El tema central de este Blog es LA FILOSOFÍA DE LA CABAÑA y/o EL REGRESO A LA NATURALEZA o sobre la construcción de un "paradiso perduto" y encontrar un lugar en él. La experiencia de la quietud silenciosa en la contemplación y la conexión entre el corazón y la tierra. La cabaña como objeto y método de pensamiento. Una cabaña para aprender a vivir de nuevo, y como ejemplo de que otras maneras de vivir son posibles sobre la tierra.

viernes, 13 de enero de 2012

Munira Judith Avinger, cabaña y poesía

Building the cabin
Photo by Hédi Mizouni

I've been living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec since 1993. I've done most of my writing in a little cabin I built in the middle of the forest. Building the cabin was a creative challenge. I made a lot of mistakes, but like most mistakes, they could be corrected. And the cabin is there now, a refuge and an inspiration for further creative challenges, like writing.

Munira Judith Avinger

Munira Judith Avinger is the author of three books of poetry and a book of fiction written in a cabin in the woods of the Eastern Townships. The hours spent alone in this cabin, she says, "triggered a wave of poems," subsequently published in her first collection The Empty Bowl-Le Bol Vide (...) (The Empty Bowl, Lifting the Veil, Julia)

(...) It is to the cabin, a twenty minute walk deep in the forest, where she goes to do her creative writing. Avinger's cabin is one room (16' x 20') with a cast iron stove, a bed, and a bench with blue cushions to sit on. Each wall has a window from which she sees the forest, bare in the winter, lush in the summer. She can sit out on the stoop at night and gaze at the stars. One of the few problems have been mice making their way under the roof but she has learned how to deal with them though it is an ongoing battle. Her book of fiction Julia is set in the forest and an ancient maple tree that grows near the cabin became one of its main characters. (...)

(...) She is currently finishing a memoir about building her cabin and how it changed her life. Avinger also plays the guitar and another project is recording a CD of original music she composed to accompany some of her poems. " Apart from that," she adds matter of fact, "I just want to keep growing my garden and stay sane." (...)

Munira Judith Avinger was born in Bemidji, Minnesota, and lived in various parts of the US as a child and young adult. After receiving MA's in English and history, she settled in the Skagit Valley of northwest Washington in the early 70's, where she lived on a communal farm and taught music and English in a small cooperative school. In 1976 she moved to Bellingham, Washington, where she worked first as musical director for a community theatre and then as support representative and technical writer for a computer software company. In 1990 she moved to the province of Quebec and in 1992, to a farm in the Eastern Townships, where she could work at home as a technical writer and translator for a software company in Montreal. For the past several years, she has also been teaching creative writing workshops and giving poetry readings throughout Quebec, New England and the Pacific Northwest.

Munira has made an in-depth study of several of the spiritual traditions of the world, including yoga, the Course in Miracles and Sufism. She has applied that study to her work as a leader of the Dances of Universal Peace. Shortly after moving to the Eastern Townships, she built a little cabin in the forest where she spends her time writing, meditating and playing music. Most of her poems have been written in this cabin. Munira decided to have her poems translated because, as she says, "I love living in a bilingual environment and I wanted my poetry to be available in both official languages of Canada. I feel that the goal of Canada to create a multicultural country, with unit in diversity, could be a model for all who strive for peace and harmony throughout the world."

"(...) One afternoon in April, I was at the cabin, just sitting there looking out the window at the snow, which was still several feet deep in the forest. Then I turned my attention to the interior of the cabin. I saw a bowl sitting on the wooden counter and suddenly remembered the Buddhist monks who traveled from village to village, carrying with them their only possession - an empty bowl. As a monk entered a village, he would go to a householder and hold up his bowl, asking for rice. It was considered a great honor to put rice in the bowl. The monk would eat the rice and then return to his meditation. It was important to keep the bowl empty."

