I eat my Jumbo Jack cheeseburger in the driver’s seat of my mother’s red Kia. I am in the Descanso Gardens parking lot in the shade of a small big-leafead tree. I have no real illusions about going for a walk (much less a hike), but later I will be very glad I chose to park here. There are three glossy ravens poking around. I wonder if they are hoping for leftovers. I toss french fries out the open window. They surprise me—timid, wary. As I watch a braver gray squirrel shows them up, makes off with the first few fries, her warm brown eyes on me the whole time. When I finish eating, I read the latest book by my favorite author, All the Seas of the World. My exhaustion settles on me like a blanket, but there is ease in being used up, too, a kind of quiet by default inside me. The ravens grow a little bolder, make away with the rest of the french fries, one of them taking five of them at once in sharp, dramatic thrusts of his strong, curved beak. (I think greed in the moment, but later I wonder if it was really a desperate hunger.) I toss more fries, look up from my book now and then to watch them, see the squirrel bury hers a time or two (off in the distance). I do this for hours. There is a peace in me now I have been missing (desperate, too?). My book transports and feeds me, lulls me. There is a deep comfort in my connection to these wild creatures. And there is a deep sweetness in me and a surprising sorrow when I have to drive away and leave them behind.
My horoscope says, “You’ll become more conscious of your triggers and start to develop plans to avoid unwanted states.” First I want to laugh, sarcastic and scoffing. Yeah, right. Then it creeps up on me, this matter-of-factness I am making fun of. And all of a sudden, it opens up for me in a different way. I believe it can be as simple as this, and I have made a zillion “plans.” But these words are assuming my success is taken for granted. And I want that. I grab it in a loose fist. Here’s to avoiding unwanted states, in all their awful glory.
I trim the bushes on my little road
tecoma, bougainvillea, Mexican birds of paradise
so wrong this time of year
but so needed
to repair the butchering done to them
in my absence and
without my permission.
Now I am ruthless, but
each cut is made with love.
(After, I wash them with the hose
and pray for new growth.)
It is two months now since I fell. I returned to my yoga for the first time yesterday. Today I do four sun salutes. My hands hurt when I lower myself to the green mat from plank pose, when I push up, when I move into downward dog. I am slow, careful, feeling into it to be sure I’m not causing harm. After, in chavasana, I let out all my air, relieved and grateful to be here again, the place I come to after my yoga, even after this little bit. I open my eyes and watch the turkey vulture glide by above me, skirting the ridge. “Be safe,” I whisper to her. “Be careful in this wind.” Earlier today I walked out into the street to see if I could see Catalina. The long, curving shape of her was there, downtown L.A. close enough to touch, the sea shimmering between them. My red-tailed hawks’ offspring was there, too. He wavered in the wind, landed on the ridge, seemed to be eating, though I was not close enough to tell. I think of him now when I open my eyes again, lying on the yoga mat, and there are two ravens playing high in the sky.
I walk back down the hallway
to my room
and there is Venus rising
big and bright above the ridge
the sky just now growing light.
Again, this unlooked for gift
for interrupted sleep
echoes of the last day of our year
a triad now of blessings.
I am up for my mother
in the dark.
In between trips down the hall to her
I sit on the edge of my bed
wait to see if she settles again
and see the fat crescent moon rising
above the ridge
the whole rim of the moon lit up, too
my big silver lining
I would have been asleep
missed this magic.
It is light when I go back to bed
the moon a long, lovely sliver in the sky
penultimate day of her cycle
daylight thinnest sickle of her
a second blessing
this last morning of our year.
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.