How do you return to one, if we are already one? Return to one. If everything is connected, and if we are all part of one living organism, how can we return to something we are already part of?
Also I have this question. If Buddhism is about acceptance, and the Buddha is not a god, then why does one have to be mindful of such things as not wearing knee length shorts when meditating, or not stretching in front of the Buddha statue. STATUE.
Also why if we are all one and all equals must one bow to the Osho, not turn your back to the Osho as though they are a high king? Why do people serve the Osho, and why is the Osho kept apart from the others?
Can one be an enlightened bodhisattva and still be just an ordinary person. Must one be ordained to be enlightened?
And why is discomfort and pain part of Zen meditative practice? ie you sit in a painful position for seven days at a time, not scratching, moving or brushing off a mosquito, until your bones ache and your body screams in pain. Is this what finding enlightenment is really about? And how can you find enlightenment, if you are already exactly where you are supposed to be?
i do a prostration, here on my way into the bathroom,out of the bathroom, on the floor of the doctor’s office, out on the sun porch as the dogs frolic in the snow.
knees hands belly. and up again.
intimately acquainted with the floor, i find a dog canine.
intimately acquainted with what it feels like to sob uncontrollably in public.
please, please hurry
intimately acquainted with the back seat of my car as i lay on my back hoping no one will reach inside the open car door and rob me.
intimately acquainted with ordering what i want. you WILL drive me to the doctor tomorrow. you WILL wait for me. you WILL take me to the drug store. ok .ok.ok.
my angel, comes to get her facial creams, rubbing my back as I lean my head on the cash register. i called ahead i tell her, they said it would be ready. sorry says the cashier. sorry. i am crying, the pharmacist says, who is crying, then, we are almost done.
sorry i say, i am in so much pain.
i feel like a monk prostrating before the buddha. i am surrendering to this suffering. this excruciating pain,
my body says, it is time to release all of this negative karma.
i prostrate my body to the floor,
the dog licks the back of my hand and then stands over me.
sentinel he says, i will watch out for you when you cannot defend yourself
she plays quietly nearby, stopping to look at me eye to eye, you okay down there? yes? okay, i go play now. you okay still? okay i go play now. throwing her body against me and promptly snoring when she has tired,
My bedroom, my bed, my comforter, me like a burrito, windows open, crisp air, already autumn in New York. Shhhh. Rest now little one, let your cares float away.
Yoga. Surprise, the wrong teacher becomes the right teacher, yes. The ego is loud, and obnoxious and annoying and you don’t have to listen to it. No. I am me, I am a bird flying over me. I am not who I was five years ago. No. I am not. No. I am not.
I miss you sometimes. I miss your smile, I miss your silly dance, the intense way you looked at me, the way you read aloud to my daughter, the way we read Anna Karenina together, the way you were before you got too big for your britches, the way you were when you saw me as a gift, the way you jumped the fence to hug me, the way you cried when I flew away, the way your eyes melted my heart, the way you gave up everything to be with me.
I float on the water, or more precisely explore the reeds and rushes in the shallow edges of this woebegone lake. A heron flies away before I get too close. Two turtles make love, turning slowly over and over on each other, until they see me watching them. They look embarrassed. And the Loch Ness monsters flip away as I paddle over them. Their giant striped bodies undulating under the thin hull of my carbon fiber boat, I feel them, on my bottom, sliding, giant ugly things. Last year someone caught a 41 inch Muskie from this place. Two women sunning on kayaks stop to talk to me. I hate my ugly life vest. I wish it were purple.
I sleep with the light on sometimes, ever since you left. I don’t know why. Especially now when I just don’t care anymore, when I am not the person you left anymore.
Yoga the right teacher. After we talk, I tell him how happy I was to live in the quiet solitary woods. Not to say I was alone, because I wasn’t, but when I was, I cherished it, adored it, loved it. I see surprise on his wrinkled and spotted face, so youthful, and yet showing his age, his impish smile and sparkling intelligent eyes. He tells me of backpacking alone in the wilderness where my uncle was born, of not wanting to return, and the surprise, that we are kindred, that we are alike in this way, a thing he did not know of me, nor I of him even after all these years, and friendship.
They sit across from me, shoulder to shoulder, as long as you are not behaving, he says in a co-dependent manner. Ha. I say. I am so not co-dependent. So not. Not even close. I am fully cognizant of my choices, of where I am and what I am doing. You can be alone, he instructs me, even in the company of others. Oh sweetheart, I say. I know that. Oh. Don’t I know that? He of course is at the gun show for the millionth time, and I am with men who know how lucky they are to have worked through the times that IN love was a challenge, buoyed by just plain love. Isn’t it funny how I don’t have any problem doing my own thing, going my own way and waving as he goes off to do his?
Kateri Teckawitha, I say, I cannot even pray, because I don’t even know what I want. Or I do, but I don’t know how to sustain it. But anyway, thank you for what you did for my daughter. Thank you. Thank you.
Hot tub. Me, wishing to get out, now that my limbs are warm. The music is so loud it hurts my sinus infected head which is dripping from the steam. My heart is pounding, I am a million miles away. I am on my haunches ready to spring, like an animal, like prey.
