I threw my damn back out for the first time IN MY LIFE! It was a like a train hit me from behind and knocked the wind right out of me. I tried to breathe - piercing agony. I tried to move and then the real panic set in.
I cannot bend, sit, turn, skip, pillow-fight, touch my toes, do the splits (ok - I couldn't do that before), raise my hand (I know, you are all shocked and wish for just one day in class with me when such would be the case), or clean (a unexpected perk); lifting anything heavier than a sheet of paper is out of the question.
I downed more Aleve than I care to count and have ransacked my medicine cupboard for expired muscle relaxants. I am nestled into a heating pad and am told to attempt stretching, which sounds as appealing as a turn on the rack.
How did this tragedy befall me, you ask? Well, I... uh, was hitting the slopes too hard in the early season. Yeah, that's it. I mean, no... I was spending arduous hours pruning back my garden for the winter slumber. Yeah, that's the ticket. Actually, I was lifting a helpless child out of a ditch, a starving Sudanese child who I then adopted, but then had to relinquish custody of to her real parents whom I aided in retrieving visas and now reside in Seattle and work at Microsoft and... renamed the child after me and, yeah, that's what happened. That's how I threw out my back.
Darkness. A warm blanket of nourishing soil retreats tentatively as her roots stretch. Heat beckons. The ache for a taste of that promised light draws her up, up, up. Into the unknown. A molting leaf flops on its side, making way for her outstretched yen. The radiance of the white world tingles her limbs, the pins and needles of a sleeping extremity meeting the duress of use with atrophied circulation. The pain of birth. The glorious content of stepping into true being, meaning.
The feast continues. Undisturbed growth. No curious crawlers, pecking perchers, trampling foreigners. Sabbath. Under a mystical, shaded canopy she is neither scorched nor neglected. No sooner does pulsing heat threaten to dry her feeble progress, than a cool fog kisses her cheeks. She abides in the mist. A haven that whispers of her beauty. Live. Grow. Be. Hope. Her names is Acokanthera Schimperi.
She greets new life as her reach extends over and under the earth. An underworld of silent, secret creatures, sacrificed for her nourishment. The white world sings, a complex cantata deepening as she moves over the red and black rocky hillside. She doesn't know hesitation, inhibition, doubt. Her cycle is her meditation. Sleep. Eat. Drink. Bathe. Stretch. Listen. Each morning finds her farther from land. Her companions blur. Sorrow. Trepidation. Curiosity. Still, she cannot resist the call of the light. As soon as she begins to doubt her the necessity of her height, fauna visits for the first time. Never has the song been so near. A lullaby of affirmation. For this. She vows. For this Red and Yellow Barbet, she will grow her limbs long and high. A home. Another restful night. Despair put to sleep with the somber moon. She wakes to a new light. Memories of that fierce morning when dawn first broke over her splash her face as she peers, unhindered into the sun. Glorious. Blinding. Assurance. This. For this, she was made and she grew. A new horizon. The desolate emptiness of red earth consumes the landscape. Only scattered remnants of lonely vitality interrupt the vast scene. Overwhelmed with sympathy, she reaches. She beckons the wind. No answer. She pulls at her roots. Nothing. In this quiet repose, she recognizes her own desolation.
Her vista hides behind a gray mountain, moving swiftly across the plain. Uncertainty. Terror. The tender refreshing of the morning has metamorphosed into a hateful pelting. She must drink. Choking. Trembling. Her shelter is gone. She peers down to her forgotten earth and remembers a happier time. She spies a sprout buttressed from the storm. Her doleful reverie halts. She is the shelter now. For this. She will endure.
Pain. A pang in her side. Then another. Tall creatures puncture her flesh, drawing her white blood. She prepares to scold these savages, when they begin to dance. The encircle her, lauding, shouting, thanking her for such a precious gift. They gather her fallen berries. She sighs as her growth nourishes them. Ah. For this. To give. To nurture. To feed. To satisfy.
Joyous revelation. Service. Limbs to support. Leaves to shelter. Fruit to nourish. Blood to please. Her voice arises strong and sure. She bends, letting the wind sway her. Whistling. Winnowing. Groaning. Creaking. Her song woos a Baglafecht Weaver. She offers her limb, her shade, her fruit. An eager eater samples with abandon. Faltering. Spinning. Falling. She tries to catch the sickly bird, to offer more sweet tastes to heal the famished creature. Collapse. Death. Another bird. Another berry. Death. She blames the summer sun and the absent rain. Another berry. Death.
Older now. Seasons of fruit push forth, fall and return again. A sacred graveyard laced at her feet. Another savage dance. A whistling dart. A tall one falls dying amidst the long since dead birds. Still. Pierced with a an arrow dripping white and red blood. Her blood. His blood. This. For this. She peers over her malicious flesh in shame. Her noxious berries. Her ruinous blood. Iniquitous. Injurious. Poisonous. William Blake, The Poison Tree And I water'd it in fears, Night and morning with my tears; And I stunned it with my smiles And with soft deceitful wiles
"Most creative people throughout history appear misguided. They live their lives by serendipity, inspiration and experiment."
