Saturday, January 21, 2012

Little Piggies

One of a bajillion signs that my husband takes pictures of while out wandering the world

Two posts in a week!  Have I caught a bug?  Why yes, yes I have.  It is raining outside, and I am in North Carolina, in my parents' house.  It is too drizzly to go running, perhaps.  Perhaps not.  I believe I write about running more than I actually run, and I am okay with that.  You?

Before I say anymore, I want to beware what my husband calls the "I'm having a great time, F*ck you" postcard, wherein a writer/friend waxes poetic about a heaven-on-earth experience they are having, without any real regard for the reader, or any grounding in the fact that they will one day be embarrassed by their exuberance, and remember it only as a drunken moment.  I also want to say, however, that drunken moments can be pretty fantastic!  And it might be possible to write about delight in pure, un-expositionist ways.

I do believe that this sort of writing inspires others to seek out that which truly delights them.  So I am writing to give you a bug.  I have turned on the computer this morning to say two things.  Let's see if I can keep it to that.  I have no faith in this intention but here goes:

1. My brother-in-law is part of an AMAZING idea/event/happening in Madison, WI (the only other town my husband and I talk about moving to on a consistent basis besides the sleepy city of Greensboro, NC, where we would surely grow inches of happy fat around our middles, a true feat for my six-foot-five husband). 

I am already talking about other things besides No. 1 & 2.  Shoot. 

Here's what I am trying to say: My brother-in-law, hereafter known as Trent Miller The Artist, or TMTA, organized this event.  It might have even been his idea.  And I cannot stop thinking about it.  There are, admittedly, a million things that can go wrong with this event taking place all day in an empty library as it transitions for a renovation, but TMTA is embracing the energy of the original idea and running with it.  And I wake up every day thinking about this event.  Which means two things: I should probably be flying to Madison to attend the event (although I am not, at this time, because I am reconvening with my kirtan friends to cut a few more songs for our cd), and, when we stand in our true power, and embrace the edges of life, and move forward in the face of fear, we are expanding the energy of the universe.  One person's soul-expansion is a victory for us all.

2. (I arrived!  Hooray.)  I read a blog post by Leonie Dawson this morning about giving away all of her books.  If you have known me for more than a month, you have probably heard me discuss the volume of books that my husband owns, and my errant desire to call a dump truck to the house one day to cart them all away. 

I know, I know.  It is not quite a pure desire.  I mean, it IS a pure desire.  Believe me, I have desperately wanted to do this, to have more breathing room in our house, many times.  But it is not quite a pure intention.  I am looking for an easy solution, rather than facing the task of sorting favorite books from the extraneous ones that we gleefully, recklessly acquired for 25 cents at library sales over the years.

Anyhoo, I am at my parent's GORGEOUS home this weekend, and looking around at a. the boudoir-like red lamp shades in their living room, b. the proliferation of ceramic bunnies that would blow the mind of even the staunchest teaspoon collector in spinster history, c. the remarkable carved wood furniture all about.  And I am seeing it all (finally) with eyes of love.

I have spent a number of years moving about the country, and as such, have not had the ability to take much with me.  When Tim and I moved to Colorado from North Carolina after graduate school, we filled half of our traveling trailer with boxes of books.  We left behind a great old file cabinet that may or may not be from World War II.  We left behind my favorite bookshelf, given to me by a friend who now lives in Portland, OR, whom I hardly speak with because of schedule differences and mileage distance, but who lives in every grain of the shelf's painted red wood, and who speaks to me and hugs me every time I pass it. 

I guess what I am trying to say is complicated, and also, I want to wrap it up.  So here: there are stories in objects, and I miss populating my home with the objects I love and their stories.  I don't care anymore about perfectly clearing out a house.  Dust bunnies mate behind the stacks of Tim's books back at home, and I no longer feel rage about this.  Instead, I feel cozy.  I feel like I am home.  Home is sometimes comically abundant, and a little pig-styish right now, especially since the re-wire job that left forgotten bundles of junk mail misplaced, and laundry in foreign corners.  I am okay with that.

I recently found a picture of me sorting through books during grad school.  I was trying to thin things out. It was the time for that then, as I was swimming through books, ideas, teachings every day.  My spirit felt a little soggy, which is one of the reasons we moved to the arid West. 

I wish I had that picture to show you right now, but it is on another computer (we have 16, don't you?).  I love the photo because a. I am wearing running clothes but haven't yet gone running, b. I am sitting before my favorite red shelf, and c. I am surrounded by books, swimming through them, deciding which ones still speak to me, and what ideas, authors, and visions are meant for someone else. 

I used to have a rule about shopping, that whenever I brought something new into the house, I had to give something away.  It feels shrewish even typing about that rule now.  As a household, I think we're in an accumulation phase. A very modest, thrift-store themed, Fed-Ex-salaried accumulation phase. I know we are in a transition, too. 

