Writing letters to dead poets has led to a philosophical Sunday afternoon…even after eating loads of chocolate!
You see, this week, I’ve been preparing for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. My theme is: Letters to Dead Poets. Like so many participants, April has crept up behind me and grabbed me by the throat, while I was otherwise occupied. So, this week I’ve been head down, bum up and hard at it.
I can’t even begin to describe the journeys I’ve been on. It’s been absolutely extraordinary. You could just imagine what it’s been like immersing myself in the works and bios of over 26 poets who have inspired me throughout my life. It’s been incredibly uplifting and equally intense. There have also been some macabre discoveries as well!
When I drew up my list, I simply chose a poet who had touched me, which corresponded to each letter of the alphabet. Of course, some letters had multiple options and there were other letters where I was absolutely stumped and relying on Google. This was good too because I discovered some incredible poets from Japan and China which helped me out with letters I, Q and Z.
While I’m not going to spill the beans on my selection,what has shocked me is the number of poets who took their own lives. There were also others who just seemed to combust or died as a result of misadventure. There was one who was shot and another who shot himself. How do you make sense of that and what would they say to each other? Nothing because they’re both dead and the past is the past?!!
Yet, there are also others who endured incredible hardship and survived.
Why is this so? I don’t know.
So, when it’s come to writing letters to many of these dead poets, its been incredibly intense. That probably doesn’t surprise you but it did surprise me. I’ve sort of found these poems one by one and hadn’t really discerned any patterns before. In many cases, I had no idea how the poet had died. So, what started out looking like a fairly random selection of poets, has been transformed into themes and variations…alarming ones in many ways.
What has also emerged is that there are people who go through incredible suffering and somehow survive and yet others take their own life. I’m not going to call that giving up because it’s not an easy decision but it’s incredibly hard on family and friends who are inevitably left behind, wishing they’d done more. Tried something else. Somehow managed to save this person they love and cherish. When someone loses a parent or a child, it’s their own flesh and blood… more precious than life itself and their anguish has no end.
So, you could say it’s been an intense week but a rewarding one because a these letters are now becoming a book. I’ll be putting more abridged versions up for the challenge as these posts need to be a quick read. After all, the challenge is quite the blog fest trying to make your way around as many blogs as possible hoping some of these relationships will be more ongoing.
Thinking of the challenge like that, makes me think I could have chosen a more light-hearted topic. However, meaning is very important to me. My writing has to have meaning, even if that’s humour but there has to be a purpose. There’s so much rubbish out there and I don’t want to become part of that just to boost my stats. For me, it’s much more important to touch hearts, particularly the hearts of the hurt and hopefully give them a touch of hope. As Emily Dickinson once said:
“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”
This approach is reassuring for all of us who want to help others but feel overwhelmed. One person can not save the world by themselves but if we could each “stop one heart from breaking”, that would truly turn things around, wouldn’t it!
Anyway, after all of this, I knew I need to step out but I wasn’t quite sure how. When you’re mulling over details which are speeding round and round your head in a cyclonic yet inspirational vortex, it’s hard to step out. Incredibly hard, at times.
Then, this morning, my incredibly happy Black Dog, Lady, greeted me with such enthusiastic gusto, that I felt good. My spirits lifted. Lady is such a happy little dog who wags her tail with such vigor, that she whacks it on the floor. Then, as she hears you walk closer, the whacking speeds up. Well, when she saw me this morning, it was like I’d risen from the dead. She was THAT happy. The tail was wagging and her entire body was quivering and she was jumping all over me.
I think she was hoping for a walk.
As soon as I saw her, though, I thought: these poets didn’t have a dog. I don’t know whether that’s true but my dogs certainly cheer me up and do their best to keep me on an even keel.
Also goes to know that just because Lady is a “Black Dog”, that she doesn’t have to be depressed. Rather, she’s as happy as…a dog!
While I found serious depression revisiting my favourite poets, I also found much encouragement, resiliance and amazing determination to overcome the odds.
