One Day

I’ve been rather (overly?) ‘thought’ful in my writing here of late. So much has been on my mind that I’m not sure whether or how to talk about, and until I am sure, I’ve decided to try to work it out in other ways.

Retail work has been the most surprising of those ways… getting on a train I don’t step off of for hours, setting aside worries and all other options/choices. Goodbye, scrolling Twitter until I think, “What time is it?”, Goodbye, “looking for something to watch on TV.” After having a flexible schedule for many years, this structure feels incredibly freeing to me, comforting in the way I imagine weighted blankets are comforting to people who liked to be tucked in at night as children (not me – I always needed a leg or at least foot outside of my blanket).

Choiceless, in a good way.

I’m fairly suited to the kind of work I’m doing, thankfully, at least in most ways, on most days. I can get the sort of ‘hit’ of feelings of youth that I imagine some people get from watching a sport they played in high school.

With this one decision (and the company’s decision to hire me), I solved at least three big puzzles that were fast becoming problems prior:
weight gain (I’ve lost 8 lbs. so far and hit my 10,000 steps mark almost every day);
eye-to-eye starvation (Most of my daily conversations had become typed or mitigated by social media, which is way too comfortable a zone for me, not being especially verbal); and,
putting my ethics into practice.

That last one is hugely important, so let me elaborate…

In the Taoist ox-herding tale, there is seeking and striving up the mountain, and a time of retreat that can look like one has finally arrived. My spiritual life–alongside, but sometimes consuming, the rest–has been a mix of those modes: lots of (almost constant) study, retreat, giving up whatever seemed in the way of devotion–‘working’ to trust the flow and truth of insight and intuition. To that end, unimaginally wonderful friends and teachers have appeared all over the mountain as I’ve wandered … people deeper and happier than any I’d before encountered, sharing similar longings and a language of play-beyond-words… celebrating the enoughness of ‘what is’.

Finding these places, these people, has often felt like validation of my deepest needs and calling, and of course, one would want to stay… would want to do whatever it took to stay, including bring others along. On the mountain I learned of a million bright and open eyes, countless ways of seeing and being seen, and how to find thin places where distance, manipulations and lies, have no meaning at all, present no barrier (“How can a mantis block the road?”).

Yes, like visiting Heaven, or, more comfortable imagery for me: a land of Buddha fields.

DesignAquatica

As I traveled though, I always suspected there might come a time when my go-to’s would no longer work… when I wouldn’t be able to retreat and study myself into a blissful mind palace state of grace over and over again. Truth be told, as much as I have loved and desired that, I have also wanted to be drawn from… to serve… to pour myself out completely so that I could really rest, “one day.”

And lately, I simply show up to meet the moment. I don’t control where I am or who I encounter, for hours of most days, and often can’t fully classify a good day from a bad. I am ‘snapped out’ of my story-telling and ruminating, over and over again until that movement works its way into my body, giving my mind to whatever the apparent situation may draw out. It isn’t exactly that I’ve come down from the mountain nor left the quest behind, but that all those books and sutras and sessions and endless audios have become a kind of inward architecture… more perhaps, Rumi’s Guest House.

“Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

(Coleman Barks translation)

There may be a shift here, from reading to being read, which I like to think may be a true culmination of practice, moving into living lucidly, spontaneously as true default… inhabiting a certain quality of mind. I’m still a little concerned I’ve managed to find just a new way of avoidance, but it seems to be where/how the aliveness has moved, sweeping me into a new phase of exploration.

I even feel some of that here, coming back to my fingers. Dare I hope?

And dare I hope that just situating myself where Life seems to want me, might also matter to ‘the world’ – a ‘coming back’ gesture of belief in Basic Goodness… a better collaboration?

https://www.facebook.com/walkofftheearth/videos/10157204768545357/

The way you sip your tea…

I’ve been working a lot since my grandfather died, keeping occupied, a la “Don’t look down.”

It isn’t exactly his death which has been scary to me at some deep level, but what his stepping out of the way reveals about what remains… what a life might amount to and mean to others. Or not. His absence is limitation in my life–so many things that now go away. But it is also permission–to stop hiding the wine and buddhas in the apartment, to ask myself what should be written, now that it won’t hurt him to do so.