Running out the door to work recently, I noticed that my closet looks increasingly like my mother's.  Not necessarily in its objects, but in its composition.  Or rather, its windswept ways.  I used to feel some tender horror in the face of all my mother's shoes comingling in a soupy pile at the bottom of her closet.  (If you don't hear from me in a week, it is because my mother has killed me for writing publically about her closet.)  My closet is starting to look a lot like this: scarves growing one to the next like a stack of tail-eating snakes, heels stuck into snow boots stuck into suitcases stuck into our wine rack, raincoat wedged between wedding outfit, next to my cardigan for work.  It's a little chaotic, but more than that, it's fun.  When I dress in the morning, it's like opening up a genie's bottle: What the hell can I make happen out of this mess today?

That is all.  I leave you to get back to your busy, chaotic, splendid lives.  To myself make something of the day.  Or not.  I might make this for dinner, for my dad.  If I do, I will take a picture for you that I won't be able to find later, and I will tell you all about it someday.

With tendeness, with love,
Kara 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Waterfall

Found photo from some forgotten thrift store.  I like its myriad stories.
I want to say hi. And that, as much as I declared a winter holiday for myself, and started reading The Brothers Karamazov, just certain I would have time to finish it (this time), I have been super busy. It's true, some of that busyness has been in my head.  For this I blame the winds outside my door, and a complete electrical re-wire of the house. Another part of that busyness, however, has been catching up on some much needed couch time with Twin Peaks (lovingly referred to as Schwinn Peaks in our household), the movie Junebug, and a pretty bad documentary about Joan Rivers that, I swear, sent me to bed with my blood boiling.

Which reminds me of something I came across this weekend, and something on my mind lately. In unprecedented shamelessness, I will now share something from my journal for the second time on this blog! I'll try to not make this a habit. 

Ahem. The words: I'm not sure I know how to feel anger - in my body.  How to let it blow open my heart.  And I think this is linked, somehow, to action - to taking action in my life.

I wrote these words weeks before watching the Joan Rivers documentary, but it is perhaps important that each reminded me of the other, because Joan Rivers is well-known for paving the way for women.  Women comics, okay, but I think all women, too.  She said things on national television that you just didn't say...okay, this is according to the documentary, because I admit, I have never been a Joan Rivers fan.  I know, I know - shocking, considering my love for profanity and crassness.  I mean, profanity and crassness are the essence of Sut Nam.

See?  Even sarcasm doesn't work for me.

Anyway, my point (please!) is that I think a lot of women can relate to my original statement, that I don't quite know how to feel anger in my body.  Culturally, an angry woman is not an attractive thing.  Not that I live to be attractive to others.  I swear!

Could this conundrum be more than a peculiarity to my family, my particular history?  I think it is.  I know from watching my friends with kids how difficult it can be to teach children to honor their anger. To teach them how to feel it, so they know what to do with it, and how to work with it.  The behavior that results from an overload of anger is unattractive in even the cutest of beings.  It's also funny, if you have enough distance.  (See also, childless woman at her friend's house, watching friend's child throw tantrums).

In my own life, my dog scratches at the front door, demanding a walk, leaving deep claw marks, when he is finally fed up with his owners' laziness on Sunday mornings.  This is not attractive.  But it is kind of funny.  His brain has (apparently) boiled past the point of boundaries and normal behavior.  Somewhere inside that formidable little noggin of his, he thinks this sort of domestic vandalism is okay. (Incidentally, in one of the all-time miracles of rental history, so does our landlord.)

How about road rage.  Or temper tantrums in the middle of Marshall's (I'm talking about toddler's again, thankfully).  From enough distance, there is an opportunity for wonder - just what is happening inside the human brain in these moments?

It occurs to me that even this wonder is a signal of my discomfort with anger.  I have abstracted it.  But what if I was on to something when I said that my dog's brain boils past the point of boundaries?  What if I am afraid of anger because it is not polite and does not behave?  What if I am ultimately terrified of this loss of control, decorum, attractiveness?

For a big part of my life, I have been asking myself, how do I surrender anger, without surrendering to it?  But maybe the better questions is, how do I surrender to it - experience it, taste it - without acting it out? And is the distinction, not acting it out, but rather, acting on it?

That's a lot of italicizing.  Forgive me.

Yesterday, I had a moment where I was so angry my eyes crossed.  I don't mean this metaphorically.  I felt them screw tighter in my head and blur.  For a blip of a second, my head became a bull's head.  I felt rage course through it.  I might as well have blown steam out my ears.  I had to leave the room so I didn't say something I would regret.  My father has long had this ability to leave the room and decompress.  I think I have traditionally stuffed anger far back into my gut, where it nests like one of those sticky burrs our Cocker Spaniel growing up used to come home with loads of on her fluffy leg hair.  But where can stuffed anger go from there, but deeper into my body?  Where it grows like a cancer, or sullenly remains like a stuck caramel.

