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We show up,
burn brightly in the moment,
hold nothing back,
and when the moment is over,
when our work is done,
we step back,
and we let go.
-Rolfe Gates, Meditations from the Mat
Beneath those flames
the charred remains
of four years of work.
Therein the ash and smoke
lie thousands of hours of
The fire ate them all
with no regard
for the size or shape of the ideas.
I stood and fed the greedy tongues
as they hissed and sputtered,
devouring it all indiscriminately–
the fire and I whispering
all of your names
on the wind.
Out of nowhere El-D announced today that he is done being El-D. This is perfectly fine by me. Henceforth he will be called BeauJeau. Just thought you should know why there’s a new man in my life.
So anyway, I somehow convinced BeauJeau to do an acroyoga class with me last night. Full disclosure: beer and wine were involved before hand – not a lot, but some, which probably had something to do his agreeability.
As a yoga teacher I feel it’s my duty to advise against drinking alcohol before practice. In other words, don’t try this at home kiddies!
Before we started with the acrobatics, we did passive partner work on the illiotibial band, which was quite enjoyable. Relaxing on the mat and having my IT bands fondled was the best part of the class as far as I’m concerned. Alas, the aggressively cheerful and energetic couple leading the class insisted we get off the mat and get to doing some balance work.
BeauJeau was the base, I was the flyer. I tried being his base at one point, but that didn’t work at all. I’m too little and he’s too big. He made a good foundation though. At one point he lifted me up with his feet while I struck a flying superman pose. Then I did the same pose balanced in his hands. I was Jennifer Grey to his Patrick Swayze…
We saw the writing on the wall
And we felt this magical fantasy
Now with passion in our eyes
There’s no way we could disguise it secretly
So we take each others hand
‘Cause we seem to understand the urgency…
Yes I swear it’s the truth.
…or that could just be the alcohol talking.
At one point in class I partnered with the instructor who somehow sent me doing somersaults in the air before I fully understood what was happening.
In BeauJeau’s words, the experience was summed up as “learning to do cirque du soleil.”
In my words, “I think I may be too old for this.”
In the final analysis, it was ridiculous and fun and nobody got hurt…unless you count the aftermath of today’s sore muscles – his abs, my biceps. Overall, it was a physical study in body mechanics, and in power/surrender, cooperation, trust, balance, and boundaries.
Yoga is yummy in so many different ways.
They see me long before I become aware of being watched. They adjust to my movements silently and invisibly. Is it ignorance or arrogance to be so unaware? Perhaps neither. They have the evolutionary advantage of having eyes on stalks.
When I become still enough to notice my breath and feel my heartbeat I begin to detect an unsettling presence. I close my eyes and remind myself I am the one here in predator form. I open my eyes and see the trees covered with hundreds of eyes and legs and claws darting away from my gaze. Later I will learn the name of these creatures: mangrove tree crabs. For now, we all settle back into stillness.
Deep within the mangrove a winged-thing shrieks. I gaze down at the water. First, there’s only my rippled reflection and the clouds. Then beneath the surface a frightenly huge figure manifests itself. Surely this beast is a figment of my imagination. It’s as big as the kayak and gliding by close enough to touch.
“Um…there’s a giant sea monster coming up on your right,” I warn over my shoulder.
He doesn’t belive me. Doesn’t comment. Doesn’t even look.
“Like the Lochness Monster…” I add.
“It’s huge. Bigger than you. I hope it doesn’t turn your kayak over and eat you.” I really don’t know who I’m talking to at this point.
Maybe I imagined it.
I am the predator here, I affirm silently, though with a little less certainty.
And then suddenly there’s another monster beside my kayak – its body seems to go on forever.
“Sea monster!” I exclaim.
And a few seconds later it’s under him. With genuine fear in his voice, “Oh shit! What the-”
There is a moment of smug satisfaction on my part before my powers of deduction finally kick in and I gleefully announce, “AaaiiEEEE! It’s a manatee!!”
She awakens suddenly to the whispered question, “Who?”
Heart pounding, blood coursing through constricted veins, she is already in full fight-or-flight mode as her eyes spring open to the darkness.
Who? she wonders, even as she wonders why she wonders who.
Who…Who (is here)?
Her eyes quickly scan the fall of shadows in the dark. She sees nothing out of the ordinary to explain this panic. There is no intruder lurking in the shadows. The house is silent. There are no lingering dream fragments to help her understand the question that continues to echo again and again in her auditory memory, “who?”
And now, through the open window, the question and the answer float in on the night air, “Whoo-Whoo?”
