Something Big From a Small Place

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In this season of chaos it is a pretty safe bet we all feel our tidy costumes of “got it together, man”

Are wearing a bit of the sour smell of fear.

Unnerving change afoot.

Can we do something big from a small place?

My wheelchair seat is stiffer than I’d like and until I am re-evaluated for a better cushion I adjust constantly to get comfortable.

The only thing that really works is to be utterly conscious in making sure I take the time to build a solid foundation for myself by equalizing pressure where my butt hits the chair and lifting my upper chest straight up out of that foundation with the intention of reaching for the sky;

Push down with butt and reach up with chest.

When I do this I own my ground, a resonance comes into my voice, my heart becomes available to me and others and I feel smarter, softer, stronger, more…

Wheeling out this morning I performed all these adjustments with Emma warm on my lap clearly frustrated by her platform moving all about forcing her to adjust too.

I stopped to cross the street and waited for the light to turn.

Someone quietly joined me in the wait.

A young and handsome Muslim man offered “Good Morning” challenged by the clearly new (to him) phonetics of the English language.

He wore a hip tee shirt and sparkled his greeting to me.

The two of us met without any of the wet blanket effect unpreparedness brings with it. Nothing about either of us felt sloppy.

We both seemed clear, conscious, alert and intent as we carried the golden ring of an undefended heart which we offered to the other.

I sat in my chair very aware a tiny experience I was now a part of was a perfect metaphor for essential cultural healing craving just such an opening.

He stayed close to ensure my safety as we crossed the street and gave me a parting smile and thumbs up as we went our separate ways.

A little miracle happened in those few seconds and we both knew it.

Something big from somewhere very small.

The Privilege of Age and Illness

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“WHAT?” you say…

…Two things we run from like leaping deer from forest fire.

This morning on the plaza under the perforated umbrella of trees giving up their leaves

I sat across from an older Native American man who lowered himself tentatively onto the bench.

He wouldn’t catch my eye as is the case with many Natives.

I spied on him peripherally.

Both of us wore disability yet mine was more visible; his gait weary and effortful I had noticed.

We rested on our separate benches..connected in some lovely containment of our personal selves reduced in importance by steeping in and appreciating the change of season.

I sat in the poignant combination of leaves leaving, the powerful infusion of clarity in sky and light, the clip of chill on my cheeks and the reality of sitting in a wheelchair.

“Everyone’s out there working away to make the world go ’round while I sit here; still, silent, empty. I am so happy..so privileged to be here registering how sublime this day is. I have the company of this man sitting near me and we needn’t connect to appreciate the comfort of our shared human journey as frail specimens of sentient beings and examples also of radiant spirits up to the task at hand because we say so.”

Would I have noticed the sensuality, profundity, utter perfection of the various patinas making themselves available to me today

Even 5 years ago?

No.

No.

No..I wouldn’t..couldn’t see nor feel the offerings before me.

I am so very rich.

This wealth I am accumulating comes from my ability to HOLD THE OPPOSITES as I often speak about.

The privilege arrives in my character having the room and willingness to experience beauty in losing/finding, ending/beginning, madness/lucidity, confusion/sureness, trust/betrayal, summer/winter, sitting/walking, silence/talking, hungry/full, chaos/harmony, disappointment/fulfillment, danger/safety.

The old man eased himself with great care off the bench and very slowly shuffled his way to another nearby resting spot easing his way down once again.

I heard him sigh.

GIRLS

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One of my good girlfriends had a very big birthday recently and was feeling trepidatious about the magnitude of the number.

The three of us (above) got together for a celebratory breakfast on an elegant Santa Fe outdoor patio on a perfect fall day.

There were rose petals strewn on the table, stargazer lilies pinking up the table, vintage half-masks to silly things up.

We toasted one another in a chosen family sort of way with a mimosa and pretty much sat there and marinated in the blessing of close friendship all morning.

Many years ago I belonged to a women’s support group in which we did an exercise I never forgot.

Each woman took her turn siting in the center of the circle as each of us wrote on separate small pieces of paper who this woman was for us.

I still have my words today and they remain so important to me when I forget who I am.

The words weren’t all of the stellar variety but honest all the same in how I was experienced by these women; elegant, intelligent, fashionable, trouble with men, poor self image, shy, empathic, complicated, creative, expressive, strong, survivor, pretty were just some of the words for me 30 years ago.

This exercise was done anonymously which was important.

We did this very thing for our birthday friend which seemed to move her a great deal. I think the act of witnessing one another authentically is a gift we all long for as so often we carry inaccurate impressions of who we actually are and how we are experienced by others.

A powerful part of this exercise is that the receiver must read aloud all the words she/he is given before taking them home.

I sat at that birthday table utterly full of gratitude that I have attracted such stellar women into my life and I had the chance to tell them so.

A Name

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Today I have been thinking a lot about how challenging it is to sit all day long. I miss my old body so much sometimes.
The following is a chapter from the book I am working on:

A NAME

I never really could get behind my given name, Cathy. The vibe doesn’t fit; too suburban, innocent, not enough gravity. Don’t like the sound or shape of it. My parents told me the choice was between Cathy and Sandy. We’re talkin’ pretty white bread here. I am not white bread. More a complicated mix of unusual but healthy flours mixed with dates and pecans..dark and weighty in that yummy way and satisfying in the mix of ingredients unafraid to have their say is how I’d describe myself if I were a bread.

I host a vague but persistent recognition that my preference was to have been born black. My positive associations with black – skinned people began in early childhood as I was enveloped lovingly in the safety zone of pendulous folds of fat and bosom belonging to the housekeepers who tended my grandmother. The tall and dignified gardener, Tom treated me as real. We talked dirt, bugs, compost and birds sometimes.

