Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Shedding Skin

The Language of Sky
Ally Acker

I've moved on.  I hope you can too.
And just like that, I am lost.
It is possible we will not meet
again in this life. Only the naked sky connecting
our far away worlds. When I get up lonely I look up.
How are you feeling?  Are you happy?
Nothing. Blue, blank, benign stare. I plead with the air.
But it's no use. I am like a leaf floating.
A disciple of wind. Devotee of neither branch
nor ground.
Little by little, I learn to take the sky at its word.

~Published in The Sun, January 2013~

I. Marriage

Not long ago, I rode an airport shuttle bus with a once famous yoga teacher who recently became more famous for the kinds of things most people don't want to be known for: sleeping with students, evading financial queries, courting married women.  I had trouble
staying in conversation with Tim, who didn't recognize the famous person.  Sticking out the top of my backpack was my incense-scorched yoga mat (which I have no recollection of ever purchasing - it seemed to be in my house one day, and has stuck around since like one more welcome misfit), but I felt myself prickling in the famous yogi's company.  I thought about the rumors that had swirled, and how I had once taken a workshop with him and had grown numb with boredom, and how he had pressed his foot into one of his older teachers to nudge her into a pose - making the audience laugh, at the teacher's expense. 

When the irritating trill that accompanies the sight of a famous person finally subsided in my skull, I kept thinking about my original thoughts when news of the man's transgressions had first broken in the yoga world.  Aside from the smug, I knew it!! I had allowed myself, I had grown obsessed with recent thoughts the man had shared about commitment, in which he suggested that vows be made and renewed for short amounts of time.  I remembered feeling sad that someone would take what I saw as such a cynical view of commitment, and marveled at how much someone's take on marriage could differ from my own experience of it. 

Photo credit: here!

I had also recently watched Michael Powell's stunning film, Black Narcissus, about a group of nuns living in rustic severity in the Himalayas who renew their vows every year.  Aside from the scenery, the bizarre plots, and safari shorts on the astoundingly tan David Farrar, I had been fairly piqued by this idea that some vows had expiration dates. 

I thought of how, when the famous man's bad news broke, my marriage had just been sneaking up on its two year mark.  I thought about how marriage's demands on my life had already fortified me in amazing ways. 

Around the same time that the yoga world was rocked by this man's scandal, news was also breaking about Seal and Heidi Klum's dissolving marriage.  (If I had to enumerate all the ways that Tim is like Seal and I am like Heidi Klum, we would be here all night.  You'll just have to take my word for it.) 

Some horrible magazine that makes its money on other people's misery (and which I love to read in the supermarket line, to Tim's mortification) had wickedly reminisced about the celebrity couple's festive vow-renewal ceremony, which they undertook every year. 

Normally I was not so quick to say that People magazine had a good point.  I had to admit, though: they kind of did.  There seemed to be something inherently insecure in the need to re-make wedding vows every year.  The whole point of marriage to me was the million and five ways I kept choosing faithfulness, the tiny moments of choice that built into a day and chiseled my relationship.

Sometimes, at the end of the day, my choices have sanded my life into a sparkling little gem.  Other days (and, let's be honest, most days) all I've got is a warmish, lumpen thing.  But it's mine, my one pellucid vessel.  And maybe this is how I'm coming to love my life the most - as a gift, something that is all mine, something of which I get to make whatever I want. 

I can now see, too, how we were all saying the same thing - me, Seal, Heidi, the fallen yogi.  However you do it, it's good to keep things fresh.  Every day, you get to decide what to do.  That is the prize we're all hopefully moving towards.  That is how meaning is made.

2. Snake Skin

On a totally different topic, I went to a yoga class tonight, after being saddled with a cold and my cycle and several weeks of recovering from carbohydrate-laden travel.  In the middle of class, I flew in Crow pose, which has been eluding me for the past couple of months.  As soon as my mind recognized that my whole body was resting lightly on my arms, I came crashing down.  But for a minute, I was all core heat, flying up from my wrists. 

It was a shocking, delightful thing.  After feeling that flight, this quote speaks to me:

"We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.  The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come."  - Joseph Campbell

I kind of love that guy.

3. Risk Being Over the Top

And, in the same vein as flying in the face of pre-conceptions, I once read some advice about writing that I really liked. 

Here is what I liked:

"I believe writers should risk being over the top. Charles Baxter says something similar in his wonderful book of essays Burning Down the House. You don't want to descend into sentimentality, but it's worse, I would argue, if your work lacks sentiment. And in order to get sentiment, you have to risk sentimentality."

I like this advice for writing, and I also like it for life, because I often have the urge to holler ridiculous, devotional things into the phone when talking to my friends.  Most of the time, wild laughter suffices, instead of language.  I haven't hit the age yet where I care more about sharing my heart than about looking foolish.  I'm still guarding things (although I also routinely look foolish - what the heck!!). 

So if you're out there, and you're my friend, know that every time we talk, I'm thinking about how much I god-damn love you, and I'm working up the nerve to say something about it. 

In the meantime, may we all get better at breaking across the fears that keep us from surrendering to our deep, mysterious ways.  I'll be working on it in my little corner, at least.

With love and lingering winter light,