Have you ever felt so absorbed in concentrated urgency that you can’t leave your chair but you somehow fly from your laptop huddle in Central Jersey to say, an ocean view from the Port of Gibraltar?
Let’s up the ante. Book that flight in the 4th century AD.
The muse is just such a vehicle. She whisks you through the gridlocks in your mind-and scoffs at physical restrictions such as time and space or the fact that you’ve had to pee for six hours. It’s the muse that will take your hand and stamp your “don’t you dare close your eyes” passport. You might forget that your mind is her very powerful engine, your hands, her wild factory. You are an active participant once you accept her invitation.
Yet, even with her ancient breath in your heartbeat, a multi-octave song that floods your chest with ever-more accurate, unfolding waves of “oh my god, that’s it”, you might hesitate and stumble when you walk toward her velvet rope. Like every other meaningful experience in life, the muse(s) asks you to participate, which means you gotta be bold and humble all at once, and show way more cards than you may like. The muse requires your soul documents, the truth of who you really are.
Let’s face it. If you are anything like me, you might rummage through such scattered torn papers and feel small and inadequate, or get cocky in defense or curse at what you are likely to lose with each revelation (it’s always something), but should you follow her voice, it is steeped in the sound of dazzling time. And with new attentive spark, the rippled hum of a bell, with care and delight at the ancestors you realize you carry in your hair and eyes, and the lives and sacred feelings left in scattered books and music lyrics and piano concertos and dusty footprints and stories told on benches upon a trodden carpet amidst cardboard cut outs and ballpoint pens in airports and every booked flight. Stories upon stories. It was all–always– there. Go ahead, take your shoes off and place them in a box. It’s the only way to make it through the gate.
The muses, nine goddesses of art, literature, science and music, born to the Goddess of Memory, Mnemosyne, remind us again and again what it means to pay attention to our best selves, which means capable of and willing to learn. With delight and elbow grease and the flow of purpose and inspiration.
But how do you, during long dry spells, find the Muse? I hear you.
Well, I can only tell you what I’ve learned. That, if the muse is fickle, she is also generous when we devote our thoughts to her regularly, when we plant careful seeds to pour water upon even when we don’t see them bloom for a long while, they sprout where it matters, slowly, indiscernibly, in the tiniest flowerings underneath the ground, the most reliable of all.
The Author’s Muse is my “garden of thoughts” as singer song-writer Ani DiFranco once sang… “Got a garden of songs where I grow all my thoughts.” I’ll devote space to my articles and musings about the creative life in the Author’s Muse, but I’ll also devote time for all the others who bring me towards a fuller bloom, to articles and quotes and songs and conversations and books and films that make my hair stand right on end, expressions that stretch me and remind me who I am– and who I want to be. In them all, I feel her, the voice that rises in my stomach when I remember why I’ve been writing since before I was ten years old. Many many years later, how good it feels to continue to grow my own voice and nurture the same for others. Right in the middle of that garden of connection, warm sturdy dependable hands tending each other under the ground — where no one else can see.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this.
Once upon a time, in a land of endless fire, a woman’s sovereign form flew hard and fast through the sky, through the night, through the dawn, through the noon-day sun, through orange fields of licking heat with indomitable blue centers.
Durga was born with a quest of gigantic magnitude. To slay the most dangerous, the most undefeated, the most eruptive demon you can imagine. A water buffalo of immense size, strength, and indestructibility.
And a huge blind streak.
I hate to tell you about Durga’s enemy, whose name was Mahisasura.
You might at first be fooled because Mahisasura has a bottomless kind of craving for life that we sometimes sum up with “Carpe Diem!”. But hold up! It is the kind of life that enslaves rather than liberates you. The more you grab for, the more numb you become, the more immediate pleasure you experience and then crave AGAIN , the less you will feel.
And though we all might distance ourselves from this particular demon’s metaphorical indulgences, there is life-squashing poison in its never-enough, loops of craving that only leads to more craving and confusion.
Another related problem is that while we will likely be able to see Mahishisha in others (in great detail) –we will neglect to identify all the places where the nasty spirit has visited not just them but us.
The times when we lose sense of what we care about most and the bigger picture.
Durga is the reality of time riding by with her thousand choices. There’s a reason she strikes a pose atop her lusciously pawed tiger, a growling container for our basest selves, leaping through grassy meadows and clouds of stars faster than you just blinked. Durga’s the last chance, every minute, to ride atop rather than chase your primal tiger, to change your course by acknowledging where you might have taken –and where you still might take-the right action. The edge of each second and I’ll just say, you know it when you are in it. Hint: It sucks.
If Durga, had a tagline it would be one word. And my guess is that word will surprise you.
