Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Movement of Change

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.” ~ Unknown

For this week's paper, I wrote about a woman who recently turned 101 year's old. Her name is Gertrude.

But she's known as Elsie. She still remembered when World War I ended. She remembered when her neighbor's son came home one day when the war was over, taking his parents entirely off-guard. Back then, communication was scarce, so they didn't know what had happened to him yet. But there he was, just strolling across the field.

Imagine that.

The whole idea of being on this earth for over a century amazes me. While I tend to look at most people as walking, animated stories, poetry, novels ... to me, this woman represents a beautiful saga. I mean, to think of all the things she witnessed changing around her. To imagine she was born at a time only 40 years after the telephone was invented and here she is in the world of smartphones, social media and text messaging.

She also was only ever married once, to a man who left her widowed with two sons early on after passing from a heart attack in the 1950s. I didn't ask why she never remarried, but it's definitely an interesting fact to mull over. Maybe because she was pretty independent from what I learned, attending college and doing secretarial work for law firms as well as volunteering to do book keeping at her local church for over two decades.

It got me thinking about the things I've witnessed change around me, even in my 28 years here. Sometimes, I long for the simpler times in my life, when I was a kid and only had to worry about brushing my teeth, combing my hair, minding my manners and doing well in school. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time period, when climbing a tree and hanging out on its limb for hours was the high point of my day. When digging in the dirt to see how deep I had to go before I reached a layer of clay was a fulfilling "accomplishment." Or when I would lay in the grass and gaze up at the clouds, imagining an entire story from their shapes, and that was the funnest part of my day.

However, women like Elsie remind me that you may not be able to "go back" to a simpler life, but you'll always have those memories to look back on, you'll always have those chapters to turn back to and, perhaps more significant than anything else in my life right now, that change is, indeed, inevitable.

That it doesn't have to be bad ... that it could be wonderful and it could lead to many wonderful things. In Elsie's case, 9 grandchildren, 22 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild. To live over a century of life on this planet and treasure troves of memories, milestones, historical moments in this country and in her personal life.

For me, change has been terrifying. For me, recently, it's been about rebuilding myself after going through a pretty rough patch. It's been about rediscovering who I am again while meeting a new version of myself, a less tattered, skittish, lost and hollow version. A stronger, healthier, more confident and much more animated version. That's what my change and these recent chapters have been about.

For Elsie, I couldn't imagine losing my husband and then living on for over a half century longer and still going. Who knows what else she's endured, what her low points were, what her highest points were. But it's beautiful to imagine. And while I know some of my lowest points already, I also remember high ones and look forward to more of them.

Because after all, change, whether over several decades or just a few years, is movement ...

And movement is life.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Breath and Beauty

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” ~ Pema Chödrön,

Tonight's Yoga class, again, left me feeling  more serene and grounded. One thing my instructor has us do is dedicate each class to a particular intention. I expanded on my intention from last week, which was simply: peace. Tonight, I asked for strength. We did a bit more intense stretching tonight, but it felt really, really good. And my instructor talked about how Yogis believe we have 7,200 energy channels (or "Nadis"as they call them, also know as "chi" and "meridians") in our bodies and just like blood flows through our arteries, energy flows through our "energy body."

Without getting too "out there" with this, the part that hit me was when she said many of these channels get blocked, often by stress, or mental, physical or emotional anxieties, strife, etc. So we practiced imagining all of our energy flowing freely around us and through us. And wherever I felt a tightness or a heaviness, which, I observed over my heart and in my chest tonight, we were to imagine that area loosening up and becoming light and airy.

Eventually, I was able to do so, and it helped me ease even deeper into the meditation. Then, our instructor put on a Deepak Chopra CD, which focused on the breath as well as beauty. This was different for me, especially the "beauty" part. We were told to imagine something in our homes that we find to be beautiful. My mind immediately went to this painting on my wall:

I focused in on the contours of her back, the lace on her left arm, the angle of her neck, the vulnerability of the pose ... everything about it that I fell in love with the moment I saw it in the store. It made my heart ache, but in a very pure, untainted way ... the way you feel when you see the most beautiful sunset you've ever seen or when you look into your dog or cat's gentle, wise, innocent eyes.