I keep a picture of a chapbook on my desk at work.  The chapbook was letter-pressed with a picture of a shovel.  The shovel points down, and words above it read Dirt, the title of a section of the book.  I keep it there for two reasons: 1. I work at a cell-phone accessories company and love my job.  But some days, I need to feel close to the poets I know, and the poetry that is humming beneath the business of the day, and 2. I want to remember that I walk on holy ground, the earth itself that knows what to do with emotions, confusion, anger.  It soaks it up and neutralizes it, turns it over and transforms it, like how the company of a good friend can neutralize the worst of days.

But what if this isn't enough?  There is also the cliche in our culture that a woman is hot when she is pissed.  And maybe she is.  I have certainly seen this happen in our household, where I erupt with requests for help with housework, or whatever complaint I have, and my husband finally sees me, and hears me, and is respectful of me in a new way.  Not out of fear, but recognition, because my personal power is finally being expressed. And we laugh at how angry I have become, not because we are ashamed, but because we are relieved. Because truth is being revealed, instead of being stuffed away.

So.  Go forth and throw tantrums!  No no, no no.  This morning, and most, I have no real answers.  Probably, the times I think I have them are when I am furthest from the truth.  The art of openness is understanding how squeamish I am in the face of things. And learning to stay open despite misunderstanding, confusion, and fear.  I do know this: it may not be enough to pray away anger.  It might not even be the thing to do. Anger may be a holy catalyst for new ways of being, a call of distress from the soul.  We get to choose how to listen to that ruckus, how to lean in deeply and ask what we need to know.  Thank goodness we have friends, and art, to work through the squeamishness.  Big skies and walks in the woods.  Work, too.  Work is dignity, my husband always says, probably quoting someone far off and biblical. It is hard to tell sometimes when he is quoting brilliance or simply being it himself.  In any case, I am grateful for these ways to explore what we are here to explore.

With wide open prayers for 2012, for you and the ways we are connected,

Kara

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sanctuary (& The Women Who Watch Over the World)

The orchard at my husband's childhood home
I am writing to share something from the profound Linda Hogan:

"Humans want truth the way water desires to be sea level and moves across the continent for the greater ocean." (from The Woman Who Watches Over the World)

And to say: It snowed last night. Thank God!  It has been cold and icy here since our last snow, but without the quiet gratification of a blanketed world. There has been enough ice clear of the sidewalks to go running, but none of the light temperatures to invite much activity. I have been addicted to the indoors, with none of the excuses for it. So be it. But now it snowed. I have a legitimate reason to rise early and drink steaming drinks and listen to the quiet outside, to find it inside. And actually, isn't stillness enough of a reason to pursue its riches anyway?

Sometimes it's nice to have a little help.

I bit it two days ago on a patch of ice.  Now I have a ripe raspberry on my knee cap, just above a gash I obtained with the help of a file drawer at the end of the summer (which has blossomed into a terrifically vivid scar). Both marks tell me: Slow down! Watch your step. So I am beginning to listen.

I have been thinking lately about how to live a life: about what to say yes to, and what to pass by.  My father recently emailed me about the ways he makes decisions, especially work ones.  He said, "Sometimes work enjoyment is like stopping for a stop sign on a country road late at night. You are probably the only one that will ever know but still have to do what is right."

I love the core message of integrity in this metaphor, but also (of course) latch on to what it would feel like to pause on a country road in the middle of the night. Such stillness! And plant-breathing richness around, and animals snorting in their barns. It reminded me of something my dad and I had seen once together on an early-morning drive to the airport, when I was living in New York. I had spent the weekend with my parents at their house, and was reticent to leave the green world of North Carolina.  As my dad sped down the country road, we saw two brown masses bobbing up ahead. My mind had no answer for the questions my eyes were feeding it. As we got closer, my brain put it together that two horses had gotten loose and were galloping down the road. My father joked that they were coming back from a night of partying and trying to get home before their owners woke.

I could not shake those horses from my heart on the plane ride home. Their bodies were so powerful, and the sight of them galloping down the road summed up everything I felt about North Carolina: that it was full of comforting routine and familiar smells, and pulsing with magic, richness, and surprise.

I know that the metaphor of the stop sign offers endless contemplation for doing the "right" thing.  I also see that, more times than I can count, I have been shepherded by my parents into learning the right way to behave in certain scenarios. Even when I didn't want to believe them, they were usually right in their social, financial, and spiritual advice. But I am also awakening to the fact that my life is truly my own, and even though I have friends and elders I can consult about decisions, ultimately I must consult my own inner wisdom - and the way a decision feels in my body, my own life - to find the way for myself.

