One of the unexpected ways that my life has unfolded is that from time to time, I have the honor of assisting presenters at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
In this volunteer capacity, I’ve come to serve as a regular assistant to a few of my favorites, including the author Dani Shapiro whose presence is as lovely as her work…
Though I have assisted this same program of hers a half-dozen times, I never fail to benefit from the practice of writing inside the nourishing container that she creates with her presence to the space between the words.
Sometimes I write from the center of my current writing project, which alas, has been the same project since I began assisting in 2014. Often I write from the center of the present moment, which is quite familiar as a memoirist and as an instructor of yoga.
It’s always a bit of a treasure hunt to see what comes on the page in a room full of others doing the same; and there is often gold at the end, no matter if one is a professional author, an amateur, or someone without any writing practice at all.
A favorite prompt Dani offers comes in response to a poem entitled: It Could Have Happened.
Here’s what I found inside it this past autumn…
It Could Have Happened… September 2016
it could have happened that I, like my traveling companions, did not hear the knock at 4 AM
It could have happened that it didn’t stir me or cause me to wonder:
Is someone locked out of the room? The building? A Relationship?
Was it a knock on the door?
Should I get up?
Let her in?
See what’s wrong?
Make sure I’m safe?
It could’ve happened that Sting did not begin to sing in my head…
“If you love somebody, go ahead and throw away the key…”
It could’ve happened that he did not continue…
“Free, free. Set them free.”
It could have happened that the singing subsided, and I fell back into a deep sleep
That I didn’t ponder why…
Why this song?
Who needs freeing?
It could have happened that I didn’t feel the urge to rise and run down the hill toward the labyrinth before dawn…
It could have happened that I didn’t pause with the birdsong and the pale yellow petals and the mountain range as the sun began to rise…
It could have happened that once inside the labyrinth, it didn’t occur to me, that it was…
I was the one
who Sting was singing to
The one who needed
Without a key
(5 months later and I’m still not sure what this means…)
Now that the days are shortening, like the days of my life, night comes, like a barge, toward my ship, and lurks ominously, like Trump, behind Hillary, at the Town Hall debate.
Sometimes night comes even closer, with an unwanted advance, and nudges my boat, just enough, to stir panic inside.
Other times, night enters more forcefully, and the impact is enough to tip my vessel to its side, and I feel the contents of my cabin slide across the floor, and then toward me, as the boat begins to sink, backwards, or sometimes nose down, and sometimes folded in half, plunging into the icy cold waters of death.
Night has been coming like this more and more.
I live in fear of that day in November.
No, not that one.
The other one; where we set the clocks forward
and night comes even swifter.
After that, comes the other night in November;
but I’ve taken care of at least my cabin
with an early ballot.
Last night, I gathered with women
to chase away the darkness,
but night found me even there, in the middle of the dance,
in the center of our power,
as a friend quipped: Nasty Women!
I’m typically buoyant after the dance,
but my ship could barely stay afloat before I docked it into the harbor of sleep.
I woke this morning, long before dawn, to the murky fear of death,
not just mine, but those I love.
I rose then, and began writing, this fable,
and soon, I found in me, an invincible light,
even in the darkness,
with the promise,
of a new day.
More musing regarding that second day in November:
There were 20 minutes when no one was there.
Not on the beach.
Not in the water.
Not across the pond.
But I didn’t know there were 20 minutes then.
I strip down in an instant
and dive into the water
and daringly continue out
toward our town
the altar of summer
And lift myself onto the dock
and lie there
under the sun,
one middle-aged breast
deflating to each side
No virgin offering
to this lasting day of summer
And before I hear a car door slam
or the crunch of a stick underfoot,
I slip off the dock
into these September waters
and swim back to the shore
and wrap myself in a towel
and let the sun kiss my face
and turn to commune with the stillness
Just as a loon appears
out of the ripples I left behind
I know many an artist (and other women folk) who rise in the wee hours to their craft when they can’t sleep, but not me. The last time I got up from bed to write was on the eve of my 50th birthday, almost three years ago; and now tonight, with the Harvest Moon lighting up the house, and rising inexplicably in me–memories of Steamboat Springs, 1986, when I taught preschoolers to ski.
