Tuesday, May 25, 2010

recent forgeries, the captain's verses

miyelo 13, viggo mortensen
met by a lake near the sun
your mouth and arms, eyes
and legs melted as though
we'd known each other well
and needed only rekindle
warmth of the familiar.
as if patience were rewarded
and now we'd share everything.
- stones, viggo mortensen

rachids 5, viggo mortensen
your steady hands
cradling my grateful
skull: were you taking
in my face to
save an image
you've rarely allowed
yourself after leaving
that cold alcove?
am i a photograph
you gaze at in
moments of weakness?

you ordered me
off my knees
into your arms.
wasn't to beg
that i knelt; only
to see you once
from below.
- communion 4, viggo mortensen

In the night we shall go in
to steal
a flowering branch.

We shall climb over the wall
in the darkness of the alien garden,
two shadows in the shadow.

Winter is not yet gone,
and the apple tree appears
suddenly changed
into a cascade of fragrant stars.

In the night we shall go in,
up to its trembling firmament
and your little hands and mine
will steal the stars.

And silently,
to our house,
in the night and the shadow,
with your steps will enter
perfume's silent step
and with starry feet
the clear body of spring.
- the stolen branch, pablo neruda

recent forgeries is a book of poetry, prose, photographs, and paintings by viggo mortensen. it is incredibly inspiring, and i suggest buying a copy of it (or any of his other books). the captain's verses is a collection of poems written by pablo neruda while in exile on the island of capri, and is my favorite of all of his collections.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about intention the last week. It's a tricky subject.

Sometimes, your intentions are the most important thing; they can eclipse the consequences or circumstances of your actions. At other times, they don't matter at all.

But then there are times when they intertwine and interconnect with the consequences of your actions so intimately that you can't distinguish one from the other. When, though your intentions may have been good, or at least not to cause harm, the consequences were harmful, and no amount of explaining or apologizing will separate your intentions from what actually happened: they are inextricably, finally, one.

During my first class at Yoga To The People, I heard something that has been lodged in me ever since. Greg was teaching, and as he was about to release us to go through the warrior flow at our own pace, he said, Maintain the integrity of your breath. Move with intention. Make your movements smooth and purposeful. If you cannot hold a pose, move because you recognize that. If you don't feel ready to go to the next pose, don't move. Show up for yourself. This is your time to be selfish: to decide what you need, when you need it. To do those things on purpose. Take advantage of it. This practice, this hour, is your gift to yourself. Be present in it.

I've been thinking about those sentences for years, to the point where I can still hear Greg's voice saying them in my head. There's something to the idea of purpose, of intention, that really got to me.

And it applies to everything. This concept of intention, of showing up for yourself: it's important at work, important in friendships, and crucial in teaching. I played Ad a song I had written last fall, and as he was listening he looked at me and said, You know, you can't get what you want if you don't ask for it. And he's right. I've been working on that the last year. When my students frustrate me, I step back and ask myself what I intend the consequences of my reaction to be. Often, that has the effect of me asking them for something instead of demanding it, or standing firm where once I would have weakened. Asking myself what my intentions are forces me to look at what I want and, perhaps most importantly, to show up for myself by asking for it, or not asking for it, depending on the situation. I'm learning to wait for the things that are worth waiting for, and to ask for the things that I need.

It's not easy. Last week I had a lot of opportunities to step back and take a look at how I was behaving, and I didn't. And I had a lot of opportunities to be an advocate for myself, and I wasn't. But there were times that I was, and though in the grand scheme of the week they felt few and far between, they are important to recognize. I'm learning that showing up for yourself can mean a lot of different things: if you react poorly, or chicken out of saying something important, that it can often take a lot more courage to apologize or to speak up for yourself. But doing that, acknowledging that you messed up or that you do want something after all, are also forms of showing up for yourself. They are ways to make your intentions known.

Jason and I were talking on Sunday about relationships, and I brought this up. I expressed my desire to be in a relationship because I decided to be there - and that I don't want to be in one unless I've made that decision. I feel like so often I just kind of find myself places and turn it into something that I enjoy, instead of actively seeking to be somewhere or with someone specific. I told him that I want to make the conscious decision to be with someone. Because that's really what it's about- the choosing. That it is what makes all of the great relationships I know amazing: at some point, both people have stepped forward and said, I choose to be with you, to share with you, to laugh and cry and be angry with you. To grow with you. They have declared their choice, their intention, in the way that best fits where they are in life. I want to do that, and do it on purpose.

the chair makes a scraping sound

the chair makes a scraping sound
as i drag it over next to yours.
she laughs, happy that i am happy.
the arches of my feet fit onto your thighs like jigsaw pieces
and you absentmindedly rub my toes as you talk.
i smile at our need to touch:
at dinner you reached for my leg and couldn't find it
and when your hand finally wrapped around my calf and the hollows of your palm
met the rising muscles, we both breathed a sigh.

you rinse our glasses, arms repeating motions you've done a million times
and i tell you, you don't have to.
you continue washing, and dry your hands on a towel before touching my shoulders through my shirt.
i put the scraping chair in its place, and follow you
the blue cotton on your back a path my hands will follow.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I'm forever in awe of how complex emotions are. Not only do they all carry their own nuances, but those nuances are expressed by multiple words, making it incredibly difficult to accurately and completely express what you're feeling. Add to that the common experience of feeling multiple emotions at once, and it's nearly impossible.

I've been feeling two things at once lately, and it's been a struggle. I had a lot of trouble even identifying to myself what I was really feeling. I think the difficulty came from the fact that I was feeling two opposite emotions about the same thing: patience and urgency, fear and certainty, tension and calm, hope and hopelessness. The math of that is eight emotions, each with their own layers, complexities, and flavors. It's no wonder I was having trouble sleeping.

I have kind of a, let's call it a need, to identify what I'm feeling right away, to give it a name. I have a lot of trouble when I can't pinpoint it, and the direct result of that is my getting even more frustrated and being unable to step back long enough to really look at what's going on inside my own head. I like to be able to say definitively I felt this at this time. Nevermind the fact that I often can't or don't express that to others; it gives me a kind of solidarity, a sense of control.

It's been both a blessing and a curse over the last couple of years. Sometimes I've felt so overwhelmed that I've just given myself up to the craziness, and that feeling of surrender has often brought more peace of mind that other ways I've tried to deal. Sometimes I've just sat and strummed my guitar and kind of let things float around, and sooner or later I find that they've settled in a way that I can identify them. And other times, as I mentioned before, I hate the craziness and I fight it with everything I've got. When I do that I usually end up feeling things even more intensely and also adding anger and impatience to the mix. Not a great idea, that.

I'm learning to be patient with myself, because I've been discovering that I'm not. I often dive directly into thinking Why am I feeling this? What does it mean? How do I get past it? instead of taking the time to simply acknowledge it. The times that I've managed to do that, the feelings have dissapated more quickly and more comfortably than the times I've tried to figure out why they're there.

It's helping me be more patient with others, too. Where once the emotions I had this week would have made me push for something too quickly or just leave it altogether, I'm slowly starting to learn to wait and see, and enjoy the great things about where I am. Not that I'm good at it- I had a lot of trouble sleeping this week and pretending not to acknowledge a really big Want of mine. I felt so much urgency, with almost no reason, and that urgency brought about a huge fear of losing what I Have.

Because when I think about it, the thing that I want is what I have always wanted. I've been waiting for it for a long time. I'll be ok to wait a while longer. It'll be worth it.