Tuesday, May 15, 2012

of raindrops and Regina

         The past two weeks in New England has been this constant flexing of rain patters. From drizzling to downpour, to merely clouded skies to heavy drops- all of it comes in unsteady shifts. At night as I’m going to sleep with my window open, all I can do is lay there LISTENING, just absorbing the sound of the wet- embracing the soaked world around me that is living out this understanding of a moving, dripping, sometimes thunderous peace.

 Right now, in the ensemble of drops meeting the materials outside my window, I hear the small, sharp tin-tin of singular drops darting into rain gutters. I hear that slapping noise of water hitting pavement and forming puddles. And I hear those rushes of water slipping off the leaves- the quick torrent of small drops one after the other that sounds like a towel being wrung out before being hung to dry on the line.

 It’s the chatter of weather and the pacemaker of breathing as my mind unwinds and uncurls its desperate, controlling grasp on my thoughts. Everything wanders, like this, and my lungs take over to match natural rhythms of falling rain, of natural breathing, of the simplest form of existing.

In my hot yoga classes, most of my focus while I’m contorting my body into the most hysterical positions is actually on my breathing. Through my massage today, I lost myself in the sound of my breathing to keep my muscles from fighting the wonderful work she did on my back. Now, here in my bed with a glass of red and another birthday behind me, I fling wide my arms to invite the tin-tin, lazy plop, and wrung out towel droplets falling outside my window.

I invite the water, the cleanliness, the noise, and the smell of the water as it forgives the earth. And I breathe.

 “And it was raining cats and dogs outside of her window, and- she knew they’d be destined to become sacred roadkill on the way, as she was listenin’ to the sound of heavens shaking and thinkin’ about puddles, puddles and mistakes…” --- Regina Spektor. braille.

Monday, May 14, 2012

of babies and bombshells

No comment, just thought this merited a reprint: By Polly Vernon- chief editor of a London magazine A bar, one Thursday night, after work, I’m sharing a bottle of wine with a group of colleagues, when I fall into conversation with Mark, a friend of a friend. I mention in passing that my workload has increased because a member of my team is on maternity leave. “That’s OK,” he says. “Women hold the fort for each other because you’ll be hoping someone will do it for you.” I bristle. “It isn’t really OK because, well, I don’t want kids.” I say. He looks at me curiously. I take a defensive sip of wine. “You can’t have them?” I sigh. “No. I don’t want to have them.” “why do you think you don’t want to have them?” “I don’t think. I know.” “No. you don’t,” he scolds. “How could you?” Things spiral downward from there. I’m accused of being deluded, of letting feminist convictions run away with me, or not having met the right man. I am pathologized…Predicitons are made for me: I’ll come out of this phase 10 years down the line when it’s too late for me to change my mind. I am not truly happy and fulfilled in my childless state, and I will never be. I’ll die cold, old, and alone. Still, somehow, Mark, who has known me for a little over an hour, fails to make me abandon the conviction I’ve had for three decades. Go figure. …I knew [at a young age] that I would not, and should not, ever be a mother. Not in a sad, self-denying way, but in a cheerful, confident way- a liberating way. I knew that my life was open to me, without any pre-mapped destinations. I grew older, and my conviction grew stronger. By my mid-teens, I could quote statistics on the damage that kids would wreak on my career trajectory, finances, social life, and body. Although to be honest, none of that was, or is, a big factor in my decision to remain childless as my instinctive feeling that I just didn’t want children. …I’d defend myself against all these attacks, I’d point out that the maternal instinct was by no means indication of a sane mind; that all sorts of damaged women have children; that not being a parent did not make me irresponsible by definition…Also, contrary to popular belief, parenthood does not make one selfless. It tends to make people prioritize their children over themselves, yes, but it also gives them a sense of entitlement that can lead to some profoundly uncivilized behavior- as anyone who has ever been thrown off the pavement by a stampede of unapologetic Bugaboo-pushing mothers would agree. …. In such moments [as my conversation at the bar] I can just keep my mouth shut. Or I can stick to my guns and hope that once- just once- I might drop the “no kid for me, thanks” bombshell and have someone accept it as a rational life choice. That’d be my blue heaven right there.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

