Monday, December 25, 2017

Hunter's Blind

I woke up this Christmas in the Hunter's Blind. Despite her access to an overabundance of the world's resources, my mother bought this bedding for the room that was once mine.

It is hideous. Which is a fact.

And it is an example of my mother doing her best to take care of me, which is what mothers tend to do. Once we're too big to pick up by the back of our scruff, or put down in a laundry basket or manger for a minute, shit gets too complicated and our expressions of love colored by unintended consequences of our behaviors, the stars, and reactivity.

My meditation this morning was at someone else's altar. Wood, grown and carved in Africa, the deities faceless yet iconic in context. Donkeys. Sheep. Primitive doulas. Peaceful bovids gathered protectively around the place where god sleeps.

As a child, my attention would always float to the angel, whose presence was the only thing that let you know that this birth was different. I was also concerned that the sticky tack holding her to the lean-to was going to drop her right into the face of god, so there was that.

(Worry is my own mother's flavor of love, and so I suppose that's fitting, too.)

This morning my eyes rested on Joseph, the unsung hero of the virgin birth. The neo-feminist in me has always appreciated the sacrifice, the devotion, the efforts of Mary, whose body was hijacked and used as a vessel. I'd love to hear her reports of the story of this immaculate conception, but unfortunately hers was not a speaking role.

But Joseph? He showed up. The faceless man in front of me still went to Bethlehem, bent over another man's child, and stepped in. Eventually shared his gifts of carpentry, craft as a good way of expressing love. To show up - share your gifts - and wait for the Wise Men to come and give you some tips on your next move.

Its fitting, if you ask me, that neither of these parents were given lines. Because love of any sort is not taught through words, but by example. By bizarre and mysterious action, repetition, faith.

My mother loves me through worry, through horrible taste in bedding, through kicking my ass at Scrabble and never letting me win.

*Be tough, my darling. The world has scared me. Don't get lost in the details, stay warm, and strengthen your mind, which will be your saving grace.*

My father loves me by letting me rest while watching football, by criticizing my taste in podcasts, by teaching me how to worry with intention and direction, usually about money or politics.

*I see your mother's tendencies in you, so let's use them for the good of the world and not waste your time on frivolity. You're a child of god, and your work is important.*

My lesson this Christmas is to be grateful for love in all forms. Worry. Faith. Courageous action.

Unexplained mystery.

What is yours?

Saturday, December 23, 2017


My computer just reminded me that tomorrow is Jon's birthday.

I wouldn't say that I had forgotten, but it did take me by surprise.

It still surprises me - takes my breath away - which makes sense, because I don't expect to lose people. I expect you to be here forever, on the other end of the phone or somewhere out in Facebook land. I expect his voice when I call his number, and am always surprised when I hear the Spanish-speaking woman answer instead.

Which is interesting, to me, because in Spanish, death is temporary. There are two verbs for 'being' in Spanish, and when forced to choose, the fathers of romance decided it would make better poetry to believe something you've never seen. To allow for possibility. So it seems more reasonable in the feverish moments that he might pop back in for a bit, even just in the answering machine. Inviting me to call again, or leave a detailed message.

"I'm out right now, splintered into my elemental pieces, being reborn and recycled, drifting out to the Caribbean and into the Gulf, intermittently haunting the dreams of my loved ones. Leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can, in the form of a door creaking, or a gust of wind, or a sorrowful note...

Or a reminder on your computer, in case you can't bring yourself to delete me...

Merry Christmas, by the way. You're aging well - better than many of my friends, who smoke and drink, who pull "G"s and command troops for a living. I know you've been looking for a few things... Last year you accidentally packed your favorite scarf at the bottom of the box with Christmas cards, the one you were too sorrowful to dig into this year...

Oh, and David Bowie says hi."

The Goblin King and his minions, those dearly departed who tug at our heartstrings, unsteady in their disembodied forms? There is something that draws them closer in the colder, darker days.

And that's a good thing. To feel love.

Which according to Spanish, is permanent.

Thursday, December 21, 2017


Today is the solstice - or maybe I should say tonight is the solstice? I'm not sure. I've appropriated this holiday as a date that represents a scientific occurrence - the great leaning away. But I'm not sure I know what it means for me. It's the middle child between Hannukah and Christmas, the neutral force in the middle that makes no claim to magic, other than the cosmic dance of huge planetary masses floating in time around a fireball, mostly without incident.

I'm on the north side, which feels like a Fact from Science, except that it's arbitrary and man-made, like money and language.

Men make things we cling to, it seems. Like time, space, gravity.

The magic of women cannot be explained, which is why we like to blame ourselves for the things that don't make sense.

Just because we cannot be explained does not mean we are senseless.

