Rumi’s Caravan

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Dressed as lavishly (as per the request on the invitation) as I could muster for living in a construction zone last night I went sola to listen to the beautiful music of a middle eastern quartet and the words of Rumi, Hafiz, Mary Oliver, David Whyte, Wendall Barry, and many other poets drop from the lips of some Sonoma elders. With a white camelia in my hair and smokier eye makeup than I usually wear save for at burning man, I entered a room of mostly white and grey hairs…

Why, when I am trying to meet peers in this new area, I find myself more frequently at events that attract older generations, I do not know. If you know where I should go to meet men and women in my general age range who are spiritually minded and open hearted, please tell me the secret.

Anyway. Rumi has a special place in my open heart because of the poem “What was said to the rose…”

What was said to the rose that made it open
was said to me here in my chest.

What was told the Cypress that made it strong
and straight, what was

whispered the jasmine so it is what it is, whatever made
sugarcane sweet, whatever

was said to the inhabitants of the town of Chigil in
Turkestan that makes them

so handsome, whatever lets the pomegranate flower blush
like a human face, that is

being said to me now. I blush. Whatever put eloquence in
language, that’s happening here.

The great warehouse doors open; I fill with gratitude,
chewing a piece of sugarcane,

in love with the one to whom every that belongs!

I heard that poem on NPR days after what I describe as my heart opening experience, or my spiritual awakening. The poem described in words what I was experiencing and led me to Rumi, which led me down a spiritual path that became my life. I gave myself to it so completely- because in the words of Rumi I felt seen, heard, understood- I felt my heart connected to the hearts of innumerous others both from 800 years ago, and in the moment of hearing this poem through the airwaves across a modern city. In short, I felt connected in that moment to all of life across time. I remember it so well, I was driving on the freeway in San Francisco, where the freeway cuts through the heart of city before the bridge. It’s like driving across rooftops and everything is laid out around you like a model of a city- there is something about that section of road that seems to hover above the city that has always mirrored my own feeling of being in the world, but not of the world…

I don’t read Rumi that much anymore. In a way the ecstasy, the lack of regard for personal preferences, my own or others, the pleasure at any and every part of the human experience, these elements of what Rumi wrote about have become integrated into who I am and the way I understand and relate to the world. There was a time when I needed those words so badly, and drank them into my soul, heart and mind, phrase by phrase- I was so tender, so open, so taken apart… these words helped me rebuild a foundation based on truth and the beauty of human experience, these words and sentiments became the new building blocks for my relationship with life.

Still, I left during the intermission, feeling already full in my heart, and ready to return home to the delicate unfolding of my own life lived… the room I live in without a door to close me off from anything, the bed on the dusty plywood floors, the warmth of blankets given me by my mother, an old family friend, my father, and myself upon marking the completion of my first vision quest. I found myself wanting to return to the unpolished songs that are just beginning to bud up out my stomach, out of my life, out of my longing, out of my desperate need to take more risks with the living of my own story. These little songlets, they are not as beautiful to others perhaps as the music I left to be with them, but they are more beautiful and more interesting to me- because they are the clunky first tellings of my own story.

The walnuts falling in the pond, the ocean that has come to me to marry, the perfect falcon that has landed on my arm and become mine.

A favorite article of mine…

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I originally read this article when I was in graduate school, it was assigned. I loved it then and have rediscovered it; I love it still. I have many favorite parts, but this excerpt I chose because I feel so deeply resonant with these words that they could well describe what I feel is my own purpose here in this life:

“To this place, listening carries us. Whatever we conceive our work to be, in the end we know that we are only, infinitely, serving the place of prayer. I used to believe my work was about organizations and life inside them. Then a bit later I thought I was charged with changing the dominant worldview of Western thought. Notice how my scope increased as my ego gained a surer footing. Then one day, in a sunny patch of jungle in the Yucatan, I leaned against a small but perfect Mayan ruin while my two sons swam in a shadowy cave pool. Faced with jungle growth and sun, and the cold stones of yet another attempt at civilization, I knew that my work was, as is everyone’s, about reclaiming Life. All of us are struggling together toward a time when the human spirit can find more room for itself in the societies we create. We are all participating in enlarging the spaces in which we together dwell, so that they might hold more of the greatness of each of us.” Margaret Wheatley, from Consumed by Either Fire or Fire

If you can, read it slowly, and over again; it is dense with wisdom and meaning.