“The artistic image is not intended to represent the thing itself, but, rather, the reality of the force the thing contains.” ~ James Baldwin

The next part of the meditation was to turn inward and think about a part of myself that I find beautiful. Not quite as easy ... for me. I decided to just let my mind's eye go to the first thing it found. It focused on compassion. I suddenly was standing outside of myself and looking into my eyes when they see someone hurting or when they hear someone's story, someone's pain, someone's scars. Then, an image of my heart swelling filled my mind, how it swells and aches whenever I think about the sad things in the world I wish I could fix or make better. It made me think about when I was a child and thought about joining the Peace Corp when I grew up ... or when I would look at someone hurting, or someone older, my grandfather, my godfather, elderly people or people getting picked on, teased, hurt. I would feel myself fill up so deep, I wanted to cry. I remember crying once, after looking at my grandfather around the table full of our family. I don't know, even now, what it was I felt and why I cried, just that something about the look in his face made my heart hurt.

So tonight, I let that be what it was. I let that pulse inside me. I chose to see the beauty in it, not the flaws. After all, that's the first place my mind took me, so I decided not to argue.

Finally, we turned our focus to the universe and the way it pulses too, the waves, the trees, the vibration of atoms, the wind, the growth and decay of life matter and how it ebbs and flows and pulses right along with our very breaths, our life force. And suddenly, I felt connected to it all. And even the threat of a thought, memory, recent pain or heartache that attempted to start my heart racing, I found a way to keep at bay, at least for that time being.

And when my eyes finally, languidly opened ...

I did feel stronger.

~ C ~

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Frozen Petals

Crystallized water, a transparent cape
A teasing, flawed sheltering cocoon
Chipped at, cracked, threatened by burns
Melted and reformed, clouded by nicks
Scars shimmering against sunbeams

An icy shield, pressing in at the curves
Harboring delicate life, hints of perfume
Glossing with heat, frozen by bitterness
Buffering pain and betraying touches
Yet slowly, subtly evaporating ... giving way only

To warmth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


“Invisible threads are the strongest ties” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

This is the time of the year I crash the hardest. The holidays have passed. And while they were filled with their own share of ups and downs, the distraction and fuller schedule they offered is gone. To stave off the winter melancholy, which has already started seeping in, I've decided to take a Yoga class.

"The mind is not comfortable being alone with itself. The mind is constantly drawn to any outside object. It is worrying or stressing about the past. It is anticipating the future. It is never in the present." Patty McPhillips ... my Yoga instructor.

These words hit me hard when we were starting out the class with a brief meditation. I've meditated and done Yoga off and on for about 15 years now, but sometimes it feels good to be brought back to the basics. The idea behind meditating is reining in that surreptitious mind, or caging the "mind monkey" as Buddhists call it. The idea tonight was just to let myself "be."

It sounds so simple, but, even after all these years, I still struggle. Tonight, I felt myself pulled in every direction; however, I was able to finally just be present in that class and by the end of it, I was in such a serene state of mind, I hardly remember how I got home.

One of the other areas we touched on and something that has been in my mind and heart for days now — connections.

Whether it's the "invisible ties,"as Nietzsche calls them, between the mind, the heart, the body, the soul. Our connection to the earth. Or the connections we make with other people, it all comes down to one main thing: Connection is life. It's the very thing that keeps us alive, keeps us propelling forward. In the case of Yoga tonight, it was about the connection of breath to life. Without breath, we cease to exist. Without the mind, we cease living and so on.

I believe the same about connections with other people. Some have changed my life, for better and for worse. Sometimes, they can haunt ... sometimes they can elate, challenge, inspire and nourish ... and in the absence of that person or presence, sometimes they can hurt, like a constant thrumming ache. But honestly, I'd have it no other way. I'd rather feel those connections across the spectrum than sit back idly and feel nothing.

So, tonight, when I was sitting there, just being in the moment, I felt everything inside me slowly deflate until I was just ... me. I wasn't anything more or less. I was just me. And it was OK. It was a familiar feeling, like deja vu, but one I've only been able to catch in glimpses. Yet, it gives me hope.

So even now, despite the aching thrum inside me — the confusion, the fear of being left alone as everything changes around me, moves away from me — all I have to do is close my eyes and find my way back there, to that moment. Because when I was there tonight, I suddenly felt connected to everything, like a plug in the dark finding an outlet. I was in.

And those in my mind and heart today, whether they knew it or not ... they were in, too. 


~ C ~

Friday, January 6, 2012

Woman in Red

So, Sandy sent me this picture awhile back for my next writing challenge, but I've been sitting on it for some time. Partly because whatever it was going to be just wasn't ready to come out ... and partly because I didn't have the channeling feeling that compels me to either sit down and write or tortuously wait while feeling as though I might burst at the seams. I've been dealing with a few challenges in my life as of late; some, expected ... others, wholly unexpected. Either way, they've lead to feelings spanning across the emotional spectrum. And this woman ... this woman in this picture will have to be my channeling vessel tonight ...

