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Archive for the ‘beginning’ Category

I light incense on the shrine in gratitude of these recent experiences and chose a lotus stick as a reminder of non-attachment, to reconnect with my Thursday yoga practice where it unfolded again and again in my heart space, rising pink and cream from the mud. Then without even a tiny bow I promptly retreat to the kitchen where I don’t have to see it or think about it or breathe it in. I chop the drained tofu as the zucchini simmers in butter. The lingering touch of kissed lips held for days fades quickly. I dig out a leftover red onion wedge, slice it and add it to the pan.

Funny how openness applies to the potential of beginnings but not to the possibilities of a short life, the arrival of an ending.

I add the sauce and tofu, stir and season, set the lid in place and reduce the heat, and walk into the living room, the air heavy with the scent of my life in motion. OWL quietly watches the PBS NewsHour from his mushroom perch at the foot of the couch, giggles at me and nods his head as I walk by. A small smile cracks in my tightness. The sweetness of sadness without a storyline, the joy of OWL’s happily crinkled nose, of coming back to the simmering food on the stove, the rising smoke of the lotus. The sweetness of Practice.

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(mountain-eagle-warrior-flying)
(into 2011)

I have not been writing.

It is December, and I think something like this happens every time this year. There is a still quiet, a silent revolution of words and ideas rumbling around with no exit, and no desire to go anywhere. I write beautiful things in my head then quickly scribble flattened words after hours of procrastination and fall asleep.

My mind turns over this year, my first year, and I see it was characterized by loss and the depth of my experience of what was lost. How I leaned in to its sharpness, the cold metallic feel of its reality, the emptiness of bed and home and speech. How I sat and sat and sat again in practice, letting the tears and aches have their place and days.

My mind wanders over the people who filled this time of darkness with the most delicious richness and texture – OWL’s warm nuzzle under my arm and his sweet sing-songs from the back seat of the car, the warmth of mittens knitted by a new mama’s hands and the cooing and laughter of her foxy little babes as we talk-cook-sit-listen, tree-shaded walks through rabbit holes with wounded animals and talks and coffees with the children running ahead or lagging behind, the rise and fall of a lover’s body next to mine in sleep, the soft coat of the cat against my bare leg, acoustic guitars melodically joining teenage voices and hand-crafted gift tags, the growing bellies of mamas-to-be, falling asleep on a boat in the May heat of Florida and hot spring swims, the ballet and dinner, late night phone calls full of tears and laughs and love….

The freeze up of loss and loneliness is not so solid after all. The lake is full of the cracks and fissures of a continuing life, a current below the surface. A slow and steady breeze winding through the constriction picks up speed.

Open-eyed in yoga, I move through mountain to eagle to warrior 3 to standing split with my hands wrapped around my ankle, finger tips gently tap and sweep the floor with grace to regain balance as I laugh out loud. My heart  fills with green grass and a sky painted golden and pink by the rising sun, a light blue sweater tossed off to the side. A lotus blooms in the mud as the sun warms my face and arm through the southern windows. I see and feel and know the openness of the coming year, and greet that mystery with curiosity. With a smile that knows the transformative power of the eagle, and that starting fresh is not the same as starting from scratch.

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The present was the first to go, an abrupt drop off the face of the earth as I thrashed in the chaos of new motherhood and a husband who stopped sleeping in the house and drove deep into every historic insecurity I held with words so sharp they can still sting.

I look out over my past, and I can barely see myself in it. All my thoughts and experiences and successes and growth and failures and risks were just erased, as if they don’t get to come with me and be a part of who I am right now, in this very moment.

And now, I see the future that I always thought was just around the corner slip away too. I loose myself again as I see it played out with other players. I watch my son in someone else’s life, recognize his mannerisms and moves, and wonder what I can give him. Because when I try to visualize my future, I can’t see anything. I held on and out for this future that will never happen, no matter how many corners I turn. It never was and now it’s gone for good. Another thing to let go.

The present.
The past.
And the future too.

Tears fall all through yoga as I twist and flow, release from my hips and my low belly. A feeling of sadness and mourning without a story. Images come and go, like clouds through my mind, dissipating as quickly as they appear. Release without blame, without guilt, without the storyline. Tears all through dharma class as I wonder if I have the strength to make it, to be fearless and wise, to relate deeply, to find compassion and joy.

