Stranger in a Strange Backyard


 

“Work in your own backyard.”
                      — Pete Seeger

I’m guessing Jesus told us something similar.  Buddha too.  Along with Mohammed, Lao Tzu, and Confucius.

But since I don’t have their exact words, I’m going with what the minstrel-activist stated in plain English—what he said and what he has demonstrated through his actions.

Seeger has been working to clean up the Hudson River—that’s his backyard…

For myself, I realized many years ago that my backyard needed to be me—I was the river I needed to clean.

There were so many motes in that river!  Though there are less now, there’s still quite a few—a few too many.  This work will last a lifetime!  The more I look, the more I find…

Yet I’m sensing that it’s time to expand my work…

…to work more in my outer backyard.

I know I’ll have to shift my focus: more time in my outer backyard, means less time in my inner backyard.

But I also realize that what happens “out there” must be digested in quiet moments alone.  So the inner backyard work remains vital—it’s essential to the success of my outer backyard work.

My inner backyard work has taught me to listen to my inner voice—the voice that warns me when I’m about to wander off-course…

And it’s easy to wander off-course: as I peer outside, there’s so much to distract me…

Every day my eyes swivel at the carnival of news—news from around the country, news from around the world…

…and what’s way over there usually seems much more exciting than what’s happening here, in my own backyard.

For example: like many in Northwest Arkansas, I’m taken up with the fever of the presidential race.  But as for our local races…

…I barely know the candidates.

In my bedroom is a map of the world, as well as a map of Africa and one of China.  My imagination extends far beyond the U.S.  And why shouldn’t it?  Aren’t Brazil, Greece, and Antarctica also part of my backyard?

Well, yes…

…but though my mind can reach that far, my arms are still too short.  Right now, they can only reach my local backyard…

Yes, I know that what I do in that backyard affects the whole world in some small way…

…but it sure ain’t the Serengeti.

I guess I’ll just have to pretend.  I’ll have to imagine I’m in a dark continent, going into unknown territory…

Well, for that matter, it is unknown territory…

…because the inner and outer can not divided so easily…

My inner backyard remains an unknown country, despite all my exploring—in fact, it’s become even more mysterious to me.  And so, my outer backyard—that seemingly mundane backyard—has become more mysterious as well.

My own backyard is an unknown country!

To keep my senses alive, to keep my wonder alive, to keep my mind alive, to keep myself going—working, involved, I must not forget: I’m an unknown man in an unknown land…

I must not forget: how much I love it.

© 2012, Michael R. Patton
dreaming steps

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About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, essayist, cartoonist, graphic artist, peace miller, new mythologist, and fledgling world citizen.... I grew up in Northwest Arkansas and have lived and worked all over the United States.... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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