A Sense for Silence

The deaf guy who works at my grocery store asks ME if i'm hard of hearing and suggests that i learn sign language—yet with the heater running AND earplugs i swear i can detect the higher-frequency tones emitted by neighbour dude's teevee. My presumably loud-music–induced hearing impairment isn't doing me the favors i would ask of it. Or maybe the chaos of subtle sound i am hearing is entirely in my sensory imagination. It is funny that one so preoccupied with music of all sorts should also find the least sound so offensive.

They say that hearing is the last thing to go when a person is dying. I think when i'm left with nothing but that, i'll be begging them to take me. If i die slowly, wherever i may be, please make sure they turn the damn teevee off, or i will get stuck in this realm and reincarnate as tinnitus or trap music or things you never thought somebody could say and still get elected. Trust that God and i can receive your prayers without the vehicle of speech. I don't even want Effervescent Spa Sounds. The only thing you might do is let the monks amelodically drone "om mani padme hum" until everyone else is driven from the room. Don't worry that i'm hurting because if i can't answer you i'm not, no matter what my all-but-shaken-off body is doing. Let me go, unhooked from disorderly and earthly sound.

Glory, Glory

When i did endeavor to liberate my car from its snow bank this afternoon, the task proved tougher than anticipated. Not having a shovel, i wound up breaking my ice scraper to pieces. TWICE. When my cussing reached storm-level fury, it summoned the attention of whatever gods feed on that stuff, and a man materialised to give my car the push that worked—then disappeared before i could thank him. I'm going to publish that as my Miraculous Angelic Encounter and then start a podcast where i interview other people whose angels just wanted them to shut the "fucks" up.

It's a good thing i hadn't even attempted to drive to work in B.F. Hillsboro today. I did a two-mile test drive to yoga to see if i might now, as i am, be safely awaiting my sister's arrival at the airport in my very own horseless carriage. It's hairy out here, but easy does it. And it was nice not to leave yoga only to wait for a late bus while my wet ponytail literally froze into a popsicle like yesterday.

The chilly bus hassle had been worth it, though. Yesterday i rediscovered the class called Yoga Sculpt. This is a classical form from the south of India that involves hand weights, squats, jumping jacks (or as they are known in the sūtras, jumping Jagadeeshes), very fast untranquil music, and way more push-ups than you want to know. Ah, i'd only thought my regular hot yoga classes were "workouts." They are not. Sculpt make me grunt. Sculpt make me hollah. Generally in hot yoga, but particularly when i throw a few Sculpts in there, i still weigh like 200 pounds, but i FEEL like a brick shithouse. I LOOK to my eyes like some curvaceous prizefighter goddess bitch.

Since i first discovered this chain of yoga studios four years ago, i have almost a tradition of taking myself on a yoga date on Valentine's Day, when almost no one else is there, where i park my BMW of a yoga mat in the corner between two mirrors and proceed to freak out over what an incredible body i have. This isn't narcissism. This is self-love; this is the way i love when i'm in love with anyone else. This is my big YES, HAIL YES to myself in the midst of a culture that says NEVER ENOUGH YET, says DON'T GET HAPPY WITH YOURSELF JUST YET. (Moreover, self-adoration, besides being luscious as all get-out, creates a positive feedback loop for self-CARE.) I have a 200-pound amazing fucking body that feels like a hurricane when i dance and gives the gods expression on Earth, and anything less than utter appreciation of that is ingratitude to my Creator. I adore this body, and hot, hot yoga don't let me forget it.

To all this nonsense about 2016 being "the worst year ever"

Y'all, i dislike this goofy meme of parroting how 2016 should get flushed already. Celebrities died, as celebrities do every year—sometimes of old age or related conditions, sometimes prodded along by substance abuse. (This reminds me of a t-shirt i used to wear: "Death: America's #1 Killer.") Donald Trump got elected, but guess what? Next year he'll be President; save some of the fever-pitch bitching and moaning for more than your detailed anticipatory conviction that the apocalypse is now to befall us and how—your life is still FINE, go admire some of your globally unprecedented liberties for a moment and maybe freak out over having a washer/dryer.

The Syrian civil war's been raging for what seems like an eon now. I didn't hear you crapping on 2015 for hosting a massive earthquake in Nepal, among other atrocities, some of which surely also included celebrities. Some awful shit happened in 2016, just like in every Earth year. Many gorgeous things happened, too. I personally would like to say THANKS to 2016, the scapecoat of social media, for all the beautiful things i experienced or witnessed or just read about this year, and also for the beauty in the difficult. Now hang me.

