I have been editing a nonfiction manuscript that I wrote before the death of my mother. I just recently took it up again after more than a decade. I began with some optimism and ease, expecting quick completion. (I was eager to move on to new ideas for another project.)
However, as I found myself in the midst of unresolved emotions, my efforts slowed down. Difficulties seemed to arise out of nowhere as judgments threatened. I wished I had never begun. I had to remind myself as a student and teacher of yoga, this situation, most likely, was the perfect opportunity for growth.
Deciding not to reside in emotional turmoil, I rededicated myself to be the neutral witness. I set aside my desire to rework the last chapter, returned to the beginning and am happy, for now on page 16, to pursue ongoing resolution.
April 23, 2017
I have been contemplating the concept that objectivity is not neutral as an extension of my recent return to neutral attention. Still, there is more. I have also been remembering things.
After reading poetry (on a university radio station) with a friend and fellow poet, my friend said to me: “Unfortunately, no one will know what a great writer you are until after you are dead.” This happened in the 1980’s. I also remember a barely concealed sneer by the radio interviewer regarding “women poets writing about their cats.”
Why did he ask us to come on his show? Had he not “read” our proposed selections ahead of time? Having written on the death of our family cat as a metaphor for something else, unfortunately, I allowed this experience to have a dampening effect on my writing life.
Now I write, because it is the song I have to offer. And every once in a while, I am reminded how women have not come as far as we sometimes like to think we have.
Today is another anomaly, different from the general, coastal patterns of wet, windy winters and scorching, dry summers. The hills and meadows have greened. There is still rainwater in various containers, but it has been sunny for a few days with unusually cold mornings. Supposedly, it was 28 degrees earlier and by noon, 79 degrees, with 80 degrees anticipated.
This last Monday, I was startled awake, in the dark except for my cell phone which seemed to be going crazy. I jumped up too quickly and triggered an old injury. We were given tornado warning.
Last year, there was no warning, and we got hit. We are still looking at the impact. This year, we escaped the tornado landing by 2 miles.
Even more troubling, is that the national conscience seems to be having a panic attack. I am adapting in various ways and for more than one reason. For example, upon special request, I’ve scheduled next month’s meditation group to do some healing work. Hopefully, this will help. I need to find my teacher’s chant on the subject and refresh my Sanskrit pronunciation.
Today, I would still like to work on the current manuscript. Those first few drafts, done so many years ago, set me up for a personal yoga journey around parental skepticism and initial disapproval. With both parents gone, do I have enough distance? Or is it yet too painful? So far, the work has been emotionally challenging. Also, I’ve been merciless in my deletions.
Gudrun Mouw (c)
I am again reading Rumi, We Are Three: Translations by Coleman Barks. Inside the back cover, I find a gift.
I had written a poem there, dated 4.21.1991, and there was also a revision on the facing page, dated 5.28.2002. I smile thinking of that saying, “A Poem is Never Finished, Only Abandoned.” Since I don’t much like the word abandoned, I reconsider.
This poem will not be abandoned, because I find myself working on another revision as my memory of that long ago day becomes vivid:
The Santa Barbara Bird Refuge
A goose stands on one leg at water’s edge;
it’s long neck stretches over a glassy sheen,
and a squat duck on one leg,
pecks under its wings.
Similarities and differences jostle
to make an imprint on my perception.
Feathers ruffle in the wind.
A silver cloud floats across the sky
like a large, slow barge.
The carnival of my mind
And the longing for which I yearn,
bursts into into light
like a golden swan rising up.
The Summer 2016 issue of News from Native California arrived in my mailbox. And, as usual, I very much looked forward to reading it.
In the article, “My name is Abran Lopez,” I was impressed by the author’s comment, “I don’t think we survived on excess. I think we survived on diversity.” I was once again reminded of the powerful gift of diversity–how freeing and creative it is, for example, not to get locked down on a narrow perception of how something should be.
I was shocked by the article, “The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code,” by Sheldon Wolfchild. I had not realized that the Doctrine of Discovery, based on the fifteenth century papal bull, “Inter caetera,” which called for the subjugation and conversion of non-Christian nations, has not yet been officially revoked.
On a lighter note, I enjoyed “Kale Yeah!” This “Salmon and Kale Stir Fry” recipe by Meagan Baldy sounds really good. Can’t wait for the completion of our kitchen post-wind-sheer repairs to try this out.