Today I stand on the verge of tremendous change, but I don’t know which direction to turn and explore. A new curiosity arises as I wonder where the path, the continuation that builds the future moment by moment, is leading. It’s a passive curiosity, but for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m in my life.

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We set a date. The 16th of December. Life and death and funeral all in one. It’s the right thing to do, and well past time. I was disappointed that the 18th was Saturday, when the courts are closed up, since it seemed fitting that it should end 5 years and 6 months to the day, or 8 years and 7 months to the day of the beginning-beginning, whichever one counts in the end, if any do.

This is what I want. It’s Closure, Moving Forward.

I don’t know if anyone really thinks about the ending. I remember so many details about that first day – the bus ride to Georgetown with my friend GR, my red cashmere sweater and chunky black shoes, his baby blue pants, talking about the Pixies, how he asked me for my phone number so he could ask me on a date (“with dinner and a movie and kissing at the end”), a stolen kiss behind the club, the drive home in the back seat of his 1963 Dodge van next to the drummer’s passed out girlfriend, my twisted ankle….

And I remember so many and so few details of all the in between, which I suppose reflects the successes and failures in equal proportion. Either way, I am not repeating them here. I am not a fan of recaps even though I can play scenes from my life in my head – real and imagined – over and over again to the point of exhaustion and depression. And my point is that there was a lot of living even when it wasn’t exciting. Or perfect. That we did bear witness to each other’s mundane and extraordinary. And that in some ways there’s more intimacy in watching someone pick out fruit or learn to cook or demolish a wall or garden in the rain or sign a dissolution decree than there is in anything else. That the day-to-day is where we live, moment to moment, each and every one of us.

In the clarity of this defeat, I see myself and where I hold on. I resist who I am because I cannot let go of what I am not. I see it again and again – here in this day, there in the past long before I crossed paths with then-husband, and in the future where I am always raw and incomplete and never enough.

I long for something rough, and pull out From the Burnpile.  The cello and Madigan’s voice match and settle my mood while I cook rice with stock, turmeric & chipotle onions, and saute carrots with leftover spinach (with cinnamon!) and black beans for dinner.

I’m trying to write you a love song
because I know it’s time you heard one
I’m trying to write you a love song
because somewhere you know you’re someone

Come tell me about yr dreams coming true
I need you to
Come tell me about your dreams coming true

The snow has laid down blankets and the cold air forms ice as the wind sweeps the trees clean and the sky drops more flakes, alternating between perpendicular and sideways. I watch it swirl like a breaking wave, change direction, and gust in sheets to the south. The window rattles against the wind. The cat is curled at my left thigh and purrs when I brush against his coat. OWL sleeps peacefully through the storm, maybe with good dreams about our afternoon walk in the whitened landscape in his red snow suit, a knee-high gnome with his green car in one hand, hairbrush in the other.

But I can’t write the love song. I can’t seem to right the story. All I can do is crawl into the bed and pull the covers over OWL’s body as he sleeps, his cool feet finding the side of my colder right thigh, and weep.

Future happiness included, of course.

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Hard pressed to find a starting point on this Sunday evening, so I’ll just name what was and what is here.  Typing at the kitchen table:  job application, email begging someone to work magic to get me an interview, this post.  The other day a small stream of warm light ran through the stained glass flower hanging in tribute to my mama as I waited for OWL’s return.  Lentils cooling on a cooking sheet next me. Beets cubed on the cutting board by the sink.  The day’s sermon from across the street ringing through the cracked window declaring “It’s not my fault!  It’s not my fault!  The world makes me this way!”  But tonight the air holds a chill at my fingertips as they move.  Sink full of hastily made dishes.  The smokey pulpit silent. Moon nowhere in sight.  Calendar turned to a new month.

Been in a state these past few days.  Decisions looming.  Heart opening & slamming shut at the sight of the space before it.  At the feel of cool air and water.  Riding the downs wherever they care to go.  Remind myself that every passing, no matter how small or how big, deserves its moment of recognition.  Hard to name.  Gratitude mixed with appreciation mixed with frustration mixed with a drop of loneliness.  A hint of missing.  So many endings in my story these days, I wonder if the beginnings that everyone assures me will follow really exist.  Out there.  In the world where everything changes & erodes & passes & reforms (supposedly).  In any lingering sadness I also know that this is what I wanted, needed, to reclaim that open space. To move back in.  Let my feet dangle over the edge a little bit longer, my toes dip a little deeper.  A release that goes both ways, serves all involved for the better.  And that I am made better by the whole of these experiences.  I found so much compassion for myself in that time, dug into reserves I didn’t even know existed, and relaxed enough to just be in the moment.  To feel good & truly smile.  Whispers in the dark.  Spoons under January blankets.  Moving boxes & empty rooms on days off.  A river under the moon & stars.  Bikes & beers.  Open books in the park.  New recipes & pizza boxes.  And so much compassion in making space for someone else.  Started feeling the boundlessness, even though I do not always practice it.  Grateful for all I worked through & out.  For fabulous companionship & friendship.  Been through seasons and it is hard to watch it go.  Give myself the time to stand still. Let it slip away.

