in the power of words. Your words helped me to overcome my fear of dragons which started with a movie I saw around the  age five. Your stories helped me to believe again in magic, in other worlds, worlds within and beyond this orb we live in. Such was the power of your words.”

“Wow! Thank you Socrates. That is quite a compliment.”

“It is true Ursula. I only give compliments when they are so.”

Ursula is momentarily at a loss for words now. 

I continue. “In my later years I had a life changing dream about a dragon and had one tattooed on my chest. I would never have had that done in my youth. I did not trust myself enough and I did not trust the possible consequences of my action if there were to be any.”

“To see that your life is a story while you’re in the middle of living it is a help to living it well.”

“I know. I learned that truth from reading your books, Ursula.”

“There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities. When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are.”

“Well, it took me until my mid thirties to come to grips with that choice. After thirty six years of doing, I tried just being. I still sometimes wonder who I am. Being here as you say is ‘between acts.‘ I am here. That I know, but change is certain.”  

“And no matter how much I change there’s something about me that doesn’t change, hasn’t changed, through all the remarkable, exciting, alarming, and disappointing transformations my body has gone through. There is a person there who isn’t only what she looks like, and to find her and know her I have to look through, look in, look deep. Not only in space, but in time.”

“And what do you see when you look deeply into your true self?”

“Dragons. Dragons everywhere… When I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn’t do. All that I might have been and couldn’t be. All the choices I didn’t make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven’t been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, Socrates, is to see it as the moon sees it. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”

“I understand Ursula. How might I be of service.”

“I would like you to escort me along The Other Wind to our home Socrates. 

“The home you spoke of earlier? The Farthest Shore?

“Yes. Home isn’t where they have to let you in. It’s not a place at all. Home is imaginary. Home, imagined, comes to be. It is one thing to read about dragons and another to meet them. Are you ready Socrates to meet your true self?”

Before I could answer, she brings her palms together and is immediately surrounded with fire. Her body is transforming. I can see the formation of a red head and golden wings. Then horns and huge amber eyes. After a few moments she appears as a beautiful dragon.

“You are The dragon Orm Irian. The sister of Tehanu and called daughter by Kalessin, the oldest of dragons, from your stories.“

“Yes. I am Socrates. You are a dragon too. Your real name is Dragon Tao.”

As if to prove once more the power of words, when Orm Irian speaks my dragon name outloud, I become a ball of fire from which the Dragon Tao emerges. Orm Irian leaps from the trail into the sky as my transformation is completing. I watch her soar a hundred feet above me as I stretch my wings and ready for flight. We climb through the various trade winds until we reach the Other Wind, the one that will take us to the Farthest Shore.

Ursula’s last words to me before she became Orm Irian were these. 

I remember one time while in human form I saw the dragons aloft on the wind at sunset above the western isles; and I would be content. I know it is time to return home now because I am no longer content with just watching. Thank you Socrates for being my guide.” 

“My pleasure Ursula. My pleasure always. We are dragons all.”

EE5C31C3-72F7-464F-9630-CD01018F7A35 The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Twelve — William James will be published on Sunday, December 02, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by  Emilee Petersmark. 

The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Ten — May Sarton

 

85E45954-28E8-4929-9FA3-F1D1898277AFThis morning I am walking along the path around the lake. It is a beautiful Spring day. The sun is already warming the dew air. I see Henry and Jimmy relaxing in the hot springs. They wave me over, but I wave back and keep walking. As exciting and open I know that conversation would be, I need solitude this morning. My responsibilities as gate keeper of the Inn keep me charged with the presence and sharing with those I invited here. This is my world. There is no place else I would rather be. And for me to give all of myself to this garden of inspiration, I need to seek my other reality as Henry Miller puts it. That is time alone. Solitude.

After the roaring ocean sounds of Big Sur and the gentle lapping sounds of the South Pacific (except during hurricane season when the ocean and the wind combine to make nature’s loudest noise) I have come to appreciate the quietness here of the almost still lake, but today I venture upstream to the lake’s source a few miles up the mountain’s side. It is the place I go when I need solitude. It is as vivid a part of the dream that brings you this story as the individuals you meet. The veiled entry opens only to me. It can be observed from the trail, but not entered except by myself. The guests refer to it as Socrates’ Cave. No doubt a pun on my student Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave, but it is not a cave at all. 

My cave is a small alcove open on one side to the stream which intersects a natural hot spring. I collected rocks from the hillside and built a round tub where the streams intersect to make nature’s most inviting hot tub. I know I could have just imagined the hot tub and it would have appeared, but I wanted to create everything in this space with my own hands. The only piece of furniture is a small sitting bench facing the stream. The other three sides of the alcove are vines, flowers, trees, and a family of red foxes who created their burrow here.