I looked good on paper, and passed my PT exam with flying colors (because of my meaty thighs), but during the slope side ski school team screening, I took a tumble, so unaccustomed was I to deep powder after years of riding the rocks back east, even though I learned to ski in the Rockies, more than a decade earlier, when binders had cables, and Copper Mountain was a new thing.
Good things come.
That tumble didn’t cost me the position, but it did place me with the bottom group of students through much of that winter.
Each morning, with my education degree and high honors, I’d carefully place those rugrats on the rug in the snow at the bottom of the hill, and soon enough, one would fall, and take down the others, and mittens would come off, and someone would need to pee, and someone wanted his mama, and everyone would cry, including me.
Eventually, after the New Year, I moved up to level B, every once and awhile. To the rope tow.
Do I need to say more than: rope tow? Remember leather mittens?
I’d place a kid between my meaty thighs and let the rope yank us onto the track and up the hill, and hope that his skis didn’t cross mine and that we didn’t tumble before we made it to the top where we’d just as awkwardly let go of the rope and then hop out of the way before it knocked us over, and then we’d ski, together, like a kangaroo and her joey, down the tiny slope to the pile of whining kids on the rug waiting their turn.
Good things come.
At the tail end of winter, a boy from Texas, who had never seen snow before, liked my class so much, that his parents requested a private–not with a specialist, but with me.
This little four-year old Texan and I spent the day skiing all over the mountain. Like free. We even ate lunch on top of the mountain, in the grown up cafe, a table for two, instead of down bottom, on the cafeteria tables, with snotty-nosed kids and rubbery grilled cheese sandwiches. (I used to eat three of those after skiing with kids between my knees all morning.)
By the end of the week, that boy, who had never seen snow, skied better than me. That’s the way it was with those little fuss pots, once they got over missing their moms and loosing their mittens and needing to pee.
Good things come.
Each morning, I’d roll out of bed, take some Ibuprofen for my hangover, pull on my turtle neck and my ski bibs, and walk down the mountain from the condo that I shared with 4 other beach friends, including the twenty-one year old college drop out who followed me west, and who is still sleeping in my bed tonight.
“Don’t go,” he says, as my rising stirs him from sleep. “Let’s have sex instead.”
Back in the day, in between my day job on the mountain and my night job in the restaurant, I’d skip dinner just to make love, but now this Pisces moon is stirring memories in me so I leave my old lover in our bed and head down the stairs to the moonlight on the floor of the livingroom.
Good things come.
Just before I’d report to the ski school, I stop at the vending machine in the hallway for my breakfast–a Cherry Cola (for the fruit), and a pack of peanut butter sandwich crackers (for the nuts.) Then I’d check in at the front desk to get my slip for the day.
There would be a list of names on that little green sheet of paper–up to 9–and the letter A, for the rugrats; or B for the rope tow kids; and always more names than you wanted to see on one slip; but one day, unexpectedly, come spring, it said neither A or B; in fact, that day and every day after that, as the sun grew stronger, and the days grew warmer, there would only be a few names on my list–maybe 3, or 4 or 5, but no more, and always the same letter: C. Sometimes C-1 or C-2, but then later, C-3 and 4s.
Every day in March was sun glasses and mountaintop views and having so much fun that we forgot about parents and who needed mittens as we inched our way from the lift to a beginner or intermediate or expert run, hollering in song… “Walk like an Egyptian.”
Good things come.
Later, my boss told me that the administration was so impressed with my positive attitude all winter (meaning I hadn’t grumbled like the rest of them when I was handed sheet after sheet with the letter A or B) that they thought I deserved to coast out the season with C’s.
Good things come.
I’ve been having this week and particularly today–that good things were coming, even though it was one of my hardest days, with the full moon accentuating all of life’s blessings and challenges.
