I planted myself in the tall grass, gray bumpy flies stopping to take quick rests on my bare ankles. Looking up, the sky is sparser today, splatters of charismatic cumulus clumps. An intense sun produces long and stark shadows in the still-white light. Strong contrast of translucent chlorophylled-cover and silhouettes form against the flat blades like a puppet show but without the drama. The background noises seem more imperious today – some type of wood-cutting chainsaw, whirring planes, a women’s strident voice in a nearby backyard. Lawn mowers. Birds in more isolated chirps and calls, buzzy pitched signatures. A more present and insistent buzz of insect wings circling around my ears. The grass and trees seem so alive as they sway in the slight breeze. What does it mean to see each organism here as possessing its own special type of consciousness? Rustling. On the ground – pine cones, pine needles, bark, drying moss and fruticose lichen. Ants, tiny black beetle with two orange stripes. I wonder how different this place was before all the neighborhoods moved in. As I sit here the shadows move as much as their plant owners, this is the only reflection they’ll know, a playful dance with themselves.
slowly stepped up the paved path of a suburban hill, sandwiched between the houses. mid may and about seventy degrees, a slight breeze with a tad of radiating heat that sits on the surface of the skin. A low rumbling of the road is the undertone to heavy leaves swaying, so many layers and shade of green-ness. A chorus of bird song in the early evening, species I still do not know the names of. children playing. Various small things that dance in front of my eyes – dots of black gnats, puffs of cotton that lazily float by like loose clumps of snow. a pair in flitted flight, interactions of attraction and separation. I can’t tell if they’re birds or insects, just black silhouettes against distant marbled clouds. In all this life it is finally quiet. so many voices and information, its so overwhelming that its just here and accessible. Remember that it’s okay to take your time.
egg-white morning rays strike the blinds through to squinted eyes, reflecting off the wet metal rooftops a silver-studded horizon line. shock like a cold shower reverberant drops striking hair-raised body, the way the palate reflexes against ice water, muscles in squinted contraction. the danger of becoming numb to the familiar things, an imprint so thick that fades into the surface and soon there’s barely any difference between the year except the time when things wake from winter.
the act of making meaning. let things be symbols, let things have significance. it is an untraining from your instincts of survival. what does it mean to sift through and weed out the things that are not important to you, what does it mean to claim the things that are important to you? an act of claiming that is not dominance but an interrelationship, a surrendering to. you defend and give to these things as purpose, as more than survival. rock and earth – a faith, dependability, a consistency, a discipline. fire – a heat, an energy, a passion, a dynamic movement. water – a fluidity of self, an acceptance, an embracing of change and temporality. air – a humility of smallness in relation to vastness, a state of being, a trust and grace, a feeling of mystery and the unexplained.
something that is an ongoing journey of understanding for me is to learn to respect the kind of energy I carry, and not hating on myself for not carrying the type of energy that someone else has. being able to validate one’s own voice. there can be a subtle power in the soft-spoken. reserve is not a deficit, but it can seem like it to you in this extrovert-oriented world. sincerity and directness of expression trodden down by sarcasm and wit. that’s why expressing myself through music is important to me, it allows me to craft a message with full intention and give it to someone who is listening in openness. understanding that what you have to give may not be the same as what someone else has to give, and that’s okay. you worry, you worry that when something or someone resonates with you so deeply the intensity is just too much and you back away. how can you learn to be here in honesty, without straining to be something else. that’s what grace is.
she takes comfort in the patterns, in the regularity of routine. not a cage but something that grounded her. two steps per sidewalk square, a type of predictability projected as grace in her movements grown familiar with each motion. you had a dream the trees there finally blossomed, except they were white instead of pink. all the layers of your past selves built up inside, forgotten. a foundation that holds up the visible. what does it take to return. you navigate the streets without thinking, and somehow you arrive there. help me remember. was I always this rootless?
one of those heavy mornings where the grayness seems to hug you from all around. brings me back to here. a reminder that when it’s all weighing down, you don’t need to hold it all at once. in this small sliver of existence, you only have one choice. a simple choice with two options, either what the body and mind tells you or not. and if the body and mind disagree, a hint that it usually is the body that is right. from this small spotlight of clarity I then hear the relationship between this note and the next, and then the phrase forms. technique serves melody. that is what you’ll find me doing today, giving each sliver an integrity of presence. that is all I can do, that is all I need to do.
the blossoms are budding, a late spring this year out of the wet and irritable winter. my body has been getting up earlier these mornings, in order to not lose sleep need to get better at getting to bed earlier and knowing when it’s best to just stop. the new moon brings on a new month, this one will be slow, teaching us how to be slow. I feel pressured by myself and others to be fast, I hate how we talk in praise of being busy. there is no shame in being slow, in noticing things, in savoring. in taking your time.
I have a tendency to want to appear “fully-formed” to those I present myself to. To have myself together, to have it all worked out, to not have any questions. A side-effect of a “type-A” personality? A type of thinking-before-speaking on steroids. It has driven me to work hard and practice daily discipline, but it has also closed me off from connecting to other people. It has made me hesitant to raise my hand in class to share a half-formed idea, it has prevented me from going to office hours of professors because I don’t want to come across as unprepared. And then in daily life, there’s this paradox between the fully-formed self you strive to present yourself as and the actual experience of living as a continually evolving, incomplete self that is always uncertain. We can never be fully prepared but we do it anyway. We take that exquisite risk. The pressure to perform as a fully-formed self leads to shame, doubt, and stagnation. It denies the reality of the human experience. To have the integrity to present your outer self as matching the inner self – as something in development – requires vulnerability. And in response to that vulnerability others will open up as well. I want to get better at embracing this state of dynamic process.
I want to acknowledge that all of these thoughts, every word I have written, is not completely my own. I am constantly responding to the ideas that surround me, absorbing them and reflecting them against my inner experience. But that awareness that no idea really my own should not stifle my creative use of those ideas. This little blog is not about presenting polished writing, or even about expressing ideas clearly and succinctly, which is something I feel like I constantly struggle with in my writing. Rather, it is about simply sorting out what I think and how I feel about things from what everyone else is saying. Not being a “passive consumer,” if you will.
That said, I now delve into a topic that has been revolving around. This topic has deeply affected my personal life. That topic is addiction to avoiding a confrontation with the self through distraction. That distraction pans out into addiction. The distraction can take many forms, for many it is our personal technology – the email and social media contained within them. Instead of letting the spaces between things be a moment to catch our breath, a pause to observe, we anxiously fill them up, step outside of our selves. The smartphone steals away the challenge of sitting with one’s self. We need that time of diffuse awareness. We don’t need the information overload. It used to be a lot worse for me, as a teenager. I sincerely believe it stunted my development as a free-thinking individual. The times I am most likely to mindlessly turn to email or social media are the times when it is hardest and most crucial to attend to myself – when I am facing an unpleasant emotion, when I have encountered a difficult task, when my body needs nourishment or rest. Why do we resist the important act of self-preservation? Why do we sabotage ourselves like this? I suppose email and social media seem like the easy way out in the short run, the false sense of instant gratification. Attending to those important things I listed requires looking through a longer-term lens. Long-term gain over short-term pleasure. The things most worthwhile are usually the hardest to do. The goal currently, which is not always met, is to limit email to 5 intentional checks each day, and social media to one 10-minute check after 5pm, no fb unless some logistical communication is required. Every time you consider checking email or social media, ask yourself if its really worth taking away the precious time of sitting with yourself. It’s from those quiet moments, the spaces in between, where we grow.