She exhales the breath she didn’t realize she was holding. Sinking back into the pillow, she smiles and imagines the owl she hears calling. He is all tidy feathers and ear tufts. With a serious, studious expression he swivels his head this way and that way to ask every ear who will listen the existential question that keeps him up at night: Whoo-whoo?
Time and space stretch and yawn as time and space tend to do at two a.m. and the prospect of sleep seems as remote as the owl’s call.
He has a little stutter, this owl friend – Whoo-whoo….(are you)? Whoo-Whoo…(am I)? Whoo-whoo…(can hear me?)
We share the same questions and we might as well think about them since we are both awake. That is the power of questions – they have a way of enlivening the mind. Besides, some questions can only be asked (and answered) alone in the dark.
And occasionally, when the timing is just right… who-who
one soul’s cry for answers
is heard by another…. who-who
and far, far away in the distance…
another voice calls out:
She most certainly will not be getting out of bed to get dressed for school, thankyouverymuch.
From the kitchen Momma has hollered for her to “GET UP!” and with an edge in her voice added, “…and that’s the last time!”
This happens to be the second of Momma’s “last time” warnings. The warnings started after an entire series of ineffectual attempts to get her out of bed. Momma went so far as to pick out an outfit and physically try to force her into it. This was a grave offense. She is six and a half years old and can dress herself. A lot of screaming and wrestling went into that fiasco before Momma abruptly aborted the mission to try out a new tactic: cooking breakfast.
But all the clothes and breakfasts in the world will not make a bit of difference. She’s not budging. It is so cold in her bedroom it hurts to breathe. To protect herself from the temperature, she has ducked her head under the blanket to breathe her own body-warmed air. Her feet are pulled up beneath her flannel gown. She has folded herself into a little ball to preserve heat. She has gathered all the loose edges of the sheets and blankets and tucked them under herself to keep the mean air from biting her. So Momma can threaten spankings all she wants. There are worse things than Momma’s spankings – like being attacked by the cold air outside the semi-warm cocoon she’s created beneath her covers.
It’s not just the cold terrorizing her, it’s also the snakes. Daddy killed one in his bedroom just the other night. He chased it around the room hitting it over and over with his guitar until it was dead. She didn’t actually see it happen, but she did hear the accompanying soundtrack. The oddly musical killing featured forceful, pounding rhythms and vibrating, jangly strings that reverberated inside the instrument’s hollow body with each blow. It was definitely not a song usually played in Daddy’s repertoire. She was horrified when she found out the cause behind Daddy’s improvisation. Now she imagines the coiling and roiling pit of snakes that surely resides under her bed. Daddy, the Slayer of Serpents and her Champion Defender, has already left for work. So no ma’am, she will not be getting out of bed today.
Momma’s footsteps now creak down the hallway and stop at her room. Uh-0h.
“Come on and get up. I made biscuits and it’s warm in the kitchen. The oven door’s open.” Momma says sweetly.
The brat beneath the blankets cries, “Nooooo, it’s too cold! And biscuits are so yucky. They’re mushy and gross. And there are snakes!”
“There are no snakes. And I’ll toast the biscuits. You like them like that, remember?”
Momma steps closer. Under the covers the child braces herself in anticipation of the coming struggle. When it doesn’t come, she realizes Momma’s footsteps are fading down the hallway. She hears rustling and softly percussive kitchen sounds. The oven door creaks then snaps shut.
She hugs her knees in and shivers.
A few minutes later, the oven door creaks open, then Momma is standing by her bed again, working loose a corner of the sheets. Delicious warmth touches her skin. Her clothes! In her blanket cocoon, she dresses in her oven-baked shirt, warm pants, and toasted socks, then she emerges a new creature. She jumps off the bed and runs out of her room before the snakes can get her. She follows the scent of toasted bicuits to the warm kitchen. For the rest of the day the scent of biscuits and love lingers all around her.
“Why do you call your husband that?” It’s usually the folks that don’t know him doing the asking.
People in the know make him identity bracelets with “The Devil” spelled out in beads.
He’s also been lovingly refered to as “Squidward” by a self-identified “Patrick” who dubbed me “Spongebob.” If, like me, you need a reference point for these accusations, I give you two:
The Devil can be grumpy for sure. Naturally, he’s a bit of a Grinch about Christmas. This year in a rare moment when he wasn’t complaining about how ridiculous the holiday is, and how stupid all the shoppers are clogging up the traffic home, he asked for “kill shirts.” Kill shirts, as in the shirts TV serial killer, Dexter, wears. It was a sincere request. Not that he’s going to kill anything; the Devil is a vegetarian.
He’s the kind of guy who listens to Heavy Metal, Death Metal, and who watches the Vegan Black Metal Chef.
