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.
Hope is elusive. I have to remind myself I do not believe it is too late for us to save the world. Before, I used to know. I used to remember. Today I whisper hope, for me, for all of us. May we let the world crumble around us, trusting we can put it back together again—different, better, more fair, more everything for everyone.
When I am mean to myself
my heart whispers to me
that whatever I am telling myself is not true
that I am okay
that I am doing the best I can.
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.]
I am not protesting in the streets because of the pandemic, but I am holding the hope in these acts close. But I’ve been troubled by the angry chanting. Not that people don’t have cause to be angry. Centuries of reasons for rage. Still, I am disturbed by the tenor of things, by what feels like a crossing over, moving away from nonviolent resistance. Wait, I want to say. This is not what Gandhi would want. Not what Martin Luther King would want. This is not what John Lewis tried for in his long, dedicated years of service. (If we keep going in this angry direction, will they all be rolling over in their graves?) I keep thinking we should be singing instead. I lie on my back in the courtyard after chavasana making up lyrics in my head to the melody of “Give Peace a Chance.” Black lives matter, I breathe. Brown lives matter. Queer lives matter. Women’s lives, too. “All we are saying,” I sing under my breath. Now and then I smell smoke from the brush fire near Banning, send up small prayers for all the beings there. The mourning doves glance my way, this strange beast beside them, but they don’t take wing.