Walking a tightrope is hard without fanfare. “Keeping busy” means answering “Just fine” a lot, because who has time to hear the whole of it anyway…

Yet, it must matter in the Big Scheme of Things, especially when what seems my very personal, almost entirely unexpressed, pain, comes back, reflected through the lives of those whose stories did eventually find expression, those who were eventually seen. My incredibly edited life bursts the bounds of its interiority this way, becoming 99% subtext, and Art not my own.

To lesser or greater degrees, this is true for all of us, as it was for Judy Garland, the newish film about whom I watched today, weirdly, just after I’d come across a clip of Elizabeth Taylor during an interview. In the interview, Elizabeth said people loved her because the highs and lows of her life, the near deaths and public sorrows, deemed her a survivor. Was Judy a survivor? I’m not sure.

Still, I need to reduce that subtext proportion. Maybe that’s why I keep trying to write about him, but not exactly him. I keep searching within the details of moments, for where to dwell, what to deem the truth of things–looking for the beauty I know is there, without applying unneeded gloss nor extra scuffing.

What I’ve found so far, is that his life is not just his life; his story is not just his story, but also mine, just as much.

Which is quite a thing to say.

Onward.

The 16 year old car I’ve been sharing with my son has had it… its very latest expression of resistance being the driver’s side door, which only closes after a 5-part dance of pray, jiggle, shake, pull, and slam. This, on top of the finicky gas reader, the loud whistle just slightly different from the one we’re used to, and the crackled melting seats. The time to let go is now–yesterday actually–but I’ve been hesitating.

For most of my childhood, my grandfather owned an auto body shop. Occasionally, we’d drive up to see him work and help clean up… a frustrating visit for a child outside of going to a restaurant at some point because there weren’t many safe places to play.

There were, however, interesting things about: typewriters, rolling stools, and calculators which made receipts. In later years he lived right there behind his shop in the air-stream trailer he and I traveled in to see my Great-grandfather for what would be the last time. That trailer was in much better condition than most of the the cars and boats he endlessly traded and tinkered with.

Once, he tried to talk me into turning an air boat–the kind that glide through the Everglades–into a houseboat!

Image result for air boat house boat
He must have imagined something like this.

It was just the sort of project to lodge in his mind as a next big thing, alongside hydroponics gardening and online stock trading– things which for months or years he would beat the drum about, hoping someone in the family would seize and run with the idea.

He was right about computers though, encouraging what he saw me go toward naturally when given one, although he could be impatient about my bearing (real) fruit (money) in some way.

He always thought I should start a blog, but not like this one.

See the fruit factor, above. 😉

He liked to work as though getting away with something. Whether intricate work like watchmaking and sewing, or larger-scale mechanics and real estate, very little seemed all the way right. Yet, in that not-quite-right-ness was a choice he was consciously making … a rebellious streak.

I‘m a little like that too. 🙂

Unlike me however, my grandfather believed in formulas, and in sayings, such as “There are only two reasons people do things: fear of loss, or expectancy of gain.” I couldn’t glom on to this, nor most of his formulas actually, no matter how oft repeated. I would think, “That’s a problem, if true.” After he’d driven away though, I would ask myself whether some of his formulas, especially about motivations, were true of me, and determine that they not be. In an upside-down sort of way, they often became great advice

We worried about him a lot in the last years. We worried when he insisted on driving the bartered cars up and down the coast, often breaking down at least once between one point and the next. We worried that he thought rest stops were good places for naps; he felt that by looking as though he had nothing, he was safe. It was because of his own serious need of towing service that he always kept an AAA membership, adding my name to make sure I would never be stranded.

I feel a little stranded, now.

Which is what tipped the scales today… got me thinking too deeply. Because of the state my car is in, I signed myself up for AAA this morning, then spent the rest of the day trying to shake deep and unreasonable anger… some at him, for worrying us with his maddening ways of thinking and infuriating priorities. And then, for going on before everything could make sense for the family, so that we might mourn his passing together without the second-arrow-suffering so common as to be cliche’.