Wherever it is she takes me.

He spotted her instantaneously.

Her face softly gazing over her left shoulder, slightly hunched forward. Her dark, curly tendrils parted near her temple, cascading across her forehead and cloaking the corner of her eye.

She appeared to be watching the crowd below with little interest. He leaned against the column to his left and continued to stare at her fixedly, noticing her fingers nervously fondling the handle of her black purse, clutched in front of her.

Her lips were shaded a deep plum, complementing her stark red dress. He was captivated. So captivated, in fact, he momentarily forgot he was with his fiance and her sister, Margaret.

"Dominic," Margaret's pinched voice cut in, pulling him from his dazed state. He turned his eyes toward her slight figure, muddy brown hair and plain face, always scrutinizing his every action, judging him down to the very way his lungs drew breath.

"What are you staring at?" She ventured.

But Dominic had only parted his lips when his fiance, Kara, arrived at Margaret's side before a word could be uttered, saving him from the often exhaustive task of speaking to her.

"Our seats are a bit higher up than usual. I'm trying to work something out," Kara said in a terse whisper, nervously glancing around her as though embarrassed at her cursory remark, yet not enough to remain muted.

"Well, your husband to be is just standing here, staring off in space," Margaret sniveled, causing Dominic to let out a heavy sigh and look to Kara for help.

She let out an exasperated sigh, but came to his aid, intertwining her arm with his. He felt an acute wave of stagnancy overtake him, but it wasn't until that moment he'd fully noticed it. Margaret rolled her eyes and turned toward the lines of people waiting for theatre tickets.

"I'm going to see if we can trade in for better seats. I know I'm being a stickler right now, but I can't imagine sitting any farther back than second row, can you?" she asked him, though her attention was barely on him as she was already searching for an open ticket booth. Dominic merely nodded as she left his side and hurried to a booth at the end of the hallway.

He immediately turned his eyes back toward the spot where the woman had stood, only she was no longer there. He backed up a bit and moved to the other side of the column, searching for her. He wasn't quite sure what had gotten into him. The woman must have been quite a few years older than him, though in his brief examination of her, the years seemed to have treated her very kindly, bestowing a depth of wisdom while leaving a slight hint of the little girl she once was in her demeanor.

Dominic searched the crowd, everyone dressed in gray, black, hints of green and robin's egg blue ... but no one in red. Except her. He spotted the corner of her dress peaking out from the railing next to another column farther down. Without knowing why, he moved in that direction so as to bring himself across from her again. Now she was leaning her back against the column, her left leg bent, the red heel of her shoe pressed against the base of the column while she held a Bloody Mary in her hand and gazed up at the intricately painted ceiling. Dominic's heart began to race in a way he'd never felt it race before ... and what's more, its ignition was a complete stranger.

People were slowly trickling into the theatre, but Dominic only moved forward, toward the railing. The woman seemed mesmerized by the ceiling's archaic architecture, just as he was captivated by her intricate tapestry.

Was she with someone? She appeared to be alone, at least thus far.

Dominic suddenly cursed his mind for even contemplating such nonsense. What did it matter? He turned to head back toward Kara and Margaret, who had disappeared into the crowd it would seem, but his feet would not move. He remained bolted in place, his eyes never wavering from this mystery person, her choice of drink matching her choice of dress. But then he noticed she was no longer staring at the ceiling.

Her eyes were fixed on him. Breath slashed passed his lips like a blade as Dominic quickly inhaled. Neither one of them moved an inch, her eyes steady.

It was too late, he realized. He had been caught and now he could do nothing else but own it. If he sheepishly looked away, he'd regret it for the rest of his life. It was in that moment, Dominic realized something significant had just occurred inside him, yet he was completely unaware of what, exactly, it was. His entire body slightly trembled, but luckily, he was still buried in his trench coat and scarf, concealing the shivers.

The momentary exchange slowed every motion around them to the pace of dripping molasses as Dominic squinted under the warm light of the chandeliers above them, trying to read her expression. He could see her eyes playfully flicker with perplexed intrigue, the corners of her mouth hinting at a smirk.

But then she broke the gaze and looked to his left as he felt a soft tug at his elbow.

"Dominic," Kara said briskly, as though she'd been calling his name for some time. Perhaps she had. Feeling instant mortification, Dominic's brow furrowed apologetically as he pulled his eyes from the woman and looked at Kara. She really was lovely, porcelain skin, light blond hair with hints of strawberry red and pale green eyes.

