Yin Yang, or Giving Rise To Complements

Here’s a simple thing which took me a ridiculously long time to learn: that famous yin yang symbol isn’t particularly about a dot of white in a tear of black or vice versa. Instead, the black and white are all smeared together.

As an American woman, for years I perceived the world as opposites: you’re in the house or out, it’s light or dark, we’re dead or alive. Through gardening, I began to perceive growth demands decay, and then I carried that notion to writing: creation depends on destruction. The universe is intricately braided with myriad shades of being, color, sound….. There is no one single thing separate and opposed to the whole other rest of the world.

So when my daughter comes with me on a drizzly and rainy afternoon in the woods behind our house, I’m grateful this the childhood world she knows, the place she is rightfully at home in.

….These two emerge together but differ in name
The unity is said to be the mystery
Mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders….

– Tao Te Ching

Photo by Molly S./Woodbury, Vermont


Pieces of Writing, Things of Life

Twice this summer, as I’ve driven along the Vermont interstate, a blue pickup has swung out in front of me at the same exit, a man at the wheel, but what caught my attention both times was the Greek omega symbol on its side, leering up at me like some distant memory of high school science. As a writer, I can’t help but think, That needs to wind into my book.

One keen advantage of writing is that, while I’m often half-blind, at times I’m tuned in razor-sharp, wondering in what way the universe is patterning around me, with this truck and this omega so near I could stretch out my arm and grasp its curve. Perhaps the deeper advantage of this is that writing forces you to look, and look hard at times, for meaning and relevance in the world.

Writing a scene the other morning, I realized a female character, in a dim kitchen, held an ear of corn from her garden and was abstractedly picking the ear apart, peeling loose the husk and each strand of silk, bit by bit. Inside, she discovered those gleaming, uneven rows of kernels, new as milk teeth. Would she eat the corn raw? Steam it? Offer it to her stepdaughter? Heave it in the compost? Chuck it out to the chickens?

The things of the world we live in matter. It’s different to wear acrylic or hemp, to eat fast food hamburgers or brandywines from the garden, whether your house has walls of glass or hardly any windows at all. Neither, perhaps, good nor ill, but the things that return into your life might not be wholly arbitrary. What’s near to your hand might be there for a reason.

The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with an ordinary life,
you can show all the people the way
back to their own true nature.

–– Tao Te Ching

Photo by Molly S.