Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rain-soft Grass

If you are a person who reads, do you remember the first time you had the joy of being lost in a book? Were you 6, or 9, or maybe you were 15 and it was some book you thought you should hate, but instead loved? I don't remember a time when books did not carry me off wholly. I can't recall ever preferring picture books to words, to the magic of unlocking the secret code of letters in print on a page that smelled of the cool linoleumed Berkley Public Library, or the smell of mittens drying on the winter radiator, the smell I'll always associate with Pattengill Elementary's books. I remember my mother, cheeks pink with annoyance, pulling more than one book from my hands and saying, "did you not hear me calling you?" Clearly, my expression must have said....No. I was with the Bobbesy twins in their boxcar, or with Scarlett at Tara, or on any one of a number of Eastern Seaboard islands with names like Chincoteague, running wild with a horse named Misty and wind in my hair. Books are experience, for me. I'm looking forward to losing myself in one or two on my vacation.

I'm the oddity, I always thought. My childhood memories divided equally between the utter solitude of a book and the crazily noisy, social world of "them" - my immediate and extended family, the ones who had weekend-long parties and played music all night long and ate huge breakfasts in long, pork-filled shifts to fit everyone in. I loved the parties, learned to do Lily Tomlin impressions to make my mother laugh, and to be the center of attention. I felt most at home, though, behind a mask in those big social settings. Give me a stage, a microphone, a set of lyrics, or some comic persona to be behind, and I'm very at home in the center of it all. Or put me in a room with my wisecracking relatives, and watch us one-up the energy and humor until it's dizzying and our sides hurt from laughing. But know that sometime soon after I'll want my book, or my iPod and my bike - solitude and no verbal output.

What I've always sought and valued in my friends, in those I love, is the straight, clear gaze of someone who sees me behind my personas, who doesn't find my need for solitude or quiet to be in any way at odds with my laughing, top-spinning, high-energy self. They both are me, the true and happy me. It is good to feel at ease in that realization, and not to feel as though I need to prod myself to move more quickly or put on a happy face that I don't feel. It is lovely to feel true joy, and share it. And today I was thinking that I love the people who don't sit out the quiet me, waiting for the fun one to arrive. I love the people who don't make me feel a moment of discomfort on days when I just want to be in the presence of those I love for a bit. I have a lot of you in my life, and I'm so lucky in that.

So, tonight I came home from work and dressed in my yoga clothes. I put on my iPod, and went into the backyard. It rained today, and the earth was softened by the moisture, giving a bit underfoot. I stretched, then practiced bellydance moves in the quiet dark of the yard, my feet cushioned on the grass, my hips finding the patterns that feel right, and moving, as my instructor says, with subtley and intention. Tek - a was the beat in my head, slow and unhurried at first. Then speeding to teka teka and then to the hip shimmy, tiny moves, snapping hips and tekatekatekateka. No mirrors tonight, just movement and intention, grapevines and shimmys, lebanese hip circles and the difficult belly rolls, then those lovely easy hip circles, the slow, slow spin, one shoulder dropped and the shimmy effortless and impossible at once.

Bellydance is supposed to be performance, I'm told. I don't know. It's yoga with better music, or maybe it's just that I'm not ready to share, not ready yet to hide myself behind the public persona I'd need to dance in performance. But I don't care about that tonight, nor about worries, or decisions, or fence sitting or any of the things that my thinking self weighs every day. Nope. Tonight, I danced in the dark under a big sky, flirted with the moon through my Russian Olive's branches, moved through air sweet and heavy with the scent of summer dogwood blooming and Hyperion daylillies, and felt soft earth under my feet - which once again can dance.

~ patti

Friday, July 11, 2008

Underwater Hush

In the lives of many people, the announcement that follows would be rather dull. But in my life, it is a major smile-producer. I would like to announce that I wore real shoes, with heels, yesterday to work. I wore them all day. Today I'm back to the privos. It might have been a bad move to wear the heels all day. Still smiling, though. For those of you who have suffered along with me (sorry for my whining) and wonder which pair ultimately got the nod, I went with my favorite black kid RSVP Insolia's. Curtsy.

