From The Heart

I have been asked a lot, of late, about my very personal writing, and it strikes me that I have a bit to say about this…Well, here it is, my imaginary friend.

My background in writing is non-fiction and academic, although I did – and sometimes still do – write bad poetry. My first university English courses certainly emphasized formal, technical writing, in which the personal was distinctly frowned upon. I don’t recall this posing a problem at the time, but as the years went by and I became immersed in the world of business, my distress at the formulaic and superficial writing – of business in particular – became acute. These were also the years when such trite expressions as “Have a Nice Day” began to be repeated, ad nauseam, often mandated by head offices in the belief that this somehow constituted a customer care ethic. On one particularly poignant occasion, an overly squeaky, bubbling cashier caused a woman in the line ahead of me to burst into tears, and to tell the young woman she’d just come from a funeral and merely wanted to get home quickly…

Which caused a lot of deep thinking on my part. Why on earth would management insist on such rote phrases, instead of teaching a service ethic? The quiet distress of the woman in front of me was self-evident to all but the most clueless. As I began teaching and training people in the hospitality industry, I observed the same sort of mindless, faux-happy approach to people that sincerely bothered me. Surely an ethos of service entails a reading of the customer – whether a boisterous, happy crowd, a hungry family, a quiet couple looking for privacy. I studied marketing, and suffered through endless metric analysis of why the broadcast mediums were losing advertising share. I began a thesis on social media marketing and was influenced by Theodore Zeldin, who wrote of the dead language of business, and David Whyte, who wrote of the need for poetry in corporate life. And, of course, I pondered the spectacular rise of social media, from blogging to Facebook and everything in between.

Broadcast media suffer because the message is one way, and because often it is a specially banal sort of messaging. Social media, on the other hand, plays to the ability of people to respond, to query – and to create their own version of this-is-me…Mark Zuckerberg talks about sharing and its power to change the world, and all cynicism about corporate entities aside, this is a compelling view of a brave new world.

Whatever we share of ourselves, spoken or written, when it is true to our own self, is deeply moving and compelling for others. It does not signify that we share a cultural or political viewpoint, a country or system of governance, or language, even. What does signify is that we share those human values that are both universal, and also very particular…That we share love, and kindness, and the nurturing of children and families. That loss and grief is a part of life – that others have experienced it, as well as illness and pain and poverty, does not necessarily make it better – but it helps us understand that some things can be endured, while other things can be changed and eradicated. When we share a moment of recognition of pleasure in a cute kitten video – yes, I use the cliché purposefully – we are sharing something that transcends the human condition, even, and brings us into the nature of being and of life itself.

I cannot say it comes easily to me, this writing and speaking of the deeply personal. But I can say, at the end of the day, (another purposefully-used cliché) it is probably all that matters – for you and I to share some bit of ourselves. And laugh, or weep, or ponder intently –  merely smile, pose a question to ourselves, feel transcending joy, to be moved, or unsettled, or disturbed…To begin with love for self and our immediate others and to move from there. To make our hearts grow a size or two…this is what matters, I think. With love, from VivianLea.

From My He

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The River Trail

My heart cries out for a little forest love, this mid-November day. The sun is glinting off the glacier as I head to the logging road, and that is a frosty, slippery adventure in itself, just getting to the trail. It’s chilly! Record low temperatures. I know it’s the right choice for my morning hike as I stop to take in the view of the headwaters of the watershed: river meandering on its course, green spreading out and up into the low hills, snow in the high mountains. The slanting autumn sunlight over all brightens the chill, and I never fail to be awed and exhilarated by this vantage point.

It is cold enough that my boots make a satisfying crunch on the trail; a rarity in this temperate rain forest where mud is the winter norm. Perhaps because of the cold, there is not a soul to be seen, and the silence quite profound. At one point in a clearing of deciduous trees, I can actually hear the sound of the few remaining leaves on the trees hitting the ground…echoes of crows in the distance, and faint forest rustlings are all the soundscape save me.

This is a trail with a few spectacular views, and I stop at every one. The sense of simply letting the beauty and stillness wash over me works its magic, and I arrive at my chosen destination – the summer swimming hole – with body warmed, head cleared, heart restored to the sweetness of life.

therivertrail

I am deeply aware of what a gift it is, this beauty of the place I live in. Maybe it is merely that I am a simple person that I take such pleasure and sustenance in it, but it seems to me that seeking out the gift is a gift, too. My week has been full with work and writing and  friends, but it is this daily hour or two at deep, restorative play that keeps me most keenly alive. Alive to curiosity, potential, the mystery of it all.

Yes, how very sweet it is, my imaginary friend. The glacier, the mountains, the forest, the river – they move in a different stream of time. Stepping into the stream is to step into eternity, briefly. To become one with the cosmos… Merely my fancy, perhaps. Still, if I could, I would give everyone this gift – ah, here it is, offered up with love.