I’ve been looking for an old poem of mine and I can’t find a copy of it anywhere – either electronically or on good old-fashioned paper. I can remember that it described a spider’s web spun into the angle of a washing line, and the way the dewdrops hung there. I think I used the word ‘angel’ somewhere, and the image of the poem is very clear in my head. I remember that I wrote it during a workshop at one of my Christian Writer Group’s meetings. Yet still the poem remains lost.
It has surprised me how much of a loss this has been to me. It wasn’t a finished piece, but I still have a connection to it. In fact, very few of my poems are actually finished – for some strange reason I am more inclined to write pieces of 100,000 words than 100!
My search for my poem has called to mind another person who I know – a writer and musician. In recent years he has let go of most of his possessions, and those that he has retained remain packed away in boxes. Amongst the things he has lost or disposed of along the way are recordings of his songs and music, and copies of the books in which his writing was published.
At first, I found this incredibly difficult to understand. How could someone let go of things that to me would be so treasured, so much part of myself? Even the loss of one not very significant poem has upset me. After several conversations with my writer/musician friend I thought more about this and realized a surprising thing – that I actually envied his ability to let these precious things go.
Now we are moving on. We are moving into the realms of the Quaker testimony of Simplicity: of spiritual practice that is simply focused and leads into a life simply lead, where the emphasis is on how we engage with God, other people, and the earth and its resources – and not on ownership or possessions. We are also moving into the territory of some of the Eastern spiritual traditions: of meditation as a way to access higher levels of consciousness or connection with God, and of reaching a state where we are no longer attached to things – or even people or particular ideas.
I am trying hard, at the moment, to develop a regular routine of meditation. My aim is one 20 minute slot every day – a lower target than the recommended two – but, even so, I often fail to implement this. This is hard to understand, because when I do meditate it is the most wonderful experience – everything settles and becomes calm, and I emerge on a different plane than when I started. Sometimes, when my mood is low, a simple five or ten minute meditation unlocks my ability to function and helps me to get going with my day.
In support of this, I go to a regular Centering Prayer group. We meet fortnightly for prayer/meditation, and then we listen to and discuss a piece of relevant teaching – perhaps by Thomas Keating or Laurence Freeman. We support each other in our attempts to develop a regular meditation routine. I find that it helps, that – very gradually – I am developing a more reliable and attentive meditation practice.
So what of my poem? Maybe one of my writing friends will read this and remember it. Maybe the memory, or the connection the poem made when I read it out during our workshop, is all that is needed for it to be a creative part of this world whether or not I have a copy of it. Maybe I need to unattach myself from the memory of it.
Artists often experiment with work that is temporary. Their work may have a shelf life – like ice sculptures or things made from natural materials that decay – and sometimes they create a piece that is then destroyed deliberately. I once went to an exhibition at the National Centre for Craft and Design at Sleaford where the rooms were full from floor to ceiling with an intricate geometrical 3-D web of coloured threads. They were delicate and ethereal and you could walk amongst them. The installation was by Mexican born artist Gabriel Dawe. After each exhibition he would take down his work and squash the resulting tangle of thread into a small Perspex box – where it became compact and colourful and something altogether different.
Perhaps my poem, too, still exists but simply in a different form.
Purple hair with grey roots is not an attractive look. Time for a drastic haircut?!
Quaker Bible Study! Theologically fascinating, and not at all the same beast as the Bible studies I went to when attending church…
© Anne de Gruchy