The Peruvian New Normal

I originally landed in this shared apartment via AirBnb, intending only to stay a few days while getting my bearings in Cusco. I'd been enticed by the promise of beautiful city views—not to mention glowing reviews of Mona herself, my amazingly fun, wise, and adventurous Swedish hostess. As as an unadvertised bonus, a common wavelength quickly became evident among the two full-time residents and myself. I wound up feeling less like a guest than just part of the household, and Mona said as much herself. Here, it appears, i shall stay, minus any time i may wind up crashing in the small town of Pisac for my NGO gig and a tranquility break.

This photo is in my "tower" room—where i wear my warmies because it's cold, and the toilet and shower work pretty good at the whim of the water gods, and sometimes i get my techno devices to stay plugged into the electrical outlet that charges some of them slowly but the iPad not at all, and i wear earplugs against the stray dogs' all-night fiestas, and i walk sideways to get back down the ladder-like staircase to the main floor, and it's all just a different kind of normal. This is Peru, after all, and things are not the same. The simplest, most mundane aspects of life here constitute a grand adventure that gives me such incredible joy. I feel as if i've lived a month in less than a week here. I don't need those extra bodies i ordered after all.

Despite the allergic headfog that has descended upon me, this sunny day was another success. A part-time guest from Argentina dropped by and told me about the documentary he's making on the horrors that incredibly greedy & corrupt petroleum companies are inflicting upon indigenous peoples and their resource-rich jungle lands. I relished a slice of the rest & reflection time that's hard for my go-go to give way to amid city stimulation. The hot water was working, so i got a great shower. As i was too fatigued to leave the house for food, my sweet Venezuelan housemate Monika surprised me with a slice of homemade cake from the mercado, then she cooked a truly delicious squash soup for the three of us and shared her recipe for the best ceviche in Peru.

As the day cooled and i knew that moving around would help me breathe, i went out on errands i.e. adventures with Mona: dropping off laundry at the place she found with the fluff dryer, necessary for down coats; finding the cramped, low-ceilinged mall where she gets haircuts at a tiny salon staffed by trans women and favored by a variety of customers; sipping fancy coffees and swapping travel stories and laughing our tails off on a big veranda on the Plazoleta Espinar; sitting on street steps eating anticuchos de corazón (cow heart on a stick—tasty, but just for iron's sake as my body makes extra blood cells to capture thin air); then climbing the long stairs home to the high Jardines, Monika, and more laughter, shivering on the terraza over a city twinkling like fallen stars.

For whom would Jesus vote?

Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar, writes that "for Francis and Clare [of Assisi], Jesus became someone to actually imitate and not just to collectively worship." He goes on to suggest that this was quite a revolutionary ideal in the establishments of the Church generally and of Christian lives individually. Today, Pope Francis is fairly shocking to the nominally Christian establishment for the same reasons.

Jesus' message was and remains challenging. Jesus was no establishment favorite but a disrupter of the status quo—so much so that he died for it, in the name of Love. If we use Jesus to justify our preferences, rather than adjusting our preferences—if our Christian faith ONLY comforts us—we are missing something.

This year i will pray all year that Christians bring our purported allegiance to Jesus' message to bear on our politics. I propose a Lenten contemplation: Whom would Jesus elect? Why?

I admit it: This year i think it's extra worth asking because this year i think there's an answer.

Prayer from darkest night

Blessed Solstice to everyone. Many are suffering deeply at this nadir of darkness, where the wheel of the seasons crunches against the cold earth. Unaccountably, i’m in the shallow end of the thick of it myself, staring my own insanities in the face. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose,” yet it can be so difficult to discover the purpose or meaning of our pain.

What i have found in my own life in a new depth this past season: Whatever i believe or don't about prayer in any given moment—o me of little faith—its power most astonishes me when i am least convinced that *anything* may rescue me. I am never more wholly blown away by Heaven's swift succor, by the brilliant Light of clarity, by God's infinite and indiscriminate mercy, than when my prayers are their most fervent and desperate.

The mystical principle that comes to mind always reminds me of the Super Mario Bros. games. Many challenges must be overcome in order to attain any of a great variety of divine treasures. There is no princess at the end of Easy Street; the realization of our divine nature requires a heroic and humbling journey. Yet these are no mere arbitrary obstacles, having no meaning or function in their own right. Unlike in video games, transcendent spiritual treasures are made real by *means* of these trials and travails. In facing fears, say, we experience our own resilience and power. In realizing that our own power is not enough, we learn to pray.

The prize of which i am in most awe again now is the gift of faith, borne of prayers forged in searing pain. Pray for sight beyond present understanding. Pray to see things as they are. Pray for the grace to recognise and receive the inevitable answer in its genuine mercy, rather than to demand the simple indulgence of our little plans. Pray for yourself and pray for others, and pray that the act of prayer itself draw us closer into relationship with the Source of all guidance. Pray for the surprise of divine comfort and for the recognition of a superior wisdom.

