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I have given notice. Notice to the landlord, notice to the Board of Directors, notice to my students, family and friends, notice to the universe. I am taking a sabbatical, a leave of absence, time off. All of it is swirling around me, the decisions, the good-byes, the letting go, not to mention the practical part of packing, sorting, throwing away, selling, giving away. It feels right, this leaving when my business is doing well, when I am doing something I love, yet knowing there needs to be a change, a shift. I am stepping into the unknown, a void.
I didn't sleep well last night, too tired, too stiff, sore, after riding on the back of the motorcycle again. I am restless at night also. I have all the worries spinning around in my head, the giant to do list, all the stuff I must take care of before leaving the beginning of August. Keep having conversations with myself about how can I afford the luxury of taking time off to go riding. But how can I not? And how can I afford the luxury of taking time off from life and not working. But how can I not?
I drew the Hanged Man for my Tarot card this morning. Perfect. Upside down, suspended. The card of the summer solstice. Interesting because in fact I consider summer as actually beginning with July not sometime in June. Think about the aspect of reversal. I have reached a turning point in my life. As the wheel turns I will be led back to a new beginning. There is no turning back. No transformation can occur without sacrifice. Look at the sacrifice. It is a natural part of the cycle, the passage of time. What am I willing to let go of?
I am teaching another creative writing class this month. I always enjoy using the exercise where we take a poem by Native American poet, author and scholar, N. Scott Momaday and use it as a formula to write our own poetry. Each time I use the formula it is an opportunity for me to create new images. I surprise myself with how much I call upon nature for these images and how little time I actually spend in nature right now. It seems like I only sit at my desk and look out at the park and the redwood trees.
I am the endless cycles of the changing seasons, always and never the same. I am the rhythmic breathing of a hibernating grizzly. I am the last spawning salmon trying to swim up a polluted stream. I am the sad hollow of a burned out tree reminding you of careless acts. I am sparkling dew drops in a spider's web after a morning of heavy mist. I am the painted bowl that holds your pomegranates. I am the crying you hear in the distance after we go to war.. I am a baby's shallow breath against its mother's empty breast.
I am a hurricane's eye. I am summer's first rain. I am the sky of a North Dakota winter. I am steam rising from thermal ponds. I am ice cream churned by hand. I am bread fresh from the oven. I am the grave stone of an infant. I am a field of lavender. You see, I am all that delights and defines life. I stand tall as the ancient redwoods and sequoias. I stand wide as Mother Earth giving birth. I stand for truth and for lies. I stand for heartbeats and heartaches. You see, I am a woman.
Lest you, the reader, or I, the writer, get confused, the following words are not part of the above mentioned formula. My patience is as long as Interstate 80 on an unfolded, cross country map. My efforts at organization are like a fly doing the back stroke in spilled honey. I am gum stuck to your shoe. My marriage was a cracked vase that always leaked. My book shelf is a pantry well stocked for winter. I am a scratch on your favorite record. I am my grandmother's custard pudding. My uncombed hair is steel wool in an electric storm.
My home right now is an obstacle course, literal, figurative. Piles of possessions strategically placed so as to differentiate as well as allow for movement, such as don't bump into anything if I get up at night, don't stub my toe when I'm not paying attention. Possessed by possessions. This to Goodwill, this return to a friend, this to give away, throw away, pack, change my mind, unpack. I feel like a pack rat. I feel like I am letting go of too much and will regret it. I feel like I am keeping too much and will regret it.
I drove a friend to Galt yesterday. He buys items there which he later resells at flea markets. We got up at 4:00 so we could arrive early, before the crowds, before the heat and so I could get home early enough to teach. Galt is just south of Sacramento, probably not much reason to visit the town except to go to the giant weekly wholesale market, Tuesday mornings. Rows upon rows of easy-ups, tents, awnings, and piles of goods, a huge in-your-face reminder about consumerism. Cheap plastic junk, gaudy clothing made from poor quality fabric and even worse workmanship
Not all of it was so. There was one vendor selling silver jewelry with lovely stones, the pieces were well-made, hand-crafted and unique. I could feel the presence of the maker as I held some of them, others were still. I thought about the markets I have visited in small towns and villages in Europe, farmers markets full of fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, hand-spun wool, hand-carved wood, bees wax candles and the faces of the vendors smiling at their wares, quite often the love of what they do visibly evident before me. There is much contrast in this world.
