How to Adjust: the social media version

Several years ago on an old blog I ran a little series called “Ask a ___ person.” SO, you could ask a bossy person/a creative person/a chronically ill person/etc. questions you might have. I was ahead of my time, or else simply unaware of Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) — and to be honest, there weren’t many questions asked. It was really more a chance for people to write about some aspect of their identity to let others know what it’s like to be that.

I didn’t, but totally could’ve written one called “Ask Me How to Adjust.” I am not just Queen of the Pillbugs, I am also queen of adjusting. I’ve yet to meet someone who has moved more times than I have, though I am on my metaphorical knees begging the universe for this to be the last move. Adjusting is such an invisible process to me it wouldn’t even occur to me to notice it, but I am watching another woman adjust to her move, from the Catskills back to Queens, after living here for 8(-ish) years, and it’s reminding me of the process.

One of *MANY* accounts for the Catskills — and nearly that many for the Hudson Valley, too.

One really great aspect of social media is how quickly it allows you to get a sense of a place. When I learned we were moving to the Catskills, I scoured Instagram for accounts focusing on the Catskills and the Hudson Valley, and subscribed to them if they showed me around, introduced me to new places and experiences. Through FB, I scoured the upcoming events looking for pages that would bring me news of the area, and post all kinds of events — literary, cultural, music, outdoors, learning. Since I am in such a rural setting (I don’t even live in a village; I live in a hamlet [“a small human settlement”], which is one of twelve hamlets collected into a town called Shandaken, although I have yet to find actual Shandaken…), having access to town news via FB is really helpful.

So as I subscribed to all the pages and sites affiliated with my new home, I also unsubscribed from pages and sites affiliated with my old home. I unsubscribed from sites that list events happening in Austin, and from politics (especially since my friends will keep me posted on that dread front). I kept an occasional subscription if it featured photographs of Texas, since I am a Texan no matter where I am, and find so much beauty in the geography of the place, but I started snipping those ties. Of course I kept all my friends, for friends they will be as long as we care for each other, but the others are let go. It’s too big a job to unsubscribe all at once, so as they come up, I just unsubscribe and move on.

The other woman who is adjusting continues to be heavily involved in her connection to the goings-on of this area — which, of course, is just absolutely fine, her right to adjust however she sees fit! For me, though, clinging to a place I no longer live feels good at first, because it’s familiar and my attachment allows me to still feel anchored . . . until it doesn’t. Until I realize that I’m not going to those events, they aren’t for me, and then suddenly I realize I am gone from there, and not connected anywhere. For me, adjusting means looking in front of me.

a blurry shot of a loping-along bear whose path we crossed the other night after dinner. Katie named him Roland. Works for me. 🙂

Unless you move to a very similar place — big city to big city, Chicago to NYC perhaps — there will be deeper adjustments, too. Training your eyes to see, training your longings to adjust, training your interests to expand. When I lived in Austin, it was never on my radar (or anywhere in my sphere of interest) to take a hike with an expert mushroom guy, to learn all about them, and maybe even to learn how to cultivate them. To learn how to care a lot about getting rid of a specific grass that’s about to seed, because it’s choking out wild mushrooms in the area. Now I see all kinds of opportunities to learn a bunch of new stuff, to learn the specific names of things, to get good at a new range of interests and activities. To learn a whole new history — natural and human — and to do it in a solitary way. I find it very easy to slip right into nostalgia and happiness when I think about my wonderful poetry group in Austin, those beautiful people who shared words and care in my living room for five years, but not to cling to it because it won’t be that, here. This life will be so different, and I’ve had so many very different lives that I’m curious about the experience of this one.

flawed

Of the 10 Big Ones, I have more than a passing acquaintance with almost all of them; I haven’t killed anyone [yet], but hoo boy do I covet. And take that name in vain, that’s another biggie for me. Depending on how broadly you interpret them, I’m in substantial hell-directed trouble. In the same vein, depending on how broadly you interpret them, I’m 7 for 7 of the Seven Deadly. I am aware of my strengths, of the aspects of me that I value, that might be considered “good” in some way — I’m not saying otherwise — it’s just that like everyone in this world, my shadows are squarely present and I’m aware of them.

