By the time you read this we will be just past the Equinox, turning toward the other side of the year, inside, cozy. I can’t cover everything that I’d like to share with you in this one issue, but I’ll just start here anyways.
This issue includes a short piece on Crown Shyness, and a meditative vision I wrote for Zohra just before she passed away. Also, two reports: one on 3 years of Personal Papers, and the other on returning to writing. Plus links and tips on a book gift I received this summer, and an easy-read international newsletter.
Back to Writing
I thought I hadn't been writing much over the summer. And that would have been true if I were looking for output, for words on the page. A very low word count — but now as I sit back to the pages again I find that there has been a lot of work being done in the backend. An entirely new operating system seems to be in place and I'm giving it a test drive right now. Some new features that don't get in the way. Some old ones no longer accessible. I had been trying to write using the old operating system and it was not really working. So the process seemed stalled.
But it was all part of a greater shift, where the writing was self-refining in an unworded deepening. I figured out that there is no need to write every day unless the writing demands that. Part of the work is to refine and redefine the writing and its purpose – its greater purpose perhaps. I took a break from output to refine from within and to develop another magnetism in the words themselves, not only the sweep of ideas or forms but the poetical underpinning in which the words reside.
Like a bucket sent down into the cold dark well, I send my thought down to retrieve the cold clear water that is waiting there to enter my being. When I drink it, a vision appears – one that replaces my visual horizon with an inner horizon, my worldly ambition with a deep inner ambition.
I’d been feeling a little bit of crown shyness, making space for some other trees in this environment, growing in various new directions in relation to you all. I’ve not just been extending straight up or straight over, without awareness of you standing here, or your own work going in this or that or the same direction. I’m not shouting, I’m leaving you some space to find out where your growth is, in relation to what I’m expressing. Or so I thought.
But then I noticed that I wasn’t reaching out or up, not growing much at all - being a wee bit cautious, perhaps, a bit too deferential, holding back and echoing the words of my old grannie at the dinner table, “Oh don’t worry about me, I’m all right.” Well, was she really all right? Didn’t she want you to pass the salt? This good old Anglican lady from the past, my connection to early English life in the start of the 20th century, the one who showed me how to boil water, how to darn socks, how to sit quietly and wait my turn. No, she wasn’t really all right. She had some severe crown shyness, fearful of others who were also in the space, she didn’t expand, she contracted.
This sort of crown shyness is detrimental to any living forest. And although some of my own crown outlines might seem to reflect her ways, I’m grateful that there are so many other influences simultaneously engaging this growth, meaning her reflection is only one of many.
I’m growing toward an understanding of interdependence that balances even more factors. The tree crowns’ river of blue sky between the canopies only shows itself to us in the visible space. Our limited eyes can only see so much, while below the ground there’s another more lively communion going on, a riot of all the roots and rhizomes. Something invisible is orchestrating this waving dance of growth and pattern, from root to top and back again.
(Oh, and did I mention, these are trees, so it’s just a metaphor, right? This has nothing to do with my grannie, the dear old soul.)
1540: A Space Odyssey
Old science becomes art.
What a wonderful treasure of a gift! For my birthday, James gave me this amazing facsimile edition of a 16th century masterpiece of science and astronomy, Astronomicum Caesarum. I love it! I opened the black box to find the book also comes with quality prints, English notes, and fabulous reproductions of card astrolabes. The publisher describes these as lavish illustrations designed on movable discs of hand-colored cardboard and stitched with thread that expose nothing less than the evolution of the universe and the laws that govern it. They also say:
Now, we invite you to take a walk by the stars: to cross the celestial vault and look up with Renaissance eyes, to discover the end of a certainly dark period that opens the way to the development of science and the study of the Cosmos, through a work of art based on the thought and research of the greatest thing known so far: the universe.
That’s a tall order. The original was created in 1540 by Petrus Apianus, a German humanist noted for his impressive work in mathematics, cartography and astronomy. I confess I haven’t made sense of it yet. I just love looking at the images and admiring the package of delights that came in the black box. I feel like a child as I play with the paper astrolabes, but I will need to learn what they mean. This work is from the days of maps that featured sea monsters and dragons, when winds were shown as beings, and all science was an account of wonders. Here the charts of interstellar events are a beautiful delight of the mind! Back then science really was a mysterious wayfinding, early on in the Renaissance, before it became bloodless and cold in the Age of Reason. Their website is HERE, if you want to see more.
