Saturday, April 2, 2011
April Come She Will
I've been traveling strange terrain these past few weeks. From barely melted snows in upstate New York, to full blown cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, to palm trees and azaleas in New Orleans, to uncurling greens on the bushes in Brooklyn, and again the brilliant yellow of daffodil slopes in Maryland. My heart is traveling strange terrain and the world around me seems to reflect the vastness, fragility, beauty, starkness, and unpredictable but inexorable movements of life and death.
For the first time I missed a class at my neighborhood studio where I've taught since Inauguration Day 2009. By missed, I mean simply couldn't show up and had no substitute available to replace me. My father's urgent medical situation required my full presence. There was much sweetness in teaching last week and hearing that a few of my beginning students stayed to practice together.
I've sat with my mother, who is floating on a gentle sea of pain medications and freedom from the constraints of conventions. The tenderness with which she touches her own hands, strokes her own cheek as though forming the shapes in clay; she opens her eyes with clarity and space so enormous that my feet feel lighter as I meet her gaze. She has drifted quite a way in this nearly a month in hospice care. Her room at the group home feels like a soft safe nest. What an act of grace that after a life of such turmoil she is finding her way with such an openness of heart.
I've held my father's hand as he went through procedures, humming the violin part to his humming the viola part of duets we have played, keeping his attention aloft of the changing chest tubes and with the breath itself. His clarity of mind and good humor more endearing than my heart can bear, and his suffering finding a place within my own ribs. He stood by me through all my childhood surgeries, fainting as the anesthesia took me out to sea. I can still feel his two large hands holding my one right hand. So I gaze at the delicate fuzz of spring tree branches against the sky as I walk around the assisted living facility to which I am hoping he can move when, in his words, "the white cells win."
What is a yoga practice? I find my center, my core self, sitting on the Amtrak train speeding from New York to Washington to New York to Washington. I breathe into that three-dimensional space where all three of his chest tubes are draining away the mess that ought not be there. I walk up the stairs to my 4th floor apartment, grateful that my sprained ankle is recovered enough, knowing that each step I take is a practice in letting go of expectations and outcomes; that each breath is truly the gift of presence, in this moment is the fullness and freedom of my life.
There are so many of us on the path. The footprints fit my feet perfectly no matter which way I turn. I feel graced by each and every one of you. I will return your gaze even when I have no eyes with which to see.