Sunday, January 31, 2016

House Hunting

I will remember this.  I'm not sure when, or in what context.  But I know I will remember this.  You and me and our Sunday drives.  Wondering, talking, driving.  All over the greater area to a million roads that look the same... but aren't.

Our dreams. For now contained in the cabin of your car, someday to become real.  Perhaps a place we've already seen, perhaps one we have yet to envision.  No matter because for now all we need is the dream.

You.  Me.  Your car.  An app on my phone.  Conversation and roads.  And hope.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Rage

Here- this is my rage.
I made it for you.
Take it.

I took everything you've done
and much more of what you refused to do
what I needed you to do
and swallowed it
deep.

It cooked in the fire of my belly
with the pressure of my entire being
bearing down.
and I let it stay there
building...

It is for you
beacause it is of you.
It is through you
that I received the raw supplies.
It is yours,
just as much as it is mine.

But you will not see that.

You will choose to stay blind.
That is what you do,
after all.

So you will not see yourself in it.
You will not see what you have given
that made it.
And you will do it again
to someone else.

But this,
this is mine.
Born through me,
But of you.

This is my rage.

Take it.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Real-Life Angels

I've been through this process before, many times now.  And it's eerily familiar in so many ways.  The panicked way of living with late nights, early mornings and little sleep in between.  The frenzied feeling of never having enough hours in the day.  The self-empowering little talks followed by the defeated hopelessness.  The sinking sensation in your skin, muscles, bones and even breath.  Like even your body is closing in on you. 

But here's what I've never experienced before: angels coming to my rescue.  Laughing, joking, singing, snarling, complaining and insanely validating angels helping me by doing the work I think I should be able to do myself (and have always had to do myself in the past because no one else was there.)  There were two of them today and they came without specific request.  Without being told by someone else, without being compelled by money or a desire to show off for someone who might grant them position or status in payment.  They came because they genuinely believe in team work- the kind of selflessness so often advocated but so rarely seen in real life.

And as I worked my insanely long work day with them there keeping my insanity at bay with their constant stream of ridiculous jokes, loving teases, sing-along-to-pandora loveliness I realized: angels do exist.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Work

It's easy to love yourself on the bright days.  When you smell nice, look pretty and get out of bed before you hit the snooze alarm for the second time.  When you have the time to sit and meditate before sitting in morning traffic and not losing your cool.  When you carry that calm air into the workplace and field e-mails and phone calls while sipping your coffee and thinking about what to go over with your clients.  When you're smart and organized and on top of shit.  Those are the days when you convince yourself of your growing status as a genuinely wonderful person.

But these are not those days.  These are the days when your monsters rear their heads like unbeatable hydra and that voice in your head is so loud you have a hard time hearing the person talking.  The days when those old bad habits you thought you'd learned from and trained yourself out of years ago because they make absolutely no sense to repeat bash your skull against the proverbial rocks and hard places of your own creation.  The days when you're very much the opposite of intelligent, very much the opposite of calm, very much the opposite of the things you convince yourself you are on the good days.  And in these dark times you do what we all do: you make it worse by using soothing but ultimately destructive techniques to take the edge off (insert drug of choice here).

But what they say is that these are the days where the opportunity to love yourself is greatest.  Where the lessons you learn are strongest.  When the ability to amaze yourself is at its max.  Challenge is a nicer word for problem, right?  But maybe it's true- maybe this really is the proving ground.

To be all of those horrible things you wish nothing more than to not be and love yourself anyway.  Smelly and defeated and useless and weak and still perfectly lovable.  Repeating old mistakes, doing all the wrong things and still worthy of appreciation.  Ugly and impatient and full of so much rage your rational mind can't even make sense of it and still a beautiful, shining human life.  Still you, still whole, still radiant.  That's the fucking work.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On Not Writing For Anyone Else Other Than Your Goddmaned Self

It happens to the best of us: you read a post on Facebook from someone far more successful than you on how to write for your target audience and you wonder: who the fuck is even gonna read this shit?  In the midst of your purely psychotic {read: brilliant} story crafting the thought creeps in, interrupting your progress.

Perhaps in your more lucid moments the thought even turns into actual behavior: market research and analytical journals and the like.  Actual statistical probabilities, scarier-than-thou factoids and analogies designed to scare you straight.  This shit IS real.

But what if that's the whole point?  What if the stuff that comes out of you- the soul juice that you tap into when reality leaves the building and you're left with nothing but the crushing madness of your own existence- what if that's the whole damned point?  

What would you do then?

Would you give a shit about market research and financial logistics and mathematical regressions and trends?  Fucking trends.

Or would you say 'fuck it' and let the crazy, scary, sexy, devourer of mankind loose on the world?  Without judgement.  Without worry.  Without anything other than the pure essence of you.

Because me, personally?  I vote for the latter.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Not Knowing

So here's the thing: it's not a matter of the right time or the wrong time.  It's a matter of time, as the expression goes.  It's true: we only have a limited amount of it, and we never know how much that is.  Crystal and balls and fortune tellers can't predict it.  We can't see it coming.  And nothing we will ever do will prepare us for the end (which is sort-of the whole point.)

So break the rules.  Kiss the forbidden stranger.  Light the match.  Dance in the moonlight.  Say what you're not supposed to say and do what one should never, ever do.  Be reckless and see what crazy, wonderful things come from it.

But don't- DON'T stifle it.  Don't run from it or ignore and abandon it.  DO IT.  Just take a breathe, and take that leap and see what comes next.

I promise you this: you won't know what it is until you do it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Off Days

What if I was good enough even on the off days?  Without doing anything, without accomplishing anything.  With no willpower to get off the couch or check off items on the to do list or catch up on any of the things that need to get done.  With absolutely nothing to show for myself but having breathed in and out all day long- what then?

What if instead of beating up on myself, instead of obsessing over everything not done, instead of listing all of the reasons why I could reasonably hate my lack of progress- what if instead of any of that I just loved myself.  Without judgement, without criticism, without having to earn it.  Just as is, completely off my game.  What if I loved myself instead?

Wouldn't that be a novel idea?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

After the Storm

It's weird- no matter how times I do it.  But I don't know of literally anything else on earth as exhausting as shoveling.  I've experienced it before and I think I was just as surprised by it.  But in just a few short hours I am experiencing a level of wiped that can only otherwise be achieved by not sleeping for let's say... three consecutive days.

It's not just the physical exhaustion- although that's definitely remarkable.  The ache in muscles you don't normally use and in every single fiber of your being. But the real head turner is the mental uselessness.  Like anything beyond starting out like a zombie takes more mental faculties than you currently posses.  It's such an odd sensation.

I'm not complaining, just marveling at the phenomenon.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snowfall

One by one by one
the white dust fills the sky. 
Tiny droplets of ice
free falling onto earth.
A crystal moment in time.

The cold air in your lungs.
The crunch of compressing snow underfoot.
Heavy weight
drags...

But the essential
the indefinable
the memory
is of the quiet.

The impossible stillness
that can only come
in this moment.

Life stands still.
No sound.
No movement.
Save for the falling snow.

And you.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Seeker- Part 7

 
She was led to the main hall where the light was dimer and the scent of incense encircled her head.  She didn't allow herself to be distracted by the candles or the artwork or the cold stone floor under her bare feet.  She knew better than to judge now, better than to conclude without knowing.  Just look, just listen.

And she was glad- he wasn't what she expected.  Tattoos covered his arms, legs and neck.  His hair was long and unruly and oddly colored.  He didn't have the wise, old eyes of a guru- he had the young, wild eyes of a child.  And rather than the traditional somber robes of the archetype he had rainbow colored  pants and a tank top that read "Wild Thing."  She smirked at herself for thinking he'd be anything different.

