Tag Archives: utah

Self-Contained Heart

9 Feb

Couer_LevitéThere is a walk I know so well, it becomes shorter with each passing. East to west, and back again, the street on which I reside runs one way across four miles to New York Harbor. Then against the current runs back again to my landlocked, hillocked Brooklyn berm and a little bit beyond to East New York, where it terminates.

Ideal walking conditions exist for the duration of a journey in either direction, and conveniently, the best coffee roasters in Brooklyn have a shop about two and a half miles west of my front door. No need to zig-zag, I just go directly there, and it’s a perfect way station to everything else I adore downtown.

I am, actually, ideally situated. Unless I’m going to my new motorcycle writing job in an office two neighborhoods to the north in Williamsburg. Then forget about it. It’s a misery involving public transport.

But anyway. Anyway. I am ideally situated. And I actually regret that the journey grows ever shorter as my mind wears soft the edges of every landmark along the way. Nothing is entirely erased from my attention, but now the scenery is just quiet background material that gives my mind a little too much license to run to extremes.

Tonight my round-trip journey was evidently an experiment in the amplitude of my emotions. On the way to a celebratory evening, I was all playlist-induced positivity and hopefulness. Homeward only a couple of hours later, listening to the same music while I begrudgingly saluted myself for making responsible choices, I scraped the absolute boggy bottom reaches of the pits of despair (that will always make me think of The Princess Bride).

I debated hopping on to a bus to shorten the grueling duration of my thoughts, but the true and earnest part of me knew that walking home (and texting a soul friend as I set my course) was the only cure for a bleak mood. So I did it. And by golly, as my steps neared home, the amplitude soared and sank and then reached the even keel of a solid midline.

You wanna know what did the trick? Walking meditation produced a bounteous truth, friends. I’m talking major stuff from minor obsessing. Swinging my little tote bag full of coffee beans (of course I stopped for those, are you kidding?), I let my mind trace and retrace the contours of an indelible impression made upon me by a certain blue-eyed someone earlier today.

Ohhhh but the mark of this occurrence was like the century-old cowboy graffiti on the canyon walls of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. This was deep stuff. This was good stuff. This afternoon I walked into a perfectly eastern-lit room and watched a set of shoulders and chest rise up and pull back in an opening sequence to a smile that lit eyes and then wandered mouthward for a grin and a startled hello.

I was everything that lit this moment for this man. And I say, I note, that this uncultivated, unsuspecting and unchoreographed. I was tumbling into this space all aflutter because my actual office reeked of some sort of construction fumes, fumes that ol’ blue eyes himself here had caused with his own manly machinations in the space.

I felt my own being spread into a slow smile as I carried myself to where he sat and plunked down, leaving empty plenty of other rows of seating around us. Pointed, I was. And sharp with my “you fumigated my office” accusations. I didn’t say that, but whimperingly implied it and then extolled the virtues of my new motorcycle writing project office, to which he countered, “And I bet that reeks of grease and exhaust.”

Oh no, quite the contrary, it’s modern and beautiful, thank you. (And later I was to realize that I am actually living the dream of having a writing office in a garage full of motorcycles, but that’s another topic entirely!)

But truthfully, I was backpedaling and avoiding eye contact because, goodness. That was a reaction. That was the reaction of someone I have not seen in quite a little while because I’ve been so busy living my dreams, making dreams come true, dreaming big. You know, all that stuff you’re supposed to do when you “do you.”

Et voila! That was it. I nearly stopped in my leaden tracks as snowflakes began to fall in the cooling air tonight. “Scarcity increases demand.”

It’s not just an economic principle. And I’m not talking about “playing hard to get.” But I am referring to what my friend and I have long termed “The Monastic Vibe.” That amazing, impenetrable, unobtainable aura you project when you’re actually only focused on getting work done, for yourself. It’s less about feigning hard to get, and more about actually living as yourself, your whole self, in your life. When you exist that way in the world, you not only feel better, but you project a radiance unique to the unobtaniums of the world. You are not just a simple take-down, readily available, easy to find, crumbling edifice of a human. You are a rare and scarce specimen of human achievement, and by golly, people want you.

So there I was, limping home, murkily revisiting every lost hope of love and tumbling into an abyss of forgettable self. When a few mind’s eye replays of a glowing look startled me back into head-held-high belief in my own scarcity:demand ratio. Then I realized that the reaction Mr. Blue-Eyed Tiger had when I walked into the office was the same brightening of spirit that I can’t help but exhibit whenever he walks into my workspace. It’s a total uplift of shared but scrupulously contained excitement. We hardly know each other, and I’ve been putting this one on the way, way back burner to examine it for veracity of feeling. (New habit, trying it out, thanks, Soul Friend.)

Realization complete, I felt a smile return to my countenance, and then my mind bookended the revelation with the recollection that when the Blue-Eyed Tiger left the office today, after he put on his coat, readied his earphones, and was walking to the door, his look back was for me and me alone. I raised my eyes in an office full of people, found him looking directly at me, and then seeing me look, he waved and bid his farewell.

