listen

I could have spent my whole life in that quiet.

From the daily writings of William Stafford, 19 July 1993. (William Stafford Archives, Estate of William Stafford)

I have to start somewhere and this is a good place to begin. I want this early reflection of my time spent at the William Stafford Archives to be a conscious wandering.

I knew I couldn’t finish. There was too much. I needed a respectable and intuitive pace. I had to make quick and deliberate decisions on what to capture and what to let go — a practiced, indulgent impulse.

From the daily writings of William Stafford, 15 June 1993. (William Stafford Archives, Estate of William Stafford)

“I would like to be known as an action philosopher.”
– Banana Yoshimoto, from the novel Kitchen 

I wrote what came to my attention and catalogued patterns — wind, mountains, snow, trees, rocks, and secrets to name the most prominent. It felt the best, and most honest, way to honor Stafford’s daily writing practice. It was what I had learned to do from You Must Revise Your Life and Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation.

On August 17, 1993, eleven days before he died, he asked:

“What can butterflies do if they get mad at each other? Should they express their anger? Stop and get even? Are these questions about a butterfly trivial? And about you?”

And on May 13, 1951, at the age of 37, Stafford wrote:

“How do we know our perceptions have the same feel as others’?” (emphasis in original)

Graceful inquiries such as these found their way into Stafford’s daily writings, which also included his dreams remembered in the darkest shadows of morning light. Intimate and rooted in place, Stafford recorded the present in all its creative movements.

I learned how deeply mountains listen when trees and rocks tell their ancient stories.

Stafford’s lifetime dedication to following and listening — carefully — to what wasn’t being said, or said loudly, was powerful to witness. His repetition was seductive. A rhythm visualized into meditative language that demonstrated “…all living things are afraid (20 June 1975)” and a steady truth that “your hope keeps you awake (20 May 1975).”

What comes next is unknown and that’s exactly how it is supposed to be.

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