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Amber Paulen

A Fig Tree

There is a dead branch in a fig tree that I sometimes use for sitting. It is a retreat among branches. The view is almost the same as above on the sentinella, just nearer to great Nature. It is a branch for drift-type thinking; my eyes can go wandering, my nose can go a’ smelling, my ears are filled with bird song, as my mind plays hide-and-seek. The other branches of the fig tree go out and then curve up; the sharper the curve, the nearer to its tip. On each live branch there are now plenty of tender buds: some are still wrapped tight like a tough dew drop, some are showing slight green in a fresh unfurling.

A fig tree is perfect to get me thinking. It clears my mind in a swipe; it takes and calms me, transports me. Before I know it, my thoughts arrange themselves and any dullness or confusion is lightened or swept away. Today I went down the short path to help me clear my thoughts of my book and to replace them with thoughts of the illustrious Henry Miller. Not like I have any problem keeping Henry Miller in mind; he is always there, even if I’m not reading one of his books, he is there ten-fold when I am. I am reading The Books in My Life and after lunch I read his interview with The Paris Review. In Henry Miller’s words I am forever finding ever more.

This from the interview:

What is an artist? He’s a man with antennae, who knows how to hook up to the currents which are in the atmosphere, in the cosmos; he merely has the faculty for hooking on, as it were. Who is original? Everything that we are doing, everything that we think, exists already, and we are only intermediaries, that’s all, who make use of what is in the air.

“The air is always loaded,” I hasten to wager. Currents, vibrations, “something more.” When I sat under the fig tree today, in the cloud-heavy spring air, I put out my feelers to feel what I could feel. What I wanted to feel was the life-force pulsing through a fig tree. Below are the roots, gathering, gathering and tickling the earth; in the middle is the thick trunk pushing against all odds, the life-sap up out of the earth; at the ends are the new buds which use that energy, slowly and patiently, to open so that they too can give life by swallowing the sun.

I found myself joining Henry Miller’s words with this exquisite feeling gleaned. His words are lights of life. His words work like the whole base of the tree, where as I am the young and tender buds. It was this understanding I went to the fig tree for: to know with an absolute certainty what exactly he meant, without the words, only a lingering impression of his unabashed life-worshipping.

What is an artist? Intermediary, medium, transcriber. The sheer volume of what goes by, taken for granted, unseen, is incredible and would blow even the dullest person out of the water. That we wade through the unthinkable every day and by-pass what is, according to life, the most important, reiterates the advantage of our blinders. Why not shed what is not needed and see as if new for the first time?

Oh! That question bids tomes of answers.

But another, something I have voiced again and again, something that never fails to incite me when I’m here: Why would anybody who wants to write go study “creative writing” in a school? I can not conceptualize the insanity that drives perfectly sane and probably talented people to it. Academics are boring, death-wielding. Academics and so-called Intellectuals create pigeonholes that they enjoy stuffing “art” into. Such ridiculousness belittles that which is in essence expansive. A dry and boring well of books has been created that one cannot even hopefully squeeze one drop of life from.

Why? When learning is so easy? Why not find a fig tree? Any other type of tree. No tree at all. The important thing is to get from it a certain knowing as to how to install the antennae.

Henry Miller’s words very clearly point to the difference between that which is alive and that which is dead. The whole world very clearly points to that which is alive and that which is dead. The inanimate, the unseen, the currents and vibrations are our best bet at getting nearer to the source. But first one must take their lessons and learning is everywhere. To sit under a fig tree on an opaque spring day, where every green is saturated and every wild flower a solemn point of colored light, is to take silent lessons from the masters.

A writer needs very little to stimulate him. The fact of being a writer means that more than other men he is given to cultivating the imagination. Life itself provides abundant material, superabundant material. — The Books in My Life


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