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.
I begin my day in the dark, waking long before dawn, leaving behind my dormitory bunk for a room called Shadowbrook at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
The sky is still dark an hour later when Shadowbrook fills with Let Your Yoga Dance teacher trainees who take their place on mats in front of me.
What am I doing here?
How am I the one on the dais?
At 6:30 am, we begin the practice of yoga, the last class before their graduation. After centering, I guide them in a series of warming poses, at which point I look down to see that in my rush to get dressed in the dark, I grabbed the wrong top, and the one I’m wearing allows my cleavage to spill out each time I bend in front of them.
In a wild act of incompetence (unimaginable in my previous incarnations) I ask: Could someone tie these straps to my bra?
And with that, the spell is broken–the one between me and them–as two women jump up to restore my modesty, and I step down off the dais.
“Kelly,” someone calls from the back, her voice freed, “Would you turn off the lights? The sun is about to rise.” (Others nod their approval.)
I walk the length of the room to the back of Shadowbrook, turn the dial, and then return through the rows of mats toward the platform.
Just before I step up, I turn to share something that I’ve only just realized: I feel so much better down here with you.
The students smile and tell me that it will be fine if I teach from the floor, “We can see you.”
I exhale, relieved, and guide them through a series of strengthening poses before inviting these brave warriors onto their backs, into the 4th chakra, the sweet pause–the heart of the Let Your Yoga Dance classes–that soon they’ll be leading in their hometowns around the country and abroad.
I return to the platform and bring my knees to my chest, and we roll toward one another,
breathing deeply, in and out, in and out.
In the sweet pause of breath, I see in them a sea of babies,
“A room full of Let Your Yoga Dance Instructors,” I say,
Ready to be born.”
Like soft bubbles rising from the mats, I hear giggles,
which slowly, then rapidly, swell across the belly of Shadowbrook,
and pop into a chorus of joyous release, until no one can hear or cares to hear my directions.
There are still giggles as we lift our legs into the air, Happy Baby, while the sun lifts over the mountain
birthing this new day.
The last spell to be broken is the invitation to leave behind the mat and come to the front of the room where we gather in a circle, arms around each other’s backs, Virabhadrasana III, Warrior III–flying toward our destiny–and as we take in each other’s gaze, it’s as if we are flying in the sky, together, in mutual bliss.
I can’t remember what came next, not the inversion or Savasana, because when the class ended, Pam came from the back of the room to tell me what she now knew (and what we all long to remember):
“It doesn’t have to be so hard.”
After the last of the students thanked me and went off to breakfast, I returned to my room, and changed my shirt, and lay down on my bunk, and pulled the curtain around me, and teared up, in raw humility, for my perfect imperfection.
I had wanted to be so much more, but I can only be myself.