I pack my groceries on my bike. The four heads of Romaine fit neatly into the remaining gap in the basket, their leaves upright and waving as I pull away. I ride behind Ralph’s, the air almost blue-ish, only a hint of the smell of smoke. I coast, rounding the curve, and I hear my first mockingbird of fall. I go still inside, listening with all of me, this marker of the turning of our desert world. Earlier in the day things are easier sometimes, maybe not the joy that used to come, not the lifting of the heart again and again, for the ridge of the mountains against the sky, the lizard I watch for and protect when I open the door to the shed who looks down on me with his clear, tiny eyes from the ledge, the hummingbird who like to sit in the open louver. And not the easy lifting of my heart for no reason at all. But lighter, still, at the beginning of the day.
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.”]
Pucker up and kiss me. Delight me. I laugh at myself in the mirror. No demon on my shoulder today telling me what is wrong with me, why I don’t fit. Only the better angels who wonder if maybe I have just found myself in the wrong places with people who are so poised I feel less than, alien. I am so not poised, I think, laughing again at my reflection, loving this familiar face I see. “You have other strengths,” the not-demon whispers in my ear, and my face softens. Yes, I think. Yes. I have other strengths.
[Another piece from our spontaneous writing group. The words drawn for us to use were: alien, demon and pucker.]
These days I can still become unglued in an instant, leap from grateful and open, watching a roadrunner beside the creek path, to cursing people quietly behind my mask. In our humid days, our brutal heat, my sweat is salty on my lips, on the brush of the back of my hand. I move from minutia, from frustration with the online Ralph’s order, the jarring conversation about hearing aids—I move from this weighted trivia into outerspace, long moments lying on my back in chavasana, tears pooling in my ears, my body both wedded to the earth and light, as if I might float off, join the crescent moon in the daylight sky, healing in the depths of me in tiny, magic, unseen moments.
[Editor’s note: This piece came from three drawn words in our spontaneous writing session today: salty, outerspace, unglued.]
This essay for BIPOC women in academia was so beautifully written and so moving I just have to pass it on.
A Survival Guide for Black, Indigenous, and Other Women of Color in Academe
By Aisha S. Ahmad, posted today on The Chronicle of Higher Education
I seem to always be becoming someone new. For decades now my life has turned toward becoming whole, becoming more and more of who I want to be, becoming well, becoming comfortable in my skin. I have small rushes of time when I can feel it burgeoning in me, swept up in some big gateway. Sometimes I feel aware of being in the heart of one big transition. Other times I can sense a series of transitions, moving toward the me I want, the life I long for. Stepping in more fully, feet planted in the earth, joy flying, humble and grateful. Not arriving, or only for a moment, but always becoming.
[Editor’s note: This was a short, timed writing from our daylong Zoom retreat on June 22nd. It is lightly edited here.]
I still seem to be all over the place. I keep hoping I’ll regain my balance. Finding more time to sleep will help, I know. One morning I get up early for my walk, return home with time to sweep the courtyard, fill the feeders in the guayaba tree for my house finch. It’s the first time I haven’t been rushing to finish before my 8:30am work meeting, and when I carry out the big bag of seed, I feel joy come the way it used to. The next day I am anxious and short on the phone with a colleague, brittle and brusque the next day leading my “Sheltering in Place” writing session on Zoom. I resist how rigid I feel. “Some shelter you’re offering,” I mutter, mean to myself. I tell my story later on another weekly Zoom, my voice cracking. “I don’t want to be like this,” I say. Not very Buddhist, is it? All this resistance to what is. Today I yell at my mother. I make her cry. Later she’s angry at me when I call to apologize. “Well, you’re good at yelling,” she says. “Oh,” I say, hard voice in my brittle body. “Where do you think I learned it?” Silence. But I am still the monster who made her cry, though this time I let my own tears come, find my way out of this dark, stuck place. And later, too, I remember standing beside the creek bed yesterday in the shade beside a desert orchid tree. I remember how the hummingbird came to perch on a nearby branch of the tree, and I watched him preen. And then a raven glided overhead, low and close, and two mockingbirds spiraled past. One of them landed on the palm across the street and started to sing. I looked up just then and saw the waning crescent moon in the pale blue above the tallest branches, and it felt all of a piece, and me a part of it.