Rose

The Other Door

Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, Paris, France, by Alex Holyoake

The other door. A mouth. An ear. A nostril. An eye. A pelvic floor. A vulva. A body of doors, openings and closings. Go inward and there are chambers of the heart and esophageal flaps and valves controlling the flow of fluids through channels, maintaining order. Spine, neural pathways, veins, arteries, capillaries, so much anatomy, a house I’ll never explore fully enough.

The other door. The third eye, the mind’s eye, the wrist, the sacrum. Ridges of teeth against tongue. A pinch here, a pulse there. A room that leads to a room that leads to a room, a series of caves, underground tunnels, a palace built into the side of a mountain at the edge of the sea.

The other door. Scalp. Hair follicles. Nail beds. Reach, stretch, bend, bow. Break. Repair. Heal. Hurt. Fire, ice, water, soak, salve.

The other door. Phlegm. Spit. Cum. Blood. Yellow. White. Red. Black. Bruise. Blue. Green. Eyes. Seeing, translating, refracting, flipping over, inside out, rapid fire, REM sleep, deep dreams, doors through doors through doors, open, open, open, closed. Open, open, open, closed. Mantra, memory. Lullaby.

The other door. Images. Flashes. What makes a person, what makes a body, what makes a a life. Rooms inside of bodies and buildings inside of houses inside of dolls inside of cliff sides inside of families inside of centuries inside of stories inside of time inside of timelessness.

The other door. Listen. Watch. Float on a bed of salt. Squeeze your legs together, spread them wide, kick, pull, push, glide.

The other door. Spirit. Mystery. Sun, moon, plain as day, clear as night. Sky and floor, room after room. Remember this? Remember this place? Swim home through waters you were born from and to which you will return. Doors open, open, open. Open your mouth. Open your eyes.

Rose

We Will Protest by Living

The Witches’ Brooms, by Enzie Shahmiri

We’re going to a laughter thing this weekend. Mani and a friend heard about it and thought it sounded fun, and I agreed. I imagine we will either love it or laugh at it or maybe both, but either way it should make for a good story.

Last week, a few days before my birthday, I dreamed I looked in the mirror. For a moment — perhaps it was three or four seconds, the kind of seconds that feel long — I saw my mother’s face returning my gaze. I shook my head and blinked my eyes, disbelieving, and then it was me again on the other side of the glass.

The night before that, I dreamed I was driving and an ambulance was speeding towards me, in the same lane. I swerved just in time to avoid a head-on collision.

Today the sun came out for long enough that I couldn’t ignore its call. I laced up my sneakers and went for a thirty-minute walk. I thought about the books that have been written about boredom — I heard a story on the radio this morning about this, so it was fresh on my mind. How we’ve “lost our ability to be contemplative.” I think about the number of tabs open on my desktop, the number of apps on my phone, and wonder if this is true of me.

Have I lost my ability to contemplate? Sometimes I feel like all I do is contemplate. There must be some relationship between contemplation and action. As with most things, there’s no right answer. I get home with sweat trickling down my back under my sweatshirt and hop on a coaching call with a writer who excitedly reports many discoveries from the past week. She speaks of shame and how it distorts, and later tells a story that exemplifies clear seeing and the compassion that comes with it.

Later, a shower. “I feel like I’m behind,” I call to Mani in the bedroom, then remember that I’m not behind, I’m in the shower. I turn the valve clockwise and feel the water get hotter.

Aviva is cleaning her room. She comes into the kitchen to get a garbage bag and more Oreos. I am trying to work. The kitchen is my office, and I’m used to interruptions. So many interruptions. This morning in the car when we were talking about our Dream House, I used the word “tolerating.” As in, I am tolerating my work space situation. Would it be nice to have a room of my own? Yes. Would I love for Mani to have a yoga room? Yes. Am I unhappy? Truth be told, no. I’m not. I am weary of coveting what I don’t have; I’ve been to that rodeo and it wasn’t so fun. It sucked, in fact, like the speaker in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29:

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;

I swept the kitchen floor today. Later, I spotted a man with a toddler out for an afternoon walk, stopping to watch two dogs play in a yard. I love the feel of a little hand in mine.

Many friends are going to marches on Saturday, in D.C. and Oakland, in Boston and Northampton, in Philadelphia, in Tulsa, , in Raleigh and Portland and Chicago. All over the country, women I call my sisters will be marching. I will be here, with my wife. We’ll meet a new friend and see what it’s like to laugh in a room full of strangers. We will have no idea what to expect. We, too, will leave our house, step out into the day, and protest in our own way: By living.

January is so many shades of grey, and Trump’s inauguration (gag) is one of those events that is decidedly not grey. There is no nuance, no subtlety, no argument for the possibility of good in this abomination of democracy, dignity, and humanity. None. I will not waver on this. And while yes, I understand that this is our reality, that we must work with “what is,” I will still insist after tomorrow that no, he is not my president.