Do you know what it is like to sustain this? How hard it is, truly hard it is to make the choice to live alone, and that is what it will be, alone, because I will never put myself through this punishment again. Do you know this? That my ego tells me things, like you are so fat, you are a stupid fuck, you are a lazy piece of shit, you are ugly, you are not worthy of being loved, you are not worthy of time or attention. SHUT THE FUCK UP.
I love myself, you see, I do, this girl who makes herbal salves, this girl who paints driftwood for hours, stroke by stroke, this girl who knits until her fingers ache, this girl who throws the boat on the car and goes, this girl who would rather be in the woods than in this stinking place. This girl who is a great cook, this girl who recycles, this girl who loves her dog so much, this girl who cries, and laughs and talks in her sleep, and does yoga and rides her bike while reading a book eschewing television, this girl who loves star trek, and doctor who, this mama llama, this everything and nothing.
I do not love my ego though, my God, it will not shut up.
He climbs into my bed, and promptly falls asleep, taking up 2/3rds of the bed. He snores loudly, and grunts and farts and moans in his sleep. Not to say I don’t have my own animal noises, but to say instead that he is like my ego, keeping me from rest, trapping me in place, what if I feel sick from the chicken, what if I have to pee, what if I need my joyful cocktail of benedryl and melatonin? Oh please, I say, wake up, I have to take medication to sleep here, with you. He goes to his own room leaving the light on. An hour later I am still awake. Thinking of my ego. Thinking of the lesson. Listening to the sounds of cars on the street, and an airplane off there, flying in the dark.
And now I have nothing more to say.
Except this: Clark Reservation used to be a sanctuary to me. I haven’t been there in a year. I miss it. Can you please ask her to let me go back, to please leave me to it. Let me have this one small place. Because I really do need it, way more than she does.
And I dreamed of you last week, and I finally remembered why I loved you, and I stopped being angry, and in the dream, and for once, I didn’t even ask why you left me, but I told you this, you were my best friend, and I really believed you and I were meant to love each other for the rest of our lives, and it crushed me when you left.
But I am okay. Really. Really. And I actually don’t even think of you every minute or every hour, or every day any more. I only think of you now and then. Sometimes I am surprised how long I go between thoughts of you, driving, in the car, I think, oh my God its been days and days. What a relief. What a relief.
This place is a sanctuary. This place, this place inside me. This place. Inside me.
I chop the shallots into tiny pieces and saute them slowly in a little butter until they are brown. Then I add washed and chopped baby spinach and fresh asparagus. I let the water in the vegetables evaporate. I beat 6 eggs and a half cup of soymilk. I chop sorpressa into tiny pieces, and lay them on the pie crust, pour in the veggies, evenly, and poor the eggs and milk over top. I grate fresh local Swiss cheese, and ementhaler cheese and sprinkle it on top. I bake them in the oven. We eat them at the table, with coffee and fruit salad, and orange juice.
I am restless. I throw laundry in the dryer, and mop the bathroom, I water the pots of petunias suspended under the eaves of the garage, where the downpours of the last two days could not reach. I sit out in the sun. And lazy with the heat of sun on my black jacket, and sheltered from the wind, I gaze up into the blue sky.
A buzzard is suspended from in the air, as though hanging from a string in the sky. Not moving. Just remaining utterly in place. It flaps once, twice, and circles around and back to a different spot, and hangs, again, not moving, in the sky. He does this a half-dozen times over several minutes before he has gone off into the sky beyond my vision.
Do we all struggle with this feeling of lack inside us? Do we all say, I am not good enough, I do not do enough. Do we all say, I am not skinny enough, beautiful enough, young enough. Do we all say, I will never be as good as this person, or that? Do we all struggle?
I think the buzzard was choosing the place in the sky on purpose, delighting in the quality of the restless wind, gusting in burst from more than one direction. But it has found its place, its bliss, its joy, its easy place in the sky. it is delightful to watch, imagine how it must be to fly?
I PIN a million quotes of inspiration. Be happy where you are. Find your light and let it shine. Let others opinions not move you to change who you are, accept yourself.
If you accept who you are the universe will too. All that you want, you have to only imagine and it will happen. You make your own negativity.
I am restless, my thoughts jump across the sky, flipping over metal chairs, and rattling the bone chimes. I am like the woman and the cloak, as the wind tears at it, and the sun beats down, she sweats, she is cold, she holds tight to her cloak as her hair whips across her face, she is heavy with the weight of it as the sun beats down on her.
I think it might be time to weed the garden. I think it might be time to weed out some of the bits that no longer serve.
Instead of wanting to be the buzzard floating still on the restless sky, I want to be me, at peace in this restless world.
An Open Letter to the People Who Are Invading my Home:
You may not know who I am – well, no. Let me rephrase that. You don’t. See, that’s the thing about houses. They form such an intimate part of our lives, and then someone else you’ve never met just charges right in, cooking food in the kitchen, sleeping the bedrooms, not knowing or caring about who came before. Hence the reason I am writing to you. Because I want, perhaps need, to tell you that I was there, and that it meant something to me.
I did my final walk through my house today. Alone. It seemed appropriate. I say my house, because even though it has become yours to call home, and I have a house of my own, a part of me will always be there. I’d like to say I’ve lost a lot in my twenty-one years, but we’re being honest here. I’ve always had food to eat, a roof over my head. Not many people I know have died; I’m no victim of some great tragedy. My family is actually, quite loving, if sometimes oppressively so. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are people I’ve held on to because they’re good and worthwhile people. Despite all that, I find that I feel quite apathetic about people in general. I don’t see much humanity in humanity, if you understand my meaning. I have a tendency to get attached to places and things, and the memories that they hold.
