To the tunes of “Ode to Joy” to “Wake Up Little Susie” to wisdom from “Hair:
HAVE THOREAU WILL TRAVEL, or, Thoreau’s Joy Has Legs– Aesthetic Correctness, Being Bossed by Poet Life Coaches: Push Ups for You! On Your Knees! Row! It’s Dawn! Wake Up!
Who would never travel with you, but you would always take on a trip? That’s my riddle for us, reflecting that on a 12-hour train trip this week I’ve grabbed Thoreau’s four-book edition for my traveling companion, when it comes right down to it, all the books on my piano so insulted, Thoreau always gets to go, that’s not fair! And of course he is so curmudgeonly, but it’s for a good cause, our conscience and consciousness awake. Any line from him is a dose of dawn–all right already, all right, poets, I hear you! They are bossing me already. So we are exploring Why I Can’t Leave Home Without Thoreau. Why this man I always thought of as curmudgeonly, choosing to live alone, judging us all, righteous (and of course right), is a mind that is not easy on us, frank and even fresh, but fresh like a breeze, ruffling us, messing with our do’s, and full of earth scents, and, truly a joyous and inspiring companion. He is witty and disarming about himself, charmingly immodest (he wouldn’t speak so much about himself if there were anyone else he knew better), and he is so earnest about pleasure. He takes joy seriously: our ability, perhaps responsibility, or even duty, to perceive our world with all our senses “awake.” I reflect how perambulations with which he explores our world has the meaning cluster of duty, guard, tour, duty. For Thoreau “Awake” is as important a duty for us as our sense of “glory” is to John Muir. Muir wants us to jump up and down in response to “the glory.” Glory is not the destination but departure point of joy. Faced with the world at hand, jumping is correct. Leaping is the right response. Thoreau I think is a little more, and a little less, an athletic coach to our spirits. We only have to be awake. If we are “awake,” then we are open to joy. But ah, being awake Thoreau-style is no easy thing. Certainly we cannot take it for granted. According to Thoreau, most of us are not awake, ever. If we are to look around our world with awe and wonder, as “glory,” as Coach Muir wants us to do, and hence commence with strenuous calisthenics, leaping and shouting, first we have to be at a place that provokes such response: the top of a mountain, the base of a waterfall, the banks of a river, perched on a rock beholding sky or flower. Thoreau’s vision is more pedestrian. Literally, we just have to walk awake—wake walk—not in the snoring state he feels most of live in, moving through life like sleepwalkers. We are “awake” if we are fully conscious of earth happening, our minds’ neurons firing with comprehension at what we are seeing, what we are being, if day is dawning in us, perpetually. We’ll consider a quantum approach to reality, as our poets provide a perspective from which we can choose, along with Einstein, “miracle,” a way of seeing that invokes joy.
Thank you for being with me today for our bossy life coaches who are keeping us fit for joy and vigor, keeping our consciences awake and our consciousness in a steady state of dawn, where Possibility can happen. We’ll hear from Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, from poets of Cider Press Review, James Siegel, Derek Furr, Joan Mazza, Chris Haven, and then Rumi, Kabir, Mary Oliver, and how it is that we can be awake to continual dawns of the mind and spirit.
Next week: The BEES KNEES, AND WHAT’S AT STAKE IN SAVING BEE FROM THE WORLD’S LIVING ALPHABET—THE POETS’ LENS
Why bees, Dr. B? Because one of our listeners wrote to me on Facebook, our Poetry Slow Down is now on Facebook, I would love to hear from you there, and asked me to help rouse support for a drive on behalf of bees, who are in peril, in the alphabet of ecology we are losing our B’s, and as bees go, so go we, and I immediately enlisted our worldwide cadre of poets for the cause, for our show next week, to wave the flag for bee preservation, because a poem can change the world, a poem can save a tree or a forest or a river or a life or a whole world or one spirit, one soul: and as it turns out, and YOU WOULD know it, Poetry Slow Down, there are great poems on bees, a swarm of poems–bees are as intrinsic to poetry as to earth’s biosystems. We’ll hear about Sylvia Plath, whose dad was an authority on bumblebees, and her remarkable poems on bees the last days of her life, which were recognized by her as evidence that she was on her path of poetic genius, her breakthrough poems of the famous Arielcollection. And how she was writing in W.B. Yeats’ house, and we’ll hear Yeats, his “bee loud glade,” from “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” one of our favs, and speaking of which, Emily Dickinson, for whom bees were of profound importance, and then Antonio Machado, and a symphony of poets in the Cider Press Review Volume 13, that has a . . . are you ready– I just happened to take this with me also on the train as my other reading material, perhaps the orange on the cover grabbed my ever pumpkin-loving eye, and what is in the center? A bee. I know. And I randomly read the poems, and in the first six, there are bees. And so, we can rest assured, the bees may be diminishing in our natural world right now, but they are plentiful and thriving in poetry, and MAYbe, just may-bee, because they are flourishing in poetry, there is a chance that we humans will do what we can to save the biological versions of bees, because anyone who ever learned about the birds and the bees knows they are key to our survival here on earth! And maybe there’s even some bossy poems on bees.
So I look forward to being with you soon. Thank you for joining me today for our bossy life coaches who are keeping us fit for joy and vigor, keeping our consciences awake and our consciousness in a steady state of dawn, where Possibility can happen.
© Barbara Mossberg 2012