It occurred to me this week that I have a lot of control over my schedule at this point in my life. I have no children to tend to, a laid-back husband who is content to eat cookies for dinner, an old dog that lets me get away with one walk a day, and a job that I must show up for during certain hours, but outside of which, the world is my oyster. However, despite this, in my after-hours, I have been booking myself full. Why? Because I thought I should. And, in fairness, maybe I wanted to try on what it might be like to be that mythical Superwoman. You know what it feels like, though? Like I'm missing huge, important chunks of my life. 

So, like a restaurant the day after Valentine's, I can see now that the fridge is a little naked, and the cooks have singed all the hair off their arms.  It's time to take some time off - from extra-curriculars, from stretching myself thin. I am longing to literally or metaphorically sink into winter's pile of books. My experience with this sort of feeling knows that it is more than worth it to listen.

My friend recently wrote about the deep restoration she experienced while making time for a bath. She credited the idea for taking time off to my suggestion, but I realized as I read her post, that I have to credit my mother for this idea. For while she is a woman with lots of responsibilities and twelve arms waving around her community activities, whenever I visit my parents, I can usually locate her at the end of the day resting on her queenly bed, reading the funny papers or working a cross-word puzzle. She may be in a nightgown or a fuzzy pair of soft socks, and she is taking time for herself. She is paying attention: to what she needs, to what she loves, and what restores her, so that she returns to the world with that undeniable glow that feeds the world around her.

With this, I leave you to read more delicious words that my friend above has written, whose friendship restores me like rich, creamy soup. For the sake of the world, and yourselves, I hope you are making time for all that feeds you this week. And with prayers that your path is illuminated by holiday lights, and adorned with the profusion of treats and festivities, and drawn ahead by a proud horse or two, reminding you of the mystery we all come from, and the truth we long to return to.

With love,
Kara

Friday, December 2, 2011

Awake

I Imagine the Gods
by Jack Gilbert

I imagine the gods saying, We will
make it up to you. We will give you
three wishes, they say. Let me see
the squirrels again, I tell them.
Let me eat some of the great hog
stuffed and roasted on its giant spit
and put out, steaming, into the winter
of my neighborhood when I was usually
too broke to afford even the hundred grams
I ate so happily walking up the cobbles,
past the Street of the Moon
and the Street of the Birdcage-Makers,
the Street of Silence and the Street
of the Little Pissing. We can give you
wisdom, they say in their rich voices.
Let me go at last to Hugette, I say,
the Algerian student with her huge eyes
who timidly invited me to her room
when I was too young and bewildered
that first year in Paris.
Let me at least fail at my life.
Think, they say patiently, we could
make you famous again. Let me fall
in love one last time, I beg them.
Teach me mortality, frighten me
into the present. Help me to find
the heft of these days. That the nights
will be full enough and my heart feral

There is a scene in The Kids Are All Right where Annette Benning's character is checking on the state of her daughter's Thank-You notes for the high school graduation presents she just got.  As a mom, the character comes off as somewhat of a nag. But she has a great point about not letting too much time to go by.  "I mean, you don't want to start them with an apology," she says of the required notes. 

That's a little bit how I feel this morning, a snowy twilight blue morning in Colorado, where I drink my newest indulgence - very hot, very milky coffee with two spoonfuls of sugar - and think about how much I have missed this time to visit with you, to sit and explore divine grace, and hear from you about your own life. 

So hello, old friend, dear heart.  How is your morning, this December day?

Yes, it is Christmas time - on the internet, on the calendar, and in my nostalgic little heart.  Yesterday I willingly listened to Christmas songs on Pandora, perhaps ruining the chance for giddiness when I happen into Barnes & Noble or Williams-Sonoma later on this month. 

By the way, did you know there are, like, 5 Christmas songs in the world?  It's true.  I got to hear them all yesterday, a million times.  Dione Warwick, Perry Como, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby...and those Coles - Nathalie and her dad - really have a corner on the market.  It was fun to discover the voices behind the names I have heard for years, or behind the faces I have seen on faded LP covers in Goodwill stores across the nation.

Speaking of Goodwills, I read this great little post about style yesterday that I share here because 1. It's a semi-tribute to her dad, and I have lately been thinking about how great dads are, and 2. I think her points about style are so true, and 3. because I am a little conflicted about my own style lately; in particular, my love for second-hand things.  I mean, no one wants to go around looking like an orphan, right?  Maybe some people do...maybe if I were in a different band, looking like an orphan would be perfect.  The band I'm in, by the way, if you can call it that, is making a cd this weekend.  Complete with rented studio and catered food.  But we're singing songs about divine love.  Which I really do believe is what everyone is singing about anyway - Old 97s or Krishna Das.  But everyone has their own channel they have to dial into.  Which is, I think, the real beauty, and hopefulness for the world. 