There’s something promising in this autumn air along with the renewed prana.
The moon has shifted across the sky, and my livingroom is now dark instead of filled with light, and moths keep crashing into my screen.
In my dream, I am in a vibrant learning center, like the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Healing or the avant-garde middle school of my youth–spherically shaped with large open spaces.
I find myself outside the main chamber, octagonally-shaped, and flanked by halls. The place has the feeling of a bee hive, particularly with hum of activity all around.
I am to assist a group of 3 women spiritual teachers, one of whom is on her knees on the floor, outside the main chamber, in front of a long strip of white butcher block, upon which is a life-size tracing of a body, like those in the years I assisted at my son’s preschool.
I realize that this teacher and her colleagues are Spanish-speaking, so with the sensitivity gained from my time working with an international organization, I tell her that it will be okay if they want to speak Spanish among themselves in the morning when they are preparing; even though I only speak English.
The next day, I find myself rushing into the hall from yet another chamber, while the main room is buzzing with activity as it gradually fills with participants in anticipation of a presentation. The room is cool and carpeted, and it is dimly lit in preparation for a projection onto a large screen. Just like a Ted Talk.
I am late, or almost late, or about to be late because I am meandering outside this main room. Uncertain.
Just as I step toward the carpeted threshold, I am taken aside by a new presenter, a slight Asian man, a higher spiritual teacher. Scolded.
I am both ashamed and confused. I had thought I was only a participant, and I can’t fathom that I would be late as an assistant.
But then I am angry. He does not understand what it is to be a woman. To tend to ones menses, for example; which is what I had been doing. (In my waking life too.)
He matches my energy with his own, making some reference to my sense of superiority, calling me Fräulein,with both disdain and something else. Respect? Provocation?
Whatever it is, it charges my sexual energy and I immediately want to consummate this relationship; though in reality I am not physically attracted to this elderly man, except that he is a powerful teacher.
When I wake, there is a sense of the desire for union–of the masculine and the feminine; and also a sense of ascending among spiritual teachers; and the lingering confusion about my own role.
I wake up thinking about Kelsey.
She was my son’s favorite swimming teacher at the community pool.
Beyond her competency and kindness, I remember particularly liking her name because it combined both mine and my husband’s names–Kelly & Casey–which would have been the perfect name for our own daughter, if we had one, and if that name hadn’t already been a favorite of the man I loved before my husband. Awkward.
Life is like that. A bit of a comedian. My son’s first “girlfriend” from daycare had the first name of my husband’s ex and the last name of my ex.
I don’t know what this all means, but something, somewhere, must be paying attention. How else can I explain that our son was born on the anniversary of our first night together? Which just happens to be celebrated by Catholics as the Assumption of Mary. Which is only vaguely worth noting even with our mothers’ heritage; unless you combine it with the fact that my husband himself was born on the Feast Day of Mary and I was born on the Immaculate Conception of Mary–making our family a trifecta of the Divine Feminine; without even needing to mention that we happened to buy a piece of land and build a house across the pond from a summer camp owned by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
But back to beautiful Kelsey who is the true inspiration of this piece.
What was stunning about the news that September, 2006, after the god awful loss, was the proximity. My husband and sons had been on that same road, just moments before, heading in the same direction. Toward that intoxicated driver. The one who confessed to shooting up 3 bags of heroin before he got into his truck.
Route 12 in Swanzey, New Hampshire, past the Cheshire Fair Grounds, is not a road our family typically travels. But there’s a Honda dealership down that way, and we had just received the bad news that our old car needed to be replaced, so my guys headed there to find one.
That new car, is now 9 years old, and yesterday, we got the same unexpected news, about it needing to be replaced, so we put in a call to that same dealership.
Which is how my mind drifted to Route 12 in Swanzey, and to the awful accident that took Kelsey’s and her boyfriend’s life. And to the roses that my son and I brought to the pool and weaved through the fence there.
Which wouldn’t have inspired this post, until I opened the newspaper and saw Kelsey’s picture, on the anniversary of her birthday.