Naomi called again. We talked about our plans for Italy. I arrive in Amsterdam on Tuesday the 26th so we will have a couple of days together before we need to leave. I need to get down to Lucca at least a couple of days before the women arrive for the tour. Flying is of course the fastest but there are still all the transfers, getting from her house to the Haarlem train station, then the train to the airport, flying, then the train from the Pisa airport to Lucca. So we are considering taking the train all the way.
It would be a long journey but enjoyable. There is a certain rhythm to train travel that is peaceful, certainly less stressful than security checks at airports. We would leave very early in the morning from Haarlem and would not arrive in Lucca until close to midnight. What fun though. The scenery is grand, especially through the Alps and we could talk and talk and catch up on all that has passed since we were together in March for her wedding. We'd need to take our own food and water as most often only snack food, junk food is available.
The summer of 1999 Naomi and I went to Europe. We purchased a Eurail pass, valid for 3 months, first class, with the one restriction we must always travel together. We flew into Paris. It was July, hot, humid and it didn't take us more than a heartbeat to decide our backpacks were too heavy. Our brilliant plan. We would travel up to Heemstede, a small town near Amsterdam where we lived in the 70's, visit some friends and ask if we could leave some of our baggage there, returning to retrieve it at the end of our summer travels.
Mom wants so much to help me with the move. She mentioned several times that she's really good at packing books. I have a lot, like a bookstore, library combined. Filing boxes are the best, strong, sturdy, all the same size. We quickly developed a rhythm and a system. It gave us a chance to spend some time alone visiting and reminiscing and then a good excuse to have lunch together downtown. We shared a turkey sandwich on sourdough roll. She eats often but never very much. The roll was too hard for her to chew. We took it apart.
Exploring day by day the various concepts of ownership. Even the language of I manifested the money implies that somehow we believe, think we own the process. Is it not more truthful to say it appeared, it flowed to me, flowed through me? Is money not a construct of our minds like time. When you cease to be the owner of it, it comes coursing through you and there is an allowing for it to show up in ways that has nothing to do with doing or efforting or working. So there is room for the magic to show up.
Nine years ago I owned a large, lovely vintage home with lots of extra rooms and I made a decision to rent a room to a young girl who was pregnant, unmarried, frightened and asking for a opportunity to change her life. She sat in my living room in a rocking chair during the interview, nervous, shaking and I could see in her eyes the unspoken question, will you please give me a chance. She started to cry when I said yes and then quickly asked if I would make her move when the baby was born. I said no.
That snap decision was one of the best I have made. She stopped by for a visit yesterday, a lovely young woman, confident, alive. She went to the junior collage during her time with me and then on to the University of California at Santa Cruz where she got her degree.. Her daughter, a delightful child who thinks of me as her grandmother, holds my face with her small hands and says, Oh Ingrid I love you everywhere. We talked and remembered and cried. She thanked me again for taking her in and being such a good mother and grandmother.
When you live a half life, a life of compromise and resignation it feels like, looks like the tasteless white chicken meat you get served in Chinese restaurants in dishes with names like chicken with broccoli in lemon sauce or pineapple chicken. You know, those strange uniform pieces that you look at and are not sure where they came from. Give me meat with a bone in it, recognizable, like a roasted turkey leg or a grilled pork chop. Give me a life I can chew on, one with flavor and juiciness, one that requires a good set of teeth.
So this is really radical, over the edge. I have felt it coming on as I have packed. I threw away all my pictures today, well, almost all. The process was methodical and with intention. I looked at each one, some longer than others, said good-bye and tossed. I am left with a manila envelop with hospital photos of each of my three children, wedding photos for each set of grandparents, my Mom and Dad, a couple of my baby pictures and two group shots of my children, one as kids, one as adults. Oh, and my daughter's recent wedding.
I drove out to the flea market this afternoon, neighborhood yard sale says Esther, may have something to do with the rules. Hermit sets up his tables there almost every weekend during the summer. The people who stop are an entire city, the Chinese couple in a shiny Mercedes up from the Bay area, the hairy bare gays in town for Big Bear Weekend, tweakers with scabs on face and arms, often looking for something easy to steal, the family next door with wet swimming suits, suntan lotion and the dog hanging out the rear window of the station wagon.