I know I was talking about clothing.  And I know this relates eventually.  And goes back to my love of mutts, too.

When we came home from Thanksgiving vacation at my sweet brother's home in Atlanta, and scooped up our doggy from my husband's generous cousins who watched the dog for us, we left his proper food and water bowls at their house.  So the little guy has been dining out of Cool Whip bowls all week.  First, you may be asking, what the H are you doing letting Cool Whip past your front door to begin with, let alone eating enough of it that you can rinse and use the bowls?  But my husband is from the Mid-West and I am from the South.  We know people who serve Jello salad with marshmallows at fancy meals.  Don't judge.  Second, our classy little pup (okay, grey-haired and pushing twelve) has taken to dragging his food bowl to his bed and licking off it there, just because he can lift it in his teeth, thereby elevating an already elegant Cool Whip dining experience to true, trailer-trash status. 

I read an article last weekend at a coffee shop I discovered nestled in a neighboring town between horse pastures.  This sounds very Colorado, and it was: everyone inside the shop wore Patagonia clothing.  But the decor was rag-tag and elegant, and the coffee table weighted down with New York Times Magazines.  I know I am saying nothing new here, nothing that hasn't been explored or turned into a movement, like Shabby Chic.  But I like old stuff and I like things a little worn.  My hair generally fuzzes out from my ears like an electrified squirrel the minute it is dry and I am conflicted about this. 

But the article was in Rolling Stone, a place where I had a great internship once, and the article itself was great.  It was a feature on Zach Galifianakis, and painted his warmth, honesty, and comic genius without distorting into celebrity worship.  One of the things that really stuck with me, besides the fact that the actor is from North Carolina (thank you), is that he reportedly still lives in the same dinky bungalow he bought when he was a struggling actor.  After seeing The Hangover, it may be no stretch of imagination to picture this.  And, granted, I would probably be the first person to buy a house on the beach if I ever struck oil, but I love this essential - I don't even know what to call it.  Philosophy?  Indifference?  Maybe integrity.  Honesty.  Or laziness.  Don't know.  Okay, I just love this fact (if it's still a fact.  The magazine may have been a year old).  It pleases me. 


I remember answering a question in graduate school, posed by a favorite teacher.  I don't remember the question itself but I remember trying to explain that the reason I write is to redeem my characters.  My professor said something like, Um, isn't that totally not what you should be doing?  I think she meant, in fiction especially, aren't we supposed to punish our characters, put them through as much hardship as possible, so that a) the reader has something to worry and care about, and isn't bored to tears by an orgy of good cheer, and b) Flannery O'Connor would not approve.  (Okay, I still don't know what she meant by her reaction.  I must go and ask her about this now.) 

But what I meant is that I write, not to redeem my characters, but to redeem the world--to myself.  And to lift that unveiled vision up for others to see.  So that we may start to see things as they really are - not as we need or want them to be.  In writing about details, I start to pay close attention, and learn again and again how to break through my judgment.  Instead of brokenness, I see tiny miracles.  Instead of despair, I feel the okayness of every moment.  When I am willing to look at the world from the small distance and renewed perspective which writing gives me from my obsessive, harmful judgments, I accept how it differs from my expectations.  Then my great fantasies melt into prayers of gratitude for what I already have. 

When I took my teacher training for yoga in graduate school, I taught my first class about accepting whatever it is that really makes your heart happy, whether that makes sense to your identity about yourself, i.e. how you want to think of yourself, or not.  Every week I teach a gentle class at a chiropractic office in town now. And every week I realize, Well shoot.  I am still teaching the same darned thing.  I'm not teaching the same poses, or series of them, or using the same words.  But I am essentially saying, Learn to see yourself as you, and accept, accept, accept.  And I guess that's what I care most about in this life - learning to do that for myself, and offering the space for others to do the same. 

Lots of famous writers have said things about the healing qualities of writing.  Here are just two:

Anais Nin: We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection.

And Anne Lamott, in Bird By Bird: "So why does our writing matter, again?"...Because of the spirit, I say.  Because of the heart.  Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation.  They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.  When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.  We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.  It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea.  You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
 
So it is. 

For the pleasurable hour of being here with you - on this ship - I am grateful.  May you have a day full of whatever it is you love, and may you taste the blessings fully!  
Kara

P.S. A guest post is coming soon by a great friend (and so far non-blogger) about, yes, chickens!  And, here is a guest post by me on a site called Mystery Moor - a post about bats and kitchens (with a picture of me in an apron).  It would have been way cool to post this around Halloween.  You know what?  It just didn't happen. 
xo

Monday, November 14, 2011

Beautiful Beautiful, Shy Shy

Brother Andre's Heart: Montreal, 2003
by J.L. Conrad

In 1973, the heart gone, pilgrims
climb the stairs on knees to eye

the heartless man in his hollow chamber.
Memory's plumbline laid from there to here

on limestone. The mountain around which the city.
Yes, I remember. A new opening

through which the body remade itself.
Rocks knocked from mountainsides

brought here to bear weight upward until
even the impression of weight lifts off into

the recessed darkness pooled beneath the roof.
We stand in the votive chapel six days married.

