Throwing My Heart Over the Fence

Horseback riders who jump the Grand Prix fences of terrifying heights talk of ‘throwing their heart’ over the fence so their horse jumps after it. We must do the same.”

Julia Cameron in Walking in This World

I made a very conscious choice to remain silent during the month of May. That is I decided not to write for public consumption.

I spent the month of April closing the studio in which I had hosted a monthly literary salon for over seven years. I locked the door, delivered the key to the landlord, and soaked in a bath to soothe muscles that were tired and sore from packing, lifting, and carrying.

I was relieved to have the completed the task, surprised at how easily I had been able to dispose of “stuff” I had accumulated. I think it’s called letting go.

What followed was a weeklong journey wrestling with doubt. I had dubbed the studio Livermore’s  Literary Arts Center, with the belief that if you build it – it will be. I mean how cool to have a literary arts center in a town?

I wondered – had I failed? Or more, was I a failure?

And then I faced the great looming prospect of life without a center in which writers could congregate, read their work, listen to other writers read, and communicate in the language familiar to those who take the leap into believing that they have something to say and want to say it well.

I was also sad. Sad because even though I had built it, it had not come to be. It did not seem to take root. I explored starting a nonprofit, but came to realize fairly quickly, that I had just run out of steam. I needed to focus on income – inviting money to come in for my own personal safety and security – and just didn’t have the wherewithal to create a nonprofit, find a new place for the center, bring in income, and do my own writing.

Closing the studio brought chaos to my home. We turned our guest room into our office; I added books to my writing shed; we stored furniture destined for a garage sale into our library; and put boxes into a garage that was already overflowing with stuff.

I freaked out, fretted, and generally consternated. At some rational point, I consulted my inner adult, who told me that I needed to get my domestic house in order first, and then determine whether freaking out, fretting, and consternating was productive.

We spent the month of May deciding where to put things – and then putting them there. In some cases that meant putting things that had been there, somewhere else until we could decide where to put them. We cleaned an embarrassing (I mean really embarrassing) wealth of dust that had accumulated throughout the house. I created chaos in my writing shed and then cleared it up. And, perhaps most satisfying, we cleaned out the garage. We opened boxes that had sat unopened for ten years and realized, we didn’t need what was in them. We pulled up the gnarly carpet that had been gathering dust and other crap for thirty years.

I came to appreciate the beauty of handy haulers, small dumpsters that for some reason I wanted to call tater tots.

Yesterday, I finished. I emptied the last of the boxes of office supplies, and then went to see the film, Everything Must Go. Good choice, though I didn’t even put two and two together until I just wrote that I went to see that particular movie.

Earlier last week, as I saw the end of May looming, I did some freaking out, fretting, and consternating. What, I wondered would I do without a literary arts center?

“Maybe what you need to do,” my friend Mary Ann suggested, “is to be alone with your writing.” We’ve been friends for over 50 years; you don’t take lightly a suggestion from someone who has known you for that many years.

I had told myself to just take a break from writing until June 1st. Today is June 1st.

And so, here I am writing.

My home is more welcoming to me than it ever has been. My writing shed, more than ever, provides a shelter in which I can write.

The things I freaked out about, fretted over, and consternated about have not gone away. We seem to be living in a time where young, foolish men seem to believe that adopting Ayn Rand’s philosophy is both courageous and a commitment to reality. Simple minds with simple answers to the complexity of being alive.

I am the unofficial godmother to a seven-year old girl with autism. Once a week, she rode horses at an adaptive riding center.  She spoke her first words while riding a horse. Other programs at this adaptive riding center pair wounded veterans, including those suffering from PTSD, with horses.

The horses at this center are big hearted – they seem to have the patience and wisdom to carry heart-wounded humans to moments of peace and healing: two sentient beings connecting on the field of what it means to be alive.

I’m not so much afraid of horses as I am in awe of them. I have ridden a horse exactly once, and was overwhelmed with its power. But I am drawn to horses – to the life force they embody.