That is what I thought as I climbed the stoop to my front door: “Those looks were for me alone.” Scarcity increases demand. I’ll keep those looks, thank you, and live in a way that’s true to my heart and keeps me centered on my course. That’s where I’ll find my midline-walking equal, and our eyes will meet in rare understanding. Oo la la!

May the One You Long for Long for You

19 Jan

paperThere are three poems I carry with me, sometimes as a little bundle of folded pages worn at the seams, sometimes just one important piece at a time. I am a girl of many handbags and totes, and so each day I must reassemble which items travel with me, and even when I keep my load light, I pack at least one poem. I can always feel the carefully selected verbal talisman there, leaning against my hip through canvas or jostling around with too many glasses cases in pockets of suede.

It used to be just one poem I always carried, and so I memorized it. It’s a very long poem, too. But I know it. Still the pages are smooth as river stones now, so I carry it like some might wear a tattoo. I know it, but I need it outside myself, too.

Another joined the ranks last summer when I was riding the subway very, very late one night and sharing thoughts with a stranger about a poem displayed in one of those “Poetry in Motion” public service ads. I turned to him as I dangled from a handrail and said before he could take off his beat-laden headphones, “Do you know anything about orchids?” When headphones rested on hoodie and he asked me to repeat myself, he nodded no. But we had a very lovely talk about what could be known about orchids and what we needed to learn. We agreed to seek out more on the subject matter when we got home. “Google it!” he said, as I disembarked. I hope he googled it, too.

In between the ancient relic of a poem that I memorized and the relatively new one that came from beneath the streets is the most important poem ever. It is an Irish Blessing that one of my dearest yoga teachers read aloud in class four years ago. I almost didn’t make it to that class, I was tired and whiny, but like the most intrepid of yogis, I made the effort to drive to the farthest studio that was in my orbit in Utah. It turned out I was the only one who would show up that night, and it was fortunate, because I needed to unburden my heart, give voice to a big truth I’d reduced to a little trembling trifle.

My teacher and I, we were (and are) both the sort who find meaning in incidentals, coincidences, serendipity, happenstance and several other words for magic. We talked while we waited for no one else to eventually arrive, and then when she opened her bookmarked page and began to read the text she’d selected for that evening’s class, she actually began to cry, instantly. I didn’t panic, as it was not abnormal for me to witness. I tend to be in a lot of amazingly emotional exchanges with relative strangers. I’m like the Hallmark card commercial guru. Have thirty seconds to start weeping about your neglectful father? Here, have a Kleenex-brand tissue.

The poem, the Irish Blessing, is by this guy John O’Donohue (legit Irish name, check). I purposely have never looked in to who he is or what era he lives in, but I’m fairly certain he’s probably a contemporary living Irish Blessing writer, because his subject matter is a superior blend of eastern and western philosophy.

“Blessed be the longing that brought you here,” the first line says to the weary yogi who traveled from at least 15 miles north. Alright, so that made me cry, too. And the rest of it was so amazing that I copied down her yoga-abbreviated version of the text by hand on a piece of paper before I left the yoga studio that night. It was evidently so mystical an experience that I didn’t even try to google it then and there… how odd…

Anyway, the next day, I called Unrequited and was kinda like super demanding and said we had to have dinner before I left town on a two-week trip the next day. He agreed to meet me after work, and I folded up my pocket poem and carried it with me to the restaurant. Then, after the appropriate amount of small-talk, I tucked the folded paper under the edge of my plate and declared that I had something to say.

I was afraid to say it, of course, so I read the poem first:

Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity, and friendship–
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.

***

That’s pretty good, right? I finished reading, folded paper, and put it back under the edge of my plate. Then I told Unrequited that I had cleared a huge place in my heart for him, and it was a permanent place. And now that place also included his two sons. “I hold you all in my heart, I always have since I have known you, and I always will. I felt this way since the moment we met, and it’s always been there, and it will always be there, so nothing will change.”

His jaw was actually dropped when I was silent. His eyes were wide and his gaze was upward at nothing. Then he started to smile in slow-motion (just like in a Hallmark movie!), and he said, “That is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you.”

Of course nothing came of it then, otherwise he wouldn’t be called Unrequited, right? But for all you devoted Bunky fans out there, waiting for the best happy-romance-movie-ending ever, Unrequited and I spoke yesterday and he said he’s coming to visit me in New York.

I can hear at least one of you grumbling (WriterHero), but dude, let a girl have some poetry now and then. I’ll see Unrequited in two weeks anyway, when I get my hair done in Utah. But then he’s coming here. For me. FOR ME. And the quaint village of New York City.

So Tell Me How Long

20 May

ahoyOn more mornings than I care to admit, I awake with the vague recollection that someone was in love with me while I slept. Sometimes there’s only a slight pause, and I can picture the face of the friend or stranger who has suddenly decided that he cannot live without me. But on other occasions, such as today, I have to mosey around a bit in my recently dismissed reveries and try to identify the source of affection.

