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hut of silence

It’s almost a year and the grief has become stale, no longer the glistening beautiful wound –

Rather, one that is growing grey around the edges, with a stench of decay.

Early grief has drama and holds possibility for the world’s notice:

We slow for the accident that just happened, some morbid part of us hoping to glimpse a twisted limb.

But we don’t show up at the house of the injured a year out; there’s no desire to be in the presence of that unending sorrow.

Months pass, years, and it is tiresome; there are no words, no exclamations.

Only the hut of silence is the right place for this stage of grief.

Silence stretching out

like clouds gliding

like insects chewing

like peaches ripening

like the earth waiting for our warm body’s return.

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emerge

There are gashes all over this topography that is my body.

Some tiny and others gaping, each a place where salt hisses and air stings.

Last night I read too much of another person’s journey — her quick movement from celibacy to a new lover and of his balm toward healing her.

Last night I heard a creature die outside my window, thrashing in the bushes, squawking in pain and dismay until its cries grew too muted to discern.

And this morning I wonder: Why do I keep licking licking licking at these wounds?

Let them heal, silly woman. Let them be.

 

Sit in wonder at the hum all around you, of life being born into new erotic pleasure,

Of life ending in throes of dismay.

Sit in wonder at the children growing into beings of change and agency

and of elders reinventing themselves in life’s final chapters.

Sit in wonder at each wound, including those you have gashed into your own flesh.

You know–I know you do–that each one will heal in its time, magically binding back together.

Let the scars that emerge serve as a trail of what makes you holy.

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vastly simple

I’ve kept this photo on my desktop for several years and am always pleased to rediscover it. It’s like a koan I save for future consideration.

He is a tailor. This is his one-man shop where he’s worked in New York for 50-odd years. He’s been here through Bushes and Clintons and Reagan and Nixon. Back before Subway was a thing, and before McDonald’s sold billions. When coffee was still Folger’s and not something  you walked around town with in one hand, like a clutch. Before clothes became so disposable. Eons prior to Bitcoin and Paypal.

All of these days, weeks, years, decades, he has been in the shop hemming and mending as pants’ lengths changed and when women wore more and then less. I imagine him standing and sitting, a sort of prayer as he moves from one task to the next, pins clenched in his teeth.

I wonder about the soundtrack of his days. A crackling radio playing Yankees’ games? Neighbors yelling? Taxis morphing into Ubers, the latter honking less than the former. A cash register with a caching and a ring? Does the subway–the one on tracks, not the one with buns–rattle the ground he stands on?

I like the simplicity of this space. It is compact, bright, clean, and yet dotted with pictures that could grace a parlor. And there’s something about that liquid contraption that reminds me of an IV and adds a quality of both illness and healing. I wonder what is behind the photographer–a fourth wall? Or does it open into a modernity that would dash me?

I don’t want to be small. I want to be like the night sky–vast and infinite. And yet I want to be this simple, everything fitting into a well-lit room, and my task being one of mending. I want to show up no matter who is in the White House, no matter the style, and simply mend that which is in front of me. My pins are carefully chosen and more carefully placed. And when someone comes to pick up their order, they are well pleased. This is how I want to live my life.

 

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loving both

Yesterday I read an article about the disappearing wildlife of Vietnam. Not like a gradual glide to the Great Off Stage, but a meteoric blast of now-you-see-em-now-you-don’t. The rest of the day, those animals, especially the saola (an animal so little known that even spellcheck doesn’t recognize it) stayed with me. The mammals on Chinese diners’ plates. The animal pieces in Asian medicines. The rangers-turned-poachers. The silence of the forest. The elusive birds and bears are huddled around me.

On the beach near where I am staying, there is a homeless encampment where the smell of weed wafts, only to hit the surf and dissipate. Maybe 25 yards away, I communed with a dog named Zen who found a shady spot against the sea wall while his human friend, an artist of the ephemeral, created a balancing act out of rocks — hoisting with muscle, placing with precision.

Our world’s precarity can only be addressed if we are not off in that mind place of “what if…” (and lord knows I was there much of last night, dragging myself into the plastic-strewn depths) — instead, we must commit to staying with our breath, eyes, and heart trained on the relationship of the largest rock and the smallest. Like the beach artist, we must hear the ocean and its enormity behind us while caring immensely about the possible shift of a pebble to the whole. We must be ardent in our practice to stay here.

“There” is the mindset that turns us into poachers and poached. It’s the mindset that let’s us allow the saola to disappear and the man to stay in the tent.

We are all poached, each and everyday, through our phones and the wires, through mindless interactions. When we breathe into this moment here and feel equally at home in the sadness of being left in a way you didn’t even know you cared about until you touched your chest and felt a scar under your fingertips, to the moments of crystalline joy as the sun and a wave effortlessly create a glint so pure. Can we love both?

