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.)

Advertisements

A Night on the Ice

“The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!”

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Ice on South Pond, Kelly Salasin, 2012

She stepped onto the ice just as the sun dipped behind the mountain.  It was a cold night, and for that she was grateful. The lake was certain to be solid. She skated her way into the vast expanse of frozen water, and waited expectantly for the moon to rise, but it hid behind the mountain and then was covered by clouds.

In the South, Venus beckoned high in the sky, and drew her closer, toward what little light remained in the day as the puck was passed from person to person.

She didn’t play. It was enough to be on the water–instead of in it. Up until this moment, falling through the ice had been her worst fear. The truth was that it still terrified her; only now, she was equally enamored by daring to stand upon it.

Tonight’s skate held none of the distractions of her first time–just the week before–when the light was golden and the ice was covered with fresh snow–kindly hiding the cracks and ridges, not to mention those small, circular, dark… holes?

(Were they holes? Had there been several fisherman? Dozens? Her young son made this claim each time they came upon one; but she knew it couldn’t be so. Hardly a soul had been out on the lake this year. Yesterday it had been in the forties.)

On that afternoon a week ago, her blades etched designs in the fresh snow and delighted her with each stroke and curl. First she skated out her name, and then those of others–the children, and the other mother–the one who skated in her skirt and woolens, way out into No Man’s Land, past the beach where they summered, and all the way toward the reeds where the kayakers would paddle.

She continued writing, carefully crafting a “C”, and kept her eye on Carol; and on each of the children, holding them not only in her view, but in the protection of her expanded awareness.

This night was too dark to do the same, and so she endeavored to remain near them, in the middle of their game and around it; not only to keep them safe, but to feel safer herself.  Often one or two of them would make proximity impossible–disappearing in the dark, toward the landing, a quarter mile away.

A half-hour later, she made the journey there herself, to share some dinner in the company of her son, but once he was handed a hockey stick, he darted back into the dark night, leaving her… alone.

She rushed to pack up her basket and slip on her mittens, but just as she began to skate into the night toward them, she heard it.  A rumbling so loud it shook the sky and echoed on every bank, and in every curve and crevice–west and east and north and south–until they all came racing toward her–just as moon lit up the ice.

“We felt that,” the other mother cried.

“The ice cracked in a circle around me,” her son added.

She smiled and laughed with relief, turning with them toward the landing, and then paused–lingering a moment with the moon.

She was relieved to have missed it–the feeling of it underneath her, the uncertainty, the great vastness of something bigger than herself; but she was equally riveted by being so close to something so consuming.

Nights later, it stirs her still. She does research about ice and discovers that frozen water moans and groans like this with each shift in temperature.

She thinks back to the growing pains of this past year–to the wondrous openings that both thrilled and terrified her–and she understands… this is how it feels to expand.

~Kelly Salasin, January 2012

for more winter & seasonal writing, click here

for more on the life purpose path, click here

“...In that hazarding, you take a step onto surfaces that
you’re not sure will hold your weight…
keeping the depth of your attention on what calls you
this is the kind of courage it takes to claim
your happiness in life.”

(Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, David Whyte)

Inside the Mystery

Moments after the hail storm, Garden at Solar Hill, Kelly Salasin 2011, all rights reserved

The delight of

fingers

toes…

an infant’s wonder.

One

with the rise and fall

of the belly.

In the distance

I hear a voice

Something about knees and twists,

but it makes no sense

Inside

the mystery

of breath.

Kelly Salasin, June 1st, 2011

April 19th

Little by little, and also in great leaps,

life happened to me…

~Neruda

Chocolates on my pillow, Santiago

Once considered a “world” traveler, I’ve been homebound for close to twenty years now–rooted on a dirt road in rural Vermont with two boys and a husband.

Imagine my surprise when I found a family-friendly, part-time job with an “international” organization in the small town just down the road.

Within months, this new position extracted me from snow and mud and motherhood, and transported me over the Andes into the vivid metropolis of Santiago, Chile–on the opposite side of the globe–where south is cold and spring is fall.

Within days of immersing myself in work and a foreign culture, I was completely taken aback by the appearance of a 10 year old boy on SKYPE who called me: “Mom.”

Behind this child stood a kitchen sink and an entire household which once had been my familiar.

My new life was made up of twin beds, a simple desk, a closet safe, and my own bathroom–in addition to 40 new friends from around the world, and extended lunches with bottles of local wine.

Like the tectonic activity of Chile, a week later, my reality shifted once again, as I abandoned the 4 star hotel, the 5 course meals, and the 16 hour work days to explore Santiago on my own.

Pablo’s Bed, by Kelly Salasin

I slept on a futon, ate on the street, and walked until I had blisters–even on the bottoms of my feet.

Each morning as I closed the gate on the small apartment lent to me by a new friend, I turned toward the Andes and made the mile-long walk out of this quiet neighborhood to Santiago’s safe and speedy subway.

