caesura, schmaesura

Posted by on Jan 27, 2013 in Blog | No Comments

Oh, and I got married. Got deeper into what we really mean when we say to another, “I love you.” Got several big life things done and faced several big heart things that needed facing. And, therefore, got really behind in 2012.

Behind on the stuff, I am now realizing, we all should get behind on more often. Not getting that new carpet for the front hall for a good while shows us we don’t really need a new carpet for the front hall. Not getting something important done for a long while teaches us to ask for help. And, not doing our work for a little while really opens our work’s windows, allowing new who knows what to fly in.

Caesura. With a soft “c” and a “shhh” on the “s” and an emphasis on the second syllable. Sounds like something a Latin lover would say in seduction. Funny, as I look over at my Venezuelan husband and immediately he smiles, blows a kiss and makes that “I’m handsome” face we make fun of him for. Another good reason to get way behind.

Primarily a literary term, a caesura is a “pause in the flow of sound in a line of poetry, especially to allow its sense to be made clear or to follow the rhythms of natural speech, often near the middle of a line.” At forty, I intended to get t-shirts made declaring, “Maturity is for wimps.” And, of course, I never got those done. Now, nearly fifty, maturity just feels like not getting things done really well. Like letting go more often, and letting the times of letting go better inform the times of action.

“Music is the space between the notes.” Attributed to Claude Debussy, I caught this quote outside of any context, and it still completely changed my comprehension of aesthetics. It’s beginning to completely change my comprehension of life’s beauty as well. I took so much time off, and this time I didn’t question that process, much less undercut it with Ye Old Anxiety genuflecting guiltily at The Altar of Perpetual Productivity. Instead, I’ve just been getting properly used to the idea that we each are going to contribute whatever we were put on this earth to contribute, with or without the anxiety. It’s just a lot funner without it.

And more playful. When you just let things be for a bit, some really awesome things just come wandering on stage left, if not from left field. Like, the way images of a famous moss garden in Japan kept pestering me this month while I kept trying to get back to writing in this new year.

Saihô-ji Temple, in Kyoto, Japan, is possibly the most quietly beautiful little space on earth. Declared an UNESCO World Heritage site, it’s a garden that basically took a big break and then got all overgrown with moss. It had to. Take the break, I mean. In the late 19th century, the monastery lacked the funds for upkeep and just had to let things be for a good while. And very good and gorgeous and unexpected things bloomed in so doing.

A warm magical snow of green everywhere. Wall-to-stone-wall carpets of gentle and verdant life. All a little mushed up, almost wrinkled, as if one monk slept in late under it all. It’s as generous a pause button as has ever been created by the hand of man – and then the hands of the universe.


John Updike once remarked, “What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.” And a fertile stillness. That old proverb, “a rolling stone gathers no moss,” just started pestering me as well. I’m smiling, realizing that all my life I’ve assumed it meant that moss is yucky and messy and lazy and therefore ‘tis a good thing to keep in constant motion. I was so obviously born in the American Century.

Turns out that’s not what a Syrian slave in Rome who won his freedom by his wits meant. Publius Syrus, a famed writer of maxims, meant that those who never stop, who never put down roots and invest themselves and just let things grow, never truly bloom. I guess Romans noticed how gorgeous moss is as well.

Then, in its 16th century English translation the maxim was credited to a certain Erasmus. Wikipedia notes, “The contemporary interpretation of equating moss to undesirable stagnation has turned the traditional understanding on its head: Erasmus’s proverb gave the name ‘rolling stone’ to people who are agile (mobile) and never get rusty due to constant motion.” Erasmus was a prominent late 15th century European theologian. ‘Nuff said.

And, ‘nuff for now. And, welcome back.