What’s going on?
Well, I have no answer to that, but I’m keeping informed in geopolitics with this quick-read easy-to-view free newsletter, International Intrigue. They call it “The global affairs briefing you'll actually look forward to reading.” Sections to scan are Quick briefings, Global headlines, Deep dive, Regional spotlight, and Other news.
Yesterday, Making sense of Putin’s mobilization announcement is illustrated as follows:
Here’s a link to take a peek at the rest of it for yourself - International Intrigue!
Three Years of Personal Papers
My process with this newsletter has gone full circle in the three years since I first started it. Back before the pandemic, in what I now call Year I-2, I was faithful to the weekly publication schedule. Then came Year 2-3, with a few dips and gaps in regular scheduled newslettering. By the time Year 3 came on, I made the shift to writing and sending when I can. That’s the full circle. In that time I’ve put out 103 issues!
At first, I thought I had something to say, then I started thinking that actually I didn’t have much to say, and now I’m just saying it anyways.
I’m not even trying to catch up any more. It is as impossible as searching for past tweets that I saw go by on my feed a few days ago.
How to acknowledge three years of the Personal Papers newsletter? Wow! Has it really been that long? We rode through the pandemic lockdowns and our move from Vancouver’s Gastown to Salt Spring Island, seen the seasons turn their wheel as reflected in my heart and life patterns. Now I look back and honestly can't recognize the person who began this newsletter. This travel, interior, nonlinear, is not directly going into an unknown but is circular, mazelike, more like the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth than a direct journey into land unknown. There is no conquering, no colonizing. In fact, it has been the opposite. The process has transformed me, has colonized me. But that's not quite right either — it is more that I have relaxed further into the emergent present. That means going more into the unknown within. Naturally, that approach reflects outwardly and works to create a soul-reflective life. As life goes on, this circulation of life forces engages me in other levels, and my mind steps back to observe and to learn in new ways. An inter-dependent participation.
All this is to say I have a very different outlook from the person who began this newsletter three years ago – which seems like only yesterday, while yesterday feels like three years ago! You've read my musings on the shift in time perception, the flow of days, weeks, even months in the waxing and waning of the moon, in the coming and going of the seasons.
As Rumi has told us, nothing is ever lost as we evolve. I’m welcoming these transitions. Late in life, but not too late, the school girl who had to get it right is losing her grip on that former reality. Thank God. They call it unlearning and that's not far from the mark. And what rises up through the unlearning is another way of life. For me this reflects in our daily living here on Salt Spring — simple, regular, quiet, and surprisingly full. Even the emptiness is full, like the clear night sky when the moon is new, filled to infinity with innumerable stars.
Song For Zohra
A circle of tall candles on the maiden’s fair hair is an illuminated crown while she dances the labyrinth of love and feeling. Sometimes we have to leave a small fire burning what is no longer needed, and then jump over that fire to the path that leads before us. It is not a path others can see – it is only for each of us.
This is the accumulation of our life and we clearly see the brilliant sun reflecting on a pure mountain lake – and hear its modulating tone – from low deep hum to high piercing call, and all sounds in between. A circle of sacred mountains holds the lake like a bowl and here the larches, both evergreen and deciduous, stitch earth and sky together where they stand.
She skates, she slides, she swings, leaps and dances, lies down, dives in, jumps from peak to peak. Laughing now and then in sheer delight, Isadora Duncan-style, she moves her delighted body through the viscous air of summer. Why is it so thick? she wonders, but the fire smoke is smiling like Alice's Cheshire cat – “It was me all along. I'm the one who made it harder for you. Climb up with me over the top, there is an amazing view of all the lands beyond.”
She did. It was lit by a Maxfield Parrish sunrise. It was lit by the same sunset. And night sky. All at once. A star flew in and popped like falling fireworks, reflecting in the lake as living sprites. She looks down and says, "I am one of those." "We know, we know," say her friends and family, circling her bed, holding hands, touching her body all around. At the head of the bed is her mother — restored and renewed — she is now all love, and ready to receive her daughter. “In time, in time,” the unseen voices say.
If this was forwarded to you, and you like this sort of thing, you can subscribe here to receive this in your inbox, or get it on the substack app!
Personal Papers is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Thanks for reading and sharing. Your support means a lot to me!
Please click the heart if you liked this post.