Mutable Earth

I’m into Astrology. I like feeling a connection with natural processes and past humans. I know it’s made up but there’s nothing wrong with fiction. Anyways Virgo is my sun and Mercury sign and I really feel the identity. Virgo season is starting now.

Now is the time to take yourself apart, examine & clean the pieces, then reassemble.

As the nights grow & lengthen, resist running from the introversion of darkness. Use it to hone your crafts. Let your pupils grow large & curious.

Take a long walk through the woods–no headphones–& be inspired by the elegance of nature. Look how she consumes and births herself always. Nothing is wasted, everything is dynamic and static at the same time. Think of conservation. Think of independence.

Make a habit of caring for your body so it will not break come wintertime. Fill your plate with the fruits of summer and preserve what you don’t need now. Stretch into your mortal coil, enjoy what it can give you. Feel its corners & soft places & fill them with love.

Rein in the expansive, expressive, egotistical energy of the Leo season just ending. Take what you’ve learned about yourself & start to think how you can use those lessons in service.

Organize the chaos. Make lists. Make a budget. Set goals. It may be overwhelming but it’s how things get done.

Be aware of the tendency for anxiety & pessimism. Be aware that the best prevention for anxiety is preparedness.

Be critical but constructive & direct it towards yourself. You can’t change anyone else, after all.

Shut your mouth & open your eyes & ears. Lie on the floor & feel the music around you.

Dig into the systems & patterns & grammar of the world. Find the beauty of logic & the greater good.

Enjoy the quiet. Hum along with it. Introspect. Be receptive to the changes in nature & take your cues from her.

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Hospice

I’m a massage therapist for context.

 

I have a client who teeters on the edge of life. I’ve worked with her twice now. She can’t speak, her caretaker says she can hear but the feedback I get leaves me doubtful. Wherever the connection between sound waves exiting my mouth and the connection to meanings in her brain is frayed, no one knows. But it is. She is an infant, small & helpless. She responds to stimulus–sometimes.

She grabs at my hand when I hold hers.

She moves toward my warmth.

If I’m holding her left foot, her right is nudging my elbow.

Her skin is loose & soft, peachy baby fuzz at the other set of bookends.

The first time I held her left hand, her eyes fluttered shut. She seemed asleep, then a tightness ran down from her shoulder. She clenched my fingers with a strength I wouldn’t have guessed. Her eyelids flew open like blinds to daylight. Were they brown or blue, those irises?

She was the image of panic. No filter between her mind & face. Her mouth was round, not the wet, buttery O of an infant’s lips but a seaside cave pummeled by the tides.

I held her gaze, my heart racing. I nodded gently, gripped her arm with both hands. Nod and smile. It meant nothing but I hoped she would feel comforted.

The look of terror softened & she mimicked my smile. Our eyes remained locked. I felt I was holding her in this world. If I blinked, she might disappear.

A strong wind blew expressions across her face, each lasting only a moment.

A lifetime I witnessed in a moment.

I have no way to know her, never will.

But I bore witness to her humanity in that moment. I saw anger, I saw the frustration of powerlessness. I saw love. I saw hope. I saw fear & loneliness.

Though I was right there with her, touching her body with mine, she was alone.

People say they don’t want to die alone, but is there any alternative? That final severence is just that–we are loosed from it all, even if we’re surrounded. Death equalizes in that way.

I wanted to tell her, “it’s okay,” but it’s not.

She doesn’t even know me. I can’t know her.

I can only love her in my small way when we’re together in that stuffy West Seattle house. I only hope she likes me being there.

Sometimes she pulls at her eyebrows. Sometimes she grips her thighs tightly. Trying to pluck a bit of solidity to take with her. Trying to hold on.

Privilege

My story is too mainstream. My story is a pink pussy & Margaret Atwood.

“Date rape” as we used to call it.

my story is anorexia & trying to please everyone.

My story, the oppression of religion,

a woman as chewed gum, backwash mixed up in a dixie cup, average levels of hormones as our god-given identity.

I do fear men, I used to wish I was one. Strong, confidant, taking what was mine without asking if I deserved it.

I used to be one of those who said “I just don’t get along with most other girls” because I didn’t get along with myself.

My story is privilege, the privilege of being groped in clubs, of being desirable.

I have the privilege to smile at the cute cat-callers & give ugly ones the finger.

My privilege is to have a baby when & if I want .

I am a white woman who comes from wealth, Christianity & education. I have two parents.

I am the next step down from the apex

after Donald Trump, James Franco & Bukowski.

Only my sex is “other”

I know this & even this burns so deeply

even being called “sweetheart” by a stranger

even being talked over by a less useful but more authoritative voice stings.

