Sunday, October 18, 2009

i am

i am four chews and a swallow
i am the words and huddled whispers passed across a shared table
i am the nods, the smiles, the anticipation of what's next
i am the darkness, the silence, the match and the dancing flame
i am the chorus of song
i am the drip, slightly off center
i am the wish, the promise, the breath aimed precisely
i am the sweet finger of buttercream,
i am the knife dipped in water, the slow peal of tape, the fast rip of paper
i am surprise, joy, disappointment
i am celebration braced against wax,
dripping year after year
lengthening trail, shortening wick
i am 47 years, carrying multitudes in my cells
i am the drop of a stone in a pond
i am tree rings, ripples
counting on something better to come from my having been here

Saturday, May 9, 2009

to momma, on mother's day

I know your hands better than my own. The way you’d press into the small of my back and rock me to the comforting rhythm of “mm mm mm mm bay ay be” over and again until I calmed into ocean, cradled into womb. Amazed now at how instantly this works 46 years on, as I lay on my side, knees pulled waist high, rocking myself to sleep, your soothing voice repeating in my head like a meditation, “mm mm mm mm bay ay be.”

I know your hands. The way you brush my hair from my face with two fingers.

And there, parked at the wall, I’d trace the rivulets on the back your hand. There was no drive-thru then, but we would eat in the station wagon anyway, burgers balanced on our laps, carefully unwrapped. This was our special time, in the days when only tens of thousands had been served.

Between bites, I’d trace the veins of your right hand with my finger tip, suppressing the current which would pop back up after my passing. Pausing at each fork to choose which path to take as if the decision mattered. My own rivers ran deep beneath the surface then, faintly blue. How many times later, I would grip my other wrist with the fingers of my right hand and squeeze, pumping my fingers until the veins in my left hand would pop high. I would search for patterns and compare them to yours. Were my hands like yours? No, I have Dad’s hands. Ellie has yours.

In the car, we’d dig into the bag, fishing for french fries stranded at the bottom and dip them into dots of sweet ketchup. You slurp chocolate. I, strawberry. We hold hands and talk about everything and nothing.

Now the currents of my own river carry me forward, mindful that the choices rest in my own hands. And still frequently, I come upon familiar places, like there, at the turning of a corner, and I realize that the path I travel is not accidental. You have carved it out for me -- shaped the banks and laid the stepping stones. And the sound of your voice in my head remains an anchor so that I can rest, rocking in stillness.

Happy Mother’s Day, Momma. I love you.

early morning meditation

My feet flat against the mat, belly rising and falling with my breath. The weight of my legs pressing down. There is heat and a rawness on the soles of my feet, almost as if a layer of skin is peeled away. Not painful but raw. I feel my feet as I breath, layering on the other things I can add to my awareness. The chatter of birds. How many conversations can they have in the span of my one breath? Feet? Yes. Are my toes pressing to the mat? Is there a seam between parts of my sole and the earth where there is only light or shadow? I hold all three - breath, feet, the sounds of birds. Did I lock the car? Would someone notice and steal Marcia's purse if I didn't lock the car? Birds nesting, carrying twigs in their beaks or talons. How is that decided? Is it sorted by size? My feet are still hot. So many songs in one breath. Deep listening. The bird feeds her young. Imagine if we fed each other mouth to mouth. The distance we add by using a spoon to feed our young. Would it be more intimate to use our fingers? Breath full and easy. In and out. How large are the creases and spaces of no contact and how do we bridge them? Feet, breath, bird song. Are they filled with light or shadow?

Saturday, February 28, 2009

be happy

There's something off about rushing to get to meditation class. What's the point of pressing and stressing in order to enter a state of oneness? So I arrive to class 20minutes late this morning, only to sit on my mat for 3 minutes, feeling the disappointment of entering in the middle deepen when I realize that meditation is actually over. And get this -- I actually start to cry. My pendulum swings between self pity and blame until I let it go when the yoga teacher reminds me that always needing to be right makes it hard to be happy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

what's in a name?

A kinder soul would say that I have a selective memory, but I'm thinking the truth is that I am losing my mind. The realization started with Facebook and my fumbled attempt to reconnect with old friends.

Face and book this: I can't remember who my friends were. I mean I remember Yvette who played the French horn and Fayne who I French kissed. But that's hardly enough information for a Facebook search engine.

Were last names absent from the first three decades of my life or have I lost them in a memory bank that went belly up with Wachovia and all of the other failed banks of this current financial crisis? This is my current crisis.

I have lived in 10 or 11 cities, with a richly textured tapestry of friends in each. But as the years fade, I find that the thread that stitches those times together has frayed. And if measured by the number of my friends on Facebook, I am staring down a narrow path.

So how should one's life be measured?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

ode to odetta

If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, walk. If you can't walk, crawl. Any way you can make it baby, you keep on moving it on... - Odetta

The last time I saw Odetta, she shuffled across the floor, gingerly, with a unflappable determination as if an invisible chord was pulling her to a chair waiting at center stage. And then she opened her soul and started to sing with the same booming voice that I'd heard years before in Philadelphia and before that in Boston and before that in London and before that in's a voice that comes deep from the belly of mother earth. That chord could well be an umbilical chord reaching back to something primal.

Odetta made harmony of discord. She marched with Martin Luther King in Selma. She performed for Kennedy in 1963 at the peak of her career. She didn't mind that people called her a folksinger, but she was so much more than that. She was the reason Bob Dylan sold his electric guitar and picked up an acoustic. She was a music historian who transcended musical form. She moved me.

Odetta wore a crystal at her third eye and had skin the color of chocolate that stretched, unwrinkled, across high cheekbones. She carried herself like royalty, poised and confident. She would sing and tell stories with an intensity only matched by her audience. Where ever I sat in the concert hall, I always had the feeling that I was sitting at the knee of a someone old and wise enough to speak the truth without fear.

Odetta died yesterday at 77 years of age. She'd been hoping to sing at Obama's inauguration. She will be singing in me forever.

If you can't walk, crawl. If you can't crawl, sing (my addition)...Anyway you can make it baby, you keep on moving it on.

Link to Odetta singing House of the Rising Sun

Friday, November 28, 2008

love, laughter and gratitude

Gratitude comes as easily as laughter at a family gathering. No matter what the occassion, we laugh and eat and eat and laugh, ultimately not knowing whether our bellies ache from too many helpings or the side-splitting humor. We weave our way through many threads of conversation, most of it serious -- politics, the economy, international events. The inevitability of the turning leaves only the question of when. When will my brother or nephew turn a phrase that will have us doubled-over? When will my mother say something so utterly unexpected and shocking that we can't contain ourselves? How long will it be before my sister-in-law surrenders to snorting? No meal is complete without the snorting.

I am truly thankful for my family, for knowing that at every meal, they'll serve up a full course of laughter. All of it drizzled with love.