"Hey," he said- obscenely casual for such an austere setting.  "How can I help you?"

She sat down before him, assuming her best posture.

"Hey, relax," he said as he himself leaned back on a pillow.

She raised an eyebrow but followed, and her back seemed to explode with gratitude for allowing it to finally rest.  "Thank you."

He looked at her with those wide, wild eyes and waited.  She steadied herself with a breath, and then began:

"I am seeking vidya.  I've been lost in my life, tried so many different things trying to change who I was and I need your help."  There, she'd started.  Her journey could truly begin.

"Do you?" he asked, the same smirk pulling up the corners of his mouth.

"Excuse me?" she asked, irritation creeping into her voice instantly.

"I said, 'Do you?" he said, as if she meant she hadn't heard him.  But the look on his face said that she had and the incredulous expression on hers begged clarification, so he continued.  "It's not easy to get here."

"I know!" she yelled, then instantly shrank back in embarrassment.

"No, no- it's ok.  There's anger in there, you had to go through the fire.  It's cool," he said, sitting up and leaning forward.  "But that's the whole point- you came here.  You faced the fire and the water and the earth.  You breathed the air and listened to the howling wind and saw the light up here- crazy, isn't it?"

She sensed it was a rhetorical question so she said nothing.  But his eager look told her he was looking for an answer.

"Yes, it was- " and she thought about it then, really thought.  Of everything she'd faced, everything she'd sensed, every change she'd surrendered herself to.  "Yes- it's been a wild ride."  And she smiled then, because it really had been.

"Yeah, there you go- it doesn't have to be such a strict ritual.  Seeing is just a state of being, really.  It's just getting out of your own way and living.  It's not what you think it will be, it never is."

And this she heard, this rang true.  "Now we're getting somewhere," she thought.

"Your problem isn't you- it's never been you.  The reason you've been lost is because you've been seeking outside when you needed to look within."

She startled- was he saying he wasn't going to teach her anything?  That she'd traveled all this way for nothing?

"I can see that fire again," he laughed.  "That's a good thing- but listen.  You have what you need within.  You can meditate and study and listen to the wise, old gurus all you want.  But the lessons you need to learn are already inside of you.  You already have what you seek, you just need to get out of your own way."

~
Walking out of the great hall and away from yet another false prophet she felt angrier than she ever had.  So much energy, so much time, so many challenges and for what?  To be told that she already knew everything?  Maddening!

She stormed back to the entrance, past the meditating people, past the rituals and reflections and stopped to pick up her pack.

And then the wind picked up again.  It breathed through her hair, across her skin and down her spine.  She felt the moisture of the snow and the warmth of the sun.  She breathed it in again and her fire cooled.  Her shadow retreated.

And she looked up.  Out at the sun and the air and the landscape, and saw the most breathtaking view she'd ever seen.  She saw the great forest where she'd descended into the earth through ancient roots.  She saw the lake that led to the underground cave where she bathed and moved with freedom.  She saw the field of fire and the leap she'd taken and remembered the promise she'd made to herself.  She saw the fields where the villagers had farmed and remembered the love she'd felt for everything, all things.  She looked out from the top of the mountain and felt the air roaring with the life, saw the light of the sun illuminating the whole world.  And she was overcome by such overwhelming gratitude that it brought her to her knees.

And there she wept.  She wept with love, wept with light, wept with God in her very sobs.  And when she quieted she realized what he had meant.  Look within.  Breathe.  Move and love and feel and steady and leap and cry and see and believe.  All within, and without.  No separation, no disconnection.  Just be.

"Oh," she said to herself.  And laughed.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Seeker- Part 6

Her ascent was marked with more visions out across the growing expanse of visible land and more affirmations of the power in her voice as she huffed and cursed and joyfully expelled sound into the open air.  She marveled at the strength of her body, so much stronger than she had believed it to be before she embarked on this journey.  She appreciated her legs as they pushed away at the ground, her lungs as they breathed in and out the precious air, her eyes as she looked out at the world around her with wonder and love for all she saw.

So it was almost disappointment that greeted her upon arriving at her destination- so much travel, so many epiphanies only to find herself here at such a familiar scene:

A flat expanse at the top of the rock, thin rugs lain around to soften the hard surface, and rows and rows of the enlightened spread out in front of her.  Their rigid postures with straight back and high head, their hands holding mudras as they rested on their knees, their eyes mostly closed in that un-gaze they were trained to use.  It was instantly intimidating and she faltered, slinking back and struggling with her thoughts.

That old voice came back- you can't do this, you can't be the enlightened person, you're not made of the same stuff.  But she'd learned how to handle that now.  Rather than fighting it she just let it rant.  She breathed, listened to the sound of chanting, focused on her feet underneath her and her body holding firm and waited.

The voice- so full of anger and poison- rattled and ranted and spewed.  And she listened.  And, within a shorter time than she would have expected, it ran out of steam.  The words ran out.  And in the end, she was left with nothing more than that quieter voice she'd been hearing more and more.  Its message was easy and clear: "Just breathe."

She set down her pack, took a seat behind the so-called enlightened masses (which part of her affirmed were there seeking the same exact things as her), closed her eyes, and breathed.  But her body rejected the rigid stance.  Too sore from the climb, too tired for the pose she fidgeted and fretted and moved.  But just as she had with her mind she didn't react- she waited.  She focused on her breath, on the stillness within her, and waited.  And just as her mind had, her body calmed.  She breathed.

She stayed there like that for what seemed like a long time.  But she had no concept of how long, she didn't notice or care.  She just breathed.  And as she did, she noticed a change happen.

The swirl of thoughts and emotions that had erupted upon seeing everyone there seemed to dissipate, weaken and vanish.  The preconceptions she had about why she was here, what she would do, and what it would all mean went away.  And in their place she felt a calm, a renewed sense of purpose, and the same guiding voice that had been there all along.

You can be anything you want to be.   You're not limited to who you were.  You've changed so much since beginning this journey, how could you possibly presume to know where it will lead?  Just listen, just watch with open eyes and mind, and you will see.  You will see.

She opened her eyes and saw clearly.  She saw the light surrounding all of them so far up on this mountain.  She saw the elements which had brought them all there along that same path.  She saw the sky and the clouds and the air and the ether and she breathed it all in.

Then she got up and started off to find the one she'd been seeking.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Seeker- Part 5

 
She climbed higher into the mountain pass, her determination growing with her strides.  She was feeling bold and strong and connected- but she wasn't.

A gust of wind knocked her clear off her feet and she tumbled over a bolder on the edge, landing slightly further down the rocky surface and taking a scrape on the leg as payment for her troubles.  Anger burst out suddenly and violently as she cursed out loud at her pain, followed by surprise as the sound echoed off the rock walls to her left.

Distracted from the sting she looked up at the high stone face above and around her, and testing, shouted again.

"Hello!" she called, her voice louder and more jubilant than before.

The mountain seemed to repeat her greeting as if on its own accord.  She called again, testing the limits of her sound.  Again the echo bounced her call back.  Soon she was conversing with the stone giant she sat on, call and response flying through the temporarily still air.  She could feel the vibration of the sound reverberating not only off the stone wall, but through the ground itself.  And as it moved she felt that same vibration enter her through her root, up her spine and finally out of her mouth as she called again.  She and the mountain were feeding each other in one continuous, wavering loop of sound.

The wind kicked up again and stole away the echo, replacing it with a screaming wall of air speeding up the mountain.  She peered over the ledge at its source from below and was greeted by a smack of cold, fast sky in her face.  It pulled her hair back from her scalp in a torrent of power and sound.  But she didn't move, she just closed her eyes and let it hit her.  She felt the power and the life again, and the sound in her ears was deafening.

