A New York State of Mind

Tomorrow I head into the city and I am SO EXCITED. I love that place, it’s a deep home for me; when I first went there I felt the peace of home and knew that it would always be mine, no matter what. The noise doesn’t bother me (except once in a while when it does, and that’s usually when a car parks in front of our building and blasts the stereo, especially the bass, for an hour), the crowds never bother me, the pace is too slow if anything, and the grit and dirt just feel like they’re of a piece. It’s my home too, in addition to Heaventree. And I’m also relieved that going from one home to the other can be done in a short car trip instead of a long flight. I don’t have to take off my shoes, endure the elbows of some stranger who has no concept of space, overeat out of some misguided notion that it’s a “treat” because I’m “at the airport,” and spend all that time and money in transit.

Riverside Park, MY park. You can have Central, I’ll take Riverside

Walks in Riverside Park. The Saturday night concert at the tennis courts along the Hudson River. The Hudson River! Sunsets, which I can’t see here at Heaventree. Concrete all around, I actually love that. The subway rumbling under my feet. We have a lot to get done while I’m there, including visits to a couple of furniture stores and a trip to Ikea in NJ, and lunch in Chinatown on Saturday, and dinner with my stepdaughter Anna on Sunday, and I’ll head back to Heaventree Monday morning. A whirlwind trip for sure, but it’s a sign of something that I’m ready to get back in the car and drive again — a sign that I need civilization, maybe; a sign that I really miss the things I can so easily find there; a sign that the city girl in me is still alive and kicking, as I knew she was.

Some folks like to get away, take a holiday from the neighborhood. Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood. I’m taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line….I’m in a New York state of mind. Makes me cry just writing those words. How I love that vibrant, beautiful city.

The view always helps, whether it’s sunny (yes, this is what it looks like when it’s sunny) or rainy (the only difference is that the deck is wet 😉 ).

A quick journal log here on my mindfulness project — not so mindful, yet, but making it to the yoga mat every single day, which is a relief. Some days it’s a relief because I didn’t let myself down, but other days it’s a deeper relief, a physical and emotional relief. My body feels better, more alive than it did. It’s still much too difficult, I’m still struggling to get back into the poses with any grace, and I’m still too quickly out of breath, but those things will change as long as I keep showing up. For 10 straight days I have unrolled my mat, I have met myself there and for 10 straight days as I lay in savasana at the end of the class I have felt deeply grateful for it. Centered within myself again, at least for that while.

For 10 straight days, when I finish a yoga class and the teacher offers his namaste and I return it, I touch my hands to my forehead, mouth, and chest and offer kindness in my thoughts, words, and heart, and then I lean over and offer kindness to the earth. I wish I could carry those hopes and wishes farther out into the world, and I wish they weren’t so easily whisked away by my violent response to the news, but I’ll keep at it.

For 10 straight days I’ve also eaten well, eaten the way I’ve been wanting to eat. Somehow I’ve started thinking of my vegetarian diet as eating ‘living’ food — eating meat feels like eating dead food — and every morning my green smoothie goes right into my bloodstream, out into my cells, filling me with energy. Gosh I love that way to start the day. My late-afternoon meal is a pleasure, though I’ve had a relentless headache the last three days (it has felt like my brain is swollen and pushing against my skull, ugh) so cooking hasn’t been as pleasurable as it usually is but the food has been wonderful.

It’s good to be heading into the city; I have hermit tendencies, and the longer I stay in my house the harder it is to leave. Yesterday I drove to Margaretville, which is ~20, 25 minutes west of my home, to get my NY license stuff done. It almost felt scary to do that, to go to that new place, to interact with strangers. I remember feeling that way in Austin too, and I think it’s not just agoraphobia/hermit tendencies, it’s also the way I am with new places. I want to just dip my toe in and run home, and the next time keep my toe in a little longer, and then a little longer. I’m not like that in a pool — I just wade in all the way and get used to it all at once — but with new places I’m pretty timid. I’m that way when we travel too, and I’m always grateful that Marc is a dive-in person (even though he is timid in the pool, so funny the way we are crossed, like that).

