Summer’s Passed

A summer had gone by since she’d written in the book, since she’d felt even the smallest glimmer of desire to look at it. From spring to autumn, it sat on the shelf hosting dust mite symposia and nothing else. More than a few of the mites had, in the process, acquired a deeper sense of meaning in their tiny lives just by perching on the cover, gnawing through the title page, while others still found simple contentment floating mindlessly in the sun beams that poured through Anna’s bedroom window.

It was November when circumstance finally pushed her back into the writing chair, when the silent approach of winter hung still in the doorway. Fall had come in a flash, almost without salutation. All at once the leaves yellowed and the skies grew awfully grey.

The day she returned to the book the weather proved rather mild. The wind moved like laughter through the air. And the moon had come out well before curtain call.

By this time, the Quartet had left House du Petit, no doubt in search of warmer climes–more specifically the climes of an invisible Hawaiian island, where, according to Anna, a stale apple pie spoke at length of humanity’s worst mistakes, and the honeybees were as big as your fist.

Meanwhile Anna had returned to the Midwest, hoping to lead some semblance of a normal life. The Shaman saw to it that she wouldn’t–and it was precisely his interference, an ongoing and increasingly vivid campaign of dream transmissions, that prompted her to sit down and finally write once more.

After all, the Book of Pie would not finish itself.

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Begin

Begin to make moves in the direction of a strong, well balanced, drama-free artistic, literary, and musical community flourishing by the sheer effort of its members. 

Begin to walk away from the energy suckers, the phonies, the manipulators, the emotionally reactive.

Begin to extricate energy from improper circumstances and relationships. 

Begin to limit endeavors. 

Begin to hone them down. 

Begin to focus clearly and consistently on positive feedback loops. 

Music.

Beats.

Lo-Fi sounds.

Soul felt lyrics. 

Novels. 

Poems.

Short stories. 

Make money simply for the sake of existing and supporting life.

Stop apologizing for being selfish with personal resources. 

Wake up. 

Break down old structures.

Build up new ones. 

Become.
Become. 
Become. 
And begin. 

Begin where the self already stands. 

Full Circle (Thank You Tom)

Sometimes, magic has a way of slapping you in the face. Other times it creeps up on you when you’re not looking for it. And so it is that in the final pages of Tom Robbins’ final novel, he has brought me back to the place of my second and auspicious birth, my home away from my home, the primordial womb of my blossoming creativity, Naropa University in Boulder. Nearly a year ago I started reading his first book, Another Roadside Attraction, while pursuing a Masters at Naropa. It propelled me onto an adventure that took me away from there, an adventure in which I am still engrossed to this day. It’s hard to believe the circle has reached its full. The snake has found her tail. And with this little paragraph, I am forced to reflect upon all that I have accomplished since leaving Naropa, since setting off on foot, my own two feet, to find my passion and my purpose waiting for me. Thank you, Tom. Without you, without the joy and the soul with which you infuse your writing, I would not be here. Thank you for taking me back home. I am so blessed and so grateful.  Zo

A Little Less Tell (An Excerpt on Love)

The girl’s got a darkness that even the best spelunkers couldn’t spelunk. She looks like a light bulb but really, she’s a cavern, she’s the longest shadow in town, an alleyway shadow, a street lamp shadow, a shadow too shadowy for its own britches. To be more succinct, there is a place inside our protagonist that is the physiological equivalent of a black hole puckering its lips in some far corner of the universe. It’s a place that wants to be more like the stars, who radiate the kind of life-giving forces planets need to thrive, assuming they inhabit the Goldilocks zone. It’s a place, to be less scientific, that looks like a leaky bucket. You fill it up but after a while it spills out. You fill it up. It spills out. So she’s got a hole in her. Or two. She’s got a desperation about her. A mad desire for something achingly kindred, a furious need for mutual understanding, an absolute longing for Home. And the girl loves so hard it hurts. To be even more succinct, the girl loves too hard to let go in a reasonably healthy fashion. Hence the ideation at the overpass. Hence patterns of passionate love that don’t just peer over the edge of destruction, but plunge in completely.

