I didn’t know if I was going to manage my 59 posts this year while I am 59. I lost so many large chunks of the year. For long weeks now, I was still hoping to pull it off, but I knew I might get here and find out I’d have to let go of it, have to let myself not meet my goal for the first time in eight years of this. And I know cranking them out doesn’t allow for as many “gems” as might otherwise occur. I even worry that this crazed flurry of posts might be annoying for some folks. But I feel pretty good about getting them done. And if they aren’t what they might have been given more time to grow on their own, they still tell my stories, yes? (Or that’s what I am telling myself.) I hope to return to one post each week while I’m sixty (and two posts for eight weeks in the year). So I won’t inundate you like this again, and I won’t desert you like I did this past year. I can’t promise, but I think I have a good shot at it. Thank you, my dear readers, for hanging in here with me this year. I didn’t expect to fall so crazily behind. But I’m glad I got caught up. I feel tired but satisfied. Now, if only the recordings I’ve been trying to make of my white crowned sparrows had turned out, so I could share that delight with you, too. Then I’d be tired and gleeful. Here’s to another year of blogging. And thank you all again, for coming, for visiting, for reading. It means a lot to me. You matter.
I get overwhelmed. It isn’t just all the failing but all the learning that goes with it. I’ve always had a kind of keen reflective eye, am often swift to see what I’m doing “wrong,” how I might do it better. My first year of teaching was a nightmare. I would walk out of each class with a mental list of 18 things I could have done differently. Today, too, I keep watching myself fail, dizzy with discernment. I guess, really, I am shining lots of little lights everywhere I look. After talking about this with my friend Richard and realizing I need to be able to accept what I’m doing in order for my awareness to effect change, I understand how this is in play for me always. Not only is my acceptance not deep enough, not broad enough, but each time I see a truth about my actions, about my reality, I expect myself to be able to change it. So in that first year of teaching, in every patch of my life when learning is accelerated, I put crazy pressure on myself to be able to fix things as soon as I recognize them. No wonder it’s overwhelming. Exhausting, stressful, even discouraging. This is where I need to develop that kind and curious mind we’re always talking about in mindfulness work, yes? This is where I want to be able to say to myself, “Ah. Look at that.” This is where I want to be able to pay attention without putting pressure on myself to change. Just, “Hmmm, how interesting.” Open palmed, my dear. Open palmed.
I dream I leap from a rooftop on a clear day. I fly across the water, dazzling bright. I think it’s a small sea, but I don’t know where. In the dream I think about how the East Bay is close to the water, too. But this is closer, like the lake that comes right to Ajijic, and there is the flavor of another country. Morocco? I fly above a market street that climbs a hill. It is lined with storefronts open to the street, bright fabrics, colorful produce. There are no cars, only lots of very tall people walking up and down the hill, filling the roadway. One young man levitates before me, intercepting my flight path. I feel no sense of alarm. I am surprised but glad. It makes me happy knowing other people can fly here, too.
A miss a call from a friend of mine wanting information about the “bad vet” I went to with Sable. He and his husband have an old dog who’s been ailing for a good while now. I am upset with myself for not knowing it was urgent when my cell phone rang during our writing group, for not knowing I needed to answer the phone right then. I’d left him a message just that morning. I assumed he was calling me back. It’s hours before I’m able to listen to his message. I try to reach him, but I worry I may be too late. All I can do is send the three of them metta, good wishes, prayers that whatever is happening might be the best it can be. I do this every day for a week. One night I dream we’re at a gathering of some kind, forty people in a big dark room with a high ceiling. I wonder later if it’s a wake or a vigil. I am kneeling on the floor, writing my metta wishes on the polished concrete. My arm moves the shiny marker in big wide strokes. I write long feet of metta for a dog I have not met, for the people who love him.
For weeks I hear lovely snatches of bird song I don’t recognize, a long high note and then a rush of lower notes, almost a chatter. I think about writing to my birding teacher at the community college. I have an imaginary conversation with him where I describe the notes and he tells me who it might be and I go online to listen to the audio to see if that’s the one. But I don’t write to him. I only dream about it. Today when I’m sweeping the kitchen floor I hear the song again, and it sounds like it’s quite close. I walk to the living room window. I don’t expect to be able to see him or identify him, but I look out anyway. The bird is perched six feet away on my neighbor’s redwood fence. He is singing with all of himself, his chest and belly, his tail, tilting his beak up and opening it again and again. It is the song I’ve treasured, and here is the singer. He is singing with his back to me, but he turns his head, and I see it’s a Bewick’s wren. He sings while I watch and try not to be too intent in my regard. So much big song from such a little bird. When he flies off to the east, I go back to my morning chores. The gift of him and the mystery unfolding are sweet within me while I sweep.
I dream I am in a small covered patio at the back of a house I don’t recognize. There is stuff piled everywhere, stacks of cardboard boxes, a rickety folding table, bicycle parts, old tires. In a small clear space at the edge of the table near a rusted waffle iron and several stacks of old hardcover books a bird is ruffling his feathers. He’s about the size of a phoebe only rounder and fluffier, mostly gray with a pale, pale yellow chest and belly. He’s been traumatized by the presence of a coyote. I treated him in some way (an herbal mist?), and now he is settling again. I stand nearby, watch him as he preens. He seems happy. I feel a kind of quiet awe and deep gratitude knowing I was able to help.
I dream of a man with a huge head. He has dark skin and black hair, maybe Italian or Mexican or even of Middle Eastern heritage. His features seem familiar, but I can’t place them. His mouth is frozen open as though he’s in mid-scream, his eyes wide and crazed. But he is talking, animated, somewhere below his face. It’s as if his animated features are semi-transparent and floating beneath his frozen face, his neck and shoulder and upper chest visible behind them. It takes me a while to understand what is happening. At first I think his head is huge and ugly, but then I grow accustomed to it and begin to see what’s going on. I see him standing beside his wife. He is very tall, and his frozen head no longer seems out of proportion. I have the sense that if he continues with his emotional work he’ll be able to unlock his face. It must have frozen in a moment of terror. But I know he can free it up again by thawing, feeling, releasing. Later, I think about how I have my own terrors frozen inside me, and I feel comforted by my certainty that thawing is possible.