She inhaled and forced the sound again, letting the wind steal it from her lips and join its raging movement up to the heavens.

"Can you hear me?" she screamed.  "I am here!"

And although the wind stole her voice she knew it carried it all the way up the the heavens.

"I am here!" she cried again, watching the colorful wind sweep the sound up and up and up.

And then, without audible sound, she repeated the message to herself:  I am here.  

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Seeker- Part 4

When her feet touched down on the other side and her knees buckled under her weight she felt as though she had passed a point of no return in her journey.  As she stepped forward and worked out the shock from her heels she promised herself that she would not succumb to doubt again, that she would trust that inner voice when it told her where to go, no matter how frightening the prospect.  She left the blackened clearing behind, vowing to simply listen and trust.

Her path took her up into the mountain range she'd seen from the distance, at the top of which dwelt the person she sought.  As she climbed the path the scenery around her erupted with life and her eyes beheld vast fields exploding with plants and food from the nutrient-rich soil.  It was a reminder of how the amazingly destructive power of the lava she'd leapt across could give life to so many things not seen at the source.

She watched as farmers tended those crops, as villagers in the nearby collective cooked them and consumed them, as children danced around the fire where their dinner steamed and grew stronger because of its sustenance.  It was all part of the whole: all valuable, all sacred.

She had an epiphany then, looking out over the life and lives that all relied upon each other.  She realized that she too was whole and that that shadow she'd spent so long fighting and hating was a part of that.  All of her was valuable.  All of her was sacred.  And while she may find herself getting unbalanced at times- while the darker parts of her may have spoken too loudly while the lighter parts were ignored- all of those parts were still a part of her whole.  She was not broken, not lacking, not a thing to be fixed.  She was beautiful.

She felt a growing sensation of warmth and radiant light growing in her chest as she thought these things.  And she felt that energy spreading far beyond the confines of her own body; connecting her not only to the fields and the plants and the animals and the people nearby but back to her family and friends and everyone she had ever held dear- everyone she would ever hold dear.  She realized that she, like the beautiful system of life surrounding her, was intricately and infinitely connected.  Not only was she whole within herself, but she was part of a greater whole that was sustained, fed and rejuvenated by love.

She closed her eyes and breathed then, content for the moment in just being.  Without moving forward, without doing anything.  She felt light and love in the very air around her: the wind whipping across the fields and up the mountain, the breath in her lungs.  She felt boundless and free.

She didn't know how long she stayed there.  It seemed like an eternity and an instant all at once.  But as she resumed her long walk she did so with love in every step.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Seeker- Part 3

 
It seemed like she'd left the cool, perfect waters so long ago it was difficult to imagine that she'd only been moving for a day.  The climb that followed the emergence from the lake was brutal and tested her resolve with every step.  There were slips and cuts as her feet slid from the missteps or her hands fumbled the grab and it occurred to her that she was fighting with more than just the terrain.

Before long the texture of the rock changed: it was softer, sandier and her hands turned black as she pushed herself up.  As she rose the temperature of the air seemed to rise with her and soon there was steam and the scent of smoke in her nostrils.  Her body began to sweat and the salty liquid felt rejuvenating somehow- like things she really needed out of her body were making their exit through her pores.

She pushed onward, not knowing what was coming next but not daring to indulge those thoughts nipping at the edge of her consciousness.  She focused on the movement and the strength in her muscles.  She kept her mind occupied with the sensory input of a world so strange and yet somehow so familiar to experiences she'd had inside of her own body.

Before long she came out of the caverns and a field of black lay before her.  Setting eyes on it she now understood the heat and the steam and the faint scent of sulfur.  Her feet seemed to bounce on the soft black surface made from years and years of dried and hardened lava flow.  In the distance she could see the mountains she was promised when she set out and the sight drove her forward across the alien expanse.  Steam vents erupted around her and her feet ached from the long climb but she kept on, willing herself to stay true to her cause.

Until she came to the river.  Not one of water, but of fire.  A deep slit in the ground and a flow of magma stretched across her entire path.  It was here that the fear she'd kept at bay through movement finally erupted in full force and claimed her, pushing her back and finally laying her flat on the ground.  She lay there, panting and despairing, and let herself feel the emotion in all its horror.

But that voice which had been with her from the beginning, the one growing in volume with each step she took on her journey, came back again.  "Just look around," it said.  A calm, practical step to take in the midst of such confusion and terror.

She pushed off her pack and looked around- scanning first the edges of the rock, and then further in each direction.  There must be a bridge of hardened magma somewhere, or some narrowing of the gap where she could safely step across.  But as far as she could see there was nothing: no bridge to cross, no safe passage, no break to the unrelenting flow of molten heat.

As panic began to seize her very cells she started running in desperate hope of the view changing- surely it couldn't go on like this forever?  But her legs gave out long before the perpetually retreating end ever came.  She collapsed again, this time for good.

And in her hopeless, defeated state she couldn't fight it any longer- her shadow emerged in all its savage, merciless power.

"What were you thinking?  Of course you can't do this- what an idiot you must have been to even attempt it.  Now you'll have to go all the way back and tell the story of your failure to everyone who asks.  You defective ruin, you weak fool, you useless waste of life..."

She surrendered to it, as the waters had taught her to.  And as she lay there breathing, baking in the heat from the harsh river near foot and not fighting something changed.  That voice, so full of mighty, unyielding power, seemed to fade.  Without her pushing back the dam broke and the hatred flowed out of her.  It seemed to her that she could almost feel it hit the burning surface of the river and join its flow- on to wherever it may lead.

And in the aftermath of such an extreme emptying, shaking and purified and finally free, she had a thought: what if I just jump?

She sat up slowly and took a breath.  The heat of the molten flow hit her in the face but she was no longer afraid of it.  It was made of the same material as she and she knew that without fear she could live in unison with that force, she could even use that power to fuel her.  She stood up and walked the long way back to her pack, watching the flowing light against the obsidian shore.  She mounted her pack onto her shoulders and noted how much lighter it seemed now, how much more easily she moved.

She gingerly crept to the edge and measured the gap in her mind.  Fear bubbled up again, a little trickle of alarm, and listed the facts: her legs were tired, she was exhausted, she might not make it across.  But she didn't argue, she just listened and watched.

And in that space she found her true voice again.  It told her that in order to grow she must leave what she knew behind.  In order to become she had to shed what she was.  "Just jump," it told her.

So she did. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Gatekeeper of the Heart


Image result for reiki hands

It feels weird to have the title of "Reiki Master" after such a short time learning and practicing.  Like I'm claiming a role I can't fill yet.  But I guess that's the whole point- yet.

In martial arts they say that achieving black belt is the beginning of your training.  I guess this is the same thing- my journey officially begins today.  I can't even begin to imagine where it will lead me...

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Seeker- Part 2

 
The roots of the great tree wound deep into the earth, twisting and winding through the dense terra.  The pathway was narrow and soon became too dark to see and her hands constantly caught in the soil as she tried to steady her descent.  But without her sight she found the touch comforting- a constant reminder of her solid grounding.

"Just be here," she found herself saying when fear crept into her mind.

After what seemed like a long time her fingers began to slide over the surface of jagged rock.  At first sharp edges would poke out from the soil in intermittent crevices.  As she continued on the surface transitioned to hard, smooth stone.  She followed it ever downward, the stone becoming wet and slippery as she moved on.

Soon the sound of water entered her ears- a dripping as if she was entering a cavern.  The wet droplets echoed off the stone walls as she picked her way ever so slowly down.  Then a light began to reflect off the wet surfaces.  At first she thought she'd been in darkness so long her mind was playing tricks on her.  But as she crept further down it grew.  The dripping turned into a constant sound and as she listened she heard a heavy rush of water coming from beyond.

