January 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
Last month in California, my father loaned me his special desktop copy of Robinson Jeffers Selected Poems. I was on a pilgrimage to Tor House, but first, five days in my feel-good place.
Within hours of arriving at the land of my solo retreat, I was out of sorts and feeling stuck. Searching for clues, I flipped through pages of poetry and found the somber piece “To the Stone-cutters” (entire work can be read here). My journal entry begins by quoting the last line. One that seems even more relevant now as I try to glean some nectar from the words I wrote during that expansive time.
Here’s an excerpt from day one, as I began to unravel in that coastal dwelling.
“The honey of peace in old poems…” Robinson Jeffers
‘Dance Church’ is next door and the bass is pumping. I know that I love to dance but there are reasons I am here, not there: jet lag, no sleep, bloodshot eyes, bad music, closed circuits, just don’t feel like it.
I peek in the window and be the voyeur that watches but doesn’t want to take the plunge. Sixty happy people move and jump in a mass of ecstatic wildness. A man exits, sees my indecision and encourages me to go inside. I tell him that I am just too tired.
“I was too, but it woke me up…”
Eventually, I enter. Somewhere around the Van Halen song, “Jump”, (that’s right, ‘go ahead and jump!’) I’m telling myself that I just can’t dance to this. But then I try it anyway. David Lee Roth’s mantra segues into something more palatable and I’m soon a member of the congregation, dancing my own kind of freedom. My state is altered, my body enlivened and I get so into it that when Dance Church is over and it’s time for dinner, I can barely eat.
Later I’m in the hot springs on a new moon in the starlight. A bath with myself and two women – silent. After a long while one begins to gently sing: “When I am in the light of my soul I am home.”
She sings this line quietly for a short time then slowly exits the bath. More silence, warm water and calm.”
Ahh…the honey of peace in old poems.
January 10, 2011 § 2 Comments
I wake in the dark to the sound of the garbage truck out on the street and the word porous in my mind.
Mmmm…a word in the mind upon first waking may be significant.
Apple’s Dictionary application defines it:
(of a rock or other material) having minute spaces or holes through which liquid or air may pass.
• figurative not retentive or secure : he ran through a porous defense to score easily.
porosity |pəˈräsətē; pôrˈäs-| noun
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French poreux, based on Latin porus ‘pore.’
Porosity. Now there’s a word. Suggesting a permeability. An allowing of things to move and pass through. An openness.
This past December I was on a rock-themed tour of California. Seems stone was everywhere. Either in the shape of some massive monolith before me, the foundation of a tower I was climbing, or as a small token in my pocket. On more than one occasion I witnessed how these rocks had been shaped by time.
Much of what I saw would be considered to have little porosity. And yet, despite it’s solidity, the incessant motion of repetition and time forged new shapes out of hard rock and earth.
An example: Native grinding holes by the creekside in Central California. When my finger tips touched the bottom, the depth of the hole was up to my elbow.
Or the classic photo op found at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur where water has cut through to shed light.
It’s 7:10am and I have a lunch to pack, a breakfast to make, a radio program to prep for and taxes to complete. In summary, I gotta get on with the morning. I’m seeking a simple way to tie ancient grinding holes, porosity and life-in-general together in a metaphorical closing sentence here.
Basically, it seems the experience of life itself shapes us. Our beings will not remain unchanged. For today I’ll let my form be porous and see how it feels to let it all pass through.
January 8, 2011 § 4 Comments
Friday was full.
Jeb stayed home with the sniffles while I tried to work from home. He did as I requested, which was to keep himself occupied while I tended to my tasks at hand. But being that he was not really all that ill, he had plenty of energy to essentially turn his room inside out.
The dishes in the sink, the pile of Legos scattered by the door, the voice of Casey Kasem as Shaggy on the Scooby Doo DVD – I tried to tune out the peripheral chaos and focus on my work. At one point I realized I had to see a client and Jeb was going to have to come with me and occupy himself in the car. I’d sent an email and left a message with Rex in hopes of getting a little relief but there had been no reply.