somewhere between Marx and Taoism

Karl Marx said that religion was the opiate of the masses; this great placating practice of ease for the common people- a relatable, organized structure which would allow explanation and hope in the midst of the complexity and difficulties of life.
Ram Dass said every religion is the product of the conceptual mind attempting to describe the mystery. It's another man-made concept in which we can box our trivial attempts at making sense of the world around us.
Jesus said religion was meant to be a mindset-action relationship of caring for others and being love embodied.

It is interesting to think of the concept of spirituality in general- this new idea of moving from stodgy "religion" to just "being spiritual". Perhaps more useful to try and find the middle ground, though.

Marx, albeit the socialist he was, did not seem too far off from our Western example of Religion today. He claimed it as a man made, structured for common use and control of the masses; a highly organized system above all else. It would appear that the popular church format does not seem to differ drastically from this basic concept. Not that pastors are power mongers out to pray people into submission to the political place of the church in society- but with the surge of mega-churches and the commodity of religious ideas (books, magazines, music, t-shirts, retreats, etc.), it is interesting to step back and see people fall into their respective places within the grid-work. More outstanding in my mind is the very scheduling of Religion: church on Sunday, small group on Wednesday, pray before dinner. We have very specific timeslots available for exemplary actions of our faith and very often there is a void of time between all those where we more associate ourselves with the ownership and membership within Religion and fall short of leading lives that enact those principles and beliefs.

Dass brings this similar idea to the table, that all religions (not just the old time Christianity/Catholicism that Marx was seeing dominant at the time) are mere expressions of our trying to work out in a tangible way what in the world is going on. We go crazy when we cannot recall the name of a friend, movie, song title, book author- it maddens us to not be able to associate a NAME with subjects of our lives. When Jesus rose from the grave and Mary went to find him- she spoke to him and did not even recognize his face until he called her by name. This NEED to associate, to understand, to NAME things is what puts our world into a sensible, tangible understanding in our minds. Isn't religion- all forms- just the desperate act of this pattern for the things outside of our physical understanding, just "the conceptual mind attempting to describe the mystery"? ((real play for devil's advocate here: can we not then say that no religion is right, no religion is wrong- if everything is just this feeble attempt to name the world, name the spiritual, name the unnamed around us?))

And between the structure we create, the Mystery clearly around us, and our desperate need to know it's Name: there is just this call-
To be love. Know love.
Be. Love.

We are, after all, called to be lovers- bold in broken places.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

of incense and tapestries


It’s a night for candles.
A dark blue tapestry of marching elephants covering the pale white blinds on my small third story apartment window- so that I may not see the street lights. It’s a night for an absence of streetlight and an abundant presence of candlelight- that tame, cradling glow that wraps around you with warmth and nostalgia of campfires, quiet Kenyan nights and grandma’s singular vanilla candle on the stairs down to her basement library.
That library of old school books, the jar of buttons, the stationary bike in the corner. The strange green carpet and the blue glass bird on the windowsill in the kitchen.

It’s a night for incense.
For lighting nag champa with the flamingo-print lighter from the grocery store in Mukono. It’s a night to let the smoke and scent swirl around the room- bring back the rides in the car with that roommate, that year, that time, that hard time, those laughing, singing, joyous times with Broadway showtunes and vanilla incense wedged in the airvents of that car.

It’s a night for red wine and M&Ms, for staring at the elephants from around the world that have traveled in suitcases and hiking backpacks to come perch on my bookshelves- ambassadors of travels past.

It’s a night of a lazy Sunday with a morning fashion photo shoot on the coast, and feminist films with the roommates. It’s a night of looking around and relishing in the experiences that have brought me to this. The post cards saved, the treasures collected from corner shops in Maine, the quilt my mother made, the painting from a friend, the books that carry me ever further into myself and ever away.

