Dreaming of Orcas in Winter

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Pushing off the shore… moving into the vast expanse of my mind, heart, Life.  I tingle.  I want to be extraordinary.  And in an instant, this desire turns to pressure and collapses in on itself.  Instead I’ll just be me.  Honest.  Curious.  Optimistic.  Ever enchanted by the weird, wild ordinariness of being a human being in a world of endlessly creative, disguised divinity.

That’s the macro.  The climate of my inner life on this deep, dark, quiet morning.  I just stopped to pick a booger.  It was sticky and I rolled it into a little ball and flicked it across my living room.  It took a few tries to launch it.  I’m embarrassed to admit that.  But the naked truth is that I am a booger picker, and you might as well know.  That’s the micro.

My Ma has cancer.  That’s the burning bush I beat around in my last blog.  Still waiting for the said bush to speak Gospel to me.  But pretty sure it will.  In the mean time, I’ve had two and a half weeks to digest this information.  And trust me, I’ve been all over the map.  I think my favorite emotion has been self-pity.  Yes, I’m embarrassed to admit that too… since SHE is the one suffering.  But that’s the bizarre thing about “otherness”… someone right beside you can be undone in pain, and you really have no idea… allured instead by the glow of my own mediocre struggle.  Frown.

My Ma says she’s not “in pain”, per se… just exquisitely uncomfortable.  Mostly exhausted, and worst of all ITCHY.  Desperate to climb out of her skin.  I witness her experience from the outside, and it’s like watching her through a thick pane of glass.  My dad used to work at the MGM casino in Reno.  They kept a doped-up male lion on the family entertainment floor, and you could pay to get your photo taken with this poor, sleepy beast.  At five years old, I found this thrilling and we did.  The “secret” was a thick pane of glass between us and the Mighty One, which wasn’t perceptible in the photograph.  We had to wait a few excruciating DAYS for the photo to be processed… which pressed me into the grill of searing anticipation.  I died a few times waiting.  And then, gotta love ole Bart Horwitz (my dad)… He was supposed to go downstairs on a break and collect the picture… but he never did.  Over time, my desire for the fruit of this frivolous, exploitive adventure shriveled and returned to sacred nothing.  I learned early not to “hold my breath” when it came to my dad’s flimsy word.

Hence the frivolous origin of my metaphor of thick glass between “one” and untouchable dimensions of “otherness”.  I find it tragic.  Because I’ve been on both sides of the glass:  the one being ripped apart by loneliness, despair, some unbearable shade of pain…. Hoping to find relief in being witnessed… to no avail… And the one blinking, helpless as She Who Gave Me Life, tears miserably at her own flesh.  Oh the kaleidoscopic Mysteries of Existence….

You might not give a hoot about astrology… but I do.  And since this IS Athena Graceland, after all, I’ll report that Saturn’s round, dimpled ass is sitting on my gently beaming moon right now, which creates a mood of solitary struggle.  The sort of suffocating, internal atmosphere that grinds one down to beautiful, shimmering dust.  In the name of Ultimate Revelation.  It’s *not* glamorous.  But totally necessary.  And if you don’t want to speak in cosmically persuaded tongue, that’s cool.  Let’s just say that as far as seasons of Life go, it’s a cold, dark winter over here.

But the beauty of living out such a grueling season, is that there are contrast-carving days such as yesterday, which bloom as bright, delicious hints of spring.  By some unsayable Grace, the leaden weight in my heart lifts… I unhinge from the need for my Life to be anything other than it IS.  This is fresh pressed ecstasy.  I was at peace with my Ma’s fate, whatever it may be.  Peel back the layer of clutching at permanence, and being so close to the possibility of death is exciting.  It clarifies and vivifies Life.  It seduces forth more textures of whispering Divinity, laced in Everything.  I can feel the holy, smiling warmth of “The Other Side”, as my Ma likes to refer to that easier dimension of Heaven, where Light is not tethered to such laughable density.

Gosh, I sure can get lost in the endless dimensions of my mind!  I was telling you about the ease of yesterday.  I did an hour of paid cleaning at my Ma’s group house while Serena napped in the car.  I felt free.  Life was reduced to the simplicity of scrubbing a filmy shower with the green, abrasive side of a sponge and homemade vinegar-water with tea tree and lavender oils.  My large hands squeezed into small, orange rubber gloves.  When I finished, I laid on my back on the gravely driveway as Serena continued to snooze, texting with Ed… deciding on which day he would visit.  We agreed on Moonday.  The day after Christmas.  I felt excitement swell inside.  Danger.  Like looking into the eyes of a tiger, this fragile feeling could so easily snap in the jaws of devastating disappointment.  But like the archetypal Fool, I softened, letting it all be, as I danced after the rose at the cliff’s edge.  I love Ed and I want to spend time with him.  I relinquished the urge to be in control of our relationship and “the future”.  (Which I spend a lot of time and energy attempting to manipulate in hopes of “getting comfortable” and feeling “okay”.)

