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
“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.