So over the weekend, while I’m away from my beautiful Heaventree, I’ll be around on FB and IG. I’m working a poem that started bubbling up inside me yesterday, which is a strange and new experience for me so I’ll keep at that. And looking ahead, for the month of August I’m going to try to participate in Susannah Conway’s August Break photography project, so I hope that will give me a way to focus my attention very quietly once a day. Here are the prompts, in case you want to dip in once in a while:

The horrific Republican world we’re trapped in is so noisy and chaotic and destructive, and I’m needing all the quiet ways to focus and be present that I can find. I’m really grateful for you. I’m grateful you’re there, whether you comment or not, whether you let me know you’re reading or you don’t. I kind of feel like you’re in this thing with me, and that makes me feel so much less alone. xoxoxoxoxox

slumpy

When we were in Indonesia I read ten books, and ever since then I haven’t been able to read. Oh, sure, I re-read Jesus’ Son in the wake of Denis Johnson’s death and was just as gut-punched by it as I was the first time I read it two years ago. If you haven’t read it, I heartily recommend it. It’s a collection of short stories all about a main character called Fuckhead. He’s an addict, and by the end of the collection he is trying to be clean. You get so involved, you want to shout at him, No! Don’t do that, why would you do that! or What are you thinking! Don’t go there! or you feel disgust, or sorrow, or pity, but throughout you are treated to this bighearted compassionate writer with all his humanity woven into every sentence.

I keep TRYING.

But other than that, I haven’t found anything that makes me desperate to keep reading. I’ve been trying to read Arundhati Roy’s new book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness for a couple of weeks now, and I was thrilled to begin it. How I loved her first book, The God of Small Thingswhich deserved the Booker it won in 1997. After that she got busy with activism and didn’t write fiction until this new book, so I was eager to read it, expecting and hoping for another dreamy read. And it is . . . meh. I just keep trying. It doesn’t stop me, but it also doesn’t pull me in. Maybe it’s me. Have you read it yet? So many people adored The God of Small Things, so I wonder if other people are loving this one and it’s just not the right time for me. If you have any reading recommendations, this is what I’m looking for: a book with big themes, with literary layers, that makes me feel a whole lot of big things. I don’t even care what — maybe it hurts my heart, maybe it devastates me, maybe it leaves me wistful and hopeful, maybe it reminds me how glorious life and/or people can be. My nightstand stack of books is still packed, and there are a couple in that stack that I’m looking forward to, but alas, still packed.

***

I love every single thing about her look. All of it.

Thanks to Facebook’s ‘on this day’ feature, I was reminded of LP, a singer that Marnie introduced me to. If I could look like someone else, I would look like her. She’s Italian, from Long Island (Laura Pergolizzi, LP), and this article about her in Newsweek includes a newer video than the one I’m going to put in below this paragraph — just WOW. (And that’s not a T-shirt with a ship under her leather jacket, that’s a fucking TATTOO on her chest.) Here’s the video Marnie first shared with me:

She is definitely my ukulele hero, man. And beautiful however she expresses herself.

You wouldn’t expect that voice, would you? This great Buzzfeed article notes that she was shy about her powerful voice when she was young so she always sang over lawn mowers or vacuum cleaners.

I’ve never been a real girly girl. Never ever liked ruffles or lace, or flouncy bits. If I had money to spare for things like style, I’d style myself like her for sure. But a big part of her look is that fabulous hair, and mine is…well….not that. 🙂

***

Overcast and dusk-ey every “sunlit” hour of the day. And wet.

My mission today is to drive to nearby Margaretville (Margaritaville as Marc unoriginally insists on calling it) to shed some cash and become a New Yorker. NY license plates and registration and car inspection. My NY driver’s license once again, wonder if they’ll just use the photo from my last one. I wouldn’t mind even a little bit if it weren’t raining. That would be delightful, and an exception to the last few days.

Also: #fucktrump.

thin perils

a kind of average of my size and shape then

When I lived in Austin I had a large friend group of women, and we often included their boyfriends and husbands in group events (their choice, never mine, and not because my husband lived in NYC . . . I wanted to be with my women, and when the men were there things changed a lot). During the period I was at my thinnest, one woman told me every single time her partner attended, “Don’t you sit near him,” and then she’d look me up and down and position them at the far end of the group from me. I never could figure out which one of us she wouldn’t trust:  me, as if I’d try to lure him, or him, as if he were not in control of himself.

