Something I wrote a few years back. This life all around me faithful to provide carefully positioned sentinels that stand at the gate against any misery that would seek to make a permanent address inside me–a reminder of where my true north lies, a pointer home saying “This way to your heart”.
Driving down the street the other day,
I detected that fall had had her way—
and under freshly shorn trees were luminous
yellow-gold pools where sunshine had accumulated
—a riotous cornucopia of puddled sunshine in
brief reprieve between darkening days,
like some kind of joy
suddenly rising up to greet me in the dying leaves.
It left me happy for days.
My life has it dying seasons, as well.
Yet the art of dying often leaves me wanting,
absent without poise or polish.
futile attempts made at scooping up decay
of that which needs to die, staring, bare
limbed, at loss, shivering in the wind.
If there is joy-filled reprieve, I often fail to notice it.
This letting go business—I’m not as graceful
as the golden dying leaves.
But what I’m counting on is that spring
always comes and old attitudes, beliefs and judgments
WHAT I REMEMBER IS JAYNE. Jayne Mansfield, that is—the bursting at the seams, large bosomed, blonde bombshell and sexpot of the 60’s. The Hollywood star with the heart shaped pool in her backyard lived a large life in my mind. I wanted to be her. I was nine or ten playing house in my bedroom—as Jayne Mansfield, of course, stepping into the cool darkness of my closet to make out with an imaginary, muscle ripped Mickey Hargitay, while my girlfriends, all the while sighing and moaning, languished on my bed waiting for me to come to my senses and come out of the closet.
Then one day she was beheaded. I was devastated. Riding in the front seat of her car, slamming into and under the backside of a semi-truck, and…off went her head—I imagine right into the back seat! Just like that.
I imagine that she believed she still had a lot more making out with Mickey left to do, but as you know in all things, they end. Time runs out, and all you’ve ever done is all you’re ever going to do. And besides all that, I had already grown tired of making out with Mickey and was feeling the intensity of my puberty bearing down on me in the crush of feelings I had towards the boy down the street.
So much innocence left behind as the crush of life began to have its way with me. I almost succumbed to it more times than I care to say. Lucky for me, I made it this far into my sixties. Surprised to be here now, I was sure I would die before I was fifty. My entire adult life was white hot with extreme busyness and caretaking, and then total collapse—all of which I believed to be a badge of honor I wore proudly.
While at lunch the other day, my friend, Mystic Meena (whose odometer is getting ready to roll over to seventy), happened to remark on a sixty-seven year old actor that had passed away recently. Meena related how television pundits had observed after his passing that at least he had lived a long, full life—to which my friend exclaimed, “Bullshit!” When I was thirty, sixty-seven was definitely old—and death not so unexpected—that is, of course, unless you are sixty-seven. Unless you are ready for it, the pronouncement of death always comes as a surprise at any age. I don’t feel done yet.
Here I am, and the sun is beginning to dip in the sky. There isn’t a whole life left in front of me as I have a series of “holy shit” realizations that I’ve got to begin now if I want to find and use my real voice. My dreams are still the same. It’s just that I have a little less physical energy to realize them with. Maybe the point of the body sliding past the apex of youth is this: it compels you towards your realness. I don’t know for certain. It’s just a hunch I have.
Now that the leaves are beginning to turn into blazing yellows and crimson reds and oranges, into their most flagrant and final stand for beauty, I am wondering how I didn’t see there could be so much splendor in moving towards that inevitable final breath of falling from the tree. What a metaphor to our lives—the grace-filled allowing, the gentle welcoming of age, the coming home to ourselves, finally. Perhaps, the leaning into our wisdom years, of spreading our brightly colored canopy over the lives of those coming up after us as way-showers is what really matters. Personally, I don’t want to waste it, not a single drop, not a single brilliant colored leaf of it between now and the time whatever pronouncements over my impending demise are made.
I am heading towards my glory years; and it going to take some careful planning and execution as I begin to re imagine myself, playing smarter, not harder. There is still time enough whether it be one year or forty years. I cannot take my body for granted anymore. I cannot ignore and punish it. As long as I am able, there is a strict requirement for honor and listening, then supplying it with the necessary rest, nutrition and nurturance it requires. In this one moment I have been gifted. It almost didn’t happen.
