A friend gives me a gift to celebrate my 70th birthday.
It’s a map from Raven called Meanders.
She saw it after sitting in a tree we both shared after walking along Lagunitas Creek to honor Lloyd who loved and videotaped the creek.
We sat and stood in the tree as though in a stagecoach traveling through time.
And now this map, an image of me. We both see it.
It’s how I view myself, and how I’m seen. It’s a map of my poetry, my body-mind.
The description is this: This extremely precise map of river meanders uses a compressed elevation range to reveal many layers of former channel courses– in effect, a graphic image of river time. The river is the Willamette River near Salem, Oregon; the subject is the beauty of the physical processes involved.
We watched the movie Green Book last night. It’s set in 1962 and shocking, and also beautifully funny and heart-warming.
I remember how carefully we drove through the South in those days and we were White. I had no idea of the Green Book.
I sit with that now, a rising awareness of how we open response to change, and in that opening, experience fluidity and flow.
In my case, I continue to revel in the exploration of Alexander Technique. I massage my thought patterns with new ways to perceive.
F.M. Alexander called the unreasonable wishing that motivates our misuse – end-gaining. He introduced the “means-whereby” principle where we stop and pause, allowing a response that best meets the situation.
During my haircut yesterday, my hairdresser said how challenging it is that her clients come in traumatized by what is going on in this country. In addition, living here, we are bombarded with warnings on fire and earthquakes. And yet, in this moment, I pause and return to the inner light which the Quakers cultivate while listening in silence to what is here in support.
I didn’t post yesterday, the first time in over six months. I wanted consistency but felt stuck on the image from the day before of people living cheek by jowl in tents. There was nothing to say.
I had planned to post on how I was a boat lifted up and down on moving waves, but then an image of the RMS Titanic popped into mind, and the next thing I knew I was looking at icebergs from upside down and seeing the 9/10th we don’t see when floating merrily along, which brought me to the unconscious, and now I know you’re congratulating me on pausing for a day on posting.
Also, I wanted to share Rilke’s wonderful quote on rising up rooted like trees, but I couldn’t seem to integrate it with boats, until I remembered living along the Mississippi River, and when it flooded, boats and trees co-existed, so here it is.
“If we surrendered to earth’s intelligence, we could rise up rooted, like trees.”
Then I learned that when my iPhone updated, it added icons, and somehow I must have clicked the unicorn, so now I have an array of unicorns tossing kisses and such. I was reminded of a card I love. Someone told me I was delusional. I almost fell off my unicorn.
Anyway, I’m working with inhibiting habitual responses ala F.M. Alexander and my teacher John Baron. It’s a practice, and yesterday offered opportunity to utilize my practice so I’m grateful for that.
Now, I receive this poem, these words of Aldous Huxley, from his book, Island.
It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.
No rhetoric, no tremolos,
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.
So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling,
on tiptoes and no luggage,
not even a sponge bag,
“Not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered”, which leads me to consider the sponge, one of the evolutionary oldest animals on our planet today because their simple structure allows them to adapt and evolve. They have survived at least 635 million years.
Though their environments may be endangered, they currently are not. There are sponge farms so it’s environmentally feasible to use a sea sponge for beauty care. Properly harvested, they regenerate. Also, medical research reveals they contain natural chemicals which may kill cancer cells.
The question then comes to pain. These are living creatures but because they lack a nervous system we determine they don’t feel pain. I wonder about that. Does a rock feel pain when it rumbles down a hill and breaks apart? What is pain?
And with that thought, a pulse, and my heart opens up and squirts light like an anemone squirts water when touched.
Yesterday I was at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center. My friend is recovering from surgery there and has a wonderful private room with a view. Looking up one sees sky and hills. Looking down one sees a huge bulldozed area where a new project will soon arise.
Leaving, I exited the multi-level parking lot to face crowded rows of tents.
We know the homeless problem is huge and complex, and because San Francisco and Berkeley have clamped down, the problem is spreading.
I’m shocked though to be reminded of the powerful bookBehind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo.
The book contrasts life in the luxury hotels in Mumbai with the people who live right next door, right under high-rise views.
The following comes from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle written by Roland Li and published on June 17, 2019, and I share this with no intention to attack Kaiser which provides excellent care.
Health care giant Kaiser Permanente plans to construct a 1.6 million-square-foot headquarters in Oakland, creating one of the largest new buildings in the Bay Area — larger in space, though not height, than San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower.
The article concludes: Last year, Kaiser committed $200 million to fund affordable housing and mitigate homelessness, including preserving 41 units of affordable housing in East Oakland.
Kaiser also partners with the Golden State Warriors on health and youth sports programs and is sponsoring the plaza around the basketball’s team new arena in Mission Bay.
It is said that “In Zen, We don’t find the answers. We lose the questions.”
I sit with that wondering how we care for All, and how far 41 units goes to handling what I saw yesterday.
This morning I woke with thoughts of spacetime. I’m absorbing and integrating the Alexander Technique principles as I reach to receive, and curve, not grasp.