Throughout that long period of my thinness, I heard similar comments from other women. I also heard all kinds of mean things about my size and shape, catty things, insulting things, things that derived from a kind of jealousy. I know women internalize misogyny, and I know a lot of it centers around physical appearance, and I know I’ve made my own share of such comments and judgments about thin women, and I know that for myself, they came very squarely out of jealousy. Cut that bitch down so she doesn’t ….WHATEVER.

around the time a couple of friends told me I’d gotten too thin

Still, it surprised and hurt me when these comments were directed at me, and especially by women who were my friends. I tried always just to smile back — for they were always smiling at me with all their might, and adding in nervous laughter too — and I knew I was no threat to any of them because I don’t like men and I really don’t like attention from men. Nothing makes me dash to the other side of the room faster. But more than that, I was no threat to them because they were my friends! I did have friends who were supportive in a number of ways, and some who pulled me aside in concern that I became too thin for a while, but the one(s) who saw me as a threat never saw me as anything but a threat.

It always made me so sad. It made me sad for myself, and for the jealous (or whatever) women, and about this stupid culture. But I’m thinking about it again because I think I’m back on track. Today marks one complete and uninterrupted week of daily yoga and walking and eating better. The scale is moving but the part that matters most is that my relationship to those things feels like it has found its groove again. I do look forward to having my thin body back; golly did it feel good. For me, feeling light physically went so beautifully with feeling light in my mind. I felt so good in my clothes, and no matter what anyone else thought, I thought I looked good for the first time in my life (misogyny directed at myself all those heavier years). I want that physical feeling back, so light that I can run, so light that I can pull on my skinny jeans and Converse and bounce lightly out the door. I want that feeling where my breasts were so much smaller and lighter that I could sleep easily, and clothes looked better and felt more comfortable. That body was just for me. Like many women with profound trauma histories, and especially profound sexual trauma histories, when I felt threatened I raced back into my fat body where I felt safe from men, so when I feel heavy, it drags along the implication that I must feel threatened. (And of course I DO, we have the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief who is an existential threat to us all, and to the whole world.)

It can be disheartening to find myself out of breath 10 minutes into a level 1 class, when I could take a 90-minute level 2 class without even breaking a sweat, but you work with who and where you are, and you work with the body you actually have. I need to be in better shape when winter comes and my daily wood-hauling work begins. But this is the eternal lesson of mindfulness: drop the story and be where you are. Child’s pose if I need it. The discipline of showing up on the mat is the biggest point, not what I do or how long I do it. I haven’t yet found the inner quiet, but I assume that will come. One thing that occurs to me that’s very different this time than the last time I started this path is that we now have a nightmare government. When I started my last mindfulness reboot, we had President Obama, and now…..well, we have this terrifying country.

One challenge I have now that I didn’t have when I lived in Austin relates to my husband. My experience with husbands is a common one, based on what I’ve read: sabotage. “C’mon honey, just eat some ice cream with me.” “You don’t have to diet this weekend, right? I’ll make us some lasagna.” Etc etc etc. In Austin, I had ~18 days to focus hard on eating only and exactly what I wanted to eat, to do yoga whenever I wanted, to walk when and for how long I wanted. When you live alone, some things are just simpler. Then I’d go to NYC for ~12 days and either give in and then regain ground when I got back to Austin, or struggle with him about food. His cooking is heavily based on frying things, and he uses gallons of oil. (I almost never use oil, except some drizzles of olive oil, and I never ever fry anything.) And his cooking is delicious! But he’ll accommodate me by making a big salad…..with glugs of his homemade blue cheese dressing. Or a Caesar salad and if you know what goes into that salad you know it’s not healthy. Or he’ll deep fry some vegetables for me. NOW, I am alone Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for dinners. He gets here Friday afternoons around 4, and leaves for the city Mondays after dinner. We have a lot to figure out. I tend to walk more when he’s here, and I can easily roll out my yoga mat and do yoga whenever I want (plenty of space here, unlike in our apartment in the city), but the eating thing is HARD.