Before long the walls of narrow passage widened and she found herself entering a large cave that stretched high up to the surface where a small opening allowed sunlight and the rushing torrent of water through.  She stared at the waterfall and found herself mesmerized by the glistening surface of the lake it splashed into to.

She searched for a way around the edges of the underground lake but found nothing but steep walls of rock stretching upward on both sides.  She waded just a little ways in until she spotted a shore on the far end of the massive cave.  She stopped then, fear once again grasping her heart.  Would she be able to swim?  What if her pack weighed her down- she could drown there.

But again she breathed, and again trust returned.  The same steady voice that he led her down gave her the next step: "Swim."

She stepped out into the deeper water and stretched her arms over the crystalline surface.  The liquid was surprisingly warm and felt amazing sliding over her skin.  She let go then, her body moving without effort, her mind marveling at how easily she glided.  It was as if the world had wanted her here, had been calling her for years.  She reveled in it: the sensation, the sound, the fluid movement.  A million emotions seemed to wash over her as she swam past the waterfall to the far side- emotions that had laid dormant inside of her for longer than she realized.

It was here that she confronted another lie that had led her actions for so long: the belief that her emotions made her weak.  That the very things that could guide her so fluidly through life somehow made her less than those she admired for their intellect and stony, steadfast appearance.  But here in this space it seemed that everything she 'd derided herself for feeling was finally set free.

She was glad to to finally succumb to them, glad to finally give up the fruitless fight.  She made a promise to remember the feeling and the freedom that came from allowing herself to fully experience it.  And she vowed to never again stifle what was authentic within her.

And as she slowly climbed the far shore of the cave she looked back out at the great lake she had just crossed and said a prayer of gratitude to everything that brought her there.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Seeker- Part 1

 
When she thought about it she realized the journey began long before she started it.  That internal sense of desperation for something, somewhere that would make sense of life.  That yearning for a feeling of peace.  That panicked, frenzied need for a life raft in the tumultuous seas of existence.  She'd been seeking her whole life.

Her quest sent her in the usual directions: false prophets and misguided philosophers.  Teachers that claimed to know the true path.  Countless books and lectures and exercises all meant to bring clarity and true sight.  But that voice was still there, underneath it all.  Questioning, judging, hating.  And that desperate seeking only increased.

She heard of a place where she might finally find the answers she sought.  But as with all important journeys, this one wasn't easy.  It was a path that wound deep down into the earth, through dark places and frightening possibilities, before finally emerging on a mountain side and culminating with a long trek up into the heavens.

She hesitated- it was a habit born out of constant uncertainty and fear.  But her seeking had led her to some fundamental truths and she knew enough to believe that she had to try, because her soul's thirst  must be quenched.

So she set out, entering into the forest where she was told not to go, looking for the great tree of the stories.  She was fearful upon entering the densely wooded place- so many stories of the evil of witches, the cult of enlightenment.  But she cast these thoughts aside and trusted.

Trusted the simple steps of her feet, the beating of her heart, the movement of her limbs as she crept ever deeper into the woods where the scent of earth was so strong she could taste it.  She felt a peace here, among the sunlight in the leaves and the heaviness of the soil underneath her.  She felt a presence leading her forward, away from the noise of her life and into the quiet of the earth.

And in the stillness she found the ancient tree of the stories with its branches stretching up towards the heavens and its root burrowing deep into the ground.  And there among the unbreakable roots she found the gap in the wood- the narrow opening leading down.

She paused, wondering what would happen if she went further.  But with a steadying breath the trust returned.  "Go down." she heard herself say.  So she did.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Always


What the hell is going on this week?  Everyone is still reeling from Bowie and now Alan?  I'm devastated.

It's hard to put into words what a heartache I'm feeling at this moment.  Like many others, I wasn't obsessed with Rickman until he took on and brought to brilliant life the character of Snape from the Harry Potter series- even though I had seen him and even loved him in so many other films before that point.

To say that Rickman was a brilliant actor is a massive understatement- he gave visceral performances.  I can't remember a single scene where I didn't want to either punch him or madly and passionately embrace him.  His performances made you feel and that's a rare commodity in the world of entertainment.

And he knew it- he knew that he had something special to work with and he took that as a very serious responsibility.  He's quoted as saying “Talent is an accident of genes, and a responsibility.”  He used his genes very well giving performances that will be remembered forever.

It's like I said on Monday: when someone gives of themselves that completely, inhabits a performance that fully- the world is a better place for it.  He's been quoted as saying “Actors are agents of change.  A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”  Alan Rickman changed the world.

There's so many moments- a pause, a lilt of the voice, a look that only he could deliver.  And they permanently lodged themselves in my heart.  I'll think about them years, decades later.  My voice will catch in my throat as I talk about them- what they meant to me, how completely they effected me.

It's going to be happening all day: people will be finding out.  They will be shedding tears.  They will be telling stories and tales about the first time they saw him, or how brilliant he was in this, or how hard it hit them when they saw him do this or that.  And people who knew him will be giving first hand accounts about what he was like- who he actually was, what he cared about, why he championed the causes he did.  So I won't repeat here what will be said by others better informed than I.

But I must say this:

When I am much older, sitting in my rocking chair watching that scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (for the millionth time) and crying like a baby and my family asks me "After all this time?" I will say "Always."

Always, Alan Rickman.  Always.

Thank you.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Bali Clap

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It's one of those stories that becomes a legend.  The details may get foggy and the events exaggerated through repetition even while the involved parties are still alive.  It's a phenomenon I've seen before, but I must admit it's sort-of surreal when it's your legend.

For me the location was everything- I never dreamed of being able to travel to Bali, especially not with my sons in tow and no fuckwit husband to slow me down.  It was a dream, completely incomprehensible.  At least once a minute I had to close my eyes and take a breath just to make sure that when I opened them again it would still be real.

That cove was particularly idyllic and very much the stuff of legends.  It wasn't just the view- though I've never seen anything quite as beautiful and doubt very much that I will ever again- it was everything.  The wind was clear and smooth on the surface of my skin and it carried on it the faint scent of oleander.  That mixed with the dense scent of the coastal water made the air itself intoxicating.

The water was impossibly blue- darker in some spots, like the cove we were in where the water deepened due to the high cliffs.  But mostly it was crystalline and perfect.  And it felt like silk as I swam through it.

There was a rock in the middle of the cove- a high jetty of stone sticking up from the water.  At the top was an edge that hung out over the surface of the ocean and the more daring swimmers would leap from it into the deep pool below.  The old me would have thought it unsafe and strictly forbade such foolishness.  But this was the new me- wild, free from the confines of a miserable marriage, eager to fully taste from the fruit of life.  So I climbed up.

Andrew was yelling for me to come down- only 17 at the time he still feared this new version of me and half expected me to get into something too deep.  But Bran was cheering me on, chanting for me to "Do it!  Do it!  Do it!"

I peered once at the flat surface below with it's impossibly blue surface and cool, clear waters.  And then, without hesitation, I jumped.

For a moment- a time too impossibly short to determine- I was free.  Flying through the air as if my body were designed for the action.  Smooth lines and perfectly contoured arcs as I assumed my best diving position.  I had been a high diver in college and it had been an obsession at the time.

But a marketing career and marriage and two children and the endless tasks and chores of everyday life had taken that away from me- until that moment.  As I slid through the air like a knife I was freer than I'd been in years.  I was perfect.

Until I sneezed.  That damned oleander.  How in that exact second with wind whipping past me something so irritating could have lodged itself in my nostril so exactly as to wrack my body with  a compulsive bend I will never understand.  But bend I did- right in half. 

