Performing a Life

I read a great article about Aziz Ansari and his recent abandoning of all things social media. The main reason I read the article is that I am thinking about something similar, about stepping off of that platform, that host of platforms, because I’ve begun to think about how we perform our lives instead of living our lives.

Well, instead of saying we, let me say I. And instead of just throwing out the phrase “performing my life” let me speak with a little more complexity about it, because I do think with complexity about this, all the time. I’m always bewildered by people who apparently think that the lives they see on social media represent real life — that other people always have it together, always have Pinterest-ready food, and magazine-worthy interiors, and happy-memory-prepped experiences. Really? And yet people do seem to think that, despite how mysterious that is to me. And I try hard to be as honest in my representation as I can be, without (a) being gross, (b) betraying the lives and privacy of others, and (c) committing unnecessary self-flagellation. Still, even with those cautions in mind all the time, I recognize the way later presentation has infiltrated my in-the-moment experience of things. When we were hiking around Belleayre Mountain last weekend, scouting a place to watch the Perseid shower in a few days, as I looked at the flowers I wasn’t really seeing the flowers. I was seeing whether they would make a good picture. To share.

These plants become more than yellow flowers and white fluff, they become evidence of the summer coming to an end.

And the complexity is this: by taking photographs, I have become a keener observer. I see more things than I did before I started taking pictures. By writing so often, I observe more closely. I take in material through a storytelling lens — that hike isn’t just walking over rocks and crossing creeks, it’s an adventure, the shape of which will be determined by how it ends, which will become a part of the story’s beginning lines in some way. By observing as a storyteller, the experience gets a kind of form it might not otherwise have. I love the way taking pictures and writing has made me a better observer, a better watcher, a better listener.

But it’s that add-on that makes a difference — not just “would that make a good picture” but “would that make a good picture to share.” And that shift takes me to performing a life in some different way. I do love to share things I see, and especially since I am alone so much at Heaventree, having a place to say, “Look! Look at this, isn’t it beautiful?” is a nice counter to my solitude, while still allowing me the solitude. And frankly, it’s a different experience now that I am in an entirely new place, in an entirely rural, lonely place, and without real people [yet] to spend time with. Withdrawing from social media in my Austin life would’ve been very different than doing it now, where it might be filling an important need in my transition away from such a social life.

Needing to withdraw from the political discourse has also shifted my experience of social platforms, moving me a little more towards Instagram than Facebook. I notice a shift in my state when I have to read more than a couple posts about the Republican nightmare we are trapped in, but by the time I feel that and close FB or IG, I already feel terrible. It’s too late by the time I feel that first punch. So I’ve pulled away from the same kind of participation in Facebook that I used to have, already. This month I’m participating in Susannah Conway’s August Break 2017 Instagram project, which is dedicated to paying close visual attention to the world via a daily prompt — yesterday it was “my eyes” — and that’s fun but not deeply meaningful to me.

And so I am thinking hard about how to do this so I still get the parts I need, which are (a) local news and events, and (b) the maintenance of connection with friends all over the world. I don’t know how I’ll do that; perhaps with a FB list of local news pages and the people I really count as friends, and a quick once-a-day jump on and jump off? Or maybe I simply need to pull the bandage off with a quick, hard rip. Another possibility is to take a hiatus, maybe start with one week and then take a month. Whatever I do, I will continue to write here, I know that. That presents a lopsided dilemma: I share myself with you, but don’t have the same opportunity to learn how you are doing, and that’s very important to me too. I always invite a conversation on my posts, and welcome whatever you have to say, to share, but it’s not your platform and you don’t know the other readers, the way I do.

Hmmm. Seeking.

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

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

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.