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sometimes

Sometimes I think:  That was really foolish of me to believe I could be married. To believe I am safe. To feel loved.

Sometimes I think: Was that a dream, or part of a macabre novel that I embroidered onto my memories?

Sometimes I think: I was married, wasn’t I? He was here, in this house, right? Or, just maybe, it was a ghost that convinced me it was whole.

Sometimes I think: I’m delusional, cross-eyed with a slow-twitching grief.

Sometimes I wonder:  Which of us will die first?

and will the other even know that it happened?

and will we put down the glass in our hand, stare out the window, and remember?

Sometimes I remember:  the beach, the restaurant, the bed, the tree, the rental convertible, the cats, the river.

Sometimes I think I already knew:  The unthought known, my friend says it’s called. I knew and yet I couldn’t say it out loud.

Some. Times. Not all of the time. Just an unspecified number, which become ever less.

Ever more. Never more.

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orbits

I feel like I am in the reverse of pregnancy, loosening the ties, the weight, the dailyness with this child. Grateful for those nine months of impatient becoming to serve as a memory pad for this period of untethering, of the capsule disembarking from the mothership.

I was once told in the produce section of the Coop by a red-bearded farmer friend regarding kids: Every age is a good age. When sorrow creeps up on me now, these words give me solace. And I burst, as I once did, with her becoming, with my becoming — for we are in a mutual dance of change and self-knowledge that is mirrored by the other.

This holiest of relationships

the intertwine of genetic string

the sharing of clothes

the twirled hair in the drain

one cycle ending as the other began

a parallel order occurring on different time scales

She leaves for her own be-coming and to give space for the mystery approaching me. I sense it so strongly:  the ‘next’, as I think of it, pulling me into its orbit. A new orbit. A new stage.

(Remember: Every age is a good age. Each stage, a good stage.)

We will always circle each other, daughter and mother, but now in a new rhythm and with longer interludes. Trusting this cycle and its truth is all I know to do. It’s taken me this far.

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grasping wonder

The wonder that follows grief has a wider lens. The wonder that comes in the midst of grief is microscopic. The wonder that comes after a long winter invites it all. The wonder at the cusp of spring celebrates a single blade of newly bare grass as much as the eternal blue sky.

Some days wonder is hard to unhinge. It clasps itself shut, a 3-year old with arms clutched tight around her knees and her head nodding “No!” But stay with her long enough, ease yourself into her space and stay quiet and you’ll be able to see her body loosen and her whole self return to the practice for which she was created — curiously sponging up the world.

My wonder comes and goes, hides and seeks. There have been days in the last weeks when I thought it was gone entirely, when I had spiraled back to a dark place that I was sure I’d moved beyond. And then I’m pounced upon by a sky so mercurial in light and color that I gasp:  surely, I want more of this! I have a full-body sense that I’ll work with a certain person and am already in pleasure at the thought of creating something. I am resting with the cranes as they move north and hearing their conversation, its vibratory, ancient patois.

I sat in a dark hospital room with a friend the other night and watched the tubes that moved fluid in and out of her body, their choreographed dance either a menace or a miracle, depending on one’s mindset. I hate that hospital sometimes; it is the place where my father died and I feel that too-soon passing with a gashing pang. But I’m also often in marvel by the colony of people all focused on helping people to feel better, to collaboratively do their best to right the body’s injustices. In the dark, laughing with my friend, whose eyes sparkled despite having been given a particularly cruel series of injustices, I chose wonder. “It’s so gross,” she said, nodding to one of the outgoing tubes. Which I understood — none of us relishes our inner workings exposed to public view — and yet how amazing all that happens beyond our daily sight, all that comprises our “self.”

Some days, wonder is not in grasp. Some days it is balled up, rocking in a corner, afraid at what is next — what dire circumstance, what new pain. But often, it’s right there in front of us — a thing so small, so narrow, so magnificently plain that we refuse to see it. Recalibrate until you see it. It’s really the only worthwhile thing to do.

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invasive species

I’ve heard that we all have one tree. As I don’t believe that we all have one true love, rather a myriad who can suit us at different phases of becoming, I’m not sure if believe this. But I love the notion of “my” tree — each other’s guardians.

I must have seen my tree in 1997 when I was on a camping trip to Pt. Reyes. I’m pretty sure we pitched out tent nearby. I don’t recall it — recall only warnings from a neighboring camper that he’d seen a mountain lion the night before. Recall only staying up late with headlamps looking at Dan Eldon’s journals, my first encounter with this person who would so effect the course of my life.

Years later, I visited the same park, the same beach but with a different person, a different heart, a very shifted world view. And this time, I saw the tree. I was fell in love and have returned many times since, sometimes taking a detour just to get to this place.