Bring the rain

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Early early this morning waking warm in bed to the sound of rain falling… not sprinkles, or heavy mist, but rain, for hours… I don’t know if I’ve ever been so happy to hear the sound of rain.

I’ve heard that a way to pray is to feel something instead of just to speak it, to feel gratitude is a form of prayer- to enjoy something is a form of prayer, to play in the rain, to ask it to please continue, to notice the feeling of being refreshed in the spirit, to notice the exhale of the land as it’s anxious thirst is quenched and all the plants and animals revel in the rain’s return.

My request/offering/thought/inspiration for all the rain dancers and rain prayers- In whatever ways you notice the rain today, send it out, feel it, let it grow inside of you, love it with the depth of your being. Notice desire quenched and anxiety lifted, even slightly. Celebrate the inconvenience the water brings as just another sacred expression of how life’s continuance is not about our convenience, but about the interconnection of the wellbeing of all of our relations.

Numinous Unknown, a Rite of Passage

I realize that I didn’t talk to you all about this trip and I’m seeing and feeling now that this rite of passage I’ve chosen would feel so much better, so much more complete, if I was anchored by the people I love in my community. So this is request for you to hear my story, and to know where I am and what my intentions are, so that I can be held in this journey with love. Thank you for being in my life in the ways that each of you are, and thank you for whatever moment of your day you may or may not give to reading this and witnessing me. I will return on the 26th of May and will be sure to share pieces of my story with you along the way.

Here is the beginning of my journey:

 

“Already the patchwork quilt land is falling, oh the worlds I could fill with what I don’t know…

This year I lost my grandmother Melba- she said she didn’t want to live anymore and then she got in bed. She argued with food and she argued with doctors and she argued with heat and then she argued with cold. She argued with her past and with her family and with everyone who tried to help her. Finally one night, a day after she had decided not to argue with water any more, her body writhed with pain and her spirit decided to stop arguing with breath too, and she took her last.

 

I laid in her room for a day, sometimes touching her hand to see if it would still squeeze mine or if I could still fit my hand inside hers and pretend like we were holding hands the way we used to. She always used to tell me how beautiful my skin was. Death has no glamour, one eye wouldn’t close and the skin pulled taught across the bones of her face so I could see the structure of her dear little skull- that skull that protected her mushy grey matter for all those 87 years of beauty and pain. In a borrowed hospital bed her body lay for a day as her skin cooled, her eyes clouded, and as she no longer either argued with all the discomfort of living or said to me “Oh my darling, I’ve missed you!”

 

At half past midnight on the second day a nice black gentleman came over with his young apprentice and we had tea. His job was to carry her away from us and to a place where her tiny, hard and cool body, her hands that I held for the last 30 years, that heart that loved me for the past 30 years, those eyes that told me I was beautiful always, where all of that would be cleansed with fire and released from this world and from us and from me.

 

Oh dear heart how I wanted all those years to make life more joyful and loving for you. How I never wanted you to feel alone but how I could not stop my life from taking me far from your hermits retreat and could never bring myself to dedicate my life to just you. How hard it is to say that, how I wonder if I have betrayed you and all of life by not giving my life to one who gave so much to mine… Did I do you wrong?

 

Below the mountains are covered in snow now.

 

This year I looked in the eyes of a man I thought I might marry and told him that if he needed to journey on his own that I could no longer hold him here with me in my arms. In a mad evening of blessed grace we disentangled every piece of our last 8 months together, keys, clothes, objects of love, the olive oil, the pepper mill, the granola, the unfinished projects and the unfinished plans, the tears of fear and friendship and deep love. This year I let him go with all the feeling, longing, love and abandon that my physicality could hold and I wished him so well on his journey, and I wished myself so well on my journey, and we turned and walked away from each other.

 

Oh the trips I would have loved to share with that man, oh the dreams we dreamt, oh how it all burns burns burns washes washes washes blows blows blows decomposes and composts to become life again. Here we are at the door of endings and beginnings again…

 

This year I spent 9 months on the land relearning what community can mean, beginning to touch the longing of my life. I have stood outside the gate without even knowing it for so long. How to say yes to the challenges of beginning to walk through that gate? In such complete ignorance and with the wild need to live, no matter how foolish, I began to meet new/ancient grief and resistance. In the grace of those gifts I also received some small touch of courage, and tastes of homecoming joy and the quiet and wild freedom my soul is on the lifelong hunt to live. Still, two days ago I drove away down a dirt bumpy road, disappearing through tall fields of grasses, swallows and mockingbirds singing, and quietly put miles between myself and the already dissolved and dispersing community that held me in that for the last 9 months… I don’t even know what it means to walk away from that, or if it’s even possible to walk away from that…

 

I am now on a plane going somewhere I’ve never been, and I don’t fully know why… I am going because it was the best way I knew how to say yes to dissolution, to letting go, to burning through all that I love and in the face of losing it all, choosing to give it all away in remembrance that it was never really mine to begin with.

