Methods & Muses Vol. 29
Open the Mystic
Happy New Year, Readers.
I hope 2023 has opened softly and that you’re healthy and inspired.
To close 2022, Benjamin and I made art and reflected on the year.
We talked about how much work it took to move, how it was worth it, how despite our strange, new status as professional house sitters, Madison feels right. We’re forming community, and we’re in a town that values bikes and hikes.
Back in June, I shared a post about the Military Ridge Trail, our first trail since coming home. I wrote about how biking is my favorite form of exercise, because I feel like a kid again, and on the MRT, I felt my kid-self more than ever.
I had returned to the land where I was born.
I rode with a sense of home in my body.
I cried with joy.
Finding movement that feels like joy and play, not work, is important for artists.
Joyful movement invites the mystic.
Now, I define movement broadly. I walked assisted by a cane for 10 years. I had to be slow and purposeful to manage severe pain. During this time, I learned that stillness is part of movement, like silence is part of music. Thinking and dreaming – all that delicious brain activity – are movement.
I didn’t always love stillness, didn’t consistently feel it as beautiful, but when I did, when I felt the values of slow and quiet in our frantic, move-too-fast world – oh, those were holy, hear-the-muse-and-make-something moments.
To be clear, this is my body story.
I deeply respect that all of us, and I mean all fauna and flora, move in unique ways.
So maybe listening to music, road tripping and seat dancing are your moves. Maybe you groove to stirring a bubbling pot of soup, curving your hands around cool, spinning clay, pressing fabric under a pumping needle, spidering your fingers over a keyboard for the click-click, opening your mouth to tell a funny story, sing, laugh and make your vocal chords hum.
If biking or nature-wandering interest you, and you find yourself in Wisconsin, here’s a list of the trails we’ve traversed, complete with links, love-phrase & deep-thanks:
Dunn’s Marsh/Dawley Conservancy – Ah! To coast downhill as Barn Swallows swoop! To curve around the marsh and reach a sign – The Velo UnderRound — miles of trails in every direction! Yes, please! And thank you, Kelly, our bandmate-love, for your lyric about swallows as ‘constant stars.’ Yeah Mama, your words helped guide us home.
Badger State Trail – How good to ride from sun-drenched prairie into tree shade and limestone. To feel our bodies change temperature with the land. To look down and see twirls of birch bark mingled with maple keys and think: angels. To look ahead see my love riding, hear his music, our bands’ voices and sing as I ride: I guess I call them angels, but I don’t really know their names.
Cannonball Path – Oh, to crest a ramp that scares me! To stand with my bike on a bridge over a freeway, semitrucks roaring 75 mph below. As much as I loved road-tripping, concrete soaking up my love-angst and heartbreak, as I hung my bare feet out the window – Fuji Addy, my quiet wheels, I love you more. Hold me steady, help me cross (and please help me write my next novella).
Glacial Drumlin Trail – Oh, you due-East, small-town-dotted, driftless expanse of rolling hills, prairie, marsh, rock, sandhill cranes and farms – Oh, connector from Madison to Milwaukee, could I bike to my friend’s house? Alicia, could we tuck our collage collaborations into our backpacks and bike to each other? Is this real? Hello, 56-year-old bodies, are we up for it?
Capital City Trail – gardens, ice cream, coffee and an art center? Hello Art Lit Lab! Thank you, Rita-Mae, for this sacred space, and hello Cynthia, poet-of-groovy-boots, wicked-fast-wit and poems about stuffed animals. So good to meet you both!
Neighborhood Trail (along the Yahara from Lake Monona to Lake Mendota) – Catherine-Sycamore, thank you for the poets’ stroll, for sharing your Christmas recipes and latest writing projects (please let me be one of the first to read your chapbook on insects). Congrats on your residency and may the snow and fire inspire!
Governor Nelson State Park – Oh, Spring, Peeper chorus in the mud of Lake Mendota, sacred Panther and Conical effigy mounds, shared in reverence with dear-poet-friend, Athene. Hello, Autumn Oak Savannah Trail and Maples, Locusts, Birches of Woodland Trail, please saturate my eyes with color. Hello Winter, let me drink in the contrast of slick-fast Mink and slow-careful us – tip-toe, tip-toe over ice and snow.
Pheasant Branch Conservancy – Thank you, music of Sandhill Cranes and Canadian Geese, views of Bald Eagle’s nest, boardwalk to cattail marsh, bubbling springs, soft-yellow gray of milkweed in winter, elegant magenta-wisp of blackberry vines and dancing fawn in the cornfield. Kiss, kiss, kiss!
Lake Kegonsa State Park – How lovely to walk from bright prairie wild grass and flowers, past the buzz-hum of pollinators into cool woods of tangled-branch Locusts. How nice to see and hear happy human campers, to smell pancakes and wood smoke and lake water on the wind.
Donald County Park – Oh holy, varied terrain – rolling fields and prairie, deciduous and conifer trees, I breathe, I hold you in my lungs. Oh, little stream, little pond, dirt and grass, I love you with my feet. Oh, beautiful layers of rock, I’m listening to your story. Thank you, Alison and Tom, for sharing this true gem…
…and the Lower Yahara River Trail – Thank you, Alison, for the Winter poets’ stroll, for sharing the beauty of gray, and congratulations, my friend! Your beautiful book, The Green Hour, has been long listed for a PEN America Literary Award! Yay! Anyone who needs to feel home as connection with nature, anyone who has lost a loved one and needs a book of healing would cherish your book as much as I do. Thank you, new friend whom I have also known forever. And thank you, Tom for teaching us about muskrat pushups and for giggling at my “Muskrat Love” reference.
Mascoutin Valley State Trail – Brother Matthew, Oh, to wander with you again! To see you grin and hear you talk about cornfield short cuts, as yellow-wolf-lab-husky pups, Calliope and Athena, run in and out of the cattails. I am home. We are home. Be good, be wild, I love you!
Devil’s Lake State Park – Holy Cedars, soak me in your scent. Quartzite Bluffs, thank you for your tumble. Thank you, Autumn peak-leaf-peeper weekend and lucky available parking spot. Goddess bless you, sniffing pups, young rock climbers and stranger who shared the shot of Tuzmak. Cheers!
AND…last but not least…
2D Digital Universe Trail – I honor this screen space, because I meet my poet-animal sisters and witch-tree-brother here every month, the mystic between us constant. Juanita-Bear, Naila-Snake, John-Maple, thank you. You’re in the bumper cars with me, you follow my brain and I love you!
Happy Trails, All!
May you find time for your own kind of joyful locomotion.
See you next month!