Hiking toward the coast, it comes into view about 20 minutes before you reach it. As the path rises up, the ocean appears and there, on grassy cliff before the land lips dramatically down to the beach, stands this solo immense being. From that distance, it still looks small; and yet you know that you’re seeing it at all is a sign of its grandness.

Once arriving on that unlikely green patch where the rolling and often dusty scrub-filled hills through which you’ve been hiking have receded behind you and sea and beach are inviting you to run toward them at full force, the tree stands and seems to say:  Pause. I wonder how many hikers don’t hear this message and instead are thrust forward by the waves’ magnetic pull.

I go to Pt. Reyes for its full spectacle. On a trip with Bella about four years ago, we saw whales, dolphins, elk, a coyote, a fox, a sea elephant. It was spring and the land was as vibrantly green as Ireland. But I return to Pt. Reyes in large part for this tree. My giving tree. My touchstone. A center of many meditations. A keeper of secrets. A totem of the spiral of strength and surrender.

Last summer, I was talking with a friend who knows the California coast well and I told him about my tree. With just seconds of description of the path — Fire Lane Trail — and a little about the tree — yes, there’s often a swing hanging from a branch — he told me that it’s a Eucalyptus. I had decided long ago that this was a Coastal Live Oak, and yet every time I returned and tried to gain more identification, the more I knew this not to be the case. Tasmanian blue gum eucalyptus, my friend told me, are an invasive species and a fire hazard, especially on the coast. They’re being actively removed from the hills around Berkeley and Oakland for this reason.

I love a colonizer. Or do I love a refugee? Brought here against its will, seeds from Australia planted here as ornamentals because eucalyptus grow quickly and their leaves have a wonderful scene (the dried leaves I’ve brought back still have a scent years later). How do I bring this fact into my meditations as I sit against this mighty creature, dwell imaginatively inside of her? How does it shift our love for anything, anyone when we learn a new piece of information that deepens and broadens our understanding of its origin story? No longer a beautiful tree that could have, like the redwoods, been in this area for millennia, this tree is an upstart whose ancestors arrived in late the 1800s. This lone sentinel was never meant to be here. But like the cows that roam Pt. Reyes and the cattle ranches that are grandfathered into this national park, she is very much part of my love for this place.

I have a tree. It is an imperfect tree. It doesn’t care one wit. And from that, I can learn a lot.

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atlas of experience

“Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent.” – Rachel Carson

We know so much more than we give ourselves credit for — each of us a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, an atlas of experience. We carry truths, subjective yes but still our truths, in our bones. We carry electricity and thunder in us. We carry the capacity for profound change and wakefulness.

We numb. We distract. We slumber. We douse the fires and take the socket out of the wall. We are the AI that disassembles itself.

We know this to be true. It is why Oliver’s precious life strikes such a cord and bears repeating and repeating. And yet … there is a hump, one put there by our culture’s bulwark against our inner power, that we mightily struggle to get over.

Push yourself over. Get a better ladder. Find different mates to help you. But dear one, keep trying to get over that hump. I know how easy it is to stay asleep. To watch that screen. To curl up. But we are all needed here. Every cell. Every node. Every power-filled idea that lives in you must come forth, roaring into the present moment.

Be here, as it’s said, now.

 

Art by Cory Hunter
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reclaiming this day

In first grade, I had the chicken pox on Valentine’s Day and had to stay home from school. A bag of cards from some of my classmates was delivered so that eventually the bag sat on my belly as I laid in bed. It was before the craze of attaching candy and before you were expected to give every kid in the class a card. The bag held proof of those who actually thought of me in my absence. It was just months after I was the only kid in the class who didn’t vote for Nixon in our election, and the cards were not plentiful.

In college, I dyed my hair fuchsia hue, put on a burgundy velvet dress that had been my grandmother’s. It was sleeveless, and hence it felt sexy compared to the oversized sweatshirts I lived in, but really it looked like a flapper dress worn in a play and was more sack than body wrap. I waited in the cheap motel, all that I could afford though still it felt elegant and risque, for my boyfriend who was following a series of clues to find me. I had champagne, something I didn’t yet like, and thought myself very clever. He arrived. We swam in the small pool, ate the food I’d brought, and then fell into an enormous fight that left- us sleeping in different parts of the room.

Sewing pink, red, and white buttons in a heart shape on a long sleeved pink tshirt, size child’s 7. For my daughter. There’s a photo of her wearing it. She has a smudge of chocolate on her mouth and is pulling at the hem of the shirt to fully show off the heart. It was a rare moment of crafting success.

Today, a red tshirt is my only nod in the direction of this day. I am sending love to those in need. I am with those who reclaim this day. I will buy myself flowers – tomorrow, on sale, and anoint myself in rose oil. Mainly, I will meditate on what is the the most radical thing I can do to reclaim love in this aching world. Beyond buttons and dyed hair, beyond chicken pox and Nixon. My heart is shredded with grief and yet still strong. She knows she has more work to do.