I gathered my essential work-related items and then began hastily throwing together some snacks for Jeb’s backseat excursion. A tangerine, a bowl of cheddar goldfish, a breakfast bar and some water. He put a basket of toys together and we ran through the rain to load up in the car.
As I pulled out of the driveway thinking of how I could most gracefully appear professional yet still tend to the needs of my under-the-weather-child, I felt the tension ripple through my body. I knew this feeling.
I’d spent 5 days in December having an intimate exchange with this strained sensation. It feels heavy, like something of a mountain on top of my head. And this mountain is ever-demanding and never lets up. Under the pressure of this prominence my very being constricts and tightens. Things move faster, my patience grows thinner and eventually…I get mad.
So Jeb’s in the back seat trying to see if one of his Star Wars Storm Troopers can fit in his remote control Jeep while Buzz Lightyear looks on.
Riding shotgun with me is my laptop and paperwork, a ten page to-do list and a stick of gum. I feel the overwhelm close in on me like a shroud. And then I remember the words of the Ambassador.
If you follow the Archives you may recall the Ambassador shared his story of 15 seconds of grace. He also imparted some sage advice for moments when grace can’t even be felt for a millisecond. He suggested the simple gesture of a hand to the heart. A deep breath in. And just be there like that for a moment.
So I’m driving down the highway with Jeb and Mr. Potatohead and I reach my hand to my heart and breathe. There is a comfort there of simply feeling a hand on my chest. An abbreviated version of a self-hug. I notice the air in my lungs. And I begin to see the green of the wet trees along the highway with a bit more vivid vision. After about a minute, I do realize that my body has relaxed.
No circumstance has changed. I still have a client to meet. Jeb is still sniffly. But I’m a bit more calm. And then I realize that the mountain on my head is not just sourced in situation. Surely life will provide plenty of external conditions to challenge me. But in the end, I’m the one who decides how it affects me. I choose to tighten. I choose to lose my grace in haste.
Hand on the heart makes space. I like this.
Within five minutes of arriving at my clients’, Rex texts me that he can be with Jeb. I shuttle him to his father’s place with gratitude and have the rest of the day to focus freely on my work. I’ll admit the day still saw instances of tension and I forgot all about my heart. But I had a glimpse of mastery in that moment there with Jeb and the toys and the highway.
And you know, just for fun…if you’ve read this far. I invite you to try it for yourself right now. Put your hand on your heart and see how it feels.
January 7, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Since I seem to be in a lost and found theme, I figured I post this photo of my find and see if anyone is familiar with the symbols on the pendant.
The necklace itself is so short, I don’t see how anyone could get it over their head. I wonder if it’s intended as some sort of hand-held mala where the beads pass through your fingers to keep count. However these beads are metal, not wood or crystal.
The minute I saw the necklace I was intrigued. More mysteries surfacing from the Big Sur coastline.
If you have a lead on cracking this code, clue me in!
January 6, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Last night I lay beside Jeb in the darkness. He had crawled up into my arms, his seven year old head resting on my shoulder, a leg thrown across mine.
He felt heavy like a stone – at least 60 pounds – and I wondered how long it had been since I’d held him in my arms like this. I recalled the early months of his life when I could lay on my side and and hold him within the crook of one arm. How his toes would brush my belly button. Now, they dangled around my ankles.
I thought about how one day – not so far away – he may no longer want to be this close. His body too big and long to curl up and rest within my limbs. His mind may be elsewhere, no need to cuddle with his mom.
I could see the stars through the screen of his bedroom. Feel his solid head near my chest. Listen to his breath. I soaked in the weight of the moment, as if his heaviness would leave an imprint on my body to always remember.
Once he fell asleep I moved myself out from under his floppy arms. The thought of the ever-elusive jade stone from Big Sur came to mind. Prompted by some quiet whisper I felt moved to look in my backpack one more time for the stone. My pack has about ten zippered pockets and I reached my hand inside each one, feeling my way into every crease and crevice.
That pocket’s empty.
Mmm, an umbrella. Ok.
Oh, Jeb’s old shirt is in this one. Laundry. Alright.
This pocket’s empty.
And then, I went to a very small inner pocket and felt something. Sure enough, I pulled out the little bag that held the jade given to me at the Heart Beat of Big Sur. There it was.