I find it – wrenching – how empty it is here. To you, I’m sure it says “possibility”. You can look at the bare rooms and see yourself there. Do you have a family to fill up all the empty space? But all I can see is where we held Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas and Easter with people we don’t know anymore, family who are not with us anymore. The kitchen is quite nice, don’t you think? I bet it was a big selling point. I can see it now as it was before. You wouldn’t know it was the same room, the same house, if you saw a picture of it fifteen years ago. The old green fridge, the linoleum floor that our puppy did us, and, trust me here, you, the favor of tearing up so that we could put down new tile. We finished the remodeling the day before Thanksgiving. We didn’t know it then, but it was our last Thanksgiving as a family.
We had to paint all the walls in drab colors for you. The house has no personality anymore. My mother’s paintings used to hang in every room. I wonder what you think about the downstairs bathroom, and how the ceiling is painted dark purple, with stars and galaxies. In fact, the whole room used to be like that. It was painful to paint it white, and we felt compelled to leave a little bit of its old glory. When we moved in, there was this horrible beige wallpaper, with brown flowers and polka dots. (How the realtor decided the galaxies were worse than this is beyond me, but they’re both gone now in any case.) My mother left a bottle of hand soap in the bathroom. English lavender. She only likes the smell because she says it reminds her of her grandmother.
And of course, there’s the next room. You may wonder why something sold to you as an “upstairs laundry room” has the distinct odor of Gesso and turpentine. Or maybe you don’t, because you don’t know what those things smell like. My mother’s studio. It was always kind of wondrous to me – I could never capture her skill with a paintbrush. Or with pen or marker or modeling clay, for that matter. I’ve always had this image of her – young, before I was born, when she still wore her hair long, with that artsy, disheveled look, smoking, creating beautiful images with paint and canvas. And I always felt this emptiness, because I could never dream of being that person (whether or not this image is close to or far from the truth is wholly irrelevant). Recently I had this revelation that maybe my grace is in words rather than pictures, but somewhere in my mind I’ve cultivated this theory that writing is something that anyone can do, so it doesn’t really count. In any case, I find that my reality is far from the romantic possibilities I imagine for an artist.
As I walk up the stairs, the sound of my footsteps echoes through the house. It’s such an empty sound that the word “empty” doesn’t capture it. It’s a cacophony of silence, vast, infinite, destitute, vacuous. Upstairs, I start with my mother’s room. It still smells like her – it’s not something I can describe, not a perfume or a candle. Just something warm and safe. She left the walls painted sage green, as an act of defiance. Even this color defines her, and it strikes me now that I’m not the only one leaving a piece of myself behind here. My grandmother made the curtains that are still here – they define her as well. A batik, ubiquitous in the many quilts that she makes and gives to family, friends, charities, people she knows of who are in need of a small comfort.
In the smallest bedroom, I’m ambivalent. We housed two people here who had no place else to go. Two people whom I love in that deep down kind of way that you love family you don’t see very often, not an active love, but an eternal fondness. But it was also my mother’s ex-husband’s office, where he would hole up for hours, and rage if you dared crack the door to retrieve an item or ask a question.
My final stop is my bedroom. It’s difficult to even look at. But I sit down, between the two windows that face the street, where my bed used to stand. Here is where I lost my virginity with the man who is now my husband. And here, I consider for a long time how many hours I spent in this room. With friends, alone, learning, growing, it’s all very cliché. There’s a mural on one wall. My mother painted it when I was going through a Zen phase, which, to some extent, has stuck with me. I hope you don’t paint over it. We already painted over the other three walls for you. They were this wonderful, bright, spring green that I chose when I was finally allowed to dispose of the cold ice blue that had been chosen for me. It – the green – was so warm and sunny. You can still see a little bit of it in the crack between the wall and frame of the closet.
The longer I sit, the more ghosts I count, and you are inheriting all of them. I’m happy to pass them off to you. Some may seem insignificant. Two cats died here. One, we couldn’t bear to euthanize until she was too weak to stand, a selfish cruelty I’ve since regretted. When she died, that was the first in a long series of more serious troubles. After that, little bits of our family broke off piece by piece. Where there were seven, four remain, and in four, maybe five years, it will be down to two. The other cat – this isn’t really relevant, but it breaks my heart, my mother and I couldn’t – or wouldn’t – take in. You see, in her old age, she had lost her fondness for doing her business where it belonged. So, when we left, she stayed in the empty house, all alone, deaf, going blind. I feel this terrible ache of guilt whenever I think of her now.
Then, of course, there’s the front steps. This is where my mother’s husband sat and told her that he was leaving her. No trying, no second chances, it was over. And here is the part of my story where I started down the road to adulthood. A road that I hate and resent. Here, where my bed used to be, is where I lay, listening to my mother cry half the night away for months, too tired and frustrated to try to comfort her. I felt overwhelmed by her grief, inadequate for not having the answers she was looking for, helpless in the face of her anger, unworthy for not meeting all her expectations, for not easing her worries in the wake of what had happened, responsible for keeping life moving, for protecting her, and finally, ashamed and childish, because while she was devastated, I had found love, and wanted most to focus on myself.
