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Wendell Berry:

You need to realize something else: that you can lead a perfectly good and satisfactory life even if you’re not a writer. When I figured out that I could be perfectly happy and not be a writer, I became a better writer.

I don’t think you ought to let your happiness depend on writing. There are a lot of worthwhile things you can do. The unhappiest people in the world may be the ones who think their happiness depends on artistic success of some kind.

I’m working on my book again, and this quote echoes where I’m at in my thinking. I want to live my life, really live it, and out of that richness will come a river of words. That’s what I believe.

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Welcome

I’m back from a quiet, introspective summer interlude. I didn’t exactly mean to take a vacation from blogging, but books, a much-needed rest, and time shared with family and friends have filled our days.

I’ve been reading, for example, Wendell Berry’s collection, Given:

The exquisite poem “How to Be a Poet (to remind myself)” is included in this book. In it Berry says:

There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.
I think the poet speaks wisdom.

Cut fruit

Certain concepts, no doubt influenced by my reading, are on my mind this summer: respect for life, natural rhythms, found beauty, ritual…. I want to live with intention, but also freedom; with words, but also people; with simplicity, but also richness. I want my home, my life, my interaction with others, this blog, to be a sacred space.

What are you thinking of this summer?

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Simplicity | Quotes

simplicity

The best things in life are nearest:  Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you.  Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.  – Robert Louis Stevenson

simplicity

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.  – William Morris

simplicity

It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all. – Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House in the Ozarks by Hines)

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Nine Gates

After several months of intermittent reading and contemplation, I finally finished Jane Hirshfield‘s exquisite collection of essays about poetry-writing. I found the closing essay, “Writing and the Threshold Life” particularly profound, or at least, particularly meaningful to me at this point in time. In it, Hirshfield proposes that the writer must enter into liminality–a threshold between individuality and community, a constant state of inbetweenness, and a space outside of conventional relationship to language and society.

In Hirshfield’s threshold life, the writer becomes transparent, transient, empty of self, in such a way that she is opened to a deeper awareness of others. In this threshold connectedness, the writer identifies with all people, all things, and cannot help but speak on their behalf.

For the writer to write at all, he or she must cultivate a heart that opens in tenderness to all things.
– Jane Hirshfield, from “Writing and the Threshold Life,” Nine Gates, p. 211

This concept is further explored in Hirshfield’s poem, “Late Prayer.” Hirshfield says, “The poem is called a prayer because in writing it I was asking, during a time of difficulty, for such a mind and heart…. A writer cannot identify only with the rabbit, or with the hawk—standing squarely in the threshold, one must include both. A ruby is no more valuable than a nail; the sound of one in a shaken metal bucket is no different from the other. Both will be needed, if we want to include the world in our words. It is up to the writer to recognize everything that happens to her as gift, to love each thing that comes under the eye’s contemplation, inner or outer.”

According to Hirshfield, this idea of liminality is woven into the work and/or lives of writers such as Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Galway Kinnell, Pablo Neruda, ancient Japanese poet Ono no Komachi, and Henry David Thoreau. Of Thoreau’s journey to and from the threshold and Walden, she says this :

Entering the threshold is not a matter of going into literal woods, though that may help. It is a matter of mind, of leaving the trail of convention and norm, whether in the city or the wild.
– Jane Hirshfield, from “Writing and the Threshold Life,” Nine Gates, p. 221

Hirshfield is careful to differentiate between the writer’s life of liminality and a romanticized view of those forced to the fringes of society by unchosen paths such as poverty or mental illness. The life of liminality, she concludes, is one of reverence.

To speak, and to write, is to assert who we are, what we think. The necessary other side is to surrender these things—to stand humbled and stunned and silent before the wild and inexplicable beauties and mysteries of being.
– Jane Hirshfield, from “Writing and the Threshold Life,” Nine Gates, p. 221

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It was one year ago that I started writing this blog. We had just moved into our new home and planted flowers in the garden. Here’s what some of them look like now:

Hydrangea:
hydrangea

A patio pot of pink flowers:
pink

Lily of the Nile:
lily of the nile

Much has happened in this one year of blogging–life events like our ten-year anniversary, the 8th grade graduation of a niece I’ve known and loved from the beginning, the adventure of new friendships and the deepening of old ones, losses, and journeys both internal and external. A full set of seasons passed by, documented sporadically and inadequately on this blog. What has made this experience extra rewarding is the connection with you, Blissful reader–whether I’ve known you for years, or whether we’ve only met through our blogs.

A good friend said so very generously that this is the “most beautiful blog on the net.” I know he’s totally exaggerating, but it pleases me nevertheless because this blog is about taking note of blessings and seeking to live life fully. For me, that entails recognizing and cherishing beauty.

In this season–the same one in which I started this blog a year ago–I often find myself looking out through the windows into the light and color in our garden. Outside, a few fruits are ripening on the dwarf lemon tree. The Japanese maples are flourishing. The hydrangea, alyssum, and lobelia are in full bloom. As the garden matures outdoors, so I hope that Blissful Begonia’s roots will grow deeper and that it will bloom as I continue to blog.

Thank you for a Blissful year of blogging! Let’s hope for many more. 🙂

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This was the panoramic view from our cabin:

The view from our cabin

But the up-close view was beautiful too.

The texture of water flowing over rocks:
Water's Edge

Braided sand:
Sand patterns

Embedded pebbles:
Sand patterns

A bronze coating over the pier:
Sand patterns

Miniature sand dunes:
Sand patterns

This is the last batch of photos from our trip to Lake Tahoe. I’ll conclude this series with these lines taken from Theodore Roethke’s poem, “The Rose” (with a couple of substituted words):

There are those to whom place is unimportant,

But this place, where [lake] and [braided sand] meet,

Is important.

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A family of ducks

“In your light, I learn to love. In your beauty, how to make poems.” – Rumi

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Still at the Lake

I am still at the lake–in spirit that is. And you can join me there too. Take a look at the beautiful organic shapes and colors of the rocks and boulders along the shore:

Hidden Beach at day’s end
Hidden Beach

Catching the last copper rays of sunlight
Hidden Beach

A Zen rock garden
Stones

Glazed with light
Rocks

Massive sculptures
Lake Tahoe - East Shore

Pocked by wind and water
Lake Tahoe - East Shore

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Day to day, hour to hour, the lake changes. Always beautiful, alive. For example:

Brilliant blue like the sky
The lake

Steel-gray on a cloudy day
Water, clouds

Dark and still as a mirror at twilight
The lake at twilight

Silver and sparkling
The lake at twilight

Opaque, reflective
Hidden Beach

Translucent, lined with rocks and pebbles
Rocks

We’re back from Lake Tahoe, where we celebrated our ten-year anniversary. This is the first batch of photos from our trip. More to come….

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On the Lake

Lake Tahoe

This is where we are right now–one of my favorite places in the world, Lake Tahoe. From our cabin, which is about 50 feet from the water, we have an unobstructed view of the beautiful lake and its million changing colors. When we’re back from the lake, I’ll post more photos. For now, I’ll leave you with a quote:

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves…. All is a miracle. – Thich Nhat Hanh

May you find bliss wherever you are.

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