For the way our palo verde flung herself at a diagonal when she blew over in the last fierce wind so she didn’t hurt my neighbor’s carport or our wooden fence, and she didn’t block my front door. The mango and palm trees in pots beneath her felled form came through unscathed. The vet didn’t find an ear infection. Two people have responded to the writer’s guild post about doing spontaneous writing. I’m spending Thanksgiving tomorrow with Mami and Auntie Gardi and her family for the first time ever. I get to choose a new tree to plant, maybe that one I’ve had my eye on with the big pink flowers in the fall. For the bare branches it will have in the winter so I can see the mountains. For the mountains themselves. For my new yoga teacher and the new meditation center I can ride my bike to, sidewalk all the way. For the good headlight on my bike so I feel comfortable riding in the dark. For my zafu. That I finished grading all the summaries and essays late last night, so the next four days sit clear. That cleaning up the shambles of our courtyard after they cut our tree in pieces and took her away had me paring everything back to pure clean beginnings. For time this weekend to put the Christmas solar lights up, lay down a few small pavers, put the sweet finishing touches back in new places, life breathed into it all. For this afternoon when I hauled Boo back to bed with me, and he stayed on my belly and let me pet him for a long time, tears rolling down my face. For the promise of belonging to the sangha, the promise of Sable becoming well again, the promise of a wet winter. For the house finch and the goldfinch at their feeders today in our naked courtyard, flitting, chattering bits of sweetness in the warm, clear day. For the big full moon rising out my shower window in the cold night, water hot against my skin. For you, for me, for words and meaning, for long lives lived well.
I’ve begun taking a yoga class again. I chose the beginning class, and still the first day I felt like a big, heavy weakling. But I didn’t make myself feel bad about it. I am only glad I’ve begun, knowing I’ll get stronger, lighter. I believe that because two decades ago I did yoga for the first time at a retreat. After three days, I felt amazing. I fully inhabited my body for the first time in my life. There was energy between my toes. I haven’t touched that exact feeling since, as though all of my being reached the edges of my skin, but I know it’s possible. I do yoga at home, but I don’t push myself the way I am pushed in a class. I seem to have become better, too, at protecting my back, my hip. I am paying more attention. And when I can’t do something, or it is really hard, I am not beating myself up. These two changes alone are immense, gratifying. Add working in the yoga studio full of clean autumn light with a teacher who emphasizes the spiritual aspects of the practice—well, it becomes almost more than I can hold. I can feel it moving against my breast bone, and I remember yesterday I learned I push my ribs out too far. I need to move my heart forward. And so I will.
We are asked to choose one thing in our day and commit to doing it mindfully. I pick drinking my tea. I have begun to drink dong quai and wild yam with honey and coconut oil. Today I stand beside the sink preparing it. I forget the strainer and pour all the loose pieces of the roots into the waiting cup with the honey and oil. I have to laugh. It’s a good thing I chose drinking the tea and not making it, I think. I stir up the mess and strain it into a fresh cup, then carry it out to the courtyard. It takes up so many senses, so at first it seems easy to stay present, to savor it. The dong quai and the wild yam are bitter roots, the honey and coconut oil both sweet—blended the flavor is a weird and lovely combination of the two tastes. My body seems to crave it. I lean over the cup to inhale the earthy fragrance, the warm ceramic bowl of it cradled in my palms. My mind wanders more than once. I bring it back, sip my tea. I hear the goldfinch chattering. The sun sits just above the mountain ridge, the last sunlight in the late afternoon. I think next week I will choose a different thing, so I can just come and go while I drink my tea, let my mind wander where it will, untethered.
My day of the dead unfolded without effort, my altar growing little by little over the past week, my ritual organic and unplanned. I bought a big bunch of orange marigolds at the farmers market, and yesterday I plucked them from their stems, added them to the altar. Now it is a living, breathing thing beside me, candles at the heart of it. I wish I could let you see it the way I see it. The changing light adds a kind of sharpness, a clarity. It makes the colors dazzle, the flames dance. Every time I look at it it makes my heart dance, too. I have a big grin on my face, and I feel so lucky I could burst. And the smell—that spicy, earthy scent. I won’t need food if I can just keep breathing it in. Sunday in the late dusk I watered the plants here in the courtyard, went through the long list of my dead. They’d been coming to me bit by bit, but this time I started at the beginning, worked my way through each one in order, from my dog Grunt and my Oma almost 50 years ago to my cat Sofia, my newest dead. I ended up standing in the dark beside the glowing altar talking to each one, wanting them to know they are well loved and well missed, asking for blessings on them at this time when the veil between the worlds is thin, midway through these months when the moon holds sway. Today while I write a bee comes to grace the altar, touching each blossom in turn, messenger of the gods. Feliz día de los muertos. Happy turning of the wheel.