What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

Noticing what I’m not noticing (a check-in chicken)

Noticing

During zoom yoga with my friend Cate, she suggested that we try noticing what we’re not noticing.

This reverberated in me like the perfect stone skipping across the waters of my consciousness. How do you notice what you’re not noticing?

It is a striking question. Or a request. To notice where my attention isn’t asks me to pause. Intention & Curiosity.

There are of course the usual suspects that I can notice I am probably not noticing, releasing tension in my jaw, there’s that tightness in the ribs I forgot about, oh and the vastness of the anger in my heart, haha how did I forget to notice that, has it just become part of the scenery.

Also the many things I don’t notice because they’re working just fine, a whole subset of forgotten goodness.

Anyway, a weekend check-in (CHICKEN!) is not only a reassuring ritual for me, it is another form of remembering to notice what I may not have noticed. We made it. High fives all around and admiration and some breaths.

Breathing for what was hard, challenging, uncomfortable, not fun…

Obviously THING ZERO before all else, the absolute levels of fear in the collective as we all held our breaths for Inauguration wondering if we would get a peaceful reassuring day or if all hell would break loose again.

Thing One remains the combination of the pandemic and the dissonance between people who are committed to getting through it and people who still don’t seem to take it seriously. This is true for the pandemic and for many other things. A breath for how much I want consensus reality and can’t get it.

Thing Two, a variation on Thing One that I’m not able to articulate yet, something about about how the ongoing work of dismantling the very oppressive systems that I also benefit from, propagate and uphold is made unnecessarily challenging by that reality gap. Obviously this is not a new theme, and it’s an experience that is more challenging for more marginalized people, so this is not a poor me complaint, just a noticing and a noticing about the not-noticings, acknowledging the ongoing challenges of no agreed-upon reality.

(This is something I thought about a lot during the Kavanaugh hearings when most men in my life seemed to exist in a world in which thinking about the hearing was intellectually interesting as opposed to physically agonizingly painful, I am thinking about this now in a variety of contexts, anti-racism work, disability rights, protecting our trans friends, advocating for people without homes, undoing internalized fatphobia, all the big work of amends and internal rewriting. A pebble for the thing I mean.)

Thing Three is the exhaustion and the unraveling. I keep having mini-weeping sessions when I realize just how much tension the last five years of terror have put into my body, but I know a bigger release and possibly a massive delayed reaction meltdown is waiting for its big Broadway moment. Trying to function in a world in which that man had access to nuclear weapons was honestly a full-time trauma that we couldn’t even really fully express for fear of just losing all ground. Can I notice all that I didn’t let myself notice? Not sure I’m ready for that much noticing. Do I even remember what it’s like to not be on edge?

Thing Four: Still missing someone so much, and hating that I don’t have the ability to hold myself in higher regard on that front, but also noticing what is of the moment; intent on loving myself more because I am a human being who loves hard and hurts hard, this is part of being someone who feels so deeply and with such intensity.

Thing Five is this absolutely ridiculous culture we live in that wants January to be productive and about goals, when it’s winter (here in the northern hemisphere) and we all just went through the most stressful hell-month after the hardest year. I have received texts from almost every person I know this week and they have all been on the topic of “I simply cannot get anything done”, and I just want to confirm that the entire notion of getting things done not only needs to be kicked to the curb generally, but specifically as we emerge from this absolutely cataclysmic crucible of the last five years, we gotta just sleep it off and stare into space for a while.

And Thing Six is still not understanding how time works, after nearly forty four years of doing this being alive thing. I am in the middle of trying to undo a story about how I did not set up my day well / didn’t prepare well / didn’t understand time, because that is not true and that’s not how my wise selves experience me or time or my relationship with time.

All I know is that I can believe I am planning well and allocating time and attention beautifully, but even at my most focused and attentive, maybe one of the six things I think can fit in a day can get some love. A breath for this confusion and this process, and tending to my ADHD brain trauma brain with tenderness.

Breaths of Acknowledgment & Legitimacy for the hard things being hard, recognition that they really are a lot.

Breathing for what was good, reassuring, joyful, sweet

  • Thank you, peaceful Inauguration day miracle. I watched absolutely none of it and instead committed to holding the force field for peacefulness. I took the word AUGUR from Inauguration, and spent the day as the Muse of Peacefulness. Drew cards, did a reading, gentle bobcat yoga all day, 365 sun salutations, five meditations, steady breaths all day for the collective. I’m not saying that’s what did it, but I’m not saying it wasn’t. Haha who knows if it helped at all but what matters is that I followed what felt strongly indicated for the day, and if it helped steady some of my friends, then that’s a sweet bonus.
  • A breath for remembering hope, some joy, vital first steps, grownups in the house, we can work with this to move towards what matters. Brand New Day superpowers. A breath for what is possible.
  • In an absolute miracle, got some focus, and everything that needed to get done somehow fit in without rushing.
  • The Inauguration brought the rains to Tucson after the driest winter, I woke up to it and breathed relief.
  • Heroically dealt with some things that are not my favorite, and it went okay, a trillion points to me.
  • My wish of Delicious Food, Beautifully Plated is still happening every day. I cannot emphasize enough what a huge deal this is. Not only because it’s been my wish to treat myself as well as I treat others, but given the reality that two months ago I was too depressed to feed myself at all, and couldn’t manage much more than grabbing a snack from the mini fridge in the absolute hellish tiny house where I was staying in the middle of Tucson.
  • Incoming me aka That Bitch, the me who knows about how to hold myself in High Regard, the one who doesn’t ever use the phrase “high maintenance” because that’s just Appropriate Standards, the one who remembers how to be the cat, the one who laughs when I say (as I so often do when I am mad), “I was born on an avalanche, I came out with abs and I’m here to fucking destroy you and your family!”. I love this self and the gifts they bring in images, dreams, bits of poetry, reminders, we talk all the time and are so in love with each other, blissful.
  • Two weeks ago I said, “I want an impossible want (a substantive apology from someone who hurt me, for starters), the only way to get my wish is to bathe myself in love until I can let it go.” And today after a long difficult conversation, I did receive the heartfelt apology I wanted and didn’t imagine I would ever hear, and it meant a lot to me. A breath of gratitude for the unanticipated, someone else taking the time to notice what they weren’t noticing, their intake of breath when they noticed what they hadn’t noticed, that was a gift too.
  • Today is the anniversary day of something in my life that is very painful, and I was dreading it, but then a conversation with a friend reminded me of the playful way she shifted a painful memory day for herself by declaring it a Feast Day. So I did the same and maybe I will share more about that later, for now I will just say that I didn’t expect this to work for me, but I ended up having a really beautiful and meaningful day, a breath for all the powers of rewriting, which is at the very heart of Self Fluency.

Play with me in the comments! You know the drill…

I love company! You can always use a made-up name in the comments whether in service of safety or playfulness.

We are all going through what we are going through. So we make this a sanctuary by not care-taking or problem—solving for other people, we can leave each other warmth or hearts of love or pebbles of witnessing. I still have not figured out how to get emoji to work in the comments, sorry!!

How are we holding up? Anything hard and/or good in your week that you want to name here? Sometimes naming helps. I have found for me that taking breaths while I name things helps a lot.

And if that’s not your thing, you can say hi or name something you’d like more of for the coming week.

Love ya,
Havi

It might be art (a check-in chicken)

It has been Decided (it’s art!)

Do you know the Art Decider twitter account? I am taking an extended holiday from social media which has honestly been luscious and restorative, who knew, other than literally everyone?

However, if one must be on Twitter (or if one is wisely not at all on Twitter and wondering what I’m talking about), the Art Decider account generously and hilariously confirms that many things are indeed art.

For example, if someone shares a ludicrous anecdote, someone might comment: @ArtDecider? And then Art Decider will comment: ART.

Anyway, sometimes this runs in my head all by itself, and as I took a bite of the first of my gorgeous, difficult-to-acquire, magnificent vegan bonbons from Monsoon Chocolate, I gasped and instinctively whispered ART.

So this has been my proxy or a sort of lens over this past week, and it has been amusing me in this time when small amusements help a lot. Is it art? ART!!!!

Here we are, a weekend Check-in (Chicken), checking in with ourselves and our week, naming what was hard and/or good, often there is cross-over, to practice presence and other good things in community. High fives all around and admiration (a parade if we want one) for making it here, and some breaths for all that was and is.

Breathing for what was hard, challenging, uncomfortable, not fun…

THING ZERO before all else is still the same Thing Zero: existing in terrifying political upheaval here in the United States (with the extra fun backdrop of Thing One aka the pandemic and the specter of death, the grief-loss-panic-fear of it all). I wonder if the person driving next to me or walking on the street thinks armed white supremacists storming the Capitol is awesome, for example. I know we always are among people whose inner thoughts we find abhorrent, and the dissonance is not in any way new, it is just very loud. Hand on heart breaths for being in this tumult, and separating from the anxiety soup of the collective.

Thing Two: moving again, it is not my favorite. Taking care of everything myself, also not my favorite.

Thing Three is the unwelcome return of the 2am Witching Hour after a blissful five night reprieve.

Thing Four, unexpectedly heard from my long-lost lover. Just the most bland, unseasoned, uninspired attempt at reconnection. No spark. I miss spark life. I miss being a bonfire of love. This casual politeness borders on insulting; an unworthy offering to the goddess. Not Art!

My wish is to achieve a state of Devastating Serenity, from which to calmly notice when I am not being lovingly held in high regard, and casually ignore what doesn’t envelop me in warmth, without becoming a rage hurricane.

Thing Five is how I exist outside of time (ADHD plus dreamy piscean leanings), but live in a world that is time-bound, which means I continue to wildly overestimate not only how many things can fit into a day, but also my capacity and interest to give any of them any anything at all.

Thing Six the Blandemic — seemingly everything is uninspired, the internet is boring, fashion is dull, things I usually like feel lackluster. Not me, of course, I am at long last, having finally crawled from the pits of despair, back to being shining and sparkly, attuned to the Muse of playfulness and regeneration.

But everything else is unimpressive and NOT ART, sorry, this just is, I don’t know why, but my friend’s theory is that everyone took the break between xmas and new year’s to collapse aka encounter just how much trauma this year was, and the blandness is like a protective response. Maybe! Sounds reasonable!

Thing Seven: Boundary issues abounding.

And Thing Eight: My pause from social media and other distractions has mostly been a joy, but there is a post-sunset moment when I suddenly feel overwhelmed by the vast expanse of the hours before bed, crave distraction, but have no ability to focus on a book or a movie.