Now, I’m lying on the floor and the light from the setting sun is shining through the windows. The house creaks and thuds and settles. For one electrifying moment, it’s so loud, I think that somehow someone has entered the house, but as I listen carefully, I realize that the normal sounds of this old house are amplified by the stillness. In truth, I didn’t live here for a long time before you showed up. My things were here, but I spent maybe one night a week in my old room. This filled me with guilt and loneliness, thinking of my mother alone here, in a house brimming with the past. It sounds silly to say, but the ghosts drove me out; the memories that I didn’t like thinking of. Now I’m clinging to those memories, because they’re all I have left.
I take one last look at the view out my windows. The street, the garden – always wild looking, filled to overflowing with flowers, berries, and herbs. I exit through the back door, to the covered stone patio where I spent so many rainy afternoons playing cards, and to the raspberry bush, but it’s too late in the season – too late for one last taste of summer.
There’s a circle of stone sunken into the ground near the back of the yard. I’m unsure of its purpose, if it had one, but it looks like once, perhaps, a well stood there. As a child, when I uncovered it, I hoped to find something there. I was probably a strange child, because, although I hoped of finding “treasure”, I was looking for artifacts, rather than gold or some other such silly notion. I wanted to find something someone buried there intentionally, a story of who had come before. I found nothing, but I buried my own time capsule there for you, or posterity, or future archaeologists who would of course be fascinated by the plastic Charizard figurine I’d buried there (ironically, I had a passionate hatred for Pokemon, but at the time it had been such a pop culture phenomenon among all the other eight year olds, I imagine I thought it was an important piece of prepubescent history). I may or may not have dug this “time capsule” back up a short while later. I planted my favorite flower over top of the spot. Forget-me-nots. Now, in early May, the backyard becomes a blanket of tiny blue flowers. Thinking about it now, I wish that I had a piece of that blanket to bring home to my own backyard. But it’s too late in the season, and all traces of the flowers are gone. They must be turned over to you, to do with what you will.
As I pull out of the driveway for the last time, I hope that you will love this place as I have loved it, and as those who came before both of us did. I hope that fewer ghosts will haunt you here than have haunted me. And I hope that you will not forget that there were those who came first, and that little bits of us linger in the corners here. And finally, I hope that when you are gone, you will leave your mark too, because it will have meant something to you.
I dream I am peering over the edge of a dangerous precipice, I lay on my belly nose in the grass, and look through the cracks in the black and fertile earth and see far down below into nothing. I am waiting here in this grassy area beneath a tall apartment building, my daughter is younger not by much, and we are waiting to take her on a ride of some fantastical dinosaur like creatures, when we get up to pay they tell me we must go to the large local chain of grocery stores to purchase the tickets. I send my ex husband off to get them.
And then he is not returning, and she has disappeared, and I am in a deep pit which I have somehow dug for myself that I cannot get out of, I cry out for help and he refuses to come. I am scrabbling with my hand to get out and suddenly discover a deck of cards we all buried a few years ago as part of some game with the Japanese Californian Punk, and the Willow Witch. The are pig cards and they oink when I touch them. I am crying in the dream.
And then I feel the softness of his big masculine hand on my backside. I wake.
In the darkness I curl up against him, my face against the long soft strands of his beard, he smells manly not of cologne or chemicals but like a man who works, like a man who washes before he comes to bed, like a man who loves nature. When I am with you, I am home, I say to him. Oh shut up, he replies but he cuddles in a little tiny bit closer and I can feel him smiling though my eyes are closed. Sometimes when I am teasing him, or when I feel a lot of love for him, I look at him and I can see this smile in his eyes, but not on his mouth.
I remember suddenly, like stepping from a small wood stove heated room out into a frigid well below zero windy night. I remember how he planned to leave me, but didn’t tell me, until he had left. How he surprised me with it. How could he do that to me? I ask God, how could You? How looking back I see all that I missed, but knew, how he denied the questions to my face, again and again. I feel the smart of tears on my eyes as I turn my face to the wall.
He is turned already so now we are back to back. I sniffle and after a moment he turns again and I feel his feet brush up against mine, and his hand on my backside through the weight of the blankets, I scootch back against him and he puts his strong biceps tight against me, holding me firmly. We say nothing and although I think I am awake for the remainder of the night or rather the pre-dawn, I wake only after the sun is up.
Later, in church, my hand on his arm and his arm pressed firmly against his side, I whisper, I like the church in Celebration alot better than this one. Me too he says. He says the Apostles Creed, but I do not. I cannot profess to a belief that I do not have, I will not as some philosopher once said, fake it, just in case. But I come here with him, because I don’t mind it, and I love that from time to time he wants to be here. He has gone up to take communion and I close my eyes. I like Zen better, its quieter, and I can think. But here with my eyes closed I ask again. Why did you have to hurt me this much? What purpose did it serve? Couldn’t we have fought like cats and dogs? Couldn’t he have expressed more strongly how unhappy he was? Couldn’t he have done something besides lie again and again to protect me from the truth? Couldn’t there have been some overt something? Why did it have to hit me so hard? Why did I dig myself into that hole so damn deep? And damn him. Damn him. Damn him.