Then a sliver honda crunched the gravel driveway and spit my Ma out, fresh from another doctor appointment, and less nine vials of blood.  She was high on pumpkin spice latte, which made her behave like her former self!  Full of energy and good humor.  (These days, she mostly exists in a dull state of exhaustion, molded to the shape of her beige recliner, dispensing frequent apologies for her wilted state.)  I lapped up every precious second we were blessed to share.

Lots of other stuff happened too.  (Didn’t the literary precision of that last sentence bring you to your beautiful knees?!?!)  All profoundly ordinary, yet glistening with a sassy hint of revealed divinity.  This is what happens after death.  Suddenly there is new space for Truth to beam through the veil.  No doubt this is what Leonard Cohen meant when he sang, “There’s a crack in everything.  That’s how the Light gets in.”   Death upon sweet death cracks apart the ego’s defenses to the blazing Reality of Light.  Slowly, over time, in my case…and perhaps sometimes all at once.  (Yikes!)

I don’t want to deluge you in the mundane details of my awesome existence, but I can’t skip the part where Serena and I drove to the cow dairy to procure a half gallon of raw milk for my Ma… we left the car running, intending to be quick.  Three calves rested in a bed of hay, adjacent to the milk room.  The smallest one, a baby bull, stood up, spindly hind legs first, and came to the fence to say hi.  He let me scratch his neck!  Then a bigger girl came over and licked my hand with her thick, coarse tongue.  My heart turned melty as they gazed at us with their radiant, wide, brown moon eyes.  I thought I’d never wash my barnyard stained hands.

I don’t know if I’ll feel as right and free today.  Serena woke too many times last night.  Then I awoke at almost four am from a dream of orcas.  It was nighttime.  I rode a ferry and they danced elegantly in the dark water alongside the boat.  I called out to them, “I LOVE YOU!!!!”  When our boat docked, they approached and let me pet them.  I was cautious at first, in their mighty presence.  Then I relaxed into trust.  This dream exploded my crown open and flooded me with infinity and stars and a feeling of pulsing awe.

I am ready for whatever shades of Grace today bestows.

I’m Back. With a Heart Freshly Shattered.

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But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

T’is the east, and Athena Grace LMNOP is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief

That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she. . . .

The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars

As daylight doth a lamp; her eye in heaven

Would through the airy region stream so bright

That birds would sing and think it were not night.

Yes my Beloveds, I, Athena Grace LMNOP am back… Mainlining Heavenly brightness to your heart and mind with renewed, impassioned, whitewater currents!!!  I didn’t mean to be away this long… but for the month of November, I spearheaded a small online group committed to writing a poem a day for the entire month (which also entailed the grace of reading each others poems). This endeavor, to which I was fiercely committed, gobbled up every single spare second of my incessantly demanding existence.  And then some.  But the good news, is that I rocked it.  And I mean smoking’ gun style.  I wasn’t sure if I could still write poetry… it had been so damn long.  But I guess a poet is just what I am… cuz when I touched pen to naked page, it just poured out like pee and poop.  An essential byproduct of living with an open, ever-curious and hungry heart.  (I dare you to demand that I share some of my latest poems here in Athena Graceland!!!)

Then came December.  Then came Athena Grace drawing in a hella deep breath.  And releasing said breath.  As it turns out, the day that will live in infamy is actually DECEMBER SECOND, not the seventh.   That was the day my blood turned to cold, white lightening.  The day that contained the precise, lucid moment when I faced the possibility of losing my Ma way sooner than I ever imagined.  

Actually, for the past few years, I have imagined losing her on a semi-regular basis, so that I never take her warm, luminous presence in my life for granted.  Despite my “impermanence exercise”, parents still occurred as immortal… probably because they are the ones who have been a constant since before the beginning…  Anyway, I give myself an A+ for savoring time with my Ma.  But that didn’t  make the semi-sudden threat of losing her any more gentle and delicious.  