A bank of candles: whipstitch of lights
sealing the wound. Columns bristle

with rows of crutches. We do not yet know
how bodies cave, how bones surface. We take

no pictures. No, that's not true.
We take two: one into the washed-out summer

sky. Me wearing sunglasses, the carved
angel rising behind my shoulder. And another

on surfacing from the crypt, sun breaking
into pieces, rimming each edge with light.

See how clouds cut into the sky.
See how the geese are black slashes

unstitching the firmament. Beyond
the open door, the heart lies suspended

in a jar, bathed in a red heatlamped glow.
The papers reported it found

in an empty apartment locked in a box
inside another box. How they must

have wrenched it from the body.
You've remembered it wrong

all these years: the jagged undoing,
snipping each stitch so the wound gapes open

again. Today, pilgrims file past the vault
in silence: my body parched, yours

stationed there beside me,
on the near side of desire. Holy water laid

between us. In what voice do I
call out? A brittle light, hearts sundered.

We can't be blamed if things come apart.
We can scarcely be accused of theft. What we take

we take from each other. Our dreams wearing horns
like sacrificial rams. We know in our bones,

which is to say our deepest selves, the world
thrown open, the veil torn, seeded fields ungrown

at last. It falls to us to shovel dirt over the flames.
Sometimes, they say, the heart still beats.

We did not ask for this. The one day a year
wine becomes unsettled, remembering.

Last weekend, while writing an article for a local yoga magazine, I discovered why my article sucked.  I was trying to talk about rediscovering Jesus (yes, that Jesus) in my thirty-third year of life, and all that has meant to me and my yoga practice.  The problem was, I didn't want to say anything.  Not really, anyway.  I was trying to write an article about the magnetic pull that Jesus has on my life right now, without confessing that pictures of him draw me in with the same velocity that cupcakes do, or that I now understand why that Bible story about Peter denying his faith three times before the rooster crowed is so valuable, and compelling.  I wanted to write a simple little summary of the holy buildings I've been in, without revealing my changing relationships to them.

Then I read this passage in Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird.  This passage is for real, yo.  Take heed:

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.  We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.  Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little.  But we do.  We have so much we want to say and figure out.  Year after year my students are bursting with stories to tell, and they start writing projects with excitement and maybe even joy - finally their voices will be heard, and they are going to get to devote themselves to this one thing they've longed to do since childhood.  But after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.

It's true. I was keen to avoid writing the truth in my article.  First, there was the difficulty of even understanding the truth--what has been going on in my psyche, my spiritual self, under all the layers of years.  But the real difficulty lay in sticking to that truth--spitting on my hand, clasping that of truth's, and looking into her eyes, pledging, "Me and you, Truth.  To the bitter end!" It was very tempting to just pat Truth on her behind (because she has such a nice behind, doesn't she?) and then duck and run when she turned to see who likes her. 

Searching tonight for a quote in a notebook I keep, where I copy favorite passages and poems and then let them gather dust, my eyes fell upon something I clipped from The Oxford American once upon a time.  I had read a bunch of small tributes which Barry Hannah's students had written about him, and grown smitten with one of the pieces.  Now, I have no earthly relation to Barry Hannah, or even an intellectual one.  I do know that smart people have nice things to say about his writing.  That's great.  What I love about Barry Hannah right now is this description of his behavior:

I never knew the old Barry, only the Second Coming of Barry, when he no longer seemed tormented, and instead was so comfortable with releasing his sweetness into the world.  I had heard most of the old stories and shuddered at their boldness as well s the anguish they bespoke - the unsustainable amplitudes of howling rage - or fear - and joy.  But I only knew the Good Barry - the one who evidently one day had gotten such an extra dose of courage that he shelved all the old stuff and decided to carry forward only the sweetness.  His yellow legal-pad letters arriving in the mailbox - the sentences written in a scrawl one had to sometimes divine or intuit rather than read - gave their recipients a courage that lasted and lingered for days: testimonies from a man who had decided to one day embrace and celebrate the world's imperfections.  A man who had outlived his demons.

He could still skewer a rat.  But all I ever knew of him was his new calling, the one where he told his friends, at every opportunity, how much he loved them.
I think you know where this is going, but allow me to bang us all over the head:  I want that extra dose of courage the writer speaks of!  I want the courage to tell my best friends that I love them, defenseless, raw, and true.  I want to cozy up to acquaintances who inspire me and dare to start a friendship.  I want the courage to live so fully in my heart that nothing stands between my experience of love and my expression of it. 