I want my most comfortable body back. It’s my body and it isn’t for anyone else. I don’t look forward to women’s reactions when I get it back. To be honest, I never noticed any different reaction from men no matter what I weighed; I’m older now and largely invisible to them which is also a relief. But it’s the women’s reactions that were the most problematic, and I have my own shaming self to deal with, my own jealous snarky commentary to grapple with.

Onward. It’s a rainy Monday here at Heaventree, but another beautiful day. xoxoxo

abundance

My life is filled with abundance. The world is abundant.

sunflowers

Right now, so many of my friends and loved ones are facing difficult times — and in the way these things go, many of them are having one after another difficult thing piled on top of them in an overflow of trouble. There are health scares for them and their loved ones, and life changes, and work trouble, and interpersonal trouble, and loss of all kinds. Having been through my own periods like that, I empathize so deeply. I’m glad I have experienced all those things myself so I can stand beside them however I can.

For me, right now, I am not in the midst of a rain of trouble. For me, right now, it’s a time of great abundance of every kind. Of great joy, of great peace. And I’m grateful for that too because it gives me resources to spare so I can be there for my loved ones a little more readily. When I was in my own huge storm a few years ago, I remember feeling the dreadful focus of all of it, the power of it, the overwhelm that kept me unable to connect to trouble others were having. My own troubles were so consuming they blocked the view. So now it’s my turn to get to have space and energy to spare, attention to give, concern and love to offer, an ear to listen, a shoulder to bear, a back to help carry. It’s a nice thing about the world that when some of us are in trouble, others of us can help.

And so I recognize the grace and wonder of my particular moment, and appreciate it all the more. And what a moment it is. Among all the rest, my oldest daughter Katie’s birthday is in just a couple of days, a celebration of the day that has melted me for 35 years, now. The anniversary of the day my life changed forever, and forever for the better. The day this wonderful woman was ushered into the world, through me. I love and admire her with all my heart.

there she is with HER beloved child, our darling sweet Oliver
There she is with HER beloved child, our darling sweet Oliver, taken a couple of years ago. I have hundreds of pictures of her taken since then, with Oliver and now also with Lucy, but I’ll stick with this one. She is a wonderful mother.

Katie is without a doubt one of the strongest people I know. She’s hilarious. She’s one you can count on. She loves her family more than anything. She’s solid, and tenderhearted. She knows what matters to her.

And Marnie, also in the vast field of my abundance. Marnie, whose earnest heart feels so familiar to me; Marnie with her adoration of her boy and her husband; Marnie, with her big quiet voice. For 32 years I have watched her flower.

Marnie and Ilan, taken early this year. Again, I have a bunch of other photos of her but this will stand in.

And Heaventree, my glorious Heaventree, the ground of my abundance. And poetry. And music. And beauty. And books. And friends, far-flung for now but no less mine. And my health, which at the moment includes mental health of the shiny, happy kind. And my husband, who will drive up from the city today bearing food and my big camera and his beautiful eagerness to cook for me. And my wisdom, which allows me to know that the wheel shifts and turns, it can do nothing else, and this abundance will shift too. Who knows what the fall and winter will bring, I sure don’t, but I am swimming in great abundance for now so if you need an ear, or space, or an arm, count on me.

* * *

As long as I’m thinking about my daughters, here is a wistful poem about the experience of being a mother.

The Mothers
Jill Bialosky

We loved them.
We got up early
to toast their bagels.
Wrapped them in foil.
We filled their water bottles
and canteens. We washed
and bleached their uniforms,
the mud and dirt
and blood washed clean
of brutality. We marveled
at their bodies,
thighs thick as the trunk
of a spindle pine,
shoulders broad and able,
the way their arms filled out.
The milk they drank.
At the plate we could make out
their particular stance, though each
wore the same uniform as if they were
cadets training for war.
If by chance one looked up at us
and gave us a rise with his chin,
or lifted a hand, we beamed.
We had grown used to their grunts,
mumbles, and refusal to form a full sentence.
We made their beds and rifled through their pockets
and smelled their shirts to see if they were clean.
How else would we know them?
We tried to not ask too many questions
and not to overpraise.
Sometimes they were ashamed of us;
if we laughed too loud,
if one of us talked too long to their friend,
of our faces that had grown coarser.
Can’t you put on lipstick?
We let them roll their eyes,
curse, and grumble at us
after a game if they’d missed a play
or lost. We knew to keep quiet;
the car silent the entire ride home.
What they were to us was inexplicable.
Late at night, after they were home in their beds,
we sat by the window and wondered
when they would leave us
and who they would become
when they left the cocoon of our instruction.
What kind of girl they liked.
We sat in a group and drank our coffee
and prayed that they’d get a hit.
If they fumbled a ball or struck out
we felt sour in the pit of our stomach.
We paced. We couldn’t sit still or talk.
Throughout summer we watched
the trees behind the field grow fuller
and more vibrant and each fall
slowly lose their foliage—
it was as if we wanted to hold on
to every and each leaf.

