I’ve long been fascinated with the role and myth of The Storyteller…
As a storyteller myself, I am always looking for the perfect words, the perfect formulations, in hopes of capturing the imagination and tugging at all the warmest places in the heart. Like all pursuits, there is really no final destination, but rather, constant, diligent and impassioned work, and the awareness that there is really no ultimate and perfect story to be told: there are, instead, the many stories that can and do tell, in infinite variations, along the way in this beautiful journey of life and communion.
With this poem, I simply want to express what it is I am trying to do as a storyteller, as I imagine the recipient on the other end, as we both reach out in search of connection.
I would like to tell you
on a cool, rainy night
as you sit inside,
on your love-worn sofa,
covered in warm blankets
drinking hot, aromatic tea
from your favourite mug.
To tell you it’s going to
Maybe there’s an old painting
on a wood-panelled wall
that has seeped into
the curves and contours
of your body
whispering its familiar
in rich, blurred colours
This is your night.
You are safe,
you are protected
this is for you,
to fall into
and snuggle up against.
Your dreams get reclaimed
your future still waiting
This is for all
your old heartaches,
and the visions of
you never quite
Above all, this is so you
can melt like cinnamon
you’ve conjured before,
and will recognize
coming back for you
after all these years,
on the back of
This poem was published on Women’s Spiritual Poetry!
Is taking photos an act of violence?
Is curiosity, then, a form of violence, a wanting to see, know, capture – for what? Posterity?
I know I will die and it won’t matter how many photos I’ve taken, and it might not matter much to the world either. At most they might be of some cultural significance, or historical value, though these days there is a sea of tomorrow’s historical records proliferating online.
Is there a cost to all this? It’s well-documented that certain tribal cultures believe a photo taken of a person is the stealing of his or her soul. If this is true, we are a world of walking zombies, and from how we tend to imagine zombies, they are a violent breed indeed.
I know that my intentions have never been violent. I’ve always loved looking at the world through a camera lens. When I was twelve I was shooting leaves from a bird’s eye view and making ‘abstract art.’ It was only when I started shooting people – with them unaware – and only after a long, long time of doing this, that I start thinking about the nature and consequences of my behavior.
Of course, one could make an invasion of privacy case, and just as certainly, this is a form of violence, if we can define violence as an act of ill will, malice or harm toward another being. I have no excuse: I couldn’t keep myself from taking these photos, which I genuinely found arresting and beautiful, because that’s what people are to me: arresting and beautiful, without exception.
All the secrets of the universe, which are also without fail mysteriously beautiful to me, lie in the bodies and souls of the world’s creatures. As above, so below. Of this I am sure. But this inability to put others’ possible preferences – to not be photographed, or give their consent – ahead of my own amounts to selfishness, at the very least, and at the most, violence.
When I was travelling in India, my karma came back to me rapidly, and frequently. Just when I was starting to be more conscientious about whom and what I was photographing, I found myself in the hot seat, being photographed constantly.
Babies were plopped unceremoniously – yet with flourish – onto my lap. Children were forced into my arms, whether they wanted to be or not. Men pushed themselves into me and flung their arms around me for the sake of a ‘snap’ or five, usually taken with cell phone cameras, and apparently I was consenting because I didn’t (normally) run away.
It was at turns amusing, surprising, aggressive, bemusing, annoying and comical. Sometimes it happened a few times a day, and I grew used to it. But once, when my husband and I were arguing, not far from a bustling bridge in Rishikesh, a man came up and, uncharacteristically, didn’t ask for a photo. He just came up to me, pointed his large camera in my face, and started shooting. I said, “Not now, please, it’s really not a good time,” trying to be polite despite my mood. He completely ignored me – though I was the object of his photo! – and kept taking pictures.
This felt like a violent intrusion into my life, and it struck me immediately how I have very possibly done this to others. I haven’t been as aggressive, maybe, but haven’t I sneaked photos even after someone in the distance may have shooed cameras away? Haven’t I instinctively felt I should be shooting, but did it anyway?
Love and respect for our fellow Earth-citizens isn’t just a theoretical game. Compassion is not a hobby, and it’s up to us to figure out the boundaries of what is art, what is creativity, what is sharing, and what is respect for the sanctity of others.
I had copies of my book shipped to Canada, where I’m from, for my recent visit there.
It was a strange and beautiful thing, to be in the place – both geographically and emotionally – that inspired the book’s first section of poems, along with the love of my family and friends, whom I hadn’t seen during the span of my Eastern travels.
Here I was, filled with such warmth and intimacy after so many years away, and all of this took me to a space utterly beyond words. We come into the world without words, and words fail us when strong and powerful emotions take over. Somewhere in between, there is the dance of expression, the muse of experience, and there is specifically, for me, the written word, one of the primary ways I have chosen to express my passion for being in this world.
Here were both my words and the wordless commingling in and around the space of love, connection and gratitude. For the first time in years, I spent days on end (three weeks worth!) without writing a single sentence, and yet I had this Formation of words already written, there for the sharing. Life – its cycles, its swirl of emotion and lessons – is wondrous.
The river carrying
Sounds of self, inviting
This is my new haiku up on The Plum Tree, a great site devoted to ecology and nature – and the written word! – thanks for checking it out along with other great works here!