Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Cacti & Lilacs"
from Artmonk Retreat, January 2011
You have to go slowly to know the soft side of a cactus.
You can't just jump in there and kiss it.
You have to talk sweet to it first.
But it is possible.
Go slow ~ try the "wrong way."
Be gentle, gentle, quiet, quiet.
Listen to its secrets.
Understand why the prickly parts are there.
And then ~ it will let you touch it.
A factoid about cacti:
They're supposed to BE like that.
Prickly is just the way they are.
We can't all be lilacs, you know. 

And kalamata olives ~ they're supposed to TASTE like that.
Taste one with your full mouth - 
Not just the front,
Or your tongue,
Or one side.
Try it This Way - it's more fun
To swish swish swish it around all the way, so that it fills up your whole, whole mouth with flavor.
Maybe so much that it fills your neighbor's mouth, too.
Taste that?
It's supposed to taste shockingly bitter at first; 
It's supposed to be that salty.
It's supposed to make your nose wrinkle and lips curl around as you try to hold in ALL that flavor from one perfect purple morsel.
It's OK - olives are supposed to taste like that.


And the pain ~ oh, the pain.
It is supposed to feel like that.
I know, this one is the hardest to believe, 
Rougher than a cactus to touch,
Harder than an olive to swallow.
But it IS supposed to be there.
Long, Dull, Prolonged, Never-Ending, your Whole universe, the Only thing. 
The center and 
Beginning and 
End of all your 
Thoughts, your everything.
It's supposed to overtake you like that. 
It's supposed to make you cry.
It's supposed to FORCE you to 
Go inside. To go 
Deep in and know that 
You are the only thing.
That you hold ALL the universe,
All the pain and suffering inside.
And the beauty, the beauty inside, too.
And it's supposed to be that hard to climb three flights of stairs.
And it's supposed to be that cold before you get in your sleeping bag.
And it's supposed to make you laugh til your heart hurts.
And you don't have to worry any more,
Or feel shame anymore,
Or feel doubt.
You can smile, and be.
Or laugh, or cry,
Or dance like you've got ants in your pants,
Or whatever.
What if it was all supposed to be like that?
"What if it were all OK?"
For now, try to just rest still, & know---
The other side of pain is lilacs.
And the sister of an olive is a smile.
And deep, deep, deep at the 
Center of a cactus, if you can
Manage to get in beyond the toughest of gatekeepers ~ if you can
Survive that first bite ~ if you can
Unravel all the terribly wonderful, beautifully awful
Complexity of your pain....
If ~When ~ you arrive at the Center of it all...
You're Home.

"An Ode to the Chefs"

