Winter brings the return of the dream state, or maybe it’s too much or not enough or my broken-up sleep that explains the day to day watery-immersion of otherworldliness.
Last week, I dreamt of a womb-like container, belonging to another. She placed it on the shelf beside my single bed and then she turned to leave the dormitory-like space as it began to fill with others claiming beds and counters.
I never saw her face, but I continued to marvel at what she left behind–a multi-colored, beautifully-beaded container which served as a water bottle.
Each time I left my bed, however, I was consumed with frustration, because yet another new arrival made claims on the bed that was already mine.
One man, in fact, went so far as to lift my mattress off the frame and take it to the other side of the room–the men’s side, I suppose.
I crossed the space between us and protested. “This isn’t how it works,” I explained. “My things were already there.”
Apparently, the unspoken rules of the Kripalu assistant dormitory (of which I was readily practiced) didn’t apply here.
But where was here anyway? I looked around at rows and rows of beds that I hadn’t noticed before as the space approached full occupancy.
Were we some type of refugee?
I retrieved my mattress, but then wondered if perhaps others needed it more, and then I caught sight of the beautiful container again and smiled, making a mental note to find one for myself.
Days later, that beaded womb bled through my waking hours, speaking a language that I couldn’t quite understand.
Waking between the worlds like this, especially in the dark, wintry months, is welcome, even while it is disorienting (or perhaps because it is), leaving me bobbing in a soupy sea–reality flooded with dreams—where the constellation upon which I’ve relied no longer directs the course, forcing me to find new markers, inside and in other realms, obscured from reality’s view.
Without a single resolution or plan, I find some surprising changes afoot for 2019:
1. After 7 years, I’ve changed daybooks.
2. After storing the same old wrinkled & ragged sheets in a large bin, I splurged on a handful of new packs of tissue paper for next year’s holiday wrapping.
3. After putting so many things on the diagonal when our nest emptied this past August–bookshelves, cabinets and even the kitchen island–I’ve reoriented the house back to perpendicular lines while simultaneously opening up the entryway.
4. After asking my husband to sleep elsewhere for the first time in 30+ years, perhaps to better fill the empty nest throughout the fall, I haven’t asked in weeks. (Of course, the house has been full for the holidays.)
5. After an absence of several years that boded badly for our finances, I’ve re-engaged in household budgeting.
6. After serving as the chief travel-lover/cheerleader/insistent-persistor in our partnership, my husband has signed on to chaperone a highschool trip to ITALY entirely of his own accord.
7. After suffering through the fall with Giardia (and the ensuing recovery), dropping an entire clothes size, I feel weary, but also born again.
If not the sobriety of Menopause (2 years this past Thanksgiving), then the house guest for whom the holiday was a foreigner, or perhaps the alchemy of both together accounted for the way Christmas was tilted, like a snow globe, and shook loose of all of its accoutrements–gifts & food & music & ritual–until it was seen, if not for the first time, then at least anew.
One could say, as many do, that it’s the absence of the Christ Child that hollows out the holiday like a cheap, chocolate Easter Bunny.
But what of our rich personal traditions, steeped in soul and meaning?
Each Christmas Eve we read aloud the Nativity story, and each Christmas Morning, we read this stunning excerpt from Little Women:
Jo was the first to wake in the gray dawn of Christmas morning. No stockings hung at the fireplace, and for a moment she felt as much disappointed as she did long ago, when her little sock fell down because it was crammed so full of goodies. Then she remembered her mother’s promise and, slipping her hand under her pillow, drew out a little crimson-covered book. She knew it very well, for it was that beautiful old story of the best life ever lived, and Jo felt that it was a true guidebook for any pilgrim going on a long journey. She woke Meg with a Merry Christmas, and bade her see what was under her pillow. A green-covered book appeared, with the same picture inside, and a few words written by their mother, which made their one present very precious in their eyes. Presently Beth and Amy woke to rummage and find their little books also, one dove-colored, the other blue, and all sat looking at and talking about them, while the east grew rosy with the coming day.
