A Multitude of Drops

Anne Birch by George Romney — My favorite painting at the Phoenix Art Museum

The last time I was at the Phoenix Art Museum with my friend, I was at odds with myself and the hundreds of years of creation isolated between the art museum’s walls.

I kept thinking to myself, why me? Why did I choose to be creative in this life when I am constantly reminded of the usefulness of other paths and careers.

At that time, I bemoaned my creativity — wished to be different, in fact. If only I could live a life in pursuit of something technical or scientific, I kept saying.

Now, a few months later, my perspective has radically changed. How lucky I am to live this life — to create art and share it with you, the stranger from a near-far distance.

How lucky I am to be the amalgamation of all the artists and creators who came before me. How lucky I am to live a life where my words can create a ripple in the ocean.

“Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops,” David Mitchell writes in his masterpiece of a novel, Cloud Atlas. And how true he is.

I’ve been thinking of those who’ve been considered the literary greats — Walt Whitman, Bram Stoker, Sappho, Emily Dickinson; the list continues on ad infinitum.

I’ve been thinking of how Whitman spoke of equality — of Bram Stoker’s candid declarations of affection to Whitman and how anyone, including you, can touch someone with your words.

I think it’s rather lovely to hold this space for you, whoever you may be, across this liminal space. My words may not be pressed between a physical page, but I believe they’ve touched someone in the ether.

And in the end, that’s worth it.

Thank you.

-Ilyssa

Oceanic Memories in Art

I’ve been thinking lately about my legacy in these poems and words I press to the page.

One of my favorite musicians, Zella Day, once spoke to the oceanic nature of her songs and how in time she will collect a catalogue of pressed moments, which she can return to any time.

Now, as I near the next poem of my life, I think fondly back on the catalogue I’ve created thus far within my poetry. It’s rather beautiful how I can return to any poem I’ve written, or any work for that matter, and find something new every time.

In the end, this is what I love about art in all its multifaceted forms. I love how artists show up for their art every day. I love how people can find some new interpretation in the words, which I press to the page (and the words you may press to the page).

I love how I can go to an art gallery and connect so viscerally with a portrait painted hundreds of years ago. And I love how I can meet you in this hour, without ever touching you in the physical realm.

That’s why I show up every day in my life. That’s why I show up in my art.

I do it because that’s what it means to live well and to preserve a moment in time for eternity.

Unexpected Leaves at TSA

This morning, as I made my way to the airport, I was in a rush, surrounded by metallic drab grays and blues with insincere faces and the imminent will of the clock speeding me up.

I reached for my great grandmother’s gold necklace and fixed it onto my neck, combatting a headache and a sleepy daze, which I hadn’t been able to shake since last night.

I’m going home, I kept thinking.

As I rifled through my pockets at the TSA station, I discovered this memento I stowed away days ago from Yosemite Park. Instantly, it brought a smile to my face and made me remember, just like that, the divinity of this moment.

I’ll close off this note by wishing you well on your journey. Make sure you pack spare leaves and mementos as you traverse the darkest corners and emerge brilliant and golden with everything to show for it.

-Ilyssa

Remembering Yosemite Park

For the last week, I’ve been isolated from all signs of physical connection as witnessed through my cell phone and its reception.

After eight weeks of staring at a phone screen, I was stripped of it all as I traversed Yosemite Park. At first, it was difficult to disconnect from civilization in this regard with no social media, no internet, and no digital map to guide me forward through the unexplored terrain.

Luckily enough, I fared well, requiring only the silence, my feet, my steady breath, and loads of water to make my hike through nature. At the beginning, I found I had no words as I digested the last eight weeks, which passed me in a blur.

And yet, in the silence, I found words within me speaking ever so softly. It had been months since I bled my first poetry collection onto the page. Despite this, I kept wondering what was next for me — what to write, what to create. In my mind, I bought into all these capitalistic, consumptive tendencies even though it’s something I’ve always fought to distance myself from.

“What will I publish next?” This question always lingered on my lips, and as often as I asked it, I returned with nothing to show for the question because I did not have the answer.

And I still don’t.

I don’t know what’s next for me. I think I’m meant to sit on the catalog of poetry I’ve gathered here and continue to write and write until I emerge clearer for the fresh summer air and the silence all around me.

I’ll end this letter with a thank you for the moments of respite I’ve gathered from the Arizona heat.

Thank you, Yosemite.

Life as a Meditation

There is no rush. Life is a meditation.

This afternoon, after waving goodbye to my third-grade class, I wrote these lines on my lesson plan.

I’ve been thinking about what it means to live life truly and how, even I, have been contemplating my next move: What will I publish next? Where will my next gem come from? I’ve been in such a rush that I haven’t stopped to smell the roses.

Today, I realized how being so focused on the next moment has stopped me from sitting with the magnitude of what I’ve done in the last three months alone. I’ve published my first chapbook and my first full-length poetry collection. Why, then, can’t I sit with this accomplishment and celebrate all that I have accomplished in such a short amount of time?

What pushes me to push forward — to contemplate, to strike away at a new meditation before it is the right time to do so?

I believe there’s a number of reasons (societal and otherwise for this), but I’ll refrain from that long interlude and remain present, here and now with you.

When I graduated from college and completed my undergraduate thesis, a dear friend spoke to me about how we couldn’t just sit with our achievements and marvel in them all; we had to constantly be onto “the next big thing” as we moved forward in our educations. Suffice it to say, I fell guilty to this same phenomenon because I couldn’t just sit with my words in the silence.

