Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Breathe

Brilliant, sparking sunshine today.  Streaming through my window early this morning, tugging at my eyelids, calling me to greet the day.  And still, hours later in the waning last two hours of afternoon light, I see it bright on the pine bark, needles, reflecting off the white, white unmelted snow that somehow still survives, covering our yard.

I wanted to try walking, just a little outside today, because I so want to reclaim that aspect of my life, but today it felt "hard."  Less physical energy today compared to yesterday.  So, I stood on the front stoop, standing as tall and as relaxed as I'm able, and breathed.   Just breathed.  The sheer beauty of the sun on the snow, the snow still so sparkling pure white, the blue, blue clear skies, the tall pines surrounding, the clean, crisp air that had a faint spicy tangy scent, one I couldn't quite identify, it really wasn't pine-y....all of this, experienced from my front door, for a few minutes, it felt good, real good.

The feel of the cool, crisp air on my skin, flush-tingly, reminded me of times backpacking above tree-line in the Rockies...along the Continental Divide in Colorado, along the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington and British Columbia, in Olympia National Park.   Rhythmic striding on horse-trail paths switchbacking up and down mountains, following ridges, traversing passes, through alpine meadows, all day in the open, wading streams, swimming in green-blue glacier lakes, the delicious joy of physical strength, easy movement in open, open expanses where sky and mountains surrounded me to the horizon, to the very end of the world.  I've backpacked and hiked elsewhere...in the North Carolina Smokey Mountains, on the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, in New Hampshire's White Mountains, on Aiderondack trails near Lake George, but alpine spaces feel like home, feed my spirit.  The open space, expanse, to see so, so, so far out, to see so, so much, to have so much of the world within one's grasp.  Nature abhors a vacuum, so they say...I guess that open space demands my expansion outward...that's how it feels, expanding one's spirit out, out...god-like, if that isn't too presumptuous.

The first time I experienced this, when I co-led a AYH six week backpacking trip in British Columbia and Washington, I remember wondering when we were hiking in Glacier Peak Wilderness area on the third leg of the trip, what it would be like to live somewhere where one could see these mountains every day.  "I lift my eyes to the hills..."  Twelve years and two babies later I had a chance to find out.   Two years in White Rock, New Mexico...almost 6400 feet sky-high plateau, open, open expanses, seeing, smelling rain coming a hundred miles away, wildflower palette, rock-art geologic forms, breath-taking beauty every single day of the year.  Every moment "ah"...joyous surprise gasps....genuine soul food.   So hard to find words.  It was hard to leave.   New Mexico still tugs at my heart, and my real life partner's too.

I thought I might write here today about "spiritual," because it came up yesterday in Second Life, but my family research, wanting to get started on that, nagged me...so I paid bills, did a couple very small real life household chores, and wrote the first post in my family research blog.  It's a beginning.  Free writing here has helped I think.   It feels like it's helped me get my head out of Second Life some.   So, I'm going to try a similar approach for my family research writing.  But that blog is totally in real life, written by real life me, the "public" me.  Here is for the "private" me.

Between the two, I'm done with journalling for the day.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hugggzzz

We have snow!  Touchdown finally for a winter storm...and on March 1st, no less.  And even nicer is that it is "manageable", that means it's just enough (@6 in) to look snowy-pristine-sparkling-white-and-fluffy gorgeous but not so much that it requires shoveling or any cleanup because with the near-60s forecast for the 3rd it will all be gone soon leaving just memories of it's splendor.  And I can easily make it up the driveway to the road to meet my daughters for dinner later...so snow without any worry, what could be better!

Yesterday, while snow fell outside my floor-to-ceiling windows, a full wall of glass, my portal to the outside, I was comfy-warm-snuggled inside, that cacoon feeling I always have when it snows or rains steadily.   There's a rhythm to snow falling I find comforting, the steady floating downward...soft...airy...gentle-oh-so-gentle-kisses-from-the-sky...and if you look at one closely, very closely, a marvel in symmetric geometric form.   All that beauty and kisses too.   Heaven.

Yesterday, I got up with energy, rested...the evening before I had a gift of intimacy in Second Life, and for some bizarre reason, even though it's virtual, pixels on a monitor, words typed in a chat window, having so little feedback really for how the "other" is responding, I still feel like I've connected, shared affections, and that makes me feel good, real good.   And it would be so much, much better if this connecting were in real life, I truly know that, I do, Second Life is no substitute, it really cannot be, not for something so inherently nonverbal, so physical.   And yet, the feelings of connection evoked are similar, so similar.   That fact surprised me totally the first time, and it still surprises me.   I wish I understood that better.