And before I could realize what had happened, before I noticed the surface of the water breaking around my panicked form- I hit.  My knees recoiling presented my belly as an almost perfectly flat surface to break against the liquid wall and I ended up doing the worst belly flop of my life.

To hear Andrew tell the story, the clap was so loud he actually went deaf for a few seconds afterward.  To observe Bran's tale it made the ears ring.  For me, I heard nothing.  Saw nothing.  Felt nothing.  It was just water and then- blackness.

When I came to Bran had me up on the ledge and was blowing hard into my mouth.  I must have gone into shock or something because I have no recollection of the time that had lapsed.  I should have been scarred but all I could think of was how proud I was of him.  My eyes stared out at him barring down on my chest and I thought that if this was the last thing I ever saw it wouldn't be the worst.  His firm jaw clenched in concentration, his hair dangling over his high brow- his eyes focused like lasers.  He was a vision of strength- an Adonis.  And I had brought him into the world.    Strange thoughts from a near-drowning.

But then my body responded to the thrusts and pain took over.  It was pure, reflexive convulsions for some time before I had any choice in movement.  And the string that settled in afterwards felt like dying.  Andrew swears it was nothing short of a miracle that I survived.  Bran can never tell the story without laughing.  It's a defense, I think.

Either way, it became a defining point for all of us.  A reminder of how quickly things can change, how untenable life can be, how tossed about me all are sometimes.  At first it was a story, as most legends are.  "Did mom tell you what happened when we were in Bali?"  There'd be excited glances, and eager ears.  Shocked expressions and finally, the relived laughter.

But over time it changed.  The exaggeration, the dramatic pauses, the added details that hadn't been there before (like a suspicious dorsal fin nearby) making the tension even higher for the listener.  It became something more than just a memory- it became the Bali Clap.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Miracle Dog

 
5 years ago today, this miracle was born.

Let me start this off by saying what probably seems obvious: I don't have any children.  I am never going to have any children (by choice, not biology).  So, as is so often the case with people such as me, my dog is my baby.  When people bust out pictures of their kids, I bust out pictures of this guy.  When they go through unimaginable anxiety because their kids are sick, I go through that for this guy.  Buddy is my baby.  So if you can't understand that, you may want to skip this.  But if you do, then none of what I'm about to say will sound crazy and I invite you to read on.

As I was saying, 5 years ago today that awe-inspiringly adorable little man was born.  He was part of a litter of 4.  He was the second smallest.  And from the second I saw him, I was hooked.  That's all there is to it.

Since then, he has become the focus of most of my and my partner's thoughts, worries and affections.  He is integral to how we structure our day.  He is part of what we think about before we go to bed at night, part of what we are most grateful for in life, part of our family in the most fundamental way possible.  Like I said, my baby.

Its hard to put into words how incredibly grateful I am to have him in my life.  His pure, unfiltered joy infects me every time we play fetch (his favorite activity).  His soft little body physically heals mine every time we snuggle (probably his second favorite activity).  His simple mind inspires me to be mindful every time I see him smell, eat, run, bark, roll-around-in-whatever with wild abandon.  My life is better because he is in it.  Period.

And today, because it's his birthday, I just needed to say: I fucking love that little dog more fiercely than I've ever loved (or could ever love) a human.  And although I do honestly thank god everyday for him I am especially aware and grateful today.  Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Myth, The Legend



So all of this has gotten me thinking: what does it really mean to us when an artist dies?  I've been seeing it all day- people saying they're sad or even devastated by his death.  And the cynical part of me thinks: But you didn't even know him!  And it's true. especially for someone like Bowie who was so smart in cultivating a public image that was very different from the real man that he kept private for the true loves he had in his life: there's a small, select group of people that are mourning the man today.

But what about the rest of us?  No, we didn't know him.  But does that mean we didn't love him?  And the resounding answer, of course, is no.  We did love him- not the man, but the legend.

All I've been hearing all day is deeply personal stories of how he's touched people's lives.  Song lyrics that gave voice to a small part of the soul better than the possessor of that soul could.  Experiences had at his concerts or while watching his performances that were instrumental shifts in the lives of the people who had them.  Other artists who were inspired by this beloved muse and used what he gave as a jumping board to launch their own crazy and wonderful expressions.

Because that's the nature of art- it touches us on a sub-conscious level.  It's visceral, it's deep; deeper than what we talk about or the stories we tell.  It becomes part of our infrastructure.  It helps us express the stuff that makes us us.

So yes, it does make sense to be sad.  We all have a right to that grief.  But here's what we have an even greater right to: joy.  The joy that comes from loving what an artist gives.  The wonder that comes from watching how that artist changes the world.  The awe it inspires when we realize how much of what we now enjoy was inspired by that artist.  Those are the emotions I'm feeling most today.

I'm not sad that he died- I'm grateful that he lived and that in that life he gave me (and all of us) some awesome, inspiring part of himself.  Because that part- the legend- that never dies.

The music doesn't stop being played and loved and it doesn't stop inspiring other musicians.  The pictures won't fade or vanish and they won't stop inspiring other fashion icons and designers.  The stories will carry on in all these circles.  The memories we have of those moments where we were truly touched and changed won't go away.

Yes, the man is dead.  But the legend?  Well that will never die, my friends.

And to David Bowie all I have to say is this: I will always love you.  Thanks.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Breath Work

In the breath there is peace.
The calm, quiet space between words.  The small pause before speaking.  The slight hesitation before action.
Regardless of the chaos that may abound just outside, in the breath there is peace.

In the breath there is stillness.
A small space in which to just be.  Without responsibility, without chores or tasks or to-do lists.  Without demands or deadlines.  Without the impatient persistence of all those who require you to do.
In the breath there is space to be in the stillness.

In the breath there is control.
No matter what, however haywire life can get or what stress causes the heart to pump and the body to freeze in fear- none of that can stop the breath.
Slow.  Deep.  Easy.
Just for a second- stop.
Breathe and be in control.

In the breath there is god.
The universal life that flows through every single living thing.
We are not separate.  We are not alone.  Only the mind's lies convince us of such.
We are part of the same energy that sustains all life.
The life found in the breath.

So when life feels as though it's swallowing you up-
When events seem to conspire to take what's yours away from you-
When it feels as though you have nothing left-
just close your eyes
and breathe...
and be...
in the breath.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Time to Forgive You

Sure, you gave me stories to tell.  Ways to relate to other victims.  First-hand understanding of what it means to be in an "abusive relationship"- a term I would never have used while we were together and one that others who loved and cared for me called it long before we ended.  But there was value in that: lessons learned and hard-earned battle scars.  A right of passage, maybe.

The actual story, I later learned, was nothing special.  The tools you employed to keep me in place were part of the rule book everyone seemed to know about.  The experiences I had with you, the intensity of the emotion, that time I later realized (with great horror) actually did fit the definition of rape- all of these were common tales told by others like me.  Nothing unique, nothing new.  But the time lost with friends and at my beloved learning place paled in comparison to the changes within myself.

That's the soul-wound.  That's the cut that didn't heal.  Long after you were permanently out of my life that wound continued to sting and those thoughts continued to control me.

Brain-washing seemed like too strong of a term.  But how else to describe such a thing?  Being trained to doubt my own thoughts, my own judgement.  Being told I was 'psycho-analyzing' anytime I tried to speak my mind.  Being laughed at for showing the parts of myself that weren't approved of, that didn't fit the role I learned to squeeze myself into.  Being shut down with the ever-dismissive "I don't need this."

It's training.  It's deep, intensive study in how to stifle yourself, how to diminish your own soul.  And it lasted years beyond the landscape of our time together.

