Sunday, May 29, 2011

Graduation: Santa Fe High

I didn't faint, my hat only blew off once, I made a friend (Thanks Tammy!), and I got to shake 302 graduates' hands. I read too fast, but I forgive myself since every single person told me it was too long and the fear of more beach balls flying around the field was upon me, and nary a beach ball flew during my talk. The highlight was shaking every graduate's hand, looking at so many smiles, and half of them even made eye contact. Their faces, youth, the great variety of lives touched me. I thought of Amachi the Indian Saint who hugs everyone and I tried to be a virtual Amma and send love to every person. The 302 people passed in an instant, and I wan't even tired. Tammy, my new friend who will teach the poetry class next year, videoed me but my battery ran out half way, so if anybody has a record I've love it. Here is the text:

Graduation at Santa Fe High, May 28, 2011,

I have come to Santa Fe High as a Poet in the Schools with New Mexico CultureNet, visited some classes, and way back I also know some of you from Santa Fe Girls’ School.

When asked what a Poet Laureate means someone in Julie Hasted’s poetry class said, “Poet Warrior” and I liked that more than explaining what I do is function as the city’s poet for two years. In some classes I had you calculate how many days they have been alive. I have been alive 23,000 days and you already have 6,000.

I spent a week and probably six to eight hours writing a talk for today. When I read it to my husband it was so boring that both of us practically fell asleep or got divorced, so I ripped it up. It came to me that it was my chance to give some of the wisdom moments, the secrets of success, and plain old advice that people have given me that I have found useful.

1. When I said I would do this talk I had a houseguest from California we call Six Foot Tall Girl, because she is six feet tall and it’s her e-mail. She has taught school for many years. She said that I have continued doing what I love all these years. She talked about fame and that in our culture people think that fame is the measure of success. She said not many can be famous, it’s what makes fame fame.

Naomi Shihab Nye who is an Arab American poet says in her poem “Famous” “The river is famous to the fish….The boot is famous to the earth,/more famous than the dress shoe,/which is famous only to floors,…I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,/or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,/but because it never forgot what it could do.”
So, thanks to Six Foot Tall Girl I want to tell you, you are famous if you remember what you can do, maybe what you loved as a kid. Today you are famous to your family, your friends, and your teachers.

2. My friend Cecile was also visiting, and she gave me advice once, which I found very helpful: Every Day do three things for the good. Whatever impossible thing you want to happen, career as an artist, saving the world, renting an apartment, enlightenment, do three things a day towards that end. That’s all. Very small steps that accumulate.

3. My oldest daughter. Whenever she comes up against some challenges in life, she says it is her soul’s path, that she has chosen it, and following it she learns what she needs to. In that way she takes responsibility for her own life, which is exactly what Oprah would have said on her final show, if I had been watching it instead of trying to write this talk.

4. Six Foot Tall Man which is what my husband now wants to be called, started leaving me notes with his advices. He says to think about treat people as if they were angels. Everybody has a message, and that is why you will never see him yelling at another driver. He also brought me a quote from our refrigerator,

“Marriage is the hardest yoga, be householder saints” and he should know after 40 years.

He reminded me of a musician friend of mine from college who said:
“Don’t make me uptight in my own house.”

He even quoted me from a poem of mine that said, “Worry is reverse prayer.” I need that line cause I have a black belt in worry.

5. I once heard the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet speak in this school’s gymnasium. One of his teachings is this:
Never give up
No matter what is going on.
Never give up.
Develop the heart.
Too much energy in your country is spent developing the mind instead of the heart. Develop the heart.
Be compassionate.
Not just to your friends, but to everyone.
Be compassionate.
Work for peace in your heart and in the world.
Work for peace, and I say again.
Never give up, no matter what is happening.
No matter what is going on around you.
Never give up!

6. I am terrible at making decisions, so I can’t help you too much, but baseball great Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” You do have choices, you will have choices, you have made choices. Poet, Robert Frost said, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/ and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler/ long I stood….I took the one last traveled on, and that has made all the difference.”