The author supposes, having read what’s been written, that a little more showing and a little less telling might do the reader some good. So here goes:

They met on Tinder. Yes. Tinder. Anna didn’t even remember swiping right, not that Marlowe wasn’t memorable. On the contrary, she had eyes a goldfish would memorize to its dying day, eyes that reanimated the brains of dementia patients, eyes that flickered and gleamed the way a forest does at sunset. And she had cherry brown curls that fell in beach wave ringlets to her shoulders. And she had a smile. Oh that smile. It was a smile that stretched across her face like a rainbow across the rain soaked sky. It was a smile that made Anna melt, that weakened her already creaky knees, and unleashed two whole swarms of Monarch butterflies into her stomach. In terms of chemistry, theirs was volatile, the kind of mutual physiological reaction that’d set the whole lab on fire, that’d send the chemists running with their coats and panties at their ankles, yelling at everyone to evacuate the building. It was also the kind of chemistry that only the moon, the fat, waxing gibbous, and the sea, the briny briny sea, could understand. Theirs was the kind of chemistry that seemed to the exclusion of everyone else in the room, nay the world, the most important secret in the Universe.

The author will tell you that this secret is really no secret at all—that the whole point of this novel is to make the reader aware of their own capacity to get in on the action. And it’s a simple matter, really. Simple in syntax. In practice, things get… shall we say… heavy. But a lotus flower, to name a notable cliché, has got to go through all sorts of muck and sludge and dark, dark pond to get to the light. Kind of like a mole rat whose decided he’s had enough of the subterranean lifestyle. Kind of like a bear finally emerging from the Longest Hibernation Ever. Kind of like a soul awoken from an eternity’s aching slumber.

And that is what came of Anna and Marlowe. Well… at least for Anna. Marlowe’s part in this story is altogether brief. Because the author does not believe in telling love stories. Instead, the author believes that life—the real juicy stuff—happens when the heart lies in ruins, still throbbing with the ecstasy of yesterday, bleeding all over the good carpet, all over the city, searching for a new and equally significant high, all the while plunging like a lotus flower in reverse back down into the depths. So if you’re wondering what’s become of Marlowe, you’ll have to ask her, or stay tuned for some trite sequel, because this story is about Anna, about what happens when a girl falls for who she believes to be the mirror reflection of her soul, who she believes to be her destiny, her final frontier, the lone rose in her secret garden. About what happens when a girl, for all she knows, is dead wrong, and has to let go of thinking she has any fucking clue what life is about. And the story is about a Shaman who does. A Shaman whose apple pies’ll knock your tube socks right off.

A Normal Day (An Excerpt)

For all intents and purposes, it was a normal day. And normal days, as well as abnormal days, tend to start the same way.

Open your eyes, Anna. The waterfall isn’t real. It was only a dream. And this is a normal day. A day like any other day. A day that takes its coffee black. A day that walks its dog to the park and back. A day that has yet to discover its purpose. And one might suppose that a normal day, as well as abnormal days, indeed has a purpose.

Okay, you’re awake. Good. Now wiggle your toes, Anna. Look out the window. There’s a green warbler on the branch outside—it’s got a song for you. Down the stairs, a record is spinning. It is not Lil Richie. And it is not Neil Diamond. And it’s not Velvet Underground. Down the stairs, there’s a plate of eggs sunning on the table. Would you believe your friend made it for you? Would you believe she awoke with your smiling periwinkle eyes twinkling in her mind, and thought she’d do a special thing to make your eyes smile wider? You’re a lucky girl, having friends like that. And she made the eggs just the way you like: a light shower of shredded Colby jack and a quick pinch of picante? Scrambled to milky perfection. A little fluff goes a long way. And so do good friends.

Life is a series of cycles.

We’re born alone. We grow up in a family, a tribe. Then we find ourselves itching for differentiation, a new name, and a vein of expression that is wholly our own. We find ourselves wanting to stand on the feet our mama gave us, prop ourselves up like flamingos in the waxing surf. We find that the pond—this pond that once seemed an ocean—is no longer big enough for us to stretch our big ole fins (to mix metaphors). So we head out. We pack a rucksack. No more sack lunches. No more notes from mommy. Who’s my sweet girl, Anna? I hope you have a wonderful day at school filled with learning and laughs. What a sweetheart that mother of yours, Anna. What a sweetheart. Let’s forget the time in fifth grade when Suzie Bondalucci looked over your shoulder at the lunch table as you exhumed that note from its brown paper confines and read it in the shadow of your own curls.