I found myself out walking around my neighborhood a few nights ago, tense and needing to be out of my house for a while. A block from my house is a big irrigation canal. A big one, paved, with bridges, etc. I was standing on the footbridge looking at the fast moving water, and remembering how the complex irrigation systems fascinated me, wowed me, when I first moved West. The canal cuts through the center of the golf course, and I wandered around the "do not trespass" signs onto the course and found a spot to sit on the bank and dangle my feet in the water. It was shockingly cold, and felt fantastic in the evening's still-hot air. I was a kid for about six minutes, and I imagined sliding into the water and letting it take me somewhere, the next county, another country, the ocean....illogical, dreamy thoughts. I thought about the map I had seen once that showed it traveling miles over the countryside. And then I remembered once scooping a dog out of this very canal, a small mutt who had fallen in somewhere, scared and freezing when I grabbed him. And then...I had an idea for a story. Which has not happened in months. And I took a very deep breath, and smiled, and relaxed while I waited for the sun to set over "my" golfcourse.

I write a lot of stories with water imagery. In our fiction workshops when I was working on my MFA, we had a running joke about whatever story we were workshopping needing a shower scene. Yes, I write some of THOSE water images, but I also write lakes, bathtubs, pools, canals, rain - I love the way water moves things, carries things, lifts us, washes and covers and reveals. Lately, though, I've been a bit fixated on sounds. I think about sound often, I think in sound often. I have a friend who wears hearing appliances, and sometimes when I think of her it reminds me of how my world would be changed without sound.

But I also think of how sound tells us so much about a place. The feeling of a silent, sterile room as opposed to one which may be hushed, but with undercurrents of music, or the bubbling of an aquarium or a fountain. The pounding or sprinkling of rain on a roof, leaves, pavement. The way a home sounds - filled with music and laughter and shouting, or quieter. The sounds of illness - breathing machines, or coughing, or the cutting sounds of painful movement.

I circle always to the sound and the image of underwater hush, the escape of it. The softness of the water on skin, the magic weightlessness of being submerged, and the lovely hush. In real life this moment is only ever a moment, of course, no more than the length of a deeply indrawn breath. But in my imagination and sometimes the world of my stories that moment extends, breath comes easy even under water, and the world retreats.

Find your place of ease, and be in it.

~ patti

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Day of Independence

Well now...once again weeks have passed. I'm baaaack. :)

I'm recharging this weekend, after several weeks of running about like a headless chicken. I saw my counselor (yes, I have one, and yes, I DO in fact listen to much of what he says, though I may not always agree) on Thursday, and we talked about recharging, living actively. He is tough and generous with me at the same time. Nice combo in a friend, a lover or a counselor, if you can find it.

This active living thing. He (Cameron, the counselor) is very good at reminding me which of my frustrations are appropriate and which are just a teeeensy bit whiny. He never says whiny, he says "unhelpful" - see how he knows how to get me to listen? Hmmm....Cameron's advice was to try and separate the threads of my own personal and individual life from the threads of my marital life, my work life, etc. Not cut them, but detangle them. That sounds kind of easy, doesn't it? Sure - take some "me" time, go out with the girls, etc? But it is truly not that easy. And it is even less easy when I try to imagine it - it seems harder than it is. So I find myself putting off things that would make it more effortless to keep my center, and I find myself not prioritizing soul-feeding activities, self care, and etc.

He also reminded me that sometimes our life choices are two (or more) options that we don't like - but that we still eventually have to make the choice. You can sit on a fence for a long time looking at the options, trying to play out what might happen next, and next - like chess. Unlike chess, sometimes while you wait another option shows up. But usually not. You have to choose, and move forward. Cameron's big on moving forward, choosing between unattractive options. He is blunt ("...you may have to choose between a rock hitting you on the right side of your head, or the left") and he is generous ("...I trust you to choose well, you are careful and wise."). And, maybe best of all, he doesn't rush me, which is good. Shove me, and I dig in not only my heels but my whole damned foot. Stubborn as...well, stubborn.

So. It's a new day, and day two of a three day weekend, and the last three years, or five years, or six months....they are the history part of the story, not the life part.

Life happens today. So - today I've been busy with domestica and I'm going to ride my bike, as soon as I finish my smoothie. And then I'm going to a movie with my friend who makes me laugh about our donkey burdens. And drinks wine with me until we giggle. :D And then...well we will have to see.

If you're on a fence, don't be too rough with yourself. It happens. Don't be bothered by those who can't see why you aren't yet ready to jump to one side or another. Don't judge yourself harshly unless you are avoiding the decision. If you can't decide yet with a good heart, then don't. Hang tough, and enjoy the view.

Good summer thoughts of independence!

~ plk