Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Six plans her Third Act

For the past few weeks, for the past few months, I've been sick and exhausted.  As I sat and coughed, I started questioning, again, the way I was living my life. I did  the math, again, and realized that I can stop my 40-hour work week right now if I want to.  But what do I want to do instead?

I felt a rush of excitement.  The last time my world seemed so limitless, I was 22 years old, just graduated from college.  I could do anything, but I decided to move to the Pacific Northwest and figure out how to take care of myself.   My choice was going to determine the next 30 years of my life, but I didn't realize it at the time.  Instead, I boxed up everything I had:  4 boxes of stereo equipment, 1 box of dishes, 1 box of priority 1 books, 1 box of priority 2 books, and several more boxes of priority 3 books.   A box of records.  A box of winter clothes, a box of summer clothes.  Boxes of paper and other school work.  A trunk, a suitcase, and a violin came with me on the train, and my Dad mailed the rest after me in dribs and drabs.  It took a few years before the last box of books came my way, but it didn't take long to find a place to live, a job to do, and friends to play with.  I had a life, and my whole goal was to take care of business.  The limitless possibilities contracted to a settled domesticity, with plenty of activities, travel, and music.

30 years later, and I have fewer books, no albums or CDs or stereo system,  more clothes, and a LOT more dishes.  Not to mention furniture, art, and craft supplies.  But, I've pared down again, and I realize how very little I need to be happy.  I don't want to give up the beautiful things I've collected, but I don't need them.  What I want is to be free.  And, I no longer want to take care of business.  Or rather, taking care of business is no longer my primary goal. 

I am realizing that it's time to start figuring out the Third Act.  The First Act was preparation:  growing up, figuring out my skills, learning how to learn.  The second act was existing:  finding a way to be productive and creative, and doing it.  But, it was also preparation: while I didn't believe that the world and the economy of the future were predictable, I did spend a little time preparing for them.  Hence, the pension plan, the retirement fund, the house. 

Now, I'm cashing in the house, and I'm suddenly thinking:  should I cash in the rest?  Should I quit with the existing, and move on to the living?  Is it time to stop preparing and being and start acting?  I feel limitless, but restless.  I have been sitting here with my cold that has morphed into pneumonia and bronchitis.  And I think, there has to be more to life than working, sleeping, and coughing.   People are dying, strength is a finite commodity:  if I'm going to expand my horizons, I need to do it now.

So, I sent my discontent out to my siblings, to my friend-who-is-living-my-life, to M.  She was the only one nearby, and she came over to drink coffee and listen to me process out loud.  Then she said something I wasn't expecting:

"You need to figure out your health."  From her perspective, I am both accident-prone and fairly constantly sick.  She thinks, and she is not alone in this, that it's a symptom of something that needs to be healed, something that is holding me back.  A past life?  A current grief?  An anxiety?

I am taken aback, and even more taken aback when she tells me that I'm always dissatisfied.  Really?  I thought I found joy in my life, that I realized how very lucky I am.  I didn't feel like there was anything percolating beneath, pushing my mind and body around in unhealthy ways, preventing me from flying, growing, loving, feeling joy.  I'm not dissatisfied, I'm just tired, and not sure this is what I really want.

It's more about ambivalence.  Last fall, when I was debating about this move to Taos, another friend laughed and said, "You're such a 6!"  A 6 lives in the Thinking aspect, but also vacillates within that thinking.  A 6 needs the community, the stability, but is always testing that stability and community, never trusting it will be there, never trusting its own decisions, never trusting the future.  "I process out loud," I tell new workmates.  I've always said that was part of my collaborative nature, but it's also part of my ambivalence.  I'm never sure what I want to do or be, or how I want to get there. I need the input, whether I use it or not.  I'm looking for validation.

That's why I had M come over.

As it turns out, no one is validating the early retirement idea.  M wants me to take this time and heal.  My siblings want me to be stable for awhile longer.  Everyone wants me to recognize how good I have it.  As my brother said, a gazillion people would be happy to trade places with me.  True. 