Maybe it's a testament to the power of human imagination.   That we can imagine so well that it has physical, hormonal effects.  I think for me it may be more like Pavlov's dogs.   That when I evoke memories of physical sensations my body tries to reproduce them.   Like when I run in Second Life, sometimes I can actually feel the rhythmic movement in my legs, the one associated with relaxed, sustained running, the slight pounding, the moments of flight in each stride.

So it doesn't surprise me that much that I might experience similar with virtual intimacy....what surprises me though is the emotional context that I experience.  It's like have some pixel action and I'm connected to the "other".  Instantaneously.  and apparently permanently. Wow.  I don't remember that effect real life with the first time, or early times, of a relationship.  I remember excitement, but also caution, holding back.   I'm not sure the difference is that cut-and-dried though.  Because I did feel a different kind of connection once having shared physical intimacy real life.  Except once when I decided to see what would happen if I was intimate with a total stranger--that was not interesting, no fun at all, and I was never inclined to repeat that lonely experience.  That's just it, in Second Life this one person was virtually a stranger the first time (all puns intended), yet afterwards I was instantaneously emotionally attached.  I felt helpless, still feel helpless, with that feeling of attachment.  Like it's a given, no questions asked.   Not what I expected, not at all.  Maybe, at this time in my life, after building a real life relationship based on decades of shared history, my stimulus-response toolkit now includes total commitment, attachment.  Hard to tell, really, but I suspect casual sex will never be me, real life or Second Life.

So, yesterday I woke up energized and thought I would start getting my toes wet, testing my family research waters again in the snow-falling hush-stillness, but that did not happen.

Most of the morning chatting with a Second Life friend who IM'd me out of the blue "waves, weary ...."  I couldn't remember where or when I met/friended this person... I think it may have been after my first time with a closed scripting class.  In any case, his IM was a surprise, and evolved into hours long chat-sharing that felt genuine and significant.  Second Life can be good for that...it seems to encourage honest, personal exchanges for those interested in having them.  Turns out he's in some care facility, terminally ill, and the staff is giving him grief about the time he spends in Second Life.

What a conundrum.   I can sort of see both points of view.  We're in real life... we really are, no matter how awful our circumstances.  When I hear people saying things like:

     "sighs, I gotta go and do 'stuff' in rl :("
     "argh! Damn that 'stuff' "
     "Can we mute RL?"

--- I think "no!  embrace that 'stuff'  or try to make it different 'stuff'"  or "define different stuff for yourself".  Obviously assuming there's positive and/or changeable options real life, somewhere, for each of us.  and that we *should* have our primary focus being real life.  that being in Second Life 24/7 is a problem-to-be-solved.

And yet, I've met people here whose lives seem so circumscribed, so limited.   I know for myself how freeing, stimulating, and *fun* Second Life can be.   How can that be wrong?   I must admit that when someone tells me they're 17 and are in Second Life because they're bored, my head almost explodes.   What's going on in a world where a 17-year-old is so bored with real life that they seek stimulation in Second Life?   My oldest (35) daughter recently relayed her amazement about something similar--kids she knows that have no hobbies, no interests, and apparently parents who don't see this as an issue.  These are adolescents...so I'm sure there are school groups available of all kinds unless southern California is totally different that way...maybe it's because working parents don't want to deal with the logistics of getting kids to and from places after school, but don't they see how vacuous it is for their kids, anyone really, to spend so much time being passive, not learning, practicing engaging with the world around them?   This is a rant I could go on and on about, and bore everyone to tears I'm sure.

Back to my terminally ill friend...we talked about a lot...Second Life-real life...childhood abuse...bullying...trust...love...honesty...writing...stories...making a difference in this world...being alone...songs/performers that we remembered from the 60s/70s...dancing and romance in Second Life...babies...building in Second Life...Harry Potter...a lot.   In so many ways we're on the same wavelength...so easy to communicate...quite amazing really...and so random that we talked, that day, that morning.   The essence though, the most important *truths* we shared were these:

" Gawd what I wouldn't give for a heartfelt RL hug ...."