People are coming out of the woodwork asking me for Rune readings. Oh, I thought you'd always be around, took you for granted, was meaning to make an appointment. All things happen at exactly the right time. How could it be otherwise. Sometimes the stones show me vivid pictures, not always do I have ready access to the words I need to describe what I see. Sometimes a thread connects them in a strange way, much like reading backwards. Most often the message is as much for me as it is for them. We are the same. We are one.
Week three of the creative writing class. Two of the women were missing. We spoke about the idea that writers write and writers read and how important it is to read things that challenge us, that call us forth in a way that is beyond the comfortable. What is it like to read a book that sends you searching in the dictionary page after page or one that demands you read the sentence more than once to really grasp the meaning or to allow the image to find a place to settle. And to remember that writers live double lives.
Up early for the last Board meeting I will be attending as the Administrative Coordinator. I handed over the binder and all the rest of the bits and pieces of a job I've done for over six years. Relief, readiness, sadness. I had not given much thought to how much, how many. My replacement acknowledged me for the ease of transition and thoroughness of my notes and I thought she will stay with the job for it will be easier to stay than to train someone new. Rather like rubbing stomach, patting head and whistling all at the same time.
The form of our guild is changing. Three of us are in movement. We are not sure what that will mean or what it will look like. As usual for the guild we needed no excuse to party. The usual wine and wine and dips and speads and breads and chips and toasting to us to our adventures to our next volume to our inviting guest writers to our discussing the opening of the guild to other writes and what would it look like if we included men in PenHouseInk, a guild of wise women in relentless pursuit of creativity.
Sonoma County Fair, Friday, the opening week. Hermit wanted to go and we have never been to the fair together in spite of the fact we've been together four years. There was a ‘climb a rock wall' experience booth, equipped with pulleys and harnesses and ropes and we stood a long time watching three very young children have the experience of climbing. The one little girl in a cute sundress and sandals couldn't have been much older than four, perhaps even younger and her two siblings not much older than that and the proud parents encouraging and supporting their adventure.
I talked with Hermit about it, remembering my own childhood. I spent my summers on Grandma's ranch in Redding. I climbed fences, jumped from the hay loft in the big red barn my Swedish grandfather had built, gathered eggs, played hide and seek in the root cellar. I remember crawling through irrigation pipes in the pastures, climbing tress down by the river and riding horses without saddles down the lane to the mail box. So many kids today miss their childhoods, spending time instead watching television, watching other people live their lives or in front of computers or video games.
This afternoon I met with the women who are going on the Italy tour in September. We laughed about being shocked at the strange toilets in the Lucca train station. Well there actually isn't a toilet, just a tile floor scooped out with a large flush drain in the middle and a place to put your feet. What I'd like to know is who the heck invented such a thing? The navigation and logistics are a nightmare. There is no way to avoid pee splatters on your shoes and you might as well forget it if you have bad knees.
I did an intuitive counseling session this morning for a special woman. We explored the concept of play, doing nothing and how that seems to be what's missing so often in people's lives. Not sports, not competitive games, just play, the timeless place of being, a place without agenda, without rules, without product. How often do we allow ourselves to go there? The rune that came to mind, well I actually saw it in my mind, was Nyd, the bow drill, the reminder that we effort with intention but we don't need to keep doing it once the fire starts.
Last night was the last class for the eight women who have been doing "Walking In This World". It's hard to believe this group has been together 13 weeks but then I say that about every group when it comes to an end. Time goes by so quickly; so much happens for everyone. They brought a banquet of food to share and enjoy. Each one had a project to work on that would represent for them the journey. I announced that my shelves of books were up for grabs and it made me smile to see who took which book.
A friend took me to lunch yesterday. She brought me a gift and also a card from the women on the Board. I opened the envelope, opened the card and out fell a $100 bill. What fun. Money just appears. I find money on the street quite often. I place money on my altar and it multiplies. I'm always surprised to find there is more there than I left. When I stop saying I manifested this or that and just let it be then it flows to me. That's more truthful. It has nothing to do with anything I do.
Just in case any of you miss me, I will not be submitting during the months of August and September. Don't be fooled. I will still be writing. I will be on the road, traveling both here and in Europe and not with access to a phone in some instances and/or a computer either. I will be in the mountains at hunting camp, driving to Los Angeles, flying to Amsterdam, riding the train to Italy and settling into my retreat space, a small trailer on 120 acres bordered by the Plumas National Forest. My travels are both imaginary and real.
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