From my spectacular friend, Angela—a very magical being—after spending all last week gabbing together in the East Marion treehouse. It’s a quote from Anais Nin:
One must be thrust out of a finished cycle in life, and that leap is the most difficult to make—to part with one’s faith, one’s love, when one would prefer to renew the faith and re-create the passion.
Oh, God, and one more. I’m sorry (though, really, why ever apologize for great poetry?). It’s just that I thought I was new to Kay Ryan, and then I discovered, just now, this poem in the book I took out from the Greenport library last week, and was shocked: I had had this poem hanging on my various work bulletin boards for years! I guess it was in The New Yorker some time in the very olden days, and it spoke to me then too.
Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard
A life should leave
ruts where she
went out and back
to get the mail
or move the hose
around the yard;
where she used to
stand before the sink,
a worn-out place;
beneath her hand
the china knobs
rubbed down to
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
Her things should
keep her marks.
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
should be left scarred
by the grand and
be so hard.
the beach along
the glazed edge
the last wave
each step makes
a perfect stamp—
smallish, but as
sharp as an
goes the emperor
down his wide
the sea bows
Could it possibly be that I am fifty-five years old and finally beginning to understand 1) what state of mind makes me happy, and 2) that in order to be in that state of mind I have to trust my instincts on much more subtle levels than I ever imagined? What I mean is, could it be true that if I don’t think a choice is going to actually make me happy—let me say that again: actually make me happy—I shouldn’t make it?
Here’s the thing: I’ve always known that “someday” I wanted to live in a quiet place where there’s so much sand that sometimes you can’t help but track it into the house between your toes. I’ve always wanted to live among the flowers, the trees, and the birds. Also, I’ve always known that when my work situation was anything but calm and spacious, I was miserable. Often I’ve worked at a frantic, frenetic pace, driven by frantic, crazily driven people who wanted something that I could provide at the expense of my own well-being.
The point is, that it was me making this choice, without really grocking that it was a choice. I felt compelled to strive and compete and climb a ladder that got me somewhere, but not here: not to my precious here where I’ve always wanted to be but didn’t know I could be.
Today I was feeling one regret on this score: that I modeled for my daughter the other way—the frantic struggle, the long hours and stressful misery of one frightening deadline after the other for years and years. The first thing I did when I got home when she was little was check my messages (which drove my husband crazy). I wish I’d done that differently. And yet, I guess, given a chance, why would I change a thing?
We pay homage to the Mother Lineage.
Your robe is soaked in water,
Your hair is elegant and airy,
Your perfume is exquisite.
From a grain of barley dropped on the ground by seeming accident,
Great prosperity has sprung.
Your milk feeds the nation.
We like the crescent moon on your hair.
We emulate your openness and bounty.
You speak softly but your command carries weight.
Please do not stop loving us!
We bathe within a grove of bamboo.
Please help us to become gentle and tough!
Oh my god, there’s so much to say, and I spent too much time in the sudden-summer sun today to say it. I did find this quote, though, on Facebook, and it spoke to to me:
I’m not gonna sit around and waste my precious divine energy trying to explain and be ashamed of things you think are wrong with me.
Honestly, I have no idea who Esperanza Spalding is, but his or her attitude makes me so happy I could weep, though that might be other things, like the two utterly profound yoga classes I took today with the astounding Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee (for which I am so grateful), or the way the day started early with the fog around the ferries so thick that even the lights on the dock couldn’t show through. Maybe it has to do with the sudden lickers and sippers (as Paula and L.B. used to call the summer tourists) out in our beautiful beach neighborhood, throwing much needed dough into the system but ruining the view. (Maybe it had to do with the astonishment I felt at my own territoriality, and sense of “us” and “them.”)
Maybe it had to do with the fact that Toby and I were lying around my treehouse yesterday while Angela cooked us lunch, and now they’re gone. Maybe it had to do with the ladies made of silicon I saw today, who broke my heart; I wish people would love up their children, and I wish they wouldn’t replace their body parts with plastic, but that’s just me. I like to know where people have been.
