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you are not listening

I am waiting for something to start,

Something that started long ago.

“You are not listening,”

He said, “for what is to come,

you are listening in order to

Remember what was.”

— what is, what can be —

Every whoosh, hiss, chirp pulls me West.

Beckoned toward mountains and streams

And Mother Pacific herself. Calling me toward

Something I fear is a mirage.

It’s curious how nothing pulls me eastward.

Not even the departure board at O’Hare

Intrigues me with it possibilities of cities and shores.

Rather my eyes land on the hubs of Santa Fe, Portland, Sacramento —

Fingers of possibility gesturing toward a Future Moon.

 

 

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stay

Wherever you are today, can you stay just a little longer?

Hear Jackson Brown’s anthem, or hear a Biblical command.

Whatever the voice that bids you, let your feet be gluey with

A permanence that suggests the ancient roots of a redwood.

Run mycelium threads into the earth that holds stories your

Infantile ears can only guess at.

 

Traveling in France, I was thankful for the reminders to attention:

Ecoutez! Restez! Arrêtez!

I want these voices in my ear each day, whether to spot the gap

On the subway platform or to slow for the caterpillar making

Its oceanic voyage across the gray of the cement.

 

Stay. Just a little longer.

Stay with that 2 AM doubt.

Stay with the juice of the peach.

Stay with the suitcases gathering in the foyer.

Stay with the stretch marks and the achy knees.

 

We leave so well. Rushing to the Next.

We leave without goodbyes.

We leave without a transition.

Staying is not a 21st-century skill.

And yet it’s so much harder than leaving.

Today:  Stay. Rest. Stop. Full stop.

 

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marigolds

It is that turning time. The cicadas tell of it. The sunflowers, losing some of their mighty stature, mumble the inevitable.

The weather, the hue of late summer sky, the orange blooms of all that pulsates now, especially the marigolds, take me to California and to the edge of the western border, to the edge of my heart. Two people are getting married. Two people have overcome fear and regret–which we all do, every day, if we are honest. But today, they’ve stepped into a kind of giddy joy that seems the realm of children. Today, they step toward a promise to show up for each other. To know each other.

I deadhead the marigolds, popping off one withered bloom after another. It’s satisfying, and if I had a field of marigolds, I’d do it all day. Weeding has been my meditative practice this summer, this summer of heart tending and mending that follows the summer of bellowing grief.  Bending low, pulling, letting the sky hold me from above, I marionette my moves.

As I go, I think of how what I want most is to love and be loved by someone I’ve known a long long time. Someone who knows about that gas station in Tennessee. Or that time at the rheumatologist’s office. There was no gas station or any rheumatologist, but if there were, this person would know. The certainty that this is impossible, that there is no such person available, makes me heave a sigh, bend lower, and search for secrets in the dirt.

It will take two years, I was told by some, three years by others. How long does it take to accept that that which you thought you had, you do not?

Later today, I’ll return to the hospital to see my friend who is recovering from surgery. So much that she thought she had, she does not. So much that she didn’t realize she had has been boldly surfaced for her.

In Washington, our president scrapes away things we thought we had. Certain rights, certain dignities, all being pared down without our say. We are being challenged to find connective tissue we’ve too long overlooked.

To tend. Tend to that which is here and that which is possible. I long to put a blanket over my head and sleepwalk through the rest of this life; to pull the grate over my heart and let only the most necessary of fluids flow in and out. But the marigolds bid me into their golden centers. Echoing back through their siblings across the globe–for they are truly an international and ancient clan–they sing:  Keep waking up. 

 

 

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Re-pair

The socks await each other.

The lone earring, returned from France without its partner

Sits in the bowl by my bed without purpose.

 

I wake every morning and one of my first thoughts,

Whether remnants of a dream through which I just passed

Or of that past waking life,

Is of my partner with whom I paired my Self —

Gone. Living a life I will never know when I’d thought I’d know it all.