Then I realize I’m just gonna have to SIT WITH THE VOID and MY BIG TUMULTUOUS FEELINGS like a barbarian, haha, or really, probably more like: a person who is braver than I am.

Fortunately, I discovered that the You Must Contemplate The Abyss Otherwise You Are Indulging In Escapism is actually a clever internal self-criticism monster! So I’ve been watching food videos, learning how to pronounce words in other languages, reminding myself that seeking pleasure is a worthy pursuit for a Havi.

Breaths of Acknowledgment & Legitimacy for the hard things being hard, recognition that they really are a lot.

Breathing for what was good, reassuring, joyful, sweet

  • Thank you, Sonoran desert, thank you sunshine, thank you, lovely patio furniture, I curled up on a couch in the sun like a happy lizard and listened to the birds.
  • Each day in my tête-à-tête (meditation) with my Incoming self, I put in a request for supportive solutions, for support in getting better at welcoming and recognizing supportive solutions. And this week something that has been one of my BIGGEST scary stressful worries since October just resolved itself beautifully, a perfect right answer showed up. Is this Art? It is Art!
  • Expanding on that, this superpower of I didn’t even have to do anything, it’s all working out, incredible, more of this please (I definitely have other situations that could use some surprise good fortune), thank you, miracles.
  • Not to brag (totally to brag, joyfully, because this is exciting), for the first time ever I have been able to consistently close tabs and empty the Box of In every day, instead of letting both these situations get so overwhelming that I just have to go hide. A trillion points to me.
  • A related thing I love: in gmail, when you have dispatched all your mail, it displays an illustration of a woman in a yellow coat happily reading in the grass in the sunshine. A rewarding image indeed. And I think the legs behind her are supposed to be hers, but it looks like she just casually tossed some guy off a cliff and went right back to her book while he sails over the edge; this resting assassin goddess is my actual hero. Goals! And also: ART.
  • My mental health preservation move du jour (all week long actually) was spending five hours a day in yoga/meditation/dance/movement/legs up the wall, and you’ll be as astonished as I was to learn that yes, I feel amazing, and somehow everything else got done too, so what is this Sorcery???
  • I enjoyed my solitude again this week, a delight after the agonizing loneliness of 2020.
  • My chiropractor wanted to know WHERE all my shoulder tension disappeared to, and I told him it was all the neck stretches I’ve been doing, which is not not-true, but it’s probably two weeks of avoiding Twitter and news sites, maybe it’s taking care of my mental health, maybe it’s Maybelline, WHO CAN SAY.
  • Fuck yeah, impeachment in the House. Was that this week? What is time? And yes, everyone texted me about it.
  • My week was filled with delicious food, all things luscious and enticing, I fixed myself beautiful plates and even did some cooking (who am I), and took pleasure in taking pleasure, for no occasion other than being alive, which itself (pleasure-taking as its own occasion!) is maybe one of my biggest wishes.
  • My thank-you heart is full: texting with friends, the absolute miracles of technology, Zoom yoga with my favorite New Mexico teachers, a bundle of creosote from the herb shop hanging in my shower and filling my space with the scent of the desert at its most magical. Is this art? It is art indeed.

Play with me in the comments! You know the drill…

I love company! You can always use a made-up name in the comments whether in service of safety or playfulness.

We are all going through what we are going through. So we make this a sanctuary by not care-taking or problem—solving for other people, we can leave each other warmth or hearts of love or pebbles of witnessing. I still have not figured out how to get emoji to work in the comments, sorry!

How are we holding up? Anything hard and/or good in your week that you want to name here? Sometimes naming helps. I have found for me that taking breaths while I name things helps a lot. Also if you wish to declare that things are ART (or Not Art), you are welcome, it is even more fun than it sounds!

And if that’s not your thing, you can say hi or name something you’d like more of for the coming week.

Love ya,
Havi

The glorious & subdued return of the Friday check-in

Renewed

I had a flash of a desire during my morning tête-à-tête with Incoming Me, something about renewing a ritual.

Tête-à-tête is my secret name for the time I take to sit and commune with Incoming Me for twelve minutes, some people refer to this contemplative sitting as meditation, my word is both funnier and feels more true somehow, but I am the Namer Who Names & Renames, and playing with words is often the only way I get things done.

Anyway, a glimpse of a wish, related to something we used to do here every week for many, many years called The Friday Chicken where we checked in with ourselves and our week, naming what was hard and what was good, to practice presence (and other good things) in community.

So let’s see how this feels. It’s been a lot, this first week of 2021, let’s breathe and feel into the moment, a quick scan of where are we, these are disorienting times, let’s ground down and down-regulate the nervous system.

Weekend. We made it. High fives all around and admiration (a whole parade if we want one), and some breaths.

Breathing for what was hard, challenging, uncomfortable, not fun…

Obviously THING ZERO before all else, the ongoing unfolding terror of watching neo-nazis & pals storm the Capitol while their cop buddies invite them in. We knew this was coming, the writing was on the wall, and yet, somehow, still, it is something else to witness it. White supremacy at work is always grotesque, but this is a lot to take in even as I find myself surprised so many people are surprised when the game plan was known in advance. Anyway, hand on heart breaths for existing in this tumult, and separating from the anxiety soup of the collective.

Thing One is the dissonance, ongoing, the gap between realities, no consensus reality is exhausting and disorienting, a breath for the grief-rage and the perception that I can’t trust people around me to recognize an emergency. This is true for the pandemic and the political chaos, and I find Business As Usual stuff to be as irritating and challenging as The Many Bad Takes (and there are many, and they are bad!).

Thing Two is the missing, my hurting heart, I want an impossible want (a substantive apology from someone who hurt me, for starters), the only way to get my wish is to bathe myself in love until I can let it go.

Thing Three is the many unresolved items, tasks and mysteries, all in relation to the chaotic unknowns (when will a vaccine be on my radar, how can a transition of power work with no adults in the white house, etc).

Thing Four: moving is exhausting, and I am always doing it because of the no home thing (loading and unloading the car is my life right now), and this is especially not fun in a pandemic, this is part of the What Is of the moment. But hey, thanks to (jazz hands!) GENERATIONAL TRAUMA, at least I’m always half-packed…

Thing Five is big painful memories resurfacing, rediscovering old hurts that hurt somehow almost as much as in the moment even if the moment was seventeen years ago, and sometimes these realizations show up at 2am and then I am lost in a long Witching Hour of grief.

And Thing Six is realizing that if I want to be bathed in love and affection instead of waiting for crumbs, I have to do that for myself. I knew this, and writing it out makes it the most boring obvious epiphany of all time, but I was struck by the depth of the realization. This is all my job to hold myself in high regard and be that someone who loves me and treats me right, because no one else is going to do it.

Breaths of Acknowledgment & Legitimacy for the hard things being hard, recognition that they really are a lot.

Breathing for what was good, reassuring, joyful, sweet

  • Thank you, pink light on the mountains
  • I asked for supportive solutions and they showed up, thank you, miracles.
  • Heroically dealt with a scary medical thing and it was okay, a trillion points to me.
  • Pleased to report I spent a shocking amount of this week reclined on the floor with legs up the wall, and wow was that ever the right choice for me while everyone was (understandably) spinning out.
  • I actually enjoyed my solitude this week instead of feeling desolate; a lovely change of pace.
  • Chanced death by going to see my chiropractor and good news, I am recovering well from my little car accident, and we laughed about funny things. (Mostly about STRETCHING: How dare it always work?! Rude!)
  • A new incoming self who showed up between solstice and new year’s is hilarious and fun. This is the me who excels at I Hold Myself In High Regard, while being That Bitch.
  • And a long-time wish came true: to plate my food beautifully even though it is just for me; less resistance to making things luscious and enticing even if no one else appreciates or even knows about it.
  • I had good dreams this week for the first time in a very long time. Feels important, like a sign that I am no longer clawing my way out of The Big Despair and have found my way to the forgotten path.
  • And oh Georgia, what a miracle and blessing, relief and joy about Senators Warnock and Ossoff, gratitude for Stacey Abrams and everyone who worked so hard to make this happen.

Play with me in the comments! You know the drill…

I love company! You can always use a made-up name in the comments whether in service of safety or playfulness.

We are all going through what we are going through. So we make this a sanctuary by not care-taking or problem—solving for other people, we can leave each other warmth or hearts of love or pebbles of witnessing. I still have not figured out how to get emoji to work in the comments, sorry!!

How are we holding up? Anything hard and/or good in your week that you want to name here? Sometimes naming helps. I have found for me that taking breaths while I name things helps a lot.

And if that’s not your thing, you can say hi or name something you’d like more of for the coming week.

Love ya,
Havi

Grace / land

Fluent Self Saguaro

Image: Saguaro National Forest (please admire my enormous spiky friends, I like to imagine that they are gathering round for story hour and hugs!)

(Burn before reading)

This piece of writing feels so raw, unprotected. Maybe because it comes from the heart and is therefore also a bit unhinged, given that my heart is currently a place of anguish. If you are looking for something comforting or reassuring, I am not sure if what I have to say here can do that. These are the words I have in this moment, and they are a reflection of love, in that they are truthful, and the absolute most I can manage right now.

The blue door

I wanted to write about the blue door and I can’t, it turns out that I can’t bear to write about the blue door.

Then I didn’t want to think about writing anything for a long time.

Then the words came back, as they do, in their time, and I thought I wanted to write about Graceland or maybe grace landing, except it turns out I can’t do that either.

The cards said wait, and so I waited, this is the waiting, I am waiting.

In waiting

This is the waiting, I am waiting, I am in waiting, a state of not-yet, maybe-later, someday, who knows, who can say.

Waiting for what, exactly?

Waiting to be done with the waiting, waiting for my luck to change.

But when? When does it happen and when will I know?

I am so impatient and so lonely.

Will I recognize this mysterious I-don’t-know-what-it-is (who can say) that will tell me my luck has changed?

When will I know it is time to stop waiting?

Driving

In the essay I’m currently not-writing, the theme I am mostly not-writing about when I am not-writing is loss, and the person I am not writing about is myself of course, but I have also been not-writing about Justin Townes Earle.

Somehow I hadn’t known he died in August, may his memory be a blessing, but maybe that is why he has been so close, in my head and heart, with his way of expressing things that are hard to express.

And I just learned this week that he died of an accidental overdose. So. Peace be with you, Justin Townes Earle, maybe that’s why I listen to your voice when I go into the forest that is not a forest each day to mourn whatever it is I am mourning.