An old friend messaged me today. She said she’d been thinking of me and missed our coffee dates. I wrote her back: I miss you, too. We made a phone date for Sunday. This is what we must do — what we’ve always done: Tell each hello. Show up and say, when can we talk? I want to hear your voice. I want to see your face. Thank you for reaching out.

Share this post with a friend you miss seeing. Make a date to talk, to drink coffee, to give each other a hug. You’re not behind, you’re right here. And I’m right here with you. We’re in this together, and if nothing else, that will keep being true.

Rose

Severing

axSevering. Cutting the cord. Boundaries. Mother’s milk. Hand on my back. Opening my mouth. Cord snaking out, sticky and thick and unending, an infinite belly coil I keep pulling on, years and years and a recurring dream of not being able to cut it — the more I try, the more it becomes something like glue, impossible and uncooperative, stretching from and gumming up the sharp blade. I am trying too hard, I am waking up sweating and tired of being sorry, I am scrambling on eroding ground, watching it crumble. And then, later, walking — I am walking down and then up a hill, feet on earth, voice out loud, begin here, and here, and this is enough for today I tell myself, until later, so much later in the car the throat constricts and chest crushes and suddenly I’m sobbing and remembering this dream after so long a reprieve, and it smells like the teen spirit I swallowed and spit out, it sounds like all the horses running towards me at once, it feels like crowded, hands in front of me, palms facing out in a gesture of give me space, please I need space. And I am aware in this moment of the impulse to rush through the feelings, the way sometimes you want to rush to climax and the rushing runs interference with the desired outcome which is to say what it is about, when really this experience, these feelings in the body are not about — they are not linear or narrative or logical or cognitive, no, they are storms, they are electricity and power surges and powerlessness and where where is the ground, where is the voice, what do I want, who am I, where was I, what am I afraid of losing, what was lost already so many times over and can’t be retrieved? There will be no words until I can give this its full expression, give over to it, give into the walls closing in knowing that when they fall I will be standing here solid under sky without explanation or proof of purchase. All of this is to say the severing dream came back to me, floated into my mind casually, like, no big deal, just coming to say hello, it’s been so long how are you? Why are you here, I asked, and the dream — though I was awake now, and driving — said, to tell you what I was about all those years. And now I am a baby and the cord is cut and I am on my own but held and loved and now I am an adult and I am on my own holding my own and loved in new ways, chosen ways, ways that remind me to be a big girl now, a grown woman, strong enough to know that I don’t have to put myself through the same thing over and over that is so long ago now done and gone.

Use your voice, love your way, and don’t be afraid, love. Don’t be afraid.

Rose

108: The House of Love (or, Where I Was the Moon)

Moon_and_Stars_series

In Jewish numerology (Gematria), the number 18 signifies “chai,” or “life.” And about the number 108 — my parents’ house number — Shiva Rea writes: “108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. Traditionally, malas, or garlands of prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads (plus one for the “guru bead,” around which the other 108 beads turn like the planets around the sun).”

I wrote a poem once, in 1998, about my parents’ house. It’s called “Dreaming Pasternak” and to this day, it might be the best poem I’ve ever written. The house plays an important role in the poem, which came directly from a dream. I mean that literally: One morning, I woke up, put on my mom’s old soft pink bathrobe, grabbed the latte I’d stored in the fridge from my Starbucks shift the night before, a notebook and pen, and my pack of Marlboro reds, and climbed out onto the flat part of the roof where I liked to sit and smoke and write. And I didn’t so much write the poem as I wrote down the poem; it came all at once, as if it had been prewritten in the dream and I was just getting it onto paper.

In the poem, the house was the house of love. The house of love on the hill. The house that love built. The house was built in the 1880s I think, by a man named Edward Thompson. He was also known as Thompson the Tinkerer. He apparently built the house for his beloved wife, Frances. That’s all I know, but I always thought it a romantic story.

I had a relationship with that house. With myself in it. It was a house where we celebrated Christmas until we didn’t. It’s the house where I didn’t quite know I was Jewish until I did — and then I dreamed, too, of Jewish babies I couldn’t save, of the Holocaust in ways that made it clear I’d be there, running, running, and unable to save my own sister.

It’s a house where my mother has grieved the loss of not only her sister Nancy, who died 18 years ago today on SwissAir flight #111, but also of her sister Bobbi, who died in 2015 after a decade of cancer.

It’s the house where I think of myself as having swallowed silence and given it to the moon. Where I was the moon. Where I could not quite grow up. Where I would be a scholar but not a lover.

I don’t know who will die next, or why death is the thread I’m pulling on. But it’s in the air, maybe because of September. Maybe because of growing up. Maybe because of remembering grief, the grief of Nancy’s death. I’d lost two grandparents before, but it was her death that brought grief into my body for the first time. I was lost.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see. 

I was blind, to think that I would stay in that house forever. That I could come back here and be anyone other than this me, this woman, not a mile from that house, writing. Doing exactly what I always knew I wanted and needed and was waiting to do: Be fully myself.  Fully alive. In my own house of love.

