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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some baklava for the birthday of an ancient Persian poet.
** Linger to consider the difficult emotions that visit us all.
** Savor a last ½ cup pondering what makes a 13th century writer so popular today.
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Listen, and feel the beauty of your
separation, the unsayable absence.
There’s a moon inside every human being.
Learn to be companions with it. Give
more of your life to this listening…
I should sell my tongue
and buy a thousand ears.
translation by Coleman Barks 1
Slice of Cake:
A 13th century Persian consistently makes
poetry best seller lists in 21st century America.2
Known in the U.S. as Rumi, his Arabic name is Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī.
Persians and Afghanis call him Jelaluddin Balkhi.
Rumi dissolves boundaries.
People from all religions came to Rumi’s funeral.
When asked why, they said,
“He deepens us.”
His presence was poetry.
– Coleman Barks 2
Rumi wrote mostly in Persian, and sometimes in Greek, Arabic, and Turkish.
Today his writings are popular in Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, South Asia, Canada, and America.
Rumi’s poetry is love poetry, but it’s a poetry
of a kind of love…beyond our ideas of mentoring
or romance or even friendship…
The Sufis say that human reality is
the heart, and we’re walking around in it.
– Coleman Barks 2
Happy 812th Birthday
** Jelaluddin Rumi **
– born September 30, 1207
in the ancient city of Balkh
in what is now Afghanistan
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness…
Welcome and entertain them all!
– from The Guest House
by Rumi 1
I’ve been thinking this week about sadness and anger, two of the more difficult house guests.
Rumi says we are each a guest house, and that we can treat our moods and emotions as guests.
You can read the full poem here.
(It’s not long.)
First time I read Rumi’s poem The Guest House was maybe 15 years ago.
My mother-in-law showed it to me.
I said: I know this is good, and probably true, but I don’t really get it.
She said: Yet.
And my mother-in-law was right.
Not that I understand it all now, but it feels much closer, and sometimes even a little bit doable.
It’s about deepening my relationship with myself, especially in my less fun moods.
It’s a perfect pre-menopausal poem, I have to say.
Tears at the Ready
Little by little,
This is the gist of what I have to say.
From an embryo, whose nourishment comes in the blood,
move to an infant drinking milk,
to a child on solid food,
to a searcher after wisdom,
to a hunter of more invisible game.
– from Wean Yourself
by Rumi 1
Life happens. Happy and sad things happen. The summer before I turned 50, my oldest child graduated high school, and my mother was hospitalized after a series of mini-strokes. Life happens.
For me, an important lesson has been how I react to my own sadness.
Typically, I immediately go from ‘I’m sad’ to ‘I must be doing something wrong or I wouldn’t be sad.’
But sometimes sad is simply sad. The most suitable response.
It’s not something wrong, it’s not something scary, and it’s not something that I need to immediately fix.
So I’ve been learning to catch myself in the act, and instead of heaping anxiety on top of sadness, to simply let myself feel how I feel.
as a mineral. We emerged into plant life
and into the animal state, and then into being human,
and always we have forgotten our former states.
Except in early spring when we slightly recall
being green again.
– from On Resurrection Day
by Rumi 1
Leg of Lamb
The best thing I’ve ever read about anger
is in a chapter called ‘Recovering a Sense of Power’ in the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
Anger is a map.
Anger show us what our boundaries are…
It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us
know when we haven’t liked it.
Anger is meant to be acted upon.
It is not meant to be acted out.
Anger points the direction.
Anger is our friend.
Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend.
But a very, very loyal friend.
It will always tell us when we have
been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have
betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us that it is
time to act in our own best interest.
– Julia Cameron 3
The second best thing I’ve ever read about anger
is the story of Aunt Carol throwing a leg of lamb out her kitchen window.
If you don’t know this one, you’re in for a treat.
The story is originally from a book called The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup, M.D. (which I haven’t read).4
The story is quoted in two book-review articles (both of which I have read and very much enjoyed).
I’ve put links to both articles
in the footnotes. 4
The story of Aunt Carol illustrates the idea that women (and their families) are often shocked by the emotions that come at the beginning of menopause. But Northrup says these emotions aren’t because a cloud of hormones is settling in—they’re because a cloud of hormones is lifting.
For many women, this process includes getting in touch with anger,
and perhaps blowing up at loved ones for the first time.
The events that evoked anger are never new.
What is new, however, is our willingness and energy to
let that anger be acknowledged and expressed,
both to ourselves and to others.
This can be the first step toward much-needed change in our lives,
change that is often long overdue.
– Christiane Northrup 4
Fertility hormones—which for decades had influenced and increased our desire to caretake—fade away. All of sudden, women find themselves looking around thinking: Hey, my kids are grown, why am I still doing all this stuff for other people?
