Saturday, January 29, 2005

For the first time in two weeks Elsie found herself awake for the just-before-four train.

She laid still and listened, the near-full moon watching through her window.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

casting the i-ching

Fatima had cast the I-Ching for maybe four or so reasons, during four or so periods of her life. And, really, actually, only in two of those was she desperately seeking guidance. Desperately wondering how to proceed and desperately unsure how to begin.

She didn’t really believe in it, after all. But both times—those two desperate times—involved love. And a spiritual teacher.

The first time, the I-Ching was horribly, miserably, painfully accurate (as much as she had tried to fight its answers).

The second time, well, she guessed the days would tell. But, anyway, the answer wasn’t really so bad. It was even kind of good (or at least not nearly so tragic as she had imagined her situation to be).

Plus, she’d cast it twice. A week or so apart with eerily similar conclusions (or non-conclusions, as the case may be).

The first cast, during days of presumed loss and far too much crying, read: “Initial Obstacles—Giving birth to the new has potential for great success, but there are difficulties to be overcome.” And its “Appropriate Action” counseled: “Temporarily sacrifice other interests and focus on the situation at hand. Through careful sorting replace chaos with order. Get help from others and remain determined. Do not act prematurely. . . . Resolve disorder slowly.”

Replace chaos with order. Resolve disorder slowly. Fatima liked that.

But she was doubtful. And kept crying.

The second cast, a week or so later, when the crying had mostly subsided and a hollow, empty, resolved feeling remained, read: “Obstacles—Obstacles can and should be overcome. The highest barriers often conceal the greatest blessings.” And its “Appropriate Action” advised: “Rather than forcing ahead, retreat and let strength and means accumulate. Seek advice from an appropriate source. Seek assistance, and remain determined. Look to your own inner development to see what is actually inhibiting progress. . . . Acting in obedience to a higher authority, one confronts obstacle after obstacle, but there is no blame.”

Retreat. Look to your own development. No blame. Fatima liked that too.

But she still cried a little. And kept feeling sad.

Yet she knew (between the tears) that what was just was.

And, really, that’s all it could (and would) be.

So she’d wait. And go for a walk. And (meanwhile) admire the moon.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

happy and sad

somewhere between lunch and recess,
amidst milk cartons and jungle gyms,
she lost discernment between happy and sad
(or maybe just the illusion
that there was ever a difference).

Friday, January 21, 2005

dear alex

as i look up from the pages of your words to search the eyes staring out from your photograph, i wonder do you ever pause in the midst of your tormented musings to see that this is really it? that this is the very moment, the very beauty, the very life that you seem to mistakenly, tragically suppose you are missing?

do not imagine that your torment, your longing, your sadness, your aloneness are sharper than my own. but do not imagine either that i seek reprieve from the pain and freedom and wonder of it all. of willing, eager hopelessness and helplessness.

i ask you, alexbecause i genuinely long to knowdo your words closely and fully reflect how you see existence and your place in it? or are they merely side notes scribbled in the margins of your consciousness? a consciousness that embraces all of the pain and joy and death and life, which, upon closer (or perhaps farther) reflection, are all the same this that is it that is beautiful.

love, x.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

on shyness.

Someone once told her (and not so long ago) that he didn’t see her as shy at all. But sensitive. And hesitant. Perhaps because she was unsure—as many seemingly shy folks tend to be—of what role to play at any particular moment.

Hmm, she thought. I’d never thought of it that way before. But he could be right. Or at least partway right. Part of the time.

Shyness was, after all, a big, sweeping, funny sort of word. The sort that included a whole hell of a lot of things. And nothing at all.

All of those moments—those countless moments—when she felt physically, viscerally, powerless to speak. When, if she forced words to come, they were stilted and stale and weird to her own ears—and certainly to those of others (at best). And, at worst, they were taken at surface value, though they did absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing at all to convey the soul of what she was thinking, feeling, being inside. And that very distance, that disconnect, between what was in here and what she forced to the surface made it all seem so futile—and such a physical struggle—to speak at all.

And it (shyness, that is) also covered those other moments. Those times when she hid from people and things and situations and herself on purpose—or at least on the edge of purpose (but certainly not entirely unconsciously, unknowingly). Because she just couldn’t deal with it all. The people. The consequences. Herself. Herself. Better—in those times—just to not be (at least not to anyone other than herself, who she figured she was pretty much stuck with).

And it (shyness, again) also covered the usual tedious, tired state of things. When she assumed that those around her saw so clearly, so transparently, the worst of whom she was and might be. And so being quiet and shy and withdrawn seemed entirely called for. Less exposure. Less dissonance. Less hurt. All around.

But, really, she thought, it was that first sort of shyness that happened most often. That was unavoidably, integrally tangled up with the self she imagined herself to be. Because words are ever and always signs, symbols—so impossibly, indescribably empty. And she just couldn’t get over that. Couldn’t deal with the shallowness of how it all sounded next to how intense, how real, it all felt.

And so she hesitated. Always teetering on the edge of things. And, in that way at least, she supposed he was right.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

so, so far away.

The email came shortly before midnight. And all that it said and almost said and seemed to say lingered with her into the early hours of the morning.

A friend suffering. Torn apart by so much pain. And so, so far away.

And her, lying here, not knowing what to say or do. Helpless. Knowing only the caring and love that filled her own heart.

And wishing she knew how to send them out. To soothe and heal and make everything ok.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

"The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of non-action.

Teaching without words and work without doing
Are understood by very few."

—Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching

Saturday, January 01, 2005


“We are rather like whirlpools in the river of life. In flowing forward, a river or stream may hit rocks, branches, or irregularities in the ground, causing whirlpools to spring up spontaneously here and there. Water entering one whirlpool quickly passes through and rejoins the river, eventually joining another whirlpool and moving on. Though for short periods it seems to be distinguishable as a separate event, the water in the whirlpools is just the river itself. The stability of a whirlpool is only temporary. The energy of the river of life forms living things—a human being, a cat or dog, trees and plants—then what held the whirlpool in place is itself altered, and the whirlpool is swept away, reentering the larger flow.”

—Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen