original content and images ©j.g. lewis
a daily breath...
A thought du jour, my daily breath includes collected and conceived observations, questions of life, fortune cookie philosophies, reminders, messages of peace and simplicity, unsolicited advice, inspirations, quotes and words that got me thinking. They may get you thinking too . . .
I'm like a pencil;
Still I write.
is a writer/photographer in Toronto.
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logical and chronological
Afternoon by Dorothy Parker
It’s not what you read, but what you see, that goes to the core of what you will believe.
I once read a quote where an eight-year-old described poetry as something “where they don’t use all the page” Over the past couple of days I’ve read quote upon quote, a few poetic philosophies, and an inane pseudo-essay including obviously misunderstood academic terms, explaining what poetry really means.
Nothing I have read is as accurate as the child’s description.
Poetry does, undeniably, require space to breathe on the page. Sometimes, when properly done, only a few words are required to present the poet’s wit, wisdom, or worth. Although it is not simple, poetry is involved and too many people are determined to make it complicated.
Truly, poetry is more than words on a page. The craft, art, and undertaking of poetry goes beyond language, and it does so with more accuracy than any other written form.
If words were simply words; love songs would sound like streetcar alerts, love letters would be as romantic as minutes from a board meeting, and a poem would read like ingredients on a cereal box.
Words, indeed, have a meaning (some words have more than one) but even the description of a word does not define the meaning of a poem. Each word has an essence, and a backbone, with sentiment, soul, emotion, and memory stuffed inside. A poem takes these words and gives them space to resonate.
Poetry can heal or poetry can hurt. We read the words and we respond.
Yet, there are people who look distractingly deeper at poetry and, most times, complicate the process. They study the metrics of the meter, confuse the cadence, look for implied imagery, and search for the metaphor instead of the meaning.
This practice shows little regard for the poet who has already taken sufficient time to work through the mechanics of language and the moral or message, taking into account catastrophe, context, and heartbreak, stanza size and line break, and the politics of the atmosphere.
By the time a poem is presented, the poet has already struggled with the format, whether it is an orderly sonnet or set out in a measured stanza. Even free-form involves an acceptable purpose.
Over and above the poet’s intentions, a poem speaks for itself. It just happens.
Poetry does not take words at face value, yet it does not beg for description, interpretation, or even attention. All it asks for is endeavored understanding.
Your understanding may not, or will not, be the same as the writer, or that of the person sitting beside you on the bus, or another soul halfway around the world.
That’s good. It’s more than good, it is right. Everything else on the planet is so set in its way (even as we evolve or disintegrate), that so much seems too consistent. Except poetry.
Poetry needs to be consistently unpredictable so that we can receive it in the mood or the moment. It should be comforting to know there are words waiting that will accept the way you see them, or feel them, or believe them.
As soon as you have to study a poem it becomes a chore instead of a charm. There is no is no risk/benefit analysis required of poetry, don’t go looking for it.
I read a lot of poetry; far more than I write. Each year I take a volume of a celebrated, “classic” dead poet and, for the entire year, devour the work one poem per day (and some days even more). Last year it was Wordsworth, this year Emily Dickinson.
I’ll absorb, I will react, I will reread and recite, but I dare not call it study. If I call it anything, it is appreciation; and it may not even be that. And my reading is not limited to only those volumes, nor is it limited to treasured bards of years gone by. I’m still cherishing the recent work of a woman who is very much alive, and there is always a book of a recent, or lesser known, poet in my day bag. It might even sound corny, but I breathe poetry. Inhale and exhale. It’s just what I do.
I’d encourage you to do the same. Armed with a poem, you’ll be better equipped to take on the world. By avoiding the news (fake or foolhardy) for 10 minutes a day, or stealing a few moments away from text books, bible study, or gossip pages on your mobile device, you will better understand the human condition.
Try it. A poem a day, every day. There’s even an app for that and it’s free, functional, and quite enjoyable.
Just read it. Leave the analysis to sales reports, tax returns, and political maneuvering, and instead be moved by the writing. Words are important.
Poetry matters; let it speak to you, and for you.