(C) Gudrun Mouw, a.k.a. Krishnaprema Jyothi August 13, 2016
The journey south continues through San Francisco, and more memories return–when I brought my daughter and her friend, David Ray, (who became one of my best Poet-in-the-Schools students) to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in the early 1980’s for a nostalgic feast of music, dancing, jokes and giggles. I am reminded that David, sadly, passed away at an early age. I feel a deep loss, my own and my daughter’s.
This morning, my driving companion and I search out a San Francisco Trader Joe’s to buy something for our later lunch. The parking lot looks packed, so I hop out to find a bathroom. I go down the escalator. A guard stands watch at the bottom.
People come and go. The San Franciscans move quickly, look self-assured, crisp, with contained, intelligent looks. When I see my friend, she is clothed differently than the others I’ve been watching, and I realize, as we go through the store, that we are both, quite obviously, not big-city residents. We dress more casually. We move more slowly. It takes a while for us to search for what we want; then, we have a leisurely conversation with our check-out person (after I check to see that there is, surprisingly, no one waiting behind us). He looks mildly astonished as he picks up our goods one by one. His smile seems to say, these two are definitely from somewhere else.
We drive on towards Highway 280 which brings back my younger days–where my daughter was born and where I worked as a columnist. I share stories about our home near Stanford University. We discuss the possibility of a side-trip to investigate further but decide not on this trip and find a park where we enjoy a brief lunch break.
Our conversation changes driving through the drier counties. As landscapes appear closer to what is familiar for both of us, our driving discourse becomes more personal; perhaps, because we are aware that very soon we won’t see each other again for at least a month. We make frequent stops, then, dive into conversation once more.
For the rest of the journey, I experience intense currents brewing inside, and I continue to vibrate with an energy that goes beyond the residue of continuous vehicular movement. Perhaps, there is more to investigate, more to understand. At one stop, I watch my friend share a portion of her cooler’s food to someone who was checking a store front’s garbage can. I appreciate her quick and kind response.
Since returning home, I have come to see how fortunate I was to participate in a celebration of something that’s often truncated by our modern digital advancements. We are frequently circumscribed by a world of incomplete sentences, of unique abbreviations and spellings, of emojis. This can be both cute and convenient; however, such modern communication can sometimes become substitutes for comprehensive, nurturing talk that helps to embrace diversity, grow our compassion and add to our knowledge of essential matters. I have come to understand how nourishing it is to give each other the time and space to fully express what we mean.
I have a deeper appreciation for how deeply illuminating our face-to-face human connection can be when it is not delineated by the limitations of our devices. I am deeply thankful for the insight and strength given to me for this recent undertaking.
I drive my rental car towards Chico, California and look to the East. Thin, almost translucent gray clouds also travel, moving along the mountain’s ridge and dissolving inside dawn’s coming light.
Soon, I will head North, then eventually West to new territories, so I may continue to recognize that internal place where I am already. Yet, the challenges of an extended journey, I know, may bring fresh perspective and growth. It has been a complicated trip to plan with many moving parts. However, I am beginning to feel the uplift of an adventure finally underway.
I journey through the Central Valley that is sinking, the sign says, 3 inches every month and eventually pass signs that say “NO WATER=DUSTBOWL.” A sudden impulse tells me, close windows, don’t inhale deeply. I am near the cow holding camp where thousands of cramped and confused creatures tread dirt, awaiting what they do not yet understand. Sadness permeates as if the smell of death has already begun.
After 8 1/2 hours, I arrive at my first destination. Two boys call, “Omi!” I collect my hugs like precious jewels. Screams of 6 year and 4 year old joy catapult the new hot wheel cars Grandma bought. Days go by too quickly. Parting words by my son-in-law, “We love you. Come back any time,” move me into that place where grateful tears secretly collect.
May 27, and….
My daughter and I fly to Seattle, Washington. I am comforted through rough air bumps by the presence of someone I have adored since her birth. We land. Quickly, she finds the exit to meet our shuttle. We greet our fellow travelers and ride to the ferry.
We are on the way to Vashon Island. There is moisture in the air. Water surrounds us. The ferry barely seems to move. Soon we arrive to continue through the island’s small town charm–a step back in time, surrounded by water views, trees, more trees and grass; all of it exudes an easy and rich variety of green.
At the retreat center, my first impression smiles at the confidence with which deer nibble on lawns around buildings in the presence of whoever passes by. A small fountain gurgles near the building where we are staying. Between very tall trees, on the way to the to our dining hall, we glimpse the ocean which surrounds us. Locations for our various activities are spread throughout natural surroundings just far enough to give me the experience of a good walk-about.
