Living in the Layers

earth dance

I’ve been reading and re-reading a poem by Stanley Kunitz titled “The Layers”. I am not trying to understand the poem so much as to partake of the gift of its mystery.

He begins with this:

“I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.”

Over the course of this past week, I made a new list of my values…those “principles of being” that  guide my life. Top on the list is creativity, followed by loving kindness, curiosity, vibrant health, balance. I also value time alone, freedom, spirituality and inspiration. How, then, can I incorporate these values into my daily waking?

I noted this morning that most days I wake with quiet happiness. I greet my two cats who are anxious to get breakfast and a spin outdoors and I like that they pull me from that urge to nestle deeper beneath my down comforter. And now that I have listed my values, I think about how to mold my day around them.

I start with creativity by writing, either in my journal or in my writing practice notebook where I let my random thoughts organize themselves on the page. Then I have time for whatever projects I am nurturing in the studio… books, boxes, assemblages. Currently, I have three assemblages under way and two books, one of which is ready to sew together. A little bit of art everyday, as opposed to one long day of art, incubates my morning happiness so that it wants to hatch into my work. As a self employed person, I need this to be my priority because work can overtake my days. I put myself first.

The middle of Stanley’s poem has the line that sticks with me the most:

“In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”

What does it mean to live in the layers?

For me, the layers are my values and the loving kindness that I bring to each new task, whether it be for pay or pleasure. I can be a bookkeeper, or I can be a conscious bookkeeper. I can sew canvas, or I can create three dimensional art from two dimensional measurements. I can simply call or email clients or I can enter into conversations where curiosity asks meaningful questions. Each of my values offers layers with which to deepen my days.

And I love the very ending of the poem as well:

“no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.”

Nor am I.

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