Finding God

A familiar face, long and narrow, levitates in the corner between tiles. Thin legs and arms drawn close, protective of her slender body. I’ve seen her here for weeks now, shielded her from downpour, and guided her to safety.

I bend to pump soap into my wet, warm hand. With my face nearer hers, I say, “hello, dear,” because she’s waving her arm at me. I reach my index finger to her and she stops waving to reach back to me. For a moment, she and I are like God and man on Michelangelo’s ceiling.

The next day, I look but cannot find her familiar face.

The Waters Who Raised Me

I appear at her door with footsteps speaking homesick words

And pour world-weary troubles into her waves.

Longing for innocent longing.

She sings to me, just as she used to —

Soothing indifference, pulling my words into her crashing whirlpool,

Sweeping them out with her undertow

Tumbling and polishing them with salt and sand.

And in the space of my empty wordlessness —

She keeps my polished rock words and gives me her song.

Yellow Ribbons – with Audio

This piece looks back at my coming of age that coincided with the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 and took me from disconnection to understanding, West Coast to East Coast. Balancing light and dark, I reflect on my own history and see the striking difference between then and now in American solidarity to honor the dead and pay homage to the grieving. Click play on the icon below to read along with me:

Yellow Ribbons

Floating gold-leaf words, astrologists and new-age back porch philosophers say these are the birthing pains of society entering The Age of Aquarius.

Let the Sun Shine!

When do we get to the part with dancing and laughing in flower fields under clear blue skies? Not a toxic airplane trail in sight. Or is that now? Is it — now?

Maybe for me. Walking along oceanside cliffs, empty of tourists, covered in pastel green bushes with leaves like hands in praise. Intoxicating sweet and fruity perfume emanating from purple popped corn on the stem. Up and over the hillside, I’d never seen so many together and grazed my palms across theirs. I tiptoed to a clearing between their round, decorated bodies and laid back to look at the sky, perfectly blue, without a pollution-trail in sight.

Three thousand miles away, my sister, cloistered in New York City. You could say we look like twins, though her life, in some ways, is the opposite of mine. With two children at the cusp of adulthood, their grief has been once removed. A friend’s loved one. Thousands of families left behind. Unable to hold hands as they died. FaceTime for the fortunate. Keeping distance as they mourn. Concrete and planted parks for comfort.

I entered adulthood almost twenty years before this virus. At the dawning of my independence, my mother swung open my bedroom door. Gasping. I dragged myself to the living room and watched — live — as the second plane hit. And then the replay. The replay and the replay of impacts that took 2,753. It was far away. It was barely real, but my mom said it would change the world. I went back to bed. That afternoon, I got a haircut.

Under a red terror alert and below redwoods, with an ocean view, my parents moved me into the dorms. It was just before the Fall Equinox and, during orientation, they said they had grief support. But I wasn’t affected.

The next summer, years of discord in high school dissolved during road trips to Santa Cruz with my sister. Bored of familiarity, we moved to New York City into a Lower East Side apartment with a few of her friends. We went to flashy bars for table service those warm nights as the promoter’s guests. I used her passport to get past bouncers.

For convenience, I enrolled in a college just blocks from downtown chainlink fences with green fabric holding the awful scar. On the one year anniversary, the busy streets were empty aside from a howling wind and the trash it carried. I will never forget the howling. From the second story of my school, I watched barges carrying debris along the Hudson River. And my new friend told me he saw, from the school steps, a woman in a blue dress at the edge, every detail of her face, the violent wind blowing her hair. The air that could not save her as she jumped from the burning building. He was with her as she fell. Another friend, in her Brooklyn schoolyard, had thought for a moment it was snowing that morning, but holding out her hand, realized it was ash, floating and landing in her hair.

Back then, people across the country hung American flags and tied yellow ribbons around trees. They hung signs saying United we Stand. United we Stand. They chanted and chanted until it awoke the war machine.

Divided We Fall.

Today, six weeks after the first death, over 19,000 taken by the virus in New York City alone. Amidst drive-by funerals and trenches for the unclaimed, terrorists parading as patriots fly flags of our enemies and carry assault rifles into capital buildings. They call for their right to infect and be infected, carrying signs saying, “I need a haircut.”

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A Holy Instinct – with Audio

Dark, yet hopeful, this piece explores a personal experience during this crisis as I navigate the new reality and try to understand the modern human condition. A departure from my usual focus on Nature’s beauty, this piece recognizes and investigates the shadow as a path to integration and healing. Click the play button to read along with me:

A Holy Instinct

In my studio apartment, I’m a hoarder purchasing yet another screen to chatter alongside the others in dissonant syncopation. They drown the sound of birds singing and dancing outside with news, privileged complaining, propaganda, memes, conspiracies, and — sometimes — photos of Nature or pets or kids. I scroll and scroll and scroll and place them on top of the microwave that runs without stopping its buzzing waves, on top of the other boxes full of half-read articles. Another hairdryer, another blender, another set of lights wrapped in plastic. Photos of mass-graves and refrigerator truck morgues and the unprotected people living in Mumbai slums and. Stack it with the others. Wires and cables dangle, arranging themselves into unkempt braids covering the hardwood floor, connecting and connecting, rows of nobs and buttons and circuit boards and. Push them against the walls, pile them on the furniture. Block the windows, block the trees, block the sun. Stack and stack from floor to ceiling until there are only slim pathways through boxes and bags and bins. 

Just one more thing  — just a petty thing — I crammed it into my studio apartment. And without warning, I turn the nobs on the stove, and let it seep. Racing through drawers, flinging rubber bands, nails, twist ties, plastic baggies, my fingers find the slim cardboard box and open it with joy at the sight of sticks with red heads. In one spark, fury burns the space too small for all it holds.

I would have burned myself with it, but somehow I escape. A holy instinct.

I gasp for breath, inhaling the putrid stench of my own burned hair.

Three weeks since I last turned on my car, and it greets me by saying it can’t go on without a fix. Armed with a disinfectant wipe and bank card, afraid of other hands, I encase my index finger to enter my pin. I swear I’m not a germ-freak. Or, at least, I wasn’t a month ago. But now I have people to protect. Even though I can barely breathe. I drape the wipe around the handle, lifting the nozzle into my car to fill it with dark, processed blood sucked from the Earth. As much as I love my Mother, I’m forced to tap Her veins. 

My car speeds north onto the concrete slabs divided by a wildlife-catcher. When they get there, in a panic, they try to run back. And maybe they make it, but we see their bodies destroyed — disfigured, ripped apart by humans wielding rubber and steel. Their flesh and blood won’t continue as life in another. It sits on top of the concrete to decay, unless it’s picked up like trash because it’s large enough to be a hazard.

Off the freeway, I drive past rows of vines still naked. The ground beneath them covered in grass.

As the road curves between oaks, under their wild branches, I unroll my window just an inch. Fresh air brushes the top of my head the way my mom used to stroke my hair. Turning west, my airways unclog. I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with green stretching, cascading peaks. Jet black heifers lazily dot the hills. Oak forests in the north, gorges carved below undulations. To the south, a golden crescent — miles long — met with white foam waves and the deep blue mystery. The east in my rearview mirror. And to the west, the winding road.

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Photo by JPZ Image