The difference is where the darkness lies
(plus a ‘w’)
“re – a prefix, occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, used with the meaning ‘again’ or ‘again and again'”
respect (re-spect…as in per-spect-ive, spect-acles…to look again)
A first house that I bought, three months before the word “pandemic” became official, is snuggled into a street filled with 1980 ranch-style homes. It is one of the first streets on the east side of Bend, now surrounded by new subdivisions and a park, which used to be a nursery for pine trees managed by the Forest Service.
Drive half a mile down the street, and there are still barns and horses and goats and tractors on the road. Thank goodness for that.
There is also construction. Both ends of the street are being turned into two-lane roundabouts to help manage traffic. The large machines vibrate in constant rhythm between 8 am – 5 pm, but ceases on the evenings and weekends.
I go for walks in the evening during this quiet to the former nursery, and pass through the zones of construction and the closed sidewalks. Over the dirt tire treks and stilled orange machinery, paused in repose and stillness.
Looking into the pits of where there will be sewers, I see below the Earth into the layers of large rocks. I had no idea.
It changes each day, what is happening, but for now I can stand in the middle of the soon-to-be-made roundabout, now a layer of flat gravel above strata of rock thousands of years old, holding us up, looking at the mountain view, with nothing at all moving around me other than the clouds above.
It reminds me of the times when I was young, going to the construction site with my parents when they were building the house. All the space between the bones to see the trees and the sky and such a breath of foundation.
It is the making. The silence, the quiet, the stillness, before we all start going in circles again.
Well, it has been some time my friends.
Sometimes it is.
I am drinking a Zarabanda, listening to Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall. Forty-two songs, three hours and 36 minutes. His strumming guitar and wailing harmonica, and his soul, will make you laugh out loud and break your heart. If you’re anything like me, that is.
And, I know you are.
Excellent! Here appears a blog post topic: how we connect.
I once asked a friend the meaning of life as we drank at a local dive bar. Death, he said. The conversation tilted into the fact that life is what we make of it. We are all connected. The meaning of life? It’s all in here, I thought. It’s all there, he said, pointing to a wood fence next to us.
It made perfect sense at the time. It still does.
“Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly
let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can.”
There are many more telling poems to show how we connect – how we are all the same – but, this one resonates for me right now.
Just like Ryan Adam does. Breaking my heart, into such beauty, and such sorrow.
That, I know, we all feel.
The day after Halloween, I tried to find a new walking route: Larkspur Trail.
Driving around, road construction blocked my way to the senior center, where the path supposedly starts. I wound my way to Pilot Butte instead, where the trail ends.
I still couldn’t find it. So, I started wandering around the criss-crossing dirt tracks along the lower part of the butte, until finding an asphalt path to follow.
The grass vibrated in the breeze, like notes coming off a page. I felt sticks and soft Juniper branches and squished dried berries between my fingertips, and I looked into the sky. I saw bark peeling and felt the sun and wind and saw life, and felt it.
I sat on a rock for awhile.
I turned around and followed the asphalt path back, coming across a sign near the parking lot “Larkspur Trail.” I found it, although unexpectedly and from the backside. I was where I had wanted to be, and didn’t even know it.
Sometimes we can’t get to the path, until we are coming back from where we started.
It’s as confusing as it feels, until you recognize that this path is exactly where you are supposed to be, whether it is Larkspur Trail or not.
Then it all becomes completely clear.
*(See The Head and The Heart, Rivers and Roads)
Ok, you guys ready to go deep with me? Because we are going to Hell.
But first, let’s go to Heaven.
I was praying, asking God to reveal his word to me (this is a long story that deals with a family bible, a lock of hair, books of spells and poems – but also a sign for me to stay and hear the word of God).
So, I finally asked.
Underneath my eyelids, I saw typed words flash.
and then (yes, I kind of chuckled at this one)
and then there was light. And it was good.
I ran to my bible and opened to Genesis:
“In [the] beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The bible opens with a duality. In fact, creation was made in duality. Water and land, light and dark, sun and moon, man and woman.