I think about Jane Eyre:  "For liberty I gasped."  Her petition is blown on the winds, so she reframes it: she wants excitement, change.  But finally, she settles on "a new servitude." 

I do not want a new servitude, I do not want to meet Mr. Rochester. I still don't know what I do want.  I do know that I am excited about the idea of no longer being trapped in my preparation phase.  I can wait to initiate the Third Act, but I can see it close by, waiting for me to reach out and pull aside the curtain.  When the time is right, the act will begin.  And who knows where the plot will take me?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A full moon gong journey


Description:
Take a sweet reprieve from ordinary moments and let yourself rest in the tones and overtones of the cosmos. Join Visudha, Master Sound Alchemist for an incredible sound energy alignment where in the tones and overtones of the gong take you into alpha and theta brain wave frequencies. These states of being allow deep meditation, relaxation and opportunities for physical, emotional and spiritual healing. You will come away relaxed, renewed and with a greater state of inner harmony.

Full Moons function as a powerful time that can facilitate pivotol change, and help us to see where we are coming from and where we need to go. Use this Scorpio Full Moon with the Sun in Taurus to release long standing patterns, and to bring yourself into fuller expression. Bring mat, blankets and pillows for your listening comfort.
 
 
Despite the clear description, I wasn't sure what to expect.  M and I had a date:  after my concert in Dixon, I'd stop by her temporary home for dinner and then we'd go to her yoga place for the Full Moon Gong Journey.
 
I noticed that this is Scorpio full moon, a time to release patterns.  I'd like that.  On her recent visit, C had already told me that I had Saturn return in Scorpio.  She was vague as to what that meant, but was clear that it will be a powerful time for me.  Maybe it's a good time to regroup and start something new?  Maybe it's a time to prepare for intensity:  get well grounded in a practise like meditation, yoga, walking, stretching, tai chi chih.  I got the impression that my health would be easily compromised if I didn't make such preparations.  However, it wasn't a real reading.  We were sitting at the Alley Cantina.  She was drinking beer, I was drinking Campari and soda.  We were chatting up the bartender and talking about C's Taos of 7 years ago and all the changes in our lives.  She had an astrology chart app on her phone, so I gave her my birth date and place, but was fuzzy about the time:  we settled for 10 am, but of course the time makes a HUGE difference. My twin and I were born 6 minutes apart and that's a whole degree!  And Lord knows our lives are very different.
 
Anyway, she wandered through the various houses depicted on her app, asking me questions ("Do you tend to be defensive?") and saying things like "Oh my, Scorpio in the 11th house," in a voice fraught with ominous meaning.  Apparently, it's lucky that my moon is not in Gemini.  I can't recall what it is, Aquarius maybe, another air sign, but it means I'm grounded, not a chaotic two-faced creature.
 
I haven't decided what I think about these things, but I know that I am influenced by natural phenomena and that, when I look carefully, in retrospect, I can see patterns.  Quantum physics would say you can't predict the future based on the past, but I do think there is a pattern there, even if we can't see it.
 
So, I'd been thinking about this reading and wondering if my current pattern of daily photo-journaling and walking on the mesa was sufficient preparation for a rather scary Saturn return. The gong journey seemed like a good place to think about that.  I like to focus my meditation on something.  Usually I do a walking meditation, like the labyrinth.  It gives my mind a focus, and it draws my body into the event and keeps me from feeling twitchy.  But paying attention to a sound is also good.
 
The evening started out pleasantly, with M and I sitting on the upper deck, eating risotto and drinking a citrusy pinot grigio.  We talked, as usual, of projects and life and the beauties around us.  The raucous crows, wheeling above the field, caught our attention.  Time passed, and we realized we did not have time to walk to the studio, which is on LeDoux near my home.  And, I wanted to get some cash, as yoga studios don't usually accept Visa.  So, we drove to my place and walked over.
 