Do you think things could get dangerous, quickly?  I do.  And it could be really fun.

I am currently in a drawn-out conversation with a best bud about whether or not you can really be sexy and sweet at the same time.  I say, why not?  I say the most profound experience of love can also be the most erotic one.  And the most erotic experience can be so foundational because it has pulled back the societal curtains of what you think should or ought happen, to reveal the beating animal heart of what really turns you on, to find out why we are really all here: which is to experience, taste, dance and divine. 

If by sweet, you think, pleasing all people and being all things to everyone, then yes, I do not think you can be sexy and sweet at the same time.  But if by sweet, you mean, so deeply in your heart that you are like a bad ass backer of Truth and her band, then hell yes.  I know of nothing sweeter, nothing hotter.  And I say, go on and rock them both.

Therefore, whatever your truth, and wherever she is hiding (or wherever you are hiding from her), may you go to her and take that hot lady's hand, and together knock back a few shots of courage tonight.

With love and November's skittering mischief,
As always & most sincerely,

Kara 





Sunday, October 23, 2011

Six Related Things



I am not sure what the connection is of my six related things.  But I trust that there is one, because I am thinking about them.

1. There may be no better combination in my world than a vinyasa yoga class followed by red wine.  I went to an event last night at a local donation-based yoga studio, and was bowled over by the re-incarnated studio's beauty.  The rich yellow hues and golden Sanscrit words painted high on the wall have me wanting to bring gold into my life in full force - golden paint, golden bangles, golden earrings, golden love.

2. My dog lies in a sun patch on the bedroom floor.  Ah, Sundays.  I am living the realization (that I have to re-learn all the time) that I get more done when I am relaxed.  I am paraphrasing a Yoga Journal article that once said: People (I) make the mistake of thinking they don't have time for a meditation practice.  But really, meditation saves you time, in the long run.

See also: My friend told me yesterday that she did yoga on the porch of a house in the country where she is caring for the animals this weekend.  The chickens plucked at her mat and toes while she practiced.  I love this image.  Chickens are great!  Love chickens.  Running around like a headless one is, however, not as cool.  What is cool?  Meditation!  Clarity.  Pausing to check in with greater wisdom before diving into projects and to-do lists.  Just a little pause.  It could "save" hours.  It does for me.

This is perhaps what Gay Hendricks means in his book, The Big Leap, when he says we create time.  (This book?  It's a good one.  A quick read.  A little life-saver.  Trust me.)

So, Person + Meditation = Much More Productive Person.  But this is just a bonus!  The more primary equation is: Person + Meditation = Person Aware of Personal Life Purpose.  Therefore, = Much More Productive (& Happy) Person.

3. When I confessed to my chicken-sitting friend, with whom I am working on a project that necessitates a lot of back-and-forth emails all week, that I am afraid of "bothering" people, she said she feels the same.  I wonder if a lot of people feel this way.  Sometimes when my mom calls, she says, "I hate to bother you sweetie.  I know you're very busy."

Sure.  I'm busy.  But we all are.  We all have lives.  (Just thinking of my mom saying this, by the way, makes me feel tenderly.  It's sweet that she is so considerate.  But I miss my mom.  I want her to call, especially when I'm busy.  Because what am I so busy about, if it doesn't have to do with love?)

What happens when we are afraid to bother each other is that we wait until it's a better time to take care of our needs.  What good is that?!  Guess what?  It's always a good time to call someone and tell them that you love them.  It's always a good time to answer the phone and hear that you are loved.  So, without getting too far into the answers, (um, on cue, my husband just came into the room to say he loved me), I have this question to pose to us all: Who are you afraid of bothering?  And this reply: whoever it is, do it!  They want to hear from you.  And you have something to say.  Go on.  Say it. Let's make a habit of bothering other people, and breaking through the fear that what we care about doesn't matter.

4. At the event last night, my friend led the vinyasa class, in the middle of which she said, "How are you living from your heart?  You are doing it every day.  You may not always feel it, but you are."  I like this reminder that we never really lose our intentions - we just sometimes tune them out.  I started thinking how I have let go of some really sweet practices in order to make time and room for some new events in my life (a full-time job - yay!, new projects, morning dog walks).  These new events are beautiful additions, but I realized last night that I need to re-integrate some of my favorite practices into my days again to stay strong for these new additions: to re-fuel, to have something to give.  Hence, more meditation, focused integrity about my food choices, and simple pauses for myself - the self that doesn't want to be uber productive all the time, but wants to stand under the stunning yellow trees looking up, caught in the profound wonder of life.

