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Entries in black and white (39)

Monday
Oct012012

Fountain of Youth

Ezra, 4th birthdayDear Ezra,

You turned four around the time that I started to notice that I'm going to turn 40.  Not tomorrow, but one day, and sooner than I'd like.  Everyone says 40s are the new blah blah blah, and I'm sure they're right, but nobody says 40s are young. Nobody says oh I was 45 and beautiful and carefree.  This is the sort of pointless script that's been running through my head lately, when I am not either crushingly busy or fastidiously quieting my mind.  Which is still enough of the time to be noticeable.

A friend told me that four-year-olds are obsessed with death.  I hadn't noticed until we watched March of the Penguins together and you asked me why did the baby penguin diiiiiiiiiiiie? for days on end.  Since then you have specialized in threat assessment.  Nearly every day you mentally follow one risk or another through to its logical conclusion, invariably some form of if you (fill in the blank) could you get dead?  To which I reply, yes, if you (swallow glass) (jump from a high place) (play with fire) you could die.  In my head I also note and if you (eat too much bacon) (don't take your fish oil) or, you know, (just keep waking up every day).  Apparently we are both preoccupied with mortality.

My godmother sent me a primer on Buddhism and you'll never guess what example the author uses, right there in the first chapter, to illustrate the basic concept of attachment.  Our attachment to our body.  Our vanity.  Our fetishization of youth.  In other words, I am a textbook case.  The Dalai Lama thinks I am a cliche.

I was hoping to justify my fixation as maintenance, like haircuts and eyebrow waxes.  Harmless.  I could harvest your knock-knock jokes and inject them into my laugh lines.  Emulsify your imagination, and smooth it over my age spots.  Collect the eyelashes you shed and let an obsessive-compulsive aesthetician glue them onto my own, one by one, the world's most luxurious extensions.

Is it creepy to fetishize your own child's youth?  I hope not.  I wouldn't really steal one moment from you, one innocent query, sweet boy.  Witnessing your curiosity as you piece the world together is one of my chief joys.  I would rather (go gray) (sag) (wrinkle) (learn to meditate) than rob you of a thing.  After all, if everything goes well, I'll have a long, long time to get progressively wrinklier, saggier, grayer (and hopefully more detached) before I get dead.

All my love,

Mama

Wednesday
Sep262012

Blessingway

You came in on the wind. 

Crested the mountain ridge, danced over meadow grasses, and through the open door.

Kissed me on the nape of the neck and whispered, don't be afraid.

You have beautiful friends, already.  They are adorned with feathers and beads and scarves and love shines in their eyes.  I think you've been talking to them too.

You have a beautiful home, situated perfectly to watch the sun transit the sky from wherever you lay.  It's quiet up there and there's a long view and you can breathe.

Your parents glow like the blessed, and wait intently for you to show them the way.

Already you call us into deeper levels of connection and commitment, the warp and weft of tribe.  Already you are a weaver.

When you are ready, we are ready.

Safe passage, sweet girl.

Thursday
Sep132012

A Truce

At some point, you just get tired of being your own worst enemy and you lay down your arms.

I wonder why so much of my territory is preoccupied with guilt or shame.  Envy.  Fear.  Internal insurgents lob highly sophisticated rockets of self-criticism, as though let-me-think-of-all-my-shortcomings-before-you-do creates a kind of missile defense against the outside world.  It shields me every night while I lay down with the enemy.

It's time to surrender.

Not the white-flag, but the olive branch.  A treaty of delirious possibility.  The conditions of the agreement are non-technical and involve things like vegetables, sleep, blank paper, yellow running shoes, tenderness.  In order to embrace an imperfect union I will stop building settlements in unfriendly outposts.  I will start again, with friendship, acceptance, and love.

Let no one think that the birth of man is to be felt without terror.  The transformations that await us cost everything in the way of courage and sacrifice.  Let no one be deluded that knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other. Centering is a severe and thrilling discipline, often acutely unpleasant. In my own efforts, I become weak, discouraged, exhausted, angry, frustrated, unhappy, and confused.  But someone within me is resolute, and I try again.  Within us lives a merciful being who helps us to our feet however many times we fail.

