Friday, November 13, 2009

A Musing About My Muse

A Guest Post by Elizabeth A. Galligan

Every now and again, I post work here that was produced in one of my classes or workshops.

Today, I'm featuring Elizabeth A. Galligan, an Albuquerque resident who penned this meeting with her muse during my "Spirit Writes" workshop earlier this fall. No one was more surprised than she was to discover the form her muse insisted on taking....

I imagined a larger muse, something like a manatee or a mammoth, something with mass -- strong, hairy, ponderous even. I wanted a muse with gravitas, at whose entrance all would incline slightly, acknowledging her immensity and power. I had wanted a notable muse, one that would attract positive attention. Others would think how grand I must be to have a muse like her. Muses like these are honored in muse-ums, aren’t they?

But I am learning to see that my muse is not massive. She’s tiny. She has a funny voice. She makes music with her legs. She comes, and goes, when she wants. Mostly, she leaves. Her leaving increases my desire for her, my companion, my co-creator.

She is small and unassuming, almost insignificant, easily stepped on. She is often mistaken for a cockroach.

My muse visits me only when I am in crisis. Then, she sings to me. Her singing begins in the evening and lasts while I slumber. In the morning, she is gone. For many mornings after, I miss her. I don’t know what calls her to my patio.

I once thought it demeaning to have a tiny, fragile insect as my muse. She suits me now. Her songs and mine will blend.

I find it a-musing to dissect this tiny creature which has allied itself to me in times of intense emotion. My cricket sings all night without pause. What meaning is there in this? Does her habit simply indicate mechanistic movements without consciousness? If I attribute emotion or caring to these cricket acts, am I simply projecting my human feelings onto her insectness? Am I able to let go of these misgivings long enough to hear, really listen to my diminutive muse?

Will her songs and mine blend? The songs of a cricket, are they really songs or messages from another reality? We hear through human ears. What we call "song" conveys emotion. Do crickets have emotions? If not, what do they have, cricket-consciousness? In many native traditions, all creatures have spirit. There was a time when animals, insects, and people spoke with each other in a mutual language. Insects were helpers, guides, and saviors. To communicate with them, one had to learn to listen carefully.

Opening up to my muse demands my release of desires rooted in the ego and the twin-enemy gods, domination and power. This demands humility.

To listen properly to the cricket, what should I do? Since she rarely visits, perhaps I should avail myself of human technology and make a recording of cricket sounds. It would be a kind of elevator muse-ic to trigger my writing in her absence.

In these late summer days, I have not needed her. My songs keep flowing. But what about the winter? Will she come again and nestle near my hearth the way she rested near my bare toes on the day I realized that she had come as an ally?

My cricket muse has not arrived, and I long for her. Now the only sounds on my patio are the faint chirps of sparrows and the louder thrum of traffic on the interstate. A soothing breeze blows a cool hint of fall. When will my muse come again? Until she arrives, I shall have to write alone and explore the gifts she brought. How long it takes to recognize both the fragility and the power of the cricket within. She and I share gifts. I know her songs and mine can blend.

I write and listen. I hear the sound of the thick silver tip of my pen as it moves across the page. Can I close my eyes and write? No, the last line obliterated the previous one and I lost the meaning. Can I let the pen say what it wants and push back my critic, my inhibitor, so that the words can flow? If I stop saying “I” and begin with “We,” will that make a difference? If I think outside the box of my own self, will I arrive “somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond” as e. e. cummings wrote? Will I be glad to “travel beyond” or will I quickly jump back, fearing to step into the muse stream? Will I greet the beyond?

The poem continues, “your eyes hold their meaning.” What meanings will I discover in this muse-questing? Who knows? At least the journey moves me forwards to listen more intently.

The silver tip of the poem slows. Some intruder in my usually tranquil neighborhood has activated all the guardians into noise. A tiny yapper yelps, another huge dog gruffly barks, somewhere another howls. At last, the dogs settle down. Finches contest sparrows for seeds in the rain gutter, the traffic noises subside.

I listen for my cricket.

I listen for my cricket.

I listen for my cricket.

With thanks to Mark David Gerson for his guidance and the concept

Elizabeth Ann Galligan is an award-winning poet who is also exploring other genres. Currently she is at work on a mystery novel set in northern New Mexico. Her writing often reflects her love of the Southwest.

Cricket photo from; cartoon drawing of Disney's Jiminy Cricket

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