At 21, there were 3 trappings I wanted to avoid in life:
2. A house.
I’ve grown attached to all 3.
At 21, there were 3 trappings I wanted to avoid in life:
2. A house.
I’ve grown attached to all 3.
~Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.”
Long before digital clocks attracted attention to and affection for numbers, like 1:11, the Salasin family from which I come was enthralled by them, and not only the bankers and the accountants among us.
Family homes were often referred to numerically, most notably: 6012, but also 1811 & 747.
And even the ministers & scientists among us, marveled at numerical synchronicities:
~How the home at 6012 Pacific, for example, was exchanged for the home at 6201 Park.
~How the beloved Patriarch died and was born on November 17 in 1991 and 1919.
~How the wedding shower for the Matriarch’s namesake–a date which was exceedingly difficult to pin down among a half-dozen bridesmaids from different parts of the country–landed, unbeknownst to any of us, on the anniversary of the accident that took the Matriarch’s life.
This numerically-steeped DNA may explain why my enthusiasm for numbers is rarely matched:
“69 days separate me from Menopause! On the 296th day of my cycle! With my menses 269 days late!”
“My husband and I were both born on the 8th of the month, and that we delivered our first (& second) son in the 8th month of the year, and each of our birth dates is celebrated as a holy day in celebration of the Mother of God–her Immaculate Conception, her Feast Day & her Assumption.”
Throughout childhood, the number 8 was my favorite, while 3 has been my favorite ever since. (That’s all I’ll say about that. I can tell no one is interested.)
Despite this absorption with dates and numerals and time, I’ve always (and increasingly) been better fed by language. While my early adult years were often spent in the role of treasurer or bookkeeper, I now spend my time almost exclusively with words (just ask my bank account.)
Family finances aside, what is even more alarming is the assault I felt on the eve of my 69th day before Menopause when presented with an algebra problem.
Like a donkey, my brain refused, and so I slid the paper away, until I looked up to see all the other mothers earnestly engaged.
I reminded myself that a decade earlier I had been one of two parents to solve the algebra problem at my older son’s back to school night.
But on this 69th day before Menopause, even with assistance from another parent and then the classroom teacher (how embarrassing!), the mathematical drawer in my brain remained stuck.
There is a magic to numbers and to words that I don’t fully understand and don’t know that I ever will, but I’m being invited to deepen the inquiry.
Which explains the mystery of this piece of writing to me, but probably not to you.
I frequently find myself engaged in mysteries–an inexplicable lifetime practice of doodling the letters of the alphabet for instance.
And since the age of 16, there has been a single word that remains my favorite, a reverence which is often mistook for a mathematical or culinary interest, but which actually springs from the pleasure derived from the simple sensation of the sounds at the front of my mouth.
A week has passed since I posted this exploratory piece of writing on Facebook, and now it is the first day of Autumn and Day 303 in my cycle.
I love 3’s, Remember?
And it turns out that the last day of my cycle, should I continue toward Menopause, without a setback, will be November 23, 2017.
My last day,
You can’t make this stuff up.
(ps. Pumpkin-pecan is my current favorite.)
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:
Be back tonight or tomorrow.
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 drop their kids off at daycare or at school and never come back.
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.)
Last night, I woke, as I often do these days,
no longer drenched, but misted,
with a fine release–of attachment, I suppose.
Behind my knees and under my
shoulders and also between my breasts;
and lately even, in the crook of my
arms, as if I’ve been carrying too much;
and just this week, tiny beads of sweat, dripping.
down. my. spine.
Refining, I suppose,
Only this night,
I remain awake, and feel something
more–a lightening inside–so very light–
my bones–that i think to myself…
So this is what it is be a bird.
There is a fourth body in the house, with its own nocturnal habits, which leads me to question, at 4 am, the decision to select latch handles instead of boring door knobs all those years ago.
Twenty minutes later, in the dark, I spoke aloud:
“The basil. Did you cover it?”
We had been covering the basil, just in case, every night, this entire month, ever since nightfall began forcing sweatshirts after dinner at the pond.
Just yesterday, I ripped a few pieces for my lunch, thinking how tender the leaves were and how I must get to making more pesto before the frost.