It's a long room, with tall plants and shelving at the head, separating the yoga space from the entry area with its desk, supply shelves, hooks and cubbyholes.  The floors were polished bare wood, and the vigas were clearly modern, being smoothly-planed and regularly spaced.  Soft adobe-sided windows lined both sides of the room, with enough space between to permit legs up the wall and an outlet, but not much more.  One side of the room looked onto the courtyard, and the other into lightly-leafed trees, which lined an acequia and hid other buildings from sight.
 
We took off shoes and left them in the cubby holes by the doors.  We had arrived early enough create a second row of matts, closest to the gongs.  There were several gongs of varying sizes, lined up at the head of the room by the plants.  The largest was at least 6 ft in diameter:  taller than I at any rate. 
 
The practitioner was a tiny woman, in a floaty white dress, which accentuated her deep brown tan and long dark hair.  She seemed elfin, but her voice was both deep and resonant, though soothingly soft.  She greeted many people by name, walking between matts and mixing directions and information with more personal chat.  M and I followed the example of the regulars, setting up our matts lengthwise,  with the head at the gong.  We had neck pillows and leg pillows.  We could not keep water by us, because Visudha and her assistants would be walking between the rows and aisles.  The women in the first row were seated facing the gongs on large firm pillows at the end of the matt furthest from the gong, but the two young but balding men next to us were setting up their pillows at a slant, perched on blocks, with heads towards the gongs and feet stretching away.
 
It turned out that was the proper position:  the vibrations of the gongs were to travel through our bodies, from head to toe.
 
The room quickly filled up.  I lay quietly on my back, eyes closed, listening to people talking.  I had put my glasses and my labradorite ring under a smaller gong, to absorb vibrations too.  This meant that I couldn't see anyone, but there seemed to be a nice mix of age and sex, and not too many dreadlocks.  The lights were turned off, but one in the middle remained on, spotlighting one young man.  The studio employees flipped switches:  "No Greg is still spotlighted."  "Now the other lights are on."  "You'd think after all this time we'd know what the switches do."  But it was all calmly said, and meanwhile she talked of the gongs, their different properties, their names, all of which I've forgotten.  The assistants came through with lavendar eye pillows, and then Visudha came through with a tiny bell, ringing it over each supine form.  I could hear it getting louder as she approached, and then it was filling my ears, then passing by.  A pause, and the deep vibration of the largest gong filled the air.
 
And that's where memory fails me.  I lay, feeling the sound, hearing the sound, hearing it as an oceanlike roaring, patternless, yet full of pattern.  It grew loud, it fell back, it pulsed, it rang.  Other notes joined, fell away.  I thought of nothing.  The sound was physical, laying across my chest, holding me down.  My breathing was labored, but I wasn't scared.  With an effort, I moved my legs into a open yoga pose.  I changed the neck pillow.  My temples pulsed with pain....was it the wine?  dehydration?  I didn't think so.  The gongs' vibrations were in me and around me, trying to open...something....but something resisted being opened.  It had been going on forever, and then it stopped.
 
Some people spoke of flying, of visions.  M felt opened at a cellular level.  Visudha reminded us to be kind to ourselves, to not drive if we felt disoriented, to drink lots of water, to expect physical reactions.
 
She brought us dark chocolate, to help ground us.  I nibbled at it:  it was strong, earthy, quintessential.  I usually prefer milk chocolate, with caramel, but this was a different thing altogether:  it wasn't about an almost cloying sweetness.  It wasn't dessert, it wasn't indulgence.  It was vitality.  It was like drinking water after walking in the desert. 
 
We slowly put away our matts, cushions, blankets, and blocks.  We drank deeply.  I watched Visudha as she rubbed her neck and talked with another woman about muscular aches.  Her long hair had thin lines of gray in the black, her face was more lined, older than her dress and her voice had led me to believe.  I wondered:  how could someone with that power need a massage?  It's always disorienting to see a minister, of whatever faith or practise, exhibit his or her humanity.  But, as Liz Gilbert said, you are just a vehicle for your genius, which can be amazing, or lame.  You are not the genius itself.
 
M and I walked out into the cool night air.  The moon shone through clouds.  We looked at each other, and I said, "I can't drive you home."  She said, "I don't think you should."  We hugged and parted, and I walked home, my face lifted up to the moon.
 