Later in the hot tub, I ask him, if you were not happy, would you wait to tell me, would you not give me any notice, would you hide your plans to kick my ass out? I feel the long hurt of it as I wait for his answer it is like a million years are passing. Of course you would know I wasn’t happy, he says. I would never do that to you. I mean, I say, if you are not happy, just tell me. He is quiet for moment. I would be happier if you cleaned the stove top. Ok, I say, so that is all it takes for you to kick my ass out is something so small. Yeah, he says. But I am not sure still, I am afraid. And I know he has not made any kind of commitment to me, and really, I could be homeless next week.
After about five minutes I say, when was the last time you looked at the stove? This morning, he answers. Oh, I say, ok. Did you clean it while I was killing zombies? Yeah, I answer, I pretty much did. He laughs.
You know he says, coming over to me, wrapping his arms around me and kissing my cheek and chin 20 times, I am happy. I love you, I say really quiet and I am not sure he has heard it over the sound of his kisses, the water and Joss Stone’s pipes. I love you too he says really softly back.
There is this kind of perfection in cooking. The slow kind. Yesterday I used the food processor, something I would have never bought for myself, because there is a zen quality, a peaceful quality, a hands in and hands on kind of quality to carefully cutting the vegetables. I love this. This act of cooking. I understand the purpose of a sous chef, but I love the act of creating the food from the beginning to the end. But today, the processor does the stalks of celery in seconds, the onions sliced, I pour them out onto the cutting board and chop them into small pieces. Saute the veggies in butter. I do not have any sage. I call and ask if anyone has it. No. I am not yet fully here in this household. Several minutes later, I have a brand new container of sage in my hands, delivered to my door, via the grocery store. And I cook it all on a stove I could never have imagined owning, it shines brand new in the kitchen, they went out to get it, so I could bake properly for Thanksgiving. I open the windows and bake nothing for the first time, as directed in the manual.
For this new family I feel a deep sense of gratitude.
In the morning, I wake early, to the crispy frosted grass and leaves. The sun is shining and the day promises to be warm. I raise my arms up and stretch in the brisk air. Lovely day. Lovely day. There are no shortcuts for pie crust. I put on Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, the heavenly choir fills the air. The dog comes to me and rests his head on my knee. I look into his eyes, he is almost smiling as he “hugs” me in his doggie way. He does this at least two more times over the course of the morning, though I am regularly admonishing him to get out of the kitchen. And as I mix the egg and ice water into the flour and butter, I feel a sense of something, I do not know what, it is profound though, and I savor it. I cannot name it.
For this beautiful animal and his unconditional love, I feel so very thankful.
He comes in from hunting, smiling, cheerful. Last night I said to him, in the hot tub, that he was clearly miserable, so clearly not happy with me living in this place with him, that I just didn’t know what we were doing. He said, I have always been miserable, but with you here, I am this much more happy than I was before. He holds his hands apart like the fish that got away. Later I tell him, thank you for telling me that, he pulls me down on top of him and kisses me. Later still he comes into the living room and places a big plate of sliced apples on the coffee table, but not in front of himself, but off to the side. I look at him, into those stunning green hazel eyes, he smiles. I get off the awful chair and sit beside him. We should bring that small couch in here, he says, it is a good snuggle couch, and put that chair in the office. Okay, I say. I would like that. I go from one house to another, my side dishes and dessert a hit, and get containers for the remains of dinner, when I come in they are talking about rings, and cruises to Alaska. They change the subject upon my entrance, but not quickly, slowly as though to tell me something. Later I show him my board of pins, ‘for the wedding I will never have”. He laughs. But he is quiet too. I don’t know, honestly, if we will ever go there, but I know at the very least, I have his love, and he is my very best friend.
For this man, who is difficult, moody, miserable, and sometimes positively awful, I am so very thankful.
She comes to the door without being announced, he lets her in. She sits in her favorite chair, the cats come to her to cuddle, the dog sits beside her. I pour her a beverage, it is kind of fun to have a drink with my baby, though she is not a heavy drinker, and I have water. After he goes to bed we tickle each others backs, a multi-generational ritual of affection, that I have not had the pleasure of in months. After, I tell her come here, and she cuddles me like she did when she was little. It’s hard huh? I ask. She nods her head as she sucks her two fingers. Harder than you thought, isn’t it? She nods her head more vigorously. But, she says, it is so worth it. I know, I say, and it will get better if you are prepared to work your ass off. I fall asleep while we are watching reruns of NCIS, she nudges me awake, come on Momma, she says. Do you want to drive your car home, I ask her, as she gets in the car I have not owned long, but is now hers, minus, for the moment, the title and registration. Yeah, I do, she says. I feel butterflies in my stomach, as I realize that I am still being the fearful mom, but she has got the driving thing down. It is my tension, not her maturity that is the problem in this moment. Its a good car I tell her. It is a grown up car she says, I see now the truck wasn’t a grown up car, but this car, is a car for a grown up.
I am so very grateful for this child, though she is now an adult, most of the time, she has brought me so much joy, so much worry, so much love, so much angst.
It is late, but I started to straighten the house as we watched TV together, folding blankets, sorting junk mail from bills, organizing my side table, preparing the dishes to be washed. I come into the dark quiet house. I notice how the house looks better day by day, than it did when I moved in. The gorgeous hardwood floors hidden under a horrible cream Berber carpet. The organized area where the shoes were, the cheap cruddy looking throw rugs gone, the kitchen de-cluttered, and more open, my belongings scattered throughout the house, in spots here, and there. I wash the dishes, clean the bit of pie off the bottom of the new oven, note the work to be done, the rugs in the kitchen need a wipe down, the wallpaper torn off and a pale blue wall added, the out dated light fixture moved to the middle and replaced with something a bit more modern, simple fixes. Small steps.