The power of a woman is her prayer - her faith that the light will come again, or the baby will come out (even without knowing how the hell it got in there), or the oil will last. Faith is what we practice in the dark, cold moments before the dawn when God leans in and asks what is really inside of our hearts.

Valves - blood - bizarre muscle cells that operate in synchrony, more like a flock of birds turning this way and that, impossibly quickly without someone at the helm commanding "6 degrees right!" The physical heart is so easily explained - it starts from two cells - one with age, wisdom, and experience, and one with a tail. Eighteen days later, a few cells volunteer as tribute and start beating.

The man-splanation of the heart skips over the sorcery required.

I've spent so long on the science of the heart, trying to live in the logical world that I've negated the mystery of love, which cannot so easily be compartmentalized. It would be so nice and tidy - so convenient - to think of love as somewhere in a ventricle, or the result of a particular equation.

But my experience of the essence of the heart defies explanation, as does yours, I imagine. We might say that it is built on a foundation of respect, trust, mutual understanding, and maybe that is true. But at some point the logic fails and there is simply a placeholder for Mystery. And sometimes it manifests out in a manger, like a virgin birth, and the series of events that follows changes the course of the world.

My experience of love is that it is like gravity - evident, observable, reciprocal, and completely illogical.

I have written a book, trying to untangle the tired mess of the men I have and do love. Mother India cracked open the logical scientist in me and invited me to release some heavy and unneeded baggage as I prepare to lean in.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

India: Lookout

It is unreasonable that my trip home took only a bit more than a day, but the date never changed. That there is so much more to do, and yet nothing to be done, now that the lesson is clear. Mother India speaks in tricks and pixies. Hitchhikers who board you like pirates and drive you home, monkeys who steal your offerings from the mouths of stone gods. Land that knows nothing of time, whose people shake their heads in such a way to mean, "anything is possible."

Chai is a sacrament with an ancient promise of bringing people together, for appreciating friendship with no common language other than wrinkles and eyelashes and a shared devotion to the cow, the sage who wanders the back steps and rests in the road.

Nothing tangible is practical in the physical world, the higher value is spirit, a sense that everyone else shares - nothing you do will matter. Your body will grow roots or wings, and the pixies in your eyes will fly off to the next world, constellations of your spirit. And India will keep on clicking her heels, spinning around the same sun, but in her own manifestation of time which refuses to be measured by Gregorians or Mayans or anything a man could conceive.

The layers of irony in the Indira Gandhi airport - solar panels in a region that has lost sight of the sun through impossible pollution. Seventeen layers of security to access the hotel juxtaposed to immigration officers who couldn't care less about where you've been or what you've been up to. 

All flights depart at midnight.

I saw the Himalayas at dawn, after a silent screaming match in my head... the driver conspiring with India to make me puke one way or another. We chanted to them, from the edge of the roof, a temple to someone's left breast. And then, as the sun took the sky, they faded behind the haze, their jagged skeletons too temperamental to be bothered with daytime hours. India is all smoke and veils, and the mountains play, too.

I had found a certain peace before I left, and settled into it until everyone pulled me aside to deliver the same message.

Are you sure?

I'd like to be. I'd like to be certain about a few things, put others to bed. But I'm not in charge of fate - mine or yours or ours.

The yogis say to do your work, or sing, or stretch, or learn. Or really all of the above. And more than that, surrender.

Can you? Can I? 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

India: Before

I've been packing for weeks – five weeks – to be exact. The decision wasn't easy this time, as it may have been in other moments, as it has been, because I'm timid with self-trust in these days. Instead of the steady intuition I've had in the past, the unwavering trust of my own gut, I've had to relearn how to read the signs – how to diversify my trust, by gathering small pieces from people who seem to have nothing other than my best interest in mind.

Two days ago my suitcase was still only a third filled, and I couldn't think of what else to put in it. Full of snack bars and medications, disposable supplies and just-in-case contingency plans, the suitcase felt very much like my life.


Mostly empty.


The space has been crushing at times, so I've amped up the pace to try and fill it – untethered, I've simply kept moving to create the illusion of a full life.

And so the day before I left, a flurry of requests for things – herbs, vitamins, chocolate, batteries. Offerings for each of the people who has had a hand in this decision to go – the men who have answered my tearful calls in the past year, who have helped me recalibrate the experience of trust and not needed to consume me.

But soon my suitcase will be empty again, as these gifts fall into the hands of those who have lifted me up, as the supplies are used or gifted or abandoned, and I'll be left with all of that space.

Mother India follows the timeline and plan of no man, or so I've heard. She has her own wild ways, her own gifts. A lifetime is insufficient to explore her, as I suppose is true of any woman.

This trip is for me – a symbol, if nothing else – of what gifts I'm ready to receive, having unpacked so much of my own baggage in the past year. Having cleared emotional cobwebs and closets.