Emily gets the prelude

 We never know how high we are

Till we are called to rise;

And then, if we are true to plan

Our stature touch the skies—

 –#1776, reprinted without permission, but with much gladness–

view from the crown chakra


The baby slides out and I catch her.

I’m kneeling on the floor with a creature in my hands.

Her birth is slick, but her skin is clear of vernix, labor-grease, or wastes.  She looks like she has been sleeping in a fairy-tale, awakening to this one.

That is: I decide the baby is a her.

[For a sweet, short and informed read on the importance of vernix— not extraneous yuckie stuff to be washed off!]

In the dream, I am not ready, but I do my job anyway: protect birth and the birth mama, who is just as surprised as I am, at only four months gestation, to see the perfection of this newborn.

The hospital room tries hard to be bland and sterile.  But the infant doesn’t allow it:  She has so much life in her it leaks into her surroundings.

unlikely birth buds

Reality Has Windows

When I look out the window now, from my empty apartment, autumn is shaking in the trees, stately things that have grown up as innate wealth in the yards of the affordable housing complexes.  Their branches, behaving as if terrified, or as if attempting to terrify, move every which-way, like the gaze when one is first learning yoga.  These movements are pre-death choreography; the winds come through with purpose and everything that lives becomes simultaneously riled up—where will I bury my nuts?—and internal, looking for the bunker at the depths.

Unlike us, the seasons abide with their changes, not resisting themselves.   Are humans distinct in resisting who we innately are?  Hmmm.  I’m still waiting for the day a tree blogs about me.

buddhas abiding with drying

This time of year, when we put garbage in the cans on the avenue, the wind plucks it right back out.  Putting waste in a can is a temporary way to hide the tremendous amount of refuse we leave in our wake as we carry forth.  We may temporarily fool ourselves but the earth is not fooled.

Not fooled at all.  Strong rains brought in the fall, and they have yielded to a chilly shroud.  The last weekend of “summer”, after chanting to a multiplicity of Gods upstate amidst the poo-poo-pauperism-cuz-we-‘ve-got-Lululemon aesthetic of Omega, I returned with my spirit posse on the winding Taconic through an all-night storm.  We rolled onto 4th Avenue, even the GPS tired, at 4AM.  From the car, we saw a disheveled man on the street corner smashing a vacuum cleaner apart with all his might.  He stooped over beside the public trashcan and had his way with the appliance.  The traffic light, despite the fact that no one pedestrians were about at this hour of the almost-morning, blinked its monition overhead: DON’T WALKDon’t worry, the vacuum cleaner assured it.  He’s raging against materiality right now.   Its nozzle flew off.


The closest tree, thin and staked into place in its patch of dirt so it would grow up right, like a good urban tree, not bothering the buildings, burst out laughing.  Its glee was louder than the hundreds of voices at the Kirtan calling to Ganesha to move the obstacles already, move those obstacles already, baby.

ganesh in a sultry mood

By Shook or By Crook

Other things shook this week.  An Ortho Jew in his determined glory walks towards me in the subway station—that weird birth canal between Wall and Williams Street, below Tiffany’s and the anti-establishment protests occupying something.  The Jew has the Big-Mitzvah look on his face: this blessing is going to positively tackle you.

Are you Jewish? He asks me.  (To quote my friend John: Yes, Jew-ish.)

I’ll give you two guesses, I say.

He whirls around, his psyche already tasting the virtue accruing in its spiritual piggy-bank.  His pranic tentacles register a high Jew-meter.  He dutifully holds out the accoutrements of miracles: the lulav and etrogTake this, he says.  Lulav is a beautiful word—the bound palm leaves, myrtle, willow.  The etrog, which sounds like a genetically engineered toad, is actually a citron, an Israeli species of lemon.

I hold out my hand—these are my people, the fruit and the branch.

lucky mimesis

Shake it, he says.  For some reason, I remember my first year of ballet class, as a three-year old.  I spent most of the class plucking free the massive wedgies my underwear created under my leotard and watching myself perform this delicate action in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors.

