Tuesday, May 30, 2006

raised from the dirt

Today I ate sugar snap peas and raspberries while standing around, surveying an old man's garden. His spread was admirable. His gifts of zucchini and home-fermented cider, most welcome. (I didn't actually realize zucchini was fuzzy until today. When you buy it in the grocery store it's usually been waxed.) What I mean to say is I want to become a gardener. The process of planting something intentionally, nurturing it, disciplining it, then eating from it once it's reached fruition is special. We all know how to reap. It's what we do. But to know how to plant something with some purpose. To know what it is, what it will be, what care it requires, what tenderness and attentiveness, what love. That's special. I've decided. He'll catch me berry-picking one morning, and that's when my tutelage will begin.

I like listening to the elderly. They have a completely unique perspective on things. They know themselves better than most of us and have fewer qualms with it. Interesting when time is taken out of the equation. Children and the elderly have this in common. One isn't aware of this thing called "future", the other is forced to accept life without it. Listening is so important. But speaking and acting is too. If there's any immediate lesson to be had in the presence of old ones it's that life is short. Too short for all this bullshit we engage in from day to day. Too short for anything but absolute honesty. Too short to lose focus on what's truly meaningful and important in our lives. Too short not to say what needs to be said.

I went with Matt to visit his Grandmother tonight. His Grandfather, her husband for 60 years, died earlier this evening. He had Alzheimer's, which is what my Grandmother died of. It made me remember. Grandpa, with his rough German accent walking us through his three-tiered garden. Playing cards with them both. He used to call her an old cow. These were the good times for them - old age, retirement, but there were worse ones. My father and his five siblings were in and out of orphanages when they were young because Carl and Daisy couldn't get along. The only white children on an Indian reservation in New York, they were called the "dirty Wigger children" because after working all day on the family farm the wash never got done. My uncle, the middle brother, the great artist, committed suicide. The rest are scattered across the U.S.

That's not what I thought about tonight, however. I thought about how, when my Grandmother was finally hospitalized and could neither talk nor recognize people, my Grandfather stood by her, night and day, and cared for her with surmount tenderness. More tenderness perhaps than he had even showed his garden. Later, when I was going through her belongings I found a book she kept of love signs. On the cover it had an image of a lion and a lamb. She had written her name next to the lamb, and my Grandfather's beside the lion. What moved her to do this I'll never know, but it touched me. Although she and I never got to have any "girl-talk", I always felt this offered some small insight into her relationship, or how she thought of it at least.

I come from hard-working people on one side. Farming people. Earthy people. People who toiled and loved, both with their hands. My Dad is embarrassed to talk about it. It's obviously nothing to be ashamed of, but he carries it. I guess your childhood isn't the easiest thing to discard.

P.S. I've decided I would be both. I don't think being a superhero or a villain is a mutually exclusive gig. In fact, to do it right, I think you have to be both.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

why I love Dallas

I was invited to play cello for a televised Sufi celebration in Dallas a few years ago. Play and also recite a Hazrat Pir poem in front of about 500 people. I was so nervous when I got off the plane I had to sit down (and almost vomited). It was an incredible honor.

The night of the performance was probably the best in my life. The spoken word was flawless, or at least it felt that way. And my two cello pieces - some of the best playing I've done. My instructor was there, present with me throughout the experience. I met his wife, his children. I felt carried throughout the night by an unseen force. What needed to happen did without my interference. I had a purpose that I filled and filled well. I even mingled during the reception. I practiced my Farsi. I floated.

That was when it happened. I was standing in line to get more food when a fit of laughter erupted from me. I couldn't stop it and didn't want to. At that moment it struck me how unbearably lucky I was to be there - how unexpected, how beautiful, how brilliant the whole thing was. I was so thankful I didn't even try to hold onto it - any longer than I was supposed to.

That's what love is meant to feel like. Unfathomable joy. Joy you didn't even know to ask for, because you couldn't imagine its existence.