Yesterday, I found the quote about riders  “’throwing their heart’ over the fence so their horse jumps after it.”

So that’s what I’m doing today, June 1st, after two months of cleaning and clearing and letting go.

I’m throwing my heart over the fence so that my life force jumps after it.

I’m Angry. I’m Damned Angry

I am watching waves crash against the rocks as they reach the western edge of the continental United States.

The northern California coast is magnificent. Yesterday, the wind turned the ocean sea green, the white-tipped edges visible to the horizon, and pierced you with its ferocious chill. The wind is not so powerful this morning. The air is cold, but it does not penetrate the way the chilled wind did. The ocean is back to being Mediterranean blue, its undulating beauty much less ominous.

Still, some waves crash over the rocks down below that rise three stories above the surface.

I forget that spring can bring that bracing chill with it some days. It is often more bracing than the winter’s chill. I don’t know why that is.

I have been on blog silence for nearly three months, suffering from butt-not-in-chair syndrome caused in part by patella-femoral syndrome. My knee got out of alignment and sitting for longer than 15 minutes made it ache so much I could not concentrate on anything other than the pain.

So, that was the proximate cause of my silence.

But, I also just plain didn’t know what to say, as a small group of young Republican men have begun their assault on common decency in the name of fiscal responsibility and freedom.

As I have said on Facebook they remind me of an old joke: A small underdeveloped country, in an attempt to become relevant, calls a news conference to announce they are sending a man to the sun. Won’t the man burn up, the reporters ask? Don’t be silly the country’s official says, we’re sending them at night.

These boys (and an occasional mean girl) seem to be hell bent on making sure women remain barefoot, pregnant, and muzzled, and the poor and middle class are so focused on daily survival that we don’t have time to participate in democracy.

They seem to have no sense of history – no understanding of what the world was before they came into it – while being simultaneously ignorant of how decisions today affect the future. Not to be trite, but they either don’t get the concept, or don’t care about seven generations.

I’ve heard Joe Scarborough belittle the notion that the BP oil spill hurt the Gulf because the Gulf is so large, it can’t be ruined. Well, except for those dead zones that have been created.

I’ve heard Scott Walker refer to public employees (teachers, police, firefighters) as the haves while the taxpayers are the have-nots. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that public employees pay taxes.

I’ve heard history being rewritten to sanitize our history of slavery.

And then, of course, there is the absurd notion that denying a woman the right to make choices over her body and health is a pro-life position. Cut funding for abortion, cut funding for maternal health, cut funding for children’s health, cut funding for education, cut funding for childcare services.

I don’t call that pro life – I call that anti-life.

I’m pissed. I’m damned angry. These are not brave courageous men, these are boys who have been given license with no regard to consequences.

So what has this got to do with my knee and waves crashing into the edge of the continent?

Take a leap with me.

You could not tell by looking at it that my knee was out of alignment. I suspect that its misalignment would be measured in – whatever miniscule measurements you could imagine. But that tiny, indescribable change in alignment made a huge difference in my daily life, in my sense of well being, and in my understanding what it means to live in a body that is mortal and must be paid attention to.

Our planet is like our bodies. A small temperature change can have repercussions far beyond our ability to discern the change in temperature. Who can predict the repercussions of a dead zone in the ocean?

Right now, the rocks stand in the way of the waves’ inexorable ascent on the shore. But little, by little, the water wears down the rock and some day, they will be gone.

These men who are imposing their agendas on us are little men. Smart and clever they might be, but wise they are not.

Send in the crones. You don’t have to be old or a woman to be a crone. But you do need to have the humility borne of life experience and compassion for what it means to be human, and what it means to be a part of something bigger than one’s own ego. Morgan Freeman said he would live another 30 or 40 years and still he wouldn’t see the end of the universe. He’s a crone.

I’m angry. I’m damned angry.