Why am I persistently apologetic and hopeless about a life that appears misguided? Never have I been completely successful in shaking the heavy-handed expectations on my life toward greatness. To whom much is given much is expected. I hate this in as much as I need it to validate me. Using my giftedness toward the greater good (expectation) would somehow excuse the erratic life I live.
But, if openness, whimsy, a myriad of passions and talents can have value without clear focus or productivity, than my life is rather one of treasure. I have gleaned generosity, inspiration, tenderness, hospitality, creativity from life. Are these not eternal characteristics? Is not the work of my life the collage of these pursuits instead of an inflexible career, whether or not it is in my passions? Have I feared the idea of choosing a career, not for the sake of making the wrong choice, but rather at the idea of having to make one choice?
The question, then, isn't what am I going to do with my life, but what shall I do right now. I need not fear moving backward, away from my goal, but rather, make myself the goal and step forward with joyous ease knowing that I am moving ever closer toward myself.
"You have to be loyal to your essence... to trust the qualities in you that you know have not yet been revealed."
Fighting my essence is a battle with history in my life. I have long since known my qualities (and perhaps known them too well), but have rarely trusted them. Being "loyal" to myself instead prioritizing the resultant effect on others is an entirely new concept. The simple answer to why I don't trust God, is: I don't trust what he has made in me.
Can my soul trust that I am fearfully and wonderfully made without extending that trust to my creator? I feel inextricably tied to the stranger in the room pulling my strings, as though the strings are spindly extensions of my skin. To cut them, is tantamount to amputation. The bloodshed alone would kill me. I feel ready to be loyal to myself, but doing so demands loyalty to him. Perhaps I have been punishing myself to punish him.
"It may also entail fumbling for a period of time, making mistakes and failing."
I am too gifted in too many ways to fail. I only play games I win (or have a good chance at winning). I find peace in foreknowledge. I find joy in a success I can predict before I enter the room. These are the trite ramblings of a woman afraid of failure. To endure failure is one thing. To receive it as a sign of soulful faithfulness, that is a stretching that terrifies me. In fact, I may have located yet another aspect of my occupational panic of late.
"Chaos and calling go together."
Silliness and soulfulness, now that was a pairing I could endure. Chaos and calling, those are words which carry weight individually that slay me; collaboratively, I feel defeated before I begin. I see the truth of it. Chaos from the norm, relinquishing bonds of the expected, risking the unknown. Calling, vocation, vox, voice-ation, a space of life spent listening to self. But seeing has never been believing for me. Still, sparks of hope flutter ephemerally in my lungs as I inhale as a mantra, chaos and calling. We shall see.
"If flexibility is the primary virtue as you pursue your calling, then a philosophy of the polycentric life is a close second."
If there is a word to fuse all my spirit-led pursuits within the past 5 years, it is polycentric. A philosophers term for multiple centers or having various (if not infinite) points of origin and thus infinite radii or realms of meaning. In philosophy (Ricoeur), in fiction (Marquez), theology, relationships, cooking (random creativity with very little food in the house), and now toward a psychological pursuit of calling (Moore). I like themes. To be continued.
"A magus is someone who is plugged into the powers and mysteries of natures like the branch of an alien tree grafted onto a tree of a different species."
It seemed suitable to begin with a metaphor, instead of a more linear definition. Magus, singular for magi, is an ancient word dating back to Persian times. The general meaning is of one, descendant of a sacred caste, with magical properties or unique giftedness (as from the gods) related to healing, religious practices, and funerary rites. Synonyms through the ages might be: wizard, prophet, dream interpreter, priest. for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magi
Recently, my conch shell of wisdom, Joel, described me as a tree, despised with its being and therefore anxiously tentative to root freely. When I begin to root, I feel the presence of this foreign tree in the earth. I know the deeper I root the more inevitably and indistinguishably I will be grafted to it. This different species and I are already one. So, perhaps, it is time to be the tree that I am: be that apple or plum or both.
"If you begin with who you are... your quest will be like a spring flowing from the font of your very nature, rather than a mere maddening search for a suitable occupation or position."
The wrestling over self I have been avoiding explains the maddening search I have been enduring. I choose me, not a job, not an occupation, but the vocation of my life: wife, sister, friend, teacher, writer, daughter, inspirer, singer, speaker, minister, magus.
As an act of gratitude and celebration of a blissful breech in bad monotony, here is my ode to hash browns:
Time alone carries fantastical innuendo when you're robbed of it. Time alone in abundance, without aim, without energy, without sound is a different thing entirely. An unexpected burden are the meals between 8 & 5 that I can't muster the emotional energy to cook. Usually (and by usually I mean always) if I eat at all in the daylight hours, it's a meal as in uno (none of this breakfast and then lunch a reasonable amount of hours after breakfast).