Fertility’s amped-up reproductive hormones
helped Aunt Carol 30 years ago to begin
her mysterious automatic weekly ritual of
roasting lamb just so and laying out 12 settings of silverware
with an OCD-like attention to detail while
cheerfully washing and folding and ironing the family laundry.
No normal person would do that—
look at the rest of the family:
they are reading the paper and
lazing about like rational, sensible people.
And now that Aunt Carol’s hormonal cloud
is finally wearing off,
it’s not a tragedy,
or an abnormality, or her going crazy—
it just means she can rejoin the rest of the human race:
she can be the same selfish, non-nurturing,
non-bonding type of person everyone else is.
– Sandra Tsing Loh 4
But the trick, of course, is what we do with our anger.
As Aristotle said:
“It’s easy to fly into a passion—
anybody can do that. But to be angry with the right person
to the right extent and at the right time and with the right object
and in the right way—
that is not easy, and it is not everyone who can do it.”
“Half Cup More”
When Coleman Barks was asked by interviewer Andrew Lawler,2
What makes Rumi’s poetry so popular in America?
We have been somewhat prepared for Rumi by our
own national poets, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson:
our odd couple,
with their extensive inner dialogues and ecstatic visions.
Also I feel there is a natural expansiveness in the American soul that is
willing to receive what Rumi is giving.
Fluid yet formal, lyric and narrative,
his poetry is like some wild mixture of Miguel de Cervantes,
John Milton, James Joyce, John Coltrane,
and Robin Williams on lunch break with the crew.
Americans have a native hilarity that mixes well
with Rumi’s sense of humor.
– Coleman Barks 2
pale the wall.
Love moves away.
The light changes.
I need more grace
than I thought.
– from Dissolver of Sugar
by Rumi 1
Thank you for reading!
— Kelly J Hardesty
Scroll down to the end—and you can leave me note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.
You Can Read More…
…about Irish author Elizabeth Gaskell,
her novels, her best friend Charlotte Brontë,
plus her trip to Italy—and my own!
…about singer-songwriter Paul Simon,
how my life and his music crossed paths—plus my summer spent in Yosemite National Park!
notes & footnotes:
** Photo credit and a
BIG thank you to my brother,
photographer Steve Hardesty
for use of his two beautiful photos of the moon.
The 6 Rumi poems I quote are all found in
The Essential Rumi (1995)
translated by Coleman Barks
with an introduction by Huston Smith
An interview with translator Coleman Barks
by Andrew Lawler appeared
in The Sun magazine (October 2007)
You can read the whole article here:
Coleman Barks has translated much of Rumi’s poetry into English.
A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee,
Barks taught literature for 30 years at the University of Georgia.
He also has several published books of his own poetry.
The Artist’s Way (1992)
by Julia Cameron
This book is an essential tool for anyone who reads, writes,
paints, takes photos, plays or listens to
music, and/or indulges in art of any kind.
(My copy was a birthday gift
from my sister-in-law Lyn in 2002.)
The Wisdom of Menopause (2001)
by Christiane Northrup, MD.
I haven’t read any of this very large book. But I did read the following two
excellent book-review articles about Northrup’s book:
Both articles were published in October 2011
(just in time for my 50th birthday!)
The first article is
‘The Bitch is Back’
by Sandra Tsing Loh
Groused a girlfriend, to whom I was
manically recommending [Northrup’s book]:
“Why should I bother? Every day of menopause
already feels like I’m reading a 600-page book.”
So, for the bloated and tired, let me give you the CliffsNotes…
– Sandra Tsing Loh
The second article is written by Northrup herself:
‘The Brain Catches Fire at Menopause’
Whenever you click on ‘Post Comment’ your comments always come to me first. Then I post them below.
If you’d rather they stay between us, just let me know.
© Kelly J Hardesty 2023
2 thoughts on “Dissolving Boundaries”
This was my favorite one of your blogs so far. I love Rumi’s poetry, I love Aunt Carol and I love the way you presented your thoughts about sadness and anger.
Here’s a funny story. Years ago, Manny and I went to a church in SF to hear Coleman Barks read Rumi’s poetry. When we entered the charming old building, a sitar player was sitting, playing soothing music to a hushed audience. We were prepared for a spiritual evening. When Coleman entered the stage and began reading, the musician accompanied him. It soon became apparent that they were jockeying for position. Each wanted to be the star. Eventually the sitar player stood up and stormed off the stage. Not quite what we had been expecting.
Thank you, Lois! And thank you for introducing me to Rumi all those years ago.
What a great story about going to see Coleman Barks!
I guess spiritual topic or no, people are people — and egos will get in the way of sense sometimes.