Those who know me, likely know that duality and contrast is something that has been in my conscious the last handful of years (Everything Changes, Everything Stays the Same and Middle Ground). It continues to dig deeper within me, because it is my creation, and its existence is how I am whole.
Finding the edge, sitting on the cliff, is where I am now. Not jumping off, and not running away, but sitting on this edge and getting to know it. This is where we often find one another, ready to jump or turn back.
Where the dualities meet – that edge – is the “in between” and steadiness I will be exploring my whole life. It is where the ocean meets the sand, where the sky meets the horizon, where I meet the divine.
Ok – now to Hell.
Right and wrong, control and no control, choice and no choice are concepts that have been swirling around in me lately like the Barn Raising Dance in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
So, I sat down on the cliff’s edge and checked it out.
Right. Ah, yes, being right and doing the right thing. It’s like skipping through a field of flowers. But, you are always running, always moving, always looking back. There is somehow an element of hurt here. Always worried about continuing to do the right thing and afraid of doing something wrong.
And then you do. You do something wrong and are sucked into the netherworld of fire and blame. There is the vision of what you want – just out of reach – but you can never do the right thing to get it. You can never get what you want and you are doing everything wrong and it is your fault.
That is Hell.
In America, I think the definition of success is getting what you want. Here, you are conditioned that you can have ANYTHING you want, and if you get it, then you are successful and you will be happy. (Go Anthropology degree!) But, I choose not to live like that anymore. Want, need, keep, have, get, control. That is my hell on earth.
Which brings us to control and no control. I’m hoping this will wrap up the blog post nicely, but I am not quite sure at this point.
I control because I am afraid. So if I get what I want and try to control it, then it will stay how I want it and I will be doing things right and that will make me worthy of having what I have and everything will stay good (so really, it goes back to worth).
If I don’t take action, if I don’t take control to get what I want, then I am not worthy because I am being passive.
What bullshit. The words even contort around each other in confusion and force and pain.
So, where is the edge between control and no control?
I might have to jump off the cliff a few more times before I find it. But, it’s how we learn to fly. Or, it’s how we learn to sit at the edge. Again, and again, and again. I am just so grateful that I can even see the edge.
THIS IS WATER (If you have not seen this, I would highly recommend it. Or, even if you have, please watch it again.)
and then there was light. And it was good.
Bikram yoga once saved my life. I got really into it, practicing the 26 postures nearly every day in a 106-degree room, and for an hour and a half my mind stopped. I took advanced courses with Bikram himself. Then, everything changed.
I moved to Hawaii. Without a car, there was little opportunity to go to the nearest studio half an island away. I told this to one of my yoga teachers before I left. She said:
“It’s ok, something new that you need will come to you.”
And it did, in the form of scuba diving.
Scuba diving saved me, too. Dropping beneath the waves into a still presence, moving with the surge, and becoming familiar with a world that I didn’t know to be possible.
Then that changed. Scuba diving was also meant to leave my life in its frequency and intensity after returning to the mainland – I didn’t need it like I used to, but I couldn’t recognize it at the time.
Instead of appreciating how it changed the way I moved through the everyday world, I held onto needing the activity to solidify my identity. I started making expectations and goals and demands – I need to dive at least once a month or twice a year, or something like that. When I hung on, it didn’t make room for change, and it ended up hurting other things instead.
I still carry what yoga and diving gave me. They taught me stillness and beauty, showing me a place to drop down beneath the waves. It doesn’t have to be in the yoga studio, or under the water’s surface – it can be at any moment.
It is not so important for me to force doing these activities anymore, but rather to love them whenever they occasionally pop into my momentary life. It’s one of things I wish I had known earlier, but could never have.
I recently got a job that will take up many of my evenings, including the nights of my coveted meditation classes. There is change again in the air, but now, I can recognize it, and open instead of close to it.
What space, what room, to see what will come next. It’s actually rather exciting.
I have been seeing things, lately.