The Haiku writer Issa survived incredible adversity and yet still still appreciated and honoured the incredible beauty found in nature and pushed on. I shared this Haiku with the family last night:
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!
You can read more about it at: Snailing Up the Mountain
Out of interest, thought I might ask you all to share your survival strategies for getting through a tough week?
I have quite a complex web of survival strategies. There’s my family which gives me so much motivation to overcome anything which crosses my path and my friends, some who are like family. There’s my faith and that knowledge that God is with me all the time no matter what. At the same time, that doesn’t mean that I don’t ask him questions and wonder why things pan out the way they do and that’s why community is important. That you need to be part of something bigger than you. I have my puppy dogs who give me so much unconditional love and that huge crazy tail wag every single morning and if I’m having a sleepless night, they are also happy to join me. I could almost hug them to death and they’d never tell me to leave them alone. That said, they can drive me a little crazy pestering me to throw the tennis ball and every time I’m going out is somehow perceived as a “walk”. Yet, this also reflects their undying optimism, faith and hope. They never let a setback stop them from believing that the next time the door opens, they’ll be off.
Exercise, socialise…these are really important.
As an over-arching principle, I strive for balance. If I am going through a hard time and immersed in the dark, it’s really important to take myself the other way and find the light. I do that by viewing the world through my camera lens and particularly love photographing the clouds at sunset. They are so beautiful and just watching nature, calms and restores my soul. Nature is such an incredible tonic.
I also believe you need to have a sense of humour and being able to laugh at yourself and your adversity can be strangely very therapeutic.Don’t know why but it’s worked for me.
That adversity doesn’t hunt you down.You’re not the only one going through hard times. Although it might look like others have the perfect life, you usually don’t know them well enough to know their truth.
Rather, life ebbs and flows. There are ups and downs and we just need to learn to swim, improve our stroke and build up those muscles to survive. Alternatively, we build a boat and learn to sail. The how doesn’t really matter but do nothing and there’s only one result. You sink.Drown.
When you live a very rich and varied life, you’re much better prepared when adversity knocks. With your eggs spread throughout multiple baskets, you’ve spread your risk and you’re not sunk in the first strike. You have something left in reserve.
This is why I was off at the beach with the family and the dogs yesterday afternoon and off to Church this morning. I also specifically spoke with my Pastor about my Dead Poet Project as well as some friends. I am dealing with some very tough philosophical questions and I know this isn’t something I should be doing alone. I need to go into that space of solitude to write but I also have to come out and get back into life, the universe and everything. Hug and be hugged by both humans and dogs!
These are important issues for our creative community. Too many creatives have been swallowed up by all-consuming darkness or the brilliance of the flames. Somehow, we need to reach out to each other and truly hold on. Hold on when we’re sinking and hold on as our neighbour goes down. Likewise, we can also go up and I’m all for flying a kite..just as long as I can get down once again!
When I was back at university, a friend of mine shared the analogy of the rock and the kite. The rock and the kite are friends…buddies. Yet, they are also opposites. The kite with it’s tendency to fly away and get carried away by the wind, is tied to the rock and grounded. Meanwhile, the rock has a tendency to get too heavy and sink into the ground. Get depressed. However, the kite lifts it up out of the ground and cheers it up. I have always seen this as an explanations for why opposites attract in relationships. We help balance each other out.
It’s funny how I’ve known this analogy for over 25 years yet writing this now has given me a whole new perspective. I’ve always thought of the rock and the kite as separate people but but they are also opposing forces in ourselves…the light and the dark, which wrestle each other within to determine our mood, outlook, the status quo. There’s a constant, grueling tug of war within, as the rock and kite fight it out while we manage the battle. While all light and no darkness or heaviness might seem like the goal, we need depth, reflection and even sadness or we will, in effect, float away. All froth and bubble without any substance!
I’d be really interested to hear your feedback about all of this. I am not a mental health professional but I am a survivor. There are no medals or public acknowledgment for most survivors but we have more than learned life’s lessons along the bumpy road.
Take care and if the dark side is eating you up, please reach out. Keep reaching out. I promise we care!
Love & best wishes,