A Healing Balm and Arms Stretched Out Towards Azure Skies
My weekend away was better than I could have imagined; a concentrated healing balm that soothed and stretched and opened me up in many directions all at once. I wrote a lot while I was there, and here’s what came out:
It feels so strange to be this alone. Turning off my phone, turning off the wireless internet switch on my laptop – the only thing I am allowing myself is music. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with this silence – for less than two days, I brought seven books. Excessive? I call it choice, options, a buffet of literature. Some poetry, some Scripture, a play, some essays, some narrative. I find different parts of myself in it all.
(Some of my grand assortment.)
To fill the silence with some sort of movement, I do yoga. I practice yoga, though not well and not as frequently as I should if I claim to do it. As I was following the video podcast that I use today (the idea of doing yoga in front of other people is horrifying to me, akin to getting a medical exam in front of a crowd), I came to see where the benefits in yoga lie. Yoga masters will tell you it’s the breathing, it’s the pushing out of the bad, and the drawing in of the good. As I stretched forward, leaning into the sunlight of the blue sky out of the windows in front of me, it became clear. It’s the sheer force of the awareness that makes yoga so valuable for me – harnessing in all my renegade thoughts and distractions, and rooting them in the focus on tension. The tension between movement and rest, between inhale and exhale, between pain and relief. I’m sure it all has something to do with toxins in your muscles and aligning my chi, whatever that may be, but for me, I find my most valuable benefit in the awareness it brings to me of the tension that I constantly live in, and that, despite what the everyday, brain-buzzing fogginess may tell me, this balance is essential to what it means to be human. The one pose that you will find in every yoga session is the Shivasna, or the resting pose. It is exactly what it sounds like; at the end of a class, you lay on the ground, palms up, resting for usually about five or ten minutes. This is when yoga really does its work, though I couldn’t tell you exactly what it’s doing. All I know is that when I get up, it’s not the sore muscles that I attend to or the hair hanging in my eyes; it’s the renewed feeling, that reminder of the tension that comes to its full restorative power in rest.
I just saw my first seagull of the season, surfing on the top of a breeze, slicing through the chilly spring air. Though I will whine and complain throughout the winter on how Michigan is God’s joke on humanity, it all changes once the snow begins to melt and spring arrives. (You’d think everyone in this state is bipolar but I’ll refute that; it’s only the weather that is. If we are too, then we can’t help it.) But ah, there is nothing like summer in West Michigan – I think it’s how I handle all the other frustrations of the weather. The sapphire lakes, stretching out like a cat on a long, sandy rug, some of the most beautiful coastline you will ever see. Acres of maize-colored beaches, with crumbly sand that sticks to your toes and covers the floor mats in your car, but that you cannot help but walk a little slower, just to feel the grains touching your feet. My favorite ice cream shops open; the one that has the toasted coconut ice cream that my sister and I have driven 45 minutes to get because it’s so good. I gather armfuls of flowers, just to touch the velvety petals and inhale the wet scent of the rain-dropped green. I can hear the crackle of grills starting up again as soon as the snow melts; the eternal scent of summer – charcoal and hot concrete, mixed with the wild, green smell of the lake. It hurts to think of the summers that I spent holed up in cement walls, working, and came to the end of August only to realize that I never even got to the lake that summer. That should be a crime punishable by the state of Michigan; think on that, Governor Granholm.
(This view of the Sleeping Bear Dunes from two summers ago is what I remember when winter makes me feel like weeping.)
When I am feeling sensuous, I read Frances Mayes, drink wine and listen to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” album, where her voice is gravelly from years of cigarettes and mouthfuls of chord changes. Tonight, I am drinking red wine and eating grapes; something that might seem like a redundant juxtaposition, but instead, feels like what Bacchus (and God) intended. Eating the impossibly fresh and bursting fruit and drinking its lifeblood; it feels so basic, so natural. I savor the connections, the strains of its sweetness, its age and its youth; it’s so beautiful, beautiful. This is the Bella Tuscany coming out in me; I have been reading and rereading Frances Mayes for years and just finished another one of her books. I am convinced that we are secretly friends; a friendship I openly acknowledge, one that she has yet to find out about. I imagine in some ways, we all have friends around the world that we don’t know about yet. I suppose the lucky ones do. I think I tend to see the world through photographs and stories; ones I take with my eyes and write in my mind, every moment, every glance, every breath, every rustle of wind and taste of spring air. All my life, I have been writing a novel in my heart and each day, I am finding out a little bit more about the story.
(Hello my sweet contradiction. It was delicious…hence why all the grapes are almost gone.)
I am watching a father and son take a walk outside of the condo that I am staying at. They are wearing the same shoes and pants, and walking in the exact same manner; aimless yet with purpose. With their stocking caps, teeth chattering through those first few lighted evenings of spring, it reminds me of how God must see us. So small, unable to really find our way on our own, but yet He can still look down, and say “Yes, that’s my child. See, he looks a little like me.”
It’s so strange to walk on sand that is still partially frozen, and to see piles of ice make a pearl necklace around the coastline of the lake. Yet the sun is warm and in a sweatshirt and jeans, only my nose feels the chill still lingering the air. I hear You here, in the rhythmic lap of the waves, in the desolation that is just beginning to reawaken. A steady whisper of “Go,” and “Stay.” Keep your heart steady here in this beauty, but go seek where else I have lavished it.
There is something so humbling about seeing something no person has touched in months, like the pond ripples that are scattered across the sand. I try to picture what this place must look like in a snowstorm and it frightens me. It is beautiful, yes, but as I climb up the coastline of gritty ice, I look down into the churning water and draw back, knowing even on a mild day like today, the water is a terrible force. Today it seems so lonely, like it was hoping I would come here and it brought out the sun just for me. The sky is so deeply blue that its pour down my throat like water, filling me up to the brim until I feel like I can’t take anymore. Yet something inside me fills and refills, always thirsty for more blue sky. I listen to the crackling schoolgirl giggles of the dried reeds and beach grass, rubbing against each other and flirting in the cool breeze. A thawing gold, they stand out snappily from the crumbling brown of the sand and the sharp colbalt blue of the sky. I feel strange here, some dreamy-eyed girl with a notebook, reading aloud to myself and stretching out my arms to the sky. My only companions are far as I can see are some fisherman a few hundred yards down, content to ignore me, and after the first hour, leave for home with their daily catch. I am now alone on this wild, windy stretch and I lay down in the sand, surprised at how I don’t sink down in it. The ground is still firm enough to not yield to my weight, yet soft enough to lull me into a light sleep. I stare and stare at the blue sky until my eyes begin to hurt. Breathing in, breathing out, the air tastes and smells like blues and greens, that distinctive smell of the Great Lakes.
(Lake Michigan, wearing its pearl necklace. Sorry James if this seems familiar, I must have internalized your last entry!)
In a way, I think I feel a little left behind. I have friends who’ve been brave enough to scatter themselves across the world, yet I’m still here, peering over life’s cliff, repeatedly asking, “How’s the water? Is it okay?” I’m not asking anymore, I’m jumping. More on that later.