———-

“Jennifer New, you are a do-er,” my friend Sarah said to me,

Not with anything like judgement but with simple observation.

And yet I felt a sting.  A small voice:  “I want to be a be-er.”

 

Repose. Recline. Rekindle. Reinvigorate. Renew.

 

I make lists of my work:  Work I’ve committed to, work I want to do.

And it’s too much–each list a dissertation in its own right.

That is clear, even to me, the one who tries to do it all.

What if you add rest to each list? a friend suggests.

—————

Yoga: to yoke, to bring union to the two parts —

Breath and body, spirit and physical, masculine and physical.

Do-er and Be-er.

Re-pair that which is out of balance and make whole.

 

This being is harder than it looks. Squint and you’ll miss it.

For those of us who wake to the aching of this world–

Yesterday’s shootings, everyday’s shrinking forests–

There is a hurryupandosomething urgency that screams for doing and more doing,

Bold-faced, capitalized, non-stop doing.

 

Repair begins here (I place one hand on my heart and the other on my belly).

Repair begins with sitting still long enough to listen with kindness.

 

The other earring that fell off somewhere in France is living its own life

I hope it’s one of coffee and pastis, of art and conversation.

The one here in the bowl will rest until a new purpose emerges.

 

Perched on the edge of Sunday, it is so tempting to start a list,

To plan a project that will sit shamefully semi-finished.

Harder to go to the pool and read a book

That is what I am do-ing.

 

 

 

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this must be the place

Home (is where I want to be) from crossing zones and oceans. The first pot of coffee is percolating, the laundry is sloshing about, and the mail has been sorted.

Home was briefly in Paris, Honfleur, Dinan, and London. Home was briefly borrowed from others. Home was briefly without the daily amenities but with new ones, namely croissants, museums, and a cacophony of languages and accents.

In the dark last night as I settled my bones into my blessedly familiar bed–a return to the womb of sorts, I spoke out loud the gratitude for this trip:  gratitude for the resources to make it possible, to those who nourished the home front, for the sweet time with my daughter and her willingness to share these fleeting weeks before she leaves, for everyone who helped us along the way–giving directions, recommending places, cooking and cleaning, for the fuel we consumed and will try to offset.

Gratitude is the ground of travel, not ‘fun.’ We leave in order to be in the midst of others, our empathy muscle getting a much needed workout for when we return and read about others in the news and try to imagine their lives, their faces, their eyes. We leave in order to interact with the past and listen to its stories of loss and knowledge more loudly than the whispers provided by books and the Internet. We leave in order to be in the midst of trees and flowers with different names, soil of a different hue, and birds with feathers that are new to us.

We leave in order to remember how it feels to come home.

So much of the time in France, we drove through corn, which was funny because we’re always driving through corn here in Iowa. But there, the fields are rung in trees and high bushes; the fields are more like cozy patios of green than endless big box stores of never ending plant life. It was home with an accent, home through that new set of lenses the optometrist offers. Corn but not corn.

I woke up at 3 AM today — 9 AM in western Europe — and could feel myself falling into the quicksand of anxiety, much like the dangerous stuff we’d read about on the beaches of Mont St. Michel. Graduation:  over. This trip, so long planned: over. My house, which I sense in my gut I am ready to leave, was quiet as I tried to hold on to the ground and not fall into the hole. I fell back asleep and awoke with energy and gladness.

Home, is where I want to be
But I guess I’m already there
I come home, she lifted up her wings
I guess that this must be the place. – David Byrne

Curled up on one of the borrowed beds in London with Kathryn having our “John and Yoko moment”, we talked about being alone. One must really be alone, fully alone, to truly understand oneself, she said. My heart pulsated with knowing this is true, and yet it’s also the Truth that had me falling into quicksand at 3 AM.

Unspooling into being alone has been happening since last summer. At first, it was pure Terror. Then it turned to a dull sadness. I no longer come home to a familiar face, or have someone to text updates to when I travel. There are reminders, many so small and so fleeting and yet gut-punching, that I am alone.

