by Thomas Transtromer
I wake my car.
Its windshield is covered with pollen.
I put on my sunglasses
and the song of the birds darkens.
While another man buys a newspaper
in the railroad station
near a large freight car
which is entirely red with rust
and stands flickering in the sun.
No emptiness anywhere here.
Straight across the spring warmth a cold corridor
where someone comes hurrying
to say that they are slandering him
all the way up to the Director.
Through a back door in the landscape
comes the magpie
black and white, Hel's bird.
And the blackbird moving crisscross
until everything becomes a charcoal drawing,
except for the white sheets on the clothesline:
a Palestrina choir.
No emptiness anywhere here.
Fantastic to feel how my poem grows
while I myself shrink.
It is growing, it takes my place.
It pushes me out of its way.
It throws me out of the nest.
I bought a bathrobe. More specifically, my grandmother bought me a plush Santa-Claus red one, and my mom helped me pick it out last weekend. My mother is a devotee of her own robe, and while I used to un-ironically walk the halls of my college dorm in a kelly green terrycloth one, what I want to know is: how have I been missing the bathrobe train for so many years since then? Bathrobes. Are. Amazing.
I have to remind myself that cooking in my bathrobe is wrong. I try to wait several hours before slipping into its loving, fleecy arms after work. Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes I am not. But I am always grateful for this easy luxury, and it reminds me that life can be really simple sometimes. Just buy a frickin robe and get on with it.
You know what else is at once simple and all-encompassing? Travel. Exchanging worlds. Or having visitors. Okay, maybe they aren't 100% simple, but I find both travel and visitors profound pleasures. At the very least, they are jubilant excuses to eat elegantly, take pictures, and drink exquisite wine / coffee / wine.
I guess I don't have as much to say as I hoped this morning, when I woke early, accidentally made coffee for three, and tied on my trusty robe.
Instead of prose, let's have a little picture diary, shall we?
My mom came. We went to a lake.
In October, we went to LA.
Since that trip, Amelia posted this about our visit, and won this.
In September, our little family of three crossed the Continental Divide. I am here to say that western Colorado is crazy and wild. Go there if you can. Tomorrow if possible.
by Gary Snyder
Snowmelt pond warm granite
we make camp,
no thought of finding more.
and leave our minds to the wind.
on the bedrock, gently tilting,
sky and stone,
teach me to be tender.
the touch that nearly misses -
brush of glances -
tiny steps -
that finally cover worlds
of hard terrain.
cloud wisps and mists
gathered into slate blue
bolts of summer rain.
tea together in the purple starry eye;
new moon soon to set,
why does it take so
long to learn to
Fall is the season of harvest. It is also the season of gathering supplies, hunkering down, and beginning to turn inside. My mom is visiting tomorrow, which means the house is a clean, tidied haven, ready for the snoozing, lazing, and discovering that visits entail. The wind roars outside, knocking over summer's helpless rocker. The chimes ring, the night gathers her skirts about her, and wanders through the shadows.
I was going to title this post, How to be Depressed, but feared no one would read further. True story!
I am passionate about the subject of mental health. I am most passionate about taking the stigma out of struggles with mental health - with normalizing them, and even embracing them, because when we embrace our shadow side, we can fully know our light. When we hide from our shadow, or demonize or deny it, it takes strange power in our life, and manifests in weird, wild, and mostly un-wonderful ways.
I guess I'm kind of saying: keep your enemies close. Keep up on your shadow side, and know what it's up to, so that you can dance with it, instead of getting stomped on/clubbed over the head by it.
I wanted to revisit this topic, which I've discussed before, several times, because it is a difficult one - at least, it's difficult for me. And I recently cycled through a full spectrum of energy, a spectrum I'm beginning to simply think of as my life's rinse cycle.
When I get sad, I usually spend a couple of hours in that place - but I rarely stay there. Instead, my sadness usually forces me into action. Either it forces me into prayer, so that I can find my way out of darkness, or it forces me into play (so that I can find my way out of darkness). Either way, I'm starting to believe that the long road to surrender encompasses hitting the bottom of my well, so to speak, and then bouncing back toward the light.
That's a lot of metaphors. It also sounds a little like manic-depression. And maybe it is a little like manic-depression. I ain't afraid.
In yoga practice, gravity helps you stand on your head and hands and elbows. As one of my favorite teachers said once, Learn to play with gravity. Give into its force, and then you can grow away from it. But first you must go with it.
Root to rise, people! Root to rise.
2. Link City
Speaking of harvest, I am giddy with a couple of projects that have come to fruition this fall. The first is a collaboration with my friend, Lukis. I submitted a story to his beautiful podcast, The Storied Commute. You can listen to Lukis read my story, and interview me about it, here. (It's kind of long. If you've been wanting entertainment for your Sunday drive to Wyoming...from D.C....you're in luck!)
If you're interested in submitting stories of your own, Lukis is a great editor, as well as writer himself. He is dedicated to "story," as he calls it, and you can send your work to email@example.com.
