posted September 16, 2011

Here is what happened in the last three weeks since we came back from vacation: Elle started kindergarten, Jay had another asthma attack and is now having to use a bunch of drugs that make us anxious (though he loves them, since he gets to watch TV when he partakes). We learned that as a result of his eye injury last June he will always have a slight dilation in his right pupil. No harm to his vision, thank God.

We survived hurricane Irene, but our beloved Keene NY lost their road, their library and many homes and natural elements. Our book came out amid much flurry and fanfare, Elle learned the bowings to Minuet 3 and “Happy Farmer,” I am planning to launch our first iteration of Big Kid HooteNanny, plus two new parent guitar groups, Katryna’s kids and our kids held a tag sale on our front lawn (at which I netted a grand total of $5. I would have made $15, but I spent $10 buying William’s tricycle for Jay).

And finally, wonderfully, our kitchen is finished. Today Ray hung the porch lights, Bill wired the stereo speakers through the basement, and we took the tape off the sill between the dining room and the kitchen.

I cooked a huge meal for the writers for my retreat, and as I cooked, I listened to Revolver. I got stuck on the George Harrison song, “I Want to Tell You.” What do you think he means by this:

But if I seem to act unkind
It’s only me it’s not my mind
That is confusing things.

Huh? Isn’t the mind the problem? Or does he think the mind is the seat of God? I wish he were alive so I could ask him.

On Wednesday, I had yoga with my friend and teacher Sara Rose. She talked about Kali and Shri, the two Hindu goddesses who represent different inner states. Kali is fearsome, roaring, violent with blood dripping from her teeth. She is a black as night, black as the womb; she is the place we all come from. She is the power at the center of the universe, the energy of the river, fueled by the hurricane which destroyed the roads leading to our town in the Adirondacks. She is our left side, in Hindu lore. The right side is represented by Shri, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. She is ordered, lovely, refined; she makes order out of chaos. She is the soft light of the full moon, the one who makes us all look good.

We need both. We need that primordial energy to evolve and change, or perhaps we need to understand that life is fluid and uncertain, that there will be hurricanes and earthquakes and tornedoes (even in Western Massachusetts) and that we all need to learn how to bend with the wind, find our balance as we navigate.

I have been making a practice recently to keep track of my money better. I was one of those proud non-math kids. I wouldn’t even write with a pencil because I associated math with pencils. In 4th grade when our teacher gave us our daily math handouts, I’d take a look at them, decide they were too hard, and shove them into my desk. I proceeded to space out (my greatest talent) and somehow got away with this behavior for two months. Then one day in November, Miss Burns called me back from PE and presented me with my forty days worth of math papers. “Do these by Christmas or else!” she shook them at me. I took them home, told my babysitter. She said she would help me. She took the stack and brought them back to me the next day, all filled out.

Anyway, thirty-five years later, I am trying to right this wrong by honoring the energy that is money and, well, noticing it more. Waiting before I buy more lightbulbs to see if maybe I had stashed a box of them in the top shelf of a closet, for example. Cashing checks people pay me. Buying beans instead of salmon for dinner. Not saying yes every time my child wants to go to the toy store. And most importantly, not spending more than I make and giving away what I can. When I do this–when I spend no more than what I take in, and when I do this in an engaged and conscious way, I feel so joyful. Enough is a feast, as I have heard recently, and in my experience, there is a world of difference between a feast and a binge.

They say that cleanliness is next to Godliness. There is something thrilling about a clean, new space. When I came downstairs this morning, I almost wept with joy at the fresh floors with nary a mark on them. I did some sun salutations at the new windows and then I meditated on the couch. The longer I live, the more I think that sitting still and breathing is the most efficient way I can use my time.

The first night we had dinner in the new kitchen, Elle said, “Mama, why did we need such a fancy kitchen, Mama. You’re not fancy. It’s not your sort.”

She’s right. I picked her up and held her. “You are a wise little lady,” I said. “How did you know that about me?” The kitchen is so beautiful, so Shri-like, and I am so inherently messy and right-brained (I’m assuming here, for the sake of a cohesive essay, that Kali who controls the left side of the body is the right brain and Shri is the left brain, but again, those Hindis who invented these goddesses are not alive for me to consult with.) I will feel more at home when the kitchen has been dinged up. Jay did his part by spilling some bread pudding on the new floors right near the couch. It’s been a long 9 months, this period of building this beautiful kitchen, and while I have enjoyed it tremendously (what’s not to love about picking hardware from Anthropologie?) I am more interested in plunging into the darkness again to scoop out some mud, slather it on my work table and get dirty. Creation is filthy. But more importantly, the balance has been off. My work is to live within my means, whatever that means at any given time. As I turn my attention to that task, I feel that fulcrum balance under my two feet. I feel the give and the take and I arrive, once again, at the stillpoint.

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  1. My my, how I’ve missed your nlog posts.

    Regarding Mr. Harrison’s trippy lyrics — Wouldn’t Buddhists agree that the mind is NOT the self, that “me” and “my mind” are different, and are often in conflict? When I do yoga or meditation, I’m trying to reduce the power of “the mind.” Hard for a professor to do, alas.

  2. Lovely post. I’ve missed the pleasure of following the workings of your mind. Looking forward to seeing it and hearing it in action again in class next week!

    Of course, I have to chime in on the George Harrison quote. I’m pretty sure I read in a late 1960s book (Hunter Davies’s, maybe?) that George singled out that line as one he would change if he could, for that very reason — “me” and “mind” being backwards. Library research shall be done.

  3. That’s a beautiful kitchen. Doing dishes at the sink might even be enjoyable looking out those windows. I wish you many happy memories there.

    Don’t forget to hang up the picture of your mother-in-law. 🙂

    (I really need to listen to my Beatles box set more. I have nothing to say about that quote.)

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