Of course it made the road rough for future relationships- the trust issues and difficulty opening up and terrible communication patterns.  Being afraid to say anything when I was unhappy, being petrified of how my new lover would respond if I was honest.  Shutting down and sealing up rather than letting him know.  Shocking that the relationship would implode when I operated that way, and damned lucky I found a partner willing to be patient as I learned healthier ways of interacting.

But that wasn't the relationship that suffered most, that was just a casualty in the overall war.  The war was with me.  The relationship that suffered was with myself.

It's not that your voice was the one in my head keeping myself down- that voice had always been there.  But you taught me to listen to that voice.  You gave credit to those criticisms, agreed with those thoughts, validated that self-hatred.  You helped the annihilator grow.

And that is what I need to forgive.  Not the actions, not the events- but the voice that was so nourished, so supported by you.  And everything it prevented me from doing, everything it delayed me from becoming.

The things I would have been daring enough to try if I hadn't shut myself down before even starting.  The feelings of love I would have had for myself if I didn't keep myself silent and scared.  The others I would never have allowed to treat me as they did if not for the belief that they had the right, because I believed I wasn't worth more.  The person I would have become if that voice didn't keep me trapped in a small box I never fit in.

But I'm not in that box anymore.  I am becoming everything I was always meant to be.  I am living without fear, without criticism, without judgement of my own worth or doubt about my own soul.  I am the living, breathing, brilliant version of myself I was always meant to be.  And I got myself here because I finally stopped listening to that voice.

And it is because of that that I can finally forgive you.  Because of who I am that I can forgive who I was, who you trained me to be.  Because of my fearlessness that I'm finally ready to give up the story of the victim.  Because I have healed myself, that wound is now just a scar of wisdom.

So I will give you up.  Not just who I was because of you, but all the fear I've held onto all these years. Not just the nightmares and dreams of you coming back and ruining what I have created.  And not just the random fantasies that would sneak into my head about how I would react, what I would say if I saw you again; how violently I would reject you if you dared to enter my life now.  But the story of you, the story of me as victim.  It no longer serves me.

So tomorrow as I engage in yet another self-healing ritual, yet another dialogue with my own heart; I will evict you from it.  You, and the years of anger at myself for allowing myself to become what I was.  The years of self hatred I experienced for not getting myself out of it sooner, or not saying no from the very start.  The years of me as the victim of you, and as perpetrator of my own continued abuse.  I will let go of all it so I can make room for everything I have yet to become but now fully realize I am capable of.

So really, in the end, it's not about forgiving you.  It's about forgiving myself.  And I do.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Web Magic

Even now she can feel them- their eight limbs picking their way across the landscape of her body.  That sudden movement at the base of her scalp. It must be just a stray hair?  The itchiness on of the surface of her skin; her nails chasing the cause but always finding nothing. The sticky strand across the face- strong but impossibly soft.  Her eyes dart looking for the unmistakable shape but though always present they remain ever outside the periphery of her vision.  Is this madness?
She'd followed the ritual exactly: the words spoken from nervous lips in the midnight hour, the candle evoking the goddess of creativity, the herbs and incense piled atop as she bathed in the smoke of it.  She knew this was nothing to trifle with and she hadn't been trifling.  But what had she been inviting?
Her mind went back to the old woman in the shop with her layers and layers of ribbons and jewelry.  She'd said that every symbol had a meaning and helped attune a specific vibration.  She'd listed the spells that could help her and warned against diving in too deep.
But she was cocky, and only half believing.  Surely this must be a joke?  Something that crazy people do to make themselves feel better about not being in control of their own lives.  This woman with her incense and totems was a new age fishmonger selling trinkets and kitch to people too stupid to know better.
But Darcy, her free-wheeling and boundless friend had sworn this was the answer to her problem and desperate times do call for desperate measures.  So she'd swallowed her pride and bought the spell kit, hating herself for being so weak that she'd seek out something so hokey.  But she'd felt empowered as she left the tiny, cluttered shop.  No longer close minded.  No longer limited by a construct that maybe didn't quite fit.
"This is what you get" was the thought that came to her when she felt the thick weave binding her.  She startled out of bed with a panic and thrashed in the sheets.  Only a dream.
But then the itching started.  The scuttle of impossibly fast bodies.  The strands of silk roping across her.  The breath catching in her through as she sensed them.  But her eyes showed her nothing and her hands always reached for invisible culprits.  She was losing her mind.
But no- she will not roll over to whatever dark magic she stupidly opened herself up to.  Buyer beware isn't enough to make her sink into the murky shadows where this energy would undoubtedly consume her.  No- she will defend herself.
Her feet beat a rhythm into the pavement as she walked- each step pounding with the beat of her rage.  The street reverberates with the strong, low hum of her feet like a giant drum.  It's so loud- surely others must hear it?  Or is this another sign of her emerging madness?
She throws the door open and marches to the back of the store where the woman is instructing some other hapless dupe.
 
"What did you do to me?"  She hadn't intended to scream it.  But she felt fiery and wild.  The feelings were equal parts foreign and exciting and she invited the anger. 
"Excuse me?" the old woman asked, as if she'd whispered rather than thrown the accusation.
"I did the spell like you told me and now there are spiders all over me- I can feel them..." and even as she said it, she did.  There was even a heaviness in her voice now, as if somehow the web weavers were inside her throat.
"Spiders are the spirit of creativity and feminine energy- they will help you beat your writer's block.  Help you weave a yarn, so to speak." She said it as if she were terribly proud of the joke,  "This is what you wanted, yes?"
"No!" she screamed.  But it wasn't a scream, it was the same whisper she'd used when she recited the words that began this nightmare. 
"You're fighting it," the woman said, completely unfazed by the hysterical woman.  "You have to surrender to it.  Invite the darkness in, and then you will be able to access your true voice.  We cannot fear ourselves if we hope to be free."
She whimpered, feeling so bound in by the webs that she couldn't move now.  They were everywhere now- her hair, her clothing, her skin.  Their silk covered her eyes and she could no longer see.  Soon there would be nothing but a bound figure in a cocoon waiting to be devoured by thousands of tiny, hungry arachnids.
"You're getting heavy now," the old woman whispered.  "You're letting it happen.  But tell me- what happens when you wake up?"
Her eyes shot open and suddenly her vision flooded with familiar sight of her room.  Nothing had changed, all was as it had been before she went to sleep save that the light had changed.  She sat up, still searching for the arthropds.  But the dream was over.
Suddenly, her mind flooded with thoughts and ideas that could not be contained.  She reached for the notebook and pen the old woman had told her to keep by her bed and began scribbling furiously.  She felt almost giddy with the sudden rush of creativity.  The damn had been broken and her hand could barely keep up with the deluge of words.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sleep Speak

When I was little my father used to speak Russian in his sleep.  My great grandmother never learned to speak English so he and his siblings had to learn Russian in order to communicate with her.  After she died, he had little need for the language and his grasp of it all but vanished... save for when he slept.

My brother and I would creep close to the bed like knights besides a slumbering giant- desperate to observe but petrified of waking him.  My father's chest would heave up and down as he snored and we'd hold our breath waiting for the words to come.  Knowing absolutely nothing of Russian we had no idea what we were hearing but it was magic all the same.

A secret language- one that even my father himself could not speak or understand- coming from his mouth in pieces and fragments.  Stories and memories and an entire history murmured through a slack mouth.  It was like watching one of the fairy tales coming true in front of our eyes.

I used to wait for the next piece- for some magical character he'd inadvertently summoned to appear, or for some spell to seize us in its power.  And even though all that would happen was my mother shuffling us out of the room to let my father sleep in peace my mind would still race with the possibilities.

I could use that kind of magic in my life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Bev is Back!