Often cloaked by fog, and other times obscured by the tunneled vision of a traveler with map in hand, I was caught by surprise by the reappearance of looming mountainous beasts, who soon became my friends.

At night, in the cool mountain air, I drifted into sleep, alone, comforted by the full moon rising in the East, just as it would over my bed in Vermont–5,000 miles away.

Each day I was treated to new delights of sight and taste and texture…

It would be in poor taste to mention the dogs first; but I must. They were everywhere. On their own. Not bothering a soul.

I envied their independence when I thought about their fellow stateside “pets,” stuck behind fences, harnessed by leashes, and eating out of a bowl.

These friendly freedom lovers howled late into the night and slept through the mornings, just like the people of Chile.

It was pointless for an early riser like me to venture out before 11 am to find something to eat, just as it was pointless to try to fall asleep before midnight when Chileans were just finishing their evening meal.

However, if it’s something sweet I wanted, I need not try at all. Treats, of all kinds, abound in Santiago. From pastries and candies, cakes and cookies, chocolates and caramel fillings, the Chileans love confection–even in their drinks.

One classic (and confounding) every-day beverage was Mote con Huesillo: a drink of dehydrated peaches with stewed barley served in palm syrup.  This glass of floating debris, did not tempt me, but I did succumb to another infamous beverage of Santiago–the TERREMOTO.

This fermented wine based “cocktail” is accompanied by pineapple ice-cream served in a one-litre cup. It may be the strongest drink I’ve ever had (and I came of age at the Jersey shore.)

Terremoto literally translates as ‘Earthquake’ since you are left “with the ground (and legs) feeling very shaky,” before you’ve finished your first.  From the looks of the bar where it was served, many had indulged in even more.

Indulgence seems to be a Chilean characteristic; and I, for one, will miss the grand meals served with plenty of wine. I will also miss the warm greetings and single kiss on a cheek shared by all. I’ve had to restrain myself from continuing both of these traditions now that I’m back home.

Though I departed on the 18th, I didn’t arrive home until the next day. My husband met me outside of customs, and we made the drive from New York to Vermont alone so that we could enjoy the renewed awareness of each other–without children.

Paradoxically, Casey and I shared another significant journey on this same date, 18 years earlier. That ride home was from a birthing center, an hour and a half away, where I miscarried our first child at the three month mark.

A gorgeously sunny spring morning mocked that unbearable loss in April, while a gloomy overcast day belied the joy we felt in today’s sweet reunion, following two weeks and an equator apart.

On the long drive home from the airport, we stopped along the coast and shared a mid-day meal complete with wine. Over coffee and dessert, my husband wondered if I felt different from being abroad again. I checked inside, and Whitman’s words came to mind…

I am large. I contain multitudes.

At 47 years old (and young), my alternately expanding and contracting sense of self now includes… three backpacking trips to Europe, the love of two men, the loss of two pregnancies, the gift of two sons, a house to call home, and an enamoring trip to yet another side of the globe.

How all these pieces belong in the same story is as curious to me, as how Whitman’s words emerge from time spent in Neruda country–that is, until I discover that Pablo kept a photo of Walt on his desk; and how I, in my last hours of wandering the streets of Santiago, found myself standing in front of Neruda’s house…

Kelly Salasin, April 19, 2011

Previous post in the series: AWE

Follow up post: Palm Sunday

A Tribute to the Sun on the Winter Solstice

audio:

text:

A few years ago I left my home in the mountains to spend a wintry week at the beach.
There, I had an unexpected affair with… the Sun
from Seduction to Awakening
in 7 days


“The dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.”

~Rumi

Sun Affair

Day I: Seduction

The Dawn

I wake in darkness, long before dawn,
and wait…

Wait till the sky begins to color in swaths
of peach and pink.

There in the distance,
I make out a light…
–a ship on the horizon
–a bright star
but too golden to be either.

I wait and watch
that flickering light,
until I understand that it is the jeweled promise of a new day

And then I throw on my coat and my boots
and run toward the beach
to catch it~

And though it seems to try, again and again, it never shows its face–
Simply paints the sky
lighter and brighter from its hiding place.

I return home, drowsy
thinking the day too overcast
to catch a sun.

I nestle back into my writer’s perch–
a cozy seat, looking out at the Atlantic
in soft light.

Yet in the moment that it takes to
tend the simmer of my chai at the stove
and place a steaming mug next to my sleeping beauty,
I find the white wall beside my chair

Awash with bold color!

Gasping, I run toward the sea again and find
a bright orange ball, hoisting itself
out of the ocean
and above the clouds
Bathing my face
in glorious light.

Those who wake only moments
later, find a world
winter white.

A thin line of color remains
where ocean meets sky,
a wink to those who witnessed this
particular dawn show.

The Sunset

At days end, we catch each other’s eye
across the bay
in a moment of “what if…”
but turn our separate ways, until

Night falls and I see
that he’s taken a paintbrush
to the sky.

I turn my head away, and rush
home
with milk,
unable to bear
such an unrequited
affair.