Finally understand that equanimity is really.not.my.thing.  Oh, I want it alright, which is actually hilarious in a way.  Good example of the farce disguised as tragedy. At least there are some laughs from my side these days.  Operating under the belief that I occupy the gap between endings and beginnings, a free fall of nothingness, but with no end (new beginning?) in sight.  Letting go brings perspective.  I see the space is anything but lifeless.  More like the gap between the out-breath and the next in-breath.  In that open texture, perhaps there is no difference between the ending and the beginning.  No fine line or marker or event.  Perhaps they are one in the same, a fluid moment without much reference.  Breath myself back in to the sky, above jagged ranges and canyons and lakes.  Eye-to-eye with Mt Rainer, I bow a thank you to the you standing on the peak, looking back out the world. Reflecting so much wisdom.  Showing so much strength.

Today, OWL was full of my favorite kind of his laughs.  Where something totally random sends him to fits.  He erupts and pauses, waits for me to make a slurping sound, and erupts with even more gusto when it does.  Sides move up and down from his ribs.  Rubs his bare feet together.  Head whips side to side.  Lying on the floor with Baby C, only 11 weeks old, I move my glasses from my eyes to my head to my eyes and his head snaps back and forth in delight.  Mouth turns upward in a whole face smile.  Eyes big and blazing and alive.  Cheeks stretching.  Ears inching upward.  Big new laughs.  Body shaking.  Full body smile with moving arms and hands.  Watching these new human beings learn to laugh is indescribably amazing. From Baby C to OWL, I see my own lost laughter and know it is in there, right now. Seeing & feeling & hearing these laughs, in my moment of mourning and in my year of sadness & endings, the heat cools and settles to a soft breeze.

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*day one.  flying.  25 Sept 10*

Wet sadness held court just behind my eyes.  Brushing my teeth.  Shaking rice crumbs out of OWL’s pjs & placing them in his overnight bag.  Picking a half chewed piece of beet off the bottom of my rough foot.  Hiking him down the hill to papa’s nest, to his nest with his papa.  Watch them play.  OWL asks for keys & inserts one (likely the same one each time, which he does with my keys, always choosing the apartment key over the others) into the cabinet with a missing knob.  Take one last picture, his new “I LIKE TRAINS” tee-shirt tight against his full tummy.  Cry & laugh & kiss my goodbyes for the next 6 nights.  Fall into the ex’s hug in fear & sadness & longing.  Never afraid of flying until last night.  If something happens, how will he know how much I love him?  How will he feel the mama’s love I know he’ll need every day of his life, good and bad and sad and everything in between?  Wipe my eyes walking to the bus.  On the bus, my lower eyelids a dam ready to spill over the edge.  From the train I text my girlfriend, a super-mama with a 10 week old, and ask her to keep up with OWL if something happens.  So he knows what a mama is like, what she sees and how she loves like no one else.  The dam breaks.  My life these days measured in the time between tears on public transit….

Fly eye to eye with Mt Rainer, blue magic walls coated in snow, holding the view steady and strong as the other mountains move behind it and away.  It amazes me. I know someone who’s summited, stood at this very peak and looked back out at the world.  Something I never really wanted to do, but sitting there, staring at eye level, I understand the desire.  I know I’ve been climbing my own mountains lately, but damn.  I bet that one has a better view.  Fly over Wyoming, over the Tetons on the opposite side of the plane so I cannot really see them.  It was here that OWL became his living swimming pre-self.  Where I felt so indescribably alive and energized by the air & skies & moons & starts.  History floods and cuts through me like the canyons chiseling the landscape.  Ledges and buttes giving way to hills green and rising like the folds of a soft blanket giving way to puckered earth.  I have to get back here.  Soon.  Next fall, I decide.  With OWL.  (Who’s up for an amazing road trip?) Fly into Colorado, the setting sun rests on the western slopes of the Rockies, reflecting a pink-tinged yellow, casting deep shadows over entire valleys.  On the Denver ground I recall a phone conversation, then-husband still driving through Kansas (which he was doing when I took off from Seattle a few hours before).  I feel and see the open  atrium where it occurred (on my end) before I reach it and when I do it is with a sinking heart.  This is where it began.  That trip.  The end of that summer.  The one that changed everything for better or for worse.  I turn my phone back on.  Picture comes through of OWL and his papa, snuggling on the fake fur blanket.  My little family.  But not really a family.  Just my piece and his piece of our now separate families.