"(...) In the Buddhist tradition, the empty bowl is a metaphor for the beginner’s mind – the mind which is not filed with opinions, beliefs and prejudices, which is ready to receive the teachings. I wrote the poems in The Empty Bowl with a beginner’s mind. I had no ambitions, no preconceived ideas and no intentions concerning the poems or what would happen to them in the future. Alone in my cabin in the forest, I learned how to do nothing for long periods of time. I learned how to pay attention and how to leave space in my mind. Poems started appearing on the pages of my journal, poems which were filled with the wonder and joy I felt at having so much time alone in the forest. There is an innocence in the poems in The Empty Bowl – an innocence which is probably possible only with the first book. When I wrote the poems, I wasn’t thinking about being published. I wasn’t thinking about marketing. I didn’t know what it would be like to take a book out in public and present it to an often indifferent world. I was just writing what came to me and totally enjoying the process." 

The Empty Bowl

The outside of the bowl is light blue,
the color of the spring sky.
The inside is white like the snow.
The rim is a perfect circle, ready to receive.
On the inside edge 
the reflection of the window gleams in miniature.
Tiny images of trees shift and vanish 
and reappear as I move my eyes. 

This bowl could be filled.
Anything could slip 
into its smooth white circumference -
An apple or a hot soup, cold milk or clear water. 

It could hold the vast snow fields, 
lit like diamonds,
fading into running streams of water
that fill the creek and rush away in waterfalls. 

It could hold the clouds, grey and turbulent,
blowing high above the branches
of the silent, leafless trees. 

It could hold a thought --
A memory of other Aprils,
lost and found and lost again. 

It could hold the circle of the days,
the rain and sun and stars and moon,
turning and returning -
Sunrise and sunset, 
summer, winter, spring and fall. 

It could hold the universe and all of time. 

Or it could stay as clean and shining white
as now it rests,
still and ready on the wooden counter top,
round and smooth and unassuming -
Serene and purely empty.

Lifting the Veil is my second book and, although the forest and the cabin are still strongly present, this book also reflects the time I've spent away from the forest - out in the world, teaching writing workshops, giving readings and leading the Dances of Universal Peace. This is also the first book I wrote after being initiated into the Sufi Order International and receiving my spiritual name, Munira, which means "the one who brings the light." A spiritual name is a practice. When someone calls me Munira, I'm supposed to remember that I am working to become a person who brings the light.
By the time I put the poems together for this book, I realized that writing is also a practice, which, if done every day, will take me deeper and deeper into the reality of my life, stripping away the veils of illusion that cover that reality like the skins of an onion, which can be peeled away, one after the other, until the hidden essence of the onion is revealed in all its profound emptiness.

"Do you ever talk to trees?" I often ask this question before I do a reading from Julia, and at first I was surprised by how many people said, "Yes." Of course, I do talk to trees myself, but I'm used to being out of the mainstream. I expected people to think I was strange, but I discovered that talking to trees is actually quite common. It seems that most people sense a presence - calm, reassuring and even wise - in the trees they see every day, and it's only natural to talk to them - and to listen for their response. 
One of the main characters in this book is a tree - an old maple, who actually lives in the forest not far from my cabin. He is the only character in the book who isn't fictional, and I have had many interesting conversations with him myself. Julia is a novel about two young people growing up in the middle of the forest in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. They are home schooled. They don't watch television or listen to pop music. Instead they converse with a tree and adopt an abandoned fawn. And, through their adventures, they learn the lessons of life and death and the meaning of community.

The symbol of this book is the moon. Living in the forest, I am constantly aware of the phases of the moon. When she is full, I can walk at night without a flashlight. When she is dark, I can't see anything but the dim outline of the trees. Alone in my cabin, I am aware of the creatures who hide from me, who come out only at night, who use the moon as a lamp guiding them to their prey or hiding from the predator. Sometimes I stand outside my door in the moonlight, listening to the call of the owl, the howling of the coyotes or the rustling of tiny feet in dead leaves, and I wonder how these mysterious beings see the world. The hidden is often more potent than the manifest. It guards secrets, mysteries that can be expressed only by the language of poetry. The moon represents the feminine energy present in all of us, male or female. She is reflective, receptive and ever changing as she hides and then gradually reveals her beauty.