I know what I am mourning

Of course I know what I am mourning: my mother, my home, this year that wasn’t, my heart that doesn’t know how to want anymore, my ability to write words, the wishes I used to wish when I knew how to wish wishes, my ability to wish wishes itself, any inclination to love or to trust love or be in proximity to love.

I have lost my drive, and so I go for a drive, to mourn, in a forest that is not a forest, and I don’t find anything on my drive to recover my drive.

Maybe because I am still waiting for whatever it is the cards want me to wait for.

I guess it’s a delayed reaction mourning, what else is there when everything else is gone.

When I am driving I am listening

I drive through Saguaro National Forest when I am sad and able.

To clarify, I am sad all the time, sometimes much too sad to get out of bed, and quite often too sad to drive, but when I have the drive to drive, I drive towards the forest and let me repeat that it is nothing like a forest, except in that it extends forever.

The saguaro are enormously tall and breathtaking, full of love, these are tree-like things, yes.

They feel more like guardians than trees, but more like trees than other things that are not trees.

What is: a definition

Birds nest in them. They are alive in their aliveness and they glow love. So really, the absolute definition of trees.

But also spiky and solitudinal, sentient sentries, and you cannot hug them though sometimes they hug each other, which is extremely cute and makes you want to hug them even more.

Anyway the point remains that they are exactly nothing like trees in almost the same amount as how they are basically trees. It’s honestly bewildering to conceptualize, like everything else these days.

Unrecognizable

This year does not look like a year. The days do not look like anything.

This mourning does not look like mourning. I do not recognize myself nor do I recognize me from March, and I certainly don’t recognize my January selves, bless their hilarious naive goal-making and strategizing, their receptivity to life and willingness to plan.

Anyway, when I am driving (away, towards, ongoing) in my sadness, I am listening to Graceland. I am listening to Justin Townes Earle cover Paul Simon’s Graceland and make it his own.

The absolute ballsiness of covering a song like Graceland, amazing.

And to break it by making it just a little new. Renewed and slightly altered through being repeated lovingly in a new voice. You recognize it, this song you know intimately from childhood, and you don’t, because it is Justin’s now.

Tumbling

He has this little laugh when he tells you about the girl in New York City who calls herself the human trampoline, and this what I listen to (listen for) on repeat when I drive through the saguaro:

Oh so *this* is what she means?

He laughs the tiniest bit as he sings it, because it is both so familiar and so improbable to be falling, flying, tumbling in turmoil, so this is what she means.

So this is what she means. So, this is what she means? Yes. Tumbling in turmoil.

I drive and keep driving: Ironwood, Greasewood, Gates Pass, Picture Rock, winding roads composed of impossible dips, it feels more like flying than driving, irresponsible and dangerous.

Tossing and tumbling into grace, and landing, if you land.

(If you know what I mean, so this is what she means…)

Justin / Justin

I have never known a Justin, and then I was staying at the home of one, and constantly listening to another one. This just in. Justins, just in. There’s two of everything right now, with names, in my life. If I meet anyone new, I immediately meet someone else with their exact name. This just in.

And yet I am dying of loneliness and have no one to talk to. This just in.

People are showing up and waiting in the wings. The cards said wait and I am waiting. I just want to talk to someone but mostly I talk to the dead.

I read about how Fauci has federal agents accompanying him everywhere, because people threatened to behead him, which is of course absolutely wild and terrifying and wrong, like everything else this year, but my first thought was wow, your own federal agents, must be nice to have someone to talk to. This just in.

Oh, so this is what he means?

Dead or somewhere in between

I had a lover for one night, no, wait, no, there is something I have to tell you first.

Do I even remember enough to tell you the story? Something about a Catholic pilgrimage in Oregon that you can’t remember, when you’re tumbling into turmoil, and you say oh so this is what she means.

I went on a pilgrimage and I can’t remember the circumstances. Graceland is a pilgrimage too, of course. You go to be received, but you go for the going, to go, to have gone, for reasons that cannot be explained, that is part of the nature of pilgrimage.

Edges

Somehow we (four of us?) were in a car driving to Mt Angel in Oregon, to a Catholic pilgrimage spot, I don’t know why, I certainly don’t think any of us were catholic and so the pilgrimage was a combination day trip and short hike, maybe, who can say.

We were in the car headed there or returning, whatever the circumstances behind this trip, this is many years ago, the backstory has been erased at the edges.

One person I didn’t know, I think she was a friend of someone I met at a networking event, and it turned out she was a past life channeler, someone who helps you access your past lives.

Maps

I said, perhaps tactlessly, that I didn’t believe in past lives, which I’m sure I thought was true because why else would I have said it, but was also something of a hilarious lie given that when I first moved to Berlin, having never visited, I discovered on my very first walk that my brain came equipped with a built-in map of the entire city.

And that internal map was not nearly as disorienting as the many location-specific memories that were not mine.

But anyway, that’s what I said in the moment, on this pilgrimage, and in the moment it was true, or at least it must have felt true.

And she laughed and said she didn’t believe either.

Points

She said that in her mind believing is not the point.

Which is a very Jewish thing to say on the way to a Catholic pilgrimage, though I don’t think she was Jewish, the whole memory is so vague that I’m not entirely sure this happened.

(But I just checked with a friend who confirms it did.)

Who can say.

Can’t argue with that

The point, she said, is that she’d found past life regressions to be a useful way to help people release enormous amounts of trauma, and where is it written that we need to believe in something (or anything) for it to benefit you and others.

And isn’t that benefit ultimately its own reward. Can’t argue with that.

Though I did.

I asked way too many questions, all of which were unnecessary, and she was patient with my impatience.

For reasons

For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see Graceland
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there’s no obligations now

Many happy returns

Mainly I wanted to know about overlap.

If I burst into fits of overwhelming tears (which I do) each time I think of British soldiers in the trenches of WWI, how does this square with my sense memory of every street in Berlin and the dreams I have about Germany in the late 1920s, what of the abandoned ballroom where I remember dancing, I used to sing on a stage that no longer exists, I remember.

I don’t believe, because it’s illogical, but I do remember, in flashes.

And sometimes I remember other things, I remember being a nun and devoting myself to the son of god, even though I don’t believe in a god at all never mind one who has a son.

Certainly I remember places I have never been to and have never seen. Sometimes I will catch a glimpse of a location in a movie I’ve never seen, and recognize this place from a recurring dream. I know exactly where that staircase leads.

Explain that, car friend.

Memories

She laughed warmly and said they’re only called past lives at all because we are so completely unable to truly conceptualize that time is all happening at once, it breaks our brain and so the idea of “past” lives being from the past is like a cheat code, a shorthand.

I think you’re maybe trying to be linear about time, she said, when time is not-that.

Illusion

Progression and sequence are illusion, and time is round or around us or maybe it is in motion, in flow, who can say, time is mysterious, but it is definitely not sequential, that’s the thing.

In other words, trying to impose order on not-order feels like an endeavor in service of sanity but it actually does the opposite.

You gotta wake up each morning and celebrate the chaos, you know? Because what else is there. I didn’t know that, and I still don’t know how, but I try.

A glamorous assassin at the end of the world. Agent Chaos, chaos agent. At your service, by which I mean at my service.

Too much to hold / too much to be held

Locating alternate memories in the past becomes a way to discuss errant painful rememberings, while simultaneously imagining that this experience is behind us and not simultaneously unfolding, because that would be too much for our poor overloaded brains.

The universe is somehow both too big and too tight if you try to think about time too much or too deeply, and sure, maybe time is collapsing in on itself either way, but this sensation gets more uncomfortable when we poke at time.

Don’t provoke time, don’t feed it, don’t take photographs, don’t get too close.

I could be wrong.

Essence

Putting all discomfort around the great mystery aside for a moment, if time is all happening at once, or if we imagine that it is all unfolding in this moment, then really you can be anyone or everyone, at any time, you know? You can experience various forms of being.

Choose your player. Take a breath. Let’s go.

Call on a wise courageous loving self, let’s have an adventure.

Sanctuary

I last wrote here in September, which feels like years ago, I wrote nine thousand words about baby sloths and about sanctuary. I wrote it from the sanctuary of my sanctuary, which is now gone, it was gone faster than it came.

Have I written anything since then? I have been moving and on the move. I lost my sanctuary and it broke my heart.

I know from being alive that everything that needs to be said percolates for as long as it percolates, you give it time because that’s a form of love.

For me, writing is always about trust. The next piece will come when it comes. Do not rush a seed.

But everything else I know from being alive turned out to be wrong, so maybe that is not true either. Still, what is there but to wait for the words to whisper to me again?

Feelings

What do I feel? Bereft, distraught, anguished, so very alone.

My sanctuary, which I had worked so hard to bring into being, turned out to be the opposite of that, my peace and quiet was not-peace and not-quiet.

And what I thought was my sanctuary turned out in fact to be the place I had to immediately flee.

Don’t ask what or why, because I do not know

I still don’t understand what happened, all I know is that I truly believed I had found a resting spot for recovery, and so imagine my astonishment when it ended up being much worse than the situation I needed to recover from.

It’s not so much that the treatment was worse than the wound. It’s more like the treatment was a lie.

I thought I had landed, I thought I had found my place. My thoughts were bees to flower, consumed with how best to support rest.

Finally I had arrived in the quiet place, so the only question became how to soften into it, but there was no quiet and there was no rest, I was back on the run.

It seems laughable now, to have been so deep in delusion or illusion, and not have known what was coming, but who could have foretold otherwise?

Who can say

In a way I am in awe of how vulnerable September-me was willing to be, how ready to receive that rest, the bravery of agreeing to soften into safety, acquiesce to recovery after the most painful summer.

But that’s not what happened, my sanctuary was not the place for any of that, it was the place I had to run from.

The whole experience of sanctuary just folding in on itself, like time, and like memory.

To find, to found, to lose and be lost

Anyway, to make a long year short: I left the dome in the desert behind and somehow from chaos and loss was able to find (or is that to found) a dragon sanctuary, and then almost immediately had to flee that sanctuary.

And then because somehow things weren’t bad enough, my property was vandalized, someone attacked my car, I got in an accident, this all somehow happened in one day, and it’s not even the worst of it.

But I don’t have more energy to tell you what happened, and I had no more reserves of anything in me, everything hurt, and the cards said wait.

I rented a tiny house in Tucson and mostly stayed in bed.

Nothing is what it sounds like

Two weeks recovery in a tiny house sounded like dream life but it was also not in fact peaceful or restful or anything good.

Helicopters circled overhead, private planes, military planes, mystery jets. Meanwhile next door jackhammers, drills, endless all-day construction. Motorcycles raced at night. Opinionated chickens. Someone was always smoking outside. It was like a personal hell designed just for me.

