“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” ~ Pema Chödrön
After a day and then another away from my Small City, having taken refuge up high in the mountains, I would still like to stay still, alone and hidden for another lifetime.
But I would not like this, really, for life and chaos and fear wake my heart—just as strong coffee enlivens the blood in one’s veins. And so, shivering, I jump out of bed and pull on my longsleeve handmedown wool shirt and long underwear and thick graywhite socks and heavy, stiff dark jeans and a grandpa cardigan sweater with high collar and a secondhand tweed jacket with leather-braided buttons, and bike shoes, and a khaki knit hat and fingerless gloves. And I prepare to roll back down with Red dog in the trailer behind my bike, back to life.
Back to the distant Small City, for I am eager to make trouble.
After two days, up here, riding my sadness out, I have found my buried red heart and washed it off. And I have found that it is still full of humor ,and forward-movement, and commonsense, and head-shaking rhythm, and charm and listening: power. And I would like to ask one out and stroll with her past old houses; and I would like to ask two out and watch half of an old movie by E.M. Forster, and she would like to lie on her tummy as I hold her; and I would like to ask three out, and she will say I have a boyfriend; and I would like to ask four out, and she will not reply; and I would like to ask five out and we will climb and sit on red rocks in the blue wind; and I would like most of all to wait and look for one who would like to look through my orange eyes to where the water is clear.
In the meantime, dating is a wonderful waste.
Finally, one day after I meet you I would like to ask you out on a date, and you would like to go, and you will like me and I will like you, and it will become clear that she out there is you right here. In the beginning you will not know it, as I do not know she is you—as I do not know you, and as you do not know me. I would like to find you when I do not expect her, and ask you out right away, before we have to wait for the Future: I will ask you to your face, with a grin. And though today is hot and quiet I do not feel irritated or cold: I enjoy this life.
I would sometimes like our Future to be here Now: you and I living a country life together, planning few things, resting, playing, swimming, working, cooking, going to a few things with friends. I would like to walk in the cold wet early evening on top of light white snow and wet yellow leaves and you could make me feel all better or I could make you feel all better or we could talk about work or ethics. I would like to never stop trying to get you to laugh.
But it is not yet today—so I must make my own luck.
For now I am alone and it is still Then, it is still a Yesterday we will look back upon. Alone is a thing without melody. It is, rather, a sweet thing, a sharp, riveting thing, a polished thing. Alone is a succinct thing worthy of a single taut sentence. Alone is a chaotic thing worthy of long sentences: sentences that reluctantly ebb and flow, feint and flourish, rise and plunge and only close when they are most open—like other lovers too hot for the top sheet.
Alone? It is perfect for this Fall. And it is Fall and each morning (I wake beneath yes seven blankets), each morning.
Good morning, sunshine!
I bellow, as we did when young at Camp. Everyone smoked too much and drank borrowed vodka in the woods and kissed too hard and laid around in the grass, lots, and golden-browned marshmallows on campfires and I was often lonely and often cheerful and often genuine.
Each morning now is bright for the Past, cold at Present, pregnant with the Future: each morning leaves so many memories forgotten.
“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” ~ Robert Frost
I am back in my Tall House on a Long Hill in my Big Town beneath the Red Mountains above the Great, Golden Plains.
The newly fallen gold leaves: they were just green this summer! Each one a colorfully enthusiastic masterpiece of life, beauty, and now loss. Summer is gone fast as I age, it used to be wonderfully empty and endless but now it is full and too quick.
My home routine is boring, and it is good. Hot sun wakes me in my wide bed. Red dog and I stumble out into the new day: he wanders the pocket park behind my house doing his stuff while I hang from an old orchard tree and do a few pull-ups and stretch. I avoid looking at my phone. If it is hot out I walk him further, to a century-old farmer’s ditch, to swim. Back home, I order him to lie down while I dish his raw food out. Okay! He eats hurriedly: it is the highlight of his day, every day. I meditate: dedicating the merit of this day to others, then read a few paragraphs of Training the Mind, a Dharma book. Red dog lies by my side. Then I walk down my maroon spiral staircase to the hot tub where I read a New Yorker or a business book (if it is bright out, or snowing, I wear a cowboy hat to shield my eyes from the bright). Dripping, I spiral back up the twirly staircase to my old clawfoot bath where I shower, soaping off hot sweat. I brush my teeth while singing Brave Wolfe or Drunken Sailor or Dona, Dona or Loch Lomond through bubbles. I dress in confident clothes. Downstairs, I toast organic local cinnamon raisin bread—my favorite. My kitchen suddenly smells as if I bake. I bicycle to a favorite café and work on my laptop and socialize all day, getting so much done yet never enough. Things are going well: my business is a bonfire on a beach patiently built up, bigger and bigger with little twigs for twelve years.
Bicycling through tunnels I whoop! My whoop’s echo reminds my sadness to be brave. I bicycle past dry fields and over bumpy trails and over wooden ratatatatat bridges and on the shoulders of busy roads where cars and trucks whoosh past me, the drivers texting friends, practicing un-meditation: practicing wishing they were somewhere else.
I would like to think that I am ready for you—ready as I have ever been. I am finally able to take the time to travel; or settle down; or both. I have the money to buy a plane ticket or a dinner without fearing that my card might b-bounce. I would like to see you for lunch on the lawn at farmers’ market, tomorrow—it is one of the last of the season.
And I would like to be sad: this sadness is good. When you are sad remember this: sing old warrior’s songs. Sing blues. Sing in the shower.
The Minstrel Boy to the war has gone!
In the ranks of death you will find him
His father’s sword he has girded on!
His wild harp slung behind him
Awake! Awake! Is the warrior’s cry
The world, the world deceeeeeives thee…
These songs are sung by the pure and free
They’ll never sound in slav’ry.