His lounge-wear reveals his devilishness clearly:
He often conceals his dark nature behind various disguises. When we make public appearances (because, you know, we’re rockstars), it’s customary to see each other on the way out the door and wonder aloud who exactly the other is supposed to be in regard to the costuming, then to promptly answer our own posed question. It goes like this:
I’ll say, “Who are you going as tonight, a literature professor?”
He’ll say, “What are you supposed to be, a woodland fairy?”
We tend to create the most unlikely pairings: country gentleman and baglady, serial killer and Sporty Spice.
We are always so different, even when we’re exactly the same. When I morph into Lilith he suddenly becomes Michael the Archangel.
In our relationship’s default settings, I lean towards a chirpy sort of joy while he does all the moody brooding. We remind me a lot of these two:
But somehow underlying it all is just this…
Morning light. Tired eyes open, squinty. Through the fringe of eyelashes the air is alive with fairy dust. Eyes wide now. Mamma and daddy need to see this! There are whys that need to be answered. Why did the fairies come and decorate the air? And why did they leave?
She doesn’t yet know the word “mote,” but she is an expert on glitter. She decorates paper plates with glitter and glue. And she can make a necklace with macaroni and string. The macaroni necklace needs glitter and glue! She’ll have to tell mamma.
The air is so pretty. It’s just like the water drops in the bathtub that turn to diamonds when you look at them right. No one else seems to see them. It’s always, “Hurry up. Get out of the tub. I’m tired” or “Come on, we need to dry your hair before you get sick.”
She discovers momma and daddy still asleep, oblivous to fairies and air that glitters.
Daddy is better at why. She pads over to his side of the bed where he is asleep on his back. She stands there patiently waiting for him to wake up. An eternity of 10 seconds passes. She stares at him trying to force him awake with her will. Nothing. She stands there wondering what is the best way to wake him up without making him grumpy. She has an idea! She will open his eyes for him so he can wake up seeing the sparkly air. She positions her fingers above his eye lid and then pops it open.
He jumps awake like he’s been shot.
She runs away as he yells, “Valentina! What the hell are you doing?!”
She adds another why to the ever growing collection: Why does nobody ever seem impressed that the whole world sparkles?
When I was but a wee lass, my mother would deposit me at my grandparents’ house at the onset of summer vacation to “spend the night” and there I would stay all summer. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a change of clothes or even a toothbrush, but my grandparents, resourceful people that they were, managed to provided whatever was needed. Year after year this was the routine.
My grandparents’ storage shed, where they kept the dryer and a deep freezer full of hamburger patties and freezer-dried buns, had the most intriguing scent. I’m convinced it was the lingering fragrance of the 1950s, though probably it was just a bouquet of old insulation, dryer sheets, and mildewed wood. Whatever it was I have never smelled anything else like it anywhere. Somehow the scent persisted through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
Inevitably, other family children wound up at the grandparents’ house to stay the night (for real just the night) while I was there. My grandmother would occasionally ask one of them to go to the shed to get the laundry out of the dryer. I was rarely asked to perform this chore, probably because I was the youngest and least reliable. Plus, going to the shed by myself scared the heck out of me. In fact, I might have left an accidental trail of her panties from shed to house once when on this mission by myself…out of fear, mind you, not out of spite. It’s hard to run away from imagined monsters while burdened with a load of heavy laundry.
Despite this fear, I didn’t mind accompanying the appointed laundry retrievers to the shed because I loved smelling the room and because all the other family kids were bigger than me, better at fighting off offending monsters, and thus terribly interesting. I didn’t want to leave any of them alone for even a minute for fear of missing something fantastic that they might do.
So there we would stand with “not enough room in this shed for both of us” (whatever) while he or she dealt with hot laundry and I huffed the scent of the 1950s.
I really miss that scent.
Any scents from childhood that you miss?
Dedicated to El-D…
(I love you, you know.)
On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying,
and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.
Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my
dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind.
That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it seemed to
me that it was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.
I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that this
perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.
How I would love to tell you that life has been all roses and frolicking this week.
In the last couple days alone the farm has seen accidents, injuries, delusion, anger, bloodshed, exile, and multiple deaths of various creatures. If it sounds like Lord of the Flies, it has been to some extent. In fact I believe one creature’s tailless corpse may still be wedged between two bricks in the sunroom now that I think about it. Yip, Moon Pie, and Nickel are savages in their play.
Still, we haven chosen to celebrate in spite of these things.
The voices of three generations rose up to sing gospel hymns and children’s songs.
We created new things from old things.
We fixed broken things.
We broke things that really needed fixing.
We recoiled in horror.
We stared too long at train-wrecks.
We simultaneously understood and didn’t understand.
We accepted that this is all part of the giant whirlygig.
…and then we went back to the roses and frolicking.