Big thanks to this month's awesome hosts  L.G. Keltner, Denise Covey, Sheri Larsen, J.Q. Rose, Chemist Ken, and Michelle Wallace!
 
A little while ago (read: New Year's) I set a goal for myself.  It's a rather lofty goal and while I've only been doing it for a few days I'm already thinking it's the right call.  In spite of all the unexpected interruptions that will undoubtedly make it challenging I'm thinking it's just the fire I needed to get cooking again.  Here's the goal: write everyday for a year.  366 days (because of course I had to do this thing on a leap year!), 366 posts on this blog.  That's it.

I didn't set any other limitations on it than that.  Obviously, I'm hoping this will inspire a lot of fiction.  That's the whole point of the exercise.  But 366 is a lot and I'm not expecting myself to be a writing machine.  So there's gonna be a lot of non-fiction, too.  Memoir-style entries, book reviews, blog hops (like this one), thoughts about this crazy, life-altering yoga journey I'm on and a whole lot of other random and not easily categorized things.   No rules, no limitations, just writing.

And I have to say, it's going pretty well so far.  I've been pulling ideas out of these writing exercise books by Brian Kiteley.  The 3am Epiphany and the 4am Breakthrough.  They're gold mines for weird, introspective, deep, silly, intellectual and insanely creative prompts and there's a lot of knowledge about the art form in the pages.  It's getting the creative juices flowing and getting my fingers typing and after such a long time without that this has been a big buoy to me.

But, credit where credit is due: I am the one writing.  And I'd like to think that maybe one of the most fundamental lessons about writing is finally starting to sink in: you gotta write crap.  Stupid, incomplete, unpolished, insane, unintelligible and just plain terrible crap.  Why?  Because that's the manure the good ideas grow in.  That's where you plant the seeds for the brilliant bursts of life that grow and blossom and bloom into amazing works of art.

I've been hearing this a lot: creativity is like giving birth.  It's painful and super messy but in the end you wind up with something awe-inspiringly beautiful that's going to grow in ways you can't yet imagine.

I've been told these things for years.  I've been encouraged to give myself the gift of wild and reckless writing since as far back as I can remember- my earliest writing workshops in high school.  But I never got it, I never understood how you could let your work out there when it turned out so differently than that perfect idea you had in your head.  So for most of my life my inner critic ruled the nest and I edited myself so severely I nearly lost my voice altogether.

But I'm done with that.  I'm saying it with confidence now- DONE.  No more quieting that crazy, creative voice.  No more editing to the point of having nothing left.  No more judging and criticizing and scrapping my messy never-goona-win-a-pulitzer stories.  I'm letting them out.  Out of my head, out into the world.  And it feels good.

Yes, there's still a part of me that says "oh this is terrible" every time I read through what I've written.  But there's a louder, stronger part of me now that says "GOOD!" and slams down the "Publish" button with fierce, unbridled excitement.  Yes, it probably is terrible.  But boy if something wonderful isn't gonna come out of it.

So that's where I am today.  Less insecure than I've ever been.  Happy about finally writing again.  Bursting with ideas and tappy-tappy-tapping away on my keyboard like a two year old with a toy piano.  And all because I'm finally doing what i've been told to do for years: just write.  That's all.

It's finally sinking in.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

In The Dark

In the dark there is a warm body wrapped in tangled sheets and a down comforter leaking feathers.  It is the instantaneous comfort of your favorite person's embrace.  It is the light sound of their snore and the heat of their breath on your brow as you snuggle close to them.  It is the dark of pure sense, heavenly touch, euphoric feel.  But it cannot be planned, it cannot be scheduled.  It exists in the snooze of the alarm, the late morning delay, the weekend withdrawal.  It is the most desired dark place. 

In the dark there is possibility.  Fantasy, perhaps.  Paranoia.  Too many horror movies.  But there was a sound, no imaging that.  And there are no flashlights, no cell phones, no matches.  In the dark there is fumbling and whispering and desperately beating hearts as blind hands grasp and hesitate and desperately seek the light.  It is the dark that is vanquished so quickly it leaves one laughing in the easy reality afterwards.
   
In the dark there is the unknown.  The great glacier of Freud's vehicle.  The unspoken words, the fuzzy rememberings, the facts that prove inaccurate when pursued.  It is the thread you pull that unravels a broken story and leaves the mind fragmented and frightened as witness to it's own fragility.  It is the darkness of madness to those who wander too far in.

In the dark there is earth.  The moist, black soil.  The endlessly tangled roots.  The burrowing rodents.  The insects and invertebrates.  The stones and sand and minerals.  There are many stories about what else lurks in the darkness.  Some say the mother herself, incarnate as the wise crone.  Others say it is a pathway to other worlds, other realities.  Still others argue that it is just layers upon layers upon layers- endless in complexity and composition.  It is the dark of the ground.  Heavy, shifting, settling and getting ever darker.

In the dark there is evil.  Pure, unadulterated and unrelenting.  Some describe it as the devil or demons.  Some give the monsters other names, other origins.  But all are that which is not good.  That which is not godly.  That which is not pure.  It is the dark of nightmares- the ones that steal your breath before you can scream and crush your chest with an iron fist.  It is the dark of unspeakable facts and occurrences.  It is the dark of mankind's soul; and its stories are found in every culture, every language, among every peoples and tribes.

In the dark there is cold.  Biting, unforgiving and deadly if uninterrupted.  It is endless, it is harsh and it is the way it has always been.  It's why people light candles and drink hot brews in winter.  It's the stuff the stories used to frighten children are made of.  It contains nothing and all things, all at the same time.  But, some would argue, these are overly sentimental observations.  In the end it is just the dark.  And the dark has no use for sentiment.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Casket Reveler

I know what you're thinking- some sicko, right?  Who the hell would want to sneak into a funeral?  Must be crazy, call the cops, and the like.  But here's the thing: funerals are self-contained explosions.  It's often smaller, quieter than you think such a destructive thing would be- but no one gets out alive.

One of the side effects of such a setting in that no one is really paying any attention to who is there, especially not the family of the deceased.  You get in the line, shake the hand and say a few sympathetic words and you're off.  The nose blowers don't even look you in the face, the awkward youth never ask any questions and the blank-faced shock victims give robotic responses.  No one remembers you, no one registers the intruder.

As for me and why I'm here- well... let's just say I got my reasons.  If you believe in such things, it's not up to you to decide whether they're good or bad- someone else is in charge of passing judgement.  Perhaps the reason it's never bothered me too much is because I don't believe in such things.  I've never seen any reason to, and nothing's ever come out of the woodwork to convince me otherwise.  So I come- viewing after viewing, suit after suit- and I sit.  And I watch.

It's not exactly entertainment.  I could be binge-watching Netflix like everyone else if I wanted that.  This is better.  It's an experience.  The gauntlet of human emotions out on display with no commercials, no censors, no screen.  The faces are only part of the play.

There's the tissue-talker muttering 'thanks you's and agreements to offered compliments through a wadded up paper.  Small, hunched and held up by tall, awkward boys on both sides.  They stand like pillars, doing their damndest not to move as the plump, round yet desperately fragile woman between them snivels and snorts at all the greeters.  She smells like grapefruit as I pass and I can't help but think of the nursing home they stuck my uncle in before he went.

There's the statue standing there like a sentry at the end of the line.  His hands clasped to each other so tightly his knuckles are white, his arms pressed so firmly in front of him he looks as if he might tip over if you knocked into him.  And his gaze is locked straight ahead like he's trying to stare through the wall.  It all gives the illusion of immobility and permanence.  Like he's part of the scenery- cold, hard and inanimate.  That is, until someone proffers a hand.  Then he springs into action like a jack-in-the-box: grasping and shaking and smiling with a great act of real emotion.  But you follow long enough and see the same dead expression wash over as soon as the person passes.  Action, reaction.  Like a reflex.  No thought, just meaningless motion.