in hiding

endure

SO. From my childhood, I developed a sense of myself as a standing ox. (Side note: did you know that ‘ox’ isn’t a different kind of animal than a cow? It’s just a domesticated bovine that has been trained to carry weight, more or less. I always thought it was an entirely different animal.) My idea of ‘standing ox’ is very specific, and I have no idea where it came from, but to me, being a standing ox means being able to stand while being whipped and just keep standing. Maybe even while being whipped with barbed wire — but to keep standing. To keep your head down and stand, to endure, to take whatever abuse is lashed on you. I envisioned myself as a standing ox from childhood on. One of my spine tattoos is the kanji character for ‘endure’ and when a Chinese woman read my spine to me, she read that one as “you able to keep doing hard thing even though it nearly impossible.” I remember her reading of that character most specifically. That’s when I broke down crying, because her explanation of the character fit my own understanding of it so clearly.

So that’s something I can do, and do well. And nota bene: that’s not necessarily a strength. It doesn’t necessarily carry value. It’s stupid to keep standing while someone is trying to torture you or kill you. There is wisdom in knowing when to say ‘no more,’ when to leave, and I don’t regularly have that kind of wisdom. I am too firmly standing ox for my own good — but it is my approach to difficulty, and something I can do without even thinking about it very much.

An ability I do not have, but others do, is to resist insanity. To laugh in the face of gaslighting. To hear the lies and be unswayed by them, unmoved, to have my own psyche be unmarred. Nope, I do not have that ability. Even if I don’t feel swayed, or wonder if the gaslighting and lies are right, it makes me feel like my sanity can’t endure. I feel instantly panicked, it’s hard to breathe, my eyes fill with burning tears, my shoulders rush to my ears, and I struggle to put words together in a sentence. I literally pant.

So you can imagine how awful our country is for me, with the insane Republicans and their alt-right/Fox News-lies spouting craziness, their fake version of “reality” that doesn’t connect at all — this is my specific flavor of the misery, most of us have our own and this is mine. It’s debilitating and I have not been able to develop any ease with it, even after nine months of the administration. I was nearly shredded by the campaign season but I just kept thinking, as most of us did, that there would be no way. No way. Yes way, it happened and every day it’s insane.

Gradually I’ve withdrawn from the world. At first I thought I could fight alongside everyone, and when there are very specific experiences to join, like the Texas Handmaids, or anti-T rallies, or the Women’s March, I can do that. I can link arms with all those others who see what I see, who see what the whole damn world sees, and I can resist. But I can’t participate in the dailyness of it, and one thing I’ve realized here in my Heaventree haven is that perhaps what’s best for me, now, is to more fully withdraw. I’ve unsubscribed from the podcasts I listened to so regularly (Pod Save America and Pod Save the World, and the NYTimes Daily Briefing, etc.), but kept the storytelling ones. If Fresh Air is about politics, I just delete the episode. I don’t look at the Washington Post or the New York Times any more, unless it’s from a specific link to an article about something non-political. If you need to cope with all this by sharing it on Facebook and engaging in dialogue there, I support you — we all need to deal with it however we can in order to get through — but I just can’t do that any more. It’s too painful, too debilitating, too destructive to me personally. It’s not tapping my strength, it’s assaulting my most terrifying weakness.

So I am pulling an ostrich, and I feel a good bit of shame about it. Lucky me, with my immense privilege. I’m white and I own a home in the mountains. My daily life is not under any threat, nor is the daily life of anyone in my immediate family. I live in a progressive state that has mostly good politics. I sure don’t feel wealthy, and worry non-stop about not having work, not earning money, but relatively speaking I am. Lucky, lucky me being able to hide my head in the beauty, here. Lucky me, being able to act as if the government doesn’t exist. Lucky me, hiding in paradise and worrying about ticks.

