I squat beside my red electric tea kettle in the windowed corner of my room in my mother’s house. I let the boiling water quiet before I pour it over the two yerba maté tea bags in my favorite ceramic cup here with the whimsical fox in her Christmas tree dress. (A barista in San Francisco once told me this particular herb doesn’t like boiling water.) The tea bags are the kind without strings or tags, and today they puff up and float to the top with their corners offered up to me, poking above the hot water, so I can grab them to dunk them without burning my fingers. This perfect offering makes me grateful, and I have one of those slivers of time when I feel like myself and am happy.
On Saturday afternoon I run out of sun. So I move my lime green yoga mat to an odd diagonal patch remaining on the walkway to do my chavasana. Even this winter sun warms me where it slants between the liquid amber branches and falls on my legs, my bare feet, my face. For long, quiet moments I surrender to trusting. I think about how lost I’ve let myself get in resisting what is. I don’t berate myself, though. This is hard, I tell myself. No wonder you lost track. This is not the first time this awareness as managed to swim to the top in the last two weeks. I know it might sink to the bottom again. But wouldn’t it be sweet if I could just find my way to trusting this now and its unfolding? Wouldn’t it be dear to just let joy and sweetness arise again and again and again?
This morning I coast on my bike again in that arc behind Ralph’s. I hear the mockingbird again, see the big waning moon hanging above the San Jacintos, then that surprising scent of fresh mint in the air. And it comes to me that this odd back way that passes by their dumpster has become an unexpected highlight for me, one of those repetitions akin to that freeway overpass in Oakland that also makes that lovely arc when the Oakland hills and north Oakland lie beyond and below and you move with the long curve of it, suspended in time. Or the bend on Tilton Road in Sebastopol when you walk downhill and round Scary Corner and if you are lucky you find turkey vultures perched in the oak trees with their wings spread wide, seeking the sun.
I don’t usually post other things to this blog, but I can’t think of a sweeter, more lively or loving or empowering “antidote” and encouragement to our current state of affairs than this video from the Resistance Revival Chorus. It may lift your heart, make you dance or clap. It made me do all three. It made me cry good tears.
Sending you all metta.
I rest my palm against my belly and take a deep breath. I am tired of the smog but grateful to my lungs and glad I am relaxed enough to feel like I can fill them. I have always felt like I am in some smaller section of humanity, on the edge, maybe, living on the fringe, but in moments like this I am in the center of it all.
[Editor’s note: Another snippet from our writing group, one of our “Two Words, Two Minutes.” The words were “fringe” and “belly.”]
The noxious air from the fires takes its toll. I am so looking forward to the possibility of our desert having both clean air and cooler temperatures, to be able to walk fast, take big gulps of air, pleasure in full lungs. I can’t wait for rain to return to us, wash the leaves of the desert orchid trees, fill the creek bed, lick our wounds clean. I can hear it now, hard rain on my umbrella, hundreds of frogs singing, mockingbirds alive again, the cacophony a happy jazz, slap of shoes on pavement, deep breaths of clean, wet air. Like marmalade on gingerbread, like the scent of garlic cooking in butter, like nothing can compare to being able to move in our outdoor world with ease. Oh, and no virus, too, while I am dreaming up our future, no wet masks in this rain, only cool air on warm, wet lips, fogged up glasses, singing myself now as I swing my hips, lengthen my stride, move boldly beyond where life has let me go in recent times, a big grin on my face.
[This piece came from our spontaneous writing session on September 14th. The words pulled from the magic pouch were: marmalade, lick, noxious, gingerbread, jazz.)
I ride my bike to Ralph’s to buy ice every day now while I wait for my new refrigerator to be delivered. I approach from the back, ride in the mornings beside the long, tall expanse of windowless cinderblock in the huge swathe of uninterrupted shade it provides. I tend to be alone there, just me and my bike, Carrot Girl, and a raven or two sitting in the desert heat with their mouths open on the top of the facing wall. When I pass by I smell mint.
Sometimes I remember to “look” for it, take big breaths of air in through my nose. Other times I forget, and it takes me by surprise, the scent permeating my mask. There are trees along the wall edging the property there, but no mint that I can find. One day I ride along the parking lot of the apartment buildings on the other side of the wall, hunting for mint there. I still wonder if someone might have a dozen terra cotta pots bursting with mint on their balcony.
I am having trouble navigating these times. But I haven’t stopped being grateful. Today, I pack two bags of ice, kombucha, lasagna, sunflower seeds on my bike. When I round the corner at the back of the building, the smell of mint comes to me. It is strong today, and I coast along in the shade, grinning, glad for the gift of it, for this small, unexplained mystery of life.