Thursday, September 24, 2009

We Can Do Nothing Unless We Are Asked

Written on Sunday at a "plein air" creative writing workshop, led by Kathe Izzo, on the grounds of Olana. Kathe shared with us an excerpt from Plant Spirit Medicine, by Eliot Cowan, and a repeated phrase in the piece resonated with me as we moved to the next exercise. Kathe fanned a deck of Tarot cards on the table and asked the participants (about a dozen adults on a beautiful afternoon) to select a card and to go outdoors in the fresh air to write whatever thoughts, observations, associations that might come to mind.

I select a card from the spread Tarot deck. “We can do nothing unless we are asked.” Vampires cannot come in unless they are invited. I think, I’m not a self-starter – it takes a gentle group like this to get me writing.

My card. A black-cloaked figure – like a vampire! But it’s not one. I think the figure is female, the hair is pulled back in what in one glimpse might be a bun. (Just now I’m interrupted by a little chipmunk that comes up beside me – I give it some apple from my purse. Possibly against the rules, but I’m into interspecies communication these days.)

Back to the figure: Emily Dickinson, I think, though she wore white. But she’s dead now, of course, on the other side – so perhaps she wears a black cloak of death. Emily and ecstasy – her poetry is ecstatic – it is in that state that she apprehends nature and forms it into a pellet-poem. Like Gertrude Stein’s “cows” – the odd code word for orgasm. (But I’m not thinking of Gertrude Stein, and certainly not of Alice B. Toklas.)

Emily. Her back is towards me and her shoulders are bent, her face hidden. She is erect, but I have a sense of loss, of mourning. I feel that she cannot turn to show me what she has come down to water’s edge to show – unless I ask her. She can do nothing until she is asked, like a muse who is present only when she is invoked.

I imagine stepping into the card, crossing the yellow desert to Miss Dickinson. She turns to me as I approach and her face is kind, relieved to have been freed from her suspended state. She extends her arm to me, beckons me to the shore, and her face lights as she finds someone who is interested in learning what she sees, seeing through her eyes, ready to stand with her, hand in hand, as the tidal water flows forever under the bridge and the ancient Castle of Olana beckons like an improbable throne.

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