 

As the miles fall I feel the anchors of my identity dropping away. Who will I be? What lives will build with beauty and momentum in the gaping holes being made in the fabric of what I’ve known? I feel stripped down, vulnerable, and shaky. I pray that creator receives these tears and this shaking as my offering of willingness. In this unknown I feel my fear shifting back and forth towards love, faith and exhileration, back towards fear, back towards faith. I needed this. I needed to go for a ride on a big jet plane and live into my body the truth of saying yes- to loss, to what is asked, to joy, to wonder, to mystery, to my life, to myself, to being in love with the person I’m becoming.

 

Still, in this moment, I can’t drink enough tea to comfort myself. I don’t want to be strong right now, I want to be held. I want my grandma to tell me it’s all going to be okay. I want my lover and partner to tell me it’s all going to be okay. And- I’m going to learn how to hear myself tell myself it’s all going to be okay in a deeper way than I have ever said and to hear that with deeper ears than I’ve ever heard with, to hear that with my deepest knowing, to be that in my deepest heart.

 

May this be a cleansing, may I let go of all else that needs to be cleared in order to land with both feet where I am going, may I laugh and lighten up, may I lighten what I carry, May I strengthen in heart.

 

This is what I know:

I know how to pray.

I know who I am.

I know to whom I belong, friends, family and ancestors alive and dead.

I know to whom I owe my life.

I know the gifts of loss.

I know the grace of grief.

I know how to laugh.

I know how to love, I am so good at loving.

I trust myself to see with truth.

I trust myself to live well.

I trust myself.

I have made friends of paradox, change, and challenge and I will not cower from them.

 

My purpose is as simple as my prayer; to be a conscious and intentional creator of culture and to share that good life with a partner, children, my family, and with a building glowing community. That is what I’m working towards. How can I serve that better? Who is doing that? What paths did they follow? What advice can they give? Why am I so sad today? Why does my heart feel so sore? Can I love this fragile beautiful place too? Can I love it as much as that bend in the river with the leaning trees and the morning sun’s reflections on the river walls?

 

This is me today. Thank you thank you thank you, Please continue, Let us be light.

Burning man 2012

Burning Man was for me like a hundred tiny joined dreams: dreams of color, dreams of explosions and flame, dreams of sound and light, dreams of darkness, dreams of humbling heat. Cycles of hours where time seemed to slow and stop, to breath prayers of quiet grace and celebration in honor of life shared. Dreamlike sunrises and sunsets that punctuated the endless roaming of friends through our separating, joining, dancing, crying, laughing, sleeping, talking, dreaming, cuddling, dancing some more, kissing, loving, praying, and opening wide to the creations from human mind and heart.

I have found a peaceful home in the desert- how light-and happy I feel to be welcome inside of those words- Sukkat Shalom.

My body feels like a blooming flower- arching back, opening, and vibrating in celebration of being alive. In this grace everything sparkles. I feel aware of such beauty in myself, others and the world… Today each moment is, for me, more noticeably pregnant with the full realm of sacred possibility – the same realm of possibility that Burning Man holds, as the mountains hold, and as every person, place, and moment holds, whether seemingly sacred or mundane.

In my heart I’m joyful, and there is sadness too. I find myself looking forward to next year, and wondering what this new year will hold… this past year has traveled the heights and the depths- who will I be next year?

In the meantime I’m in love with the dust.

I’m in love with the dust that saturates every thing I own, every inch of my scorched skin, every strand of my hair. I’m in love with the dust that forces our surrender and demands loving care for ourselves and for each other. I’m in love with the dusty visions that fill the quiet moments now… a strange kind of beauty that signifies belonging, a shared experience, an emblem of fierceness and wild desire to live and be free…

Driving back through the night and early morning each dusty vehicle sparks a deep joy and excitement in me- a resonant and satisfying feeling that the home and community my soul sunk into last week is not disappearing, but traveling back with me.