“While the east grew rosy with the coming day!” Gush!!! And each and every Day in December we read from the National WIldlife Treasury…
December may be the last page on our calendar, but it belongs to no single year… ruled less by time than by age-old traditions…
But is reading meaning?
What of the heart?
My late mother’s birthday is Christmas Day, as was my great Aunt Doll’s.
Certainly, that’s enough heart for a single day.
Let your heart be light…
My youngest, and his maternal and paternal grandfathers before him, dismiss the traditions of faith as if religion is a personal affront to their God-given, white-male sovereignty, and at least in my son’s defense, this is accompanied by an abiding passion for all things scientific.
Lesser beings, like myself, of smaller minds and opportunity, oftentimes rely upon magic and soul. Alas, my capacity for the former, carefully attended since childhood, is almost extinguished, for which I can barely muster concern which in itself is alarming.
At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them…(Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express)
First thing Christmas morning, my youngest led his older brother in a brief yoga practice, sounding through the chakras, the two of them flanking me on my mat in front of my bedroom balcony doors as the sun rose above the trees in the East–their Warrior Threes on each side of my Balanced Tree–a morning practice to better prepare ourselves for the extraordinary self-connection required of the day’s togetherness; which on sons’ part was no doubt an effort to humor their mother so that the gift-giving could commence sooner.
Having sped through the chakras with a pose for each one, they left the room, encouraging me along, while moments later my youngest returned with his old, golden & gem clad, Egyptology book in hand.
“Eylem pulled this off the shelf,” he explained, “Look at this,” he said, pointing to an excerpt from the Book of the Dead, beneath an illustration of Horus which read:
My heart, my mother, my heart, my mother, my heart, my coming into being! May there be nothing to resist me at my judgment… may there be no parting of thee from me in the presence of him who keeps the scales!
He went on to explain that at death the heart is weighed. And only if it is lighter than a feather may the dead pass on to “heaven.”
Let your heart be light…
It’s not just the heartbreak of my mother’s absence, or the Christmas Eve fire that destroyed a neighbor’s home, or the tsunami on the Sundra Straits of Indonesia sweeping away a pop band while it performed for concert goers on the beach, or even the impending separation between two lovers in my livingroom, star-crossed by timing and culture and place of birth (not to mention visas) or the heartbreak of disappointing yourself, like my youngest, in your first semester away at school, it was the revelation that came with the lightening of my own heart as we sat around the fire on Christmas Eve, while the Gospel of Luke was read aloud with a Turkish accent, followed by the spontaneous singing of carols, giving rise to bouts of laughter, particularly my own, which led my oldest to posit that his mother must be very, very tired, or the moment earlier in the day just before we left to skate on the Retreat Meadows when I stepped toward my husband’s in an embrace, not weary, but full of love, which is how I realized how very tight and parsimonious I’ve let my heart become.
ps: best ever illustrated book of the Gospel of Luke/nativity story, Julie Vivas (of Australia):
You know how a certain cup of caffeine can provide just the right buzz?
It’s the same with yoga, though the feeling is different.
Sometimes, however, the right cup of tea or espresso can leave me edgy or angsty, wondering, “Maybe I need another?”
This is how it was yesterday after my Saturday morning time on the mat.
The discrepancy was further pronounced at breakfast, seated as I was, between my husband and our son, both of who received the effects that I had intended.
“It’s as if we’re all high,” Lloyd said, as we waited for our eggs after the morning class.
“Not me,” I countered. “I’m even crankier.”
I’ve practiced long enough to know that this is how it goes.
After the blush of my first few classes way back in 1994, something else began to emerge.
When I explained the tightness and irritability (and anger), my yoga teacher suggested someone who provided something called “bodywork.”
My healing journey began then or picked up speed. But alas, it wasn’t as I expected, ie. a journey with a beginning and an end.
“Healing” simply meant that I “met” myself in my body, as is, without abandoning it. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sour. Sometimes blissed, sometimes pissed.
“Damn yoga,” my younger sister says, and I feel that now, even if she was referring to the way yoga continues to maintain that eighth of an inch height in my favor, leaving her forever the shortest among our 8 siblings, while she continues to wait on the age differential of almost a decade to shrink me.