I’m grateful to all of you who fight and keep all the insanity in front of our eyes, who work to keep all this from being normalized. So grateful. I thank you for carrying the load where I can’t. But if you ever need a standing ox, you know where to find me. I’ll be here at Heaventree, or in NYC, making or consuming beauty in one way or another. Marnie and I are going to collaborate on a quilt (she the designer, me the implementer….drawing on both our strengths!). I am writing. I will bake bread, and make good food. I will be doing yoga and walking and taking photographs. Time to get some knitting done for the winter, which is surely coming. And I mean that in a Game of Thrones way too, because my friends, winter is here.

the monster just needs orange hair, right?

Mindfulness project day 3 underway….day 2 was beautiful. <3 [and new post up on Heaventree]

whoo boy is it hard

When people are starting to learn how to meditate, they very commonly say that they simply can’t do it, they aren’t able to keep their minds still. Sure, other people can do it, but their minds won’t sit still. Which of course is the whole point, the entire effort. I’d bet that no one can do it when they start. Even people who have been meditating for decades have those times when their minds won’t sit still, despite their deep experience.

But it’s really hard, and uncomfortable. There’s almost a kind of physical discomfort with it, and ironically the discomfort produces a kind of knee-jerk rush to get away from it, to distract yourself. To jump up from the mat. To turn on a podcast. To call someone. To open the refrigerator door. To hop in the car and just go somewhere, anywhere. To open a game on your phone or computer, to click on Netflix. Anything but this.

So at this point I’m not even trying to meditate, I’m just trying to bring mindfulness back into my life. That’s all. Just fully do whatever I’m doing, and do one thing at a time. That’s all. And it’s so hard. My monkey mind is like static electricity, flinging outward and crackling and grabbing onto anything nearby and pulling it close. My memory of the last time I rebooted my life with mindfulness is that it didn’t feel so hard, and in fact that was the glory of it; by being simply mindful, the other changes slipped into that stream pretty easily. Maybe I’m misremembering.

the view from my yoga mat

But yesterday I had an otherwise-good first day of returning to myself. It didn’t feel centering or comforting or restorative to my deep self, but it was still satisfying to end the day having done it. I started my day with a green smoothie — the easiest place to start. Almond milk, a banana, two handfuls of fresh spinach, a fresh peach, reliably delicious and restorative. It’s been a few weeks since I had a green smoothie, and it did what it always does for me: it energized me and made me feel semi-virtuous. 🙂 I did a half-hour yin yoga class designed specifically for post-travel, and BOY did that help my aching body. I ate a slice of cold watermelon, I drank lots of water, and I ate a healthy dinner, leftovers from the meal Marc made for me when I got home Monday night, tofu and fresh corn and black beans and chopped onion and bits of habanero, minus the rice he served it over on Monday. So I ate all living food, hydrated my poor tired body, and stretched my tight muscles. All done with a frantic monkey mind. Even during the yin yoga class, with those long, deep asanas, my mind was jumping and frantic.

my kitchen sink view

But I did it all. And maybe today my mind will cooperate a little more. Maybe today some of the silt will settle. Since I am motivated by data, I weighed myself yesterday so I’d have something to track, and while it was horrifying to see where I’m starting [again], it’s also helpful to me. What matters more is that my clothes fit and my body feels comfortable once again, as it did before the election, but having that bit of objective data helps me lean in when I’m feeling wavery in some way.

The quiet here is so marvelous, and most especially in the mornings. My grandchildren Oliver and Lucy have distinctly different wake-up styles; Oliver wants a long, slow wake-up, cuddling and coming to the day slowly, and Lucy wakes up ready! to! play! Katie says that perfectly describes their personalities, and I agree. I’m like Oliver; I like a long, quiet wake-up. I like to quietly make my coffee, and sit in silence with my own thoughts — or maybe not my thoughts! Maybe just inner quiet, looking at trees, listening to birds. Maybe reading some poetry. That’s how I like to wake up, and Heaventree makes it extra wonderful. (The mornings Marc is here, if he gets up first I don’t get any silence at all; he always reminds me of a little kid who has been impatiently waiting. When I get up he rushes to tell me all kinds of things. It’s worth getting up early just to have my silence . . . )