Oh wait. You didn’t have your curls then. You were too young to know you wanted them—that one day they would become as integral to your identity as your journal and signature space pants. You were too young to shuck off the husk of other people’s ideas to assert your own truth—the truth that one day you would grow out your curls and never look back.

So anyways there was Suzie Bondalucci sniggering over your shoulder like an invisible goblin with a lit candle up her butt and a donut in her hand. And there you were, stricken with a mixture of affection and embarrassment. The latter of which was only exacerbated by Suzie reaching over you, snatching the note from your hands, and reading it aloud for the entire cafeteria.

What a bitch that Suzie was. 

Anyways now you’re in the car and the sky looks like a half-finished Jackson Pollock. The highway overpass looks the same as ever. Droll. Drab. Dreary. Gray. Stone. Slats. A rumble of cars passes beneath it like an anthill built dead center between a troll’s legs. The troll in question—the overpass—is collecting its toll as usual; nothing material, simply that for brief moments, drivers have to subject themselves to the possibility that the troll could choose to pop a squat right there on the highway, or perhaps, a car—your car—were to fly right through the barriers as if mimicking its favorite Michael Bay scene, as if rushing to greet the vehicles below, as if smashing like a child’s toy Pontiac into another child’s whole collection of coupes, sedans, four-doors, SUVs, trucks, and go-carts, Lambos, Porsches, and Ferraris—too many foreign cars to be occupying the same roadway at one time unless we were in Italy, on some sundrenched coastal town sliced up by cement serpents rushing toward the sea.

But we’re not in Italy. We’re in America. In Kansas. This is prairies, and foothills, and too many pro-life billboards to count. And it is mundane office parks. And it is suburbia. And for a girl like you, it makes no sense. You stick out like a sore thumb at a pinkies-only party. At the mall, you catch a few too many stares for one human to be justifiably comfortable. Fortunately, you’re not in the mall. You’re in your car. And you’re crying. And you’re thinking about driving your car right off the overpass into westbound traffic. Of course, you’re too afraid to do it. But you’re thinking about it.

Something About Love (An Excerpt)

Here is something the author knows about love:

Listen reader, the author doesn’t expect you to live a life as extraordinary as the Shaman’s. If, however, you do lead an extraordinary life, please give yourself a genuine and heartfelt pat on the back. We cannot doubt the importance of living boldly.

For at the core of such a life there throbs a great willingness to take risks, to take mindful and impassioned leaps of faith into the great big unknown.

Did the Shaman know the island would be there? Let’s ask him, but stay quiet; he’s meditating.

“Hey Shaman…”

One green peeper opens with a mixture of irritation and nonattachment. “What is it?” He asks with a cinnamon roll of this lonely open eye.

“Did you know the island was waiting eight miles off the shore for you? Or did you dive into the salty Pacific merely hoping it would be there?”

He scoffs that signature scoff of his—the kind of scoff that doubles as a shrug and moonlights as a pooh-pooh on the weekends. “It was a simple matter of concentrated divination. Now please, I’m trying to meditate.”

When the Shaman meditates, two things happen: the koas blush and the Universe expands to play catch up.

Space is not merely a matter of the third dimension.

The brain is capable of many feats, one of which is that it can simulate the sensory conditions of visualization—anything you picture in your mind, you bring to life. If you want to imagine a baboon rubbing his butt against your leg in an effort to rob you of your cookies, and you’re able to hold the vision for a long enough time, you might just feel the fuzzy red flesh of ape cheek against your calf, as well as the profound disappointment of having lost a freshly baked batch of oatmeal raisin to a being of lesser evolutionary stature.

The same goes for space: if you can visualize yourself surrounded by infinite space, pregnant with it, a stomach full of it, and you hold the vision long enough, you will actually begin to feel it.

So space is also a matter of the fifth dimension—an inner experience as well as outer.