As if the sanctuary that was not sanctuary had followed me in spirit.

Graceland

Eventually I had to get out of bed.

I drove to see the saguaro because that’s where I go when I am hopeless. I maintain, still, that you cannot stay in a bad mood when those enormous beings are waving at you with so much affection, they are the sweetest and goofiest guardians of this earth, think redwoods but with a quirkier sense of humor.

I drove through the painted rocks admiring the light that turns the mountains pink then red then purple, I drove through and past sunset and a car behind me was flashing its brights for no apparent reason. I drove fast and spoke the names of the streets like a spell.

There is a fire (there is a fire)

Not sure how to broach this topic because it sounds made-up and it is not, but I am in a weird twilight zone situation with my car, specifically with the music player that helpfully lights up the name of the song that is playing.

The songs report what is happening as it is happening, and it is bewildering.

I was driving near my sanctuary that turned out to not be a sanctuary (not mine and not a sanctuary), and there was a fire in the forest of mystery, and I panicked and looked at the dashboard and saw a message: THERE IS A FIRE.

THERE IS A FIRE.

Naming what is

It turned out this was the name of the song that was mysteriously playing, while there was a fire. There is a fire. There is a fire.

Pulled over by the side of the road, frantically calling 911 to explain there is a fire, while the words there is a fire play on the screen.

There is a fire, I said. There is a fire, my car said. We know about the fire, the lady on the phone explained.

There is a fire, insisted my car. I didn’t know whether to drive away or towards.

Blinding lights (blinding lights)

There is a fire, there is a fire, said the song.

There is a fire and it’s burning in my heart. (Is there? Is it? I don’t know about that part, it is desolate and lonely in my heart.)

Then later when the truck was flashing its lights at me on the mountain roads over and over again, the console showed me the words Blinding Lights, and I was like, yes, I know, but why?

Blinding lights was a song, as it turned out.

The songs are telling me what is happening as it is happening but I don’t know why it is happening, I don’t know why any of this is happening.

Held

I had a lover for one night, and if you’re thinking wow that doesn’t sound like you, that’s because I thought it was going to be for a very, very long forever sort of time.

My lover held me in their arms and I remembered them, remembered being held exactly like that, and I do not mean being held exactly like that by someone else, I mean that I remembered being held exactly like that by this person.

I remembered us together in dozens of lifetimes, which again I do not believe in, I remembered this person holding me like this, exactly like this, we didn’t always look the same but it was us, and I sobbed because it was so familiar and beautiful and painful all at the same time.

How did you find me? I can’t believe you found me. How did you know it was me.

Always, I will always find you if you want me, my forever lover said. And then they didn’t find me again.

Even though I am right here.

Wanting versus not wanting, versus versus versus versus

I’m not sure I want to be held if being held is gonna be like that…versus I don’t want to be held at all if it’s not.

This is the forever conundrum now.

I hate this loneliness that is making me lose my mind, and I also don’t see the point of being around anyone if I can’t be held exactly like that, in the way of lifetimes.

I saw the way it ended in the other lives, and it was not awesome. Sometimes it was violent and sometimes it was heartbreakingly sad.

But I still want it. It doesn’t have to make sense. Nothing else does.

Company (versus)

Driving to visit the saguaro when I am sad, with the dead for my company, this is what I do. I keep thinking about the phrase dead or in between.

Is my lover dead or in between?

How are we recovering from the trauma of this time?

I drove with my lover to the saguaro forest once, on the night that felt like the beginning of entirely new forevers, and they immediately fell asleep next to me, even as we bounced along on dirt roads full of rocks.

I drive, and I talk to myself, and I remember. How are we recovering from the trauma of this time? Will I remember this road?

Do I remember this road in a parallel life, is my lover asleep next to me there, where are we going?

To be (held) or not to be (held)

Obviously these questions (to be held or not to be held, that is the question, though I think Hamlet’s question was about death, and maybe everything is about death) are for a post-pandemic landscape, a place I don’t know how to imagine into.

It must exist, this place I’m holding on for, this place where being held is possible, because all paths are possible, all lifetimes and lifelines, but it’s also not a consideration that needs to be solved now.

(And yet, still, here I am, considering it.)

Don’t go

The more I think about Graceland, the more I become convinced that Graceland is definitely about death, and I’m not sure why it took me decades of hearing this song to understand this, and suddenly I don’t want Justin Townes Earle to visit Graceland, I want to tell him not to go, no need to pilgrimage to a place we’ll all arrive at eventually, not every location needs to be visited and revisited, stay with us, choose life, don’t go yet.

Hold on, I say to Justin Townes Earle. Hold on, kid, we need you.

Stay, says the console in my car, announcing the next song.

Dress for the job you want

On days when I get out of bed, I dress for the job I want, and the job I want is glamorous assassin at the end of the world.

My dear friend and favorite yoga teacher told me about seeing her identical twin sister dressed to the nines, and asked, “What are you doing, dressed up all sexy on a Tuesday in quarantine?”

And her sister said, “It’s the end of the fucking world. Get your goddess on.”

Get your goddess on. Dress for the job you want.

Who can say

I wake up in the middle of the night, and I don’t know what to do about my disturbing dreams or any of the mysteries, and so I ask for Clarity, Miracles and peaceful simple obvious solutions.

In my dreams, I am always moving (packing, cleaning, gathering), and I am always making terrible irreversible mistakes, for example, I need to give someone a tour of a house I don’t live in, and I just have to make sure to do this one seemingly easy thing, like oh just don’t let the goose out of the attic, or just don’t let the puppy into the room full of antique stained glass statues, but I am never able to get it right, and chaos ensues. I wake up exhausted and anxious, not sure how to make anything right.

In my waking, I practice rest and sorcery, I try to live by the glamorous assassin motto of Do Less To Get More.

I am waiting to learn what is beneath the exhaustion, and taking notes about what leads to the exhaustion.

Seeing / the window

And I see losing love is like a window in your heart
Well, everybody sees you’re blown apart, everybody sees the wind blow

But I don’t think they see it.

People ask how I’m doing and it doesn’t seem to matter what I say, if I say that I’m not fine, that the wind is blowing through my heart, blowing me apart, I’m just tumbling into turmoil, some days my project is just staying alive. And they say, yeah yeah same.

I don’t know if we understand each other a lot or not at all, who can say.

The blue door

Three summers ago in Jackson, Wyoming, I bought a tiny camper, a replica, tiny enough to hold in my hand, it was made of wood and had a blue door, I bought it to remind me about my dreams of small, cozy, portable, and road-worthy.

Two years ago in a small town in Arizona close to the Mexican border, I moved into a 72 sq ft camper with a blue door.

This year in a town near Santa Barbara, California, I bought a 150 sq ft trailer with a blue door.

It is extremely rare to find a trailer with a blue door but I keep moving into them and then moving out of them.

A familiar feeling, painful and beautiful, the blue door is the like the arms of the lover who disappears and returns in another lifeline. I know the blue door when I see it, and I forget it when it’s gone. Ending, beginning, opening, who can say.

Looking

I am looking for the next blue door. I am looking for that familiar smile that lights me up from within.

I’ll know it when I see it, or I will know it when it’s gone, though does it matter if I know, or how well I know it, Justin Townes Earle sings it for me each time I drive through the saguaros.

She comes back to tell me she’s gone
As if I didn’t know that
As if I didn’t know my own bed
As if I’d never noticed
The way she brushed her hair from her forehead

Landing

My uncle called to see if I was looking at the full moon and I cried and he comforted me:

you didn’t make bad choices
we do the best we can
you can’t know
I’m continually surprised at myself for making plans and yet I still make them
the world is strange right now and you’re always welcome here
it will work out, it will get clear
yes keep waiting hold on
very soon, it will shift
it’s a cloud, yes, it certainly is,
but there’s some blue sky behind it
I have ultimate faith and confidence in you

I am waiting because the cards said wait, I am waiting because my uncle is always right, I am waiting and getting dressed in my most glamorous assassin outfit because it’s the end of the world and might as well
play my favorite character (me).

Waiting and driving and dancing and remembering. This just in.

Breaking to make new

My favorite part of a good cover is the way it makes me hear in a new way, what else can you make new through breaking?

I like the way his voice breaks, how it makes me listen differently, what else is made new through being broken?

My console chimes in helpfully with a suggestion: HELLO MY OLD HEART.

I am thinking about what is broken (heart, wishes, sanctuary), I am thinking about what is new and renewed (heart, wishes, sanctuary), I am driving through dips and gullies.

Strong enough, suggests my console.

Gasoline, suggests my console. When the storm is near. Rise.

Gaining in joy / a dedication

It is Hanukkah soon, a festival of lights, and the name, the word itself means dedication, you dedicate a space by clearing it and naming it, you light lights and reclaim space, these themes feel so vital right now in the devastation of this year.

I wish so much I had a home to be in dedication with, but I have internal space, and the space of memory, and the space of knowing into the unknowns (if all the then is now, and all the now is simultaneous, then choose a path, choose a player, let’s go).

To increase in joy

I have been thinking about the thousand-year-old argument between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel about lighting the candles, which might also be happening now, if we can stop being linear about time, which makes me laugh every time I say it, because I don’t know how to not be linear without spiraling.

Get it? I am spiraling out and time is spiraling in.

Anyway, Shammai wanted us to light eight candles the first night, and decrease the candles lit each night, while Hillel argued that you want to begin with one and add a candle each night so you have all eight candles lit on the final night of Hanukkah.

Unsurprisingly I am team Hillel all the way on this (increasing joy is definitely a superpower I’m wishing for these days, as is expanding dedication), and as it turns out, as you know if you’ve ever lit Hanukkah candles, his way is in fact the way we do it now, but if all timelines are happening at once, then joy is simultaneously increasing and decreasing in our windows.

Into and towards

Joy is increasing and flickering and (I hope) increasing again, candles are being lit in ascending and descending order, sanctuaries are being built and sanctuaries are being destroyed, founded and lost, they are lost and I remain, reminding and refinding, remembering and rededicating.

Or maybe joy is steady and we just can’t tell as we watch the lights change and flicker, who can say.

Joy is rededicating my heart space, lighting up the window of my heart, kneeling at heart-hearth, slowly but steadily increasing glow power and, I hope, a renewed capacity for joy, one more candle at a time

Happy holiday of lights, I whisper into the dark spaces, into the window in my heart where no one sees what is being blown apart, into the places where I hope or where I am remembering how to hope; this is the practice of loving the seeds without rushing them, choose your player, here’s to incoming joy and many happy returns.

