Durable as Breath

I am learning the dizzying trust the thread learns to feel when the needle leaps out from the cloth again and again.

Here two weeks away from two years of porous living, slowly learning to track the animating questions home to their weird heart, sometimes finding precious zero in the storm and other times senselessly jumping up and down in the tiny rowboat because it just hurts to see the sea so calm when somewhere someone is sinking and somewhere someone is waking up, we ride out this gift of a life in our weathered canvas home.

***

I started writing two years ago to leave a record of our journey to this life within the limits of earth. Along the way I’ve written about the connection between the land and myself. Just as I’ve been taught how to let the completion of an old oak grove show me my own completeness, the mothering patience of a beech tree welcome me as nourished and nourishing, or the blistery pokey teacher vines at our forest edges teach me about boundaries and skin, so is some great empathy working quietly behind each day to bind me to the whole of this place that has been plowed, logged, eroded, cut, hunted, trashed, and also loved, relied on, blessed, remembered, protected, and again regrown, all of it in cycles depositing strata of people and plants atop the grinding migrations of behemoth plates forever going home. I detect but don’t understand that in some important way what happens here happens to me. The more I learn to see that my home is alive and had a life long before we ever met, the more our relationship becomes as potent and vulnerable as a marriage.

In loud moments last year I’ve cursed my home for not being able to keep me safe and for echoing my every failure back so loudly and in quiet moments last year I’ve utterly relied on the patient exactness of our place and let myself sink free into its playful peace.

In both kinds of moment inner hands work silently braiding something durable inside while I get to work building another small shelter in the woods.

***

Murmuring along the margins of the track of this unfathomably weird and often measurably rough last year, there’s been those great patterns like continental plates I could almost walk slow enough to see, waiting mammoth outside the tiny admittance into that small adorned hall where words dine.

And me, this last year I mostly stayed there in that safe room of rote language because in living outside and often feeling off balance, I deeply needed comfort. I stayed in the small room of words I knew best. This, that, because, must, should, always, never, you, me, big, small, OK, not OK, cause, effect, right, wrong. Chair, curtain, dresser, television, fridge, blanket, bank balance, bed.

***

When Old Original Language built the ancient room of words, the fashion was to build beautiful and leaky. Beauty and leaks were both quipus – memory knots left in the strands of age. Things built that way you could hold in your hands and count home again to zero.

All that year while I huddled in the room of words, full moons punctuated the visits of teachers, friends, weather patterns, animals, and the sudden radiant disorienting miracle of a great loving family. Each gained unsurveilled entry to my old room of words. Weird blessings wearing stolen work uniforms stood at the threshold announcing, “Plumber!” “Cable repair!” “Exterminator!” and me knowing we don’t have plumbing or cable and we adore our bugs and it’s the middle of the night but that even so I could use the help I made no attempt to refuse their work.

One-by-one in suspiciously beautiful and ill-fitting work clothes they set up shop in the dark corners where the vocabules play with bones and they took out their gnarled tools to secretly make the large leaks in the small old room of words larger. They made the leaks larger in the midst of the rainiest year on record. And there I am, feet in blazing water like seemingly the whole rest of the earth while the words and me peer together through the growing leaks, only to see looking back at me at age 36 the impossible kindness of my grandmother’s unfathomably tender eyes. And again life is real, mystery is generously spacious, and every bend of the road is utterly worth knowing. That is where I still am right now.

***

Rumi’s beloved Shams threw his favorite wisdom books in the fountain. In the slow fountain of our Yome, they just mold out.

Rumi also once told the loud ducks quacking over his teaching to please quiet down and they did. Ours hear my voice and start quacking louder.

***

I lost a forest canopy of a friend this Friday who had again and again taught me just by being himself how love can be easy, how a single smile can speak the whole book of life, and how touching the circle of a drum can build a nest in air for firebirds to roost. A week before losing my friend a candle and a sweetgum ball taught me how to mend a terrifying rift in my marriage. And a week before that, I dwelt in sudden startling ease with my lost biological father and all the deeply kind, lucid branches he left behind as I was welcomed mess and all by the missing lovable intensely recognizable other half of my life.

Somewhere in the days before and between each of these gates, I wandered alone through the nights driven crazy by a neighbor’s new suffering dog barking endlessly through the bitter cold nights, afraid like I get afraid and alone like I get alone cold down in by the creek bed at the end of the land. And at the threshold of each gate, I was sure again that I had to leave the land. And in between that, I was sure again that I am home, I am supported, and every grain of sandy soil I sleep above is the sand of the path I somehow chose to walk the day I was born, long before I entered that leaky beautiful room of words.

***

The way I was taught to make cordage involves bringing together again and again the thumb and the finger. The hand encloses a precious portion of emptiness. The emptiness is mother to the durable. In braiding the durable, I sometimes need to spend months just holding that thumb and finger together having no idea what I’m doing. No new twine is made, nothing visible moves. All I can do is keep that pressure against the pulse in my thumb, exhaling. Other times, I move. The pliant inner skin of trees moves in my hands. Strands become rope. Rope becomes bridge. Where is there to go but across? What is there to say but thank you?

to my dear friend: I’ll watch for you across the bridge we were building together until it’s my time to cross. in the meantime across the way you’ll hear me playing the rhythms you taught me. thank you, thank you, thank you.

and to my lost biological father found: who knew what a familiar friend you could be to me without us having ever met. you’ve left me a life where I’m triply blessed. thank you for this wild chance to be.  i love you as you are.


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