Suffice it to say we haven’t escaped that.

The membership was a little thing, but represented so much. When I received email confirmation for the account, my first thought, bizarrely, was, “His mercy endures forever.” I’d renewed this for myself, but in his name, in a way…

After all, it was my grandfather who taught me to drive, in a tiny Chevrolet he stored for a man who lived in another state. I practiced for hours, circling cones he picked up somewhere and placed around the bowling alley parking lot across from the shop. He also taught me to play tennis, to fish, to drive a boat. The very first time I saw a cruise ship was from his boat… one which seemed so large to me just a moment before.

I’m thankful I got the chance to express my appreciation to him directly many times, but I’m thankful for other, difficult things, too. He could mostly handle having honest conversations about things we clashed about, because if a discussion became too heated, we’d both stop rather than risk deeply hurting (or god-forbid losing) the other.

Not everyone can do that. My mother and I could not.

As to why I have avoided changing cars like the plague, aside from it being better for the environment not to constantly upgrade… It is a feeling that just has so much baggage for me: fear of being fed bad advice, vulnerability at the mercy of others to follow through at their end in a trustworthy way.

Who will make sure it will all be okay?

Step one: A Big Cry…

(done)

Winds

Deep loss is so revealing.

Although through meditation practices and commitment to examined living/examined mind, it is possible to live with a great degree of open-awareness, nothing quite shows up ‘who you are’ like loss does. Thus I’ve found losing my grandfather to be a place of deep vulnerability, more like an inverted mountaintop than one offering some great perspective – a stripping away rather than any gaining of insight.

Even having ample time for preparation and reflection, I was just so unprepared for how alone I would feel each time I remember he’s gone.

Some heartbreak is due to the way my small family has handled things, in essence closing me (and my children) out of the process, not necessarily out of maliciousness, but their own pain and exhaustion. Most of it is simply the childish wish that things (“everything from all time”) could have gone differently had I just been more this that or the other. There was so much he wouldn’t let anyone do for him, so many ways in which his independence and stubbornness set the stage for confused reading of intentions, for fragmentation.

Yet I always knew that he loved me, and that he would be there for me if I were really in need. I suppose growing up often means losing ‘that person’. So many great books have this theme of transformation post hollowing out.

But may I say, I’m tired of transforming…

And when I look around, I don’t see others called upon to ‘transform’ quite so much…

So what can I do. I’ll turn my heart toward conscious appreciation… for the way I got to witness and be part of his having a kind of second wind at the end, going out with and leaning on friends, smiling more than I’d seem him do in a very long time. He learned to easily say “I love you” after withholding that phrase for most of his life, and to listen to the whole sentence when someone said “I love you”, to him.

I think that he was able to survey the whole of his journey at some point too, that the end result was a life in which he had provided foundation and rescue for 3 generations of our too often struggling family… a life where he had, however unsteadily at times, ‘been there’ in ways only he could have been.

I keep waiting for him to show that he’s still there in some way. The day of his passing I felt the strange ‘off page’ sensation of a conversation, of permission asked, of the need to say a blessing. I wrote what amounted to a prayer, that he would experience forever the freedom and joy of knowing… complete ease. Other things. It was less than an hour between my pouring my heart out, of gesturing that I could let him go, and the text my mother sent of his passing. (Yes: text.)

Since then I’ve kept myself so busy, and my body so full, that I’ve been able to mostly squash down the sadness, except on those nights when I wake up with tears streaming down my face… except when I encounter someone else who has just experienced a loss and our losses bump into one another… except when, like today, I determine to let the feelings flow wherever they will.

Actually, I’m able to write a little today thanks to a quiet moment I found while scrolling Instagram and sipping coffee during a beautiful sunrise. George the dachshund settled in on my legs and fell asleep so heavily that I couldn’t bring myself to shove him off, so I scrolled, and mused, sometimes gazing at the white gauzy curtains that resemble those from my childhood.

