today is as grey as ashes on foreheads. everything is quiet, muted: nature contemplating her existence.
the trees in the yard stretch their arms to the blank sky. how long? they've stood that way for months now, patiently praying with all their might. empty-handed.
the winter, the wilderness, is not forever. blank skies give way to blue, i remember. death somehow becomes life like seasons turning. the ever-stretching arms grow green. i've seen it all.
i'm joining the ranks of the trees today, with an as yet ashless forehead, because underneath this thick grey turtleneck, i know that i am alive. my arms are stretching with more desperation everyday: i plead my words be true.
all i can say is that the words, like provision, are coming. today in class we talked rumi awhile, and his words, again, stopped me in my tracks (the ones being laid for some clear joy to come a la the innocence mission).
from "love dogs":
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.
the day is mild and i am well-rested. the turtles are basking on their iona rocks, peering up at me every once in awhile with expressions of "oh, you again. hi."
today is a day of much writing and starbucks tonight. i am meeting the day for what it is, and i'm moving forward with its rhythm. in this particular moment, there is no need for answers. i am holding my sadnesses in a sacred cup, believing that 13th century mystic words hold fast, that my cries are being heard, and the cries themselves are connection with my God.
this is present tense hope.
i have discovered the secret to coping with depression: take care of something living. but. start small. i wouldn't suggest a hasty pregnancy or adoption, or even extended babysitting. perhaps a bit of dog and/or catsitting would be a good introduction into the world of keeping things alive. it worked for me. i have gone from living thing-sitter to living thing-owner.
but, what about your horse? (you ask.) due to financial difficulties, he now resides in pennsylvania, where my sister, peggy, dotes on him regularly. "dakota's got 2 mommies," we love to say. we are a very progressive family.
the new members of this family, which thus far are thriving, include a lovely oxalis plant called fiona (a gift from jenna, leftover from her very irish wedding), several pink tulips (a gift from marlei, handed to me across the starbucks counter. an i-know-it-will-get-better offering), and most recently, two tiny aquatic turtles, sent by helen as the perfect valentine. i have named them tino and myrtle, and they are swimming about in their lung-shaped lagoon, complete with a plastic palm tree, at which they roll their little turtle eyes. gawd, how cheeezy, they seem to say. so i've given them iona stones to bask upon, and they now feel quite cultured.
dear lovely readers,
would you mind if i take a bit of attendance? being so long out of the regularly-writing blogworld, i have not much of an idea of who is still reading. my thanks to yews who continue to comment: you are the wind beneath my wings.
if there are any lurkers out there, will you raise your hand? i will place a goldstar on your forehead.
hey kids, all bananie adventures are now nicely archived to your left. relive the grand adventures of purchasing coldplay amidst christian rockstars. fall in love with bananie falling in love with etty hillesum once again. go to ireland awhile and learn a lot about cigarettes, sheep, and lighting coal fires.
enjoy. and i'll try to keep things a little more present tense.
i awoke to snow this morning. light flurries, white-covered grass and wet sidewalks: the typical tennessee faire. if today were monday, school would be canceled. i am sure that kroger is experiencing a mad rush of bread and milk buyers, just in case we're doomed to six inches. i'm sure that everyone is battening down the hatches.
i stood outside awhile ago in my hoodie sweatshirt, peacoat, purple jammie bottoms, and fuzzy blue slippers, having my morning constitution of coffee and cigarette. [and, i readily admit: i am officially addicted to starbucks coffee. this is how they keep their employees, despite shitty pay. it's the pound of free crack...er, coffee per week. i make mine in a french press anymore, and only drink our most expensive roast--arabian mocha sanani. i am set in my addicted ways, which i prefer to call "routine".]
the world is quiet, muffled by snow. there is no such thing as echo, just the sound of birdchatter and the silent sway of bare branches. this is God's here i am.
such insulation and consolation are the morning-after exhale from a night of telling secrets. my heart beat loudly in my chest all day yesterday, and i sat on the phone with my mom at 9:30 last night (b/c i have free minutes after nine).in a wholly uncharacteristic move, i poured out all the things that i never say. despite my self-proclaimed autonomy and mid-twentiesness, i simply needed her to know that i'm not ok. you know: mommy, kiss it. she cannot heal me, but her lips have touched the hurting places. she knows the truth.
and she loves me without the word "despite".
rain come down, eastmountainsouth is singing over the computer speakers this morning. this morning's fog is a drop ceiling of sky. i can stand tiptoe and lose my hand in its thickness. is this comfort or heaviness? i straddle between the two.
flashflood warnings abound in middle tennessee today, and i've seen photos of cows standing in the middle of a flooded pasture, huddled together with water around their legs. ears perked, confused: isn't this supposed to be dry land?
i told my girls yesterday that maybe this is the rain that washes away what's left of last year. perhaps new year's day is late this year, arriving in the middle of february. i don't know. i really don't know.
the miracles here are small, but present nonetheless. devoid of energy, i'm teaching homeless women creative writing now. wednesday, i led the group by myself. picture this: 15 women, windworn and lifeworn, sitting around a big table, wearing hats and coats, with sad, sad eyes. they don't want to write; they're here because they want a ticket for a meal and a night's shelter. participating in my class is the way to get the ticket. they are looking at me with skeptical eyes. they have no idea that 20 minutes before i had been pleading with God to get me out of having to do this by myself. i could barely get out of bed. i pretend that my heart is in this, that i know what i'm doing.
i ask them to finish these sentences: today, i feel _____. today, i am thankful for _______. they all feel sick, tired, down, icky, angry, ok. they're all grateful for blue skies and friends and life and sobriety. i ask them to write about how what they're grateful for affects how they feel. a few of them don't understand what i am asking. some of them get it and write thoughtfully for a few minutes. a woman named *jennifer scowls at me. mary looks stonefaced straight ahead of her. both women refuse to pick up pencils. rita, a 31 year old hispanic woman from boston tells me about her walk from the public library everyday, how hard it is for her to do with MS. i tell her to write about it. some of the women share their words. ellen has written a witty vignette about wanting to have a home of her own, and hating to settle for living with a man in order to have it. "i feel like i become a pet. shouldn't he just buy me a collar in case i get lost?!" the other women high five and clap. i clap, too, because ellen is really getting into the writing.
this is just a snapshot of my hour with the women. (it's weird to take on a teacher tone, and say to a bunch of women much older than me, "ok ladies, let's rein it back in. now, i want you to take out your pencils and...")
when the class ended, melissa from birmingham, whose birthday it was (i made everyone sing happy birthday to her, and she smiled like a princess for the day. i kind of wish i had a tiara for her) came up to me with a photo album of her kids. she laughed and said that this class is keeping her feeling positive. ellen said she was excited to write more. and then i left, to go back to my own world. i crashed and cried as soon as i got home.
[* names have been changed to protect the women's privacy.]
i wonder what will come of this class. women come and go; there is no flow to the class from week to week. no continuity. i feel like we will start over every time. but. i want to draw these ladies out of themselves, out of their predicaments--even for just an hour--for the sake of seeing a bit of their own beautiful souls. help them recognize that they are living, breathing human beings with lives to be lived. that their homelessness is not their defining moment, anymore than my year at the bottom of depression is mine.
i want to help them lift the drop ceiling of sky around them to see what is above it: this is not all there is.