Four little arty vignette impressions. Why? Not sure really. So enjoy!
I’m so cold lately. Come warm me.
Late April and there are patches of fruit trees all in a fervor of bloom. Driving through Providence, the old streets and houses are suddenly so lovely that I can hardly catch my breath. Stays of white flowers hang beside antique brick walls that are awash with bright green ivy. Lilacs peek out from their shade and what I think are maples erupt as explosives of red, making their mark in the genre of shade tree. And then there are the pinks—blooms whose names I am ignorant of but who look like smears of impressionist paint, their bodies billowing like Rubenesque beauties against velvety lawns and silvery bark. A friend who grew up there told me “it’s a spring city” with a look of knowing in her eye in response to my awestruck recounting of another beautiful wall or tree or flower I had seen that morning. If it were just a little warmer it would be downright idyllic.
But I live by the sea and it is just ever so slightly colder and damper down here by the water. The sunshine has gotten brighter and almost blinds me as I sit on the deck with the white painted boards framing blue and grey houses across the street that bring the word “clapboard” to mind for some reason. But I can’t stay out there for long because it is deceptively chilly. The sea won’t let me forget that it carries the memory of whales in it and just down the street is that splendor of deepness, beautiful and cold.
My lover wears hope on his arm.
Last night, one of my dearest friends called on the phone. We spoke for a little while and she told me stories about returning from Hawaii and all the adventures she’d had. She said she was now sitting in her front yard in New Mexico staring at the new sprouts that had just poked up, that morning. She said her skin was all dry and cracked again after coming back to the desert. And I remember that dryness but in a place like this it seems impossible. And we talked about love. About what it might mean to be open to it and I felt a rush of just that burst in to my chest again. And she had just seen my little sister that morning which stirs complex emotions for me. And clearly, I see my sister in her red dress with red lips and nails against green grass and a blue sky like in a photograph she’s just taken. It’s as if, in my mind, everywhere she goes in that desert town, she is smearing her red beautiful force across it like a canvas. She is making her mark; not all the strokes are graceful but they are hers and increasingly, they will become that as she learns she has choices to make. I am both proud and terrified for her.
Things that befuddle, confuse, surprise or amaze.
Tuesday. Getting tea on a rainy morning in the art building. If I went to college here, this is where I would be. Artists are the only ones who can make this concrete cave of a campus feel at all delightful. But whilst standing there, a young woman came up wearing skintight “yoga” pants with a rhinestone, sparkly set of letters across her bum that said something like “pink love.” Hugging every perfect 19 year old curve, I tried not to imagine what that combination of diction actually meant, or if she even knew, or what young men must feel or think when they glance at her. It was then that I realized this phenomenon of girls with words scrawled across their behinds is one that never ceases to amaze me.
So I put it to my students. I asked them to free-write on something that makes them wonder. And, of course, the things they came up with were also like seeing the world again, for the first time–surprising and complex. One complained about traffic, another talked about how being a twin was a blessing and a curse. The third, who shared, was a young man I’ve had trouble reaching because his false sense of confidence is aggressive and affected and I don’t really know how to approach him. He wants attention but doesn’t work hard at much of anything in my class. Anyway, he doesn’t understand how the most beautiful women always think they are ugly, not skinny enough, or good enough. The whole class took a tense breath. I asked a few questions. And then, I had to hit them with the word “patriarchy.” That you can be a college student and not know that word also amazes me but it says much about the demographic I am working with.
I had to tell them the truth. There is little in your lives that will not be affected by this in some way. Now that you are coming into adulthood, you will be grappling or denying the existence of this paradigm in innumerable ways. And I didn’t tell them; it will be painful. It will hurt you and you won’t know what to do. You will want to protect your daughter, sister or wife from hating herself and you won’t be able to do it. Culture is too large a gorilla. But I hand them vocabulary and try to remember I am an English teacher, and after all, it’s just a peer review day…
In the dark, again.
I turn to my hardwood floor when things are most difficult. Throw this red blanket down and light a honey colored candle. I turn all the lights out. Starting in cross-legged position, I breathe for the first time in days/hours/weeks/minutes and it’s good. It’s really good. I move and stretch my spine into “cat/cow” and then into downward dog. My shoulders come onto my back and I suddenly, remember just where my heart resides, nameless and aware. I hop up into L pose and then stand like a mountain. I take a wide legged stance and then lift up into a headstand. I rest where I can. I become a warrior. I breathe into the places that are expanding: pigeon, fire log, cobra. I feel the stiff places in my lower spine that will likely only get more challenging with time. I think about them and I move anyway. I move and breathe for as long as it takes to remember who I am, and what I am doing here.
In this springtime town.