- M.C. Richards

Tuesday
Jun262012

Fire Weather

Here is the thing about fire weather: at first you think it's just summer.  It's a welcome heat, that begs for flip flops and sun dresses and you revel in it.  Then the wind starts to blow and dry things out even more than they already are, but you take refuge in your car with your air conditioning.  It's just weather, after all.  What's a little more carbon to add to the mix?  

We are the frogs, not even noticing that the heat has been turned up below us, until

CONFLAGRATION!

Lightning strikes and tempers flare, out of nowhere, and you didn't even see it coming, soaking in the warm bath of your stockpot while to-do lists and grant deadlines and snow tires pile up and ignite in the middle of your kitchen.  It's strange how quickly the profane rises and you think it's going to feel so good to release but really all you're left with afterward is why were you mean to Daddy?

The fires of my marriage flare up infrequently and are contained quickly, but they still leave me scratching my head.  Who is the arsonist in my kitchen?  Is it a dry year?  Where is the rain?

---

Smoke and despair hang thick in the air all over my home state.  It's going to take more than I'm sorry, I was out of line to make things whole.  When the conditions are right and the wind is insistent and the heat turns cruel, a single lightning strike sears the mountaintop and soon everything in its path is consumed.  It's not that we were careless, per se.  It's just that there is never enough time or resources to get all the fuel out of the way.

Thank you for digging fire lines.

Thank you for evacuating people from harm's way.

Thank you for saving us from ourselves.

Now where is the rain?

Friday
Jun012012

The Point

Happy birthday, new friend!The topo map of my internal creative landscape lately looks a bit like I imagine Kansas - wide, meandering contours, vast empty space, point-less.  I am used to inhabiting a creative Colorado, ideas jutting up into my consciousness like the million points of the Rocky Mountains and flowing out here like snow melt.  Now I'm down here in the flat lands, trying to herd words uphill.  Gravity is not my ally in this effort, when it seems like every helium-filled wisp of idea is encased in concrete boots and ditched somewhere around Byers, Kansas.

I bought a fancy new camera, and suddenly all the simple things I usually train my eye on seemed too banal for this equipment, like driving a new Ferrari down West Colfax, waiting at endless stoplights and passing shuttered motels and used car lots.  This is neurotic, for sure, but if I have no pictures and if my ideas have all gotten lost somewhere in the central time zone then this space starts to look a little, er, past its prime. 

So in case you have been wondering where I've been lately, think Kansas.

---

I got lucky this week though, when a close friend pushed this little Buddha of a boy out and into our village. This? This was worth getting the Ferrari out of the garage and racing at top speeds out to the University to witness.  We human beings do this everyday, this birthing of new human beings.  But damn if this nine-and-a-half pounds of confusion and tiny clenched fists isn't a miracle anyway.  He is all fuzzy blond hair and fingernails and soon-to-be-blue eyes that are mostly shut hard because why do you have to keep it so bright out here, people?  He is 12 hours old when I meet him and he is full of qi and hungry and smells like the fountain of youth.

The gift of all this for me was that I got to have a point.  Milestones, rites of passage, these are obvious signposts that beg us to sit up and notice and freeze them in our hearts and minds.  This morning as I write this, the baby boy is five times as old as he was in this picture, so I bet when I see him later he'll have lots of teeth and be cranking The Pixies in his room while he writes algorithms.

This makes me want to take note of things - all kinds of things - before they escape to Kansas, never to be heard from again.

---

My old friend Larisa told me a few months ago that I should enter a piece of writing into BlogHer's annual Voices of the Year competition, and since I usually do what people I admire tell me to do I dropped this piece into the running in their Identity category.  And then because I am afraid to ask people to vote for things, I didn't tell anyone about it.  And then I forgot about it.

So you might imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail yesterday saying I had been selected as one of the honorees.  There is simply no way to adequately convey my delight at being included in this group of artists and truth-tellers, and more broadly, at having this space to air my joys and struggles and fumbling excursions through the wilderness of my internal creative Rocky Mountains.  May a million more points solidify here and in our virtual village at large.