I keep thinking of the ocean. Of how nice it would be to spend Christmas beside it.
Maybe I could take the drive today to fulfill that urge.
But what explains it?
My boys just arrived home on Friday night, and today is the first day that everyone is free from work.
Plus leaving today would pile up the to-do list on Christmas Eve.
I woke often through the night, wondering if the boys had arrived back home from their late shifts and their stop at the tail end of my shorter sister’s Solstice Party, her 14th in a row.
Or maybe it was the Moon, already waning, but ever-bright above the snow.
Or it could be my Mother, celebrating her 76th Christmas birthday, these 19 years from the grave.
There’s a star in the East on Christmas morn…
Do you know that spiritual?
I meditated on that unfathomably bright star this morning, shimmering through the trees, thinking it a plane or a satellite.
And then I got up and fixed myself some tea. Without caffeine. And sipped it in the ocean of dark.
Facilitator Kelly Salasin is a lifelong educator, retreat leader and yoga/yogadance instructor. Kelly is the creator of Writing through the Chakras, an online writing journey for women. She regularly assists leading presenters at Kripalu Yoga & Healing Center including visionaries Tara Brach, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Joan Borysenko, Julia Cameron, Tama Kieves & Dani Shapiro.
I went to sleep to the sensual delight of an open window after so many weeks shut to the cold (after so many months soaking up the pleasures of scent & sound.)
I woke to a dream about the election and looked over at the clock to see a series of 1’s, but not four or three, but a stream…
I lifted my head to inquire further and realized that the red glow of the digital was reflecting off the headboard behind my husband’s head. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
There I was in the center of a stage, seeing my feeling state reflected back by an amphitheater of fans.
There was FEAR, huddled together, down low, dressed in black cloaked garments.
I was surprised to find myself waving at FEAR, and soothed by my own connection and compassion.
Above the dark mass, there was HOPE, fanning out and filling the stands, waving banners and cheering enthusiastically.
My spirits lifted higher. I smiled and waved at HOPE too, realizing they clearly outnumbered their brethren below.
As I drifted back to sleep,other feeling states on a series of more alarming topics–national, global, personal–were reflected by the crowd.
There were the darkly dressed, huddled ones, who never grew much in size and simply desired connection and safety; and above them, in the stands, the crowd that dwindled with each ensuing topic, until there were only one or two remaining, who weakly waved flags.
It occurred to me then, it’s not that we must rid ourselves (or this nation) of FEAR, nor dismiss or ridicule it, but instead pack the stands with HOPE.
Other marginalized groups.
International leadership, learning & listening.
Protected natural spaces.
Diversity of species.
Will the time come when we don’t have to work so hard on a relationship?
No, the time will come when there will be no lapse in our efforts…
to be kind.
Gail & Hugh Prather
In my mind, one of the essentially revealing comments of the current occupant of the White House is what he said about marriage, just after his third:
I don’t want to have to go home and have to work at a relationship. A relationship you have to work at, in my opinion doesn’t work.
And about bringing more children into the world with her:
Sure. I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them. I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids.
About about his wedding vows if she were horribly disfigured in a car accident.
Totally, no question in my mind… How do the breasts look?
Earlier this week, I couldn’t tell say if she was a pop star or a film star, only that she was well after my time and probably never my taste, but when I heard about her instagram post, I went looking for it and it was so good (human rights front & center) that I later read it aloud to my husband.
Lots of people registered to vote because of it.
And even though I’ve had a string of challenging health days, I dragged myself to the coast of Maine, having been waiting for that unusually warm autumn day to instigate such a journey, and while it didn’t change anything, deep within something shifted, so that waking this morning in a sea of orange-leafed trees in the Green Mountains of Vermont, I find myself hopeful again.
I am so angry. And grief-stricken. And weary! (As a woman.) And yet, so very, very delighted (as a mother) to have our youngest home for an entire week so that I get to remind him again and again to get off his phone, and do his chores, and move his laundry, and go to bed.
After the past 6-week half-life without him, I’m savoring the day-to-day ordinariness of simply having him around without wanting anything more. (Except. Mid-terms.)