WHAT HOME IS (for when i've forgotten)

It's been a bumpy, weird, giving way to peaceful, illuminating, and still sorta lonely ride these past few weeks. I have temporarily retreated to a poolhouse in the country north of Austin, and in the midst of that i am even more temporarily occupying a grand home in Shreveport, where i've landed for a thrillingly educational primary-care conference. Graduation is a couple months away yet, but i have embarked early on my first huge phase of uproot in six years—longer than i've headquartered anywhere since my 17-year first round in my homeland. The theme that has emerged for the time being, oddly: grounding—but into my own self, creating forms of order and stability that i can carry with me.

Relatively rooted for so long, i’d forgotten what a state of surrender this Mary Poppins act demands, sooner or later. The cosmic winds don't abate if i ignore them, i have learned—they get stronger. Even the family tree can't make me drop the kinda roots i ain't got. Might as well ask a bird to play a bush.

In my early transitions, i was granted specific inspiration prior to being soul-shoved out of a given nest. At least, leaping then, i already saw where i would land. An advanced bird now, more often i am simply given to fly. While i am wired for that freedom—i need it, i relish it, i grow into it endlessly—at times it also scares the fuck out of me and pains me more than i can say. I think sometimes people imagine that my life is all tea parties on a cloud. But there are moments i deeply envy people who can make homes.

Each thing in Creation implicitly expresses also all that it is not—i get to have my life, but i miss having yours. Often i experience this not-mine most poignantly in these liminal spaces between campsites. I start to pack up my gravity and feel my little sense of home begin to blow away. It’s a great adventure punctuated by a keen sadness, until another sort of home begins to collect around me. All i know is i must go. The wind beckons. As frightening as it can feel to lift off, i can only resist at my more profound peril.

Faith isn't something i just sit around with when the going is as predictable as a pants hem. It is the force-match opposite of fear, and summoned by it. Faith busts the gate and pries my clinging fingers away when i can't explain to myself or anyone else why i know i need to do this next crazy thing, love you all, bye-bye. I have no idea what is on the other side. It's never what i imagined. It's always better, but not for a while—it can take weeks or more to let go, stop looking back with longing, stare head-on into the starry sky, and remember i never forgot how to fly. Only faith makes me patient for the guidance that is doled out on a need-to-know basis. "You got this, kid." Birds don't need maps.

Home indeed is no hearth but my heart—which always knows best, while my mind follows blindly and full of argument, and though my body may cry and shake. Home is the love that moves and permeates and IS everything. Home is this wee focus of vibrating holy cells, the vehicle of this soul’s experiencing on Earth. Home is many homes in many places, describing a larger space than a stillness too small for me, a migratory thing with wings.

Writing this comforts me, tonight among strangers in a strange place, just another corner of God’s big backyard. I reach out to you in love and longing and find myself again, buoyed by the grace that rises to meet gratitude and faith—keys unlocking the mental gate made of free will, of not-mine, of not-Thine, of resistance and apparent separation—the only thing ever barring from our awareness the grace infinitely bathing and sustaining it. I find the freedom that has sung me here, after all, and it is good.

BELOVE

Off the cuff, all my love right now:

- I love my job, i love my team, and i love the way a crisis calls forth so much that i love in myself. Nursing’s great work for people who got more love than we know what to do with. :)

- I love the dynamic piles of illuminated clouds that fill Gulf Coast skies at sunset and give the lightning a place to dance after dark.

- I love tiny toads crossing wet roads.

- I love parking-lot car-stereo dance parties—or tonight, just me and Darondo’s “Didn’t I” and a wet road and some toads.

- I love laying out this luscious lazy music mix that’s been forming in my mind, envisioning the cloudy day that perfects it with context, pretending it’s for a cassette with old-skool parameters of 90 or 120 minutes.

- I love watching Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure for the first time in ages and the 900th time ever, accompanying my daddy for his first. I told him, “It’s a history movie, you’ll love it!” :D

- I love all the love in my family. I love the way everything else has mellowed over the years to leave love alone in high relief.

- I love the freedom built into the structures of my life—work, school, nothing set in right angles of steel, all just made to bend with the wind.

- I loved the hard laugh in my dream-visit to Brian this morning, with not a breath for ten seconds or more, time’s passage held hostage by a joke about “beaver.”

- I love feeling slightly surprised every time autumn first nips at summer’s tail, as if i’d doubted it might ever return.

