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.
I am in the center
of very hard things
I feel like I fail
again and again
but the truth is
I am still here
still finding ways
to return to myself
so today I will
and be proud of myself
in this moment
the thirteenth time
I came back.
My eyes close now while I type
I begin to nod off these days
fingertips stilled on the keyboard
The other night I fell asleep eating dates
scattered pits in all directions
I find one with bite marks
on the floor the next day
It used to be sunflower seed shells
I’d wake up with in the covers
I am on Zoom. Three people in a row say how thrilled they are at the progress we are making here in the United States, the protests, knowing black lives matter. I can feel their buoyancy. I sit still, stunned, uncomfortable in my skin because I feel so far away from them, on the other side of the world, on another planet. I am terrified, angry, anxious. Hopeful, yes—but nowhere near being able to touch “thrilled.” Later, I wonder if I was judging their excitement, naming it naïveté without knowing I was. Or was it only that while I believed in the promise of the protests I could not trust they would lead to real change? Or maybe I only need to be able to embrace the good when it comes, more readily, more fully than I do? Or maybe the distance and discomfort I felt was only because I live in all the shades of gray.
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.
It is hard for me to name fresh, new times when I felt like I belonged because I have written about most of them already, the ones that stand out. That pile of young women on Vicki’s living room floor, laughing. Girl Scout camp, Camp River Glen, singing in the dining hall or beside the fire at night—all of me engaged, connected, joyous. For me more often is the sense of being in a group but not of it, a rigidity in my body, an inability to rest with these people who seem so at ease together. I don’t know what the common thread is, aside from myself, me as the thread. Often I just haven’t experienced what they describe—I feel different, set apart, as if they all truly come from common roots, and I am the strange flower carried far from the others, flown here by birds.
[Editor’s note: This is another short, timed writing from the Zoom daylong writing retreat on June 22nd.]
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.]