the point of life

walking back through the neighborhood
my body was called in directions by the world.
I turned down a path under white magnolia tress,
the earth below me and the sky above me covered
in the beautiful litter of silky petals.
I came across a playground,
a tree beside it growing
in an inviting pattern of low notches, and thought:
what on my to-do list today is more important
than taking a moment
right now
to make friends with this creature?
nothing, for this is the whole point of life.
I stepped over the little fence,
touched the cool bark,
and she carried me slowly up into her arms.
as the minutes passed, my body nestled unconsciously
into the shape of hers
and I hugged her in silence for a long time –
swaying with her as she swayed in the wind
my spirit floating in a universe of fragrance,
my heart in peace.

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authenticity

what are we doing?
what the heck is this?
all of these people sitting in this room!
it is so weird

why am I not running into the wind right now
I am not doing a good job of being here and appreciating this situation
my mind is everywhere in daydreams of adventures
of my body moving running jumping breathing

I feel sick and cramped in this room
the only thing happening is strange noises from people’s mouths
that are supposed to be meaningful

I am so restless

I see the entire earth in my mind
and exactly where this tiny stupid room is on its surface
and the pinpoint of my plastic seat
and it feels ridiculous

this is almost funny it is so strange
it is also infuriating
I feel like we are all acting like the world
is known
already explored
boring

I need to go run through fields
climb trees until the air is thin
then grow butterfly wings and leap off a cliff full of flowers
into the deepest part of the clear blue ocean

no more talking
I want to be quiet and listen
and the laugh and scream and cry at the top of my lungs
but no more words
just breathing in water
and swimming in wind

I wish we would all just fall through
to the center of the earth this very instant
and die
in the gorgeousness of fire and rainbows

consumption

Currently sitting in the D.C. airport – the people-watching is intriguing. Most people are in a hurry. Some appear lost or bored. All of them are carrying items. I wonder what is in their bags. And where are they all going? Why? What will they do when they arrive?

There are so many people. Even just in this airport, or on a single airplane, it is difficult to wrap my head around how many people there are and in such a small space. So many thoughts and feelings and breaths and heartbeats and years upon years of living history, all in one tiny little space.

There are many places to buy things in an airport. An airport is kind of like a mall. Actually, if you look with fresh eyes, it can become slightly difficult to discern the primary function of this building. Yes, everyone here is here to catch a flight. But far more transactions that center around food and items occur than planes take off. There is a Starbucks or a Dunkin Donuts every few hundred feet. There is a wide variety of meal choices, from many different fast food chains to nicer, sit-down dinner places complete with “patios” and customers drinking wine with napkins on their laps. Most of these different establishments are busy, complete with long lines of people waiting their turn at the entrance. An airport is a great place to make money. People have needs, and since they cannot leave the building once they are inside for their travels, they must satisfy them from within. People also want things, and there is something about buying oneself a treat in an airport that can often feel irresistible. The businesses in here have it made.

It is interesting to imagine how human behavior in airports might differ if there were no businesses of any kind (other than airlines) inside the building. Would people actually go hungry in between flights or, knowing that there are no eateries, would they bring their own food? Would there be more water fountains in the airport since people would not be able to purchase coffee, soda, alcohol, or any other beverage? Would people be in more or less of a hurry than they are now? How would the congregation of crowds differ? Would eye contact or passenger interaction be different? In the absence of goods for purchase, would mutual sharing and assistance arise if a person were in need? Would people fall apart without the opportunity to browse for clothes, snacks, books, and trinkets that they don’t need, or would some other pursuits besides shopping arise in its place as a successful and satisfying method to pass the time? For instance, games, conversation, meditation, bringing food and reading materials from home, or maybe even someone playing music at the gate.

I don’t think people are inherently dependent on being supplied with opportunities to consume in order to meet their basic needs or to be entertained, but as a culture we have certainly learned to behave that way – if, one day, suddenly none of the airports had businesses inside, it would be a mess at the beginning. I wonder how many people arrive at the airport with everything they need for their well-being already in tow. I wonder if, on that hypothetical day that airport businesses vanish, a wayward hungry person would be willing to ask a stranger for food. Probably not. Probably not, because we somehow created a world in which we are unable to trust each other most of the time. And, on the other side of the coin, we are also predominantly unwilling to share unless we receive immediate, appropriate compensation (like money). We guard our food and possessions so closely that we all almost always have to think twice before we help a person in need. Most of the time, any favor another person asks of us would be of very little consequence to our own well-being, but would add significantly to theirs; yet, we still find it hard to part with half of our sandwich, or a dollar.

I wonder how people would be different if we were not in such an overwhelming habit of consumption, and if we no longer set so much store on the perception that buying things is entertaining and brings happiness. I think people would share more. I think people would talk more and become increasingly creative. I think people would access plentiful wells of resourcefulness, flexibility and self-reliance. Ultimately, I think people would begin to trust each other again, because we would be relating to each other more directly than is possible when money is at the center of our interactions. I am not against airport businesses and I am not against money, but our dependence on consumerist behavior has created an altered human dynamic.

Also, there is a bird in this airport. It just flew by me, down the hall. I hope it finds its way out of here. It must be frustrated and terrified right now. My heart goes out to you!

sunrise

just now
I swam in the ocean
as the Earth turned to meet the sun again.
my body floated with the gentle swells,
beams of light streaming
through the cloud creatures above the water
and the last of the moonlight alive in my hair.
with the wind blowing steadily through my mind,
I thought about how this happens
every single day
all over the world.
I thought about how this particular sunrise
has never happened before and will never
happen again,
but in each one the magic is the same.
I tried to think some word-thoughts to express
my wonder and my gratitude,
but none came. and then I remembered
that just being here is the thought,
letting the ocean breathe into me
is the gratitude,
choosing to experience this dawn
and love this star
is the prayer.

water

I was just washing my hands and feeling the water on them. I was just enjoying the experience when I realized that water is the reason I am alive.