So here it is. Did the stone actually slip through the portals of time and space? I had searched my backpack repeatedly a few days ago to no avail.
Or had it been with me all along and I simply needed to experience a lesson of letting go? As promised, I had sent the sunrise shell to Big Sur on New Year’s eve, even though the jade had gone missing. Was the reemergence of the jade my reward for non-attachment and promises kept?
Or was it just that I was a scattered mother who couldn’t remember where I’d stashed my rock?
Funny thing about this stone, it’s full of mystery.
January 5, 2011 § 3 Comments
Morning sun in Carmel, CA near Tor House
Wood near meditation hut, Esalen
Moss on granite at women’s healing hill, Dry Creek, CA
Baskets on display at Spirit Garden, Big Sur, CA
Seaweed and mineral sand at Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA
Nail in tree, Pfeiffer Falls trail, Big Sur, CA
Lichen on granite, Dry Creek, CA
Wood is wealth, Dry Creek
January 4, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It’s on. The routine has begun.
School started yesterday and I’m back on familiar roads, driving between the post office, the gas station and the local market. As I traverse routes fourteen years familiar, I try to remind myself to see these pathways with fresh eyes. Not just fall asleep at the wheel and move through turns and side streets with unconscious habit.
It’s a constant practice of stirring myself awake.
I reach for reminders of what it’s like to feel the new. To experience each moment, wide open. Just a month ago I wandered through the village of Big Sur, watching mountain sentries of that river valley reveal themselves at first daylight. Curiosity lead me to a courtyard full of statues and alters, where the nearby gas station attendant opened the padlock gate to let me inside.
“You just want to look around?”
“Well, I can open the gate for you.”
Later that same morning I settled in at the Big Sur River Inn for a cup of coffee by the fire. Three leathered bikers were eating breakfast and the one with the bandana tied around his forehead boldly invited me to join them on their weekend tour.
“Who knows!” he said, “It could be the most incredible day of your life. It’s beautiful today!”
I was heading in the opposite direction, not fated for a ride on the back of a Harley that morning. But what may have begun as a classic guy-tries-to-pick-up-girl scenario, actually blossomed. Once it was established that I would certainly not be joining them but that I was interested to hear about their trip while I finished my coffee, Enthusiastic Biker’s friend joined in. He was more quiet and about 175 pounds bigger.
I don’t know exactly how it happened, but within twenty minutes a genuine conversation unfolded between us. Topics spanned our children (“they grow up so fast!”), Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” (“I just saw my daughter dance this production at her university”), to the Salem witch trials (“Can you imagine living in those times?” ).
Though we all may have been different ages and had different interests, we shared one thing in common: a curiosity to experience something new. A willingness to share about ourselves. And it seemed easier to do since we all were out of our familiar elements.
So, as I make my way through that same cereal aisle at the grocery store back home – the one I’ve perused plenty of times – how do I keep my experience with the Cheerios as fresh as my fireside chat with the bikers?
I guess for now, step one is just asking the question.
December 31, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I’m sitting, eyes closed, on a cushion on the floor with nine of my fellow seminarians as we are in the final half hour of a five day exploration of our livelihood and place in the world. This workshop has taken place in one of my favorite locales and by now I am softened, open and happy.
Our skilled facilitator (Susan Bernstein, Work from Within) is guiding us through a meditation where we imagine ourselves launching into space and traveling through time. When we land it is five years in the future and we are greeted by our future selves.
There I am, forty-two years old, smiling and welcoming me with a warm hug. This woman understands me like no one else. No words need be exchanged, she knows my journey and she’s here to show me that all is well in the future.
We find ourselves on a cliffside vantage overlooking the Big Sur coastline. The view is grand, Future Me’s connection to the land is strong. Jeb is there, too. Now twelve, he is happy, quiet and present.
We walk to a bench and I sit in the middle with pre-teen Jeb and Future Me on either side. Future Me puts her arm around my shoulder and I feel her deep understanding and encouragement. Real-time tears move down my cheeks in the full experience of this meeting.
Our group is guided through this exchange and we come to a point in the meditation when we ask our future selves if they have anything to give us. Future Me presents a piece of Big Sur jade in the shape of a heart. She reminds me that anything is possible.