Let’s keep company if you like

I’m here, in the comments, we can take breaths and share space here.

Maybe you want to say hi, or share anything sparked for you while reading or let us know what you’re up to (are any of us up to anything, are we surviving this year somehow or at all, I hope you’re hanging in there, stay with us), and of course you’re welcome to call in any superpowers you’d like for these challenging times. It all works for me, I love having the company and presence is medicine.

As always, it’s just space to be which means we don’t give advice, we just (try to) meet ourselves and each other with as much kindness as we can glow in the moment.

I’m on Instagram as @thefluentself when I remember to post, so we can hang out there as well.

And if you were in my Integration of Incomings space this year, I extended it (will send out an email) so there’s still time to play.

Glowing love for-and-with you and lighting some more lights,
h

Origin story

pale pink yoga rug dragon tongue

Image: a pale red-pink long rug where I do my morning stretching in the sun, you can imagine (I do) it is a dragon tongue, I dance from the flames…

pre-

This is the longest and possibly most intimate piece I’ve ever shared online, long even for me, a winding road that wanted to take its time and asked me to take mine. It’s nearly nine thousand words, three times what you might be used to from me.

All this to say you might want a mug of something warm or cool, maybe some snacks. Make yourself comfortable. We have ground to cover, landscapes to wonder at, mysteries, awe. Entering a space as I wish to be in it, for me right now, this is a clue about the tantalizing superpowers of grounded excitement, unhurried anticipation.

I am taking a breath of thankfulness: thankful that you are here, that I am here, here’s to the superpowers of keep on keeping on, to beginnings and entry.

In the beginning

In the beginning (of this summer).

That’s when the hornet stung me. Maybe that was the beginning.

My friend and I were walking in the wildlife refuge. I was in a crisis of renewed joy, so happy and relieved to see her, after having been so lonely and so isolated alone in the dome, for months, undone by the wild winds.

I had understood my state of misery to be standard-order depression combined with the anxiety of pandemic life and the devastating heat of summer, but depression doesn’t generally lift magically and instantaneously, and as soon as I saw my friend, I felt joyful and at ease again, hope-filled.

Disguise

This sudden shift into joy meant I had to consider that maybe it had all been loneliness and sorrow in disguise.

To be honest, I had not expected to feel lonely in quarantine life; I spend most of my time alone anyway and mostly prefer it that way. The New Normal was a new lonely, and it threw me for a loop, how utterly different isolation feels when it chooses you, and you don’t get to choose, because all the choices are gone.

How do you anticipate being completely reconfigured?

How do you recognize yourself when nothing makes sense?

Reside in the desert at your own peril

I was musing on these themes, and enjoying seeing my friend, enjoying the hills and the trees. I registered the hornet coming towards me, but it seemed to be headed past, and Arizona is just generally oriented towards everything trying to kill you, so you kind of get used to it.

Hard to get too worked up over potential death when every aspect of your environment wants you to perish. This is one of the many reasons I was unsurprised the virus did so much damage; precautions are not the Arizona way.

Yeah that’s a rattlesnake in the road but it’s sleepy and all the way over there. Sure, we’ll sit on this porch and chat, it’s probably covered in scorpions but whatever, yes that decorative cactus will slice your hand off.

Isolation

On the topic of perishing, sometimes these crises of self (who am I when I am not the self I thought I knew) are a form of death too.

My friend Kathryn calls this an acid bath of the soul, and my months of total isolation in the desert delivered so many of those that I am still reeling my way through recovery.

A sharp awakening

The hornet did go past me but then it dove back to sting me on the back of the neck.

A mob hit. Precise, cruel, completely intentional.

Which direction is safety, is there a direction towards safety

In Arizona, if any kind of bee gets aggressive with you for no reason, a swarm is coming for you, a swarm and death if you can’t outrun the swarm, and so I ran.

I ran, confused by the pain, trying to remember the distance you have to go to outrun the swarm, was I running in a useful direction, would the swarm come from behind me?

My friend Matthew was once chased by hornets all the way to his front porch, stung three times and then the swarm just stopped. Okay we reached the periphery and we’re done here!

And he made it through the door. I was thinking about that. Where is my door? What is my version of a door?

Absence of X

I ran. I noticed my friend was not running. Maybe she is not impressed by killer bees, maybe she didn’t understand.

There was still no swarm.

We walked through the fields of dead sunflowers. What does it feel like to not anticipate a painful terrifying death?

Dissonance

Dissonance amplifies trauma, that is the best way I can sum up this time.

Pandemic life in the United States means not only existing inside an unfolding disaster, but doing this while the danger is inexplicably invisible to half the people in the country.

There’s a premise for a disaster movie, or just a disaster. An alien invasion, but half the people can’t see them. Terrible fires, and half the people don’t feel the heat and insist they can’t smell smoke.

An earthquake that topples everything while half the population insists it hasn’t happened at all.

It is so deeply bewildering to be in the disaster, but it is more bewildering to interact with people acting like there is no disaster. My friend casually meandering and not running from an impending hornet swarm was almost a mirroring of that.

This situation is also a reflection of the insidious nature of structural racism, who sees and perceives and who does not, and I am also reminded of the Kavanaugh confirmation, the gendered gap in grief-rage.

Recovery

My friend gave me arnica capsules and a salve for the sting. The pain did not subside.

I somehow drove ninety minutes back to my loneliness, and slept for a week.

The back of my neck swelled into half a golf ball, and then larger, purple and bruised. It kept getting larger. I had to remind myself that I had been stung; my fingers touching it wanted to read it as a tumor. Oh no, babe, no, this is just what recovery looks like.

Poison

I didn’t see the point of taking any of this to a doctor. There is regular living-in-the-wild-desert danger involved in sharing space with poisonous everything, and then there is going to a doctor during a pandemic.

Anyway, I knew what a wise doctor would say, if I were lucky enough to find one of those. People vary. You’re someone with heightened sensitivities, intense reactions to everything, and now your body is having an intense reaction to being poisoned. Rest up. Wait and see.

That’s what I did.

Origin story

Maybe this will be my origin story, I joked to a friend by text, maybe this will finally unleash all those dormant powers if I don’t die.

Maybe this is how it begins, the catalyst, the pre-story, this is the tale of how our lost and lonely protagonist Havi Bell Brooks transforms into The Desert Assassin, the Sorceress of Snakes & Self, the Vixen of Vs, the X of Xs.

Welcome, welcome, all aspects of self, these glowingly powerful power-personas, forged from the fires of isolation, desert heat and this dose of venom.

A chrysalis from venom

Maybe this recovery period is like a chrysalis formed from my interaction with venom, maybe this is what we exist-through before the emergence. A slow motion montage of gaining in powers.

That didn’t happen.

Or who knows, maybe it did.

Maybe this is exactly what happened and it hasn’t been made visible yet. Maybe new vision is part of this too. Learning to recognize myself again.

Deep

After about ten days, the swelling went down, a large marble, and eventually it subsided.

Here is another thing that happened this summer: My brain stopped working.

I lost all focus, I slipped deeper into listlessness, the days were long and confusing; I spent most of them staring into space having forgotten what it was I was trying to do.

You can do this babe, one step at a time, we’ve got this, let’s fucking go, I would say, and then three hours would be gone.

I started calling it a win if I could make myself eat once a day. I tried to maintain a sense of humor about my total inability to remember anything or care about anything.

Where were we? Oh yes, the pits of despair!

Question marks

But really is any or all of this the lived reality of deep sustained forced isolation, or is it the consequence of the depth and location of a particularly cruel hornet sting? Who can say?

Is this a story about poison and brain inflammation? Or is it more that humans aren’t meant to go four months without seeing other humans or animal companions?

Or a combination of these and other factors, combined with the cumulative weight of fear about the pandemic and fascism and environmental disaster, combined with the dissonance of everyone else pretending it‘s all a big joke?

My neighbors had pandemic parties every weekend; I heard their laughter echoing through the desert.

Meanwhile the closest thing to a human interaction for me other than a monthly grocery run and the hike into hornet territory was catching a glimpse of the UPS truck on the road and waving to the delivery person inside, a boat just in sight of my deserted island.

More questions

When I finally made it to safety last week, to the dragon sanctuary nestled between the cliffs of wonder and the forest of mystery, I discovered I am allergic to something in the land of enchantment.

Here’s a fascinating conundrum: only my left side has this allergy, these symptoms.

My left eye wells up, turns red and sheds tears, my left nostril is either mysteriously blocked or mysteriously weepy. My right side is unaffected.

It reminds me of something my chiropractor in Tucson always says: “Bodies are weird, dude.”

That’s fair. Wise and fair. Existing in a body is odd and complicated even at the best of times.

Four summers ago

Four summers ago on a bus from Astoria, Oregon headed to Portland. A drunk man wouldn’t stop talking to me, and I looked around for someone I might know, and in lieu of that, someone who might be safer to sit with.

My eyes landed on someone I’d briefly chatted with at the bakery that morning (he’d asked about my laptop, and we’d talked tech supplies for a couple minutes), and he immediately read the situation and was like, “Hey old friend, long time no see!”

We shared stories about our various adventures on the road as the bus made its way through the lush green of Oregon. He had recently acquired a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Sanctuary

Apparently sometimes baby sloths just fall out of the trees, and because some sloth stereotypes are true, the mothers are like, hmm that seems like a long way down, and it would just take so much effort to go get you, oh well…

And let’s just be honest, that’s so relatable, and I say that both as someone who has no energy for most things these days, and as someone who never got the genetic memo about wanting to parent.

But of course how can you not also worry about the poor, tiny, helpless baby sloths, alone and disoriented, orphaned by circumstance (the circumstances of sloths), and in the path of predators.

Of course I’m not the only one who is worried about them, hence the sloth sanctuary. Good news, my friends. The sloth babies are safe there!

It’s a sanctuary, for sloths

The growing sloths climb all day, very slowly, the sanctuary is basically things to climb on and things to eat, and my bus ride companion showed me hilarious long videos of a baby sloth taking forever to ascend a low wooden deck and getting bored about ten different times along the way.

It was charming, entertaining, and again, highly relatable content.

I think about the sloth sanctuary a lot.

What I think about when I am thinking about the sloth sanctuary

How awful and disorienting it is to be loved and then not loved, safe and then not safe, cared for and then not cared for, to belong and then not belong.

Everything ends, that is the truth of life, but sometimes these endings are so surprising, disruptive, and unfathomable.

