Monday, December 21, 2015

December's Invitation

Squishing along the boardwalk in the very wet Jackson-Frazier Wetland a ten-minute walk from my house, I realize that nature is issuing us an invitation in December: to see clearly and rest deeply. The trees have lost their leaves, revealing vistas that are invisible the rest of the year, revealing the beautiful form and structure of the trunks and branches themselves. The brief days and long, dark, cold nights make us naturally want to turn inward and conserve our energies.
I overheard this conversation between two men in the jacuzzi at my gym this morning: “It’s so dark for so many hours! We’re getting close to solstice now. I don’t know why, but I just feel like hibernating.” “Yeah, I just want to curl up with a good book and not be disturbed, and I’m not much of a reader the rest of the year.” I was smiling inwardly and thinking to myself, “I know why. It’s because we’re animals.”
But how many of us consciously accept the invitation? I was glad to learn that an organization called TreeSisters, whose mission is to empower women all over the world and swiftly reforest our world, absolutely gets it. I listened in to their regular full moon call, hosted by founder Clare Dakin, and enjoyed the guided meditation for December. “Drawing our life force back inside is like learning from the trees,” read Clare's invitation to the call, which continued:

Total stillness
In silence
Finally I can hear
The rivers of my veins flowing
And my roots breathing
As I fall back to the centre
Of my Self

Clare asked us to consider “drawing back our energies from all our ‘doing’, to feel what it’s like to really give our energy fully to ourselves.” What it was really like for me, honestly, was feeling anxious, antsy, impatient with myself. I’ve shed the compulsion to Christmas shop, instead choosing to give to charities that feed the hungry and protect the earth, but shouldn’t I be serving on several boards or at least volunteering somewhere? Oh sheesh, I thought as I listened to myself, that programming is so, so stubborn.
But besides that, I’m a single householder, a freelancer, and the sole breadwinner for me and my cat. I need clear examples of how it would look for me to slow down in December and still make the mortgage payment. What it looks like this year is that I focus during the brief daytime hours on projects for my editing clients, who seem to get a little frantic about wrapping things up by year’s end, and when the sun goes down I nap, read a novel, have dinner, play with my cat, go to bed early. I may have to let go of sending out a solstice letter to friends. Will they understand that this year, finally, I’m accepting December’s invitation and doing the best I can to hibernate?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Sifting Through the Ashes

My ritual there was always the same.

First, immersion in the warm pool. Coming back into the body. Stretching limbs while thinking warmth and expansion. Pressing my back against the blue tiles and the concrete side of the pool, noticing with soft awareness the other bodies around me. Becoming present to the day, whether sunny or rainy; the sky, whether blue or gray. Saying hello to the fig tree whose generous branches spread overhead. Taking in the dramatic flower arrangement always placed carefully as if on an altar at the head of the pool. Listening to the trickling of the water into and out of the pool.

Then climbing the four stone steps past the sign requesting SILENCE and entering the shelter holding the small hot pool, affectionately known as the crab pit. Clinging to the sculptured metal railing while easing down oh-so-slowly into the scalding water, then swiftly pressing toward an edge or corner to get out of the way of all the other bodies. Turning the focus inward to dreams and visions while gazing out the wooden window frame at tree branches and hillside. Observing the array of objects on the altar, always a candle burning. Listening to the music of the waters.

Finally being able to stand it no longer and climbing out and up some more stone steps to the cold plunge. Entering swiftly, immersing up to the shoulders, holding still until the urge to scream and flee had passed. Ahhhhh. Finding steadiness and calm, observing the colorful flowers in the concrete vase styled as a goddess’s head, visualizing my body and heart being swept clean as the aquamarine waters flowed through. Someone would always come up the stairs and grab the branch of the fig tree with the wind chimes on it, making more music.

And then the best part, emerging pink-skinned and open from the cold plunge and taking a seat on the bench in front of the white ceramic statue of Kuan Yin at the base of the fig tree. The Tree at the Center of the World, I called it. Kuan Yin with her welcoming hand would receive all the secrets of my heart. And of many other hearts, to be sure. Stones, photos, feathers, pieces of jewelry placed on the altar whispered hopes and wishes and griefs. The day Princess Diana died, someone placed photos of Diana and Mother Teresa on the altar.

The AP photo in the Sacramento Bee is captioned, “A swimming pool at Harbin Hot Springs is filled with debris from the Valley fire, which destroyed the clothing-optional resort near Middletown.” Describing Harbin as a “clothing-optional resort” is like describing the Mona Lisa as “a painting of a woman with a half-smile.” So much is lost in the description. Harbin was a place on earth where humans had created Eden, where creativity and embodiment and beauty ruled, where other creatures were part of the community. These memories still nourish me as I sift through the ashes in my imagination.

I remember one spring day looking up at the tiny chartreuse leaves emerging from the Tree at the Center of the World and realizing with a start that they looked like praying hands. This is my prayer: That the fires of every kind kindled by climate change burn to zero everything unworkable in the human psyche. That the Heart Consciousness Church accomplish a resurrection and steward the lands of Harbin Hot Springs for another forty years and then another four hundred, ushering in the era when beauty will prevail on earth.

Monday, May 18, 2015

What I Am Hungry For

I've been silent for two years, getting EARTH & EROS ready for publication (it's coming out in October from White Cloud Press!) but this spilled out in a writing workshop yesterday.

When the belly softens, I hear it grumble
and instead of reaching for chocolate
I ask what it actually hungers for.

A circle of hands, arms, eyes to witness and support
lives of imagination and courage.

An Arctic safe for polar bears, wolves, seals,
and the caribou migration.

Cities filled with the swish of bicycles and the soft padding of feet,
not a car to be seen anywhere.

The bees and butterflies returning to fields of crops
grown without Roundup or the neonicotinoids that Bayer claims are safe.

Children who have been read stories
and nourished at the family dinner table
and not slaved to cell phones and computers.

Neighbors who would rather pass the time on porches and picking
fruit from the community orchard together
than disappear into the house and never come out.

Friends who are eager to meet at sidewalk cafes
to pass an afternoon or an evening
without having to check calendars and schedule weeks in advance.

Work that uses our deepest talents
for the good of all.

A collective recognition of the insanity of that glaring yellow behemoth
parked in Seattle’s harbor yelling Royal Dutch Shell.

An end to all wars.

These are the true hungers of the belly
of the Western woman

who the Dalai Lama says will save the world.