Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Don't be a jerk

We had our first fight the other day.  Actually, G is so laid back and understated it's possible we have had other fights and I just didn't notice.  And, it's possible he didn't think this one was a fight either.  Maybe a disagreement, maybe a source of frustration, but not really a fight.  I don't know, because I have a skewed view of fights.  I don't easily get angry, and when someone is angry or irritated with me, I get hurt or confused.  Sometimes I get indignant because the angry person is not seeing things accurately, in my opinion, and it feels willful.  But usually the response is an internal curling up into a ball.  The fetal position has long been my default.

Fights with D taught me that I had it in me to scream so loud my heart hurt.  I found myself saying "Fuck you!" and meaning it.  It didn't feel like me, though.  I had changed my default from fetal position to flailing.  I stopped apologizing or taking my share of blame for the fight, because he rarely reciprocated.  My compassion was seen as capitulation and weakness.  Finally, I just ran out of energy.  I had no more investment in defending myself, I neither flailed nor curled.  Our final fight, the night I left, barely qualified as a fight.  I just looked at him and left.  There was no more fight in me.  As T often said, "when you're 'thu,' you're 'thu.'"

Since then, I have been in some fights, but they remain strangely passionless.  Yes, I've been hurt, yes, I've been irritated.  But mainly, I've just ignored my opponent ("It's his/her problem,") or walked away ("I don't deserve this.")  I still don't have the energy for fighting, it seems, and I don't know if that is good or bad.  Neither, I suspect.  It's where I am, part of the healing, part of the lesson learned.  I never again want to care so strongly or hurt so deeply that I invest in fighting.

For the less personal fights (war, gun control, environment, abortion), I have the good fortune to live in a place and in a way where my safety, livelihood and selfhood are not overtly challenged.  I know that there are real problems, real attacks, and that they do impact me as a human on this earth, but I can live in my bubble and leave the fight to others.  Is this a symptom of the lack of energy, or is it another example of my stunning first-world self-absorption?  As I recall, I've always been that way.  The fights with D were an aberration, as were many aspects of that relationship. Normally, I just want to enjoy what I have.  I don't want to fight for it:  if a fight is necessary, I walk away.

So....our first fight.  As with many fights, it was about nothing.  It was about a game.  It was about an unequal investment in the game.  It was about a lack of caring, a lack of focus.  It was about a misunderstanding.  It was....a fight.  I first realized it was a fight when G handed me the game rules and said "You need to read these, you don't know the rules," and I said, "I DO know the rules," and G said....I don't remember.

I curled up on the couch with the rules and started reading. It was a role-playing game, and the rules would have made no sense to me if I hadn't already been playing the game for several weeks.  Most of the rules had to do with setting up the game (G's job).  But I dutifully continued, occasionally saying: "this doesn't make sense," or "we haven't been doing this," or other mutterings to indicate that I WAS NOT THE PROBLEM.  G passed in and out of the room, sometimes responding, sometimes not.  And then I hit the jackpot.  I laughed and read it out loud:  "Be courteous and encourage a mutual interest in playing and don't engage in endless rules discussions.  Enjoy the game, be considerate of the others at the table, and don't let your actions keep them from having a good time.  In short, DON'T BE A JERK."  Later I kissed him and apologized for calling him a jerk and he said, "That's okay, I know you really care about me." 

I do, but not enough to fight about it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Her hair was grey with red streaks, pulled back into a short messy ponytail, the shorter front hair framing her face and flopping forward occasionally.  She was bending over boxes, piling things on the too-narrow conference room table, digging into satchels, and generally presenting a frazzled, disorganized front.  But her smile was puckish, and I liked her scattered style.  I was there for free because I volunteer for NMLA, so I stepped in to help pass out materials, photocopy handouts, and generally make myself useful.  This meant I missed some of the introductory material, but it was mainly stuff I already knew:  her name and credentials, the way a book is put together, the terminology.  I have been working in libraries since 1981, and along the way you pick up some things.  Text block, check; gutter, check; leaf, check.  However, there were a lot of terms that I found very bizarre.  I would never think to call paste and tape adhesives, for example, and she had a tendency to refer to the complete book as an artifact (as in: "this artifact is poorly constructed.")  Terms like "fail" and "loss," fluttered from her like so many moths (which could be the source of the said "fail.")

To me a loss is not a hole in a page (er, "leaf"). 

But, there is a certain pleasure in the technical vocabulary.  I want to talk like that.  It's almost poetic:  find your adhesives, your cutting tools, your internally plasticized protective pouches.  Conserve those artifacts.  Hinge in those pages or tip them in, using the brush that has just the right amount of adhesive.  You swirl the brush in the glue, (er, adhesive), and you lightly strike against the edge of the page, (er, leaf), leaving beads of adhesive all down the edge.  Bop, bop, bop, I write in my notes, watching her demo this process.  It's a miniscule amount of glue, but after break she picks up the book and dangles it by the tipped-in page.  I am gobsmacked.