- I loved noticing, after taking on others’ feelings and my own conditioned reactions of sadness and worry about a difficulty one of my people is facing right now, that those are not my genuine, deep-down feelings at all. I felt myself drinking those responses in and donning them like a suit when they first arrived to me from others, but later i realised i’d assumed those responses almost solely out of my expectation that i should. It is nicer now to be in touch with the deeper part of me that does not believe i can relieve another’s suffering by engaging in it—that is just right here right now—that is patient—that sees that all is totally fine—and that feels sanguine about all possible futures—and that is actually a more helpful presence in its peace and neutrality than anyone’s worry, pity, or sorrow snowing over the basic facts of what is happening.

- I love the atmospheric nature of soundtracks, even as collections of older tracks from disparate quadrants. I love that recorded music makes possible a broader soundtrack for all of life, except when the birds and the trees' breeze gotcha covered.

- I love feeling so profoundly appreciated by my family and so many others lately. Thank you.

- I love cranking up my final term of this Master’s degree. A lot of my resentment of the program’s inadequacy has dropped away, and for the moment i’ve stopped fretting so much about all i don’t yet know, and i’m just happy to be doing my learning work.

- I love this recent loosening of my plans and particulars around the future and the way that's created room for unimagined new possibilities. I love that—maybe!—it is even resolving what i'd feared was a permanent rift between my family and my everything-else life.

INTERNIGHT

The Internet is rocking/ruining my life.

It is so fabulous to be able to read, research, communicate, and publish from home again with all ten fingers (since i am a wired being / always and only writing on the sky / paper-free over 4G or Wifi). I had lived almost a year with no Internet in my hermitage, until i realised easier access was truly necessary for my projects.

Last year, aged 34, for the first time in my adult life, i established something resembling a bedtime. Instead of laying me down to rest unpredictably in the wee to less-wee hours, at last i was pretty consistently achieving pre-midnight bedtimes. It was wonderful. I became a more alert and productive daytime person. Life felt so wholesome.

Now, however. It is now five of 10pm, and i still sense vast vistas of possibility before me tonight in the realm of Internet Work. Yet last night i did not even attempt sleep, so crazed with creative mojo and screenglow i was; how are my eyes still open? The same way they stayed open till 4am all those years, despite sleep dep: sheer greed. Insatiable hunger for the too-much there is to know and imagine and plot and pull off.

At this age, i can catch myself before this punctuation in sleep turns into a pattern, a long circadian loop-the-loop that leaves me weary, ungrounded, and immunologically unsound. Spreading increasingly erratic energy and my bottomless bucket-list of pursuits too thinly across the blank canvas of night is a bender i can afford once in a while—but i don't enjoy the hangover; it offends me more in my maturity. Good sense, priorities, and feeling fine soon prevail once more.

JUST IN CASE

For some reason i'd been preoccupied with what i'd want my family and friends to find and see and know about me if i happened to die an untimely death. Maybe it's just in the field: Later this same evening, i read about the cinema shooting one city over, where two vibrant women even younger than i were killed. Whether a thing seems fair or not is just not a good predictor of whether it will happen.

Such tragedies are hard enough to take. If i were to check out of this plane unexpectedly, there are some things i'd want those who love me to know.

#1 I wasn't shortchanged anything. I lived a life as full as i could cram it. I was hungry and i ate it. And it was good. It was extraordinary. Even at its most mundane or painful—the parts you'd fast-forward through—every sweet and rotten bite was so rich. That was my gift. Largely it was my gift from you as well, so thanks for that.

#2 I'll be gone to where a body no longer stops me from flying and where we'll all meet again, never to truly part, just as we never really did in the first place. I've hovered too close to the curtains for too long not to know that.

#3 You can have all the passwords to read whatever you want of all that i wrote, since discomfort with exposure is a concern only of the living. I wrote them all down. You can keep getting to know some versions of me that way. But focus mostly on the passages that light you up, because that's where my essence lives. In saying this, i feel my first twinge of regret, simply that i didn't write more for you. I hope i get a few more years at least, just because fixing that will be so much gratifying fun, as writing for sharing always is for me.

#4 OH how i love you, how wildly, in ways you'll only grasp in considering how you love me, too. Don't hurt too badly, for as my dog taught me after she got smacked by a car, Love doesn't die—Love lives. Love that's been shared is ours to keep. Feel that love still radiant in this very moment, and take heart. But grief is okay, too. Love takes many forms. Just keep remembering that the pain is also an expression of love, and that will lighten it a little bit.

#5 I always favored burning, and though i'll hardly care where my ashes go, from this side i fancy their taking a direct route back to nature. But if you prefer a burial, put plain me in a plain wooden box with absolutely nothing to insult the earth. Plant it someplace pretty and informal. The little sign on top might quote my frequent refrain, “This can be recycled.”