I think all the world’s problems would be solved if we just sat with our silence.

So, I think I shall sit in silence for a little while until the muse strikes me once again.

A Teacher’s First Goodbye

Channeling Discussion Questions

Over the course of the last three months, I’ve been teaching for a reading program with students across all age levels. Today, I composed my first goodbye in my 8th grade class. I wasn’t ready and was ready in the best sense of the word. I truly believe that’s how we all approach our passings as there’s a sense of eternity in temporality.

Three months ago, I didn’t believe in myself and my talents and capacity to teach and write, but I’ve grown in both those regards since then. I’ve become a better person for having taught my 225 students (yes, you read that right). I’ve shared some smiles, some sighs, some follow-up questions as my students continued to show up again and again within the meaningful discussions we led. I crafted the questions. I sat with them. I listened to them and read their words and now we say goodbye.

Because in some regard, I’ve been on this journey for three months and my students have been with me throughout my challenges without even knowing it. It’s hard to say goodbye. It’s even harder to say goodbye when you know goodbyes are secretly hellos in disguise, but I continue to do it again and again because that’s where I derive my meaning from, but it’s time to go now.

So, I take this meaning and put it in my pocket — to disseminate, to listen to, to contemplate as I weave the story of my life on this page you hold in your hands now.

I am incredibly grateful to have been a teacher to my students. It has been a privilege and an honor to be of service to them as I nurtured them in the very place where they stood.

I will not forget one moment of this.

So long.

Goodbye (Hello).

-Ilyssa

Charting Passings of 100 Years

Lasted through the weight of the pandemic, succumbed to a flash flood in 2021.

A week ago, the saguaro cactus near where I live fell down. In my neighborhood park, this cactus occupied a strange, archaic in-between when I first discovered it.

I attached a myriad of meanings to this relic. This cactus became a marker of my journey — an artifact still standing in its place, despite the passing of one-hundred years. I found beauty in this relic. I found solace in its present orientation in the world, even as it leaned forward, rather like the picture of the Tower of Pisa. In its rather mechanical nature, it stood exposed, skin peeled back to reveal nature’s bones. I admired its pursuit to remain through August, September, October and until the end of July of 2021 when it was displaced in a flash flood.

I couldn’t help wonder why the elemental force of the flash floods brought an end to this cacti’s journey of one-hundred years (potentially more), but I think that’s beside the point.

I’ve realized the power of foundations within nature and as evident within my own life. Sooner or later, this artifact of nature was meant to fall, to decompose — all in the name of eventually being reborn.

So, today, as I walked past this ancient composition of nature, I couldn’t help but smile, all in the name of remembering what Walt Whitman once said, “Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? / I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it” (Leaves of Grass, Norton Critical Edition, p. 666).

I plant myself for a new arrival as I honor the one-hundred years, which came before me. I give gratitude to the lives of my ancestors and for the foundations, which once served them. Lastly, I pray the cactus I spied months and months ago is given a proper burial where she belongs, finally at home to be reborn once again.

Nearing the End of an Era

With the release of my debut chapbook and now my first full-length poetry collection out, I feel I am finally nearing the end of an era, which began two years ago. In 2019, I began my spiritual journey, though, perhaps in more ways than one, I chose this path for myself long before I consciously became aware of it.

In 2019, I wrote the most I had ever written only to turn away from writing altogether.

In 2020, poetry poured out of me. I left my job as an Instructional Assistant working at a preschool and wrote during the height of the pandemic.

Now, in 2021, I write with a renewed sense of understanding on my path.

Publishing both my chapbook and collection was an action forged in trust because, at the end of the day, I released these books for myself, only to realize I released them for all of you — the stranger, the familiar friend off in the distance. I believe, in more ways than one, we’ve met on a soul-level even if I’ve never stood physically across from you.

During the height of a deep depression, I grappled with my meaning in the world. I longed to understand what my words were worth if they could not be planted in the world in the manner in which I had always desired them to be. It took a bit of time to build myself up, piece by piece, until I remembered my meditation and truth, which has always been a part of me.

At the height of those unconscious, seeing moments, I listened to the muse and I listened to all the great voices of those who came before me. I listened to the myth of Psyche and, perhaps most importantly, I listened to myself.

In the silence, devoid of any expectations for my life, I found peace. I emptied myself of everything I thought I knew about myself and listened to my soul.

Now, as I pursue my dreams wholeheartedly, I choose myself and these words pressed to the page again and again.

Maybe, you’ll join me and find some words for yourself.

-Ilyssa

Returning Home

I’ve left this website largely untouched for a matter of years. After a series of detours, I find myself back home again — the setting altogether the same, the perspective significantly changed. I found my home in the words I put to the page as the words around me changed, splashing me with their uncertain, malleable light.

I suppose what I mean to say is this much: I am not the person who originally created this website, and yet, she is still a part of me. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, I wrote and wrote and wrote and then I stopped writing. After a series of rejections from Master’s programs in Creative Writing, I gave up. I sank into a deep depression and doubted all the steps, which led me to this very page. I imagined that my God-given gifts had been denied by a greater, unseeable force.

It wasn’t until after trauma, wonder, and stars that I realized my gift is my own expression to embody in this lifetime — and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

So, I’ve reclaimed this page and these words as my own in the name of expression and in the name of returning home.

Stay tuned.

Welcome home.

Sincerely,

The Muse of Idle Stars