Each job is both unique and the same.  You look at your book and you decide:  is it worth the time and precision of the task to repair it?  CAN it be repaired?  What should I do first?  We learn that ten is the magic number for tipping in:  any more and you risk a total fail.  A TOTAL FAIL!  Complete and utter failure! You step the pages, 3 or 4 at a time, a millimeter of edge showing for each leaf, and you cover that edge in a thin layer of adhesive.  After that, you line the leaves up and pinch them together, sheathing them in wax paper and weighting them down.  In twenty minutes, you pick up the set of leaves and prepare to tip them in:  bop, bop, bop with the adhesive-filled brush, leaving a thin line of glue beads.

Before you tip in a leaf, you need to prepare its edge.  It should be a little "toothy" (aka, feathered), so you don't use the scalpel or scissors for your cutting tool.  You figure out how much paper you need to remove, because the tipped in page will stick out if you don't trim at the gutter but you don't want to trim too much.  You set a straight edge at the edge of the table.  You line the leaf along the straight edge, with the millimeter of excess hanging over the straight edge.  You pick up your abrasive (aka, sand paper file) and, in a brisk sweeping motion down and across the straight edge, you file off the edge of the leaf.  It's magic.

As I played with my new dangerous poetic tools, I thought about what I was doing.  I was mending, I was evaluating, I was repairing.  I was not curing anything though.  The goal was to be good enough, to give a little more life to the damaged artifact, let it circulate a little more.  In the end, there would be more failures, which I would be unable to repair.  And the book would be weeded, its life at an end.

So, it's a stop-gap, as so many activities are.  You decide it's worth doing, and you do it to the best of your ability, with the best of your focus.  Our conservator/teacher says she repairs the library books that she checks out, and she wonders if anyone notices.  But, that's not really the point.  She sees suffering, and she heals where she can.  It's a choice, and in the end, the choosing and the doing are what are important.

After 30 years
Of working with abused books,
I've learned how to heal.

Monday, October 19, 2015

"I pronounce you healed"

A few weeks ago, I was attending the 4th Annual Spider Reunion.  I missed the first one, the 30th Homecoming Reunion for Class of 1981, but several of us had agreed to meet annually after that.  The 2nd one was at my home in Albuquerque, the 3rd at G's family riverside home in Kentucky. This year was based in C's South Forks, Colorado, family cabin. 

It was another excellent visit, from both a vacation and a reunion point of view.  The aspen were at their peak, and the rocks at La Garita's Penitente Canyon and Creede's Bachelor Loop were awesome.  B drove her 4 wheel drive truck rental, so we were fairly intrepid until we reached the sign halfway to Wheeler Geologic region:  "Boggy road: 4 wheel drive not recommended."  That would be another way of saying, "Don't even bother."  At any rate, that was our interpretation.  Our other option was an 8-mile hike, which the literature claimed to be quicker than the road, anyway.  Not being in shape for a 16-mile slog at altitude, we turned back.

Anyway, this is not going to be a travelogue.  The road to Slumgullion Pass, with the bark beetle devastation and golden hillsides, Summitville ghost town with the tumbling grey houses and SuperFund sludge ponds, and the sandy beaches of Great Sand Dunes National Park: all are sufficiently documented elsewhere.  So is the Bloody Moon eclipse that C and I watched, along with the brilliant Milky Way, as we talked quietly of past, present, and future.  (B and her husband were still making their way down from Denver:  that night they were in Ouray, where the clouds obscured the event for them.)

For me, the main point of the trip was the farewell hug with B, who looked at me and said, "I pronounce you healed." 

It's good to hear, good to know that my friends have stopped worrying about me. But I still wonder.  Last week I was walking back from Cid's Supermarket with G.  We had been buying the fixings for salsa:  a man at the farmer's market had given me a small bag, full of overripe tomatoes, but I still needed cilantro and jalapenos. As we walked and talked, enjoying the crisp autumn weather, I found myself slipping on the gravel in a driveway that slanted across the sidewalk, landing on my left knee, hip, and elbow. 

It's at least 3 months
Since I last publicly fell down.
'Twas a graceful slide.

I tend to fall in G's company, but not exclusively.  I fell down the spiral stairs at G's during the last Spider reunion, when he was nowhere to be seen.  And the month before that I had fallen on the ferry deck, riding from Seattle to Bainbridge Island and thence to Sequim, WA.  Most recently, I had tripped on the sidewalk during the late June trip to Portland.

There is nothing physically causing these accidents, if accidents they be. I'm not dizzy;  there is no inner ear problem, no diabetes, no stroke, no broken hip.  I'm just not paying attention, distracted by anything and everything.  In each case, I've been talking to someone, excited and happy to be where I am, doing what I'm doing.  So, while I've been living in one moment, I've been ignoring other moments:  my body has been going on automatic pilot while my brain and attention have been focused on people, scenery, weather.  And apparently my body's pilot needs some watching.