Durga is judgy. But before you get your back up, you really should thank her for it. She’s the kind of judgy not at all about how your living room hasn’t been vacuumed and a lot more about the kind of places where you are making dangerous choices that have nothing to do with living in accordance with your soul’s deepest hunger, which is what will matter to you at the end of your days.
“To know when to be generous and when firm—that is wisdom.”
― Edith Wharton
One Sunday afternoon in January, as the clouds turned violet-orange through 3pm windows., I arranged broccoli florets on the counter. A flood of peace came over me as I watched the light shift slowly upon my neighbor’s roof. I half sang, half chopped, immersed in getting-ready-for-the-week soup preparation to a soulful playlist queued up on Joni Mitchell. I sorted through piles of bills and mail on the other counter when all the vegetables were simmering.
From the living room, my daughter asked me if she could watch her favorite Netflix series before she did her homework. She pointed out that she had just chopped three bowls full of carrots and celery sticks and assured me that her room was “all good.” But, I knew her as well as I knew myself in the face of the delicious Netflix vortex. Are you kidding me? You’re really going to pull yourself away when you still have homework to do?
I will mommy.
No, not today. Homework first.
In that way that minor things become much bigger things, within a few minutes, our teeny tiny and yet, starkly contrasting points of view turned into a “I mean it” tussle over said TV/ homework/ electronics continuum that grew further ablaze into a minor household culture war, and she finally went to her desk in a sulk.
I watched her walk away, feeling deeply bummed that my soup-making, belt-out-loud in the kitchen session had been stopped in its tracks. NOT ENJOYING my hands-on-the-hips-mom role in the current play.
I went back to the kitchen to stare out the window no longer in sun-glowing awe but instead in blank agitation punctuated with self doubt (oh for god’s sake, should I just have let her?) that led me three times (ok, four!) to the bottom of the stairs and once to my daughter’s door.
C’mon, I want to talk, honey! I knocked harder than I wanted. Leave me alone, she intoned flatly.
When my daughter came back downstairs an hour later, we began one of our couch talks, the exact kind I’d been nagging for the entire preceding 45 minutes. But now she was ready.
I was stuck mommy, she explained later. (Boy, did I ever get it.)
Then, even more quietly…..she added.
“Well, I actually like that you are strict…sometimes. ”
I was too surprised to speak –and took it in
Then, quietly:“Even when I don’t like what you are saying. It’s that it makes me feel safe.”
I dared not utter a word. I just kissed the top of her head in the exact place where I still smell her baby scent–and I grabbed my journal. Because when I get clarity-candles handed to me in the soon to be descending dark, I like to store them safely for the next power outage.
And, ok, you might be wondering. You call that strict? Making sure your kid does their homework? I hear you. But what happens to you when dealing with extreme resistance and thrust in the role, only, because you (so very inconveniently) know in your center of centers better? Me? I don’t like it so much.
It’s a burden. It’s a drag. It’s the need to say something hard imperfectly, or, harder still, enter the tiger growling domain of power struggles. But it’s also–very importantly–an act of deep deep caring. A messy old verb.
May I add. The whole idea of “good” vs. ‘bad” parent is the wrong staircase and (over-simplistically) squishes out the much more “what the hell do I do now?” slippery middle perch. A staircase I know well. But the main thing I always do is summed up in three words as–or more– powerful than I love you.
I keep trying.
I acknowledge that there will be struggle–and a greater good derived from that struggle. So, knowing that hypocrisy flashlights will be shined brightly in my eyes for years to come–and that I gotta try to face (ugh) and own them all for my girl to learn that imperfection, while it isn’t “perfect,” stings your eyes and glares some hard mojo upon your raw humanity, is usually eventually okay and normal.
But, beyond parenting, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that setting limits, naming them and then, harder still, holding them, can be an intense strain…uncomfortable…confusing…paralyzing….achingly vulnerable and unknowing.
And, so we come with our flying carpets, me, anyway, with my head deeply bowed in necessary humility, at Durga’s sky-lined doorstep, the Hindu goddess of boundaries with her three sweet-inner-gaze-opening eyes and thousand love-weapon-laden (each one of which will completely blow your mind) arms.
Stay tuned to learn why a simple (honest) smile from Durga exerts more force than a Mock-Five aircraft.
"Kimberly’s writing is like a breeze filled with ancient fragrances – like incense in Carl Jung’s study. Yet, her work also strikes me as an emerging kind of feminism – rooted in primordial wisdom and myth not trapped in a modern battle with frenzied materialism – though Kimberly is clearly armed and dangerous." – Michael Carroll, author of Awake at Work, The Mindful Leader and Fearless at Work