Leap

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.

The Grand and Damaging Parade

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
deep tracks:
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
white pastilles;
the switch she
used to feel for
in the dark
almost erased.
Her things should
keep her marks.
The passage
of a life should show;
it should abrade.
And when life stops,
a certain space—
however small—
should be left scarred
by the grand and
damaging parade.
Things shouldn’t
be so hard.

—Kay Ryan

Flower

Backyard Poppy Brilliance
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?

Backyard Being-Born Peonie, Leaning into the Camera Like a Puppy
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.

Brand-New Backyard Lettuce
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?

Dakini

Khandro Tsering Chödrön* 1929-May 30, 2011

The Supplication to the Mother Lineage

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!

—Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

*Check out this amazing, beautiful recording of Khandro Tsering Chödrön doing the Vajrasattva mantra. Wow-wee.

Weepy Preciousness

Peconic Bay from the North Ferry, 7:15 A.M., Memorial Day
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.
—Esperanza Spalding

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.

Awake

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.

Ask Me What a Rosebush is For

I think I need to read Jeanette Winterson’s short Guardian piece on art about once a day.

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.

(h/t Suzanne Morrison’s blog, via Shanti Town)

Dad Memory #13: Glockenspiel

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.

Posted in Dad

Freedom

Dear Everyone,

Today I decided to liberate myself. I’ve been waiting for it to happen on its own—that is, after more time, more space, more dreams, more practice, more yoga, more therapy, more writing things down, more martinis with L.B., more talks with Ang, more Toby love, more overall, darling Maud, period—and I guess maybe it happened. My challenge was breaking free from my sadness and preoccupation without shutting down my heart, without building a wall of anger, which was how I’ve “liberated” myself so far in this lifetime. I am really adept at that, and I’ve hurt people with that particular habit and defense.

So. Berkley has always used a phrase with her boys—”Fly, baby, be free”—which I’ve decided to adopt today. Fly, baby, be free: that’s to you, whomever you are, and to me. Everyone gets to fly, and if you want to come back and visit, you can. If you don’t, that’s completely fine: Fly, baby, be free.

Anyway, now’s the time to tell you why I’m talking so much about yoga these days. I think it has to do with a day over the winter when this completely cool and sexy psychopharmacologist I was visiting told me that I was experiencing “learned helplessness.”

I knew what “learned helplessness” was from having written a piece about stress a few years before: Some scientists were experimenting on dogs in the nineteen-seventies, you see, and discovered that if they put the dogs in a box with a doorway, and shocked them, the dogs would run through the doorway to safety. But if they put the dogs in a box with a doorway and held them in place (by putting their back legs in slings—ugh) and then shocked them a few times (ugh X ten), when the dogs were finally set free, they wouldn’t run through the doorway. They’d learned helplessness.

So. That was my diagnosis. (I’m not pointing fingers here.) What I was surprised to discover when I started dragging my sorry self to yoga this past winter, just to get a little space in my joints, is that I was slowly changing my circumstances for the better. Slowly I was getting physically stronger. Slowly I was starting to look better, and feel better physically. All I had to do was show up in shorts and T-shirt, and someone would tell me what to do for an hour and a half, and on top of that, the good teachers would talk every class about freedom. Or they’d talk about not being so hard on oneself. Or they’d ask if there was something we’d done that day that made us feel proud. Yesterday Colleen talked about looking inside our bodies in meditation and seeing that there was infinite space—there are infinite possibilities.

So this is what I’d like to tell you this rainy morning, as the birds are singing their socked-away songs, and the light is bright from behind the clouds: I don’t want to be a glass-half-empty person anymore. I’m beginning to look around me and I see that part of myself reflected all over the place, in lots and lots of grumpy, angsty, sad people and situations. I’m not stuck in sling, and I can see the door, even though sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to get from here to there.

This is why I’m talking so much about yoga. Because when I take the two ferries to Sag Harbor and walk into Colleen and Rodney’s studio and they’re in there smiling—even though I’m sure they’ve got serious stressors of their own—I feel like I’m walking through that door to a place where I’m not only not helpless, but I’m happy and I’m free and safe.