I slow down and name the sadness.  And the fear.  This trip, in this moment and not 2 years ago, is about a new beginning for me.  There is no immediate decision to make.  But the next few days are about my eyes & my feel & my questions.  My future.  My potential.  My next steps.  If I love it, how can I make the choice to leave?  To pull OWL away over miles & mountains & a days drive?  And if I don’t love it, will there ever be anything out there that fits?  A place for me to grow & learn?

*day two.  wandering distractions.  26 Sept 10*

Morning & early afternoon lost to the drone of wheels against highway.  Full of heat. Low blood sugar.  Hitting reset only to wander the streets and shops in blindness. Picking up a few needed things here & there (like a new hat, which my fortune a few months back suggested I do, for a “new look”).  Sushi alone.  The wasabi and the maki pull me out of daydreams and back to the present.  Realize I spent the entire day distracted by art & soft things & beautiful fabrics & books & debit cards.  A way of walking without really looking or feeling.  “Good information,” I hear my therapist say.  “Great to get the message,” I hear my Monday night MI say.  Second reset. Need to let this place in, let it penetrate.  I need all the information my wisdom can gather.  This decision needs a place of clarity to come from my heart. Wisdom I need to see the direction my path twists and turns at this point.  Note these distraction are nothing new.  Some are fun & exciting, like my new hat. Others sad & destructive, like feeling ganged up on and put down by the people there to help when I was in labor.  And I let that go too, same as my day of distraction.  Back to the moment.  To the cheap chewy unagi on the end of my disposable chopsticks.  In coming back to the moment, there is no traveling forwards from the past or backwards from a fantasy.  I just arrive.  The weight of the fish in my hand, my breath disintegrating into the room all around me.

Driving back.  Exhausted by the day.  Catch a glimpse of a gold sphere emerging briefly from behind a grove of tall trees. Disappears.  I wonder aloud if it’s the Great Stupa (which, I still mistakenly think is in Boulder instead of 2+ hours northwest), majestically lighted in the dark September Colorado sky of 8:30 pm.  Crest the hill and find the waning harvest moon, so low on the landscape, like a building rising out of the earth and not a mass hovering and rotating above it.  Laugh at loud.  This is the essence of a moment.  Being surprised & taken not only by the light of the moon (which is ordinary even when putting on a show like this), but also being surprised that it is the moon in the first place!

Back at home base I look up directions to the Shambala Mountain Center.  Discover it is in Red Feathers Lake, not Boulder.  Over 2 hours away.  After my day of distractedly doing nothing, with a full schedule of “real” events starting midday tomorrow.  I should have been hiking the land and meditating my ass off in the stupa and….  So so so much is rising up in me.  So much without words.  After putting the pieces of three harvests moon together, there is so much behind every thought & movement.  Behind every landscape.  In every shadow & highlight.  A quality of hot hot heat and remembering.  Aching and moisture I cannot spare in this dry air.  I need desperately to go.  My super-mama friend assures me that is worth the drive for even a short stay.  Agrees it is a great space for me to visit now, after my day of distraction, a year after my husband left, two years since dawning OWL’s existence, in this part of the country, nonetheless.  Set my alarm for 6 am.

*day three.  the great stupa & a school.  27 Sept 10*

So much in this day!  Cook scrambled eggs and steep green tea.  Eat standing up. Slice an apple.  Pack walnuts, dried mangos.  Wash my dishes.  Honey for the tea. On the road.  Hard place to be the driver.  So much beauty in the mountains and bales of hay.  Horses flipping tails.  US 287 N to CO-14W.  Poudre Canyon Highway. A miracle.  Driving through this canyon, the river running seamlessly alongside, hugging the curves of the road and the looming formations, greenest of green hills ahead.  Bob Dylan singing Knocking on Heaven’s Door comes on NPR.  A song I’ve never liked all that much, so perfectly timed & inserted, so perfectly sung….  A new favorite.  More songs pass through the background without notice.  Cellos come into focus as I turn up the narrow dirt road leading up & up & up.  Remarkable sound. Quaking yellow leaves.

