When to rage, when to meditate


On a day trip to the coast, my husband and I found ourselves in atypical traffic driving over the mountain that leads out of our town.

A pick up was ahead of us, tailgating a large camper that was slowly navigating the sinewy curves down the mountain as it towed a car behind it.

The pick up was persistent; swerving into the opposite lane around blind turns, and riding the camper way too close.

At first Casey and I were annoyed, and then alarmed, and finally furious.

I wanted to honk at the tailgater, holler out our window at him, pull him over and give it to him, take down his license plate and call the police. (We couldn’t see the plates.)

I began fantasizing revenge.

This was my red flag.

May he feel safe. May he feel at ease. May he feel in control…

To the offering of Metta, I added a cooling breath, rolling my tongue, and breathing through it like a straw.

Within moments, I felt better.
Did he slow too?

Soon we were at the bottom of the mountain and the camper turned off the highway.

I thought about my voice and politics.

Alleviating or exacerbating?

To whom am I paying attention?
To what?
And how might I be most helpful given the circumstance of each situation?

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enough

Before kids, and later before they outnumbered us, we lived at the foot of a mountain in a small farmhouse beside a brook which each June gave rise to black flies of biblical proportions.

I learned then that if I woke at dawn, I could get out in the garden ahead of them which must be why the garden looked so hopeful this morning when I appeared on the front porch much earlier than I had in some time.

And I did pause there and smile at it, fondly, like one might nod toward a babe in arms, someone else’s arms, and then I got in my car and drove away—east toward new beginnings–to the rising sun suspended over the valley, cupping the fog; more present, but less productive than I once was, finally understanding or at least practicing that just this—this world waking—this light, this birdsong, this body, this breath—was enough.

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topless

the author, fifty years ago

After walking the dirt half-mile from the highway, he arrives in the house, drops his backpack and removes his shirt, saying that the temperature was higher today than it was supposed to be. (In the chill of the early June morning, he chose to wear a long sleeve shirt to school.)

“Lately, I resent men going topless,” I say.

“Do you want me to put it back on,” he asks.

I don’t.

I remember my mother’s scoldings as a girl: “Put a shirt on!”

And later, about the age my son is now: “Put a bra on!”

The accumulation of shame.

As the temperatures rise in these Green Mountains, I feel anger rise in me when I see men walking the road–aged men and young men like my son–each one topless–as if all the space in the world is theirs, without a care for who might rape them.

the author, 30 years ago

a solstice blessing on families reunited

The bare spot where the kits once played. June 2018.

Late this spring when the skies grew dark and the cloud cover heavy and children were ripped from their parents arms, I took a dramatic fall an came down with a chest cold, and something else–in the middle of the darkest night–the mother fox (or was it the father?) barked incessantly outside our bedroom balcony doors; This after I spent a worrisome string of days looking & listening & hoping & calling & finally crooning the lullaby that I’d sung that morning when I saw the first of their four pups (and it fell to sleep to the sound of my voice), and still, the space where the babes frolicked and rested remained… empty.

Could it be that this barking was a keening call, like my Twitter feed, swelled by a chorus of voices, each one sounding the same sour note, until that horrific practice was brought to an end…

And although we don’t know how these broken families will be restored, or how great the toll on their lives, or how deep the shame on our generation (poisoning babies in Flint, paying unlivable wages, watching television while the earth changes)… The Longest Day has arrived.

I wake to the sounds of squealing, and while their kitten-like bodies are thinner than they were before, and they won’t let me close like they did when I first photographed them, they are here, curled up beside one another in the sun on the rock outcropping outside my writing door.

May we each make good medicine of whatever strength, power and will we possess.

I was there when my mother took her last breaths…

Kelly Salasin, 2016

Last Summer, just ahead of the Assumption of Mary, I joined the Sun at the Water’s Edge atop the staircase to the sea.

Me and thethe lapping of  the waves. the diving loon. the rising peach orb

To this my soul responded, rather surprisingly:

“I was there when my mother took her last breaths.”

I was, I thought.
How infinitely large,
Like the sun rising over the sea
Revealing
Through the morning fog
An island–

Anita Shreve’s yellow house aglow.

“Come Here,” I heard whispered, and I looked to my left and to my right and behind me, but there was no one.

Only me, and the sea, and the island and Anita Shreve’s house greeting the morning.

I remembered an affair I had several years earlier.
How I rose in the dark of winter and ran toward the first tinges of light over the ocean into His embrace.