The summer is here, and I find myself, on the first day of this new weather, missing, of course, the person I’ve spent the last many summers with. Her summer hat, her wife beaters, our walks through Soho. I don’t miss everything, but I do miss her morning coffee, and all the other things she did to make me happy. Maybe that’s why I feel weepy too. Anyway. Samsara is a bitch and then you die.
Happy Memorial Day, Blogateers. May your summer be cool and filled with kindness, love, and so much friendliness towards yourself that you know just how precious you are.
Maudie’s buying her first car this weekend, and we’ve been IM’ing about her feelings about it, and her options (lease, buy; credit-union loan, dealer financing). I, of course, being Deitch, am stridently advising her to be tough with the dealer, who I’m already sure is a professional liar out to steal what he can from my innocent daughter. I struggle with this—how do I protect her without scaring her? And should I or shouldn’t I be offering my advise to her—after all, she’s twenty-three and strong (but also very gentle and kind): does she really need my protection?
Anyway, she was talking about being nervous about the negotiation with the dealer, and I told her a story that I think she liked. It was about how one day this past winter, when I was visiting that wonderful and sexy psychopharmacologist I told you about a few days ago, she said something to me that I found very helpful. She told me that the Buddha said one thing, and one thing only: “I am awake.” The sexy psychopharmacologist told me that that’s all I needed to remember, ever: I am awake.
Maudie got it on the spot.
It makes me very happy to imagine my beautiful young daughter sitting across from a car salesman thinking, “I am awake.” That is, she is awake. That’s one thing, actually, I never have to worry about.
Art is a different value system. Like God, it fails us continually. Like God, we have legitimate doubts about its existence but, like God, art leaves us with footprints of beauty. We sense there is more to life than the material world can provide, and art is a clue, an intimation, at its best, a transformation. We don’t need to believe in it, but we can experience it. The experience suggests that the monolith of corporate culture is only a partial reality. This is important information, and art provides it.
I didn’t want to play the glockenspiel. I mean, rhonestly: who does? But my father had bought my mother a grand piano, and the person filling the house with sounds from it was yours truly—Little Deitch.
I, though, wanted to play the flute. And I wanted to be in the school band. Who knew that the music for the piano and the music for the glockenspiel were the same? And who cared? I was a child! Certainly I could play both the piano and the flute?
Anyway, the thing was that my father was sick. So, as I’ve intimated here at Distant Dock before, there were things happening behind the scenes that I knew nothing about—that I didn’t understand at all. I assume that the fact that my father was sick—that he was dying—had something to do with why 1) I was taking piano lessons in the first place, and 2) I was being asked to play the glockenspiel in the school band.
This is what I remember: My mother and father were sitting on a bench by the piano, and I was standing in front of them. I was nine, and I was crying. I was saying that I didn’t want to play the glockenspiel. They were not angry, but they were adamant. My father had always been the kind of man who stood with good posture and bucket loads of what the Tibetans call “lungta”—genuine, friendly confidence and presence. But on this day I remember him a little bent over, and kind of holding himself up with his hands on the bench. (It’s funny how I dress him in my mind; in my mind I dress him in my favorite shirts and shoes from his closet: two tone golf shoes and a red-and-white vertical-stripped shirt, well pressed, with buttons shaped like tiny feet.)
I didn’t register it at the time, but when I look back, that’s what I see. I see my mother being gentle with me, as if to say, “Do this for your father.” But I didn’t get the message then. It took me until recently to get it: it travelled over time and space—forty-six years—and it waited in my unconscious until I started the Dad Memories, to try to remember where my love comes from. I loved my dad. I didn’t know he was going to die. Had I known, I would have happily, eagerly played the glockenspiel in the school band. At least I hope I would have.