So here I sit, January 19, trying to find the end of the golden thread. I hear the dogs in the other room, their nails in need of clipping, clicking against the hard wood floor. I am aware that I have neglected my job as dog groomer—it clicks with those padded paws; it is the message the dogs send when the children aren’t home to send messages.
This morning, I thought I had it all figured out when I read this from the Tao Te Ching:
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are,
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
Everything was quiet then. I had yet to wake the children. My husband was gone. The dogs were resting. The slightest snow fell to the ground dusting, just dusting the world beyond. I had yet to open the curtains, yet to turn the computer on, yet to have a sip of hot tea. The notion that I lacked nothing settled upon me as the snow outside the window settled on the frozen ground. Everything made sense because I tried not to make sense of it. For the moment, in the still dark room, I sat and listened.
But this day, as all days do, intruded first with alarm clocks, then bagels and PopTarts, glasses of milk, the influx of email into the inbox, the whir of the car engine, the ringing of the telephone.
In his introduction to The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems of William Stafford, Robert Bly discusses this golden thread I am trying to find and follow this morning. Bly writes of Stafford:
One of his most amazing gifts to poetry is his theme of the golden thread. He [Stafford] believes that whenever you set a detail down in language, it becomes the end of a thread . . . and every detail—the sound of the lawn mower, the memory of your father’s hands, a crack you once heard in lake ice, the jogger hurtling herself past your window—will lead you to amazing riches.
I can’t get this out of my mind—maybe because it seems to echo the sentiment of the Tao I quoted above. Isn’t it the same thing, after all? We lack nothing, or more pointedly, I lack nothing at this moment—the golden thread is right here, and I need not pull at it, only follow it. All moments are sacred then, the clicking from the kitchen which at this time has turned into a muffled scuffling as the dogs vie for the same soup bone, the dull winter light that permeates the room since I have opened the curtains, the consistent beep of the cell phone I decided not to answer.
If every detail, as Bly asserts, can by careful handling, through association, sound, tone, language, lead us in, then it is contingent upon the writer to remember Stafford’s warning that the purposeful writer be careful not to break the thread.
Stafford instructs us,
We must accustom ourselves to talking without orating, and to writing without achieving Paradise Lost.
This, I suppose, is what it means not to pull too hard at that golden thread, but what a difficult task—it is golden for crying out loud. Not to pull is to stay in and with the moment, mining it for all its glory, not pulling too hard at meaning, but simply being, following quietly, watching, recording, witnessing.
For me, in this morning which has rapidly morphed into afternoon, it means following the sounds that lifted from the quiet of near-dawn into the snow-gathering light of afternoon and quelling my own desire to make meaning in my quiet pursuit of that golden thread.