It’s a night to look around.
To open your eyes.
To welcome your self into the coziness of the candlelight.

You surround yourself with the tokens and lessons and scars and pictures from your journey that has brought you through all the places you’ve been to the place you are—embrace the imagery.
Stack the books and climb through the adventure that was reading through school, reading and growing up with Harry Potter, reading in hammocks in the summer.
Light the match and smell the memory of the painted murals on your ceiling, the music that got you through, the nights with your sisters eating ├ęclairs on the side of the bathtub and doing each other’s hair.
Drink the wine and think to all the people at the bars, the dances with your friends, the clothing swaps between closets before every event, every dinner, every date, every interview, every night out.

It’s a night for smiling.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

of sociology and elephants



Two weeks in a vast circle around Chile and Argentina: finito.
No major physical injuries to claim, save one nasty bruise on my elbow- souvenir of my trekking mishap…but my mind seems to have come away spinning round on a sickening speed setting. I’ve spent the past two weeks with these major themes constantly in conversation:
Travel. Drugs. Faith.
And another constant “philosophy” being brought up as I finally convinced Sean to read Eat.Pray.Love. has been present- this idea of studying, exploration, purposeful discovery and searching, creativity…
This idea of finding self, reclaiming, redefining, accepting, moving with open arms, opening a third eye…

So all that this trip has left me with, I suppose, is a desire for exploration- a rekindled fire to ever move FORWARD, ever question, ever learn. And in light of all the more recent discussions of faith- this rebirth of an insatiable need to learn and seek has set itself ablaze within me. This burning to hear stories, philosophies, seek understanding, question the methods and prayers and practices of Christianity, Taoism, Buddhism, Judaism… just this desire for a full grasp on the world, a looser tongue with which to communicate with all the members of this world.
I crave understanding, context, example and a refuge in which to ask questions, debate, study, read and learn (maybe this is just the post-graduate panic setting in to my Nerd brain).

I know a lot of people in my life may interpret this as some lunacy new-age bullshit quest exposing me to the snares of conversion. Not so. I’m not quitting my job to go pet elephants from an ashram window in the slums of India, and I’m not going to go out and purchase all of the “spiritual” guidebooks in Oprah’s section of Barnes and Noble.( I did, however, pick up a collection of poems by Rumi and dust off my yoga-mat)
My mind is sound, albeit restless and hungry. As a sociologist I have been trained to reject complacency and stillness in my knowledge. I demand an environment with a constant influx of information, varying opinions, theories, stories, beliefs to feed into my common dialogue and thought process. I need to ask questions and experience and read just as much as I need to breathe. I need communication, I need to be challenged, I need to seek- lest I fall to fat ignorance for standing still too long in the same place of comfort and reasonable thinking lending itself to laziness and limited understanding of a world that is so vast.

I don’t know where the compass points next for this journey, though. Maybe India, maybe the Swiss Alps, maybe Lynn, Massachusetts. I have no idea, but I’m ready. My eyes are open and I even have a new pair of tortoise shell reading glasses- all the better to see you with, my dear. So pass me the cloak and the basket of bread and it’s over the river and through the woods, to wherever the winds may blow.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”