"Reach out ... and ... feel
 Tell them what you need .... you'd be surprised"

"Tell them what you need."   Something I've never, ever been good at.  Never.  I do it just a little here, really just a little in Second Life, and I feel how hard it is for me, expecting rejection, not being understood, laughed at, judged. But those things haven't happened (yet) in Second Life.   I chose wisely, I think, and I was fortunate enough to have been chosen in turn...a kind, thoughtful, inherently good sensitive man, not perfect, my glasses aren't that rosy-Pollyanna-ish, but really good for me.  I'm building up to the "telling" in real life, because the thing of it is, all those qualities are true of my real life partner, unfortunately we both share a long, long history of never sharing personal feelings verbally.   And I dearly, dearly need some real life hugs, which I am going to have to ask for, again for a series of real life reasons which now no longer seem unsurmountable.

And then, after hours of Second Life talking, I spoke with my brother for two hours, catching up, but a lot about our mother.   My mom...someone I've always experienced as judgmental...a person I've always been a disappointment to, always, even now...someone I've never been able to *explain* myself to no matter how much I've tried, with logic, with passion, with vitriolic anger, even laying words straight out on the table, as clear as clear can be, direct, unclothed in any kind of subtlety, nothing works, nothing ever works.   The only thing that *works* is agreeing, essentially not saying anything real about myself. Not being seen.  and if you can't see me can you really love me?   I don't think so.   and I bet she feels the same way...not seen.   so sad, so, so, so sad.

I really, really, really hope and pray that my daughters feel that I *see* them, not perfectly I'm sure, but that they know in their hearts, that I try, I've always tried, that it's important to me that I *see* them for who they are...who they are, just them, not what I want them to be, or what anyone else *wants* them to be, but for their beautiful, wondrous, miraculous essences that I have been blessed to share my life with.  I hope that some part of them knows, believes that.

***
A dog-eared food-stained book rests on a shelf...Edward Espe Brown's The Tassajara Bread Book (Berkeley: Shambala, 1970).   Always close at hand, no longer for the recipes, but for a poem/tome after the introduction.  A gift to my real life partner from my friend, A, inscribed in her characteristicly rounded print-writing that I'd still recognize anywhere as A's : "Yummy people deserve yummy food!"

This poem, these words, are core for us, pretty much says it all, I feel.  Read at weddings, first by my partner in the early 1980s at his close-work-friend's ceremony, and more recently by both of us at our youngest daughter's nuptials.

A Composite of Kitchen Necessities
     Edward Espe Brown
     pp 2-3, The Tassajara Bread Book (Berkeley: Shambala Publications, 1970)

Bringing food alive with your
loving presence.
To have compassion, to have respect
for fresh foods, for broken bowls,
for dirty napkins, and little bugs.
To take care of leftovers,
not saying, oh that's all right, we have plenty
we can throw that away.
Because everything is saying love me,
have compassion, hold me gently.
Please hug me now and then
(we're really one, not two),
but don't get attached
(we're really two, not one).
The bowls and knives, the table, the teapot,
the leftovers, the molding vegetables,
the juicy fruit,
everything is asking this of you:
make full use,
take loving care
of me.
The cups, the glasses, the sponges,
the sticky honey jar,
all asking to fulfill.
Just to make deepest love all the time,
Concentrating not on the food, but on yourself:
making your best effort to allow things
to fulfill their functions.   In this way
everything is deliciously full of warmth and kindness.
I never would have done this without TASSAJARA.
I have never cooked like this away from Tassajara.
Coming from the Earth, returning to the Earth,
transformed and transforming the material spirit:
I am consumed.
If you must cook,
     please offer yourself
     a substantial piece of emptiness
     Hold back nothing,
     until you experience offering,
     "Eat me! and be nourished."
Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom,
     the Infinite, the Holy:
everything is leading you, pushing you,
instructing you, bugging you to supreme,
perfect enlightenment.   This means
there are no mistakes.   You might do it
differently next time, but that's because
you did it this way this time.
Perfect, even if you say
too much this too little that.
It's you and please be yourself.
Offer yourself.
Feels good.  O.K.?
Cooking is not simply in the tongue,
in the palate.
It is in the whole body
flowing out of the groin and chest
through arms and hands.

***

I have to remind myself of that message about "perfection"...over and over again.

And, again, hours have gone by and still nothing done on my research.  But it's ok.  This sharing is good too.  And articulating ideas, feelings important to me.

love me
hold me gently
please, oh, please, hug me now and then