I can’t imagine being two steps down.

Nor can I imagine a world without this absurd hierarchy.

It is absurd & it’s this way because those who are the best at violence get to run things. Those (we) at the top are war mongers.

We at the top elected him to represent us.

We. People exactly like me.

People afraid to lose their next step down status.

I am so sorry.

I want to help, I try to help, I’m not sure if I do help.

I will try harder.

Hola, ola.

Yo se que mi espanol es tan feo. Y no se como hacer acentos en mi tablet. Lo siento, lo siento.

 

El vendador de gas,

Tocando en la calle

Escuchamos a mi musica

Sin arriculares, sin bocinas

El calor del sol se queda en el aire.

Andamos al mar, despacio.

Tomandonos el tiempo, con sabia

A la rodilla, a la cintura,

Luego buceamos, renaciados por el otro lado

Fluyemos en el sonido sin forma.

La medusa, la arena quemada, las espinas

Todo nos pican

La vida un placer agridulce.

Siempre estamos sucios y bronzeados,

Somos el polvo, la tierra.

Bailamos, con el mundo roto

Bailamos cuando el mundo se cae

Nada existe, disfrutalo.

Jeff.

He makes me wonder what I’m blind to.

My second day here we had a love circle at 5pm in the shalah. I had no expectations, something I’ve worked hard at. I arrived fifteen minutes late because I couldn’t find the shalah—my woeful sense of direction is perhaps my worst attribute.

I slid open the wood-and-mesh door and stepped a bare foot past the threshold. It was dim inside. Late-afternoon sunlight filtered through the screens that made up three out of four walls. The palapa roof rustled occasionally from jumping squirrels and lizards. Incense burned on a short alter alongside a statue of the Virgen of Guadalupe (this is Mexico, after all). Behind the alter was a tapestry of some Hindu deity. Not Ganesh, one of the human ones. A beige-colored male, probably Krishna. Two small veladoras cast pools of flickering light.

I counted eight people, including myself. David, with whom I had been in contact, Yeshua, who was to live in the room next to me, Aaron, whom I had briefly met the day before, and four strangers. David was instructing the group that we must do 30 minutes of cleaning each morning before 9:00, calling it “karma yoga.” A white sheet of paper was circulating with a work schedule on it.

A little later, David said in his softly-accented voice, “now let’s go around and introduce ourselves. Say please your name and let’s share something we’re working on this week. So that we can all have a little compassion for what we’re going through.”

He said that he was working on letting go of control. He said, “Jeff can sometimes help me with that, when I’m working with him. Because there is not the control, haha.”

Interesting, I thought, wonder which one is Jeff.

As it turned out, Jeff was next. We were all seated on the floor but I could tell he was tall. He had a thin frame, shoulders hunched more forward than average. He had a shaved head, white skin, light eyes. He wore shorts only. I guessed he was in his mid-30s, perhaps closer to 40. Jeff took a deep breath and went into a long preemptory explanation about his struggle. Peppered with uncomfortable chuckles and gesticulations, he said something like:

“Well I guess, you know, this is hard for me to talk about. But this is the place where these feelings come up, that’s what this is for. Vulnerability is so hard and important, but I feel safe with you guys.”

He looked around the room at us and our shadows. I was pleasantly surprised by his Irish accent.

“This week I’ve been feeling lonely. This loneliness, like I’m not connected in the way I want to be. It’s hard, it’s maybe the worst feeling.”

That’s so sad, loneliness is the worst feeling… I thought. I’ve known loneliness, sometimes it’s been my only friend. For years I lived inside of it and the pain is like submersion in ice water. I felt compassion for Jeff.

Later in the week I was talking to Ava, a beautiful and kind Slovenian Libra. She is enough like me and enough unlike me to seem perfect, for now. We looked at the work schedule.

“Oh no,” she said, “Saturday it’s me, you and Jeff and he’s the chef.”

We work in a community-run restaurant. We serve vegan food, handmade, between 12:30-5:00 five days a week. The menu changes each day and the chef chooses what to make, within parameters set by David. The other two assist.

“Is he hard to work with?” I asked. In places like this, you have to straddle a fine line, sometimes more or less so depending on the person you’re talking to, between honesty and judgement. Living in this community we are to care for one another’s spirits. But the truth is the truth regardless.

“I don’t want to say anything bad about him but he doesn’t know how to cook, he doesn’t really try to learn. He comes in the morning with a basket of stuff and asks what to do with them. And he’s very slow. But everything gets done, it will be okay. Just, for me, I like to be more organized.”