I knew I was loved. We laughed so often and sang and got down low and really talked and listened. I was given time. I felt precious. They made me greasy hamburgers in the back kitchen; so good that all the world’s problems seemed fixed and life was very fine.

Later in life I noticed the blacks’ center of gravity was lower than most white folk. They seemed closer to the ground. We white folks are too often firmly ensconced in our heads. They strut or saunter. We stalk.

I suppose I also relate to their lives of “performance.” Give the white folk what they want, how they want, when they want and only then get paid. Get up at 5 and feed the kids then get thyself to the bus, travel over an hour, serve the white man/woman and do it all again the next day. With a smile.

During our days together it was these kind and emotionally adept people who did the connecting, the relating I desperately craved. I owe them so much. I really did feel my life depended on my performances within the family. Be good or be gone.

My dancing skills are very wooden except for my hips. On a vacation to the island of St. Lucia in college my girlfriend and I rented a jeep and adventured to a restaurant high in the damp, jungle-y hills outside of town. The patio looked out over the sparkling sea.

Following dinner a reggae band appeared. They were sort of scary with outrageously long dreads and a dour countenance as they went about setting up. We girls crossed our legs and pressed down chastely on our cotton summer dresses. The evening sky turned very black.

Dinner ended. The two of us sat nursing a drink as the music began. Many of the staff began to dance. All the white patrons sat very still and uncomfortable in their exposed frozen physicality meted unto each through eons of repression.

Two native islander waitresses I recognized from the evening came over to us, suddenly grabbed our hands and pulled two acutely reluctant white girls onto the dance floor.

What else could we do but move? After awhile I noticed other staff coming out from the kitchen to watch. I had dipped so deeply into the reggae-zone that it took me awhile to see their attention was directed towards me and how my white hips instinctively knew the down-low language of their native music. We all danced long and hard. After the fact this was thrilling to me; movement as bridge to “other”. But it wasn’t really so “other” as it was in ME. It’s surfacing surprised me..shocked me even.. I held myself as a very bad dancer up until this point.

Many folks choose to change their name at some point if their given one proves unsatisfactory. A wise person or guru sometimes does the choosing and surrendering into that name is part of the spiritual journey… “Durga” (unattainable), “Chandra” (moon) “Ravi” (sun) are some Santa Fe names I’ve heard.

I’ve always respected the Native American naming way. It is a very complicated process so I’ve read but I am drawn to the thought only one person within the tribe may use a name at one time and as life goes on two or three name changes often occur; “Starblanket”, “He Who Combs”, “Panther Passing Across”; all real and enchanting Native American names.

I would like my name to be: “Fly Girl”.

Not like the act of flying around with wings or motor.

“She be fly.”

More like that.

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In Search of Late Roses

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A different light visits with the first touch of Autumn.

The highest leaves atop Sugar Maples pink up.

The Aspen trees on the mountain are, each and every one, connected to one another through their root systems.
Essentially they are all one tree.

I had the thought today that we, as humans being are each connected as well but our root system needs some serious fertilizer or maybe piping in the best tequila would soften us all up enough to recognize we can’t live without one another.

I rolled out my door this morning in search of late roses.

They are different in that they are the second blooming cycle of the season.

The color and constitution of the flowers seem more robust and eager to show off.

I can hear almost a crackling around their moxie; almost pornographic in their push of life.

They know their days are numbered as the frosty reaper he be a’comin’ round the bend.

I am a late bloomer too.

All the blonde girls in high school with perfect skin and all the right curves and clothes

Had their bloom.

Now is my day; Wrinkles stack themselves up, one against the other and time is a mean one where gravity is concerned;

But in my chair I go fast. My dog rests calmly, warming my lap as passers by ask to pet her and chat about nothingness..just to connect.

Finally for me, just existing is quite enough.

My purpose is only to love what I love.

Today the late roses have my attention.

Their fragrance is quite complicated. Not full of young notes but something ripe.

Vulnerability

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The green park I take Emma to each day is an oasis in my town;

Big grandfather elm trees grow amidst luscious and well tended lawn.

All dogs are supposed to be on leash and recently I reminded a woman of this park rule.

“Excuse me..this is such a great park for us dog lovers, isn’t it? It really is an on-leash park, though..” I say.

“No.. You just have to know your dog really well. Don’t worry so much.” the lady walks off in a steely huff.

Today, I see her and she says: “Are you in a better mood?”

“It’s not about my mood. It is very scary to have dogs I am unfamiliar with charge us. I don’t know your dogs and you don’t know mine. It just feels very stressful and unsafe to me.”

Again..”You must know if your dog is mean then keep him on the leash..otherwise it is fine. Seems like you don’t know your dog to me…”

OK.. my hackles are up and I am trying to keep my center and see this is going nowhere fast

So I say: “I can’t have this conversation with you” and turn to roll away.

Yelling now: “NO WONDER YOU ARE CRIPPLED!!! You don’t understand how things work around here. I hope I never see you again.”

Well…this altercation was so stupid but somehow some of it got to me as I rolled away. I felt the full force of her vitriol blast me. Even if I was well aware it wasn’t all about me my tears arrived just the same.

The whole thing made me think of how we as a culture treat the highest of gifts we enjoy- FREEDOM.

Quite a number of us feel quite entitled to have what we want, when we want it and if this protracted view of freedom is challenged? Well..duck is all I can say, my brothers and sisters.

Sometimes life is just too friggin’ nasty and access to empathy is cut off.

Here I am in a wheelchair telling this woman it scares me when her dogs charge us.

She seemed incapable of relating to my experience..only her own.

“WE” is so much further down the evolutionary road than “ME”.