Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bird on Glass, 2.

Ruth wanted to know more about my “bird on glass” feeling earlier this month, and I have continued to ponder it. It’s that “outside looking in” feeling of alienation or distance, at times a longing to belong.

Oddly, I felt it on a day of being inside looking out.  Only the metaphorical (but based on literal) bird was looking in, and not really. The bird was seeing the reflection of the sky, not wanting to come in or to belong to any human group. Just mistaken and confused.

Of course, Plato’s cave is pertinent here.  If we are inside one way of looking at things (the cave) and learn that all we are seeing is a reflection flickering on the cave wall, we’d have to realize and turn around to be able to walk out through the mouth of the cave into the true world. 

Likewise, if the bird could just turn around, she would see more sky, more trees, and her true home. Yes?

Why do we get confused and bang our heads on the wall, or our wings on the glass? Yes, it can lead to death! The bird’s death, the heart’s death, the death of the soul perhaps. Or the dulling of the mind, the numbing of our existence.

My dad turns 80 in a couple days, and I was just telling him how he has comforted me during my moments of alienation, reminding me that my true community includes the dead, and people in the future, people not now living but who have written things down or painted things. Yes, the writers and artists are no doubt my true community. (And his.)  Especially the writers, but I am married to an artist, and I drew before I wrote, so I feel an affinity there, for sure.

In the recent tributes to Adrienne Rich, I encountered this quotation: “You must write, and read, as if your life depended on it.” I do. It does. Reading and writing are my natural activities, my (good!) habits of being.

But it’s true that we are living in a time of quick info, often gained through quick visuals, sound bites, quick, too-quick, and often dubious “facts,” some of which (in the political arena) are outright lies. Very little paying attention and sustained attentiveness going on and rigorous attachment to what is real or true here. So that probably intensifies my “bird on glass” feeling. Though I am part of a natural world, I am not part of this “new” world. And it is hard and shiny.

Mostly, though, I simply feel the slight distance of the artist, the person standing on the edge and looking, listening, paying attention. I’m not eavesdropping on purpose or to use anything I hear in a harmful way. I just understand that I am not in the “in” group at hand or of much interest to them. I am what I am, and it’s hard to explain to people who are not really interested.

“What are you up to these days?”

“I have a rich inner life.”

See what I mean? (It’s OK to laugh. I do.) But I see the irony here, too. In my answer, alas, they are on the outside looking in, and not able to see what I am up to because it is part of the inner life. (Although I do make it outer in my writing.)

Then again, as I said, they are seldom really interested. Not in my inner life, anyway. I hope they are interested in their own!

I love this piece on vulnerability in Maureen’s blog today. Partly because I imagine many people feel vulnerable and have rich inner lives, and that if we could connect, share, respect and protect each other, truly pay attention to each other, many feelings of alienation would fade….

And I have to say, I do feel I belong to a community here, of people who read, write, and care about each other. Thanks. And thanks again, to artist Pamela Callahan, for her birds.


Grace Curtis said...

Kathleen, What a lovely post. As I read, I went to Maureen Doallas' blog, and I watched Brene Brown's wonderful TED presentation on the Power of Vulnerability.

Your post and the others struck a chord! I recently left a secure job after 28 years to take a different path with my life--to write. There are so many days I am just fraught with insecurity. Those are the day I think, maybe I shouldn't have left my day job. :) This seemed to be just what I needed today!

Thank you so much!

Kathleen said...

Oh, Grace, I am glad this was a good thing for you today. You are not alone in being a writer who left a secure job. Several of us have done that! I left a secure job...and then I left a part-time, insecure job! But I feel really "secure" in who and where I am now. Other than the probably necessary discomfort of "outsider" status. I think there will probably be a Bird on Glass, 3, too.

Collagemama said...

So much going on in this post. It will take several go-throughs. My first thought was that much of my marriage felt like the bird hitting the glass over and over, seeing and wanting an illusion/reflection that didn't really exist inside, unable to perceive any options except more smashing. Not very well explained, but in this analogy the relationship is the house.

Molly said...

Kathleen, thanks for this. You have put words to my experience of the world in so many ways in this post. Except that I'm not sure I could've articulated it so beautifully.

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

No matter what, Kathleen, you are in a community that appreciates you. You've been there, you've been out there and now you are here, you are appreciated. I'm not sure what that means but it's well intended. 8-)

Maureen said...

Love your post today, Kathleen; the birds have their own voices here, complementing your own beautifully.

And thank you for mentioning my post. Brene Brown is a terrific speaker, and what she says about vulnerability, allowing ourselves to find that safe place to reveal what's deep inside, resonates as a lived truth (hers and mine).

Thank you, Grace, for visiting WWP.

Kathleen said...

Thanks, dear hearts. I was off making pancakes for teenagers, or I'd have approved/published your comments earlier, and you'd have had a chance to read each other's comments! Sooner. (You still can!) (But if I don't have comment approval on, I get spam and commercials, etc.)

Emily said...

I often feel like i'm outside looking in, though less than when I was a kid and teenager, thankfully. Even when I read blogs of similar people, I pick up on the subtle nuances and details that make me different than them. It's exhausting. I'm still learning that it's OK to be different.

Kathleen said...

I'm still learning that, too.

Lin said...

Kathleen - Reading your post, I thought of John Lennon's lyrics from "Watching the Wheels." I just love your answer, "I have a rich inner life." I may have to steal it for my next encounter when someone asks what I'm up to. Vulnerability is especially hard for women, I think. We've worked a long time to position ourselves as steely strong, capable wonder women, for better and maybe not so better. It brings me back to Ann Morrow Lindbergh's little book, "Gift from the Sea" where she contemplates what it means to live fully as a woman artist, mother, wife. Bird on glass is a beautiful image. I hope your community grows. Wonderful post!

Kathleen said...

Thanks, Lin. Yes, yes, let's keep telling each other about our rich inner lives and maybe they'll become our rich outer lives, too!

Marcoantonio Arellano (Nene) said...

Great piece, Kathleen. I think those of us who care stop by and shop at these sites. All with different income levels, metaphorically speaking, but at minimum interested enough that if there's something we can afford we will buy it.

I've been in Plato's cave looking at the light where the egress supposedly exists, since my awareness to this light.

Artists much like you and your husband are not uncommon in their feelings of a separation between the natural and the the 'new' hard and shiny. Sometimes there are a few of us, 'outer looking inners' who understand.

Have a grand and full weekend.

Tu amigo!

Even those of us who 'dabble'(vs. to find our skill

Ruth said...

I appreciate the thoughts and time spent that my questions prompted very much. A wonderful exploration. My own sense of what you've written here, thoroughly, led me to my poem "Alone"—which I've been feeling quite a lot lately, in spite of being surrounded by good company. No matter what, we are alone ultimately. It's hard not to feel distant and lonely at least some of the time. I comfort myself that I may not feel that way tomorrow. And yes, writing for me is the way in, and out (and where I feel soul power).

Kathleen said...

I loved your poem, Ruth. The ultimate aloneness, yes. And the soul power from togetherness with nature. And in writing.