And when I got home, I discovered I had a sore throat.
 

The gongs' vibrations
Leave me disoriented
But in a good way.

 

More guilt

"That woman is looking at us."  They were walking into the Taos Brew, on the main drag of Pueblo de la Norte, two dark-haired, dark-complected men of medium height and medium age. I had been noting the establishment, wondering at the odd mix of family-friendly and brew-pub advertising, pondering just who the clientele would be.  Burgers and brew did not sound at all appealing to me at that moment, but it seemed a cozy, pleasant enough place, adobe (natch) with a small portal in front and darkness behind the windows.  No neon.  The men walked in file with long strides across the sidewalk towards the door, looking straight ahead, one of them wearing a hat with a thin dark something dangling from the back.  I wondered if he had a braid or ponytail, but it appeared to be the hat's long cord.  They were talking about me, I realized, suddenly, and I turned my gaze back to the street and the soft blue sky with the soft white fluffy clouds.

I really wasn't looking at them, or not purposefully.  I was out for a walk, an attempt to clear my restless legs and mind.  This being Day 7 of Cold 2, I am finding it difficult to settle.  My head is foggy, so reading or practising or writing are out.  My throat is still sore, and my cough (as unproductive as the rest of me) breaks out in mini-seizures, unpredictably.  So I can't sing in the last concert, and social engagements are also out.  My pirated internet from the Town Hall across the Camino is too intermittent to permit me to watch Netflix re-runs and knit.  Tutoring is doubly unavailable as an activity:  neither my brain nor the wi-fi will focus sufficiently.

Because I have done nothing but work and sleep (and cough) for 7 days, my legs are twitchy earlier than usual.  I don't want to take the ropinerole too early, or they'll start twitching again when I'm trying to go to sleep.  And yet, the twitching is keeping me from napping or sitting and watching the fire and the birds.  They are restless too, swinging on the cottonwood boughs, darting to the feeder, WHUMPING to the ground en masse, fluttering upward again for no reasons.  I think I see the spotted towhee, but a closer look has me puzzled:  the distinctive red eyes are missing, and the hood does not connect with the back wings.  I decide it's a grosbeak, all the more because the males are being territorial about the single feeder. 

Watching a flock
Of aggressive grosbeaks through
Opera glasses.

I miss the magpies and the ravens:  my visitors seem to mainly be finches and grosbeaks, with a smattering of doves.  These don't seem to have any messages for me, not like the portentous raven or sly, cheeky magpie.

This cold, allergy attack, what-have-you has been going on for close to  two months now.  The first attack was March 15, and the cough lingered after the two weeks of repulsiveness had passed.  I had one week of reasonable health:  visited with M and C, sang in the community chorus' first two concerts, enjoyed life.  Then, whammo! on the evening of May 3 I attended the gong journey with M and walked out, disoriented with the vibrations and swallowing against an increasingly raw throat.  I still don't know if this current attack is a result of the vibrations or the incense, or if  the cold had just been in remission.

A library curse:
I either caught a new cold
Or renewed the last.

I remember the last time I was sick for so long.  I was working at the Woodstock Branch, and we were getting ready to close it for demolition and rebuilding.  My staff and I were being scattered to other branches, and I was going to open Capitol Hill Branch, which had recently been renovated.  In the midst of this turmoil, I caught a respiratory ailment that had me coughing so hard my rib muscles went into spasm.  I spent a month at home, too doped up to read or watch TV, and in too much pain to lie down.  I ended up sitting in the cushioned chair at the big oval library table in the living room, folding origami.  Mind you, I had never folded origami before.  Someone had been clearing out her supplies and had given me a beginners book.  I had reams of  smooth photocopied music from orchestra, and I also had thick fuzzy 6x4 sheets of deckle-edged paper, made from junk mail with a blender, a screen, lots of water, and lots of counter space.  I cut all this paper into 2-, 3-, and 4-inch squares and sat hour after hour, making tiny flowers and tatos and boxes.  I didn't get into the cranes until much later:  they were too free form for my beginning efforts.