For years I had a beloved mentor I adored and trusted, I thought he always had my back, my protector and champion, the one I could always turn to in an hour of need, until one day I woke up from a nap to a surprise lawsuit, to anger and attorneys in my inbox. No way to see it coming. Etc.

Etc

By etc, I mean this is not even close to my only experience of suddenly your perch is gone, the ground is somewhere else, you cannot get back to your tree home and don’t know if you’d even want to given the option, now that you know how expendable you were. Nothing makes sense.

Etc as in the memory of that moment, reading that letter and unable to comprehend its meaning, this is an example of a category.

The pain of betrayal is the first layer, but the bafflement and disbelief is what really fucks you up. Etc is the world you know crumbling.

Agency

Etc is the name on a drawer of a steel filing cabinet in the secret home office of a retired detective. This is where the the unsolved cases live, the pain-memories of betrayal.

Welcome to the Agency of the Ungraspable and Unsolvable.

The Agency of Recovery.

And also the Agency of recovering agency.

We talk about recovering memories in the sense of what is lost re-emerging. But what if the memories themselves are in a process of recovery, this is a hopeful imagining for me, and I’ll take it. A memory sanctuary.

The real deal (hope)

What if there is sanctuary? And: What is sanctuary?

Sanctuary. A place to land and recover while doing only your favorite things in your own timing. And, sometimes, a place for prayer.

Climb or exert the tiniest amount, nap, eat, nap, repeat sequence.

I hope the abandoned sloths don’t know their origin story.

I hope they think sanctuary life is the real deal. I hope they know there’s nothing better than being a sloth in a sloth sanctuary.

Nothing but question marks

In the dream I was supposed to be teaching a class, and I suddenly realized I had no idea what kind of class. What was this class about? I wasn’t even sure if it was a movement class or a class about concepts.

My entire brain was just: ?????

I had done the most I was able to do by showing up, and the rest remained a mystery.

Make way for ducklings

There was a group of people sitting on the floor. A dad had brought two little kids, and the kids had brought baby ducks, and one of them (one of the ducks) was wearing a tiny dress and an elaborate soft round hat that gave the impression of a furry halo.

The ducklings were funny; little energetic speed-monsters zooming around the floor, everyone was entertained and happy, laughing.

The ducks noticed me and came careening towards me enthusiastically, they seemed oddly happy to see me and I felt happy to see them.

Happiness composed almost entirely of relief

I knew that I knew these ducks, I had a memory of them, a flash of having met them when they were just tiny little hatchlings.

This was more information. If I knew the ducks, I was clearly not here in error, and presumably I must know some of these people too.

Also it was now safe to assume this class would be fun for everyone involved, because it came with ducks. Ducks taking the pressure off, good job, ducks.

“Excellent!”, I said in a cheery voice, crossing the room briskly in search for any clues in the space that could point me towards what my class might be about. “Glad to see our duck friends showed up today, they’ve grown so fast.”

The clues of Not X

What I was saying to myself in my head though was more like this:

“Excellent. At least now we know this isn’t a class about concentrating on things, and it also isn’t a class that requires concentrating on things, because there are adorable ducklings wandering around in outfits, and probably no one would bring that whole situation to, say, a meditation class.”

“This is not a meditation session which means we know a little bit more about what this is not. That’s a start, babe, keep going.”

Keep going. Not X is a clue.

Although, it occurs to me while reading my scribbled dream notes, I did in fact used to teach meditation classes with a rubber duck as my co-teacher, so there’s that.

Signs you are in the right (or wrong) place

I walked into the lobby to see if my class had a name (?) that might be posted somewhere (???), but found only a chalkboard stand offering the following non-information:

Room A: Regular Class
Room B: Regular Plus

The door I had just emerged from was marked with a B, so apparently I was teaching the regular class PLUS, whatever the plus meant.

Something plus something. Unknown quantity X with the addition of Unknown Y.

Plus ça change

Someone else was in the lobby, so I pointed at the sign and asked, “Plus what?”, and they said, “Ahhhh, we used to call that the one with the chocolate chips!”

Then they laughed conspiratorially like this was an in-joke I was definitely in on.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, I said, as if I also knew what we were talking about.

Then the most impossibly beautiful human I have ever seen walked past us into classroom A and smiled at me. I forgot how to breathe.

The person who had just given me enigmatic information regarding possibly metaphorical chocolate chips said, “Oh, that’s Stephaney, with an -ey, you will love her!”

Oh right, that

A couple walked in off the street and they seemed even more confused by the sign than I was. “Just TWO classes? Only TWO? What happened to all the other classes?”

“Well”, explained the person I’d been talking to, “This is our pandemic schedule.”

“FINE”, they huffed, “We will just come back in a YEAR!”

Oh shit, I thought, I forgot about the pandemic.

Except then I was even more confused: Do we not have masks? How is this safe? How did I end up here? How did I agree to this? None of this seems like me.

Stephaney, Stephaney

Stephaney with an -ey came back out and immediately erased my brain by being impossibly beautiful and existing.

Stephaney with an -ey had spikey hair dyed with neon yellow highlights, and spikey earrings. Giant brown eyes and a giant smile aimed entirely at me. I was the living embodiment of the heart-eyes emoji.

Stephaney with an -ey kissed me not quite on the cheek and not exactly near my mouth.

Stephaney with an -ey said she had heard so much about me and absolutely everyone had told her we need to meet, and that she couldn’t wait to hang out after.

After vs after

“After class?”
“After the pandemic.”
“Fuck. I forgot about the pandemic again. But you just kissed me?”
“Right, we shouldn’t do that, it’s a pandemic.”

Stephaney with an -ey disappeared into Classroom A, and I tried to guess from her clothing (black leggings, red and black plaid flannel button-down shirt, boots) what kind of class it might be.

But maybe that was just her style or maybe it meant we were in Portland, and then I realized I also didn’t know what part of the country we were in.

Location location location (location?)

In the past two months, I’ve been back and forth between New Mexico, Arizona, and California, first in pursuit of the dragon sanctuary, and then searching for the rescue dragon. Rescue a dragon, be rescued by a dragon, who knows.

Much must be done for a dragon sanctuary to come into existence.

It takes work, determination and preparation to properly welcome a dragon.

The dragon is not me, the dragon is a piece of art that emerged from grief and loss, and the dragon is also my new home on a trailer.

Though to be fair, maybe I am the dragon too. Maybe I am more wounded dragon breathing fire than bewildered baby sloth.

Place (this must be the)

In the past years, I’ve been wandering: mostly California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

But also Wyoming and South Dakota to Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky, with a bit of Nebraska in there for a while too, until ending up in New Mexico and Arizona, with a lot of back and forth with Oregon, tracing paths between southwest and northwest.

No wonder dream me couldn’t even make a guess.

Land as a verb, land as an experience

In non-dream life aka my current fugue-state of being in recovery, while also moving locations while definitely not getting enough sleep, I finally have a place.

It was quite the complex adventure to land the dragon after two long months on the road following clues.

I am thinking about the amount of trust involved in even embarking on that rescue mission after the long and lonely months of confusion that preceded it, packing up the dome in the desert, preparing to exit, not knowing where I was headed, unable to make plans. Not only due to a lack of options, but because my brain had been turned off, and I couldn’t find the switch.

Switch

I existed in a stupor of loss, sorrow, isolation and hornet venom.

But we made it. Land ahoy.

Land ahoy

I felt the existence of the dragon sanctuary before I could catch a glimpse of it, before I knew what it was or where it would be located.

Pointing the remains of my ship towards. The trade winds did the rest.

Land

Land as an active verb: we gathered strength, and landed the dragon.

Land as a passive verb: look, a baby sloth fell from the tree and landed on the ground.

Land as a place: location, location, location, between the forest of mystery and the cliffs of hope.

Land as not-a-place: sanctuary, worlds internal, imagined lands that compose the geography of my mind.

Land as earth: the scent after the rain, the source of blooming sunflowers, the richness of a garden to be.

This is command, over and out

The dragon has landed. I repeat: The dragon has landed.

Time to rest into what is next.

Rattling

It feels lovely and odd to have keys again, the keys to the dragon make so much noise. They rattle, and I am bewildered by the sound.

Before I lost my brain this year, sometime around hornet sting time, I was writing a long essay about rattlesnakes, and I can’t tell you more than that because I don’t know where it is, but rattled already held a place in my mind as a word that verbs and then is verbed into a new meaning:

The snakes rattle in your direction to let you know they are having an anxiety episode and they need you to back off, and then you are rattled, your spine is rattled, a visceral ancient knowing about DEATH, the anxiety episode has transferred to you.

My keys rattle. I am rattled.

But also I have a sanctuary again, a dragon sanctuary, a place to become un-rattled, to recover from the unraveling, let the sky and trees do their healing work on me while I remember where I am.

In the ether, maybe

Due to the one-two punch of ADHD and having my brain erased by [pandemic, grief, loss, depression, hornets, moving, a flash of Stephaney with an -ey, who knows what else, the many origin stories], I cannot remember anything at all these days.

I know that I cannot remember, and so I write it down.

That’s the one thing I remember: write it down.

But do I remember where I have written it? Rarely. Almost never.

A whisper of a shadow of what is already gone

In my bartending years in Tel Aviv, one bar owner liked to be served a vodka martini just so.

And “just so” meant he wanted you to lightly swish the martini glass with a splash of vermouth, and then pour it out into the sink, shaking out every drop before adding the chilled vodka that had been stirred with ice and itself for sixty seconds exactly.

“You want a kiss, a whisper, a hint! Your vermouth was in the room but it left before you arrived”, he would say, waxing rhapsodic, and very, very drunk, in between crimes.

Real

I would teasingly tell him to just order vodka in a martini glass (a legitimate choice, want what you want), and he would retort that the real purists only lift the open bottle of vermouth reverentially while giving the most subtle nod in the direction of France, and the purists of the purists don’t open the bottle at all.

Of course, one could argue the real purists drink their martinis with gin and not vodka, but we were already in tipsy-turvy world, and I wasn’t going to argue anything.

Don’t get blown up tonight, he would say while leaving. Oh right, death. No suicide bombers tonight, please.

Ritual

The act of writing down information I intend to remember or wish to be reminded of in the future is like raising a bottle in a direction: symbolic, intentional, and in that sense, powerful and meaningful, though let’s also be clear it’s not actually doing anything.

And so I distinctly remember how my boss twenty years ago preferred every possible type of drink, but I cannot begin to imagine where I recorded the very important information about the location of my storage locker where all my belongings have been waiting patiently for me to collect them.

