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NOVEMBER 11th

Time moves slow.  The ache of the heart a long slow cracking after the initial break.  Thousands of aftershocks that travel across a year, add months, count the days.  New mistakes stream in and stretch out inside the ravines, touch the canyon walls, and flow on top of the scars.

Take stock of the present.  Orange lamp hangs overhead and casts its familiar glow on the pillow and couch, on my fingers as they move over keys and trace lines in my journal.  Silent apartment, save the passing the planes and occasional scuffing of boots on the sidewalk or wheels turning over wet leaves.  Yesterday’s breakfast pan soaks in the sink.  A cold beer on the windowsill.

From my ledge I see other people in the open sky.  The vast space around them as they touch hands, unwrap gifts from tissue paper, smile in ways that communicate the complexity of joy and sadness and living.  I see what I hoped for in my life and my family and my love, and know that it didn’t complete me the way I thought it would, the way I wanted and needed, because I wouldn’t let myself be whole.  I cannot imagine building a new life, although I know I’m doing it everyday.  Dish by dish, word by word, moment to moment.

2010 harvest moon photographed by chris updegrave

Notice that my body marks its own time, with signals that fall outside the calendar of dates and anniversaries.  Another harvest moon rises and pins me to the spot, to the moment.  Memories stored in the quality of light, released by the Fall chill settling in the air.  The memory of organs swell the body.  The well of sadness opened by the senses and the body’s recollections.  But this time there is a quiet joy marching alongside.  It’s new and weak at times, but gaining strength and momentum.  I stand on this edge and my lungs clench.  I see the size of my wounds, so long in the making and don’t know if I can cross to the other shore.  If the scars can soften and stretch and let in the light and air.  I hear another bottle break on the sidewalk outside through the closed window and know there will be something to clean up in the morning.

Time moves fast.  OWL’s growth, so ordinary and so exceptional, impossible to track.  Loose notes on the calendars waiting to be transcribed into a baby book.  The feel of those moments so vivid at the time hardly seem describable now.  Watch as baby C, now 4 months old, gorillas sits with his fists on the floor as he slumps forward, and marvel as he pops up.

NOVEMBER 7th

In the morning after a previously amazing day and an evening spent writing in tears, I lay across my bed and mark what is right.  What is going well.  A two page list in columns, turquoise ink.

OWL is healthy.
He talks & talks & signs.
Trots around with little stroller.
Sleeps clutching books like The Secret Life of Plants and Crime & Punishment.
We have heat.
The cat snuggled me through last night’s sadness.
I can read.
I have a practice.
I write.
I walk and run, and sometimes cartwheel.
OWL stomps through puddles in frog rain boots.
OWL & baby A hold hands.
He kicks a ball.
I laugh, cry & feel.
Sweep the floors that ground us.
Cook the food that nourishes us.
We ride buses.
Have teeth to brush.
Bodies to wash.

On the cushion later that morning, the sangha shoulder to shoulder in staggered rows, I open without cracking.  I carry myself back up to that eye-level view of Mt Rainier, and sense my presence among the other mountains, my icy peaks rising above the blankets of green.  The sky passes and mingles, the clouds appear and dissipate.  And I think, I could do this anywhere.  On my feet.  In a courtroom.  At breakfast.  I can be this mountain among mountains anytime.  Struck by the sheer confidence of the open sky.

By nightfall, I slip back down.  Self-arresting, I land not at the bottom, but catch myself in a point of utter aloneness that is sad but not sorry.  It carries me a ways outside the room.  To a place without walls.  All I want is OWL in my arms, in this room, among these friends.  Wait anxiously as the openness battles the rising fear of seeing the ex in the coming exchange.  The fear of directly seeing the embodiments of my failures and success from the open sky where my heart beats raw and tender.  I feel exposed by the moment where everyone around me seems transformed and held by something that I’m not even sure I get.  I feel quiet.  OWL arrives and my world tumbles together and in to pieces all at once.