I remembered vividly, once as a teen, having a hard time trying to change myself/my life. My grandfather pointed to the oak tree outside the living room window of our house in South Miami and told me how he’d seen it grow from a small shallowly-rooted tree that could hardly withstand a summer storm, into a deeply rooted tree that withstood strong hurricanes.

My mother ridiculed me for telling the story that way, tried to tell a different story about the tree to supplant what he’d said. Until he died I never knew how much she resented his care of me, though I realized she didn’t share that. Back in that moment, his story gave me comfort beyond anything else he might have said, because the example was so tangible. So it didn’t really matter to me whether it was true or not.

It still doesn’t.

Sometimes, lately, I feel like I’m back there again. The tree isn’t in quite the shape he promised it would be… needs some tending to become a better shelter.

stop means go

A family of cardinals has been visiting the little second-story balcony of our rented apartment since February. Only one wears the bright red that clearly signifies *cardinal*, with the other three more brown-toned, often fluffed and lively in their chattering. One of the brown-toned cardinals sports bits of orange too, as though going through a protracted transition phase. I can watch them for hours on end, delighted.

Setting out seeds and creating a rather lush space filled with plants and places for them to perch on has attracted a lot of my attention over these months, along with blue jays, doves, and mockingbirds into the space. An especially daredevil black and white cat whose whiskers frame his face into a quite pompous expression also finds his way up high, lounges about, observes the goings on below. I’d bring him in but for the vehemence the mere sight of him brings out of my loudly barking dog.

Just a few days ago, a tiny ladybug flying high in the air and landing onto the large floppy leaf of what we always called an Umbrella, caught my eye. (I’ve since learned the tree also goes by the name of Octopus, thanks to the blooms it shoots out, which look like red tentacles.) The sight was so unusual that I noticed a tangibly different texture of attention occur in me, a deeper stopping of spontaneous appreciation. It felt like a question mark rather than a simple noticing, but no question formed.

It may have been a signal, and a more significant gift than I was aware of at the time, because when I arrived home after work yesterday, the entire tree had been removed without notice, instantly replacing our treehouse-like view with the neighboring complex’s unbearably uninteresting parking lot. I handled it better than I would expect myself to, strangely.

What this means for our humble but wondrous menagerie is hard to say, but I hope that I’ll be able to somehow mimic the shade for a while.

I do wonder if the signal given is that it is time to Go.

Zeroing In

So, I’ve been doing shadow work–contemplative work which includes intentionally going into the emotional places I’d rather (and usually do) avoid, and searching around in there to see, “What still hurts?”

Basically, it’s a check up.

In the same way, I have a shoulder issue which bothers me occasionally, but only when and if I’m doing certain things. I can go a long time without thinking about it, but when I see my doctor, we move the shoulder this way and that to find out whether improvement has taken place.

It simply isn’t useful to check it all the time, because part of healing includes not aggravating the injury. Obsessing would in fact be a sign that it is in need of something further in the way of intervention.

Same with the emotional body. If you neglect these appointments, you can have flare ups of what some have deemed “the pain body”, who will emerge from a blind spot and wreak havoc in your life!

The feedback I’ve received during the tests and prodding included in this emotional check-up has been mixed. On the one hand, general inflammation is nowhere near as debilitating as it has been at various points in life, and specific discomfort areas have proven manageable enough to ‘get on with the show’ so to speak.

Yet, there is still deep pain in some areas, things that need addressing, people who present as enemies or obstacles to happiness in one way or another. There are memories that still hold the patterns and frequencies of fear.

I’m fortunate to be able to schedule this work… to have learned how to mostly do that, and now, I need to map out and schedule the follow-up treatments, which include spending direct time with those people and memories. Most can be addressed out of my home first-aid kit, with technologies like EFT Tapping, what I’m calling prayer, lots of walking, and nature bathing… tangibly moving through.

Citipati- graveyard deities that represent perfect awareness and death, dancing.
Mongolian Citipati Statue c.1830

At a deeper level, all can be addressed by tapping into a sense of timelessness. Meditation is the only way I know of there, or some ‘flash moments’ of writing and/or painting.