Carlos Casteneda wrote, “Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good. if it doesn’t , it is of no use.”

In each of your ten next thousand days I wish you make the choices that serve you.

7. Imagination:::
These quotes are from W.S. Merwin Poet Laureate of America:
"It's impossible to conceive of a human being without the imagination....It's also what makes us able to share the distress of the homeless in Darfur, and the distress of the homeless in the next block.
It produced Albert Schweitzer and Mother Theresa. It also produced Mozart and Shakespeare, Blake and Vermeer.
That's the imagination. It's infinite. It's unpredictable. It's a wonder. It's a miracle. It's what we have to live by and if we live by something else, we're wronging ourselves."

C.K. Rowling, that miraculous writer of Harry Potter, said at Harvard’s graduation address:
"Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not and therefore the font of all invention and innovation.…it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.……"We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better."

8. The three best things I know.
1. Allow extra time and write thank you notes.
The third one I forget.

9. Here’s a very tricky and interesting one, from a book by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you.

10. I read this in a spy novel about when you are a houseguest: never force anything mechanical. We quote this our house.

11. My mother said over and over again, not to depend on anyone else. To always have something to fall back on. I fell back on poetry. She also believed in the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. She said, "I tried to tell the world, but they wouldn’t listen."

12. Kayle is my granddaughter. She was four when I became poet laureate and we celebrated on the Plaza downtown during the free band concert. Afterwards she looked me in the eyes and said, “I’m so proud of you. Don’t lose a bit of it.” This serious moment with a four year old seemed to be coming from my late Aunt Pearl or my mother. I am not saying she was channeling, but that children are tapped into the wisdom. I want to pass that along to you today,


Here I stand at the intersection of Yucca and Siringo,
between Zia and tomorrow,
With my too many words and my disguise as a gray haired poet.

Here you sit in your cap and gowns,
at the intersection of heart and mind,
at the corner of past and future, right now.

And here we are with the mystery of how things turn out
With the mornings all groggy with too late and too early
With the getting to high school anyway, with your homework

done or the pages still printing, with the many lessons learned
and the already forgotten stored inside you. With your success
and the blessing of Santa Fe all around us, its sky

which has been smiling for centuries, watching you,
its paved promises and it been-there-done-that. With its dreams,
graffiti tagged illegally onto your souls

With its history as complicated as any place.
Just yesterday I was driving south on Saint Francis at Cordova
and I heard drumming. Through my closed car window, drumming,

with its base note of Pueblo people, deep drumming
through the open window of a car shining silver,
feathers hung from its rear view mirror.

And the language spoken was English with a back story
of Tewa and a Spanish flamenco, just yesterday with its Conquistadors and the conquered and nobody giving up.

That’s what I love, a city where nobody gives up.
I am dreaming of red shoes, red with sunset, with blood,
with a taste of drama and never stop the dancing.

With your future all shiny like WET PAINT DON’T TOUCH,
with your unknown and your planned. With just today
spread out like a feast at a city that knows how to party,

at Fiesta Central at the corner of already and not yet, I want to say
Look into the faces of those who love you, those holy places
of I’m so proud of you, and take into your body memory,

your heart and belly, how this day feels.
Make the mornings count, today with its bright promise,
every day a slice of why not?, I mean why can’t you,

I know you can. It’s the dress rehearsal for everything, and it’s the show.
I want to send you safe and beaming into the next ten thousand mornings,
into the constant mountains and the meanings under the ravishing sky.

Into the arms of all who hold you and how you carry yourself.
Into the next and the best, not the last. Into the endless nows
with their hard work and small pleasures, into the mystery

with its good news/bad news days. Into your one saved life,
your sacred breath and breathing. Into the Santa Fe you love
and the places that come after,

into the bring-it-on-I-can-take-it, I-can-make-it
city of no indifference, the intersection of you and me, all of us
send you into the caring and daring new day.

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