I think about that now, because I just read a friend's blog about napping and guilt.  She and I both wonder what it is about us, or our culture, that will not let us just be.  It seems that even being must have a goal, a purpose.  If I'm sitting and staring into space, I must be meditating.  If I'm napping, I must be rejuvenating, replenishing the life force.  I can't just be sitting and staring or sleeping.  Likewise, if f I'm sick, I can't just sit and be sick.  In fact, if I'm sick, it must be something I did, there must be a purpose other than a virus' mission to live and propagate.   A friend used to tell me that I got sick because I was too busy and it was the only way my body could get me to rest.  M can relate:  she says she was sick for every vacation she ever had.

Still, if  there is a metaphysical purpose to my illnesses, I wonder why my illness is always respiratory.  Why is that the weak point?  What does it mean that I cannot breathe deeply without expelling the breath in a violent cough?  What does it mean that, usually, there is nothing obvious to expel?  That I am suffocating with my coughing fits, that nothing is clearing?  What am I drawing in that I do not want?  Why do I feel so claustrophobic?

I also wonder what I did to get sick this time.  I'm not overly busy, nor am I stressed.  Or am I?  I recently completed another move, recently started another job.  My aunt is upset with my self-centered behaviors, and I don't know what I want to do when I grow up.  But, these factors have been present for many years:  I was never attentive enough for D, and I didn't know what I wanted to do, and I have been switching jobs and/or moving since 2009.  I'm so used to those feelings, they don't really have the power to stress me.  Also, I've had 18 months to heal, and this was a very painless move into a very easy life.  Objectively speaking, my life just now is idyllic:  I am surrounded by the most gorgeous skies EVER, and this town, despite its dark side, offers me so many opportunities to learn and experience my beloved high desert home.

So, no, I'm not unduly stressed.  Why, then, am I sick?  Why restless?  Why questioning and second-guessing myself?  My friend is taking naps:  why can't I?   And yet...my friend is also questioning.  She and her husband are currently living my life:  their possessions are in storage and they are exploring and house-sitting.  They both brought along projects, and they are both ignoring said projects and she, at least, is feeling guilty about that, just as I felt guilty about not doing anything but crosswords and internet while I was on that 18-month sabbatical.

I still want to learn Spanish, piano, and gamba.  I want to hike ALL the trails around here.  I want to finish my NaNoWriMo novel.  I want to find the man-made caves near Embudo.  I want to draw.  I want to throw pots.  I want to make music.  I want to finish those darn knitting projects and start a new one.  I want my friends to do all these things with me.   I want, I want, I want.....to sit in my chair, reading, writing and watching the birds.  I want to travel.  I want to share.  I want to save the oceans. 

I want to be able to nap, guilt-free.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

He brought me a video to check out:  ...And now Miguel.  He said, "Have you seen that?"  And I said, no, but the author was a Newbery Award winner, wasn't he?  "You know children's literature?!"  Yes, I suppose I do.

He was an older man, with white curls clustered over his head, a tanned lined face, thin corrugated neck.  His gray eyes fixed me as he talked on.  Somehow we moved from children's literature to Thomas Hart Benton.  It wasn't that big a jump:  apparently he illustrated Mark Twain, and the two native Missourians were both inspired by their home state.  I thought of the Thomas Hart Benton room in the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City., and wondered if the first editions were located there or the public library or some other archive.

It appeared that the gentleman talking with me had known Benton's daughter, Jessie, who lived in a famous commune in the 60s.  He talked on about her and those times and I was reminded of Hilton's Lost Horizon, where people learned the truly important moments in their lives.  This man's important times were in his youth in the east, when he met a painter and the painter's daughter.

I don't think I've had an important time.

But I listened as he spoke of Jessie Benton Lyman and then circled back to Miguel, who is still alive and perhaps could sign the original edition of Krumgold's book that my Ancient Mariner possessed.  And I thought of all the people I've met and art that I've owned.  It's irreplaceable, but what can I do about it?  I'm going back in June to pack up pictures and letters and the immigrant trunk, but I can't take everything back with me, and I have no crystal ball to tell me which of the possessions might mean something to future generations.