I could feel its life on my skin.

I went from awed to thankful as it poured into my palms and over my fingers from the faucet. And then suddenly I realized that by leaving the water running I am wasting this precious resource – and I know how precious it is, because IT IS ME and every other living thing – standing here where often we take clean, running water for granted.

I turned it off.

I stood and thought about how much I appreciate and how deeply I value water, for everything that it does and means. I thought about how lucky I am that I have access to it whenever and wherever I need it. That is not a given! So much of the rest of humanity does not have this. I stood there and my heart broke for all the people who cannot have clean water whenever they want: this means that they cannot always be connected with the number one thing sustaining us as organisms. The fact that another being could be cut off from replenishing the fundamental root of its existence is absolutely unthinkable. But there are so many situations in the world where exactly that is happening. How do we make this right? I don’t know. But I do know that every single thing on this planet, human and non-human, deserves to feel clean water run over her hands…to feel that pure joy and peace that comes from touching the heart of our world.

feeling the shadow of Katrina

We had a lovely brunch and then drove into the Lower 9th Ward. Ten years later, instead of rubble, the evidence of the disastrous levee failure is a few remaining houses surrounded by many empty, overgrown plots of land where others used to be. I don’t know which words to use to describe the feeling of such a sight. It wasn’t a sense of destruction in the traditional way; rather, I felt the energy, tension, shock, grief, and confusion of the event drift across the years and settle in me. The empty, grassy land was like the shadow of that volatile experience, the ghost of the unknown, the loss, and the struggle. I saw flashes of the past before my eyes sometimes – my mind spontaneously reconstructing visions of the houses that once stood, or their demolition, or the desperation of the people in the aftermath. All in a moment the scenes would write themselves onto the empty spaces where it all happened, in an explosion of colors and shapes, transporting me back in time. It was mind-blowing because one usually doesn’t experience empty space as something so heavy, so charged with history and personal human emotion. But this emptiness speaks unmistakably for everything that once existed: the whole communities swallowed, and the thousands of people who had built their lives there, forced to let go of everything they know.

I rode silently in the car with my hand out the window, feeling the exhale of this land where so much changed in a single day. I wanted to gather some of those invisible tendrils of emotion with my fingers and help carry them for a while, help lift some of the weight of hardship from the life of this place and into my heart. I cannot make much of a difference in this moment. But I can close my eyes and breathe in the thickness of the past and the struggles of my brothers and sisters, and send lightness forth in its place. Though I know none of those people’s faces, I know their hearts.

freedom

The other day my curiosity got the better of me, but only confirmed what I already knew. No more zoos of any kind, even insect zoos. The insectarium was very interesting and there were lots of beautiful butterflies, moths, and others, but it is not worth it and absolutely not justifiable. Thousands of animals in a building and they never see the sun.

I could feel the plea of the praying mantis in his tank. I could see the resignation written all over his body. My heart went out to the butterflies sitting on the windows — they know the difference between imitation sunlight and the real, wide blue sky. I watched a couple of giant bird-wing butterflies zooming back and forth across the ceiling, which was painted blue with clouds. It doesn’t take any kind of biologist or genius to be able to understand what they might be feeling. I could see, plain as day, their singular, soul-consuming longing to be free.

Language is an amazing thing, but sometimes I wonder if it has dulled us to the million other earnest, genuine, and obvious ways that this world communicates. We are so used to receiving information about the thoughts and feelings of others in word form that subconsciously we have been confused into believing that beings who cannot express themselves in words do not have desires, energies, and purposes that are equal to our own, or that matter, or that even exist at all. We are so used to talking to each other that we have almost forgotten how to understand all other, non-verbal forms of communication. We have forgotten how to see the flight of a butterfly for what is actually is and means, instead of merely as a pretty sight. Just because a creature cannot speak does not mean that it doesn’t have feelings, will, drive, and yearning all its own. Nothing that is alive on this earth was put here simply for the use or entertainment of someone else. An this is a truth that is plainly obvious to anyone who will look!

Ask yourself if the birds in those cages are chirping for our amusement, or for some other, desperate reason. Ask yourself if the praying mantis really does “enjoy traveling” like the sign says, and if his tiny glass box feels like home. Ask yourself why those butterflies are sitting on the window instead of on the plants behind them. Ask yourself if the giant bird-wing flying back and forth is fooled by the painted ceiling. Are these beings truly living their authentic lives? Look closely — just because they have no words, does that mean they have no souls? It is not a difficult question to answer for one who knows how it feels to be alive.

storm

the last couple of days have meant changing bandages
caring for my skin, vigilance, and rest.
life is not always glorious;
hardly ever, actually, though lucky people
often get to fool themselves. but then, sometimes,
an energetic wind calls through the curtains
and suddenly you find yourself outside
eyes open wide to the magic of an imminent storm.
lightning pierces your mind
and its thunder shakes your heart
as you stand motionless, all self forgotten, the sky
gathering you into its wild story.
what are bandages and inconvenience
in the presence of this true majesty?
trivial tasks, only, and they will be attended to with ease
and without emotion
after the atmosphere has finished its incredible dance,
after the perfect rainbow over the house has faded,
after the sun has completed its splendid, ritual goodnight.