But the timelessness I mean is different than one might suppose – timelessness that would allow one to relinquish their need for validation or justice or understanding, or even improvement at all. Rather, the timelessness I’m turning to is active, fulfilling, not invalidating any need, including for justice, as less important than ‘cosmic viewpoint’ or some such.

This timelessness is compassion, is the nectar of Bodhicitta, the promise of transforming experience of life in ways beyond even cosmic fathoming.

I feel I’ve been prescribed a deep-dive exploration, and surprisingly, it isn’t one that requires getting rid of so-called baggage to undertake.

Why Citipati, above? I’m not sure. Somehow I have the sense that these graveyard dwelling wrathful deities can impart some key. They seem to be the guardians of this first leg of the journey…

Don’t answer that

It’s been a while, but I need to write. About loss this time.

Maybe I’m always writing about loss. How to reconcile with losing. Losing to those I was taught we should not be losing to especially, justice weeping endlessly.

Losing to time. Constantly losing to time.

Losing to the weight of expectations, and to paralyzing confusion. What is goodness, and how am I always just ‘a little off measure’? How does that ‘little off’ translate into such wonky catastrophes? How big is my blind spot anyway!?

Trying too hard. Not trying hard enough. Not surrendered. Not playful.

What am I rambling about?

About driving him up the coast when he didn’t want to go. He wasn’t ready, and feels betrayed. By time, by us, by God I think, although he wouldn’t say that aloud. What choice was there? Is there now?

Is there?

I think, “If I hadn’t followed my heart about that ‘back there’, I might have afforded to follow my heart more closely this time.” But Is that true? Life brings us all to our knees occasionally.

There’s no good time to relinquish the illusion of will, but I situate myself on the boundary.

For days, I’ve been beset by oranges, and by the scent of citrus. I sparked this I think, telling a story of a teacher who smelled like orange blossoms, and the purchase of some oils.

Then came the cardinals – a family of three making my balcony their own. Their insistent chirping is more like chattering, so I find myself arguing with them about the other side they are said to symbolize.

There were also three deer today (very unusual!). And two odd lizards.

It all seems so thin.

Which is fine, more than fine, but does it have to be so hard?

A little scraggly, busy finding shade from the intense heat!
I love the way they come as a family, at least the last three days in a row.

Unthinkable

Met a talented woman at a party last week. She’d made the super impressive cake for the guest of honor, a friend’s son newly graduated from medical school. I marveled over the way the writing of his name on the coat of the cake was delicate and perfect.

It really was, and the filling delicious, too.

Later, three of us began a conversation away from the crowd out on the orchid-filled patio by the pool. The whole environment suddenly cooled thanks to a welcome burst of rain which, coupled with the pocket of quiet, felt like a secret to just sit and treasure together a while.

A chance to chat.

Our talk was about jobs, mostly, leading into my desire to use my paralegal skills in some way, “busy-work, something to aid lawyers working with detainment and immigration issues I hope … something I can feel good about.” Then I learned that her main gig is that of a teacher… currently working in an immigrant detention center not too far from me.

This brought a brief silence between us.

One can’t fault those working inside the facilities too much, or, can they? I don’t have a clear answer, which is the biggest problem with bureaucracy, after all: distance from responsibility. As an individual, she is, I’m absolutely sure, loving with the kids (well, teenagers) she teaches, attentive, and has their interests at heart. No one, certainly not me, would want to deprive them of that care nor make their daily lives less comfortable in any way. That is why even some politicians who protest the centers, continue to vote to fund them.

Still, speaking with this young woman was a rare opportunity to hear the perspective of someone regularly inside a system which, although she insists it’s not the case, lacks transparency. She expressed with no small measure of passion, that some kids were living in better conditions than they ever had in their lives… well fed, wearing clothes of their own, able to sleep in safety. She praised the availability of meals, classes, structure, and said that a few of the girls told her personally, that they were happy there, and hopeful about their futures.

Further, she was disgusted by the disruption brought about by those creating chaos at the gates, which causes the kids to be kept inside more than they might otherwise, “to shield them.” Some days, when from her perspective politicians want to make scenes, it takes hours for those who work at the facility to get in and out. “People would not do that if they were really concerned about those inside.”