from the Artmonk Retreat in the Mojave Desert, 2011
To our beautiful chefs, Isa & Sarah
From Lizzie, with Love.
Hot chai, with milk and rooibos and spices, opening your eyes in the morning.
I didn't know about that.
And I didn't know how much I love cinnamon, or beets, or squash.
Until they showed me.
Or that broccoli, carrots, and olives can be friends.
I didn't know the full range or spectrum of the musical scale, 
Until they played it so beautifully.
Isa's the kind of woman who has a secret.
You know, because she giggles about it all the time.
And also: you can taste it.
It's a secret because ---
You can be in there with her.
Watching her with ordinary things.
Like eggplants and knives.
Cinnamon and lentils.
Blenders and pineapples.
Things you've seen before.
Things you think you know.
But you don't know anything at all.
Because then Isa comes out with *magic*.
Punctuating with Flavor,
Heaving with Life,
Bursting with the Universe in each spoonful.
Crying out for you to Listen.
To Pay Attention.
Isa has a secret helper named Sarah. 
She's a quiet little minx, and
Together they make their mischief and magic.
They chop and whisper,
Stir & sigh,
Hold for warmth & 
Help us savor & 
Taste & Feel & Be.
They help us to Be,
To Be better.
To Live more.
To leave Fuller, 
Enriched, Sustained, Supported. 
Can you reach Enlightenment in a single meal?
Can one mouthful change the world?
I don't know --- you'll have to ask your belly
As it's heaving with delight, 
Nourished and Nurtured all over again.
As I travel myself through emptiness to fullness yet again,
Watching cycles repeat on the mat,
In my body, 
In my breath,
In my thoughts,
In our world.
I sit here, silently, with a 
Mouth full, and a 
Heart full, and a 
Room full of Love.
And I know this will pass, too. 
This bite, this life,
This breath, this moment,
This thought, this poem.
Running their courses through me,
Bite by bite
Bit by bit,
Step by step,
Breath by Breath.
And just when you think this bite is too much,
There's too much flavor, 
Too much intensity, 
Too many things going on in one exquisite, 
Miraculous thunder...
It's over.
And you wait for the next bite, the next meal, 
the next thought, the next experience,
the next love, 
the next life to arise.
Isa & Sarah's art changed my life.
They opened my eyes, to see in new ways,
To taste with my ears and smell with my mouth.
To take in the fullness, the richness, 
That maybe was there all along but 
Amplified by their Love, the Kindness, their Thought, their Attention.
Ordinary into Extraordinary.
Ingredients into Full-Meal-Experiences.
Two women into Witches, Minxes, Magicians,
Of the most wonderful, beautiful kind.
I wanted to tell you all week --- 
But that's the thing about silent retreats.
So I'll just tell you once, now, 
For every mouthful all week long ----
Thank you.
Thank you.
I can't wait to be hungry again.

"Notes on a Third Meditation"
"Good Enough for Seconds"

from 6 October, 2010

You can't tell me when to laugh.
Or, You Can --- But I can't listen.
I can't listen, because I've heard it too many times before; 
WE'VE heard it too many times before --- 
We, the human race, that is. 
"Hold it in, Keep it back, Shut it off, close the door.
"Keep quiet, Chew with your mouth closed, 
That should be done in the dark, You watch that tongue, young lady.
"Careful how you speak, He IS your father, This IS a church, There ARE people listening."
I've been told to be quiet one too many times.
I've been told my voice is too loud just often enough.
And now, I'm an adult. 
And I get to choose.
And I choose Volume, I choose Intensity,
I choose the Power of Speech,
I choose Resistance, I choose Life.
I choose to use my Words; 
I choose to use my Voice.
I want to scream in a church.
And I want to sing, but also scream, 
Or do something in between the two.
I want to make noise.
I want to shout my ideas, 
Stupid as they may be, 
From a rooftop on an autumn day, 
And I want to hear your response, 
Whistling back through the breeze in the trees.
I want to dance.
I want to dance naked.
I want to dance naked in an empty swimming pool to 
Techno-punk-rock music that only I can hear in my head.
But more than that,
More than ALL of that:
I want YOU to scream in a church.
I want you to WANT to scream in a church.
I want you to want to scream or sing, or something in between, 
The way you do in the car alone 
On the highway 
Where you know no one can hear you.
Show me. I dare you.
Show me how you dance to your favorite song, 
Naked in your room, 
Right when you get out of the shower 
And you're sure no one else is home. 
You think you can't do it, 
You think it's impossible, 
You think it will hurt, 
But the Secret is: You Can.
The secret is: It's Fun, 
But more than fun: It's Necessary. 
It's important.
It's the only thing keeping Us from Them, 
From the strangling reach of dogma,
From the oppressive tangles of your Father,
From the great silence that has consumed so many.
And Great Silence is Grand, 
Until it's mandated.
Until it's suggested, forcefully,
Til it's pushed upon you like a cock down your throat.
Or something like that.
Silence is Great when it's a choice, 
And it can be Freedom or Chains.
The Lock or the Key.
And here, where I live, 
We don't have God.
Well, of course we do,
But about the only thing we can all agree on 
Is that we don't want to call it that.
What we do have here, is Laughter.
Laughter, and each other, 
And lots of dogs 
And early morning crepes 
And pink fuzzy blankets 
And cheap red wine 
And kisses 
And hugs.
For me, it's enough.
People can live off that, you know.
And for people who will never know all that --- 
People for whom the Silence is NOT a choice, 
For the women who are told their baby is a gift, 
For the Congolese children who are told their government is pure, 
For the teenage girls who are told "everyone cool dresses this way"....
We Speak for you.
We Stand and Live and Fight for you.
We might even Silently Eat, Think, & Pray for you.
And when all that doesn't help,
When it still doesn't set you free....
We'll laugh for you.
We laugh with you.
And we know that we are all part of the same Song.