Leaving Black Rock City there is a line of headlights that snakes back miles. The seamless line stretches from the camps of the Playa through coned lanes and on to the pavements and freeways. Looking through the back window at the day’s last light the stream of cars and RVs feels to me like an arterie of blood – a pulse of fresh energy out into the world. Liquid light life force seeping steadily out…

Around midnight I reach the crest of the Sierras and pull over. Here in the mountains is another home to me- the memories of every trip I’ve taken and the echoes of laughter and good conversations linger on these roads like a lover in the sensual awareness, the arch of a back and a memory that grabs your breath. I smell the pines and notice their evening silhoettes against the sky. With the moon there are fewer stars, it is quiet for the first time in a week. My heart swells soaking in the moon. Climbing into my dusty sleeping bag in my dusty clothes next to these strange dusty possessions I feel happy to not be home.

Everything that was with me out there doesn’t seem to belong in this clean car, including me. My car feels foreign. Home feels foreign. Paying for things with money feels foreign. Not cuddling up to sleep near warm sweet skin feels foreign. I’m unready to be home, and unready to wash off the dust. Sleeping dusty I feel connected back to that pulsing line of cars, back to the camp I spent the last week in, back to the community of people I find myself feeling love, pride, gratitude, and humility to call myself one of.

As I arrive back in this other world I receive news from my mother that Cory, my neighbor at my parents house in San Diego, decided to end his life last week. Fierce anger, sadness, loss and betrayal enter the space I’m inhabiting, even though death is always inhabiting the same world as beauty, joy and celebration…the other side of the same coin, the bringer of rebirth and renewal…

But before I actually feel any peace with death’s presence in life I feel confusion and other emotions too transitory to name. Perhaps because I’ve experienced deaths just as surprising I no longer feel surprise as though it couldn’t happen; I know it can happen to anyone, and there doesn’t need to be sense or logic to it. But the math is still turning my stomach and causing my head to shake. I can’t quite focus on it. Next to the last week of my life, such a beautiful high of new friendship and life explored, this other experience is not feeling compatible- a part of me is checking out from it because my heart just doesn’t have it to understand right now. Understand isn’t the right word…

I’m packing out for a trip and I know that a deeper grief will come soon- I worry that it will come while I’m guiding, that it will affect my presence for others. I make a prayer to be able to do what I need to do to take care of everything in the right way at the right time, and to receive the assistance I need to be able to lovingly do my work.

A man who has been building a life with his wife, 3 year old son, and baby girl- how could he have committed such violence? Why? Why, why, why. His wife Jenna tells my mother she is so angry she can’t even feel love for him right now. I feel that from her even through my mother through the phone over hundreds of miles, the heat of such betrayal. Her anger for how their life has been destroyed tears around inside of her. These violent eviscerations are unforgettable, leave deep wounds, are hard to heal, and even more so in a world like this where we are culturally so inept at grieving. His possessions are already being sold, the house will be on the market soon, you can almost hear the ripping sound in the fabric of their lives.

Here in this default world a man can go into his home alone, as though no one else in the world existed, away from the helping hands, hearts and eyes of his community, and choose to end his life. What would drive a loving man to do it- I simply don’t understand… More confusion, disbelief, anger and fresh grief for this world… only questions in me, no answers. I wonder if he felt trapped? I wonder what the world looked like or felt like to him that even with so much he loved it still seemed like a good solution to end his life…

In my mind and heart I hold these two truths: 1. Every year a city is built and then destroyed to make way for the community’s  renewal. This is done lovingly by a community of people who are seeking to create a space where all is welcome 2. A man spends every day of his life for years building a family and helping to build a lasting neighborhood community and chooses to destroy it in a day. All of this exists in the same world. The spectrum is far wider than these two vignettes indicate, but I find myself holding these two realities next to each other and wondering what to learn, what to see, what it means or if there are directions hidden somewhere in all of it…

I feel this other world crumbling, communities and families being destroyed inside out and outside in. Then I think of this growing temporary city that is built to give people a lived experience of a deeper community, a life of connection and interconnection. I find myself between these different worlds feeling both realities as separate and as one.