For this house, which I live in, for all intents and purposes, for free, I cannot even tell you how unimaginably thankful I am, for the halved work, for the beautiful space to paint in, sunny, airy, open and the warmth of a wood stove to make it a four season room, for the deer that are in the yard, for the hot tub, for the bird feeders in the lawn, that he loves as much as I, for the herbs and vegetables he has planted, for the sanctuary of my own room, for the slate rock patio, for the sunny front steps, that cured a recent bout of the stomach flu, 36 hours into it (first time I have been viral sick with more than just a cold in literally four years), for his willingness to help me make it the kind of home I want to live in, though it takes a great deal of dragging, for all of this…I am humbled. So grateful.
And for the love of my family, my friends, my Mom, whose birthday was today, for my students, and the cats, and their conditional love and occasional affection, I am full of gratitude.
And there is that feeling, as I clean up my room, organizing my jewelry, I stop and notice it. What is that? I ask. I notice it, this ordeal, I think, has been divine in its making. Long did I think it in the dark hours, with all the weird things, the odd coincidences, divine. I have hated it, and I was destroyed by it, but it had to be, didn’t it? Divine? And as the things happen, as I get further and further away from it, it feels divine. As I sit, at a desk, waiting for my new vehicle to be prepared, this song comes on, and I stop, I listen to every word of it. I cannot believe that only a few months before he left me, he played this song for me, sending it to me by phone, from the concert we were watching. I listen to it, for the first time, with a kind of passive acknowledgment, why would this be playing, here, now, when I realized this morning, that this is perhaps one of the last steps in the letting go of what I had lost. I am grateful for the gifts of things I wouldn’t have without it. And there are good things I carried out of it, for sure, but the greatest gift of all, is how much better my life has become with the after.
In the cool night air, I stand, same place I stood as the sun was rising, and I look up to a blanket of stars, and there, staring me in the face is the constellation Orion. I thought I was free from it here. But I see, it will never be wholly gone.
It is like the act of cooking, it is the process, the act of being whole and present, and putting your self into each moment. They say I am a good cook, but it is the love of the act that makes it so. The wholesome ingredients, the small bits of knowledge, the years of experience, the immense failures taken as lessons, the lack of attention resulting in burned ruins, the pleasure of sharing the meal, and of partaking in a meal alone.
For this life, I am grateful, deeply, profoundly.
Thank you for destroying me, because by that act, you have made me whole.
I loved you, I love you still, and I always will.
I am sorry I was hateful and so terribly angry when you left, see what happened was, that I made the mistake of following you, into the dark.
For the path I made out of this darkness, I am so very grateful. For this new life, of my creation, I am so very grateful.
The fire here, is set on simmer, and the meal promises to be good.
“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Rumi
“And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” ~ Hamlet via Shakespeare
I wake early and blissfully watch a new episode of the BBC version of modern Sherlock Holmes. After an hour I got up and went to him, are you hunting?
No he says, annoyed, I guess not, I didn’t set my alarm right.
I know some women complain when their men hunt, and others join them. I was looking forward to the time to myself. The treasure of several days running of guiding the course of my day without encumberance
The day is cold and full of November, the grey swept away to blue and swept back to grey again as I lounge about all morning. He comes in cold and cheerful, but before long he begins to find things for me to do, though the activity of not being busy has occupied my morning.
Are you going to rake the leaves?
No, it’s too wet.
It’s perfect for raking leaves.
I will do it tomorrow, it is supposed to be nicer.
What are you making for dinner?
Do we have hamburger?
What meat are you putting in it?
I am making vegetarian chili for dinner.
I want meat.
Why are the lights on in this room.
Sorry I forgot.
Why is there paper towel on the floor?
Because the dog stole your napkin.
Listen. I am going for a walk now.
Because you are bothering me.
It is damp, the leaves are wet, the rocks slippery, the path slick with mud. My thoughts are on the life of another as I gaze at my black boots taking one after another step. Concerned I looked for her in the list of the dead. Instead I found her mugshot. My mind has not left her since. Though someone suggested it four years ago, I did not let her into my home on that snowstorm cold night out of some misguided attempt to win anyone’s favor. As she stood on my step, stricken, shivering, I saw her as a person first. All else came after. My sister said she would have told her to get the fuck off her property. I told her come in, it is freezing. It was what was to be done and nothing more. But here my mind is caught as I look around me at the bare trees; her personality and character are cold and stark, like an arctic desert. Her company is like uncombed sheep’s wool against a baby’s skin, awkward, uncomfortable. Her judgment of me, always left me feeling angry, hateful. But nonetheless, you do not throw out the known self, no matter how distasteful, in a snowstorm. For she was at the very least safe with me, and trustworthy to her own degree. I never expected to get anything back from her. I am caught though snagged as though on a branch, I wrote that story exactly two years ago. For a class. I called it The Squatter. I am like a hand with an eye drawn in it’s palm. That story came out of me nearly whole. I am filled with the shameful disgust of it. And you see, it is like a record skipping in my mind. How can we know these things? Just as I knew other things, things that no one told me.