Our facilitator eventually guides the group back through time and space to land on our cushions in 2010. The workshop is over and we share our goodbyes, each traveling in our separate ways. I’ve arranged to spend a night in Big Sur, where my little room has everything folded in an accordion-like fan style: the toilet paper, the tissue, the washcloths and hand towels.
It’s early evening and I’m across the street from my hotel room, browsing through a shop full of gemstones. There is a case that features jade but most of it seems to be from other places. The woman at the register speaks limited English and is in the process of closing the store. I ask if she can help me find the jewelry made from Big Sur jade and then debate on purchasing the pair of earrings that she shows me. I decide to get them and as she wraps them up, I notice a bowl full of raw chunks of jade at the counter. I begin to sort through the rocks thinking I’d like to have a few small pieces to give as gifts.
As I’m sorting I hear her speak in a thick accent, “I think this is for you.”
I look up to see that she has reached into her pocket and is holding a smooth dark green stone in her hand. Though it is hard to understand her words entirely, I gather the following: she was walking on the road that day, looked down and saw the rock. She realized it was a piece of jade and picked it up.
“You found this stone today?” I ask.
“Yes,” she nods, smiling.
“Just on the side of the road?”
“Yes. I think it is for you.”
“For me? You want me to have it?”
“Yes. You like jade. Is for you.”
I take the stone. It is soft, the shape of a diamond with rounded edges. I am amazed.
I thank her profusely and ask for her address so that I can send her a Kauai jade equivalent – the sunrise shell.
Maybe it was a coincidence that on the same day that Future Me handed over a heart-shaped piece of Big Sur jade in some guided meditation, I was gifted that stone from a stranger at the shop called “Heart Beat of Big Sur“.
But I like to think it was the ultimate cosmic wink. That somehow forty-two year old me slipped jade through the wrinkles of time and space, offering that stone as a reminder. That anything is possible. Magic comes in simple moments. All is well and will be well. Trust.
As I conclude this last day of 2010, I think about the future and what I want to cultivate in the coming years. I hope to catch up to Future Me and share a laugh. Though one never knows how long they get, I hope I have 5 more years and then another happy fifty more.
This little tale of jade in Big Sur is already in my past. And Future Me resides somewhere in a time I haven’t met yet. Life is a series of present moments and this day is what’s alive. Today I’ll be packaging up a little sunrise shell and mailing it to a PO Box in Big Sur.
Happy New Year!
Note: After writing the above words, I went to my suitcase to find the jade and take a photo to accompany this post. After searching every pocket of every travel bag I simply cannot find it. Was it all just a dream? Or, like the chrysoprase stone will it turn up in some random moment? Gotta love these mysteries.
December 25, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Exposed on the cliffs of the heart. Look, how tiny down
look: the last village of words and, higher,
(but how tiny) still one last
farmhouse of feeling. Can you see it?
Exposed on the cliffs of the heart. Stoneground
under your hands. Even here, though,
something can bloom; on a silent cliff-edge
an unknowing plant blooms, singing, into the air.
But the one who knows? Ah, he began to know
and is quiet now, exposed on the cliffs of the heart.
While, with their full awareness,
many sure-footed mountain animals pass
or linger. And the great sheltered birds flies, slowly
circling, around the peak’s pure denial.–But
without a shelter, here on the cliffs of the heart…
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Translated by Stephen Mitchell
December 24, 2010 § Leave a Comment
How to experience the profound in the mundane? This has been my exploration over the past months here in the Archives. I’ve tapped broken washing machines, fresh squeezed juice, faulty corkscrews and scant blog stats searching for a richness in the ordinary. These simple moments have never let me down, always revealing a twinkle of life’s deep treasure in their seemingly common place.
Leaving the routine of my familiar life and traveling these past two weeks has been nothing short of remarkable. Suddenly, my world is full of exciting experiences and revelations aplenty.
Rich inner transformations occurred during my recent solo journey to California’s coastal lush. Instead of trying to glean some semblance of meaning from the everyday, I’m now attempting to assimilate the profound into my daily life.