I’m aware of curving because pumpkins are everywhere, and pumpkins even in their roundness exhibit their own unique reach, bend, contraction, expansion, and curve.
Monday night I made fondue and put it in a sugar pumpkin to cook, an experiment that turned out to be a little strange. Perhaps it was because pumpkins are native to North America, and fondue to the mountains of Switzerland and France. Maybe as the land mass was once one, and now is separated into continents, some foods, too, are meant to hold their own sense of place and taste.
The point is I’m playing with curves, with curving into receptivity, discovery, and relationship. I’m working with less need to control, and in that, letting go of incessant, and mostly meaningless, inner commands and demands. I want to meet the world “new” without straight lines handed down, or maybe up, from the past.I want to curve and curl like a cat.
In this process of exploration and discovery,I feel a bit spacey as I introduce new possibilities and shapes into my way of being.
That brings me to igloos and wigwams, one round, and one cone-shaped. How do we house ourselves?
Where I live, the homes of the original people, the Coast Miwok, resemble a triangle. Buckminster Fuller knew that the structure of the triangle is twice as strong as a rectangle, and created his geodesic dome, a spherical structure created from triangles. The shape and housing does more with less.
I want that. I want to do more with less. I want to release pressure and judgment, to float and rise with a little more ease.
Knowing that matter bends the geometry of spacetime, I play with gravity, the force of attraction that exists between any two masses, and playing with, allowing, and responding to invitation, I rise up from the earth as she holds me in her grace. I simply rise, no effort at all – sometimes.
Thoreau wrote: You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
Yes! Launch on every wave, find my eternity in each moment. Yes!
I come to my computer keyboard, aware of waves, gravity, arches, and domes. I allow my fingers to curve, to reach, receive, and as I allow that the keyboard reaches for me. I celebrate the attraction of gravity, the reciprocity and energy in relationship.
Rumi wrote: Your heart knows the way. Run in that direction.I’m running, well, actually, I’m sitting in a chair, but I’m following my heart, opening it out, spreading it out like brie cheese, another change in the fondue recipe, which again, was not an experiment to repeat, or keep.
Thoughts of Alexander Technique flow an invitation of connection, an invitation of direction. The founder, F.M. Alexander wrote: There is no such thing as a right position, but there is such a thing as a right direction.
Therefore, I “think” a message, and a direction as I let my neck be free, to let my head go forward and up, to let my back lengthen and widen.
And now I pause to answer the phone. My son calls. His son, my grandson, will be born any time now, and there is the question of circumcision. In the old days, there wasn’t a decision to make. All was ordained by the culture, the tribe of which one was a part. And now we’re presented with an array of choices and reasons, complicating, and perhaps confusing, what we decide.
In Alexander, I’m learning to stop so that I don’t necessarily react habitually and automatically to the endless stimulation of life. In that, I sometimes feel disoriented and discombobulated. If I open and release my neck, rise, and allow my shoulders to spread apart, who am I?
And there’s the question of the day. Who am I? I might answer easily and habitually, that I am this, or I am that, or I am, or maybe I simply settle back, settle like a wave curving softly into sand, and know, there is no I, only we, and there, in movement, release, and curve, is peace and ease.
I felt the 4.5 earthquake at 10:33 PM last night. It was centered in the East Bay so a mild shake for me, a small rattle of the room I was in. I’d forgotten until I read the news this morning.
I remember a memorial service I attended years ago. The priest, new to CA and the Bay area, said he felt that’s why we’re more open to change here. The earth literally moves under our feet. It’s certainly a nudge of awareness that life can change, and does.
I feel awake this morning, clear, as though some rust is shaken loose.
Yesterday a small group of us were talking about how we bring Sensory Awareness into our lives. Stefan Laeng says simply pick up a rock and put it down, no need for drama, a simple up and down, an experience of reaching, attachment, and letting go. Perhaps when the earth moves, that’s what it’s doing, simply lifting us up, giving a little shake, then putting us down, so we can notice, “What’s moving in me now?”
Charlotte Selver, my teacher of Sensory Awareness said: Without watching, without judging, just be awake. Simply be present with what you need and what is meeting you.
What do I need right now? I close my eyes, and lift stones of gravitational trust up and down, as the ocean plays with rocks on the beach.
One day when the electricity was off, and my “to-do” list gently closed, I sat on the couch with tears – just tears – no story – a cleansing, tender with grief – ah, maybe there was a story – grief for the Kurds and for a country with tremendous wealth deserting an ally, and then, grief.
Today I felt moisture arrive again, simple moisture in my eyes, a caress spreading in my heart.
This morning on a Zoom call this quote by Pema Chodron was offered and shared. You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.
One person on the call is working with collage and we imagined the immersion in choosing and manifesting what churns in us now.
On the call,I spoke of what it means to me to sit and watch the ocean, and my friend sent me these words from Herman Hesse in Siddhartha.
“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.”
That might be enough for a day but I was introduced to the music of Don Shirley, which led me to this probe into the movie Green Book.
I just learned that a friend is out of surgery. Time to make chicken soup.