Hike under morning sun, among hoofed prints and chipmunks, distant birds, a brief visit from a pileated woodpecker.  Open the door to the stupa, empty and unlit, and say, out loud, “Holy shit” at the 18-foot buddha sitting on his lotus, vitakra mudra. Cold floor glides under my feet.  Eyes fixed ahead and upward.  Shrines & photos & guest book &….  Ground rolls and moves underneath my toes.  Awake!  Nice touch, this feeling of the earth I stand on every second of my life with little thought or effort.  Like a good student, I sit in Shamatha for at least 5 minutes.  Contemplate the weeks’ assignment, again.  Is there anything that does not change?  Is there a stable ground or foundation of all things & all experiences? Recall my recent revelation that I have nothing to do with who OWL is – he just amazingly is who he is.  Think of the parallel to basic goodness.  Birds & bees & trees & canyons & streams.  Summer fading.  Onset of Fall setting the stage for Winter.  Spring flowers digging in and waiting for their time to re-emerge.  Unchanging essence.  I have nothing to do with that either.  Just a part of it.  Same way I am part of OWL & he is part of me.  Indistinguishable, really.  My mama responsibility lying in creating and holding that space for him to flourish & grow & become his best self.  An active idleness.  Not engineering hopes & fears & story lines.  Letting him be in the world, working through it, teaching & helping & loving.  Providing tools.  Knowledge. Sharing wisdom.  And so too it is, with this home we all share.  With each other & birds & bees & so on.  In this current state of the world & affairs & the planet, I have the responsibility of stewardship.  Letting things be in the world to work as designed requires action.  Intervention.  Restoration.  That is my place.  My part.  Where I fit. This is one of those things mamahood & OWL were meant to teach me.

Nighttime open house.  Walk among small cottages, a greenhouse with foliage spilling out.  Small speeches and information.  A manuscript in poems.  More poems in a different voice.  Drinking in that cool mountain air & elevation like Kool-Aid.

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I always like starting with some grand epiphany. Something big & slick with the promise of becoming more. But this is just how I am. Always waiting for the start, for the right moment, for the stars to properly align, to wake up in a different state…. Perhaps that is why I hardly ever start much of anything. So much living in wait.  Holding it all at arm’s length until the day of arrival. The day that is always somewhere & anywhere but here.

So this seems like as good of a place to start as any. A 32 year old single mama after a relationship of 7+ years with a marriage and a house and all of that. But there aren’t any words to neatly package it all up. And any explanation of why I am here & how I arrived does not cast a particularly favorable light on either party, I’m afraid, although it can certainly be easy to place it all on him or myself at any given point in time. Mood & audience depending, of course.

There are days that are beyond hard. Many tears erupting, an almost sobbing presence. It has some words, but not too many. It’s an ache with a sound. A splinter served with salt. A longing disguised as hopelessness that has me stepping aside to dry off. A heavy judgement drawing water to eyes, wiping away on the walk home. It has the feel of gasping, the quality of quick & sharp. The weather of the heart dry & brittle. The weather of the eyes the fruition of the storm.

And other days are stepping out in boots & worn in lipstick with sleeves rolled. An unexpected long sit & talk with a neighbor. Trees rustling drying leaves above as two soldiers unload duffel bags from the trunk of a sedan and three women across the street stand in the bed of a pick up truck and calculate how to move a black leather love seat. Catching an eye on the way toward the lemons at the store. A fancy dinner for one and the latter part of the evening spent in good (better) company. There are days when OWL naps beautifully, his mouth relaxingly puckered in sleep as he ghost-feeds, perfect child’s pose. I shower. I meditate. Wash the remaining breakfast dishes. He awakens in giggles and I find him surrounded by books he’s pulled off the shelf that’s bolted to the wall of his walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom. We walk slowly & deliberately to the grocery store, cook dinner, and dance to Leonard Cohen or Dolly Parton, his tiny feet on my mine as we move slowly & deliberately, mindfully & with love.  We hike & camp. Ride the buses & trains. He loads the dryer while I fish for quarters. He says noodle and turtle and thank you. And it really cannot get any better that.

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