Joy that can't help but express itself in rapturous giggles, even though in doing so it draws stares.

Monday, May 15, 2006

the lonely bones

The lonely bones are what's left over. After we've finished this dish. Some was pleasant when it mattered and some was not. But all was spent towards this aim - the filling of our endless stomachs and sometimes even our hearts. We're old as saints. Young as prophets. We're children at tea time, sipping from empty cups; mother's best china. How long can we keep up this game? And will our plates ever be filled again?

Friday, May 12, 2006


The story of Andy and I is a fun one to tell. In it's retelling, I'm reminded how my life has been riddled with signs. And how, in some ways, I've never been left without internal guidance. It would also serve as the perfect segue between my relationship with David, and what followed. But I'm not going to tell it. Not right now anyway.

Right now I'm interested in one of two or three incidents. This first, roughly five years ago, happened in my studio apartment in Decatur. This time, I was crying because I felt I'd done nothing to deserve all the goodness in my life. I felt blessed but unworthy. Do I deserve it? He didn't say anything but wrote one word on a piece of paper, ripped it out of his journal, and gave it to me. I take that word with me wherever I go. It's become a mantra whose repetition I hope resonates throughout my life. Yes was the word he gave to me because I couldn't give it to myself. Yes - a mighty word. A Godly word. A word of absolute affirmation and acceptance. A word closer to love than love itself.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

on a bus in Chile

Pet Your Confusion

You set bowls of milk out as offering.
It eats, then curls up in your chest.

Every moment I spent in Chile was stolen. Stolen from a life I was trying to hold onto at home. A non-life, really, as the only thing that was missing from it was my self. David, my boyfriend at the time, basically forbade me from going. His jealousy, fully manifesting itself in our relationship at that point, punctured any happiness I had once felt and kept him in a state of suspicion. He had abandoned himself to his suspicion, actually. Our evening phone calls (they were really interrogations) while I was in Chile left me crumpled, wet, and ruined.

Ruined, but free. There's something liberating about being in a different hemisphere from the source of your pain and self-loathing. Especially when you've been swept from the throws of Winter into beautiful, Chilean Spring. Those ten short days abroad were some of the best of my life. I was mopey and alone. I separated myself from the group every chance I got. I picked flowers and prompted a spontaneous daisy picnic. I was so alienated that any openness or happiness I experienced, was an unexpected gift. Was an experience of Grace. Chile was indescribably beautiful and our cello choir concerts, intense.

There was the concert in the rose garden in Santiago, with white banners streaming. The concert in the ruins of Mora(?) Island, where I had those amazing cherry pastries (there were cherry orchards on the island), saw the school-house and its flowers, and got rained on. The stray mutt I left on the banks whose fate was mine, the black volcanic sand of the beach, and our 18 cellos bobbing up and down in dingy boats across the water - some bizarre procession. Eighteen casualties - our instruments in their black caskets.

There was also the concert in the Catholic church in Valdivia, which was magical. We made sacred music there. Music that was careful not to break the silence too completely. And then there was the unforgettable bus ride along the shores of Valparaiso. Window open, knees wedged between my seat and the one in front of me, hair flying, blue skies, water that stretched from rock to horizon.

Moments like those make you beg whatever higher power exists to kill you, right then and there, because it doesn't get better.

I've experienced other moments of joy like that, and gratitude, when my heart asked to lift itself clear of my chest and join itself with whatever lies beyond.

Monday, May 1, 2006

what would break

Our bodies are dark with mystery. Cells, synapses, heart palpitations, electricity, water, inhalation and exhalation, pores, nerve endings, bones, plasma, veins, etc. Everything in our body works in perfect harmony with itself. Perfect balance and unity. All this without our knowing it.

So what would break if we were to open the munitions warehouse in our hearts (the one where we record everyone else's faults) and let it all go? Who would get hurt? Like America, we feel more comfortable from behind a loaded gun.