My traditional sense of the meaning of retreat is tested in a loving way. There are times of silence and reflection throughout, of course, as well as my retreat habit of waking up early and sitting before a lush view. What’s added here is a renewed appreciation for the art of conversation–respectful conversations that encourage listening, becoming models for words used with sensitivity towards the needs and capacities of others. Old friendships are renewed and new ones made. Interactions all around give off waves of friendly connection.
On a day when the sun appears, sitting outside, fawns with their sporty dots scramble in view with such abandon, all discussion ends, and we are uplifted into surprised delight. And, oh, I see robins! How long has it been?
I experience a quiet expansion, an unfolding, a sense of something experienced many times before, yet a subtle new door also opens. Transitions seem easier, moments of isolation, standing apart, behind, or alone become apparitions from the past and no longer take precedence.
The next part of the journey begins with sad partings from my daughter and others. I am off to Gig Harbor, riding with a long-time meditation and yoga student towards the home he shares with his wife, a recently certified hatha yoga instructor, 6 dogs, 2 cats and a parrot on over 4 acres.
We drive along the shoreline; the idyllic landscape and buildings pass by more quickly, perhaps, because of that verbal exchange which happens when old friends, who have not seen each other for an extended time, reconnect.
The journey towards Ashland, Oregon begins with the kind of goodbye tears that signify a subtle movement towards transformation. The beauty of the heart’s capacity to reach out feels like this morning’s sun shimmering over moist greenery. As we drive by mountain volcanoes at the horizon, covered with snow, Mt. Helena, Rainer, Hood, my Gig Harbor companion asks, are they feminine, or masculine? Being the passenger, I look with greater concentration. Words come without forethought, but who can really convey eons of the slowly, evolving consciousness of rock?
The highway climbs, drops downhill, curves this way and that. We enter a landscape still green inside passes and valleys; but, gradually, I see higher meadows beginning to go dry.
In Ashland, we greet another former student, now a yoga and meditation teacher, at her home next to a creek that also embraces us with soothing hospitality and background music. We are sheltered by trees, and the heat that has been prevalent, does not seem to penetrate.
At a water-side restaurant called the Green Leaf, we meet another friend and yoga teacher, who will be driving the next stage of this road trip. The subtle expansion of energy that has been rising within me is causing my body to shake in a way not visible to the casual eye. I need to sit.
Stories roll out, and the punch line for one is, “Mashed potatoes!” No one is eating mashed potatoes. This is a metaphor in a tale about audacity. We get it. Laughter releases, and the conversation, which includes an Ashland High School student involved in the theatre life of that place, pitches into unhampered ease. More importantly, preconceptions disappear.
Discussions the next day touch areas where shadow meets light. Shifts happen. In an atmosphere of caring hospitality a pause between motion is very welcome. There is that moment of realization that the “The say yes to life card” is the opposite side of the coin to “Don’t believe your thoughts.” Which one comes first? It is up to us.
Heading south, my new driving companion, who lives near me, points out views of Mount Shasta. I remember this mountain from a previous journey, when coming to the foot of the summit trail, I saw a climber return with the glittering eyes of someone who has had an intense experience of transcendence.
In some ways, I compare Mount Shasta to Kailash–a sacred Himalayan Mountain, about which my teacher, Swami Satchidanandaji, wrote in his book, Kailash Journal. There, he nearly lost his life. There, he had powerful experiences of enlightenment. My travel friend and I both agree that Mount Shasta looks as if it has created a perfect unity of male/female formation.
Siva/Shakti comes to mind–the male and female energy forces that eradicate ignorance and raise the latent Kundalini energy. Soon, we arrive at the green, green water of Lake Shasta, pass the signs, Fawndale, Wonderland and turn towards the Northeast Bay.
On the Highway 37 Bridge, we pass over the estuary’s thick green marshland, where I spot egrets, ducks and coots surrounded by grassy islands. We follow sand colored hills and traffic to Healdsburg near the Russian River.
We arrive at a hillside home and see a couple waving at their front door, former students with the open hearts of a long-time connection that has not faded. The love that has been accumulating, slowly and steadily throughout my journey has become a strong current surging through my entire body.
I am delighted by the simplicity and elegance of a newly renovated, spacious great room opening gracefully to broad views. We sit at a round table overlooking sky and foothills curving 180 degrees around us. Again, conversations continue, and that gathering of love, once more, blossoms like a bouquet of fragrant flowers.