This morning’s dream was of Unrequited. And it’s probably appropriate that he disappeared from the scene right before I awoke. He is a coyote, after all, scrambling up the hillside, leaving only a tiny avalanche of pebbles and snapped twigs in the wake of paws swift and precise in their escape.

Oh, Unrequited. You’ve rehearsed this part so often, it becomes more believable every time my subconscious pulls back the curtain and trots out the familiar scene. You are finally ready to be close with me, and your entire demeanor softens around the contentment you held out of reach for so long. I am your inevitable love, and you are so happy to be home, safe. Even better, you are ready to take me into your arms and actually just be still, hold still, stay with me. A sense of calm pervades the dream, and I feel settled for the first time in my life.

This dream is on repeat-one in my mind, though I refuse to call it “recurring” because reality’s circumstances have always evolved somewhat in between fictional depictions and each is a little more convincing than the last. But unlike my Cowboy premonition or my startling ability to predict the sudden arrival of love from the Unaloof Percussionist, my Unrequited fantasy has never come true. (Thus, of course, the moniker Unrequited.)

Sometimes I do have the mystical sense that this imagining will finally become tangible. Late last summer, when I was in Salt Lake City for a week to pack my things and vacate the premises, I met Unrequited’s doppelganger on a moonlit night. I’d just finished a long and luxurious dinner with a friend and wandered up a hill to where I’d parked the impressively large and charmingly dated Toyota Landcruiser that same friend generously makes available to me when I visit Utah. Then three things happened at once.

You see, this was the first time I’d made use of this vehicle, and its storied past was transforming my life rapidly. I never drive large vehicles, and the first time I piloted this vessel, I was actually giggling maniacally. It is so liberating to move through space with too much metal around you. Especially when the metal is nicknamed “Stinky” (which he distinctly is not, and yes, it is a he, not a she, as is more common for vehicles and boats). And more especially when Stinky is home to an advanced cultural tradition. Whenever anyone borrows him, they add an audiocassette to his treasure trove of past-tense musical memories. In short, Stinky makes you feel powerful and nostalgic all at the same time, making him quite possibly the best boyfriend ever.

Anyway, I climbed up the hill, heaved myself elegantly into the driver’s seat using Stinky’s chivalrous running board step and courteous doorframe handle, and slid across the leather seat in my summer dress. I looked up and saw the full moon making poetic declarations through the trees and above the postcard-perfect shadows of mountains beyond. Damn you, Utah, I thought, and turned the key.

Earlier that day I finally got off my NPR high horse and gave in to Stinky’s DJ experience. I pressed “Tape” on the stereo and once again began giggling maniacally (Stinky really makes you behave like you are in the early phases of love). This time the laughter was triggered by the sudden arrival of the voice of Morrissey, moaning some lyrics to what I could only assume was music from The Smiths. I have always hated The Smiths, much to my Writer Hero friend’s chagrin, and I figured this was the universe telling me to a.) drive a large car and feel some crazy-ass power, and b.) own the fact that The Smiths were made for me.

Okay, so, I got in, saw the moon, turned the key, and the tape continued playing the strange cacophonous introduction to a song I’d never heard before. I paused, transfixed, until Morrissey’s voice arrived with some advice as to where things were going. Then he broke my heart and reconstructed my soul in a matter of seconds.

“Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me,” he intoned, pointing at me alone there on a dark hill. Then he sang exactly the scenario I was enduring at that moment and continue to endure today: “No hope, no harm, just another false alarm / Last night I felt real arms around me / No hope, no harm, just another false alarm / So tell me how long, before the last one / And tell me how long before the right one / This story is old, I know, but it goes on.”

mantraNeedless to say, the song became my mantra, and I eventually regained the ability to use an audiocassette player, figuring out how to rewind just to the beginning of the track, so I could hear the same song over and over and over again for the entire eight days I was in Utah last August. This song held me up, comforted me. I was raw at that time, my mother was in the hospital in Texas, and I was drastically changing my life in a mode of escape and return to some version of home.

Then, eight months later, Stinky and I were reunited when I visited the Unaloof Percussionist. That same audiocassette was in the tape player, still cued up to my heartbreak. Only it felt completely different with Unaloof next to me.

Now, fast-forward one more month, and guess what, I’ll be returning to Salt Lake City, borrowing Stinky, and pressing play on that audiocassette. And guess what? I’ll be with Unaloof, but he has expressed his urgent need to never love me or be serious about me, making himself into another form of Unrequited.

And now we come to the denouement of my dream sequence. I will press play, sing along with my heartbreak, and go to dinner with Unrequited. And he finally, finally will hold my hand across the table, and say, “You like the arugula salad here, right? And we always get the ricotta dumplings.” And I will gaze into his eyes and find a new contentment in our old rituals as they finally, actually mean something.

It’s not impossible. All my other dreams have come true. And Stinky clearly is a mystical creature who brings you the answers and grants you the power to live with them, even when they don’t turn out the way you planned.

☽ Of Wildest Heart

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