Last week, she asked me not to blog about it.  I think she might have changed her mind by now… but just in case, I shall remain vague and elusive.  This *could* be considered poor form… to evade the jugular, ignore the bling-clad, neon pink elephant on the page.  But, as the self-proclaimed Picasso of the literary domain, it is my prerogative to break rules.  Especially if it is the only way that I am able to show up for my self-ascribed literary duty at this time.  So let’s explore how I can olympic figure skate around this enticing elephant in mother’s clothing, and still win the GOLD.  And when she’s ready, I have unpublished blogs waiting in the wings… so you can taste the recent rainbow of my heart as destroyed by Kali Ma herself.  

Ok, so which burning bush shall I beat around?  Do you want to hear about “Toot”?… A book I recently checked out of the library “for Serena”.  It’s about farts, and I was SO excited to read it to her the second we got home.  I could barely get the words out, I was laughing so damn hard.  She had no clue what was going on.  Or I could tell you that Serena’s new favorite food is spirulina!  Yes, it has taken the lead, over sauerkraut, beef and dill pickles!  Or that I was planning to cut down my own christmas tree.  The first tree of my adult life.  Yes, I’m thirty six and I haven’t had a christmas tree since I was a disgruntled seventeen year old, living “at home”.  Whoa.  I felt conflicted about taking the life of an innocent tree… I was gonna try to ASK the tree permission.  But I doubted my ability to talk to trees… and my heart clenched when I thought about executing this indulgent murder.  Then on sunday evening, Serena and I were out walking and stumbled upon a PERFECT tree that had already been slaughtered, and was just laying in the mud, dying a slow, tragic death.  A tenacious, modern-day pioneer woman, I hoisted her up on top of Serena’s stroller and she wafted piney perfume all the way home.  How’s THAT for amazing grace?!  For my next modest miracle, I shall pull innovative decorations out of my ass!… I could tell you that I’ve always had a mental block against Shakespeare… but reading the snippet of Romeo and Juliet at the opening of this blog has tickled my poetic sensibilities.  I can see myself diving into the oceanic depths of his literary genius and being born again.

Nah.  I’m gonna stick with the enticing meat and potatoes on my heart’s plate. I still dunno if my Ma will stay or go.  I guess we never know, even when we imagine we do.  And this, my friends is a gorgeous crucible of human existence.  But touching the possibility of life without her, I have turned back toward Ed (my married baby daddy), and am clinging with renewed fervor.  I had made such strides in letting go… I have mixed feelings about this “regression”.  There is such a stubborn fighter in me.  I have loved my fight for Ed.  I have fought hard for “The Dream of US” (That’s the perfect tittle for my book about falling hopelessly in love and making a baby with a married man as a ruthless, spiritual crucifixion!… (and Resurrection, I hope…) for four years.  And some essential and deep part of me is… fulfilled?… by engaging in this impossible battle.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been on my knees, blood and tear soaked, asking myself if I might want to consider choosing a more intelligent fight….

But… It means something to me that we have a child together.  And I *wanted* to create that “forever” bond with Ed, because our love is boundless and eternally compelling.  We are able to merge and taste a rare, pure unity.  This has kept us going in the face of our excruciating circumstances and inexcusable humanness.  Relationships oughtn’t be so disposable as they have become in our contemporary, strip mall, ravenously consuming society.  Oh Virtuous Athena… where does that leave his marriage then?  Fuck, I don’t know.  I got myself in a hopeless tangle.  If I had a shiny, gold Sacajawea dollar for every time I felt suffocated by the claustrophobic trap of my choices in Love… scrambled desperately to find the glowing Exit sign… only to discover there AIN’T one… 

The only thing even resembling an Exit sign is stopping dead in my desperate tracks, putting my hand on my heart and speaking “I LOVE YOU.”  Over and over and over and OVER again.  In the face of Life’s panoply of tragedies, colossal disappointments and triumphs alike.  This morning, as I was leafing through my precious (100% recycled!) notebook, I revisited a few potent nibbles of the notes I took when I heard Matt Kahn (my spiritual teacher) speak in Berkeley last month.  This one leapt off the page: 

“When the ego unravels, you will always feel alone.”

I became wildly jazzed…. Something fabulous might actually be occurring beneath the surface of this opulent buffet of tragedy and ache.  Like maybe I actually have a chance to realize a deeper cut of the God (Love) within me, and within ALL.  Like maybe the greatest blessing of my Existence, is that I can’t find the infernally blazing Exit sign… and that the pain can be excruciating.  That there is no one to catch me when I fall…. and instead I land with a clumsy, shattering thud, right in the stark and holy center of my Self.  Maybe it is fantastic that I can’t reassemble the broken shards of my heart and life.  

I must be saying something true, because suddenly I could cry.

It’s six fifty am.  I hear Serena stirring in the bedroom.  

Well, I’m glad to be hOMe.  I’ve missed you.