The second project I closed on was the long-held wish to visit my friend Amelia in LA. Tim and I fell in love with that town, which surprised the heck out of me. In addition to getting lost in an enchanted neighborhood, hitting an art opening at Platform, and going hoarse with story-telling, there was some playing in the kitchen - mostly by others. I requested coffee in the kitchen, and made myself a pb&j upon arrival, and was fairly competent pouring my own cereal in the morning, but that's about as far as my culinary contributions went (unless you count cutting up raw meat, which I do count - and love doing, for some reason).
Anyway, here is an Amelia-curated Bon Appetempt post about our LA weekend with her and her husband, Matt. As you can see, delicious food was made, and cute dogs behaved.
Also, for the curious, here is an article about making friends with your shadow side, which I had nothing to do with. It was written
by a fantastic yoga teacher in my town who also gives great advice about
raising dogs. A yin yoga teacher who instructs on how to be the
alpha for your dogs is one integrated human being, that's for sure.
Anyway, here's to action, and to solving your own
problems, and becoming the doctor for whatever ails you.
There is grace
in the darkness. Here's to discovering it. Here's to becoming your
own lantern, in the wilds.
Thanks for stopping in. Thanks for being your radiant self. Keep on keeping it real and dark and light and integrated.
I wasn't going to go there. It's awkward. It's cliche. But when I
talked to a girlfriend this weekend and heard her woes about her body,
and heard how similar they were to howls I have made in my life, I
decided: it's time.
Therefore, I give you the story of my Big Hot Miserable Summer, and Lessons I Learned From Getting Fat.
This summer was a killer - hot as all get out, smoky in our Colorado
hills (poor things all on fire), and apparently so crushing that other
referencing my misery. I also nearly half-blinded myself
in a freak lavender oil accident (see cataract glasses below), and I met hay fever - the big lout - for
the first time in my life, and was stunned to meet him again and again
The real kick in the pants was that somewhere between fresh spring and
hotter n' Hades summer, a few cookies, pieces of cheese, and spoonfuls of almond
butter lodged themselves in my cells and set up camp. (Do you like how
I'm blaming them?) My clothes didn't fit. My arms felt wobbly. My belly sprouted inches of winter insulation, in July.
My personal hero, my grandmother, used to say, When things aren't going
well, it's a sign that you're headed in the wrong direction.
This is all to say: something had to change. My
relationship to my body was out of wack, because my body didn't feel like
anything I could recognize or relate to. I felt like a pregnant woman,
with all of her anxiety and bemusement, without the benefit of being
pregnant - or the excuse.
So I did what any one in my position would do: I started thinking of myself as a buffalo.
1. Who looks at a buffalo and thinks, You're so fat, buffalo? Why don't
you lose some weight, buffalo? No. If you have the privilege of
seeing one of these guys up close, you think, Holy bananas! You're so
awesome, I wish I could touch you, but you could gore me, which makes me
love you even more. Buffalo, I love you, you are incredible!!!
2. (Biologist friends, close your eyes right now.) Every single one of us has an aura, like buffalo breath in snow. We have mystique, power, and fearsome individuality. In fact, I may have been the only one who could have answered my friend's call on Saturday and helped her feel better about her body. Because I'm me, and she is herself, and our relationship is rich, and layered with conversations and ideas and moments that we have shared together. And this is why we are here, as beings - and this is a woman's power, especially: the power of presence. This is the gift of buffalo and huge animals, or tiny flitting hummingbirds: we are all connected, and when we are ourselves, we are a gift to others.
3. Sometimes my body will be closer to Buffalo than to Hummingbird, and while I can do things to help her stay closer to Hummingbird ways and weight, it is my job to accept her no matter how she looks. Because she is my vessel for experiencing life. And I have things to do, like comfort my friends and laugh with my husband and write stories that make me happy. I need to be friends with my vessel, so she's on board with my plans. This means being on board with her plans, too - like walking in fields and eating leafy greens and drinking in fresh air.
4. My body belongs to me. Or, my body belongs to the Great Mother that gives it her light. It is nice that my mother tells me I'm beautiful, and my husband loves my curves, but no one else is the judge of how I look. Which is why, when I feel like crap, and someone else says, but you look great!, I think they are crazy. But if I've gained ten pounds, and feel like a righteous, storming ballerina, I stand tall in my strong frame, and raise my chest and participate in conversations, a little amazed that life is so strange and mysterious, that our bodies are connected but do not define us. Our spirits, our hearts, are what our loved ones see. And this is what they love about us.
5. Life is a process. I sometimes would kill to have my 16 year old body, sweet and tan like a cinnamon-coated rabbit. But I know so much about myself now, and feel more open toward others, and their mistakes, that I would never trade this expanded heart for the bright-eyed, hopping thing I used to be. Perhaps this is how I can love who I was then - because in wisdom's gravity, we know the full spectrum of experience.
6. Here is the blog post that kicked off my healing. It is true that partial-blindness, a summer of wildfires, and your own bewildered spirit can put you in a funny place. But it is also true that, no matter who you think you are physically, you are completely whole at every moment. Embracing that wholeness is the path back to radiance.
May we all slink our way along that path.