"Where I Live, 
It's All Dishes & Gratitude"
from Winter 2010
Where I live, we don't have God.
Well. Of course, we do.
But we call it Laughter.
We call it Laughter.
We call it Inside Jokes,
We call it Secret Knowing Smiles and Quiet Giggles.
We call it Talking Over Each Other and Laughing Til Our Sides Hurt;
We call it Rambunctious-Loud-American-Side-Splitting Chuckling, 
Can't-Finish-the-Sentence Hysterics, Roarin'-Hootin'-Howlin'-Across-the-Valley-
Pants-Peein' Yuckerin.
And we call It,
We call It,
We call It.
Where I live, God comes to us in this way,
We touch God with our insides this way.
(Have you ever touched God with your insides?)
And when the snot's coming out of my nose and the tears are streaming down my face and the breathless, involuntary vocalizations of my own delight are spewing forth from my earthly bag of skin - 
I know God.
I AM God.
I thank God.
Where I live, we know God through our Tears, and through our Struggle. 
And we know It when we look into each other's eyes.
When we look, and we know, and we
Fear it's not enough, and we
Worry they'll call the lawyers, and we
Hate that we've been "proven irresponsible."
We really hate that one.
But we feel it - in the knowing Glances,
In the side swiped Looks
In the Pat on the back at the cold ATM machine,
In the metaphysical Hand-holding at the post office,
In the AMAPFALAP that inspires us all, that we have chosen.
We hold each other up - literally.
And we know - that we have found God. 
Where I live - This is what we have:
We don't have heat - we have warmth.
We've given up comforts for comfort.
Riches for wealth.
Objects for each other.
Where I live, we have each other.
We live here for each other.
We come & go & stay for each other.
'Round these parts, 'bout
The only things we have are 
Countless meetings and endless hugs,
Heaps of dishes and bottomless gratitude.
It's the kind of place where you can cry at lunch -  
Could you ask for anything more?
I know you don't understand.
It's ok, you don't have to.
God doesn't always have to be so pretty, you know.
You can't just simply trap him on a table and call it an altar,
Or in your exclusive building and call it a church.
Or, you could I guess.
People do strange things all the time.
But I can't believe it.
I can't believe you the same way you can't believe me 
When I tell you:
God is in our chicken.
Yes, our Chicken is god.
If you don't believe me, you should see the way She stares at the earth, 
The way She meanders so perfectly,
The way She accepts whatever She's given,
The way She's the same whether Her feathers are clean or dirty,
Whether it's raining or not,
Whether She's in the dog's mouth or walking about.
The way she poops in the middle of our floor, as if 
Poop is the same as Not-poop.
Or maybe she's just trying to Humble us; teach us a lesson.
She's Zen; She's God.
It still doesn't mean we might not kill Her and eat Her one day - 
They killed your God, too, you know.
Where I live, God comes to us in many ways.
And you can feel it:
In pain, in cold, 
In hunger, in inconvenience, 
In disagreements, in opinions, in breakups and breakdowns. 
You can feel God running Her course through. 
And in the jokes, 
The smiles, the stories, 
The hugs, the thoughtfulness, 
The moments shared, 
The laughter. 
You can feel God in the Laughter.