Friday, May 9, 2008

Nature's observatory

At the end of any creative project comes a gap, a pause, an aimlessness that teeters on an edge between still and stagnant. Having concluded the big project of my MFA thesis, I find myself oddly directionless, trying to stay plugged in, but not sure what I want to be plugging in to. It's nice to watch TV and read novels again. But there are so many more poems waiting to be written, and I want to make sure they know that my brain is still open for business as they're zooming along the highway of the Collective Unconscious.

To that end, I've been reading The Vein of Gold by Julia Cameron for encouragement. She advocates taking a meditative walk every day as a way to stimulate the imagination and induce active, creative dreaming. Lucky for me I have a puppy to walk every morning. This walk is not always the most mellow experience - there are squirrels to be chased and many people to make friends with. But, it's better than not walking, and the moment that we turn onto the Easthampton bike trail and see the pond through the trees is always an uplifting one.

There's something about "nature" (for lack of a better word... and believe me, I spent a couple years debating whether or not there was one that could better reflect the part-of-us-and-yet-still-other-ness of the nonhuman world) that I find immediately relaxing, soothing, and reviving. Silence and solitude, which I try to drown out with the radio when I'm at home or in any sort of urban environment, are welcome because I don't really feel alone. And it's never really silent.

John Keats, that wonderful Romantic, describes this feeling exactly as I have experienced it:

O Solitude! If I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,-
Nature's observatory - whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river's crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigil keep
'Mongst boughs pavillion'd, where the deer's swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.

Lucky for those of us who live in "murky buildings" that there are green spaces for us to walk and dream and imagine in.


  1. I agree. I also enjoy walking, though I don't necessarily have to be alone. I walked up Mt Holyoke with a friend this morning and had a great time.

    BTW, is it Vien of Gold or Vein of Gold? William Blake and William Stafford wrote about following the golden thread (of inspiration.)

  2. You're right, it's Vein of Gold. I always mix up the vowels in that word! I've corrected it above ;)

  3. I agree, walking outdoors is great with other people, too. What I was getting at is, if I have to be alone, I'd rather be outside than indoors. It feels less lonely.

  4. I understand what you mean. If I have to be alone, I like to be home with a book.