They have brought me joy, and that is their purpose.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Two poems

Spring Declaration
They line the road, stark and graceful,
Black or silver against a hazy blue sky.
Outlined in green, their shadows curve along the adobe.
I did not see this yesterday.

When did this happen?

It seems this is the day the tree sap rose up, saying,
"Let the leaves burst open their tight buds and rejoice in the sun.
I will course through their veins, the heart of spring will beat
As I slowly climb the trunk."

Or perhaps this is the day I finally opened my eyes.

The change is swift:  one must be vigilant to catch
That soft subtle moment between winter and spring.

If I listen carefully, I too can hear the sap.


A Farewell
On Easter morning, I write to my friends:
"Meet me at the Kosmos, we'll listen to Pergolesi and rejoice."

Silence, both expected and deserved.  It is a last-minute thought,
Born of a conjunction of time and space.  Here am I, there is the music.
I write out of my lethargy: if they say "yes," I'll have to go.

They do not say yes, and I find my concert in the Bosque,
In the call and response of the birds' sweet and  liquid warbles.

But then I come home to the message, heart-stopping, unexpected, and undeserved.
She had died four days before, on April 1st.

Cruel fool, senseless prankster:  why did you come?

I am not angry, I cannot rail against the unfairness, the wrongness.
All I can see is those deep-set bright eagle's eyes, the hawk nose, the salt-and pepper crest.
Is this what the ravens have been telling me?

I have been too complacent. 
I thought I had all the time in the world
To grow a nascent friendship. 
I forgot that every moment is precious, never to be retrieved.

As I drive home, I see the electronic road signs:
"Watch for pedestrians...Pilgrims on the road,"
And again, "Watch for Walkers."

Shall I park my car, walk down that ramp, make my pilgrimage to the Sanctuario?
Whom would I petition, and how?

The sandstone cliffs gleam ochre and red in the late afternoon light.
I watch the raven soar,
And I can't help myself. I smile.







Sunday, April 5, 2015

In Just Spring

I was driving to work last week and suddenly realized that the trees lining the road were covered in a green haze of new buds.  The leaves had not yet opened, of course, so one could still see the outlines of trunks and branches, some graceful, some spiky and knobbly from relentless prunings or parasites.  Their graceful shadows striped the road and snaked up the adobe walls, curving with them. The fields and ditches and arroyos and fields were a blend of golden willow, beige stubble, silver-grey trunks and dark tangles of bushes, plus that bright new green.  It seemed to have happened overnight, and I cought my breath in sudden recogniztion:  it's spring!

I thought of the ee cummings poem, "in just spring, when all the world is puddle-wonderful..."  No, this is not the wet East, this is high desert:  there are no wonderful puddles.  There is some mud-lusciousness near the river, and, as I caught a glimpse of the lamb suckling its mother, I could almost hear that little lame balloon man's whistle.  But not quite.  I can delight in the sudden signs of spring, the yellow dandelions and daffodils, the tender newness of everything; but I'm driving to work, exhausted from my three-weeks-and-counting bout of respiratory virus.  The roads are dusty, and the gale-force winds stir up the dust and juniper pollen, covering my car in a thin layer of brown and making me sneeze.

I think back to my old spring rituals:  walking to the pioneer cemetary in Monmouth, looking for the hillside of violets; driving to Tryon Creek State Park in Portland to see the trillium; trimming the pussy willows in my yard and arranging the shoots in large ceramic vases.  Now the ritual is going to the Botannic Gardens in Albuquerque, or visiting the bosque and watching the cottonwoods burst into green, almost as I watch. I still color the Easter eggs, last year with G, this year with V.  And I sing the hymns as I drive "Praise to the Lord, the almighty the king of creation."  I may not believe in the deity (the jury's still out on that), but I believe in the joy, and am grateful for the ever-new, ever-timeless growth and change.