I look down toward the lake and I see May Sarton coming up the trail. I walk to my veiled doorway and open it so she knows where to come. I invited her to share tea with me this morning. I wanted her to see my place of solitude.

“Good Morning Socrates. I did not know you invited anyone to share your cave. I feel humbled.”

“You are my first visitor May. I wanted to invite you to my place of solitude because your poetry and journals greatly influenced me and my approach to solitude. Now solitude is as important a part of my life as breathing. I come here at least once every day to reflect and to review the on going events of my life.”

“I know exactly what you mean Socrates. I am alone here for the first time in weeks to take up my “real” life again at last. That is what is strange — that friends, even passionate love, are not my real life, unless there is time alone to explore and to discover what is happening or has happened.”

I added a small table for tea and two chairs in the alcove for May’s visit. The view and sound of running water over the rocks complete the serene setting. We both sit down and admire the moving picture before us.

“O’ Socrates. This is a most beautiful solitude I have ever experienced. Thank you again for sharing your cave with me. Do you come here to write?”

“No. I do not write here May. I come here to clear my mind of thought and to recharge my energy when life uses more than I sometimes have. It is a constant battle of balance. As you can see, the alcove is very sparse in furnishings and yet filled with nature’s abundance and beauty.”

Just then two of the fox cubs come out of their burrow and playfully approach May. She offers each a biscuit. The third climbs up my pant leg and falls asleep in my lap. The mother fox pokes out her head to check on the cubs, sees all is well and returns inside.

“I understand why your cave is invisible to the guests. A place of solitude must be available when needed in the moment. You do not want to schedule a particular time for solitude or have to stand in line for a ticket.”

“Yes May. I know you understand. Your writings, particularly Journal Of Solitude inspired me to carve out a place for it and to incorporate solitude into my life without guilt. I can see from here that all is going well down below without my presence. I also invited you here to share a little more about poetry if you are up for it.”

“Why of course Socrates. I am, I think, more of a poet…, if to be a poet means allowing life to flow through one rather than forcing it into a mold the will has shaped: if it means learning to let the day shape the work, not the work, the day, and so live toward essence as naturally as a bird or a flower.”

“How true. Although I do not write here, this alcove, this nature inspires my creative soul.”

“We are the same Socrates. We both journal our lives but deep inside we are poets. You choose to be a novelist, but you’re chosen to be a poet. This is a gift and it’s a tremendous responsibility. We have to be willing to give something terribly intimate and secret of ourselves to the world and not care, because we have to believe that what we have to say is important enough.”

“I am never quit sure of that last part May. I write for me so I do not know if my words are important to anyone else.”

“Of course they are Socrates. Poets find one another. I find my position as a poet today a curious one… For a long time I have maintained that the poet’s affair was the individual human soul, the story of it in one man, in my case the transforming of personal emotions into written events. I still believe that our job is somehow or other to be above the mêlée, or so deeply in it that one comes through to something else, something universal and timeless. It is only when we can believe that we are creating the soul that life has any meaning, but when we can believe it—and I do and always have—then there is nothing we do that is without meaning and nothing that we suffer that does not hold the seed of creation in it.”

“Yes May. Very true words. Poetry transforms and transports us through the chaos of life and even death to this universal, timeless space we are now in.”

“Solitude itself is a form of poetry. Both wait for the inaudible and the invisible to make themselves felt. And that is why solitude is never static and never hopeless. On the other hand, every friend who comes to stay enriches the solitude forever; presence, if it has been real presence, does not ever leave.”

“I understand May. Your presence here this morning has already greatly enriched this alcove, my place of solitude. You added another layer of inspiration to the running stillness of nature.”

“Thank you Socrates. I believe all art must be nourished by faith, the faith of an equal. We must live our lives burning them up as we go along, so that at the end nothing is left unused, so that every piece of it has been consumed in the work. There is no being sure of anything except that whatever has been created will change in time, and sometimes quite erratically.”

“Yes May. There is no certainty in life, but we are here, now. Poetry, solitude, journals are all necessary elements of the creative lives we live. I too want nothing left of my being unused…but before that happens, I am going to soak in the hot wading tub I built in the stream. Would you care to join me?”

“Yes Socrates! It would be my pleasure.”

BC2D532E-CC4F-40F1-8D15-C56F89FE74FB.jpeg The Gate Keeper Of Inspiration: Chapter Eleven — Ursula K Le Guin will be published on Sunday, November 11, 2018.

Cover Art “Aries” by Emilee Petersmark.