And one must have a healthy dose of both if they want love to thrive.

Anna never learned the value of space until it was forced upon her by her parents’ divorce. The collapse of the family unit as she’d known it left a void inside her—one that’d been previously filled by social and familial expectations, by enmeshed roles of identity, by hidden codependency.

It was not until she began living with the Shaman that she learned the true value of this most important ingredient of love.

“Love blossoms first within the Self.” He said, catching glimpses of the sunset through the Technicolor concoction in his highball glass. It looked like the Sun was dressing in tie-dye lace, swimming in a bowl full of jelly.

“Then what happens?” she asked him between sips of potato vodka and blueberry.

“That’s it.”

“What do you mean? It doesn’t go anywhere?”

“Love flows from the Self,” he said as the bowl of jelly began to spin, “and downriver the Self is there to receive it.”

Just then, the Sun began to twinkle in the upstairs hearth of the forest. The sky, in turn, blushed in six different languages. A mourning dove not endemic to the island landed on the porch. On her beak was a smile the size of a fried plantain. Anna smiled too. The time was soon at hand for her to return to the mainland.

For it is not merely a matter of creating space. One must also bring it to life—set aflame the joy of their own soul, pour it out their eyes and… One must begin to fill it with good salubrious work, the kind of work that makes a man go “whoo” when the day is done, the kind of work that cannot truly be called work if it is done with purpose. One must cultivate their space until the avocado plants are growing six feet high and the bees are having way too much fun pollenating the orchids. Cause everyone knows, all work and no play makes Jack a dull bee. But a bee that enjoys its work makes honey sweeter than a peach, and its space becomes rife with that sweet honey love.

The kind of love you can bake a pie with—a pie so good it’s guaranteed to make life at least five slices more bearable.

The Modern Problem of Differentiation

Listen:

I like my solitude. Loneliness is an illusion. I spend whole days alone and I’m perfectly happy with it. In fact, it’s the most peaceful thing in the world. The problem is other people. (Is it? Is it really?)

Jean Paul Sartre had it right. (Did he?) Hell is other people. Well… not everyone, just some. Those people that need other people. Those people that get their knickers in a wad when you set a boundary for yourself. But as I’ve written this piece, I think maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture. I think there is more to this than I’m aware of.

One of my best friends disappeared for three years without telling a soul. I think about that. I wonder how his family felt. I wonder how he felt, down in his core. I wonder what it means to be a human being… a social creature… with social ties and obligations. It’s just so much easier to push away from the world. To be alone. But that hurts too. Because I’m not free of empathy. I know when I’ve hurt someone else. And the last thing I want to do is hurt others. But how much say do I really have with that? Will people go on hurting regardless of my actions or inactions?

Am I capable of being a part of a community? Or do my wounds keep me from really integrating? Do they hold me back? Do they cause me to resent the people I love?

Listen:

Self care comes first. That’s not selfish. (Then again there is a difference between self care and selfishness. A fine line). Is self-care about prioritizing myself over other people? Yes, but one must do so in a way that toes the line, a way that gives space to meaning and feedback and two-way communication. I am allowed to spend time on self-care; to live in solitude. Especially! Especially when I spent my entire life denying myself in order to survive, keeping my boundaries down for the sake of others.

Sure I’m in pain, but it’s fine. No. No. It’s fine. I’m not crying. I’m not hurting inside. Let me just continue minimizing my needs for you and everyone else. (So much pain in these words. So much anger.)

The world doesn’t see me (So much fear). I knew someone once who saw me. Who loved me completely (So much nostalgia. So much pain). I miss that feeling… getting to be myself completely with another person… getting to let down my most sacred wall… getting to be vulnerable with someone I loved.

How do I pull my walls down? How do I tear them down completely and splay myself out for the world?

Listen: I don’t want anyone in my life who isn’t going to be honest and open with me. Anyone who runs off without a word; who holds my actions against me without offering any amount of vulnerability. I don’t want that in my life anymore. Because somehow in the midst of everything I started to change. I started to revert. To deny myself again. Even the person I loved most… the person that once accepted me fully… had taken to rejection like flies on a honeysuckle.