In August of 1990 I left Bellingham, Washington in my white Honda for a new life in Québec, Canada. I knew, of course, that I was going to a different country, and to a province with a different language, but I also felt I was looking for something else, something elusive, something I couldn't define. What I found was a new family, a spiritual path, a new name (Munira) and the vision of a cabin in the forest.The Cabin is the story of how I dreamed that cabin into existence. But it's also the story of my deep connection to the people and places I left behind and my trips back and forth between the east and the west coasts. I began writing this memoir the day I left Bellingham, recording each day's adventures in my journal. It took me nearly 20 years to finish it.

Like any memoir, The Cabin isn't just a story; it's also a reflection on life's journey, which brings the past and the present into focus and explores the decisions that lead to major turning points. I realize that I am one of today's nomads, free to move from place to place thanks to the speed of modern transportation but I have often been troubled by feelings of displacement. In The Cabin, I have described my struggle to adjust to the life I created for myself and my discovery, through my travels, writings and meditations, that I could redefine and extend my awareness of what it means to feel at home.

From The Cabin, Chapter 1, "Leaving" 
August 1990 - Bellingham, Washington

The morning of August 3, I stuff everything I possibly can in my white Honda and strap my bicycle on the back. Mid-morning, Bekins, the moving company, comes and takes the rest of my things away. Then I go meet Elias for lunch at the Bagelry where he has a summer job. As we stand in line waiting for our bagels, we look at each other. We both have tears in our eyes.

Driving out of Bellingham is unreal. I'm too numb to even ask myself if I know what I'm doing. I have pictured this moment many times since I decided to move to Québec. Each time I thought about it, I was overcome with fear. Sometimes I woke up fretting at 4:00 a.m., my favorite time for freaking out. I decided I'd be able to handle everything - getting the work permit, packing, taking care of the moving details, crossing the border and going through customs, getting to Montréal, finding an apartment, starting work, speaking French - everything - except the actual moment of driving out of Bellingham. But, of course, I have to drive out of Bellingham because if I don't, none of it makes any sense - and besides, I've given up my apartment and quit my job. Once again I have put myself in a situation that is going to be hard and scary, and I have no real choice except to go through with it.

I cross the border at Huntingdon, B.C. Everything goes well in spite of the fact that I can't find my car registration. For a moment, I almost hope they won't let me in without it, but the customs officer says, "Oh, I think I can find everything I need on the inside of your car door." I leave the crossing with a package of official papers, which I am told to guard with my life.

I cry halfway through British Columbia as my Honda winds its way through the Cascades. Tears run into my sunglasses and down my cheeks. I already miss my kids. I'm not numb anymore, and I'm asking myself over and over, "What have I done? Why am I leaving? My life in Bellingham was good." It was so strange watching my things being carried out to the moving van, knowing I wouldn't see them again until we all reach Montréal - 3,000 miles away from my kids, my friends and my apartment. The fact that I knew I would feel this way doesn't help, but that is the reason I wanted to come alone, the reason I wanted to drive all by myself - so I could cry whenever I felt like it and take enough time getting there to make a real transition.

I think about a particular day, just after Michael and his daughter, Indra, moved out of our house in Ridgemont, one of Bellingham's newer subdivisions. I woke up that morning, as I did many mornings those days, feeling miserable and depressed. I was alone. Jason was in Seattle. Elias was at James'. The house, which was once filled with activity, seemed too big, too quiet, too empty. I got up, went downstairs and looked out the kitchen window at the garden, the fruit trees and the pond with the strawberry patch behind it. It was early spring and mist was rising off the pond as the morning sun began to warm the yard.

It was beautiful, but I couldn't see anything but the broken dreams, and I wanted desperately to be somewhere else - some place with no memories. As I stood there watching a bird land in the cherry tree outside the window, I suddenly shivered with both fear and excitement and I said out loud, "Now I'm going to find out who I really am." As I drive through the mountains of British Columbia, I know that this journey is an integral part of that process.

Peace in War, poem by Munira Judith Avinger from Indra Newlight Pernell on Vimeo.

This is a preliminary concept for visual production of Peace in War, poem by Munira Judith Avinger. This poem is from Hidden/Caché, Borealis Press, Ottawa,Canada, 2005.


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