But it's not just klutziness that ails me.  I find myself regularly closing down. Last month, I got queasy twice:  cold sweats, dizziness, and nausea.  Today I have flu-like symptoms.  I seem to need an inordinate amount of sleep.  I wake up grumpy.  What is going on? 

As I sit in my house robe, I ponder. Am I really healed?  Is anyone ever truly healed from the blows that life deals, from the viruses and attacks and bacteria and sorrows?  Does emotional healing lead to physical healing, or vice versa?  If I have healed emotionally, why am I still a grumpy, sleepy, queasy klutz?

Perhaps that's my basic personality, and I just have to get over myself.  Or perhaps I just need to stop berating myself for having a whiny mind in an imperfect body, because that's not all that I am. A few weeks ago I was struck dumb by the beauty of aspen on a Colorado mountain side.  I was joyful to be sharing that beauty with old friends.  And that's the flip side of my coin: a joyful mind in a sensory body.

I look out my window and watch the cottonwood, with its ancient, creased grey trunk and falling golden leaves.  I don't even have to drive up to Colorado to see beauty.  It's right in my backyard, and I don't need the ruby slippers to take me there.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


I had a great time
Learning I am not good at
Making mosaics.
Mounting hardware
Last weekend I met S's Seattle girlfriend. She was visiting him and teaching a workshop in the barn: she's a mosaic artist and teacher, vibrant and talented. She has been pursuing her passion for 10 years, after 20+ years of working as an administrator at UW. I am impressed by her, but I don't think we like each other. There is some sort of constraint, and I find myself wondering why S prefers her. Perhaps because she doesn't seem to need him? He still thinks I'm lonely and seeking, and he does not like being a port in the storm. But, he does like being surrounded by talented, extroverted and attractive women, and we do have that in common.

Because I could not afford the workshop fee, S asked her if I could audit the class. She very kindly agreed, and eventually I was tapped to be the minion-assistant. That suits me: I like being in on the ground floor of any activity, knowing what goes into it, acting, not just receiving. It was not much work, and made me feel like less of a mooch, which I suspect was the purpose.

I arrived the night before, driving in through an incredible lightning storm and gully washer around Cerrillos. Ditches and arroyos that had never been damp in my experience were filled with muddy roiling waters, and the sky was filled with jagged vertical bolts and cloud-defining flashes of light. I stopped by WEC to pick up some mail and watched the show with C before going into it. We talked of M's condition and E's new home, but I could not focus on anything but the skies. That alone was worth the trip south. I reached S's home safely and curled up on the porch, listening to the muttering of thunder in the distance and the crackling of crickets in the garden. I thought about the past few years, and wondered how I had arrived at this place: a welcome guest everywhere, but at home nowhere. I'm not lonely, per se, but I am restless and unproductive. I like exploring activities and places, and I like learning, but I don't connect with any of it.

The mosaic workshop is a case in point. This was a class in using thinset as substrate, set, and design element. We learned how to mix and color the thinset, and we learned how to set various kinds of tesserae: small polished basalt pebbles, acid-washed glass gems, broken pieces of travertine, crushed pyrite. We weren't making art, but creating a techniques board. However, most of the students are experienced in mosaic, so they did create art.

I did not. I discovered that I am too slapdash for that sort of art. It's fun to play with beautiful found and prepared objects, but I don't think I'll ever be able to put them together in a coherent fashion. And, I prefer art with a more instant gratification: taking a photo, playing with it in photoshop, printing it up. Mosaic requires a vision, and if you make a mistake, you chip the whole thing out and start again. The thinset has a memory, so you can't just pull out a tessera and place something else once the tessera and thinset have bonded.

It's a very easy life metaphor, of course. You build your mosaic, piece by piece. Some pieces don't fit the pattern, and you can't just replace them, you have to replace the whole darn adhesive as well as the tessera. You break things to create your tesserae. You cure your adhesive, and your adhesive has a pot life, so you throw it away when it can no longer bond properly. The whole process is detailed and precise, and mistakes cannot be covered over. They have to be recognized in the effect they have on the pattern, and they have to be dealt with. Sometimes the whole pattern is a mess, ill-conceived and ugly. Sometimes it's just not what you wanted. K once chipped out an entire section because it was perceived as representational, and she is trying to solve some other visual problem.

And this is why mosaic art is not for me, and it's probably why I'm in this restless place. I've broken so many things, and I've picked up those pieces and set them in place, but the adhesive is not bonding because I didn't do the prep work, or the design is flawed because I didn't think about it, and I just want to walk away from the mess. I don't want to chip away and start over: that is too painful a process, and it will further destroy the pieces I've tried to rescue. Besides, I don't know what pattern I want. I recognize the beauty in the individual pieces, and I like watching the way they interact, but when I try to put them together, I am not happy with the result.

So, I'm restless.

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

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 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 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.