One that is never listed, but the one that torments me the most, is competitiveness. I am so competitive, and it causes me a whole lot of pain. Here’s the most ridiculous example I can think of, and I invite you to laugh along with me.

I *really* like Jason’s classes, and approach to teaching. He is my favorite for vinyasa and hatha.

When I take a Level 1 class on YogaGlo, the beginner’s level, my favorite teacher Jason Crandell might say something like, “My tight hips are only going to allow me to go this far….” and I think with outrageous smugness, HA, I can go all the way. And the bitter pleasure I feel is just horrible. Or maybe he comments on how a recent injury means he can only hold the pose for a few seconds and I of course think, HA, I can hold it for 10 solid minutes. This is why we can’t take me anywhere.

Board games? Card games? The only way I am bearable to play with is if we don’t keep score. It just gets so. serious. so quickly. When they were growing up, my kids and I played lots of games — endless rounds of gin rummy, untold games of Scrabble and Yahtzee — and we just never kept score. “You know kids, the point is the fun of it!” I would breezily tell them, but the truth was that I hated that hard, mean feeling I felt when the scores tipped against me. As much as I loved Yahtzee (still do), that one’s hard to play without keeping score but I must’ve told myself something to relieve the pressure . . . “it’s 100% about chance, dice rolls, no biggie” . . . because that scorekeeping never bothered me, and it never bothered me to lose. (Although we would very quickly need to play another game.) When you feel smug that you beat a 9-year-old kid, there is something wrong somewhere. 🙂

When I was in college, and then through graduate school, my story (even to myself) was that I was only competing with myself. That graduating from those 9 years of advanced education with a 4.0 GPA — BA 4.0, MA 4.0, PhD 4.0 — was the result of just competing against myself. That scoring at the 99th percentile on the subject GRE, and on the verbal and quant sections of the general GRE, yeah, that was competing with myself. But I know the bitter truth, of course. Those statistics are my competitive pride.

I hate this about myself. It does not feel at all good to be this way. I once read something like, “You aren’t punished for the sin, you’re punished by the sin” and I can jump to my feet and testify to the truth of this. This aspect of my personality is punishing to me. It causes me always to seek evidence of my superiority, even in the MOST ridiculous ways. I look at embroidery and take a quick glance at the back . . . ha, my back is as neat as the front. WHAT THE FUCK, ME????? Why do I do this, and how do I stop?

What’s your biggest flaw, the one that causes you the most pain? And how do you interact with it, try to release it, try to let it go? What’ve you tried?

doing it when it doesn’t come easy

My trip to NYC was just wonderful, and I’m so so glad I can go anytime I want, again — we walked in the park for hours, we did a lot of stuff for Heaventree, we had dinner with my stepdaughter Anna, who is about to move to London (at Awash, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant which is also in our neighborhood luckily), and we went to a concert Saturday night in Riverside Park. The Clay Tennis Court Association presents a concert series every summer on the hillside near the tennis courts, and every summer the line-up is the same, rotating through all kinds of music. Last Saturday it was Efendi, a small ensemble that plays music from the Middle East (and they pull Greece into that zone). The band comprises a clarinet, an oud, an electric guitar, and percussion instruments, and the oud player also sings.

This is Dorit — not my photo obviously; the audience faces into the sunset, so quite often the musicians and dancers were in silhouette. But isn’t she beautiful?