Day II:  Lover

This morning I’m stirred in the dark again,
but weary from the early rising the day before,
I attempt, again and again, to drift
back into my dreams.

“Go see the sun rise,” I nudge my sleeping husband
hoping his action will quell my own.

But once the room begins to lighten,
it is I who leaps from the bed once more,
Simmering chai while quickly dressing,
pressing my husband to come along.

I rush toward the beach,
mug bouncing in hand,
while my husband stumbles a block behind me.

He takes shelter from the wind beneath the deck
of a vacant, beachfront hotel,
and I turn back to join him there,
Sipping our hot drinks from this sterile perch.

Until,l I glimpse
him…

Just a nail tip
of an orange orb
behind the horizon lined clouds.

My husband yells something about “shoes and sand”
as I fly down the dunes to meet Him.

And there in full view of my man with whom I share my bed,
I open my arms to Another’s embrace,

Receiving him inside my heart,
wishing I’d come alone.

Later when I crawl back under the covers
instead of starting the day,
my husband rebukes these dawn antics,
tells me I have “crush” on the Sun.

I smile slyly before drifting off,
wondering how I will leave this Lover behind
when it’s time to go home to the mountains.

Day III:  Quarrel

I wake at before dawn for the third day in a row
Resenting
the demands of this relationship
Angrily
opening the blinds to see if he’s there
Mechanically
heading to the kitchen to brew my chai

to Wait,
wait, wait

for Him

It’s always Him,

WHERE is He?

When will He come?

Will I make it in time?

And then He mocks my indifference
and doesn’t rise.

He leaves behind his studly orange garb
and appears later, higher,
in Regal Robes
of gold,
Holier than thou light,

Casting his halo upon me,
soft, brilliant hues…
subduing my angst,

and i know,

I know

Wherever i go

He is with me

not as “other”

but as “One.”

Day IV:  Stalker

Exhausted, I want to forget him
Return to my sunless life
Enjoy the ease of an afternoon
Because I can no longer manage these dawn interludes.

But He is always there
and i feel him
pulling at me
even in my sleep
even on this overcast day
even with His filmy light

Day V:  Parting

I wake and realize that He is Risen
Without me.

I feel both relief
and Vacancy.

Today, I return
to the mountains
To a sun hidden behind hill and forest,

And I wonder,
How will I live without our ocean dawns?

Or is he one and the same
wherever I go?
Across the Millenium
Gandhi, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha?

How will I know him
without that brightly colored garb
or regal robe?

Can I return to him even if I cannot always stay,
Prodigal lover?

This morning I wake
with those
who know the world only
winter white.

I have missed the magnificence of
His dawning,
and I know it will
be a long time,
a long, long time,
before I embrace Him again.

His love is
Sacrifice
a blessing of light on my life.

Shining, but never joining
me
in bed.

Gate of the Morning,
I give thanks
for this new day.

Day VI:  Home

Who is it that shines in the sky and lights my morning mountain bed?  Bright, white, rising above the pines, reflecting snow?

It can’t be you.

It can’t be the orange garbed painter, the regal robed artist.

That beach, those sands, are over 300 miles away.

There is no sea here.

How do you still find me?

How large and omnipotent are you?

Unfathomable, inconceivable light reaching, heart touching, morning waking orb?

You are the light of the world.

How can that be?

You are the light of the world?

Impossible!

How can I experience such an intimacy to

the ONE
who belongs to ALL?

And what about you,

Are your rays that wide?

Sun, tell me.

How is it that you touch me so deeply while touching billions of others at once?

Embracing land and sea, forest and mountain, jungle and desert?

Through rain and snow and sweltering heat?

How can you be so large?

How?

And how do I bridge our intimacy with

the impossible span

of your

grandeur?

Day VII:  Awakening

I haven’t just discovered you, have I?

This has been a life-time affair.

Why didn’t you tell me?

How painful it must be to wait…

My childhood days with you on my back,

Mountain mornings of Sunshine on my Shoulder,

Marshland sunsets,

Pond dusks…

It has always been you and me, and then I forgot.

How do you love such amnesiacs?

(Funny that we wait

for the You to rise

into view,

when it is we

who are turning.)

Home for the Holidays

No matter how “enlightened” I  feel in from my perch in the Green Mountains, everything shifts when I return to the place of my origin by the sea.

Once arriving in the arms of my extended family, I feel both a sense of “sweet belonging” and complete uprooted-ness.

Within 48 hours among familiar faces & places, the old feelings of inadequacy, confusion and anxiety consume my previously clear mind.

I begin to panic, wondering how these old “enemies” continue to find me here.  Where do they hide?

But there are angels too. Friends who mention breath on Facebook.  You Tube prayers of peace.

And I discover something new about these old uncomfortable expressions of expectation:  If I remain present to them, however excruciating, they dissipate, quickly, and I am “myself” again, wherever I am–especially here among the salt water and the sand and the sea.

I used to think that life was a journey from A to Z, but now I know that peace IS an every moment kind of thing.

Kelly Salasin