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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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Lines cut from weather, like the lines on my face and skin. Pockets of snow trapped between jagged peaks.  Trees march upward and halt in uneven unison across the range.  Dots of orange in the ochre and dust-colored earth. Rivers winding like snakes, deep pockets of blue-black. Stretching miles all around. Roads like scraps of discarded yarn, cuts exposing layers in lines of colors.  Dusty khaki to grey to brown.  Near symmetry.  Pyramids with rows of green running up & down.  Red to khaki back to red.  Three fires in three valleys form plumes of smoke, white dissipating to translucent grey to transparent charcoal. Peaks with folding sides, sandy looking slopes and dark lakes.  Weather worn. Lifting above the fields, square and round.  Ridges rise skyward like perfect spines pushing towards the clouds.  A canyon in the distance distinguishable by the sharp drop on one side and the rise on the other, the space between them almost unseeable.  Clouds in the distance a nest of soft down, cool with the high air and mist.  Ridges and slopes forming horseshoes, reminding me of the gift of flight.  How lucky to sit and gaze from this height.  Maybe, just maybe, when I am tight in the lungs from too little sleep and an empty bed and a sink full of dishes and a near-empty bank account I can return to this place, breath myself back here.  Nourished by its existence.  On the breath.  Rise up and study my topography with the same awe & wonder & curiosity.

Even mountains erode under the wind and the rain.  Explode with lava from their core, our core.  Deform under pressure sent from distant miles only to rise up again & again, and erode more & more.  Land burns under hot winds and sparks.  Valleys flood as rivers bulge, cut new courses.  Connects and liberates.  I sat listening as men and women recounted their experiences alone in the woods.  I hope to forget most of the details, not wanting to color an experience I may soon undertake. Striking descriptions of the self shattering, speaking in beauty & honesty & reflection, and in only a few words.  So much like birth, like my fight to carve out this space for myself only to watch it shatter in surrender to the moment of mamahood.  Time and time again.  Letting go.  I could feel those words all night.

Descent.  Seattle.  Foothills a carpet of green against the memory of the Rockies, yellow and grey.  Mt Rainer once again a majestic wall of blue and white ice.  A peak to be reckoned with.  Observe and appreciate.  Thick clouds with peaks rising out like islands from a white sea.  Airport.  So tired of all these tears, never in short supply. A father holding a newborn.  Think of what I cannot provide.  A house, with people and a yard and a dog.  Our house sits days away from foreclosure.  The walls of OWL’s room still painted blue & orange.  Hardwoods shining.  Garden window empty, its contents crowding my kitchen table.  Lawn unkempt.  Trees & roses unpruned. Empty kitchen drawers.

Train home.  Olympics pale, lightly brushed along the skyline.  Flat in the warm sun and haze.  A subtle shift in the hues of blue.  Train moves north, mountains disappear from view.  A hard homecoming.  Afraid again that my legs are too wobbly to do this on my own.  To make this trek.  My mind too small.  Obstacles too big & slippery for my tiny hands.  Wanting something to lean on, even for just a moment, to recharge that core so I can hold myself while holding OWL.  Sitting on this train, after this trip, I realize the enormity of what I gave away.  I know it wasn’t always perfect.  Or unconditional.  Times I wanted to give so badly I could do nothing at all. Caught in the hope.  Caught in the fear.  Always trying to keep it together.  Today I feel old and unsteady between breaths.  Not knowing how to  trust myself.  Feeling the rejection in waves as we move over tracks, behind painted buildings.  Feeling not out of belief, but out of loss.  Life shattered.  All four walls down.  A year past.

I see that I am somewhere new.  Out of the crisis.  Into a different space.  Ready for what is next.  Feeling stronger.  Yes, I want to fall in to someone.  To collapse & sit shaking in all my uncertainty.  Keep telling myself that the place I belong is the place I occupy every second of my life.  Right here, in whatever the moment is.  Hard to accept when this alternative version competes with the present in my head.  Feels like there is no one to bear witness, but I bear witness to all of it.  Now, among the clouds & peaks & train stations, I start hearing it.

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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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