Rose

The Dream of the Silver Spoons

Silver-Spoon
I woke up this morning shortly before the alarm to a barrage of dream fragments; they ranged, as usual, from vivid to blurry, and with varying degrees of accompanying narrative. One image did stand out from the others as I poured my coffee, though I forgot to tell Mani about it.

Often, I’ll “review” my dreams before fully waking up; sometimes dreams go *poof* in the instant I open my eyes, and still other days the nights will linger like a dark screen. Anyone who has known me for any amount of time can tell you that it verges on ridiculous, the amount of dreaming that goes on. From apocalyptic to pedantic and everything between, my dreams are steadfast companions that travel with me no matter how far I venture or how close I stay to home.

So that one image that stood out this morning — it was of my father giving me a collection, his collection, of silver spoons. They were all different sizes, and I think there were four or five all told. One was small, as you’d use to feed a child. Each had a story. They may even have been from different countries or generations. In the dream, I’d decided to get a tattoo of the spoons spooning each other, largest to smallest, on my upper right arm. I held them up to my arm to gauge the length of the tattoo.

It didn’t even occur to me that my dad might have a real-life spoon collection.

Then the day happened. I helped Pearlie finish packing for her much-anticipated week in Acadia, Maine with my sister’s family, alternating between practical things like a quick trip to CVS to pick up toothpaste and bug spray (and an iced doubleshot latte for me) and more emotional ones, like orchestrating a speaker-phone meeting of the minds with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew, to reassure Pearl that it would be a fun week despite her fears of not being with either of her parents.

Tears were shed, hugs were had, and thankfully, we checked off the last item on her sweet little packing list in time for me to greet 40 participants in Dive Into Poetry, which began today (registration is open till Sunday, by the way!). Amazingly, when the phone rang at 10:00, I’d just placed my own bowl of steaming oatmeal on the table and was ready to settle in to an hour with a fabulous coaching client discussing consciousness and curiosity and clear seeing.

My sister came by our place to pick Pearl up a little after 11:00; miraculously, she only forgot one thing. We said goodbye and I blew her a kiss, which I saw that she caught in her hand (though she’d hate that I’m telling you that detail, I bet). By this time, my dreams from last night had fully receded with low tide, leaving only the light of an exposed day in full swing. A 20-minute emergency nap. Another coaching hour, this one raising the question of how we teach what we have to learn, culminating with a gorgeous, living list of ways to gauge EASE. Ah, ease.

Then I made lunch for Mani and wrote Monday’s prompt for The Story Sisterhood, by which time it was almost 3:30pm. Time to go to her dentist appointment (she hasn’t driven in well over a year due to the neuropathy in her feet, which is healing). During Mani’s appointment, I greeted and welcomed newcomers in the Poetry group, and also played a few rounds of Candy Crush on my phone. When she came back into the waiting room, I was relieved to hear that she doesn’t need any major dental work beyond a couple of fillings that need to be replaced (we had both been nervous about this, due to potential mast cell complications).

On the way home, we decided to stop by my parents’ house to welcome them back from a trip. We took a little tour of some freshly painted rooms, received lovely gifts from their recent time abroad, and then chatted in the kitchen about this and that before saying goodbye.

But it was a Jewish goodbye, meaning Mani sat in the car with her door open while my parents stood on a porch step and I lingered somewhere in the middle, our conversation still meandering here and there. And that was when I remembered the dream. The image I’d woken up with this morning, so vividly, but not spoken of and thus — I thought — forgotten all about. The spoons. My father.

“Oh! Wait! I just remembered a dream from last night!” Surely neither Mani nor my parents could’ve been surprised by these exclamations. I went on. “Dad gave me silver spoons, maybe four of them, all different sizes.”

My mom said, “Your father has a whole collection of them! He brings a new one home every time we travel!”

He did? He does? Who knew?

She hadn’t even finished her sentence before he’d gone into the kitchen; I saw him through the window as he open the silverware drawer. A moment later, he came back outside with three silver spoons in his hand, each a different size and style. One was from China; the other two of unknown origin. He handed them to me, as if reenacting my dream.

“No tattoos!” My mom admonished. (I assured her I plan on getting a hawk feather on my right arm, not spoons. I’m not sure she found this assuring.)

Shaking my head in disbelief as I walked around to the driver’s side, I called back to my dad — who is also a Freudian scholar — “Hey, what do spoons in dreams mean?”

“There’s no universal symbolism,” he said emphatically.

“Don’t ever think you and your father aren’t connected!” said my mom.

“May the Schwartz be with you,” I joked, looking him in the eye. I like sharing a name with him again.

But naturally, me being me, I looked it up later, after making dinner for Mani and then dinner for myself, after washing the dishes and getting caught up with all of my writing peeps. Spoons can mean nourishment — both offering and receiving. They can indicate prosperity and wealth.

And in this case, since they were a gift from my father to me, it occurs to me that they were a kind of blessing on my home, on my work. Perhaps a dream come true, quite literally. A symbol of approval, even, the kind you can spend your whole damn life chasing down.

What a mystery. What a gift. Thanks, Dad.