Roots, Branches, Spine, Pages—Sky

As I suspected it would, Francesca Ciotoli’s first Pages and Patterns guest blog post, “A Peek Beneath My Bookshelves,” has prompted considerable and ongoing reader commentary.

If nothing else, those of us who love to read and write are curious about what other people love to read…

But what I find fascinating and heartening about your comments is that in responding to Fran (let’s call her Fran—I do) and her ”open book” approach, you have been willing to share a bit about your own reading habits and personal philosophies that reveal other connections between us.

My dear sister in poetry, Colorado Susan, often reminds me that the language is ahead of where we are as poets. I think that can be true of prose as well (though the effects, because they are less concentrated, may be less immediate), if we are willing to be authentic.

That’s just a fancy-schmancy way of saying that when as artists we are willing to write-paint-sculpt-sing-build (etc.) the truth, we grow from darkness into light.

From buried root up and out into limitless sky.

My father always used to tell us “pain is good.” I loathed that comment while I was growing up—until I began to understand what he meant.

Change is painful; it is the death of the familiar, even if we are stuck in a rut. Even when we are unhappy.

In the seemingly unending search to know ourselves, it is our willingness to say and to be known that links us to one another—often in ways we would not have discovered had we not risked putting words (or paint or plaster) to our private and often painful experiences.

I like the photo that accompanies this post for what it captures, but more for what lives outside its borders: roots below, branches and green leaves above. Consider the knothole an unblinking eye looking back at you. What do you see reflected there?

Dear blogopus readers, thank you for sharing your thoughtful and heartfelt responses to Fran’s first post. If you haven’t yet read the comments I encourage to do so and invite you join the conversation.

Sounds like pages turning and birds in branches…

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    10 thoughts on “Roots, Branches, Spine, Pages—Sky

      • Neil, I am intrigued by your insight into pain and experience. How are mistakes related to pain here – do people also have to make their own mistakes (and feel the pain) in order to truly “experience” truth?

    1. Hi Neil–

      So is that a way of saying “We learn the hard way?” Another expression that comes to mind on the heels of that one is “to learn the painful truth.” I think that part of the pain of pain as truth is that the discomfort of it forces us to change something about ourselves or how we behave.

      I’ve also heard it said many times that you can’t compare pain. So that individuals who have gone though the same struggles can commiserate in a way that people who have not shared the same experiences cannot.

      But in the end, “experience” is what sent Adam and Eve packing out of Eden.


      • I have an addendum to “pain is good” – pain can be “good” in that one can choose to use it for inner growth. In that way, I think that there is beauty in pain. Of course, one can have too much pain, and thus lose the ability to see the truth in it.

        Pain can also dull the senses and leave us numb, and perhaps it is when feeling starts to come back that we have an opportunity to see things in a new light.

        • Fran–

          I think all the possibilities are viable.

          Read William Carlos Williams’s miraculous poem “Spring and All” (1923)–below–which describes the stark beauty, truth, and pain in change.


          Spring and All
          by William Carlos Williams

          By the road to the contagious hospital
          under the surge of the blue
          mottled clouds driven from the
          northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
          waste of broad, muddy fields
          brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

          patches of standing water
          the scattering of tall trees

          All along the road the reddish
          purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
          stuff of bushes and small trees
          with dead, brown leaves under them
          leafless vines—

          Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
          dazed spring approaches—

          They enter the new world naked,
          cold, uncertain of all
          save that they enter. All about them
          the cold, familiar wind—

          Now the grass, tomorrow
          the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

          One by one objects are defined—
          It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

          But now the stark dignity of
          entrance—Still, the profound change
          has come upon them: rooted they
          grip down and begin to awaken

          • Oh, how I adore profound conversation! It saddens me that I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to keep up in here, especially with something so interesting!

            I’ve yet to read Fran’s post, but most definitely will!

            I, too, agree that change can be painful, but that’s dependent on what is changing. As for the poem above (beautiful, btw), it is focusing on the tree as dormant, gripping for the change of it coming to life and sprouting leaves again, in the warmth of spring. This perspective is (I would assume) less painful, and perhaps more anxious and excited than if the starting point of the poem was autumn into winter with the change that occurs with the dying off of the leaves to become dormant.

            Some change is not painful, especially when we are coming out of a period of pain toward relief. All good stuff! All critical to growth! :)

          • I have never read this poem – thanks for sharing it. It illustrates with total clarity the process of change. My family is on the brink of change right now and it gives me pause – we are entering “the new world naked,cold, uncertain of all save that [we] enter.”

            I am certain that there will be some “growing pains” as we adjust to our new reality – as Williams describes it “one by one objects are defined” – like adjusting to a bright light after being in the dark. When he talks about rooting down, I think both of the pain of “bearing down” as when giving birth, but also the release of acceptance.

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