I didn’t doubt her impressions. Her personal experience is something I place great value in and appreciate her sharing. It may be that the facility she works in is better run than the ones in Texas we are finally hearing about, for one thing. OR, it may be that it is impossible to see the whole from within one part.

And I think we must deal with the whole of the situation.

It was obvious a little further into our conversation, that she didn’t take issue with the premise of the facilities themselves, nor policies of this administration generally. Like so many where I live in South Florida, she’s been convinced of our President as a “businessman” – brash and unpolished, but not wrong in setting drastic limitations with those who “should come legally.”

Yes, he is about business… but in this case it is the interests of an ever-expanding private prison industry… a system I already abhor. It is truly beyond my capacity to fathom how well-oiled and finely targeted propaganda machines have proven to be, that people can feel hidden behind this thin facade of legitimate system.

I don’t mean to say that this woman I spoke to buys into the ‘other’ narratives I describe. Even while knowing my views are drastically different, she didn’t treat me with disdain, for one thing.

I do worry though, about deep pockets of ignorance. For instance, my kids received less than half the Holocaust education I did as a child. Almost all of that education originated at home. What does that mean for the populace on the whole?

The conversation we had, expanded my sense of doubt about having a decent grasp on the scope of it all, and gave me a clearer, more fully dimensional picture of the people making one-on-one connections and impacts within these situations. Yet, it didn’t alter my overall sense of horror about the camps, and the desired proliferation of them if this administration has its way, which it is getting far too often.

In fact, my sense of foreboding has deepened, “Ah, this how the Unthinkable actually happens, ‘how’ a world lets it happen.” Who can push back such a great and ultimately quite quiet, tide?

Especially when they feel, “Who can push back such a great and ultimately quite quiet, tide…”

What I think is an important and measured article:

Fathers, Legends and Queens

I spent a lot of Fathers’ Day watching films, beginning with Rocketman as a promise to my daughter, who loved it so much that she paid to see it three times. Then, wishing to make comparisons, I rented Bohemian Rhapsody., which I’d walked wide circles around before, failing to imagine how anyone could do Freddie’s story justice.

It was in fact a little surprising, to have felt such strong possessiveness over Mercury’s story, since roughly calculating the hours I’ve spent listening to Elton vs. Queen, the former would easily run circles around latter. This is mainly because his music has permeated key events of my life to a greater degree, often through the instruments of musical friends.

I didn’t fall in love with QUEEN until I was into my 30s, but THEN it was, “Oh, wow.”

Freddie, from British Vogue


Freddie is clearly the more tragic figure, also the more naturally flamboyant, which makes him delightful to watch. But, importantly, he is not alive to validate nor invalidate what has been done with his life story, so is also far more vulnerable. I can’t help but think he might have added nuance to a few needed places in the film, such as regarding the tenderness of relationships other than with his first, female, love.

So I didn’t want to like the film.

[potential spoilers]

However, in the end I must admit that both films were sufficiently tender with their subjects. Artistry-wise, I mostly liked them differently, with what I disliked hinging upon the handling of the music itself.

That Bohemian Rhapsody was lip-synced should have been a problem but wasn’t, because Rami Malek’s physical embodiment felt so genuine that I wasn’t put off by his lip-syncing at all. I felt that not thinking about the music, a la “I like (or dislike) this better than the original, etc.”, kept my attention with the story. I was also already a fan of Malek, thanks to binge-watching Mr. Robot during a time I desperately needed that immersive distraction.

On the other hand, I would describe what was done with Elton’s story and catalog of music as “translatable to stage.” Choices made to adjust to the pace of the story and Taron Egerton‘s voice, make total sense when putting the concept itself at the fore, and Rocketman is definitely more conceptual. Think Across the Universe with a bigger budget. I’m a fan of Across the Universe, and covers of Beatles music generally, but there isn’t a single Elton cover I deeply like, even when sung by artists I value; his voice is simply fused with his songs for me.