But there is an unexpected and parallel pleasure in this, a sense of arriving at the place I know that I am supposed to be right this minute in life. A sense of moving into the home of me.

I guess, this indeed must be the place.

 

 

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rooted / uprooted

Two friends’ jointly written blog post came through the transom last night announcing they were hitting the road – selling their house – and beginning a period of wandering. Everything they wrote hit me just right, in that tingling “yes this” sort of way. Freeing themselves of ghosts, living outside the tyranny of economies, and being open to what is.

On my same late-night, can’t-sleep meander, I came across a sort of commune workspace in LA called The Birds Nest that seems to be about growing food in community, sharing skills, rethinking systems, gathering wisdom from elders. It, too, was spot on. It, too, made me tingle with possibility.

My central question for awhile, but coming ever into focus, is: Can one be rooted and uprooted?

In the past year’s tumult, I have grown ever more aware of and grateful for my current community — those who have looked out for me have included old friends but also many new ones. The latter have reminded me that friends are available everywhere and at all times, if we share our authentic selves and are porous enough for them to offer a spot of water. The former remind me of what is earned through time spent in presence.

While my system mightily senses changes rumbling and gurgling just over there (squint hard enough and I can see it) — roots aching to jump to a new time zone, a different terroir — there are other ways in which my taproot has grown threefold and is firmly planted in this soil of oak and prairie.

What does exploration + community look like? How do they coincide?

All of this is mixed into a rich slurry of questions about my talents and creativity, where I might do most good in this knocked up crazy world – questions that percolate, ooze, simmer, and periodically produce an aroma of inspirational hope. I feel my elder stripes growing darker and more ready to be seen in the world. I sense my presence deepening.

As I set off this morning for time on the road with my daughter, I know all of this will be beating around in the back of my heart, listening for possibilities. If you have any insights on this rooted/unrooted conundrum, message me. I’m listening.

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Pockets of life. Ping of response.

Walking in the dusk, I see people in their lamplit rooms reading, doing the dishes, talking on the phone. Each one a pocket of a life lived in a larger garment of other lives. A single comb in the complex hive.

In the winter, I am comforted knowing that the bulbs I planted in November are alive under the earth, no matter how frozen the top layer. And that nearby the deep roots of the oak trees and lilac contain sap that carries energy, even if in slow motion, to and fro.

On nights that are quiet-bad, I take solace knowing that across the Atlantic, Kathryn is asleep, and on the shores of the Pacific, Kathy is getting read to go to a party; a few blocks away, Sarah might be licking a pot clean after a late dinner, Dan is heading out on a dog walk, and Kristin is kneeled at the bathtub in which one of her kids is splashing.

On nights that are quiet-good, I can’t suppress an inward Mona Lisa grin, knowing that me-sad is a night away, and me-content is a week away, and me-much-better is a year away, and we all live together in unison just waiting for the one to catch up with the other.

A few weeks ago, I read that a food writer I admired died, and I mourned that quiet, small mourning that so often happens with the obituaries:  a sudden pang of loss for someone you didn’t know you might ever miss. It can happen even with someone you’ve never heard of before, so that in a single column of newsprint in which her invention of a transformative animation technique is pressed between birth in Cleveland and death from cancer, her presence suddenly feels urgently necessary and your heart is pinched at this unexpected gaping hole in the fabric of your known reality.

This moment, my daughter is on the cusp of waking under an equatorial sky in Tanzania. She is far away, and the ether stretches full around, a line of light and clouds and air that touches us both. Good morning, I whisper into the Iowa night, and though she cannot hear me, I sense a boomerang of response, a ping of reply.

It goes on. In tandem. To the horizon. Simultaneously. As we sit in our lamplit rooms, focused on clipping our nails, paying a bill, sweeping the floor. Living in this small pocket of now.