“Come Here.”

Yesterday, in the soft rain, my husband and I walked down the beach and out the narrow strip of land that connects the island at low tide.

As the rain began to fall harder, I opened the small umbrella, but only one of us could stay dry in its confines, so Casey continued on in the rain, but only halfheartedly, and so I admonished him:

“Receive HER!”

“I am,” he replied, “Because of what you said to me the other day. I want to feel into the messy, wet, fullness of her embrace.”

To which I felt a tinge, no, a fire, of jealousy, rise up and chastise me:

Why had I introduced them? Why had I pushed him toward such a Lover as one to which I can never compare?

And then I remembered: “Come Here,”
As He rose higher and higher,
And the seagulls took flight, responding to the Call.

And we are all, Here.
In the marriage of Sky and Earth.
Conceived in the first kiss of the day.
Light awakening into the One.

 

I’m leaving.

I wake with a start and a stirring. A tug. A pull.

“I have to go to the ocean,” I tell my husband.

Our bank account disagrees; so I tell it that I will drive there and back in a single day, departing absurdly early and returning late, without the need for an overnight stay.

But a week passes, and still I haven’t recovered enough from that tenacious August respiratory virus to fund the energy needed for this kind of day trip; which is unfair because it is this very virus that no doubt produced this untimely insistence on the ocean. It is already September, the air is cooling, and school has begun.

Rumi’s words echo even as my commitment wanes:

What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.

 When a week passes and a string of summer-like days return, I go to the pond–a place where I am stirred, again and again, by beauty and light, but like a toddler, denied a specific spoon, I am unsatisfied.

“I must stay overnight,” I say, and with that, I renew my commitment, and add to it–boldness and creativity, while my efforts are met, without success.

I go to bed on Monday, muddled, and wake the same on Tuesday, and decide to find clarity, inside:

I get on my mat.
I write in my journal.
I take my supplements.
I tend the garden.
I shower outside.
I do what needs doing for work.

All the while, I do something else, slowly, nonchalantly, covertly, just in case, little by little—setting aside, at first, some underwear, and then a bra; and then an outfit or two; a toiletry kit; some beach things; waters and snacks, and finally a meal for lunch and then dinner.

At 11:00 am, I leave a note for my family on the kitchen table:

Heading east.
Be back tonight or tomorrow.
Will message.

Just then, an email comes through–a single night in an Airbnb at a very friendly rate. I update my note to my family.

It is well into the afternoon when I arrive up the coast of Maine, not all ideal, and I have to resist chiding myself so that I can receive what daylight remains–to sit and read and take in the smell of the sea and the sounds of waves, and to walk in the surf, and finally to float and then to submerge myself fully in Her embrace.

Afterward, I rack up a $9 check at an upscale restaurant–a glass of Portuguese wine and a mini lobster roll with fries—Yay, Maine Happy Hour!—and when I arrive back at my room, I receive another email–an unexpected payment from a client—for the exact amount of my stay.

Alas, the angsty restlessness I felt in needing to come, and in deciding to come, and even in the coming and the arriving, continues, even the next morning as I sip coffee at my favorite cafe, and even as I walk along the stunning cliffs at the lighthouse, and even as I sit in the sand and build a sand castle like I did as a child; so that it is a continuous practice, this being with me, with awareness and compassion:

“Of course, you’re restless,” I say. “These are shifting times. Not just summer’s end, and your mother’s anniversary, and a month of coughing, but this heartbreak of an administration, and the fires and floods and shootings, and then, of course–this leaving of motherhood, not to mention hot flashes and a road trip without air condition.”

Exactly 24 hours after I arrive in Maine, I begin driving south, and then west, and three hours later, I cross the Connecticut River from New Hampshire to Vermont, and then turn off the highway to stop at the fish market to soften the separation of the sea and me.

Mothers do, you know.
They leave.
They drop their kids off at daycare or at school and never come back.

I’m leaving.
I’m leaving.
I’m leaving.

These words appeared like a mantra after I’d written the note to my family, ominously hinting at a larger leaving, and continuing, even after I arrived back home.

I’m leaving, I’m leaving, I’m leaving.

I half-thought I might not make it to Maine or home again. That I’d die on the road like my grandmother did just a year older than me. I remind myself, firmly, that I’d like to transform without such drama as she (or my mother) enacted.

And still, my spirit is called into the wild, and as I lean in to listen, I hold back, for fear of going too far.

~

(Related post: Cleavage.)