Giveaway from Hunter Hammersen, this gorgeous skein of String Theory Hand Dyed Yarn, sock weight, color called Tavikiki

Last night I wound a skein of yarn that I won in a giveaway, and watched the first season of Broadchurch. How is it that I didn’t know about this show? Thanks to Marnie for mentioning it, wow. It’s streaming on Netflix if you haven’t seen it and don’t get BBC. I think I’m going to find a stranded pattern (socks maybe? A hat?) that I can combine with a fabulous orange skein I have, and cast on tonight while I watch the second season. But first, my green smoothie, and a plan for today’s yoga class. Still water, y’all. One thing at a time. Peace.

Mindfulness project, day 2.

Don’t Mess With Mr. In Between

Remember this song?

You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between

You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith, or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

I’m no real fan of the lyrics; I think if your pointed mission is to focus only on one part of life and ignore the other, insisting on walking only on the sunny side as I heard someone say, you’re not really living your life — but maybe that’s just me. The lyric came to my mind this morning because I was thinking about how very bad I am at living in the In-Between.

Finally, thank heavens, hallelujah, oh praise be, I am not living in between. I’m not in between two places, as I have been for 4.5 years, and as I have intensely been since we decided to buy this house. I’m not in between the leaving and arriving. I’m good at tolerating that experience, I’m just not good at taking care of myself in the midst of it. I kind of psychologically pant, like women in transition (ha, that’s kind of interesting), and just try to let it all be all around me without pushing it all to finish. So I’m very good that way, but I do it at the expense of really living, somehow. I float along on hold and don’t really put my feet down on the ground — I guess because I feel like the ground is shifting.

Huh. How clear it is now that I’m writing about it.

In the most practical way, what this means relates to self-care in all its manifestations. I don’t tend to my appearance in any way at all. I don’t even try to eat well. I don’t do the things that nourish me, in any way at all. If I take in something that sustains me, like poetry and art and movement, it’s almost accidental. It has to happen into my path on its own and I just kind of sniff and keep going.

And then there’s the devastation wrought by the election, and the nuclear impact that has had on my psyche. I’ve put on thirty pounds since the election. Thirty. I haven’t done yoga since before we went to Indonesia. I’ve walked, but not in an engaged way. I just drove 1,933 miles, only a handful of weeks after driving more than 2,000, and you don’t eat salads and drink spring water when you’re doing that. My body is rebelling, and some of it is temporary, like the way my hips and knee joints are kind of frozen from the long drive. But my hair is lifeless and hard looking. My skin is dull. My posture — never my best attribute — is somehow even worse. My mind is a mess, thoughts frizzled, peace and stillness nowhere to be found, clear thoughts unavailable. I feel the panting of my psyche.

But now I’m here, at Heaventree, and I just get to be here. I return from transition to living, with my feet on the ground. Ever since the election, I’ve tried to return to my best way of being, but always by trying to reincorporate something lost, like a decision to do yoga at least X days/week. I think now I’m going to return most pointedly to where I started a few summers ago, with mindfulness. I’m going to simply try to be present, and do just one thing at a time. No demands on myself beyond that, though my goal also is to focus on food again, my morning green smoothie slowly absorbed. Grains and vegetables and fruit, again. And I’ll hold the possibility again of yoga and meditation, maybe starting with some peace-instilling yin classes just to allow me to reconnect to my body in a way that feels so good.

And so I sit here in my still unsettled house, nothing on the walls because we’re going to paint, no living space set up because we’re still without a couch, but I am here among the trees. I allow the frazzle to settle, the water to clear. What do I hear? Birds, in stereo, and at all distances around me. The rushing water of the larger creek down below, moving quickly again because of all the rain we got yesterday. I feel my heart pounding because I drank a lot of coffee this morning, the pleasures of returning to my own coffee routine, enjoyed out on the deck and surrounded by peace.

I feel so deeply this poem, this morning. You can listen to him read it here.

The Peace of Wild Things
Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Thank you for that, Mr. Berry. It’s always what I need. Mindfulness Project Day 1.