What is the number of the unit, which part of the storage facility, what would I have chosen to be the combination to the lock, what was the seemingly very obvious place where I put this information? It’s all a mystery.

Convey

Writing things down is not so much a system as it is a symbolic reverential ritual.

Even in the moment of crafting these reminder notes for myself, I am at least partially aware that I am lifting a bottle of vermouth and touching it to my forehead, hoping this will be enough to convey the rememberance.

Let this be enough. Maybe this will be enough. Sometimes it is enough.

Sometimes it is enough and sometimes you have to break into a storage locker with a blow torch.

A criminal endeavor

It’s rural New Mexico, and the owner of the storage unit lives a couple minutes away. I called her from the gas station, and she brought her husband and a blow torch.

Honestly the blow torch thing was hot. Obviously literally, but I mean the part about feeling LIKE A CRIMINAL. I am never going to even bother learning a code again? This is the only way I ever want to get into a storage locker now.

ADHD trauma brain is full of fun surprises like that.

I get so frustrated when I can’t remember a number, or a clue about a number, or where I put the clue about the number. But then I get to watch a cool old man in a denim vest casually blow-torch my lock off. Everybody wins.

Surprise

I got to keep the remains of the lock, a souvenir to remind me of not remembering.

Then they handed me twenty five whole American dollars, which was another fun surprise because of course I had also forgotten about the deposit, which I get back for emptying my storage unit.

They were confused by my joy, but then they were also confused by my mask, so we exist in different minds and different worlds, and that is just a summary of the way things are right now.

I spent this surprise windfall in another small town at the hardware store, where I was enthusiastically greeted with HELLO LADY and then GOODBYE LADY upon my exit.

Blowing flames

The blow torch itself is a small dragon that you can procure for yourself with money.

Breathe fire, direct heat and power where you like, shoot sparks in a direction, be fiery and ever more fiery but never consumed.

In the morning I open the doors of the dragon and spread the nearly ten feet of long pale red rug onto the deck, so I can stretch like a bobcat and salute the sun on this sleepy dragon’s tongue.

I am the flame. I am the flame-delivery service. Fear me. I am formidable.

Formidable, tender and sleepy. A wounded baby dragon in recovery.

Watch.

Watch. I draw breath from source and alchemy happens: turning breath into passion, passion into words, words into wishes. Fiery.

I entered the dragon and suddenly had words to write again, so many words, after months and months of not being able to write anything other than the scribbled clues I knew I’d lose.

Shehechezarta

Prayer is a complicated word, maybe, you can translate it as you like, but for me it sometimes means sound, chanting, words, crying, and all of this has been how I communicate with myself and the land.

Prayer was my sanctuary these long months, and since arriving at the dragon sanctuary, I have been turning to — or is that returning to? — Hebrew prayers long forgotten (by me).

Returning in the sense of remembering, but maybe also in other senses, since this is the month of Elul, a month of repentance, a word which literally means returning, leading up to tonight and a new year.

A completed cycle. Many happy returns.

Good morning, being alive (a prayer for this)

Speaking of returning, a morning prayer about being returned:

modah ani (I am thankful / I am thanking) l’fanecha (before you)
melech chai v’kayam (king, alive and existing)
shehechezarta bi nishmati (for returning my soul to me / breath back in me)
b’chemla (with compassion, graciously)
raba emunatecha (great is your faith)

Thanks given for today, hello new day, this experience of right here right now.

Textual reading, because I can’t help it, it’s what we do

I love I am thanking, and how verb-like it is, how it feels more active than simply feeling grateful, for me.

I love before you as in: I am in a state of thankfulness before you. I am in front of you, facing you, turned towards you.

Not just thankful generally but thankful in relationship to source, with source, pointing myself towards. How I am thankful towards the juniper and the cottonwoods, the fields of wildflowers, the cliffs.

I love how you can read king who is alive and existing in different ways, for me it’s more like sovereign of aliveness! Otherwise known as the Survive And Thrive superpowers of keep on keeping on.

As if god in god’s godness is like, oh yeah I know this is rough, kiddo, existing is messy, I believe in you. Let’s try this alive and existing thing again today.

Hang in there, little sloth, the rescue squad is coming!

More love for these words

I love for returning my soul into me, replacing it, placing it where it belongs, like you would a lost baby sloth, a return, many happy returns, nestled. And I love the interplay in Hebrew between soul and breath, how they live a vowel apart.

I love graciously, and how it implies that while of course I am thankful for having been returned to myself, reunited with soul and breath this morning, I am especially expressing thanks for that having been done kindly when it could have been otherwise.

My appreciation is for the way this returning was arranged (with compassion, mercy, a sweetness) and not just that it happened.

I don’t know if the baby sloths know how much they are cherished, but even if it doesn’t matter to the baby sloth, it matters to me.

Great is your faith

I love great is your faith, in me, apparently. More often we think of prayer or worship as being about our faith in [divine, source, something greater], but this is like, nope, source has faith in me.

And sure, I am more of a tree-hugging atheist type of jewish than anything else, but apparently that doesn’t change how source-love feels about me at all.

What an honor, the power in that great is your faith, what does it mean to believe in me like that, to believe in my power, my pain, my rage-fury, my grace, my returning.

Mini therapy session right here

You can also read faith as loyalty-adjacent. In Hebrew the words faith, belief, and loyalty all come from the same root, and so I have a flash of a sense that [loving source, loving a loving source, being a love-source who draws source-love from source] also means a love that won’t betray me.

If I were my own therapist, I would be frantically scribbling notes about that one, so let’s just say we are putting a pin in that theme to revisit later. It’s been noted, my pain over the endless betrayal stories has been noted.

Layers

My people love textual analysis and uncovering layers within layers, and by “my people” I of course mean poets of pain, but also yes, there is something very jewish about both obsessive textual analysis and being a poet of pain.

Play + dissection + intersection + revelation + uncovering + recovering + the joy in discovering a fragment of pottery at your feet. A tel of fragments. What is hopeful or informative in the mound of ruins.

The same beloved mentor, the one who unexpectedly chose to level a lawsuit at me rather than ask me even one question in the interest of untangling a misunderstanding, used to say (before all this), there is good experience and there is useful experience.

To the river.

My grief river runs high.

My grief river runs so high I fear it will flood the whole town, washing everything away. I cannot, I cannot, there is simply no more capacity, the river banks won’t hold, we cannot take on any more loss.

And yet, what is life if not a series of losses, fragments of pain poetry and pain pottery. Another mystery.

Where will these waters go?

A memory-marker.

Meanwhile my trust river is more like a mostly dried up riverbed, a trickle so minimal as to be functionally non-existent, more of a marker that tells a story about what once was.

Sometimes I don’t even have the memory, I only remember touching an unopened bottle of trust and nodding imperceptibly towards France.

I don’t remember the taste of trust.

But still flowing

And still I wake up in the morning, thankful before you, I have been returned to this life, great is your faith.

Some days I feel the fullness of heart gratitude for spirit in that line about great is your faith, and some days I wonder-suspect if it might not actually have been intended to be said with a little dagger of sarcasm, my people are funny that way.

Thanks for waking me up, asshole, now I have to deal with being in a body. That would be a very Jewish prayer, just saying.

Many happy returns

I am returned to myself, many happy returns.

I cannot betray myself, I continue to love myself fiercely. I cannot be betrayed by this bigger love, who trusts me and wakes me again.

And so I do what I can which is observe the land and my landscape, and reorient.

Four words that in Hebrew are alive

Water, sky, life, god.

In Hebrew, these words are dynamic and flowing, fluid and in motion, plentiful and replenished, alive.

In English you say the water is cold or the sky is blue, life is good (or life is hard), god is whatever god is. In Hebrew, the waters are refreshing, the skies are beautiful, life are complicated, god remains whatever god is, a vast oneness, but the word echoes that same form.

Water, sky, life, god.

Alive and existing, alive and in motion.

By the river

My first name comes from the Hebrew word for life, a variation on Eve, who was em kol chai, the mother of aliveness, the mother of that which is alive, the origin of living.

My name itself is alive. My middle name is a resonant bell echoing, amplifying and reverberating. My last name is a body of water that exists in plural, like water and life in Hebrew. Origin story naming.

Alive, resonant, flowing. Keep on keeping on.

I have been lying about my name

The thing with rural life, or a thing about rural life, I want to describe a phenomenon and I don’t know what it’s called, a thing white people do with other white people they suspect might not be as white? It’s a game they love to play. The game of Are You Really White Or Are Ya Faking?

My god, the layers of constructs within that, how exhausting. And yet at the same time, so much privilege embodied in being someone they can play this tiresome game with. I can choose to answer in a way that preserves my safety.

Anyway, there is a very specific way that people in these parts ask about my name, this particular flavor of curiosity that is very not-neutral.

They are trying to determine what kind of foreign name I have, how foreign am I exactly, in what ways am I different, how much should they other me, how much do they get to other me?

The dreaded question when I say my name.

What’s that from? Where are you from? Where are your people from?

That’s a foreign name, isn’t it, you don’t look foreign, what is that?

They frown in consternation at the combination of my undeniable whiteness and a name that doesn’t add up. Light skin, light hair, light eyes, a name that sets off bells.

They need to know, and they keep asking until they get an answer. “Haaaaaavi, what an interesting naaaaaaaaame, could that be Scandinavian, or is it JEWISHHHH?”

Contrast

You can tell by the contrast in their voice, the way they try to scrape that last word off their tongue to get it out of their mouth, you know which answer is “right”. You know you can give an answer that ensures easy comfortable conversation, and you know how things go the other way.

Tell them your name comes from Hebrew, and things turn chilly fast. It’s disorienting, the speed of the shift, a friendly conversation into a wall.

Or they fetishize you in some creepy way and try to convert you, or they tell you that their cousin’s wife’s sister married “a Hebrew” and that he is “pretty nice actually” and “makes a lot of money”. It’s never good, basically.

Speaking my name comes with dread for me, but I want the opposite of that. I want the utterance of my name to breathe boundaries of fire.

Recognition

It feels important to emphasize the vast privilege built into in this choice I am given, the ability to make a selection, two doors always available, privilege is having the option to ensure invisibility and safety for myself by just opting out of the truth.

White privilege is the realest, and it keeps me safe all day every day.

And I hear in their tone how much they would love the chance to rescind it, from their personal perspective at least.

Contrast, again

It’s not that people don’t ask about my name in cities, but there the question usually feels more neutral, the curiosity less dangerous. “Oh that’s so pretty!” or “Cool, a name I’ve never heard!”

