Drown My Sorrow

I could die in this closet tonight and no one would know until tomorrow around noon. Look right through me.

I won’t do it. It’s too mundane and makes too much sense right now. And I know that what makes sense now is crazy. So I won’t follow the crazy. But I am staying in my closet for now.

I’m in the hangers. I have too much. Stuff. Shame. Fear. Anger. Grief. Resentment. Fraudulence. I am never who I pretend to be.

But I do not know who I am, so the pretending is easy. Pens and poems and sadness do not a human make.

Right? Or am I wrong?

I Am Mother

What was your mother like? she asked, with pad and expensive pen in hand.

Like any mother, maybe. Locked in the bathroom, in the tub crying. Taking litte blue pills when she thought I wasn’t looking.

Dad would come home and always pick the bathroom lock. Try to soothe her in his rough around the edges ways, sit on the floor at the edge of the tub until he could get her to crawl out, off balance and dripping wet and cold from the hours-old water.

Mostly what he did helped, but her cry eyes would swell for days, and she always tried to line them with wax pencil, thinking it hid her secrets behind what she called a smoky eye. She seemed to think a melancholy look was beautiful.

I thought sometimes she faked the crying in the bathroom thing for attention. But Dad said no, that if she didn’t hide in the bath, she’d have walked out into our Wyoming desert with the coyotes, lain down in the sagebrush, and we’d have never found her again.

I wondered why she didn’t just leave us if she was so unhappy. Go to California or something, someplace with sun and not so much snow and coal. But I knew in my heart she was too faithful and loving and afraid to know what real leaving was.

Dying, she could do, if she’d have loved us just a little less. But she loved us more than the sun, more than the God she wrestled with, more than the stones and bones and Bibles she kept in her special drawer, and mostly she loved us more than herself.

And that was maybe what saved us all.

A Long-Time Favorite

Sunday Morning

Wallace Stevens, 18791955

I

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair, 
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice. 
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe, 
As a calm darkens among water-lights. 
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine, 
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.

II

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in comforts of the sun, 
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth, 
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself: 
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights; 
All pleasures and all pains, remembering 
The bough of summer and the winter branch. 
These are the measures destined for her soul. 

III

Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth. 
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds, 
Until our blood, commingling, virginal, 
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star. 
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be 
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now, 
A part of labor and a part of pain, 
And next in glory to enduring love, 
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.

IV

She says, “I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?”
There is not any haunt of prophecy, 
Nor any old chimera of the grave, 
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home, 
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote on heaven’s hill, that has endured
As April’s green endures; or will endure
Like her remembrance of awakened birds, 
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow’s wings.

V

She says, “But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss.”
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her, 
Alone, shall come fulfilment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths, 
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness, 
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.

VI

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky, 
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth, 
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there, 
The silken weavings of our afternoons, 
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical, 
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

VII

Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be, 
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise, 
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice, 
The windy lake wherein their lord delights, 
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills, 
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.

VIII

She hears, upon that water without sound, 
A voice that cries, “The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering. 
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay.”
We live in an old chaos of the sun, 
Or old dependency of day and night, 
Or island solitude, unsponsored, free, 
Of that wide water, inescapable. 
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail 
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky, 
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Ambiguous undulations as they sink, 
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

From Harmonium (Knopf, 1923). This poem is in the public domain.

Of Here

It’s difficult to hear someone you admire say something that is, or seems, contradictory to all of the things they’ve said before. An author and spiritual mentor wrote this week that, because we feel pain in this world, perhaps it means that our spirits are not of this place, but of elsewhere.

This, from a teacher of Earth Medicine, whose writings and teachings are of the medicine of plants and animals, the magic of the soil, the air, of nature.

It’s not so much that I completely disagree with the sentiment, that perhaps our essence is not originally of here. But, the idea flies in the face of all that I’ve admired and learned from this teacher.

It feels like she’s changed her tune. Which we’re all free to do, at any time or place, but perhaps an introduction to a new idea, a preamble to a complete change of heart, a warning that everything has changed, would have been a gentler way for the student to learn.

The concept that my spirit, my soul, my essence, whatever I choose to name it this week, is not of here was a very difficult and damaging, and long-held, belief for most of my life. I clung to my Christian faith, in its many forms, ferociously, desperately, and forced it to bleed me dry and empty in its not-of-here-ness. It was a cop-out on my part. If I was not of here, I could simply rely on the “fact” that, some day, there would be an escape. And sometimes, I wanted to make that escape come sooner than it should.

I’ve had several suicidal times in my life, and still think of death in rare moments. However, it has been Earth Medicine, my faith in nature, that has brought me the farthest from the precipice, and has kept me away from swinging out over the edge. I consider the doe. What does she do? She survives. Her absolute purpose is to survive. Why? It doesn’t matter. It’s just what she does.

She is of the earth. She is earth. She survives.

And that is the belief, the knowledge, that has changed me. When I feel desperation slipping into the cracks of my fragile peace, I look to such things as the doe, the rabbit, King Prawn. I look to the sun and the moon, to the stars, the darkness, the breeze on my face. I pick up a pretty, round stone, pluck a sprig of wild sage, a cornflower, hold a twig of just the right size.

