sleep and snow and melting into

I think that I got enough sleep last night for the first time in ages! I went to bed at 7:00 last night -- then around 7:30 the "Seattle Christmas Ship" docked at Matthews Beach (half a mile downhill from our house) and the Bellevue Chamber Chorus (through mighty loudspeakers) serenaded everyone for miles around with Christmas carols for 20 minutes before going on to their next stop along Lake Washington. So, I went to sleep at around 7:51, and didn't wake up till 8:30 this morning. Ahh! Satisfying my mammalian hibernation compulsion.

Plus, things have been very full lately. On Friday morning I went downtown to the "Building a WISER Sustainability Commons," which was inspiring and exciting & about which I will write later. Then went home for an hour, baked cookies for our office building's (the Seattle Healing Arts Center) holiday gala, and then with my 11-year old and his friend went to the fancy party which mixed tuxedos and string quartets and champagne with Cuban soul music and potluck desserts and little kids playing with surgical masks and an astrologer colleague dressed all in dazzing white including some kind of big ruff of snowy fur around his neck. Last year there were 400 guests, and I think this year there might have been more!

But I didn't stay too late because yesterday morning I had to get up early to catch the 9 am ferry to Whidbey Island, to join in a day-long workshop with poet David Whyte at the Whidbey Institute / Chinook Learning Center. Though last week's snow has pretty much disappeared from Seattle, there is still lots of snow and ice covering the fields and rooftops and driveways of South Whidbey, about a half an hour's drive and a 15 minute ferry ride away.

I am still mulling over the day's rich conversation, replete with stories and poetry and quiet time on that magnificent land, and will write more about that later, too.

In the meantime I'll just note that David Whyte has a beautiful new book of poetry out, called River Flow: New and Selected Poems 1984-2007. While I was paging through the book on the ferry ride home, I stopped at a favorite one, an unflinching and elemental poem called "Self-Portrait," from Fire in the Earth.

There is a very popular New Age-type poem that you can find quoted on coffee cups and greeting cards and such, called "The Invitation," that begins: "It doesn't interest me to know what you do for a living/ I want to know what you ache for/ and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing..." I first saw it on a scrap of paper under the glass tabletop of the neighborhood teashop and liked it very much. A few years later I read David's poem and loved it very much, and was surprised to see the identical structure, so I looked for the website of the author of "The Invitation" and learned that she wrote it after a writing workshop with David where he gave them his poem as a writing exercise template. Here is the piercing original:

~David Whyte

It doesn't interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
if you can know despair or see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes,
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living,
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.