In my heart there is further confusion as to what it means for him to be gone- I’m a little shaken. I’ve never known someone choose to leave life before… I’ve known so many to pass away, but not because they wanted or chose to. There is something so disturbing about suicide. As I live each day of my life more deeply committed to living and all the wildness that offers I can’t fathom choosing to walk away… Perhaps it is a failure of my imagination…

On the last morning of Burning Man I walked from the ashes of wall street to the temple; it was just after dawn. Josh and I arrived arm in arm just minutes before the temple was closed off to be readied for burning. Exhausted and open-eyed we made our way in sacred morning air  through the temple walls to simply behold what this gathering had created over the last week. It had been the whole week since I first saw it and from a pristine intricately carved temple with wood like lace rising to the heavens it had become a space achingly full with love and mourning.

The whole temple in the middle of the desert at dawn was covered in images of passed loved ones, scrawled goodbyes, poems, trinckets, songs, stories of deaths that came too soon, stories of lives well lived, stories of forgiveness, stories of anger and loss, stories of life tattered- pure and impure- unfair and inglorious- without reason- humbling- heartbreaking. Everywhere people were consumed in this moment before the temple’s demise- before the loss of access to that sacred space of contact- this moment that is a stand in for the goodbyes we’ve missed, the goodbyes we never had opportunites to say. Collapsed in tears at the altar of all that is. All that mystery, all that is unknown, all…

Outside already people stood around the edges, disallowed from entering. The rangers began to move around the space, comforting people and asking them to make their way out. Leave the tears, to leave the scrawled messages inside, and to move out so the sacred place could be prepared for going up in flames along with all the mixed feelings of everyone who made that place sacred through their openly shared losses, through their hearts suffering- sanctified by grief, purified by love and fames. There was something so profound about the request to each of us to let go… “let go and leave your mourning and your tears here where we will take care of it. Where we will send it to the sky to help you release.” Community mourning, there is nothing more necessary or human.

When the ranger came to me he hugged me- his embrace broke me open and tears came again, but not just for my own losses- but for the love offered in this place, for the pain and joy of living that emerges when we love deeply and truly, for the humanity of this stranger’s embrace, and his tears that came so easily with my own. My body’s shaking elicited his, his tears came and when we separated our eyes were both red. There is nothing to hold onto- we are inside the same heart.

As I walked out of the temple my eyes came to rest on my dear friend who I had looked for all week to no avail. Seeing her there felt as magical and perfect as having lost someone for 20 years and finding yourself in their presence on top of a mountain-top in a foreign country. Equally wild, we were dressed for ceremony together- white clothes, white neck scarves and forest green jackets…  She was there to close a ceremony that I had helped her begin a year earlier. Unplanned, orchestrated by the divine, we sat and held each other and closed the ceremony, dressed like sisters, made from the same stars.

We left the final temple walls holding hands, and once again parted ways. Words of meeting again, but it wasn’t to be.

Is it possible to leave this place? I have a feeling a part of me will stay residing in these perfect moments of love and being found… and that they will be just as precious to me when it is my time to leave this world. And yet, there is nothing to hold onto- we are inside the same heart…

“All boundaries melt in the warmth of love and we know that we are part of an indivisible whole- an expression of the eternal divine.” -Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Into the heart of Fall

I’m driving under grey October skies in West Marin- looking across the vast expanse of grey sky, the grey-green rippling water of the Nicasio reservoir, the wind-shaped banks of cypress, the rocky outcroppings scattered in the grasses… It’s October and I’ve not spent more than a week in one place since May. Time feels nonsensical, as though in this expanse of comings and goings it is not actually passing at all.

I’m remembering all the places this year has taken me, the dozens of landscapes I’ve walked through and the trees I’ve slept under. I’m thinking of the people I’ve met and the lives I’ve lived. I’m thinking of cool water on my skin, bathing aching hips and shoulders in snowmelt. I’m remembering sharing tea, laughter and meals. I’m remembering evacuating a friend and the feeling of only being able to do what I could and praying that everything’d be fine. I remember dancing late into the night and I remember waking at 3am to head into the mountain sunrise. I remember the montage of faces, footsteps, quiet moments alone on the trail and I remember falling in love over and over, through successive awakenings, with this world; the challenges, graces, beauty, ugliness, the terror and the joy…

My work is so simple, and I feel so blessed to get to walk on the land, and simply share it. I feel so grateful. I feel so grateful that we each have this bright burning spark of connection in us. I’m so grateful to be blessed to witness people touching the earth, and remembering. I’m so grateful to witness what they feel, what they see, and how close to the surface that beautiful longing for reconnection is. It’s right there, waiting and longing to be touched and fed…