I think on this notion that though I would have told you my heart was broken, I see now that it was just the egg shell that broke. Inside was this tiny soft yellow thing, how can you crush such a thing with it’s tiny egg tooth, softly peeping for sustenance? It is a gift of some strange knowledge, the magic, I think, as I clamber up a slippery slope, of all that unknown magic of the physical world. The proof that it exists only anecdotal.
I decide to leave her here on this wooded path. And as I walk out into the field the rain which is falling with a crisp snow sound, chickadees singing, a hawk piercing the sky with its hunting call, I stop to touch the dried grey head of a Queen Anne’s Lace, so beautiful at least to me. I notice the wind moving the leafless trees, they sway gently, I have this comfortable warm inside heart beat feeling of homeness. I listen to my breath and feel the cold on my bare flesh, though parts of me are sweating in my loosened sweater, hat now in the pocket, scarf open and softly moving in the wind. I am dressed as a romantic, as I make my way up the steep embankment, like a character from an Austen novel. Soon my romance will be replaced by a practical thing, ensconced in down and soft wool, layers bulky against the cold. The practicality is a survival technique but best of all to me flying birds soul is the romance of it all. I can bear the Novembers, only practicality makes the colder months bearable.
On the long path he steams ahead forgetting that I exist, I call him back, he reluctantly returns after much persuading. On state land again, I releash him. He pulls wanting his freedom, though he also stops to rest his head on my knee and smile up at me. Hey buddy. I say.
I relish this time, this place. There is something so sacred to me. Zen Buddhism ignores the sacred, says all of this is ordinary, that one should not yearn for the extraordinary. I feel sacred though, on the inside, as though this is all a gift.
Sacred. I whisper to the grey trees. Sacred. I whisper to the wet leaves. Sacred I whisper to the goblin rock. Sacred. I whisper to the egg tooth chick inside my heart. Sacred. I whisper to the homeless, mentally ill woman, whose tragic face I cannot forget. Sacred. I say to the birds that fly from the tops of the branches, into the windy, drizzly, cold, damp November day.
I had a bunch of books that I needed to get rid of. I know, my librarian friends, and bibliophiles will gasp. But I had to. I put many of my favorite books in storage in my daughter’s attic, and brought all my crafting books, and the various religious books, a Bible, the Dhammapada, Siddhartha, my Loren Eisely collection, Annie Dillard, stayed with me, there were however a handful of books I didn’t want for various reasons. One a book of Contemporary Art with an absolutely vile, pornographic cover painting by Eric Fischl, of a naked woman, lying on a bed with her legs spread wide, while a teenage boy looked on. When I bought the book it was wrapped in plastic and there was a paper covering the well executed painting. But I couldn’t even pick it up to look at it. It was just too distasteful to me. There are a number of used bookstores in this city but my favorite by far is called Books and Memories. They buy, sell and trade used books.
Maybe I have told this story on this blog before, if I have I am sorry for repeating myself. One winter I went into this bookstore, which was once owned by an older couple, one of whom was a teacher. The place was just overflowing with books, almost like a hoarders bookstore. There were stacks of books piled all over the store, which, for all intents and purposes covers a full store frontage area a half a block long, one row house wall knocked down to make a passageway to the next row house. It was close to Christmas, and I was looking sort of half assedly for a book by Anthony Bourdain, any book would do, but I was truly not committed to putting money on the table. The store was brutally hot, and I was sweltering in my down jacket. My daughter and I made our way down to the dank dungeon of a basement where the cooking books were, but I grew impatient with the disaster, the musty smell, the overwhelming heat and quickly returned upstairs, whereon the patron asked had I found the books. I said no but that is okay. He told me to wait, urgently, insistently, and so I stood there for several long minutes sweat pouring from my brow, and that sticky ick feeling of being too hot of it being dark and having never been home after a long day of work, dinner a diet cola and an oatmeal cookie weighing heavy in the stomach. He came up, checked on everyone and told me again to wait, no no I insisted, please it is okay. He more forceful than I telling me to remain exactly where I was standing. We went back and forth like this for a half dozen rounds before he scampered off to the dungeon. The moment his back was too us and his body and gone around the corner that had at least 30 books stacked high all around it, I reached out with my witches claw hand and grabbed my daughter garbed in a similar puffy coat, hers turned to the reverse side so we did not quite match. Lets get out of here, I hissed to her, and like minded the two of us made a made dash out into the street.
The streets were wet and clogged with salted slush and gritty water, the fine combination of salt and sand that is sprinkled on our hilly winter pavement. And as soon as we had emerged onto it rushing to get into our car, my daughter cried out, oh my god I am so glad we left, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. And as we quickly jumped into the car, I uttered I feel like I stole something, with that mad dash of a getaway. And at the same time we both said, you know we can NEVER go in that store again. It was not long after that some younger hipper, tattooed artsy types bought and refurbished the place, getting rid of many of the ugly and dangerous teetering piles of books. Thank God, because we both go there regularly to look for classics, and art books, and whatever other treasures we can find.
There is this feeling for me whenever I am in this store, a feeling that if I look right, there is a book that will perfectly fill the void inside of me, a book that will take all my angst and troubled mindedness and ease the furrow in my brow. That suddenly some extraordinary book will leap in front of my eyes and I will emerge from the store, a changed person, because this book is in my hand. I think it is a spell that someone has cast on the store, it is so profound.
