Monday, December 31, 2012

Writing on New Year's Eve

I'm not sure what that post title means, other than that I'm writing - and it's New Year's Eve.

Two and a half years I worked on this memoir. With the draft done, I am trying to find the focus for the page-by-page review and revisions. But I am surrounded by the memoir, where it came from, the journals, original documents, cards and letters, nostalgia things, the genealogies - boxes and piles of the stuff.

How do you put this mutli-generational story away?

But the rooms want clarity; they want some empty space, they want room for a little detachment, a longer view, so that I can open the memoir again from page one...

Author: Jack Frost
Before the clarity comes the chaos,
the sheer mess, trying to figure out where all the pieces belong and how to put them away so that I can find them again. There is still so much more story here. I have barely begun the mining of it all.

There are stories of our U.S. America - what made us, who we really are, what shapes our lives, the pathologies, the hidden motives, the secrets that determined how the story unfolded, the sources of the strength and endurance that made it possible for the ancestors to plod on rather than cave in to the griefs, the trauma, the shocks, the sheer harshness of life...

What we have forgotten. What they wanted us to help them forget by never knowing.

And in these boxes which contents have been strewn about for two and a half years, the near-empty boxes needing to be refilled so that I can move on, is so much of what was hidden, forgotten or not forgotten, that told me who they were in ways I never knew.

In the secrets I found nothing to resent, nothing inducing anger or shame, nothing even shocking, but a boatload of sorrow and loss, of clinging to outside moral beliefs and constructed identities that mostly wore them down - and us - and plenty of seething creativity, not perhaps fulfilled, but the part of the inheritance I most treasure (along with the love - that was there, too).

And so now I try to be brave for them, to unlock who they were before this world, which means unlocking more of who I am than I ever have before.

The end of the calendar year means little to me. My solstice retreat in sangha on the 22nd - that meant something, that marked something real in time, or in unfolding. Tonight I will sit up until midnight only because if I go to sleep I will be awakened by the people on the corner, three houses from me, who shoot off an illegal fireworks display in a neighborhood of closely packed houses and flats with many small children sound asleep. They do it every year. I guess it releases something they need to release. God knows the culture has need of release. Would that we could find ways that might address that need in a more lasting and meaningful way.

I think I get depressed because the nature of most celebrations reveals the content of the culture back to us - and it ain't a pretty picture.

That said, I will gather with friends tomorrow evening out in the country for the annual enormous new year bonfire - bringing anything we want to put on the pyre and send into smoke. In the deep dark of a cold winter night, frozen in single digit temperatures and snow cover, under the light of the moon - now THAT means something.

Writing on New Year's Eve. Writing this post. Revising Prologue and Chapter One, minor changes because most of these pages are already done and redone. Essays writing themselves in my head. Poems that await arrival, and time.

I know civilization is headed into a fast downward spiral. Some of us will need to keep writing as that happens. Some of us will have to keep reaching for the meaning in it all. Because that's also what makes us human.

Don't know how to end this. Don't know what to say about 2013, except that I promise you it won't be any easier.

End like this: end by saying, let's go through it together. Just give up the stuff, the distractions, the things that have no real meaning in them. Let's tell stories, read and write poetry, make beautiful art and music, sip wine with our friends, take long walks even in the dead of winter under the moonlight, play with children over and over again, and keep on trying to change the world, to make it a little easier to live in, in whatever ways we are doing that. Feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, freeing the oppressed, loving our enemies, getting freed of our material possessions, picking up the wounded one on the side of the road, learning detachment and liberation from ego, delving deeply into spiritualities and truth - all of that in the company of friends.

Could make it a good year...

When I look ahead, I don't see what else of what we know will survive but these things, not even our belief systems and our religions. It's not everything that will collapse, but much is on its way to collapse. While that's happening, I look forward to the company of good friends, family, children, stories, poetry, music, snow (while it still falls in Wisconsin), moonlit nights, and that first cup of coffee in the morning.

Happy New Year!

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