I’m thinking of Dustin’s song for Amy, his fiance and one of my best friends, who passed away 2 years ago now… I’m remembering how exciting and fun life felt with her at a time in my life when I didn’t know how to make it that way for myself- and I feel so grateful for the gift of knowing her. I think of Bob walking down at the pier where he and Julie used to walk together. I think of him talking to her there, the unimaginable pain of her sudden loss in the night. I remember talking with Cory over the fence about his garden, watching him playing with his son and 3 legged pitbull as joyful as anything I’ve ever seen before or since. I remember how fast his wife left the house to begin again somewhere that wouldn’t remind her of him. Death, accidental, purposeful, long-awaited… I remember every day, but right now too, that my time could come today. My mother of father’s time could be today, anyone’s time could be today, and some people’s time is today.

While I drive this 2 ton metal machine real fast on a road next to hundreds of other vehicles separated by imaginary lines I feel grateful for my life today. I feel so grateful for the lives of my loved ones today. I feel grateful to all those who I loved who’ve passed over to creator. I feel grateful for the love and I feel grateful for the loss.

Leaving the hills and oaks and entering the city I think about concrete, glass, metal. I think about systems that don’t work, I think about my bank account, I think about what I want to create, I think about this moment in history.

At a stoplight I see two veterans sitting on overturned crates with signs requesting support- it makes me so angry, and so…hurt. I don’t know them, or what their specific stories are. But I do know that we are one, and that I want them to be safe, fed, loved and cared for. I do know that my life is about changing the design that creates this. I know my life is about living the earth’s soul and heartbeat back into my body, remembering that my body and my heart is already of the earth’s heartbeat and soul.

I want to take everyone I know and love, and then through time everyone else, back out to the land- to remember, to grieve, and to make their bones part of the dust that will grow the next seven generations. I want for myself to stop traveling across the landscape and to sink into one landscape. My longing is for the slow unfolding of relationship through lifetimes, through dust bones and lineages, through knowing that cannot be broken- to find a home, to become a home.

These two men sitting near this freeway entrance, their faces long, skin thick, hands running through unwashed uncombed hair- I don’t know how they feel… discarded? Useless? Ashamed? Angry? Betrayed? Full of longing? Do they feel it’s their choice? Do they feel like victims? How much are any of us victims? How much are any of us authors of our own stories? I don’t know why in me they evoke both sadness and anger, and gratitude for humanity, awe at the mystery. My mind protests what it deems a waste of beautiful life, and yet in my depths I know that this story we’re all in is bigger than my mind’s protests and my heart’s aches, though it includes these soul urgings and longings. I feel grateful to life. I feel grateful to be humbled by not knowing where the path leads. I feel grateful that they are reminding me of our oneness. I feel grateful that they sit here- reminding me. I feel grateful for the sadness, the anger, and the love- that the beholding of any suffering inspires me to touch. I feel grateful to remember that I do not know.

As my body begins to itch and feel alive with reaction to the Guardian Oak I touched and remembered last week I feel grateful for cold water that rinses it away, for the warm water I’ll soon be able to enjoy again, and I feel grateful that my body feels pain and pleasure, irritation and ecstasy.

The fall is here in the air, in the trees, in the light and in the darkness. As I step out of my car back in Oakland the asphalt is covered with a fine yellow dust of crushed fallen leaves. Standing in the street for a moment of pause between the coming and the going, the trees are half naked and the sky is darkening. Looking again at the yellow leaf dust I flash memories of the adventurous bright summer out on the river and lakes, hiking in the quiet through different landscapes with friends, howling at the moon, early mornings watching the sunrise as we rose into the mountains; life opening me wide. What the beginning of the year held and where this path has taken me humbles and excites me. Looking at the meal of leaves, crushed beneath tires and shoes, blown by the wind, fall’s joy reaches me in a new way. In this moment of change between the seasons I feel so alive.

The last two days learning how to harvest, preserve and celebrate has made fall alive with its own beautiful promise… Harvest, celebration, preserving, togetherness and the creativity of cooking- this new way of being in fall is replacing the lament of summer’s loss with a bright excitement about a new season opening up with new possibility, new learning, new sharing, and the new life these things will live into me.