Every year they also bring in a gorgeous belly dancer, Dorit. Partway through the performance her students join her, and I’m telling you: it is mindblowingly gorgeous to watch them. They are mostly middle-aged and older (one woman was probably in her 80s), they are representative of NYC (a Chinese woman, a Vietnamese, a Ghanaian, an Israeli, and a variety of others), and their bodies are all sizes. And every single one of them dances like she is the most beautiful woman in the world . . . and so they are. It doesn’t matter how large their bellies might be, or how skinny, the women dance. In the last 20 minutes of the concert, the teacher asked the audience to stand up and she taught everyone how to dance, beginning with the most accessible moves — the hands, twisting and spiraling, and raising above heads. And as I looked around at the smiling audience, I could see that all of them felt beautiful, too. Honestly, this makes me cry every single year.

Several minutes later the sky became a neon pink and orange — almost lurid — but it started here, just a lozenge of color tucked under the George Washington Bridge. I love the path along the Hudson, with the streetlights and people walking, biking, talking, laughing.

It was also glorious to see the sunset again, which I miss here at Heaventree. Even when I just drive away from my house, down to the post office, I get more of a vista (though still not sunsets; I’d have to drive up the mountain to see that, I guess). I do miss sunsets, so I’ll just have to soak them up every time I’m in the city. Driving to NYC, I felt such a pleasure dropping down, down, down, down, from the elevation of the Catskills (my elevation is only 1,330 feet), down to the Hudson River, and then further down, down, down to the sea level of NYC. I love anything that wakes up my awareness to living on this planet, to the planet-ness of my life. I probably won’t go back to the city until the last weekend of August, in part because we are going to be painting this weekend and next weekend preparing for the carpet installation the following Monday — plus, I want to be up here in this remote area for the Perseid meteor shower, which is supposed to be magnificent this year.

To the point of the post’s title: doing it even when it doesn’t come easy. When I changed my life a few years ago with mindfulness and yoga, it was mysteriously easy. Mindfulness slid me into more changes than I set out to make. Mindfulness brought me into so many different ways of living, and it also helped me lose a lot of weight. I started at 155, and at my lowest I was 126 (which everyone assures me is way too low for my 5’10” height). I definitely wanted to lose some weight, but that’s not where I started. I started from a place of hating all the chaos of my mind and attention, of hating feeling shattered and fragmented, from wanting stillness, and from deciding just to do one thing at a time. And the rest just slid into place. Yoga slid right in there, and with almost no exceptions (none I can recall), it was always a pleasure and easy to head toward the mat. It was always easy to stay present there.

It still isn’t easy, this go-round. It’s not. It’s not getting easier, either. I force myself to go unroll the mat. I force myself to queue up a class. I force myself to stay sitting there. I have to play tricks on myself to remain present, which mostly means putting my phone upstairs and turning off the bluetooth speaker downstairs that connects to my phone, so I don’t hear any notifications. Today is the 17th day, and it’s no easier than it was the first day. Doing one thing at a time is no easier, and it has not been easy at any moment. My mind is no quieter. For some reason I have hung onto an image from one of the Carlos Castaneda books — that the great Raven plucks out a spirit from the vast circle of them spinning around, flying in a chaos of noise. That image feels so much like my mind, still.

Eating well has gotten easier, at least. I’ve lost 7.5 pounds since I started, which means I also get to put away the sole larger pair of jeans I’d kept because they are now too big. That feels so great. My body is feeling better in terms of feeling it — the bulk hangs around my hips and stomach, and there being less bulk just feels better. My chest is going down again too, so my bras fit better and it’s easier to sleep. I feel like I’m slipping out of my terror body, the heavy one I race to when I feel under threat, so that also makes me feel like I must be feeling less threat. Drinking my green smoothie every morning is a little easier, although it’s less good than it was in Austin, when I had an abundance of frozen fresh peaches from HEB. They just aren’t available here, so it lacks that emerald shade of green and the slight tartness that the peaches added, but I’ll adjust to that.

But I persist. It is not easy yet. It’s still not easy. It’s still not quiet, and in fact it doesn’t feel ANY quieter, yet. But I believe it will come if I keep at it, and so I do.

Onward. xoxox

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.

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.

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.