I think I hear that goatfooted balloon man.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Virtuality

I know this is nothing new, but I've been thinking about connections and the Internet and my choices. Being sick has something to do with it: I have nothing to do but force liquids and process thoughts.  The thoughts are routine, as are the conclusions.  I am learning nothing, creating nothing worth communicating.  But, the urge to communicate, to write, and to share doesn't care about quality.  That urge is about connection, and it will not be denied.
 
We are so disconnected, with our virtual lives.  We can't sing together over Facebook, we can't hug.  Emoticons don't sound like love or hurt or joy or righteous indignation.  Clicking on an email envelope icon does not have that lovely crackly sound or give that feeling of anticipation. The email travels instantaneously over the airwaves, not through the air, through hands, through human agency. There is no planning, no effort in its transmission.  It is usually about news, and it is usually created casually, impersonally.  It is not savored over a cup of tea or saved in a bureau drawer. 
 
Of course, no form of letter takes the place of personal connection.  But something tactile is so much better than something electronic. I've re-learned since SC was incarcerated what a treat it is to open my mailbox and find a letter instead of bills.  It's like a birthday present, like chocolate, like hearing a favorite song, like Carbon greeting me at the door.  Like love.  I do miss going out to the mailbox with the expectation that something wonderful is waiting for me.  And I have started writing letters in order to give that pleasure to others. SC cannot get email, and E doesn't remember to, but I'm sending letters to others as well.
 
Don't get me wrong:  I'm immensely grateful for the immediacy of the virtual connection.  I don't feel so alone when I see a name on a post or a note in my inbox. This past week, when I have been so ill, the Internet has been my lifeline.  I check for messages.  I post photos and haiku complaints and receive pity and good wishes in return. I text V, asking for a grocery run, and she brings me home-made chicken soup as well.  So, the virtual connection keeps me from total isolation and, in a lot of ways, the sound bite nature of it works better for my energy levels. My responses can be written quickly and I don't have to worry about my penmanship.
 
In fact, I wonder if I really do miss the physical connection?  As I mentioned in a previous post, living with E taught me that I am indeed an introvert.  I have fought all my life against the deep exhaustion I feel when the inertia of staying in pulls against the desire to be social.  It's like trying to pick up a cat that doesn't want to be picked up.  It's heavy with resistance, limbs and head hanging lifelessly, almost impossible to move.  So, I have scheduled myself and made commitments to force the issue.  The consequence seems to be that  I  regularly get sick and collapse.  I didn't get this extended sickness the whole time I was with E.  It might be because I wasn't working with the public then, but I think it's because I need stay home with my books and my music and my time wasters.  A 40-hour traditional public-contact work week is anathema.  How much of my physical response is caused by depression, I do not know.  I don't feel depressed:   I am aware of serenity and sometimes joy.  The discontent seems to come more from the "shoulds" than my actual feelings.  I "should" be active and productive and social and creative.  I "should" get out and exercise.  I know that I'll be glad I did.  But I felt those "shoulds" up on the mountain, too.  Was it because my activities had to be severely limited and rationed that they did not overwhelm me?  Was it because my normal day was spent cooking and eating and doing crosswords?  E at 99 was more active than I at 55.
 
There is the contradiction. I like being alone.  But I miss my friends.  I like zoning out with my knitting and my pictures and my books and (god help me) my Netflix reruns.  But I miss the activities and connections.  In fact, I recently received a text from S, who is visiting Portland with his Seattle girlfriend, and I peppered him with names of restaurants and theatre groups.  It was so hard to decide which to fit into one short weekend.  I was so excited for them! I was virtually with them, and it felt great, but....lonely.
 
I don't know why I don't just move back to Portland and my tribe, but somehow all my choices keep me here with the dry air and the circle of juniper-clad hills, with the huge bowl of sky upended over the sage-filled fields.  Early in this week of illness, I walked out to get the mail, and a raven soared silently overhead, huge blue-black wings outspread, each feather distinct. (Did it follow me from the campus? What is it trying to tell me?)
 
There was nothing in the box.