There is no end of gratitude these days. As the deaths of these last years have come on each other’s heels without time to recover from the shock or “finish” grieving before beginning to grieve again- I’ve realized that I am not making my way slowly back to some place I was before these losses, I am not going back to who I was before loss and tragedy left new places for wisdom and love in my heart and in my body. Maybe I’m slowly making my way somewhere deeper into the heart of life, my life and Life itself… The grief has become so much a part of life and reality as to never be far, but it is also not what it used to be. It’s not a betrayal anymore, not something wrong- it actually has its own beauty, its own colors, feelings, sensitivities, it’s own path of light. Sometimes the grief actually feels like some kind of elated joy, vivid aliveness… the joy and sadness are so close together they are indistinguishable and somehow both feel amazing. I remember my loved ones in the fall…

It is all cause for celebration, joy and love- not to paint sunny pictures, but sometimes it feels like all the pictures are both now. Nothing falls outside of what I expect or am willing to welcome. My mom once said to me “Life is both too short to be sad and too short to not be sad.” Thank you mom, for everything you have taught me about strength and vulnerability, love and its endurance.

There was a moment last week, on the fourth of July driving back from Yosemite, when I read a friend’s story of progress towards peace… His narrative of grief, and its transformation of his life…

The fireworks were going off everywhere- not in a big powerful way, here and there, small, low, like punctuation marks to the moments. I was driving across the central valley towards San Francisco, through the suburban sprawl and each and every townships offering of patriotism. Perhaps other citizenry’s fireworks as well, for there were so many small displays going off it seemed unplanned and haphazard. For 30 minutes at least I drove by countless small explosions towards where the sun had set and still left a lingering rainbow on the horizon. The little explosions seemed at once joyful symbols of human revelry, and humble gestures set against the sky’s enduring display of daily sunset grandeur. The fireworks went off just above the lit signs for gas stations and fast food chains, the billboards for vocational colleges and industrial supply warehouses.

His words wove the triumphant and melancholy story of a beautiful love lost only to begin somehow, mysteriously, to be pieced back together into his heart through the unsanctimonious process of living life after profound and paralyzing loss.

His words awakened my own desperate missing of her. I missed her so, in a way I haven’t for a long time. I felt a longing for those times, for that spirit, for a visit with my old friend… With a sadness for her passing, with a remembering of all the ways I am because of her…

6 months ago I finally started singing lessons. Amy had told me I had a beautiful voice and though it took me awhile to gather gumption, after she died I knew I had to honor my own life, and who she was to me in my life, by facing my fear and cultivating my passion. For myself, but for Amy. To carry on her spirit, and to live for the days that she won’t…

The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

Oh Jesus Christ

(set to the song Ulysses by Mason Jennings)

I’m fascinated by the Histories of Intimacy… the woven specific quality of how people begin to know each other- first impressions- the shadows left by a dream- the flow and pulse of desire- the words we choose- the words we omit- the staccato or flowing sequence of larger events that punctuate life, throw us around, subtley change how we interact at a critical juncture- when love enters bodies, hearts and truths- when love leaves- the stories we tell ourselves- the stories we tell others- the awkwardnesses and the sweetnesses- the projected images of our other and of the life we  want to have with them- the lives we are actually creating through thought patterns and habits- a million inane and record-less moments that are totally forgettable and insignificant except for that under scrutiny they point back to these stories, these projections, these beliefs.

In my more fastidious and curious moments these woven rivers of past moment are mines of information waiting to be deciphered and learned from, studied and artistically rendered… I don’t know when this crosses from passionately living and learning about myself and others into monkey-mind; but I know it happens. Meanwhile these moments sparkle without memorial or note and fade into the infinite unknown history of an infinite number of lives that will be lived and seen only by ourselves… meaningful and/or meaningless.

Vonnegut talked about us as centipedes because of how all time existed at once. I see us like rivers of moments flowing, I like the way the metaphor speaks to how a river changes course drastically over time through imperceptible shifts in thought, action, and happenstance. In the course of knowing a person I see how the winding courses are affected by so much…

But, not many really want to play in that muck so sometimes I end up feeling like I have to force myself to just set the analysis and historical review down in order to not seem obsessed. I am obsessed- not with any man I’ve ever been with, but with understanding what these flows say, what they mean, how history becomes. It can plague me in moments between chopping the chard and getting the rice going, between the shower and the closet, between waking and getting out of bed, in inappropriate and inconvenient moments…

I don’t often miss my last lover. Sometimes, but less and less with every day, every important event we don’t share, with every date I go on. Mostly when I think of him I get irritated and sometimes I start thinking of letters, letters that don’t need to be written really… and certainly don’t need to be sent. They never get finished. Lord I can talk myself in a circle though! I do have a talent for it. I examine the situation from every angle, look at the events, conversations and the perceived viewpoints of said person who isn’t here to hold up their end of the conversation or to bring actual light to my experience. Different stories, different truths, none verifiable, but all leading me to remember and recognize how much I don’t actually know.