So why was it, in all this time, she'd never moved him the way he'd just been moved?

The question echoed in the chambers of his mind as though taunting him. He cleared his throat and nodded at her, as though that explained everything. She studied him, then looked across from them at the spot he'd been staring. Only now, a man in a navy blue pea coat stood there, taking a long swig of his drink before following a very antsy, maudlin-looking woman who was presumably his wife, into the theatre.

Kara looked back at him again, gazing into his eyes peculiarly. He felt almost completely raw and exposed, as though peeled back to his bones. He didn't like it. Yet ... he did.

His fiance continued to stare at him, studying something — what exactly, he was not sure in that moment. But it felt strangely like he'd somehow been marked and there was nothing he could do about it. He realized as he looked at Kara, feeling the sense of safety and comfort she exuded, that it was not her peeling him apart just then. In fact, he was certain she didn't know how. It was this woman, this woman he'd just been transfixed on, it was her gaze that had undid him, unraveled him like thread off a spool. Kara was merely observing the aftermath and not quite sure what to make of it.

"Let's go inside," she hesitantly, yet almost pleadingly said.

Dominic had never heard her sound that way before, as though she felt threatened. But then again, he felt threatened too, just in an entirely different way. He began methodically walking with her, but everything inside him was pulling him backward. He swallowed hard, feeling his brow begin to dampen with sweat and his throat start to close. As the red "Enter" sign loomed closer, Dominic finally halted before they crossed the threshold.

"No, you go on in. My mouth and throat are like sandpaper. I need some water and then I'll be in," he hastily said.

Kara paused again, looking back where the woman had stood and then back at him, before she slowly nodded. Something in her seemed to shift as well. She only looked at him a moment longer before turning and disappearing behind the curtained doorway.

Dominic didn't know what he was doing. He went to get a drink of water at the fountain and to wipe his forehead, when a flash of red caught the corner of his eye. He turned to his right and saw the hint of fabric disappear around the corner of the staircase before him. It was her. It had to have been. Without pausing to think, Dominic's feet propelled down the steps. Everything in him felt pulled forward as though at the mercy of some strange magnetic force.

His entire body felt alive with the thrills of adrenaline and something else foreign to him, something deep, an intense warmth like the flush of heated skin, something that spread throughout his bones with each step he took. He felt as though he was transforming somehow. He shed his trench coat and scarf as he felt his body burn up. He'd never been completely filled up before in his entire life.

Finally, he reached the bottom step and turned the corner to find the woman in red, standing in front of two large, heavy oak doors. Her cheeks were crimsoned with life. She seemed to exude passion itself, the kind that aches, the kind that causes a deep yearning inside, the kind that pushes, prickles, bleeds, inspires and ignites.The kind that warms, like a soft caress against a healing wound.

Dominic could barely breathe. He was so taken up by her presence, he'd forgotten where he was. But then he heard the faint echo of his name against the walls of the stairway behind him. It must have been Kara ... or Margaret, but it sounded more like the former.

Much to his surprise, the woman approached him slowly as the echoes grew louder. Dominic was frozen in place, torn, terrified, elated ... utterly lost. The woman finally reached him. It was then he could see the depth of wisdom in her eyes, the details of each iris, the way they seemed to almost change color right in front of him, the flicker of an ethereal flame at their center. She pulled him forward suddenly, letting her dark lips come mere centimeters from his. She smelled like burnt embers laced with rose petals and sunlight. Dominic felt her breath against his lips, though her eyes were now closed. He followed suit, hearing the loud echoes in the stairway momentarily fade into the backdrop.

The heat from her mouth grazed his lips as he breathed her in.

He heard her take in a deep breath as well, holding it for a few moments, before whispering one word against his lips.


Dominic felt the whoosh of cool air against his face, jarring his eyes open. There was no one in front of him. Just the two large oak doors. Baffled, he squinted toward them, noticing something caught in between both doors toward their base. His eyes widened in realization. It was a frayed piece of red fabric.  He walked over to it, pulled it out from between the doors and brought it to his nose.

The sharp clank of heels against granite steps behind him followed by his name startled him. He turned to see an astonished, winded and angry Kara at the bottom of the steps. 

"What are you doing?" She growled. "We have our second row tickets and the show is starting. Stop this foolishness and let's get back inside."

But Dominic did not move.

"What is that you've got in your hand?" She demanded in a shrill voice.

Dominic knew he should drop the cloth, drop the cloth, put his hands in his pockets and return back to her side. That's what he should do.

He ran his thumb over the fabric in his palm ... then looked back up at Kara.

And then he took a step forward.