5. I may have had only 4 things to say.

6. I love you, whoever you are.  You are beautiful.

I am being lazy, and don't want to find a poem for this post.  Maybe you have one that fits perfectly?  If so, please email it!  sutnambonsai@gmail.com.

In sunlight, in grace,

Kara

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sweet & Salty: A Mutt's Hand Guide

A Myth of Devotion 
by Louise Gl├╝ck

When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness

Gradually, he thought, he'd introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she'd find it comforting.

A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn't everyone want love?

He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.

Doesn't everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive
, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—

That's what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there'd be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.

Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn't imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.

He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
Persephone's Girlhood
.

A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you

but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you're dead, nothing can hurt you

which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.

I have always felt sexiest naked, and most creative in pajamas.  Creativity is sexy (damnit).  Maybe even the sexiest.


Sex & life go together like thunder & lightning, but I won't be walking out of the house in the nude anytime soon.  At least, I hope I won't.  On late cold evenings, however, I will sometimes walk the dog in polka dotted flannels. 


In any case, what feels sexy is obviously different for every person.  Equally reassuring is the fact that what someone finds sexy is also different for everyone. And yet, I find myself trying to BE sexy sometimes - some version of it, anyway, that has been dreamt up by my fabulous mind...which sometimes loses track of beauty and openness.  These times of effort-full sexiness pull in no external attention.  What does pull in attention is a sly little smile on my face - a real one, unrehearsed, irresisted. From males and females (and animals and children) alike, the secrets I keep with myself end up being my greatest accessories.  Because emotions project, and joy is visible.  It is also magnetic.  All emotions are. 

Because of this, I like to be very aware of the state of my emotions because that is likely the state I will be magnetizing in my life - in the mirror of friends, strangers, animals, and projects.  But it is awareness that counts - not the emotion.  We can be in a weird place emotionally but still totally radiant as a whole. 

The key to this is acceptance, intention, and presence.  In other words, as Jennifer Loudon says in her book The Comfort Queen's Guide to Life, "Surrender to your inner process instead of trying to label it.  Jung said, 'What is not brought to consciousness comes to us as fate.'"

This is all another way of saying: what kind of sexy do you want to feel?  The effortless, the grounded, the resilient, the pure?  Or the affected, the harrying, the no-pain-no-gaining, the unsustaining?  In moments when I am owning and delighting in the flow of my radiance, I have everything I need: delight, self-assurance, playfulness, humor.  My soul is full and beaming.  That's the sexiest - proven, period.  Even when I'm wearing the most wacked-out mish-mash of clothing patterns, differing styles, and plain uninspired non-styles.  Which is maybe why I find nudity such a lovely state.  Because it takes away the illusion that I must wear something or drape myself in a certain way to be attractive.  It is bare-bones honesty: physical, emotional, spiritual.

When I was growing up, my mother coached: Beauty is as beauty does.  Which is true.  (She also urged: Stop walking in front of windows without clothes on!  So I did.) 

I would like to amend her first advice to: Beauty is as beauty IS.  Vapid?  Zennish?  You decide!

To me, the sexiest people are the assured ones.  The grounded.  The open.  And the sexiest moments are the tender ones.  The curious.  The mysterious. The playful.   

And while it is way fun to dress up and be wild, or playful, or short-skirted, skin-baring, and I loooooove it when people do this, I find that, for myself, writing letters to my friends or receiving cool night air on my face makes me feel just as sexy, if not more so, than working on my image of sexiness.  Because what we project all starts inside, in the feelings behind our choices.  In Sanskrit, this is called the bhav: our state of being.  In English, this is called...what?

I write a lot about dogs because...what can I say?  I love 'em.  I love 'em for their comical personalities and fickle decisions, for their elegant animation of the mutt in all of us.  They remind me how adorable a dusty, bad-smelling beast can be.  They remind me that our core essence is capable of commanding the heart of the world.  They remind me of what truly makes me happy: the shaggy, the comical, the spontaneous.  In other words, our million rough edges. 

So, I now dedicate this post to comfort queens and beauty queens, to purists and slow-spinning honey bees.  To crooked teeth, fractures, scars, to the bald spots my friend has had since his twenties, to my one grey hair, stiff and blanched, that I found to my delight when I was 24, to every "ugly" foot ever made in the womb, to the racoons in my neighbor's yard that march across her roof at dusk, to the leaves she rakes from her garbage cans trying to keep even the dirtiest place tidy, to children still living with their parents, to the courageous adults moving out of their parents' shadows, to memory's cracks, to crumpled bow-ties, to our bewildered, hopeful, rampaging loves.

Wildfires. Winds. Confessions we cannot hide. The way my husband's hair wakes, fluffy and thick. 

At.this.very.moment, count the ways to love: perfect perfect perfect perfect.  Tell everyone you meet: We are Home.


With love and sunlight on your path,

Kara