Because I’m somewhat annoyed and hurt about how it all ended, when I do find myself conversing in my mind with my last lover his position starts out two-dimensional. He’s saying something no one would really say and I get to vindicate myself with a beautifully crafted indictment where I take the high road and from my position of moral superiority point out all of the ways he didn’t live up to who he should be, to my expectation of integrity. These conversations last about 3 seconds before I realize I’ve created a straw-man which there is no glory, learning, worth or satisfaction in tearing down.

What happens next probably doesn’t help me get over it any faster: I empathize with him. I imagine some of the stories that might explain why he did what he did. I feel compassion for his position and appreciation for him as a person who is striving to do his best, and who did his best in that moment. I consider how what happened is probably helping him be his best self and serve the world better. How it was all totally necessary in the river of his life. Never mind that there could have been more compassion or care extended to me and my open and trusting (naive? the jury’s out…) heart.

*********************

To the friend who will live himself into my life with sturdiness and good humor: Please see me when my wheels are spinning and grab my hand and waist to dance me into laughter in the kitchen… make love to me through my confusion so my body’s knowing overcomes my mind’s habits and lets the understanding go, lets go of the need to know, lets go of figuring it out.  I want to let my overly analytical obsessing go just as much as you want me to let it go, and I’m good at laughing at myself.

*********************

I put my desk by the window and my friend Jed brought me a big pink rose that’s sitting here. It’s easy to work these days sitting here by the glorious spring days, letting the door open and the leaves blow in. It’s getting easier to sing thoroughly, resonating in my chest and face. I’m not waiting for someone to tell me it’s beautiful- I know it is because I can hear it- and because I can feel it. Beautiful feels like a body opening in resonance after unconsciously holding back for so long.

My singing teacher said to me this week “If you have a question about whether your voice is pretty, you can put that down. That question’s been answered. But you’re not just another pretty girl with a pretty voice, what the story the anxiety in your chest wants to tell?”

That question’s been answered…. huh, I carried that question for a long time. What is the story my body wants to tell? What is the story I will create with this voice that is becoming more and more clear?

******************

I want the quiet head bobbing with music on the couch behind me while I’m working, I want the read and shared glimmers of wisdom, life, belief, and destruction shared from the books we read, the murmurs in the middle of the night “are you asleep?”, the quiet after one leaves, the thrill of return, the surety of being touched. It’s as though my breasts have a longing of their own to be touched and felt…

So sometimes I start writing letters to this man, letters about life and what I’m thinking. It’s kind of weird, because it’s not really about him I don’t think… he was just the last person who enjoyed and encouraged my ramblings, that last person I felt seen, heard, and appreciated by. So his image is like a place-holder that I’m trying to replace with myself… oh the modern desire to be independent and self-sufficient…

and another part of me is starting to think that humans need another, or others, to see them … that it’s not neediness that inspires my imagination to conjure another when I write my innermost thoughts… that this other, this listener in the form of another human, a man in particular, that this is generating from my genuine longing to start sharing my life with someone who sees the light illuminating me like stained glass in the morning.

Warm and basic

It’s good to be quiet, and to wait. Sometimes… too often I think… I find I’m filling a space with words, thoughts, lessons- my inexorable quest to learn, to be my best, and to give my best to the world. But… it’s not always the way.

Tonight I’m listening to the rain and loud rumbles of deep bass, a guttural and thrilling power below the cognitive level of words… In this moment I feel something warm and basic, something I’d call love, though sometimes I wonder if the word is overused… I get this feeling that if I don’t put too many words to it, that if I go get in bed and listen to the feeling, and to the rain, wake up tomorrow and go about my day, that the gift will be myself. Not a lesson, but a changed story, one in which I am happy no matter the weather. Not prozac happy or inured to pain… but willing, and content in a deeper and sturdier way, to feel what there is to be felt- and in that willingness, a new, and happy, knowing of my life.