Everywhere, Spring (54)

two black lines of a dove

Three weeks ago the mockingbirds began to sing. When I’m lucky I hear one singing nearby in the middle of the night. I’m hoping he comes closer. Last Wednesday when I walked out of my class at the Annenberg Center the air smelled like heaven. I stopped, eyes closed, taking in deep breaths of it. The scent was so familiar, but I couldn’t recognize it. I opened my eyes to the lemon blossoms in the tree above me. Every year I forget how strong the fragrance is, how it finds you everywhere, even when you can’t spot a tree. The sun’s been moving north at a steady pace, all stealth until now when you see it’s almost halfway through its journey. It sinks behind the mountains as I write, facing me straight on now. I’m sitting inside with the swamp cooler on and the sliding glass door wide open to the courtyard. My neighbor’s tree, the one who hosted goldfinches like ornaments all winter, has budded into leaf. I think: don’t tell me we don’t have seasons here. I think: don’t let it bend you out of shape, Riba, annoyed now at all those imaginary people who like to claim we don’t. I’m doing my sitting practice facing the mountains, and my mind is crazy busy. Yesterday, too. I wonder what’s going on. I’ve been looking into rooms, wanting to begin to teach a writing class, give a workshop, lead a writing circle. I’m even fantasizing about offering a retreat, too, maybe in Joshua Tree. This is where my mind zooms today again and again while I’m supposed to be meditating. Could we get a cluster of their studio cabins all together? Could people bring their own food, plan for a pot luck or two? Can I keep it affordable? Do I charge a fee for my efforts or let people offer dana? Do I teach craft or just guide us in entering in? I am gone so long during the meditation that when I wake up and come back I feel the urge to be angry at myself. My laugh surprises me instead. But I do wonder what’s going on, wonder if I should be worried. I sit for the last minutes with my eyes open, taking in the laden bougainvillea branches arching across the wooden fence and the mountains behind them. I hear a mourning dove calling from the roof of my trailer, the first call of the year. I cherish the longing and the full, rich sweetness of his voice. Maybe, I think, I don’t need to worry about my busy mind. Maybe I’m just ready to spring forth with the season. Maybe now I get to burst into bloom.

Our First Circle (46)

Our first writing circle was sweet sweet sweet. There were four of us, and we did two eleven-minute writing sessions. I loved what everyone wrote. They were vivid and filled with marvelous details. My critic was up, though, and grumbled in my ear when I was writing. It was hard to keep the pen moving, to resist crossing out words as I wrote. I think I never really “dropped down,” wasn’t able to let it come through me with any sense of ease. Was that because even though I said I didn’t want to be a leader here, even though I want to be only a participant, by virtue of instigating it, of bringing the prompts, of explaining the mechanics, I felt like I needed to “perform” at some acceptable level? Or was it the cup of green tea I couldn’t resist drinking before I arrived? Or could it have been only because I haven’t done this in a long time, because I had hopes, had expectations? I wanted to feel the magic that can happen on the page. It makes me sad I wasn’t able to surrender to it. I used to find my way there more often. It used to be easy, like walking through an open doorway, like being invited in to sip tea by the big window overlooking the lake. I told Laurie later how critical I felt about my own writing, how strong and beautiful I found the pieces they each read. “Beginners luck,” she said. She wrote a prose poem I hope she’ll work with more. She told me she’d felt safe there, and that was a boon for me, balm to disconcerted ears. It made me glad and grateful. I helped make that happen.