I’m doing the shaking wrong, which I can tell by the way his eyes try to take refuge in his septum, appalled by my violation of the ritual, but I don’t care.  YAAAAAY, I shout.  I shake my branch not just in four directions, but in every direction I can think of.

Repeat after me, he says, and begins the Prayer, stopping at prayer-novice intervals so I don’t mangle the Hebrew.  I’m so excited to be holding a lemon in the subway.  I feel like the Citrus superhero.   I want to cut it open and squeeze it and make the space smell like something fresh, invigorating, edgy.

Big Mitvah!  He crows, walking away hurriedly and with the natural elation that comes from accruing spiritual brownie points.

For you, that is, I call back.  But what do I know.  The lemon is not forthcoming.

Later that night, I catch the baby.

mitzvah dilating

Not Knowing That

I didn’t know birth could be like that, I exclaim.  The hospital room impassively witnesses the ordinary and impossible.  It’s all beige to me, it declares.

This baby, premature and yet fully developed, sits in my hands as if we are a sculpture of Rodin’s, cut from one stone and still connected in that elusive place where form yields to formlessness.  Our rough edges and poor chances at survival are smoothed by the generosity of the dream until these two disparate manifestations of life—the creature and I– are returned to a single continuous muscle, breathing.

The night before, I died.

Marie-Louise Von Franz, the heiress of Jung’s work on dreams, teaches: Pay attention to your dreams, for therein “a self-regulating tendency in the soul comes into play which counterbalances the one-sidedness of consciousness or completes it so that a kind of wholeness and a life’s optimum is achieved” (Dreams).  What about those somnievents wherein you’re taking old cream cheese–Philly, whiter than fake teeth– out of the refrigerator?  Whatever.   Cosmic consciousness is like a good vacuum cleaner: it can take in everything, no matter the size of the particle.

So it was.  A brief, nocturnal trip back to Thailand– which cost me no air-miles or jet-lag whatsoever.  I entered a white-walled room in the big, empty house where my old friend, Dha, sat, grinning and chewing on unfurled and twice-brewed sinesia dipped in salt.  Life is the Leaf, he said, noddingHe caught my eyes as the ground rumbled, a terribly hungry stomach.  Get outside, something is wrong.  The jasmine rice, soaking in huge plastic vats, wobbled.  It had the nonchalant equanimity of a thing that has survived many such quakes.

but nothing looks wrong

In the unreasonable logic of dreams, I copied the example of my befuddled boss—also inexplicably there–who was trying to protect herself by climbing into a kiddie-swing, the kind that looks like a stiff, plastic diaper and feels about as comfortable.  As we waited suspended in the black diapers, a tidal wave of earth swung up over its own rim.  My end came at me like my premature birth: I was prepared and yet unprepared in every way.

This dark wave of earth blacked out everything except its own presence, which bore down over my body.  I fell backwards into my death thinking—that’s all this is?  A plunge?  Really?  But I only just was born!

with catcher's mitts unto the sky falling

Birth and death are like that– BFF.

I woke up disturbed, feeling clods of dirt in my hair that weren’t there.  But the strange miracles runneth over, the fish eyes of Unconscious blinking in the shallow pool of daylight.  The creak of the toilet seat, the drip of the showerhead, the bubbling of the water as it boiled. The lemon wedge, the triphala pill broken open and covered in warm liquid.  As if God turned on the lights too quickly in the theater of being and everyone ran for the candy stand for a sugar refill.  I had to growl through my morning practice—prostrating myself before the dust mites in my carpet—because there are dawns when one must bow before something, anything, everything.  And you?  For what miracle will you fall to your knees shaking, if not the one you are made of?

things that keep me here


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2 Responses to “Moorings”

  1. saraknowsyou Says:

    Vernix link not working, but try here:

  2. James Says:

    “Get outside, something is wrong”.. I like this advice, amidst the rumbling and shaking. Maybe this persists as our first shared experience, the count down towards in-utero dream launch into the light. Welcome to the unconscious.

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