My favorite is always the drunk.  There's always at least one, no matter what the crowd.  There's a few different flavors of them, of course.  But they always monopolize the action.  The infamous loud, belligerent tornado who lobs accusations like a fountain- hitting anything near without aim or purpose.  Or the quiet hiccuper whose glossy eyes can never quite focus and who needs to be pushed upright every so often lest they splay themselves across a neighbor's lap.  Or the sobber- the ones crying with such abandon that only alcohol could explain the ceaseless noise.  They're louder and scarier than the regular sobbers.  And redder.

I don't know why they're my favorite, exactly.  Maybe it's the way they demand everybody's attention while everyone around them pretends not to notice.  Or maybe it's the way they put it all out there.  While the mourners are acting and strutting around like show dogs before a panel of judges they spit and growl and bark with no regard for the audience.  It seems more genuine somehow, more authentic.  In a conference of actors they're the only real participants.

You can think whatever you want of me for liking it so much.  You can judge and scorn and chastise in your own indignant fashion.  Won't bother me.  Because while you're doing all that I'll be watching you, forming my own judgements, my own labels, my own studious observations of character.  It's all part of the experience. 

And why not enjoy the experience?  The one in the casket can't.  So you might as well revel for them.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: The Sandman Volume 6- Fables and Reflections





http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10180611-the-sandman-vol-6
This is the 6th book in the life-changing series written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by some of the most brilliant artists on the planet.  If you're unfamiliar with the series but even remotely into... well, pretty much anything creative then you owe it yourself to check it out.  Start at the beginning, knowing that it warms up pretty quick, and let your imagination revel in this alternate reality that Gaiman has crafted.

By now, this series has firmly inserted itself into my psyche and with this volume Gaiman succeeds in sneaking it into memories where it previously wasn't.  The more I read, the more indistinguishable these characters and stories become from what I understand of history (which is the point, of course).  This dream king has now made his way into the old Greek Myths, added a taboo factoid to Roman history, inspired the endlessly popular Emperor of the United States (who I know from Christopher Moore's works even though he's found just about everywhere), jump-started Mark Twain's career, slightly altered the French Revolution, inserted a chapter into Slavic folklore, created a catalyst in Marco Polo's career, added to the pantheon of biblical characters and forever immortalized the golden age of Baghdad.   And all in one volume.

Each of the stories is steeped in the setting they invade with appropriate alterations not only in artwork but also language, theme, and character.  It's not just that Gaiman is a chameleon; he's the king of chameleons.  And all of it maintains the same dream-like quality he's weaved so subtly into the stories since volume 1.  It's very easy to drift off while reading a chapter, lose touch with reality.  Even while siting in a quiet, well-lit room on a weekday with all of its tasks and chores it's easy to look up at the end of a chapter and wonder if you've been dreaming.  It all has that same not-quite-real feel to it and it seriously screws with your senses.  (Which, again, is totally the point.)

The further I get into this series the more I wonder how I ever lived with out it.  It's so ingrained in my imagination now I consider it a part of me.  It's changing the way I imagine, allowing me to believe that all these stories were always in there, I just forgot them.  Just like a dream: you realize you've seen it, heard it, felt it before.  But you forgot, because you woke up.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Echoes in the Cavern

Even after the screams stopped.  After the cries and calls faded.  After the fall... their voices still echoed in the cavern.  In the small crevices, the hidden nooks, the forgotten places.  She could hear them as soon as she entered.

One exhale in the stillness, and then a promise.  She would find them all.  She would tell their stories.  She would seek them out of the dark places and bring them all- every one of them- into the light.

"And so it begins," she said to herself.  And then, to the great expanse in front: "I'm here.  I'm listening."

She exhaled- a single movement of air in the dense interior.  And then, with no more than a lean of her body, she took her first step forward.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016: The Year of Writing Dangerously


(My vision board for 2016.  Note the left side, in purple.)

So, of course I have a lot of goals for 2016.  Meditate- every single day.  Read more.  (A lot more!)  Eat healthier.  Run more.  Stop wasting so much damned time on my phone.  Finish my 200 hour yoga certification.  Paint.  Spend more time in nature.  Teach a regular and ongoing yoga meet-up.  Get on the phone or skype with my awesome friends more.  Clean and organize.  I'm sure there are others...

The old me would have felt anxious with the number and scope of these goals.  I would've set challenges to try to get myself to do them.  That drill sergeant voice would've kicked in telling me to "GET IT DONE!".   The annihilator would've followed up with all the reasons why I couldn't.  (It's a viscous cycle.)

But I'm doing things different nowadays.  I'm approaching things with a gentler, kinder attitude towards myself.  What I was saying yesterday- it's not about the finished product, it's about getting super messy while making it.  I want to approach this goal with the reckless, joyful abandon of a two year old.  I want to soak it in.  I want to breathe.

So as strict as this goal may seem, it's not.  I'm not approaching it that way. I'm approaching it the same way I do my meditation practice- it's not about scrambling to make the time to sit and breathe for ten minutes.  It's about giving myself the gift of space in which to exist for ten minutes.  It's a break in the chaos of the morning rush.  It's a quiet moment that is just for me (and God, the universe and everything).  I want this to be the same.

I've won NaNoWriMo five times.  For five November's I've barreled past the 50K word mark.  And I did it by following the rules: being creative without judgement.  Not editing.  Writing like I was being chased by a shark and the words were the power to my lifeboat.  Swinging from idea to idea like a crazy, squealing, poo-flinging monkey.  Those are the rules of NaNo.

And they're the rules of The Night of Writing Dangerously- their annual event where they pack a bunch of writers into a ballroom in San Francisco and feed them coffee and candy to get them to write as much as they possibly can in a night to raise money for a NaNo charity.  (I've never been but if I lived anywhere near San Francisco you can bet I would have.)  Needless to say, in that kind of environment, a lot of a amazing stuff takes place.

So I want to approach this year with that same attitude: holding the space for that wild abandon to take place in.  (Thus, the title.)  Giving myself the gift of time to write.   Going at it with unbridled, enthusiastic passion AND the quiet wisdom of a yogini.  Combining all I've been with all I am becoming.

One year of daily writing.  For me.  And of course, I have to believe the rest of the world will somehow benefit from me finally figuring out how to tap into this wellspring of writing desire I've always had.

The rules I'm setting for myself are simple: write everyday.  Try to make at least one entry a week be fiction.  Don't edit (save for typos).  Be crazy, be daring, be dangerous.  But above all, have fun.  Don't hate it.  That's the real goal.  Writing while not hating writing.

I assume there'll be A LOT of non-fiction.  Me talking about yoga, about life, about whatever insight I feel like writing down that day.  I'd be lying if I said that's why I'm doing this but I'm not being so strict as to say that some pretty amazing stuff couldn't come out of that, either.  Hopefully there'll be some poetry.  I really like poetry and I'd love to write it without immediately judging and scrapping it.  And hopefully I'll finally get those stories- the ones that have been nibbling at the corners of my consciousness but I've never taken time to write because of my firm belief that they couldn't possibly come out the way I want them to.  That's what I really want to tap into.

Of course, I hope you'll all join me on this journey (otherwise, why would I be posting it online?)  But really, it's about me.  So even if no one ever reads this stuff- if it never goes anywhere, I never try to publish, not a single thing other than me having written comes out it- that'll be more than good enough for me.  It's practice, afterall.  It's the journey, not the destination.  It's the space in which to write... dangerously.  ^_^