Today I did find THIS playful rendition:

I mean, c’mon! Nice.

The presence or absence of fathers in shaping a life, features prominently in Rocketman, and must have been the main story Elton wanted to tell as the hook into understanding his longings… the depths he sank to, the fits of ego that possessed him. Longing has shaped many artists – to be reached for and loved, seen and known.

Me too.

My longing has been to make sense of everything in some cathartic way, to turn the puzzle inside out. It is the fairy tale of finding (or being!) a magic key that once turned, makes ‘it all’ always to have been worthwhile. It is some version of karma, but without punishments and rewards… something like, true character revealed, and that being a good thing.

I’ve had experiences of this kind of flip in vision-dreams before. Once the curtain falls, everyone bows, acknowledging the roles that they played and why, with even the villains deeply appreciated. In my last dream of this sort, I encountered my once step-father, the night that he passed away. He was surprised and delighted to find me there (whatever ‘there’ means in this context) to see him off, since we’d shared tragic history.

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your
head back and laugh at the sky.

– Totally Fake Buddha Quote

Addiction features prominently in both musicals too… addiction to whatever can stop the consuming pain of a primal need unfulfilled, such as for that of a present and approving father. Or the pain of looking for knowledge that can’t quite be filled in… understanding you would have had to have received from the get-go, or early along the way.

Therefore, we will always require the kindness of others. We will always need others to empathetically imagine us as though we had been given all those pieces – to see the ways in which what is missing makes us the wonderful beings we are.

The tragedy for those who become famous may be to reach the pinnacle of achievement in the world and find it ‘still not enough’. No matter status or stature, the answer is never ‘out there’.

magic in the doing

“I wasn’t doing magic anymore… was just talking about doing magic.”

The above is a note I jotted to myself several months ago, and ran across today. It was something I saw up ahead as I wrote it, as though spoken by a me reflecting on that time, once through it. There was a sense of things I was struggling to identify then… a flatness to everything I suddenly became acutely aware of.

I think I’ve arrived at that point now, of understanding what I said to that previous me.

There’s a book that I love so much that I’ve recommended it to almost every dear friend, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. There are just so many excellent things about the book, starting with the distinct language and the mood that it sustains (like a mixture of many great writers in the Dickens and Austen vein), but what hooked me, was the very idea of the scene Susannah Clarke started with: a meeting of magicians.

These magicians were meeting together very regularly and debating quite vigorously over texts about previous magicians and the times of magic in which they lived. Most of those devotedly present were in total agreement that magic no longer occurred in England, which made for quite enjoyable meetings that ultimately fell into the same patterns as any other hobby group might. Two of the group however, were longing for more. They knew they were missing something.

In the book, this sets the stage for the two men of the title to appear. These men are not among those in the meetings, rather they are two actually practicing magicians quite different from one another, each intense and daring in their own ways. They seem to be brought into view by the context of the times. One, an older book and formula hoarder, resource-guards against those he deems unworthy. The other, more lighthearted and generous, is reckless at times.

Both continually endanger those around them.

When The Raven King goes by ... Drawing by Rachel Oakes
Impressive drawing of the Raven King by Rachel Oakes
(found on Pinterest, but linked to the Etsy store EnchantedOaks and for sale as prints)

I could elaborate further, but suffice it to say that the contrasts between the magicians’ group, the two curious men, and the two daring practicing magicians, are something I’ve never been able to shake when examining my own life. I ask myself, am I really IN this that I’m doing right now, really ALIVE in it? Or am I playing it safe because of A, B, C? Where am I indeed out on the edge? Can I give something more to that effort?

Things have started flowing again, taking on new dimensions as my intentions and attentions become less divided. There had been a missing road connecting distinct sensibilities I think, linking knowing about with stepping into that knowing.

I’m thinking of having the Kena Upanishad tattooed onto my body, but the text is a little long:

“Not that which the eye does see, but that by which the eye does see…”

Which has the feel of being inside the storm. Come to think of it, there is another character in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – a disturbing figure in many ways, covered in tattoos. Maybe I’ll take a bit longer to think about it. 😉