Saturday arrived. Jeff and I hadn’t interacted really at all, though he had been on my mind. The loneliness, the isolation. He clearly picked up on the fact that he was no one’s favorite. Did he realize why? I’m always so curious what’s going on in people’s minds. What realities live behind their eyes is the only mystery in this world.

Most of the shift was fine. By now I was growing to love Ava and so working with her was a delight. Jeff arrived complaining that he felt sick to his stomach.

“It was the food at Plaza Libertad, I know it. Because of my craniosacral work I’m very in touch with my body so I can tell.” He said.

I don’t think that’s possible… I thought in response.

As a team, we prepared a fresh salad with mango-lime dressing, rosemary mashed potatoes, fresh-squeezed orange juice with chia seed, and lentils with zucchini, tomato, and onion. We washed the veggies, peeled, chopped, minced, seasoned, mixed, juiced, tasted, cleaned up, set up the tables, and made a pot of coffee. We prepared food for about 25 people. As far as I could tell, Jeff mainly complained and overcooked the lentils.

“Are they done yet? Can you check, Ava?” he asked at one point while stirring the pot. His bald white head was bathed in steam.

“These are done, these are way overcooked actually. Why didn’t you taste them?” Ava said, just barely an edge of irritation in her voice.

“I can’t taste them, my stomach… I can only eat bananas today.” Was the response.

Jeff was pretty obnoxious. His idea of being chef consisted of doing very little and bossing us around. People say that “bossy” is a word we only use for women and therefore it’s sexist, but Jeff was bossy. Not assertive, not take-charge, in fact he was helpless. But he was power-tripping. Any question we asked (how do you want this sliced?) he turned back on the asker (which way do you think is best?). He was thin-skinned and sensitive to any type of criticism. He ordered us to change tasks often and for no discernable reason other than the pleasure of exercising his power. I was halfway through juicing the oranges, he told me to mash the potatoes. Halfway through that, he ordered me to grind more salt. Then back to the oranges.

Granted he did say he felt sick. And if the bottom step of your pyramid is off, relational and cognitive functions are hard to keep up with. But based on the eye-rolls his name evoked in all the community, and the loneliness he professed to feel, I think he’s always obnoxious.

At the end of the shift, he made a small plate as an offering, lit some incense and told us to hold hands. He said a small prayer to no one in particular. He told us this had been his best, most enjoyable shift so far. He thanked us for our help.

I know a lot of people who plead helplessness to their troubles while doing nothing to help themselves. I’m guilty of it too, though I like to think not often. Jeff and people like this really make me wonder.

Anthropocine.

Take me home.

& the world will go on

as she has through

vomiting volcanoes,

through silence &

tremors.

DNA writhes to replicate,

chewing chains of

carbon,

fueling the chaos &

the ordering of said chaos.

Our age may end,

our self-importance &

petty crime.

Our age is a blip.

Blip.

 

Mono.

There is so much more I want to say about this individual.

Mono came to our house last week drunk and made us both very uncomfortable.

“Eres bonita, eh?” he said to me. “La luna es bonita. Tu eres bonita.”

He gestured to me, the moon, and back to me. He spoke slowly as if to a child. Of course I understood what he was saying. But I didn’t respond in the way he wanted me to so he tried again, even more slowly.

“Tu eres bo-ni-ta. Porque eres delgada, perfecta. Como la luna, bonita. Eh?”

He had his arm around my shoulders, he was touching my hair. I shrank away from him, tried to push his hand away from my head. Eventually the topic changed and I stared purposefully in the opposite direction for a while.

Mono makes me think about humans in a way I’m not used to. I oscillate between feeling disgusted by his crudeness and machismo and feeling a warm friendliness towards him. He’s 50 years old, he can’t read, he beats his wife and never has a good thing to say about his sons. He has a great sense of humor. Mono is an engineer in a way. He solves practical problems with his eyes and hands, telling us that “si la cabeza no se hizo no mas pa’ sostener la mata si no para usarla. Hay que pensarle, morra.”

In Mono’s very specific dialect, that means your head isn’t just there to hold up your hair, you’ve got to use it.

We worked together on the farm, though he worked much harder than Sheila and me. Mono might be the hardest worker I’ve known. He seemed to have endless energy. He was a fisherman before overfishing and acidification made that more difficult in the Sea of Cortes. He’s been a brick mason and a construction worker, he’s transported drugs for the narcos in his panga for various sums. He’s had one year of formal education and he’s not too good for any kind of labor. I’m sure he knows that and I would bet it’s hard for him.

I can’t communicate with him well enough to peek into his head but Sheila can. She says he believes everything he sees on TV.