And these pieces of the mundane, these bits of silence and birdsong, these things that circle around, season through season, remind me that it is the simple things, the basic and earthly things, that are my sustenance and my refuge. A pink wildflower reminds me of my beautiful daughter. A leaf, grown so large it seems unreal, reminds me of my wildly ambitious son. A buck in velvet tells me tales of my loving husband, my best and most faithful friend.

The moon is my mother, the sun my father, and the world in green and sea blue is my realm, a place of every possibility, every emotion, every wish and desire and dream. I sit on my patio chair, watch the hummingbirds drink scarlet juice, see the ants busily and endlessly about their work, watch the clouds float by through a curtain of aspen leaves. And I am home. This earth is my home. It’s where I come from, and to whence I’ll go.

Yes, I am fully of here. It appears I am my own teacher now. And that is a story of evolution.

 

A Beckoning

Sometimes we’re not sure of the direction in which we’re headed. And so we study, and we grow, and we learn, and we search wholeheartedly for that one thing that moves us into knowing, into truly living in the essence of who we are. This is a journey of years, of lifetimes. And it is one that all of us share, one that we who name ourselves seekers willingly acknowledge.
We dive in. Even when we are afraid.
Starting With Rabbit has become my little window looking out onto the world, my treetop perch, where I can quietly state my piece, pass my gifts (such as they be), share my passions, and create from the inside out the person that the Great Mystery beckons and calls me to be.
I am made of the sweet smell of sage at the start of a burst of rain, of bird feathers and fallen branches, of the infinite shades of green in early Spring. I possess the brightness of a high noon sun over a sheet of diamond-encrusted, deep-winter snow, and the velvety darkness of the February New Moon.
I am a coyote calling, looking back as I run, going wherever it is that wildness lives. I honor the Earth, and consider this ground my sanctuary.
Run with me.

 

King Prawn, Revisited

Two months ago, I applied for, and was hired, to work as an assistant children’s librarian at my local library. Dream Job. Or so I thought. Today was my last day in the job, as I’ve decided to go back to…being a bank teller.

I floor myself.

I am still a bookworm. Not a banker. Except that I am great at banking, enjoy talking to people all the live-long day, love being in a climate-controlled building made with walls of glass, and love having coworkers who uplift one another, who treat customers with dignity and kindness, who are incredibly motivated, and who see me as (and I know this because they’ve told me) a ray of sunshine.

I am a ray of sunshine. And I’m so very grateful to be told so!

Three or so posts ago, I wrote a poem called King Prawn. It was inspired by a bout of depression, and usually when I’m inside the cloud, all the world seems metaphorical and misty and strange. King Prawn was born of a dream, a meditation, and my love of the sun. Working at the library, I was in the basement, no windows, and usually no coworkers to spend time with. And being that my town is tiny, there were generally no patrons, either.

I’ve learned in the last several months that I am a daughter of the sun, a person in need of people, and that my self-worth is not defined by my j.o.b. What does define my self worth is my interaction with people. I’ve learned that I am not an introvert, a label which I used to brandish proudly. I am, in actuality, an extrovert with depression. And the less busy I am, the less I am around people, the more depressed I become. What an epiphany!

Sometimes late at night, when my mind starts to wander and stew, I feel a literal tightening in my chest, and my thoughts become frantic, jumbled and obsessive. I’ve always been this way, especially when I’m alone. I have taken up the practice of yoga, and somehow, it seems to squeeze the knots out of my heart, mind and body, and allows me to see clearly when the monkey-mind tries to take charge.

Yoga has become my church, and happiness my religion. 

I eat only whole foods now, treat my mind with gentleness, am traveling through the days with Lakshmi, and when things start to churn, I turn to my yoga practice. It is the most effective anti-depressant I have ever used.

I start back at the bank on Monday. I am thrilled. It’s true that I am still a bookworm, rather than a banker. But, I am a people-person, and if the job that allows me to interact with dozens of people a day happens to be at a bank, then that is where I belong.

When closing the children’s library today, I had a moment of tearfulness, thinking how sad I was for myself  that this thing I thought was a dream come true actually wasn’t. The job was fine. I was not miserable. I love working with children, love being around books, love libraries. But loneliness does not serve me well. Humanity is medicine to me. I believe that my past habits of avoiding people, of avoiding social interaction, of being afraid to visit with others, contributed heavily to my falls into depression. I was afraid. Afraid to disappoint others, afraid to be seen as a fool, a fraud, a phony. Afraid to be called crazy, afraid to be seen as the weird one in the room. Afraid that I carried around all of the labels given to me by certain people. Afraid that what they had said was the truth. And acting as if it were the truth.

It was not the truth. It was lie upon lie upon lie. I am a good person. A loving person. A creative and motivated person. And, remember, a ray of sunshine. I’m feasting upon that.

We can believe good things about ourselves, without the burden of guilt. King Prawn has truly knitted me back together, shown me my connection to the sun, as well as the moon. We are each light and darkness, beauty and barrenness. All of the elements of ourselves fit together in a unique way, in an Indira’s Net that connects all of our bits and pieces together, and what weaves us one to another, as well. We are not simply aimless things floating through space and time. We are connected.

We are all rays of sunshine, lighting up the universe.

Namaste, Bright One.