I think though that it is the ordinariness of life that we should seek, not the extraordinary. The stories of television, of movies, of books are all of extraordinary moments, biographies of extraordinary people, philosophies of extraordinary thinkers, religions and politics of extraordinary leaders. But you and I, we are so ordinary are we not? There is nothing about my life that warrants the thought of extraordinary. I am not an extraordinary writer, artist, mother, teacher, lover, woman, daughter, sister. I am not special, I am simply myself.
I carry out my small purple stool, avoiding the leftoever damp drenching downpour of the morning, slate still dotted with puddles, I place it where the warm autumn sun will shine on me, but I face out onto the lawn with the thought of wondering what creature will appear before my eyes. I note a dozen or more lady bugs flying around the shed, two dozen box elder beetles like a scene from the Amityville Horror on the window frame and then not two feet from my face a pair of chickadees brave the feeder. I call to them, and they continue to bravely fly onto the feeder, uncertain of my only good intentions. See this moment is not at all extraordinary. It is just another autumn day. I am just another ordinary observer.
He calls me and I am happy to hear from him, he has been a good friend, he has helped me tremendously since the divorce, fixing my car, fixing a leaky tub, helping me with some things when I was working on the house this summer. He has been a hard working co worker, preparing curriculum, literacy in art plans, and just someone to talk to when things at the district are difficult. He loves my sycamore tree almost as much as me. His wife is a wonderful sweet woman, his kids are awesome. His baby used to run to me calling out Hi Meg with his chubby little arms outstretched for a hug. Sometimes we have talked about God and about religion and nothing would make him happier than to have me accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
But I cannot do it.
He says, what if you are wrong? If you just accept Him when you get to the end of your life you will be accepted into heaven with God. He says, his way is the only way, in fact even Catholics are suspect, they will not get into heaven, their belief in God is wrong. See I think this way of thinking is wrong, it puts up a barrier between you and other people. I think this kind of thinking leads to violence between religions, I think this kind of thinking has actually caused the deaths of millions and millions of people over the eons. I think this kind of thinking is actually deeply evil.
He called me the other night and once again told me how much he wants me to be Saved. He told me that God wants me to know that being Gay is a sin. He told me that even if a child is raped and becomes pregnant, they should not be able to have an abortion, that God wants that child to be pregnant, and that the baby’s life is sacred.
I just don’t know. Or rather, I do know. He is wrong.
I have a very strong faith, but my faith is not his.
Let me put it in a nutshell.
We humans, have small minds which cannot fathom the greatness or the vastness of the higher power. It’s like we are in a house and we are all looking out the window at God, but some people are looking out different windows. What they see is God, but it is not all of God, and it is their view, their perspective but it is not the only view, it is not the ONLY way to God. Some people have this basement view too, their view is so limited and so dark. Some people are on the widow’s walk, they see a whole lot more of what God is than others.
We humans have such a limited view of how to get to a greater understanding of God, we all have our paths but it is all a path to God. Its like the sky is God, but we are all on different paths to the top of the mountain. Some people are shouting out, this is the path, not that one. Some paths are clear and straight, but some are rough and require a bushwhack. Some paths are riddled with obstacles and some paths are easy slopes. Some people are climbing up a completely different mountain, some people think they are on the summit, but it is just a beautiful mountain pond, and look there up there, on the face of that other hump is an overlook, but even that is not the true summit, and when you get there, its just a small section of what is God, it doesn’t come close to the whole of what IT is.
Here is what I believe, God made people who are heterosexual and people who are homosexual, and our human minds cannot fathom how or why or what, or any of that, and really it isn’t our place to judge God’s decision to have some people love each other one way and some people to love each other another way. If my friend can accept the raped baby of a pre-teen child, why can he not also accept the gayness of a grown man or woman? And what kind of person would have a child give be to a baby of rape or incest? In some cultures these girls are murdered, not the men who do the heinous act, but the innocent one. I don’t think any one ever choses abortion easily, but what I do know, is that sometimes people do, and absolutely it should be a legal option for someone who wants one, because the illegal option is horrible. Awful. Ugly. And usually ends up hurting more than just the fetus, it often results in the death of the mother, and the end of her chance to bear further children. It is not a man’s place to make this place for a female. Not ever. It is not an option to eliminate the choice legally, because women will continue to make this choice without sanction from men. This is not YOUR body, it is mine, so mind your own damn business, and make sure healthy options are available for any choice.
My friend thinks Buddha is a God. Buddha is not a God, Buddha was a teacher. A man who said listen to my words, if you find them to be true, good, if not keep looking until you find the truth. You do not have to believe my words to be the only truth. Buddha said this life is full of suffering, that you must accept your life, not with a passive giving up, but with an active sense of knowing that all that happens will happen, kind of a let go and let God. You can be a Buddhist and a Christian, you can be a Buddhist and a Muslim, you can be a Buddhist and be an atheist.
I sometimes let him proselytize to me because it helps him, that is something he feels a need to do, and as his friend, I let him, it is a small price to pay for all he has done for me. But sometimes I want to tell him to join me on the widow’s walk because the view is so much better. And sometimes I want to shout his name and wave to him from my mountain top and tell him how beautiful my view is. But I don’t. I let him believe what he believes.
Next time, I will tell him. Thank you my dear friend for your concern, but at the end of my life God will judge me, and I am pretty sure, IT will judge me as worthy.