I touched a woman’s hand across an open space, to reassure her and to put it to rest before the trip began. When I opened my eyes, I reached for the clock. After a long period of darkness, the room was light. We move through time. I put the car in reverse and thought that I might be more productive if I was surrounded by productive people putting pressure on me or inspiring me to work day and night without thought of cessation. The upper branch of the little redbud tree that I planted is sprouted way up beyond the rest. The scuttle of dry leaves inserts into the listless cricket layers.
I back out the driveway. It is good to be in stillness. Perhaps I am spoiled by the meditation practice. I idolized Milarepa who sat in the cave day after day, year after year, eating nettles and exiling mental demons and now I’ve become him to some degree. In sitting there is no lack of anything to do, no place to rush off to. My body is glad when I am present in all its parts, so glad that I am rewarded with a buzzing sensation throughout as my heart beats and I breathe.
My company, Markham Bailey, received our largest order in our history yesterday. A new team member is on board. In the words of the late, great poet and artist Kenneth Patchen, Hooray For Everything!
I’ve been jostled over the past few days, tossed into the air by the proverbial sheet, up into open space to turn and stretch, moving back and forth between exhilaration and terror. In the middle is the truth of my existence – steady, expansive and teeming with life. Up and down I go, but I know this heart dwelling. I recognize it when I pass through on my way to hope or fear. And I am afraid. One of my employees found a job she may like better and her departure shakes up my comfort zone, upends my plan. The truth is that I am so happy for her to make her own way in this world. And the truth is that I am hurt and feel rejected. What kind of boss am I if folks don’t want to stay? Maybe the company won’t make it. And my diaphragm clenches. I let go. I drop it, move into the open space of possibility and miracle. This is a challenge for me. I breathe in and out. I am a body breathing. That’s all.
Friday night I went to the Birmingham Museum of Art to listen to Vijay Seshadri speak and read his poems. I was somewhat late and arrived as the open mike poets presented their work. More on that later because I do want to talk about Birmingham and whites talking about race, but for now I just sat back and waited for the Mr. Seshadri. He went to the MFA program at Columbia. I went to Barnard. Check. He was so smart and affable. I enjoyed his wit and laughed, happy to be sharing the space with him and with the audience. When he read the first poem, it was as if he’d take some unremarkable thing from his pocket – a receipt or a bottle cap and placed it in his palm so show me up close so that I saw every detail of the thing and of his hand extended out to me. And then the common, crumpled thing slowly began to shine and unfold, expanding in dimension and light to become a radiance in the air in the Birmingham Museum of Art. My heart beat heavily as the poem settled upon me and within the cellular vibration that is my being.I breathed in and out and traveled with him. I laughed with a riotous joy for his wit and for his depth. Later in the book signing line, my turn came. I handed his book of poems to him, and thanked him for coming. “I went to Barnard”, I said. “Oh yeah?” he said. “What brought you here?” He was kind and looked me in the eye. I told him about changing the words to the Cher song, Half Breed, when I was a kid, to reflect the conflict of being of Yankee lineage in the Deep South. He laughed. I paused awkwardly, feeling it was my time to move on and let the others have their time with the poet. He leaned back in the chair and said “You know, you were a very attentive listener and you laughed at all the places that I wanted the audience to laugh, and you really listened. So I decided that I would just focus on you and that’s what I did.” I laughed. I wanted to tell him that he was of my tribe and that I’ve been lonely, trying to be a boss, a partner, an adult that pays the mortgage and remains poised. He saw me and for that, during that brief time, I thank Mr. Seshadri, a poet brother.
The work of Hildegard of Bingen is so powerful – the music, the herbal knowledge and the spiritual confidence. Thanks to Linn Maxwell, an internationally known mezzo soprano who has written and is performing a one woman show, “Hildegard of Bingen”. This show is an exciting opportunity to hear Ms Maxwell sing Hildegard of Bingen compositions while accompanying herself on medieval instruments. She makes use of original letters written by Hildegard in crafting a narrative from one of the few women in history who was empowered with sacred authority, and left a legacy for those of us today who wonder what women were doing across history other than dying in childbirth. Here’s the promo video