This blog by Chris Rice Cooper Celebrating 20 Years of National Poetry Month is a wonderful collection of writing spaces, sacred places where writers find their inspiration, the places where the sacrament of writing is practiced, performed, kept safe, and celebrated.
I feel that a sense of the sacred has permeated the writing I've done here on Thendara Lane, that I've been especially conscious of the presence of the holy, the grace of everyday blessings, while living here and studying the auguries of birds and clouds and sky. Perhaps that consciousness emerges especially in the collection of poems I finished in May 2012, Other Chances (originally This Rough Magic). But it continues, loops back again and again.
In August I wrote "L is for lizard and for luck. Lizards are lucky, I've been told. A flicker of lizard on a stone wall, I wrote about a patio in Italy where I had lost myself for love. And now lizards are with us on Thendara Lane, blessing the hot concrete with their passage.
"Near here in the Los Altos Hills the writer Wallace Stegner lived, and wrote about the oaks and native birds and his travels to Denmark. The writer who was killed in a car crash in Santa Fe, who died in the same hospital where I was born."
The township of Los Altos Hills was founded by Wallace Stegner and incorporated in 1956 (my birth year). Altogether it’s eight and a half square miles of gently rolling hills and valleys, wooded areas with creeks and streams, vineyards and orchards, and seventy-five miles of walking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Living here is almost like living in the country—or another country, other remembered places in the wonderful wide world.
At the end of last year I wrote "I've lit a sandalwood candle to cheer the growing dusk as I sit down to count and recount the year's blessings. A batch of flax and sunflower seed bread is rising under my Mom's 'cockerel' dishtowel, ready to bake in the morning and eat still warm with Irish butter.
"This summer after visiting John's mother in London we climbed Glastonbury Tor and listened to Mozart at Glyndebourne. Both are sacred places—gatherings of (variously) pilgrims, music, picnics, wooden staffs and bowties, sheep and cows—the divine concentrated there. But home (if rented and beleaguered) is equally sacred, buoyed by love, graced by the shade of olive trees and the drenched colors of a bell tota hung on a branch, allowed delightful silliness when juncos and finches and golden-crowned sparrows splash blissfully about in the basin of my Zen stone or the St. Francis birdbath from Mission San Juan Bautista.
"The translation of santera, one who carves the wooden statues of St. Francis with his birds and animals, or San Pasqual with his long wooden spoon, seen all over northern New Mexico, is saintmaker. To make saints would surely be a joyful way to make a living (to live a-making). I can see doing that—living in a canyon, making saints. And cooking as the heat goes from the day and the saints rest, smelling of pine shavings. Finding the evening cooking, too, a sacred way of life. A path of grace, a demonstration of true love. I found this lovely quote in Santa Fe’s Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, and wrote it out by hand in my notebook—'Each vase wears a necklace of prayer and song. "Come inside," we beseech the pottery, "teach us the song that brings joy to cooking. Teach us to pray that we may be generous and humble." Our pottery teaches the sacred sounds of cooking.' (Luci Tapahonso, Dine Navajo)
"We’re all saintmakers, really. We spend our lives making the ordinary into a place where we find solace and joy. 'Your daily life is your temple and your religion. Whenever you enter into it take with you your all.' (Kahlil Gibran)"
Last July I wrote
"I have just been given the gift of this thought:
'Years ago, an image from the Sufis struck me and has guided me. Looking for God, they say, is like someone standing in a lake of fresh water and being thirsty. It’s foolish to seek the sacred and the divine when we live in a world that is holy and saturated with divinity, if only we had the eyes to see it. Black Elk, the Sioux mystical teacher, said that we need to see in a sacred manner. It’s not that the world is secular and godless; it’s that we don’t look at it in a spiritual way.'
—Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: This Fractured, Heavenly World (Spirituality & Health)
'By bringing a soulful consciousness to gardening
sacred space can be created outdoors.'
― S. Kelley Harrell (Evolver Social Movement)
"A week ago I climbed Glastonbury Tor, a pilgrim eager for whatever I might find at the top of that mystic hill, the ley line passing famously through it, religion and myth celebrating there—along with a contented groundcover of sheep; but just as surely back home in the garden I've created (despite the lack of water, shade, the balm of English rain) I find myself daily in an equally sacred space. Or do when I let myself be there fully, wholly, seeing as I should, with birds and plant life in my care, and pottery- and wooden creatures gracing it as well, strings of silk birds and copper bells, and all the colors gathered to light it.
My pilgrim's journeys with bottomless pockets bring the distant holy places near, up close and personal, and they remain in muscle memory filling me and my everyday spaces with the spirit that fills them. I love them all—the ruined abbeys and the chalice wells, the arched cathedrals and St.-Martin-in-the-Fields with its well known music, Green Dragon Temple where I go to find silence and that old quintessential apple tree, the green cathedrals of the cottonwoods along the often dry river in Santa Fe, the little Zen stone on our patio the birds come to drink from, the blooming of a single purple flower, the shape of a leaf—and gratefully worship our lovely, saturated world."
And writing brings it all home, to where I sit writing, revisiting writing, revisiting the myriad holy places I love and have thirstily drunk from, while a junco has a merry splash and the lizards cross the pavement, cracks like ancient tributaries carrying the memory and the possibility of water.
image: Christie B. Cochrell, Collaging Angels