A personal allegory on Saturday afternoon.
Another’s blessing this morning.
These are the ways I’ve attempted to express what it is I feel about the SCOTUS confirmation–that which is beyond politics & procreative rights–as if when it comes to women, anything is separate.
I hate to claim it, but I think that names it.
I could barely speak when it was final.
My niece just home from college with friends echoed the same. “The car fell silent,” she said, about hearing the news over the radio.
The world is much too quiet.
In this absence of sound, Juan Ramon Jimenez’s verse comes to mind:
My boat struck something deep. Nothing happened. Sound, silence, waves.
What if all the women went mute from this trauma? What if we remained silent until others hollered on our behalf?
The men who are protesting MOVE me. Those who don’t get it, won’t get it, mock it, deride it, dismiss it, skirt it, KILL me.
Don’t give me your Republican/Democrat bullshit. This is UNIVERSAL.
But it is too quiet.
Nothing happened? writes Jimenez. Or perhaps Everything happened…
And here I take liberty with his verse, understanding that my silence, our silence, the silence, is a tidal wave forming:
…And we are sitting in the middle of a revolution.
May it be so.
TO THE MEN: WADE in the WATER!
Women hold the water while men stay safe on solid ground.
I don’t know what Senator Collin’s deal is; what the story is about her husband and Russia; I don’t know what anyone woman’s deal is if she doesn’t get the stakes with this administration and this appointment.
What I do know is that the Patriarchy has their foot on our necks. Relies on us for beauty, support, warm fuzzies, flowers, holidays & gatherings, greeting cards & gifts, compassion & tenderness–the “You play it soft, so that I can play it tough” charade–in order to perpetuate the privilege of ”real men” (those not born of women) who don’t have to feel into all the yucky hard stuff that comes with vulnerability–his own and those around him.
She does the feeling for Him while He gets to have everything:
Senator Steven Daines, Montana, told The Associated Press: “This weekend there’s going to be a new Supreme Court justice and that he is going to walk his daughter down the aisle.”
He sweeps in at the right moment, while She holds the water, and then from time to time, behind closed doors, He collapses in Her arms before numbing himself again with certainty, telling Her how it is, as if She didn’t change His diapers or nurse Him at Her breast or hold Him while he sobbed.
So afraid of his dependency, He will convince her that She relies on Him, and if He is not convincing, He will hurt Her, because He has detached from what makes Him whole and if She won’t let Him suck Her dry, He has no purpose for Her.
Women can no longer be the hosts for men’s wholeness.
Men, WADE in the water!
AND clean your mess up.
I believe in you.
Women, men are not our solid ground.
Each time I see a photo of men with other men protesting (like right in our town last night), or I see a call for men to do the same, or a video of young male students standing together holding signs that say: WE BELIEVE, I am brought to tears.
Not because women need rescuing, but because we need more and more men to take the baton that is theirs.
As my friend Jess put it: Patriarchy is a men’s issue.
We are so tired. We have been holding this alone for too long. Silently. Shamefully. Sinfully. All the ways we were told we were wrong. Because of what men did. (Or didn’t do.)
I am so touched. I am so grateful. I am so relieved. To the men gathering with men. You have restored my faith. My hope. My sense of what we can do together.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I am so grateful. Despite differing faiths (or lack thereof) as well as homes in vastly different parts of the country, along with different income levels and lifestyles—most all, if not all, of my many, many siblings and their grown children! (including my own) are engaged when it comes to the politics of gender, race, hate, discrimination, healthcare, poverty, the planet and LOVE; while significant swaths of extended family are similarly informed/inspired, speaking out and showing up for others and this nation with intelligence, commitment, devotion & love.
It took me a day not to turn away from this.
I woke like I rarely do—belly down; and like I never have—with my palms crisscrossed under my throat.
It’s as if the men are saying: We were once entitled to you. You were our spoils. And you can’t take that away. Maybe we can no longer grab you. But we could once. And it’s unfair to change the rules we made about your bodies.
I’m sooooo grateful to all those speaking up, listening, learning and echoing the human rights of women. THANK YOU!!! You encourage me.