Today’s session welcomed 31 participants from around the United States and around the world, but most of us were sharing the experience of muggy air and, in Bristol, UK, even heavy rain – with the exception of Palo Alto, California, where sunshine abounded. Lucky Palo Alto!
After our usual 10-second centering exercise, we read silently the poem “Meeting the Light Completely” by Jane Hirshfield, and then two participants read it aloud. Although only 65 words long, the poem generated a wonderful variety of responses. One person remarked that she tends to rush through her first reading of a poem to try to get a sense of it, but her heart skipped at the line “ruin your heart.” Others noticed the way the phrase “the chipped lip / of a blue-glazed cup” tripped us up even after hearing it several times, especially compared to the smooth sounds of the opening stanza. We thought about how the poem’s form might mirror the journey of a long relationship, with periods of calm and a machine-gun-like choppiness, though we had different instincts about when those periods might come. That choppiness and suspense would be further heightened with a slow reading that emphasized the line breaks, someone said. Another participant heard echoes of the human form in the cup’s lip and the curtain, which could be a gown. The line about “A table painted with roses” made us consider what we imagine in our heads — were they actually painted on the table, or was “painted” a metaphor for how a vase was decorating the space? What do we see? We also were reminded of works outside the text, like a declaration of love in the film Moonstruck where a character asks another to “be a fool with me.” As for the title, we thought about “light” in relation to truth, and noticed how “meeting” added a sense of forward direction, while “completely” led us to being at one with the world.
Our writing prompt, “Write about what you found,” generated vivid and varied responses that spanned the abstract/metaphorical (“a path not taken”) to the specific and cinematic (a ring lost by its owner and found by its master, a la Lord of the Rings). Echoing the somewhat-staccato Hirshfield poem, writers experimented with narrative form, nuanced details, and “bookending” sensorial imagery with reflective questions (“Can one ever find what one loses?”). Writing in layers helped define particular spaces in new ways: a table was “trapped” under a stack of books and papers; a rag picker discovered a locket in a dump. With an economy and energy of language, each writer/reader added a personal flourish to their 4-minute expression of what was found (or what was lost then found). One participant noted that as a group, we traveled this journey of reading and writing together.
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Please join us for our next session Monday, July 13th at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.
We look forward to seeing you again soon!
Meeting the Light Completely by Jane Hirshfield Even the long-beloved was once an unrecognized stranger. Just so, the chipped lip of a blue-glazed cup, blown field of a yellow curtain, might also, flooding and falling, ruin your heart. A table painted with roses. An empty clothesline. Each time, the found world surprises— that is its nature. And then what is said by all lovers: "What fools we were, not to have seen." Poem copyright ©1994 by Jane Hirshfield, "Meeting the Light Completely," from Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, (Grayson Books, 2017).