At approximately 1:24pm I mill solemnly through the pantry, the refrigerator, the food drawers, back to the fridge. Then I put the kettle on, pick out my daily tea (market spice, gun metal green, or some times I just cop out with some Tazo Refresh), then I sit back down to the laptop and brown afghan; no new emails in the 8 minutes I've just spent in the kitchen. What was I doing? Oh yeah, I'm hungry. The kettle screams.
Usually (and by usually I mean every day but today) this is when depression sinks in. Too aggravated with solo culinary arts but too hungry to ignore the pangs. I put on another movie or decide on my next futile house project. This morning/afternoon, however, inspiration anointed my crown, lightening struck, the clouds parted and in that blessed moment I knew exactly what I wanted to eat. I knew I had all the ingredients: Krusteez, Yukon Golds, green onions, blackberry preserves, vanilla extract (I like a little vanilla in my pancakes), sour cream, only not in that order. This clarity of vision was just the motivation I needed.
I walked in the kitchen with purpose. I flung open cabinets with grit and Christmas Eve anticipation: mixing bowl, check, pancake batter, check, water, vanilla, a splash of vegetable oil, check, check, check. A little more water, too lumpy. The skillet already hot and lubed in Pam, I grab my handy measuring cup and scoop out some batter (no, I don't measure my pancakes - do you know me at all - they're ideal for handling the batter and making nice circles (for initials use a measuring pitcher)). 3 perfect pancakes sizzling away, now it's time to grate the taters. I hate grating and actually have a miniature phobia of the not-rare-enough skin grating incidents that peel away just enough flesh for a persistent sting, risk of infection, and the angst-ridden pressure to decide whether or not to tear that hanging flap all the way off or try to paste it back on when you know it's just going to catch on something and annoy you later, so you might as well take it off now because you know you'll be obsessing over that mini-wound until that happens.
Yet another sign that this day is blessed, no skin grating.
Pancakes are off and buttered as I hurriedly chop 2 green onions and throw them on the crackling olive oil. Nothing pulses saliva into the back corners of your cheeks faster than the smell of onions cooking in oil. I spread the potato shavings (sans epidermis) playfully over the onions and press them into the skillet with the back of my spatula. As they brown and crisp, I thinly layer some blackberry preserves over my pancakes (we're out of syrup, but I prefer jam anyway). Then, it's time to flip the meaty layer of spuds and let the other side crisp. I nearly run out of patience for them to cook, so eager is my appetite, and instead take these moments to put on the kettle and decide on the perfect condiment. Sour cream.
But, wait. A last minute stroke of genius, a humble smattering of shredded cheddar (I know it's tempting the fates to pull out a shredder twice in one stroke, but I carry the confidence of titans now, so superb has been this day). I reach for the jasmine pearls, admittedly a bold move. I mock tribulation. Tea steeping in one hand, the complex aromas of pancakes and hash browns in the other, I sit at my couch - not forlorn, not aimless and pitiable - but proud, self-congratulatory and really fucking hungry.
... where can yoube Manuela Sanchez of my misfortune that I came looking for you and cannot find you in this house of beggars, where is your licorice smell in this pesthole of lunch leftovers, where is your rose, where your love, release me from the dungeon of these dog doubts, he sighed, when he saw her appear at the rear door like the image of a dream reflected in the mirror of another dream wearing a dress of etamine that cost a penny a yard, her hair tied back hurriedly with a back comb, her shoes shabby, but she was the most beautiful and haughtiest woman on earth with the rose glowing in her hand, a sight so dazzling that he barely got sufficient control of himself to bow when she greeted him with her lifted head God preserve your excellency, and she sat down on the sofa opposite him, where the gush of his fetid body odor would not read her... (G. G-Marquez, Autumn of the Patriarch)
Each in their own power, autumn & matriarch, wield a brimming chalice of reverie, replete with a surplus of symbolic meanings, musty smells of first-edition books and molting leaf piles, hot throbbing bosoms that beat a lullaby of nurture and rest, scratchy confident voices full of self-neglect and the peace of death. As long as I have been child, I have been matriarch, and as long as I have been matriarch, the autumns of my life have whispered to the earth of my beginning. The womb of my origin, the red and gold ocean winds, carrying the kind of chill that penetrates marrow and siphons blood from each joint, a gale that stings each nostril with sweet cedars, hoary fires and dewy grass staving off the frost.
My heart grieves when the flames atop each tree fade from their incendiary vibrancy to an ashy yellow, declaring the end of my time and the beginning of an entombed season foreign to me. Winter scolds me like an irreverent child at the hands of a long since irascible nun who caught me playing hangman during Latin. My very birth mocks her impending quiet. To her I am but a matador, full of color and pomp, implacably swinging my red décolletage as she paces behind the gates, snorting white fog in ire until the moment she is released and her icy pursuit tests the veracity of my posture and the power behind my promenade. But, to fear winter now is to snatch breath from my blessed autumn. To berate the child or hasten the matriarch is to neglect the soul. Come today. Step forth this moment and I shall meet you in the milky unknown with hope for my now and contentment for what can only be then and even then a mystery.