I abandon myself for this world and it only creates pain for me. Maybe once it helped me survive; helped me get by; avoid violence from my peers, from my family. But now it just holds me back.

Now I am so afraid of being myself for this world; when that’s what the world needs most from me… to stand in my power, to exude it, to live my bliss and my mission. There is no doubt about what it is.

I am here to write, to encourage others to create. I am here to build things that will last long after I’m gone; ideas, organizations. The whole kit and kaboodle.

BUT FIRST. I’ve got to find me. I’ve got to do things for me. Cause I’ve never done that before. I’ve never put my happiness before yours. So I’ve got these archetypes in me. The ‘Me’ and the ‘You.’ Always battling. Any time I do for myself, I fear that I’ll let others down. They call me selfish. They tell me I don’t care about them, or their wants and needs. But that isn’t so. I’ve just never learned the balance.

The modern problem of differentiation still baffles me, still haunts me, keeps me from finding the in between, the happy space, the perfect mixture of solitude and togetherness.

So here I am in this place. With an opportunity for real enduring solitude. And I’ve got to make a choice. Do I wait? Do I leave the mountain for the market? Or do I stay here? At this summit, cultivating my peace and my quiet? Dreaming and intending. Building for the future. I’m learning out here. I’m learning what holds me back. What propels me forward.

While the world outside weeps. And struggles. When it seems no one has considered the possibility that I have intentionally created this situation for myself. While you buy into the bullshit, the idea of a 9 to 5, a life that burdens you and burns you out. That’s not my path. That’s not what I want. Money is a fabrication and I am still stuck believing it’s an object; it’s a wall; a barrier to my true dreams. But it’s not. The barrier is thinking there’s not enough money.

When the reality is, it’s out there. The world is filled with resources. And people waiting to help you fly.

So I’m here cultivating my peace; my aloneness. And it’s brilliant. I want to share it with people really. I want people to know there are other ways to live. Beautiful ways. Peaceful ways.

I’m working on setting boundaries in a way that achieves balance and understanding with the people i care about. I’m not perfect and I’m still figuring it out. My greatest fear is that, in choosing solitude I am hurting the ones I care about. Am I? Am I hurting you?

Here’s the thing:

My solitude has never been more important to me. It’s a sweet little silk cocoon that I have weaved with the help of people who believe in me. And it sure is a blessing to have this place as a home base. The pillar around which my river flows. But I’ve yet to understand how to navigate the two poles of my life: Me and You.

I’m still learning how to love myself and what that means. Mark said he doesn’t do things because he loves himself. He just loves himself and lives his life from there. That’s it. There’s no secret for him.

But I’m not there yet. I don’t love my body. I don’t love how the world sees me (or rather how they don’t see me). And I wonder if that’s my fault–that people don’t see me because I don’t show my true self… because I’m afraid for whatever reason. So I go on hurting. I go on finding that the only time I feel safe is when I’m alone.

I learned a long time ago that I needed to deny my needs for others; to hide them from my family and society. Couldn’t be a girl when that’s all I wanted. Couldn’t be a writer when that’s all I wanted. And the pain of that still haunts me. The abandonment still eats at me.

And the answer to the modern problem of differentiation remains a big fucking mystery. The only mystery worth solving.

Except maybe it’s not so much a mystery as an obvious truth: that I’ve got to be myself. That I’ve got to solve this mess inside myself. Write. Cry. Heal. Take walks. Cook. Laugh. Be honest and open. Do my hair up nice once in a while. Show myself to the world. Put myself fully and completely into everything I do. In every moment.

Unapologetic. Liberated. Me.

And in the process maybe I’ll learn the difference between being/finding myself and being selfish. Because there is a difference. And in figuring it out, perhaps I’ll learn important things about boundaries… about my boundaries… and your boundaries. In the process, maybe I’ll learn how to navigate these strange waters. And if I’m open enough, maybe I’ll learn a thing or two from other people.

Sure, Sartre. Maybe Hell is other people. But maybe Heaven is too. Maybe it’s just a matter of perspective. And if I can’t solve the modern problem of differentiation, how can I ever hope to find the truth?