Instead, I went to the pond, and swam nude toward the sparkling sun, and afterward spread my tarot cards on a blanket for an Equinox draw.
The month had been so unusually pleasant that I’d missed my annual nude swim to the dock because the heat had populated the pond even after the children went back to school.
Now the dock is beached so it’s not the same as lying naked in the middle of a mountain range in the middle of the water in the middle of your life, and besides the pond is populated today too.
I did take a moment in the heat, bare breasted, beside the water, before wrapping my wet body in a towel, on this first afternoon of Autumn.
But it’s not just the basil and the summer. My youngest got his drivers permit yesterday. In fact, he showed up at the pond and put it in my face.
At 5 am, I consider that 15 is the Autumn of youth.
BLUE was my favorite color as a girl. I had a blue coat, a blue 10-speed, and a blue aluminum bat. I’m not sure if I really loved blue or if blue was a statement–AGAINST the color–to which I had been culturally assigned.
When I was 14, we moved once again, and not only was my blue bike stolen, but I was given a room of my own. My very first. (Quite a coup in a family of girls.)
The room was PINK. Not just the walls, and the ceiling, but the floor–a deep shag dipped in every shade of IT.
Each time I stepped inside, it was like drenching myself in a bottle of Pepto Bismol. Even in the dark, and under the covers, I could feel PINK on my skin–sticky and sickly sweet.
We didn’t live in that house for too many years, and I soon had another room of my own which wasn’t pink at all. But in my senior year of high school, when my mother sent me out to pick the Easter dresses (because I always complained about her choices), I surprised us both by returning with matching ones: with tiny pink blossoms.
Later that spring, my prom dress, which had been a deep shade of slinky turquoise the year before, was a soft, airy pink, sewn at home.
In the years to follow, shades of pink continued to slip into my life: a favorite sweatshirt at college that I wore unzipped to my cleavage, a wool scarf bought on the streets of London, a journal with thick pages picked up at a bookstall in France.
By my twenties, ashes of roses was my signature color; and I began to yearn for motherhood.
Early on, my mother warned that I would only be the mother of sons: “You don’t have the patience for girl-like things.”
Intuitives affirmed that my first child was the girl that I wanted, but they were wrong. The second time around, EVERYONE told me that I was carrying a girl, and even when the color blue started streaming through my soul–into my clothes and jewelry–I was certain. But she was a boy too.
When I go to the dentist, I accept the pink toothbrush from our hygienist, instead of the green or purple or blue one, which I would prefer, so that we can easily tell them apart at home.
I’ve had a pink toothbrush now, off and on, for almost 20 years, even when my favorite color returned to blue, and then to purple, and then to soft shades of green.
Just this past week, I decided to invest in another dental care item called a “tongue scraper.” I browsed the aisles of the grocery store until I came upon them, and was relieved to find that these crude looking aluminum objects were softened by colored rubber handles. There were 4 colors available.
Suddenly, I was furious at PINK.
Why me, I thought. Why should I have to have the pink one.
“Mom always takes one for the team,” I recall a waitress saying when I succumbed to sitting at the counter instead of waiting for a table which I preferred.
Suddenly, it occurred to me, at the ripe age of 51, that there was no reason why I should be the one to defer to pink.
I thought back to my nephew, who I spent so much time with before I had children. I took him shopping once and he asked for pink curtains and a potted flower for his new room.
His mom got him a plant and blue shades.
I thought about the baby doll that Santa brought my son at his second Christmas, at how his grandmother bristled when she saw him carrying it around: “Can’t he develop his nurturing skills in some other way.”
There is a green, a blue, a purple, and a pink tongue scraper, and this time around, someone else is taking one for the team.
(except for that new cardigan in my closet)
ps. this video clip arrived in my message box just as I was finishing this post:
i see shimmering wood floors
i hear music playing
i move across the room
a bright silk scarf brushes against my skin
I dance alone
in my center
a center for learning and consciousness and connection
i feel spacious inside
offering all that i have to those who come through the door
they soften upon entering
sink into self-compassion,
returning home to strengthen their relationships
to nurture wholeness and integration and acceptance
to release their gifts into the world
this place is my home
but where–in the world–is it?
ps. I think it’s some place a bit warmer than Vermont, but with the same good water, good people, good politics and community.