Depouillement–Monday Meanderings

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

In French, the verb depouiller means to strip or to skin. It’s a harsh word. For me it conjures up images of bleeding or, at the very least, nakedness. It’s the word used to describe what happened to Jesus when they tore his clothes from his body before crucifying him.

That word came to me this morning when, during my quiet time. I sat facing the window, watching as a gentle breeze tore, one-by-one, the leaves from “my” tree. At this moment, the wind has become bitter and that same tree (now the upper branches outside my office window) is letting go of its leaves rapidly. It is being stripped.

I cannot but think of the Buddhist teaching of detachment, a teaching which seems to traverse all philosophies and religions–a concept that faces each of us as we age, begin to lose loved ones, strength, beauty, health, material and physical independence, perhaps even mental acuity. Life is, indeed a series of letting go’s.

I’m not Buddhist, but have always been drawn to many aspects of Buddhist practice. Today I came to understand with a bit more clarity, the importance of non-attachment. I’ve been struggling with an issue that I’ve perceived as a threat to my security and to something I hold dear. It dawned upon me that my attachment to that “something” was impairing my ability to enjoy the happiness of the moment and was messing, not only with my serenity, but also with my sleep. I made the intention to return to the present moment and its many joys. When the moment comes to let go, I hope to be like that tree, allowing the leaves to return to earth and nourish it.

I’m no longer young…or even, by most people’s estimation, middle-aged (though I don’t feel old). It’s time to accept those things in life that must leave us. I know myself well enough to realize that this won’t be the end of my wanting to hold on. But, perhaps, if I let go of the things I cling to, it won’t be quite so painful. Maybe I won’t even bleed.

Have a lovely week. Now I’m on my way outside to rake up some of those leaves.

Spring Cleaning

My current excuse for not writing is spring cleaning. True–it was 28 degrees in Reno this morning and snow flurries are dusting the tomato plants that my husband has covered with plastic and green sheets. It hardly feels like spring.

Clearing out “stuff” is a symbolic ritual–a sort of beginning anew to which the season invites us. We’re invited to prune from our lives those things which impede our growth in all dimensions: mental, spiritual, physical and emotional. The unparalleled sense of freedom that comes with detachment opens the way to new growth.

Once I’ve un-cluttered my life in this way, I will turn to un-cluttering my writing–revising my second novel.  If I remember correctly, in his book, “On Writing,” Stephen King recommends cutting your manuscript by 10% (it’s been a while since I read it) and I recently read an article with an even more stringent criterion of 30%. The bottom line: cut out extraneous words and scenes that don’t move the plot forward.

 “Write tight!” (sic)