Little Girls

Yesterday morning I was headed into the city to see a play, when I spotted a little girl standing on the sidewalk on a main road in Greenport. She was holding two plastic grocery bags filled with something, and she crying, the tears visibly running down her cheeks from the other side of the road, going 30. I pulled my car into a driveway a few yards up, turned around, and stopped near her. I got out.

It’s a funny thing about approaching a child who’s alone. They’re not supposed to talk to strangers, and strangers are not supposed to talk to them, so it’s a little tricky. I stood about five feet from her, and asked if she was alright. She wiped the tears from her eyes, and said, very faintly, “I want to go to my friend Kelly’s house.” I looked at her grocery bags—they were filled with clothes. I looked at her shoes—they were purple terry-cloth booties, probably slippers, and one was hanging off her foot; she was stepping on the part that was supposed to go up her leg. She had a hodgepodge of cornrows and dreads and braids—someone did not delight in doing her hair.

I said, “Are you running away?” And she nodded her yes. I said, “Ah, right. I ran away at your age, too”—she was about eight—”I know what that’s like.” She nodded again. “I want to go to Kelly’s house,” she said again. I said, “Where’s that?” And she pointed in the direction of the bay. “Over by the school,” she said. She was still crying.

Right about then a car pulled up along side her. Behind the wheel was a matronly black woman, and beside her a hefty guy in his thirties with an earring and a t-shirt. “Are you alright, sweetie?” she said to the little girl, giving me a dirty look through her windshield. “Where’s your mommy?” The little girl looked slightly scared, and wiped more tears from her eyes. “She’s home,” she said. “I wanted to go to my friend Kelly’s house.” The woman said, “Is everything alright at home? Is your mommy alright?” The girl said, “She’s asleep.” It was about 10:30, a nice day. The woman asked who her mommy was; she listed a few names, one of them being Megan. The little girl said, “My mommy is Megan.”

The woman stuck her head out the window and said, in my direction, “I know where she lives; I’m going to go get her mother. Will you stay here?” I said yes. I wondered why this woman, who clearly thought I was untrustworthy, trusted me to wait with the little girl. I imagined her describing me later as a white lady in jeans and a poncho. (Maybe it was the cashmere poncho from Eileen Fisher that made her feel I wasn’t a serial killer.)

The little girl and I waited together, her looking miserable, and me trying to make her feel a little better—but about what? I asked if she’d had a fight with her mom, and she said, “No.” She was still wiping the tears out of her eyes, still saying she wanted to go to Kelly’s. Finally the matronly woman drove by, and the little girl said, “There’s my mommy.” She pointed at one of the hooptyest cars I’d ever seen, coming down the road. The thing was listing to the northwest, and the entire hood was rusted.

It was a white woman who parked and stepped out. She was in an enormous t-shirt and pajama bottoms. She was pasty, and she was very fat. She looked at the girl from across the street with barely disguised fury. She said, “What are you doing?!

I looked into this woman’s face when she reached us, and realized she was probably not yet 25. I said, “She’s a really good kid,” but the mom wasn’t listening. She wasn’t even present. She was overtaken by her emotions, and who knew what they were: rage, shame, fear, embarrassment, hopelessness, helplessness.

For the rest of the day I wondered if it wouldn’t have been better to call the police, rather than getting the mom. Maybe the mom needed a little supervision. Maybe the little girl needed a witness. Maybe she was going to be fine. Maybe she wasn’t.

One time I found a baby in nothing but diapers toddling alone past my apartment in L.A. She was probably fourteen months old (Maud was just two at the time). She didn’t speak. I picked her up and walked back in the direction of where she came, hoping to bump into her mom. But there was no one on the street. I walked with the little girl for three blocks, asking her if she lived in any of the houses. Finally she pointed to one. I went up to the door, rang the doorbell, and her mother answered. She had no idea the baby was gone. She didn’t seem alarmed.

When I got home, I called the police and told them what had happened. They sent an officer over there to see what was up, and then he came by my place. The cop said there was nothing he could do. He said something like, “It’s very hard to take a baby away from her mother. It’s not often an ideal situation for the child. Unless the mother is a drug addict, we don’t recommend pushing for it.”

That was, I think, a good example of emptiness. There is no one way to look at it; there is nowhere to land.