Not to mention that in cities, people have met jews before, we aren’t abstract, and the conversation is mercifully not headed into y’all killed Jesus territory. IT WAS THE ROMANS, CATCH UP.

So anyway, I’m Finnish now.

I told my neighbors that it’s a family name, which is true.

But when they wanted to know where the family name is from (that word again), I joked that we don’t know but probably not the Hungarian side because there aren’t enough letters, so best guess says it comes from the Finnish side.

The Finnish side is my dad. He used to tell people he was from Finland when he was wandering the world in the sixties and they wanted to know where he was from, and wouldn’t accept “American” as an answer.

So really you could say pretending to be Finnish is a time honored Brooks family tradition. A ritual, if you will.

The protective force field of a secret identity

Finland, land of a thousand lakes, land of the midnight sun, land of the northern lights, perhaps a place where my Russian-to-Nordic imagined ancestors might have ended up on their wanderings, who knows.

It’s certainly a more appealing way to explain how I look than the violent alternative.

And anyway, I feel the most jewish when I’m lying about my jewish identity.

(Take notes on that, imaginary therapist!)

Funny, you don’t look Finnish

Did I ever tell you about my Finnish doppelgänger? You’ll have to let me know in the comments, I have been writing here for so many years, I cannot remember what I have told you or not told you.

The first time I was in Germany, my friends there had a dinner party to introduce me to an exchange student from Finland who everyone said looked exactly like me.

I hadn’t believed them of course, because that’s just a thing people say, oh so-and-so looks just like you, and then you meet that person and they don’t look like you at all, but this young woman, well, she looked exactly like me. Like a reflection.

She looked exactly like me in a way that was as disorienting as falling from a tree or waking up to a lawsuit or being smiled at by Stephaney with an -ey.

I didn’t know what to do about having a twin who was no relation.

No connection

I didn’t realize the effect of the hornet sting, how it poisoned me and erased my brain and my sense of self, and probably in retrospect was the genesis of my devastating summer depression.

I didn’t even really remember that week of sleeping it off and hoping the pain meant I was transmogrifying into a super heroine, until a bee found its way into my car the other day. It landed on my neck and I screamed, and then the connections were all there, along with the absolute terror that it could happen again.

Genesis / origin

The hornet sting in my neck was where it all began, maybe.

In Hebrew, Genesis is b’reishit. We translate it as in the beginning, and it does mean that, but literally it means at the head of things.

And here we are, heading into the new year, rosh hashana is literally that, the head of the year.

The month of turning and returning. New cycle. Breath in, breath out.

Recommitting to life, asking to be written down in the Book of Life, as if god in god’s godness is shining god-light, aiming the rays though a bottle of vermouth to touch the gin, nodding towards France. Remember me to life.

Towards France

Generally I am against anthropomorphizing the unknowable (if source is, then source is infinite and ungraspable, alive and dynamic: water and sky and life), but I love this image and this imagining.

Thinking about a divine nod towards France is making me laugh out loud right now, and also reminding me of God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught, which is a poem that works as a prayer, or maybe a prayer that is a poem, and full of truth.

As my dad the rabbinical school dropout says, “If there is a god, I hope she’s listening…”

There is no back

A wise compassionate mentor-friend said this to me years ago.

“I can’t wait to go back there”, I said, speaking of a place I deeply loved and treasured, imagining the scent, the orchard of citrus trees, the place I planned to live.

“There is no back.”

Impatience

In the moment I felt impatient with my friend and her insistence that going back did not exist, could not exist, that back was unattainable.

Of course she knew what I meant. It’s a phrase. You go back to a place you’ve been.

It doesn’t have to mean regressing or capitulating. And you can still move forward while returning to a place you’ve been.

And of course, from a philosophical perspective, the river is always in motion, right? So of course the place you are attempting to return to changes over time, and you have also changed, so when you meet again, you are both new.

But she was right, and I was wrong.

Uprooted

I went to that place I thought I was going back to, and it no longer was.

That was very bewildering and disorienting too.

Uprooted, active and passive verb.

They uprooted my trees. I was uprooted.

Dislodged, unmoored, lost, vulnerable, a bewildered baby sloth bruised from both the unexpected toppling and from not being wanted. They took my trees away. My orchards were and then were not.

Each day I am new, familiar and unfamiliar, returned to myself, back together but also not back, because that does not exist. Not-back as a state of being. Where am I? Not-back. Not sure. Pointed towards.

What am I teaching when I am not teaching

I don’t know what happened for my dream self, if she taught her class or not, I woke up from a world of unknowns into another world of unknowns, and that’s all I remember.

Let’s raise an unopened bottle towards the light, for dream-me and for Stephaney with an -ey, and for hope.

However, I will say that the dream about [teaching something without knowing what it is] seems like a surprisingly accurate description of what I already do.

Urgent note to self! Figure out how to get paid for this???? Wow, I am lifting the most beautiful bottle of vermouth in the direction of this wish, letting rays of light shine through it and placing it back down. The wish has been wished.

Dream as story

This dream also feels like a story about pandemic brain and trauma brain, and possibly about depression brain, but also about living with ADHD.

Dreaming about forgetting is really about wishing I could forget, aka the lived dissonance of daily life.

It is deeply confusing to be someone who forgets things other people can remember and remembers things other people can forget.

I can’t remember where my keys might be or what day it is, and cannot forget about the death in the air, pandemic, climate crisis, or a hurtful lie my trusted teacher spread about me nearly ten years ago which, in retrospect, was a hornet sting I did not recover from.

How delicious and refreshing to be able to forget, a reprieve.

What is my job now

I am laughing a bit at figure out how to get paid for this, whatever this is, because that question was already a fairly mysterious mystery for me in the before times, given that hosting retreats is labor-intensive and not lucrative.

Not to mention that the administrative work behind them is non-fucking-stop, and I get depleted easily and never know how much energy I will have.

However, now this question is further complicated significantly:
a) I have no working brain much of the time,
b) the retreat industry is no more,
c) I don’t have the bandwidth to do online retreats,
d) I meant that in the mental-emotional sense, but also very literally I am hiding out at a mostly off-grid dragon sanctuary and rarely get signal. Eventually I will drive forty five minutes to wifi to publish this for you to read, on a good day when my brain and wrists are working at the same time, and neither of those are super dependable.

Golden tickets, chocolate bars, mystery

Anyway, this feels like one of those ancient (in internet time) meme joke formats…

Step 1: Be a muse, trust, teach through not-teaching…
Step 2: ??????
Step 3: Profit

I have no plan, so a plan will have to emerge.

Just gotta keep existing as a creative spirit who engages with the process of being alive, that is the plan, and that’s also about as close to [whatever teaching is] as I would like to get. Keep on keeping on.

Appreciation (I exist in a state of)

After my last essay here where I mused on [life and not-that], and how intensely challenging these last six months have been in my world, several readers sent me funds by way of Barrington’s Discretionary, and wow, a blessing, I feel so loved and also so thankful. Thank you, thank you. For the love and for the surprise money.

Thank you. I am thankful before you, also in the sense of being thankful before your offering of thankfulness, here in our circle of joyful appreciation.

And then immediately after that glowing wondrous experience of full body gratitude, I had this funny moment in my head that you have to read in a 1940s movie gangster voice:

“See? That’s the ticket, you hold yourself for ransom! Pay up, folks, if you want to keep Havi alive and writing!”

Which of course made me think of The Big Lebowski, the truest noir homage.

She kidnapped herself, dude

It’s so simple and so obvious, she kidnapped herself! Who did? Bunny Lebowski!

Anyway, I need to have a moving sale, because moving is complicated and expensive, and I don’t know what a Moving Sale is or looks like yet, and again, some days I can rely on my brain now, other days still waiting for the hornet poison alchemy to kick in, change form. Cue the slow motion transmogrification recovery montage.

Maybe a bundle of some of the many ebooks I’ve written over the years, deposits on future retreats, maybe an idea spark will come to me when I stop trying to solve this.

Maybe I will kidnap myself and visit the giant fields of sunflowers in sunflower season, which was going to be one of the secret retreats I was so excited about offering (Operation Sunflowers!), before this year changed shape in the ways that it did.

Walking in fields of sunflowers is the most cheerful way to be in a transition state. I will walk and ask what the sunflowers know, and in the meantime, anyone who has the capacity, ability and desire is welcome to sneak some appreciation money into Barrington’s fund, hey, bribe me to write more, it just might work…

Go fast don’t die

In Tucson: a guy on a motorcycle with Alabama plates, wearing absolutely no motorcycle gear other than gloves, and a black helmet that said GO FAST DON’T DIE.

Other than that, he wore just ripped jeans and a ripped t-shirt, so obviously he’s gonna die.

And yeah, we all die but he’s really rushing towards it a bit too enthusiastically. Between his choice to forgo protective gear and the jaw-droppingly reckless way people drive out here in the wild west, I don’t see this ending well. And yet.

And yet…

Go fast don’t die, go fast don’t die, I can’t stop saying it, like a mantra, rewriting neural pathways through loving-repetition, turning it over to return to it.

Go fast don’t die.

Sidebar: Why am I so attracted to people who consistently make unwise life decisions, who can say. Another mystery for the filing cabinet. I am honestly so hot for that entire situation, but especially that helmet.

Go fast don’t die.

Chrysalis at the dragon sanctuary

I am giving myself four weeks reprieve at the dragon sanctuary, new moon to full moon and back again (except there is no back, so forward again), before trying to make sense of any of the projects. It might take longer but this is a seed, a chrysalis and an intention.

My plan is to hydrate, stretch, bask in the sun, talk to the trees, observe the dragon, observe how it feels to live somewhere again, to be in sanctuary state, and really nothing else. Just to be and to experience being in a state of not-doing.

I am ready to meet the me who emerges, who has landed, who knows how to land.

And then we’ll see from there.

From there

I want to cook on dragon fire, and light candles. I want to kiss the palms of my hands and touch them to my cheeks.

And I want to lift a bottle towards France (Let France = Better Things), and let light stream through the liquid aliveness of my life-wishes, illuminating them and turning them into blessings.

Let’s keep company if you like

I’m here, in the comments, we can take breaths and share some sharing if we want.

Maybe you want to say hi, or share anything sparked for you while reading or what you’re up to, call in some superpowers you’d like for these challenging times. All good.

Presence as medicine. I’m glad to be able to be here again and that we can connect here.

And this too is sanctuary space which means we don’t go into care-taking mode and we don’t give advice, we make space, we meet ourselves and each other with as much kindness as we can glow in the moment.
xox
h

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