Plucking my eyebrows in the mirror, I look into my eyes. I get really close to the reflection of a blue iris, almost touching it, and notice my pupil adjust. I pause, and connect with love, feeling divine light explode in my chest (I feel it, I am it). When I do this, the black of my pupils expand. They dilate, letting in more light. They dilate, letting in more light. I see a physical response to love in my body. I cry.
I once see the trajectory of jets, of the paths they would take, moments before they actually did. Looking through a window at white-laced streaks across the blue sky, I see their futures open instants before they took them.
A thick and contained drop of water captures my attention. It rests on my car windshield and catches the sun. I see it move across the glass as my car turns. And then, I see the world reflected through it. Through the underside of the water drop, I see the trees pass upside down. I see this water drop’s whole moving world reflected through itself.
This is what I have been seeing, lately, when I’m not looking.
Rather than what I usually do, a looking without seeing.
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
For some reason, I never had to read Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, for English class. I recently picked it up, in hopes of putting some perspective on my own life and remembering what is more important than myself.
Little did I know, how much it would take me into myself.
“I don’t think then of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
Anne records “all the kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart,” including “extraordinary things [that] can happen when people go into hiding.” Her Jewish family and a handful of others were secluded in a secret annex during the Holocaust of WWII. She questions, “I wonder whether you can tell me why it is that people always try so hard to hide their real feelings? … Why do we trust one another so little?”
She writes of difficulties with her parents, falling in love, hopes for the future, fears of the present, air raids, burglars, and politics they hear on the radio
Near the end, she talks about how she has two sides to her, how she is a “little bundle of contradictions.” Her “dual personality” is jovial and cheerful on the outside, and deep and introspective on the inside.
This has been on my mind too of late – reconciling my “happy” and “sad” sides, my “good” and “bad” sides, my “wanting” and “trusting” sides.
I recently learned that suffering happens when we are on one side or the other – when we think in sides. I am happy right now, and I am afraid of losing this happiness. Or, I am sad right now, and I want to be happy and afraid I won’t get what I want. When we live in these extremes and sides, in this dualism, there is always somewhere to get or stay, so we are continually striving and living in fear instead of just being where we are.
The two sides are one: yin and yang, polarities, a duality. There must be a whole in order to have opposites.
When I live in the whole, knowing both sides are in me and there is nowhere to get to because they will always be there, it somehow appears less stressful. It sometimes feels more real, more me, more loving.
But, this often seems easier when I am by myself.
Living in sides is frequently activated when we are in relationship with others. For a host of reasons, which I am only beginning to understand.
Anne’s last entry:
“A voice sobs within me: “There you are, that’s what’s become of you: you’re uncharitable, you look supercilious and peevish, people dislike you and all because you won’t listen to the advice given you by your own better half.” Oh, I would like to listen, but it doesn’t work; if I’m quiet and serious, everyone thinks it’s a new comedy and then I have to get out of it by turning it into a joke, not to mention my own family, who are sure to think I’m ill, make me swallow pills for headaches and nerves, feel my neck and my head to see whether I’m running a temperature, ask if I’m constipated and criticize me for being in a bad mood. I can’t keep that up: if I’m watched to that extent, I start by getting snappy, then unhappy, and finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and what I could be, if … there wasn’t any other people living in the world.”
My thinking has been hard on myself lately: Looking unsuccessfully for a job, living at my parents, grateful for what I have yet still wishing it could be different. Thinking that I am not good at the practicalities of being human.
In my less compassionate moments I get lost in thinking “I can always do something better, to be better.”
Then, I start noticing how I am human. I eat (sometimes too much), I cry (sometimes too much), I sleep (sometimes too much), I love (sometimes too much), I try (sometimes too much). I laugh and swear when I hit my funny bone, I check my facebook page more than appropriate, I get rejected, I don’t get everything done on my mental to-do list, my plans don’t work out, I keep living, I wake up in the morning and go to bed at night.
Wait a tick…
I am so good at being human. I am SO good at being human.
I do my best with what I have and who I am at any given moment.
We all do.
We are SO good at being human. Our existence is enough.