-Rumi

Thursday, March 22, 2012

of chinese lanterns and chile

Bright paper pops of light dangle from the cathedral ceilings of this small log cabin Refugio hostel we have been directed to in Pucon, Chile- land of hot springs, volcanoes, waterfalls, rivers, mountains, and peace.
We left Bariloche yesterday morning with a few guys from our previous hostel and stayed in a the tiny, adorable town of San Martin for the night. I spent the afternoon hunkered down on a stone bench surrounded by rose bushes in a park while Sean walked around town trying to find the (only) hostel. A lovely Swiss couple asked us to share a bottle of wine with them and they joined us for a pre-sunrise walk to the bus station this morning to get here to Pucon. San Martin... what a gorgeous town. Where even the roses were trying to out do each other with their patterns and colours like I´ve never seen on roses before. If it weren´t that the Red Queen would insist on painting all flowers red, I would have thought we were in Wonderland. But her reign of terror would never have permitted crimson and cream striped petals, or an array of orange and peach colours layered on one another all within one rose.
Pucon is a quiet town, seems like all locals save those of us here at our campsite-cabin feeling Refugio. Sean and I opted for the 6-share tent in the back, plywood floor, chinese lantern in the center, dome tent and super soft bunk beds. There´s an outdoor kitchen, a ladder to assist in your pursuits with the cherry trees in the backyard, almost as many hammocks as there are trees, and a comfortable cabin inside with fireplace and high ceilings and Jack Johnson singing the sun through the windows. I feel like I´m back at the Shannon´s cabin in Bristol :)
Hard to believe that this trip is almost over.
At our previous hostel, at the Penthouse, we met up with Suzanna who had been with us since Mendoza, and as she checked in the day after us and was standing in the kitchen making tea and talking to another employee there- she walked herself right into a job there and decided, spoon in hand stirring her tea, that she would stay in Bariloche for the next...oh...maybe 3 months_ take Spanish classes, work at the hostel.. live life.
Mom- I promise you I almost enlisted right behind her.
After kayaking down a lovely lake with 4 others yesterday afternoon, having tea and an ICE cold swim and kayaking back, Sean & I and Suzanna made a feast of dinner with tortillini, sauteed onions and peppers with basil and some other spice that smelled really good... and toasted bread with olive oil, rosemary and basil. We toasted Suzanna´s new job, and threw the night to the wine and wind playing cards with a Swede and a Frenchman for our last night by the lake.
Now here´s to new evenings, new places, and Chile.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

azul de Patagonia




Sean and I arrived here last night in darkness. after taking the service elevator to the back end of the dingy looking city centre building to the tenth floor, we found a penthouse transformed to a charming and richly decorated hostel in indian-vibes of red and orange, lamps, cushions, incense and tapestries- yet still we had no idea what we were really in for. we sat with our tea and coffee in plastic chairs with our feet on the cement railing of our balcony, watching the city lights grow to dark sky, to sparse stars, to thick clouds and talked of our time back in Uganda, all the while minding the mysterious black abyss on our right. what we knew was lake, we knew only by map. so we joked it was nothing- this deep darkness of the scene in front of us- a canyon, a pit, a mine unworth viewing, while secretly we let the mystery of darkness unwind us- me to a giddy smile in unadulterated anticipation of the scene only morning would unlock.
having been rewarded now, i swear i won´t stop smiling.

i have woken up from dreams to find myself firmly inserted in what can only be a real fairytale land. Bariloche. from a less-than-$20-dorm in a penthouse hostel on the 10th floor, lakeside of a highrise in Argentina.
and i dont dare to blink.
i literally woke up this morning at dawn and thanked god i had taken the top bunk last night instead of sean, opened my eyes and saw THIS.

beautiful doesn{t even touch the majesty of this scene.

wonderous is too little a word to scratch at the sensation of sitting on a balcony, drinking coffee, just silently watching this sherbert sunrise quite literally unfurl and spill over these mountains.

all this and i cry: there MUST be a creator.

rolls of hills and pine and rock cradle this small, layered lakeside town with its buildings of airs of Swiss style structure against the thin shoreline of the lake, surrounded by purple mountains and flowing, frothy candy clouds- a lake, a mirror for a bursting sunrise proclaiming *viva! life! i bring you today!* with all her fiery orange and diva pink tones in her rising voice.

resplendent is the small token of praise and recognition i offer.

and if all my travelling of South America, little as it may be, was but for THIS morning, this sunrise, i welcome the bruises, the aches, the cut on my right elbow, the tear gas and tight neck and lost sleep and carsickness on dry roads with arms holding nothing but gratitude.