Tomorrow is World Poetry Day
Take a poem to lunch
© 2018 j.g.lewis
I got my shot yesterday, the first of two shots of a vaccine that will apparently protect me from catching and/or spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus.
I consider myself fortunate to receive a shot as early as I have. I really (and fearfully) wasn’t expecting to begin the process until at least September (according to initial government reports), so when I was told I was now eligible, I jumped at the opportunity.
The fact there are vaccines for this virus has been the bright spot of this past year. The deadly COVID-19 will continue to spread until a large chunk of the population has been vaccinated. It will take time.
I will, apparently, receive the second shot required in 12 to 16 weeks. That’s a lot of time. And there is a lot going on with this virus. There is so much information, and misinformation, spreading as fast as COVID-19 itself. It is a fear that has been with us for more than one year.
The case count in Ontario has not flattened anywhere near amount that was (or is) expected, and the virus itself continues to mutate. In fact, medical officials here are talking about a third wave as a certainty and no longer a theory.
Of course I am concerned.
I live in the Canadian province, and in the city, that has the highest number of cases, the highest rates of transmission, and the highest death count. As well, there continues to be a helluva lot of chatter about who should receive the vaccine, or which vaccine they should receive, and how far apart they should receive it.
A lot of numbers have been bandied about but right now, the number I am focused on is when I will receive shot number two.
I know that by the time I receive my second dose, millions of other people will have received not only their first, but also a second shot. Efforts to get more and more people vaccinated have been increasing at a steady pace (finally).
Then, maybe, we can all get back to living life a little closer to normal.
A breath is not something we have to think about. You’ve been breathing as long as you’ve been living. It’s quite organic. And necessary. You either do, or you don’t.
Through the day your breath is constant (as it is through the night), but for the sake of sleep and in the interest of dreams, now is a time for a think about how we breathe.
In yoga terms, this is your prana, and in so many ways your sleep is like a long savasana (corpse pose). The body is still and you set your intentions for what lies ahead. The first breaths of this period should guide you to your dreams.
Eyes shut, arms and legs fully extended in a comfortable, non-static position, breathe in deeply, filling your lungs with fresh night air and hold it in for four to six seconds. Then release, a full exhale. Let out more air than you take in, and with that exhale, release any nervous energy, negative thoughts, and compromising emotions. Empty your lungs entirely. Pause. Then inhale again; this time deeper, more, fully expanding your lungs, and another pause. Exhale.
This is not how you will breathe through the night, but the pattern should be repeated several times. It is fully conscious breathing, a complete inhale and full exhale, five to 10 times, or more. You will feel what works for you, and you will feel it fully.
These should be the final steps in ridding yourself of the day. Think of this as filling a paper bag with the stray thoughts. No, it’s not hyperventilating, but you can visualize, if you must, a balloon increasing in size. Then release.
Let everything out to make room for what will arrive through the night.
Your next set of breaths is still focused, but not nearly as deep. Chose a mental focal point, as simple as a colour, to train the mind to one place. Increasing the intensity of the colour as you inhale, deflating to the lightest shade possible on the exhale. Repeat, steadily, setting a rhythm from light to vivid, brightness to dark, and back again.
In a short time after a precise, pre-sleep breathing regime your body will begin to do what comes naturally. Your pulse will lessen, your blood pressure will drop, each cell of the body will react to this restful state. Slowly you will succumb to this drowsiness. Let everything go. Allow each part of your body to slacken; your jaw will drop, eyes slip further back in the sockets, and the muscles release any tension. You’ll feel the meat falling off the bone.
The lungs will continue to fill, but the chest will not rise and fall, as you enter a halcyonic state. The brain appreciates the dose of fresh oxygen, free of negative ions, and full of purpose.
You may remain in this neutral, seemingly motionless stage, or you may slip into the sleeping position that has served you well in the past. Stillness. The mind will remain active through several documented sleep stages, including REM, where the dreams (the major ones any way) mainly take place.
Like your breath, dreams can become a life force that pulls you through the day. Research indicates the mind is more active during the nocturnal state. By setting yourself up with a mindful breathing practice, without all the decisions and diplomacy that have dogged you through the day, you are better able to rejuvenate the body, activate the brain, and then wake up to the new day and do it all again.
© 2017 j.g. lewis