It is ironic that a librarian, whose business it is to provide access to information, suffers from the soul sickness of TMI (too much information). This addiction can be as intoxicating as caffeine and edge-softening as alcohol, but it does not feel like an indulgence. Rather, it is the obligation of a responsible citizen and a thoughtful friend, the satisfaction of healthy intellectual curiosity, even an aid to spiritual seeking and nourishment for the poet.
But there are only 1440 minutes in a day, so how can I choose between the New York Times and the Santa Cruz Sentinel, email and Facebook and all the blog posts, articles, and websites my friends refer me to? Should I give up Jane Hirschfield’s essays on poetry, Sue Monk Kidd’s memoir of searching for the sacred feminine, or Cynthia Bourgeault’s thoughts on the meaning of Mary Magdalene? And don’t even get me started on all the tantalizing sources in their endnotes, not to mention the professional reading I should keep up with! iPhone, iPad, laptop, Nook, books, and magazines fill my rooms and days, and if they’re not enough, the library, internet, and Amazon offer ready access to more.
Now, here I am on a writing retreat outside Pescadero, in a sunny clearing among the trees, my body still tingling from a swim. The redwood over there hasn’t read the latest appalling tweet from him who shall not be named, and Spider is writing her own poem in a web strung between two branches that sway on the breath of God. It’s true that here too is more information than I can take in or understand, but it does not insist on my attention in the way newspapers and social media do because it was not created for my consumption. Everyone is going about their own business here, ten thousand leaves drinking up sunlight while the butterfly finds nirvana in a dahlia and the laughter of naked ladies drowns out the sound of jet engines overhead.
I take off my sandals to put my feet directly on the earth. My soles read warm ground and soft green grass, an engrossing piece that invites a great deal of attention. A breeze lifts my sun-dried hair off my neck, and the redwood across from me nods companionably – she knows just what this feels like. “In the name of the bee – and of the butterfly – and of the breeze,” this is all the news of the world my soul needs.
(With appreciation to Paulette Jiles for my title, Emily Dickinson for the invocation in the last line, and my friend Ursi Barshi for the photo.)