Becoming (22)

I’ve never been good at this, but I’ve always wanted to be. So when I get the sense for the first time that she has a message for me, I try to be able to receive it. I am surprised to get words. “Dissolve and blossom,” she tells me. I know right away she means my habit of fear, the armature that’s lived inside me all my life. Days later, in an almost dream when I am curled up in bed crying, wanting to forgive myself for being unkind to my mother in the unlooked for hours of the early morning, I see chicken wire in my heart and throat. After my fall, for a moment I understand she meant more than my fear, that her message was more akin to the sense I’ve had that I am being asked to surrender completely, to let go of all resistance, maybe, or allow all my holding on to dissolve, to slip back into the earth to become good things. I know this is impossible. But more and more in small moments, quiet tears sometimes sliding down my face, I believe in it, the incremental, invisible little bits of it, one unexpected moment here or there, and then the next.

Liturgy (17)

I have a funny Sunday night. I wake in the deep of it to steady, quiet rain outside the opened louvered windows. It’s a surprise. I love the rain, and this kind speaks to some deep peace in me. I go out to the back yard naked, collect all the cushions, pile them in the living room. I fall asleep again to the almost silent presence of this summer rain. Before dawn, I wake to wind, the leaves loud in the liquid ambers, the quick, hard sounds of the neighbor’s American flag. I go back outside to put down the three umbrellas, get back in bed. I am not ruffled by this effort or this unexpected need, only responding to it, at ease. (So out of character for me.) The third time I wake is to Monday morning’s trash trucks. I head out the front door, clothed this time, to put out our bins. I go back to bed again because it seems like the thing to do, to complete the pattern of the night, only to daydream a little, to finish waking up. But there is a softness that stays with me into the morning, as if this funny night of waking and going outside and going back to bed was more ritual than oddity, like a Buddhist monk doing walking practice, or the clergy in Kay’s Sailing to Sarantium who stayed up all night chanting to help their god return in the morning with the sun.

They Were So Happy (14)

There are liquid amber sprouting everywhere. I dream of transplanting them, a row of pots along the cinder block wall, gifts for people I know, for people I have never met. I dream of sending trees out into the world, a sweetness for the planet, a tiny antidote for global warming. On Thursday I am watering by hand. The foot-tall liquid amber in the side yard is gone. Almost every one of them are gone. Rinaldo has taken them all. I didn’t think to tell him not to. He’s never touched them in all these months. I can’t stop crying. “They were so happy,” I say. I keep saying it over and over. “They were so happy.” Not just my dream of them gone, but their companionship. I feel as if my last friend on earth has been taken from me. I can’t stop crying. I know I am not crying only for them. But days later, I still grieve.

Dispatch (13)

I sit beneath the lime green umbrella in the corner of the yard and drink my yerba maté. I remember the moon and look for her in the sky. She is right there, only a turn of my head, not behind the neighbor’s tree or hidden by the umbrella. My daylight moon. I turn back to study the top of the ridge before me in search of movement or the silhouette of a hawk perched on a shrub or the bare branch of a dead bush. Once I saw a deer grazing at the very top of the hill. I’d always wondered if they climbed the steep rocky sides. I let my mind drift, drink my tea. Later I wonder if I can still see the moon, and I turn to look again. There is writing in the sky where the moon was. For a moment, I think it is a message from the universe. It startles me to find it there, but in that first second, the possibility doesn’t seem odd at all. Why shouldn’t there be a message in the sky for me? In the next moment, I realize it’s skywriting. “Narek,” it says. Or maybe “Marek.” The word is moving north, the letters beginning to come apart. I see the moon then, the waning crescent just beside the “k.” Behind the name is a perfect heart, holding its shape as it follows Narek across the sky.

Passing Muster (12)

Last Sunday I saw the female red-tailed hawk closer than I’ve ever seen her, flashes of both belly and back, the dark outline beneath her wings, the red tail fanned out, translucent, lit by the sun. She landed on a shrub at the top of the ridge near the spot where the row of seven yuccas bloomed once, my companions and my comfort in an earlier stretch of time here. I imagined her studying me. I’ve never been so aware of wanting to be found worthy.

Sitting (11)

Years ago my friend Richard talked about how we can shine a light on any aspect of ourselves, bringing our attention to it, and that’s all we need to do for it to transform. (I’m sorry. I don’t know if this should be attributed to a particular teacher.) I remember telling him you would have to have a lot of kindness for yourself in order for that to work. I knew it wasn’t working like that for me. The other day I was sitting in my corner of the back yard beneath the lime green umbrella, thinking about my anger, my reactivity, my yelling. I was deep in my thoughts, the pool, the pots of succulents, the bees, even the lizards all receding. I am always paying attention to some degree when I’m acting out, I thought. But my observer isn’t curious or kind. My behavior isn’t okay with her. I think if I want to be able to rein myself in more quickly and more often, I need to develop a better relationship with my observer, fund more kindness, foster more genuine interest in my goings on. I can almost hear her. Oh, look, she whispers, fascinated, look what you’re doing now. Isn’t that interesting. Oh, see how it isn’t working for you? Let’s see what we can do, she says. I can dream up a version of me laughing at myself, brimming with self-acceptance. I can almost touch her. But I am too far away. Still, the sense of possibility is heartening. I look up at the ridge, my little bit of mountain here, scan the edges for a sitting hawk. I don’t see one today. But hope sits inside me. Maybe if my observer can be kinder, she can talk me around.

Unlonely (10)

I sit when I can in the back corner of the yard beneath the lime green umbrella where I can see the ridge behind us. In these squirreled away minutes I savor my yerba maté and commune with these foothills. I hunt for signs of life, hope for red-tailed hawks or ravens, the ridge my much-loved companion. She came to me in my compassion class when we were asked to call up a comfort image. The ridge came, and my beloved San Jacintos came, too, with their many layers of ridges, old, old friends now. Mountains are in my blood, though I didn’t understand this before today, these foothills from childhood, my Girl Scout mountains, my Ajijic mountains, my Palm Springs mountains. The steady nature of them all, an ancient abiding, wise, deep beings every one. When I lived in Mexico I translated one of my favorite rounds into Spanish, not word for word but the feeling of the song. I would sing it from the third-floor roost of my blue house in Todos Santos at the end of the day, my long hill darkening before me, running west toward my sliver of sea. “Los cerros que viven aqui,” I sang, “Ellos pasan tiempo conmigo. Doy gracias por los cerros.” The hills that live here, they keep me company. I give thanks for the hills. I sing the song tonight in this late, late dusk, my ridge now a dark but breathing silhouette against the blue purple sky. The west a fading orange, and Venus brilliant just above that swathe of pale green we get in this longitude. New moon evening, one lone cricket starts his song. I wonder if I’ll hear the owls tonight.