Whatever has happened in my life has brought me full circle. I am lucky to get the chance to have a “do over” in the last act of my life, playing the part of me rather than someone else. My fear, in whatever time is left, is leaving this life realizing I never had the courage to live an authentic life.
Admittedly, I am scared. It’s a moment by moment thing requiring a firm commitment. Holes must be plugged in order to enter into right relationship with myself. Gone is the bent towards extremism in my thoughts and actions, doing everything at once or nothing at all. It is not mine to single-handedly save the world.
If I want to live out the richness and the depth of all that has brought me here, I must practice sacredness and gratitude in the gentle or not so gentle breath of each day, in allowing, in letting go, in lightening up, and in laughter, and last but not least, in the flow of words that find their way from my heart to my fingertips. I am rising up and up into this voice that has been given me, flowering quietly or noisily, vibrantly and brilliantly. I am practicing freedom, using the only voice I have to set this prisoner free.
Some years back, I attended a “Shamanism 101” weekend workshop. Among several things I learned was how to read a rock. Crazy, huh? That’s what I thought, too. Not having tried it since, I was curious to find out if it’s just the rocks talking in my head or if it’s for real, and so I have decided to have another go at sharpening my rock reading skills. From my garden, I’ve selected a quite ordinary, nondescript looking rock. (It’s the one in the center of the picture with the burnt-out eye sockets.) Sitting it on the table, I begin to examine its rugged exterior. Going so far as to get my magnifying glass out, squinty-eyed, I peer studiously at this triangular shaped rock. Hmm…what is this? Shapes start to form upon the rock. Am I seeing things? Have I officially lost it entirely? I laugh at what my family would think if they could see me now.
It’s as if there is a kind of alchemical force at work in this rock as it begins to shape shift right in front of me. Here buried into its craggy, triangular shaped face is a burnt out looking eye—could this be a kind of scorched All Seeing Eye from too much light pouring through? Now aligning in a place next to the first eye is another eye forming. Between there’s a hump nose, and below an inverted V shaped mouth. I can see there’s no easily winning over the affections of this rock as it seemingly studies me in return. Could there be some semblance of personality in this little craggy curmudgeon?
Ah, now redeeming itself, I see “two” cat heads with whiskers, no less, on the one side of its head; a tree on the top side; a kind of earth on the underside. Feminine wisdom, it says to me; there’s the masculine, too, yin and yang balancing in the number two. Could it be there is a need for more balance in my life? This unassuming and down-to-earth rock certainly has quite a bit to say.
Feeling silly, but after a bit, I think I’m forming a relationship with this rock—this rock that is born of great struggle from the Mother Earth herself. Disconcertingly, I also begin to feel as if I’m being scrutinized by the All Seeing Eye looking back at me. I look again—it’s been a long journey from where it began. There are gouges and scrapes dug deep in its skin; there is the complementary feminine and masculine energy and the tree of life as it reaches toward its divinity. There are roots and rocks, death and rebirth, and flecks of crystal like tiny stars that hint brightly of heaven buried inside.
Fitting so neatly in the palm of my hand, this crazy little rock must have a great many stories to tell. It’s weighty and in a moment, grounds me, ties me to the earth, then floats me to the stars. What has it seen? What does it know in its density? In geologic time, how old might it be? Born from erupting, spewing volcanoes from earth below, their red hot magma in long rivers cooling into wide corridors of land, shaped and shifted by ferocious winds, massive floods and so many cataclysmic things over millions of years? Full of gouges and scrapes, it’s been a long journey here to my hand.
In some crazy metaphorical sense, I see it kind of like my life. What wisdom or healing would surface while I in stillness sit? At what point would the primal soup of remembering my own divinity come forth? Gazing in gratitude at the miracle of my own midnight stars, might I find my heart giving up secrets of its own? Traveling past soil and skin, what discovery would I make about myself that is surprising or beautiful?
What privilege this life, this body and soul born of earth and stars, rooted deep in rock, infinite ray of light traveling far to be here now; this holy moment looking deep into this rock, looking into me, both so full of mystery, revealing the truth of my heart. Mystical and mysterious, question and answer, a cosmos of unfathomable nebulae of many colors, the DNA of the universe imprinted upon every particle that we are. A body formed, spit out from volcanoes, storm tossed on to many shores, the sun’s light encased in our cells. In time, I’m as old as this rock. Outside of time, I’ve no beginning or end. Amazing, this being-ness without end and what rock can teach you…when you listen.