Friday, October 19, 2012

the year of the dragon

When I turned 44, I let go of my inner critic (the one who warned of sagging, and distortion and of future embarrassment) and  I used the money my mother sent me for my birthday and I got my first tattoo, a 5cm in diameter spiral sun burst, it sits just above my heart. People can only see hints of its edges with most clothing I wear, which is what I wanted. I wanted a sun to remind me of my inner radiance, and I also wanted to tease people, just a bit. In Yoga you see a lot of tattoos. Not so many skulls, or flames, more OM symbols, butterflies, birds, flowers, all very, well, Yoga like.   In a Yoga top, in a few positions you can see all of it, which is great in Yoga, I fit right in.

My mother, who owns 20 cashmere twin sets, irons all bed sheets, and who is always socially impeccable, was appalled, which made me smile, just a bit. She warned how awful it would look when I was 70 and 80, when my breasts were racing to my waist, how I would regret this, which made me smile just a little bit more into my artfully arranged salad (we were out for a civilized lunch at the time).

My daughters were awestruck with my new coolness.

That was 4 1/2 years ago, and I want another, two actually. My oldest daughter, who has three (all small and very clever and tasteful) is thrilled. I want a Dragon, like the one I had airbrushed onto the back of my shoulder during a girl's weekend in Provincetown, to remind me of my inner dragon, and also to look just a little bad ass in Yoga. It's the Year of the Dragon, my year, and I am discovering the closer I get to 50, the less I worry about what other people think, or what I will look like when I'm 70, or 80, or even 90. Personally, I think I'll look kind of cool, but who knows, I'm not there yet.

The other tattoo I want will go along the edge of my right foot, so I can see it when I'm meditating. It's a line from a favourite poem "What I do is me: for that I came".

Any there it is. What I do IS me. It's taken nearly fifty years of trying things the hard way, of trying to fit what I am into everybody else's definition for me, for me to realize I like me as I am, and starting from there is as good a starting place as any.

Here is the actual poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves - goes itself, myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

in case you were wondering

Dear World,

I need a new job. I can write, edit, create, organize, and I am embarrassingly dependable. I have flexible hours, I'm fun to work with and I get things done on time, with a smile. I'm calm and efficient in chaos and can think on my feet, and also in more sedate environments while sitting down. I have been a Registered Nurse, Medical Office Manager, Editor, Published Writer, Artist and Photographer, and Volunteer Mentor, Teacher and Homeless Shelter worker . I have managed groups of people in hectic environments, such has hospital wards, large groups of youth, and homeless shelter kitchens. I also work happily with technology, and without.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerly,
Ruth Elliott

Thursday, October 11, 2012

a thousand ways

Heading home after 6 glorious days in New England the small airplane I'm flying in rises above the clouds. Now I've flown above clouds countless times, but this time it seems special. 

Perhaps I'm so moved by the clouds because I've just been beside, on, and around the ocean for the last five days. The closest feeling I can come up with is privileged. I feel privileged to be able to look out to the horizon and see nothing but clouds. It seems so marvelous that my eyes tear up as I write this. It's just a smallest glimpse into the scope of this world, an ocean in the sky, and it has me sniffling into my cocktail napkin. 

I need this feeling, this deep reverence that I feel whenever I am near the ocean, flying over clouds, watching the fall leaves turn colour and swirl around me. I need to stop and just take it in, sit quietly and simply look. To look outside and inside of myself. It is easy for me to get caught up in my tiny troubles, to clutch them tightly to my chest and squeeze my eyes shut and forget the privilege (there's that word again) it is just to be alive and breathing in this world. 

“There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; or, you can live as if everything is a miracle.” 
Albert Einstein

 When I am not hunched over with the weight of my worries, eyes closed, fingers clawing my heart, I can see that absolutely everything is miraculous - every breath, every drop of water in the clouds, the ocean, in the trees, in my own body, breath and blood everything is a miracle. Writing this now is easy, I have spent days with ocean and with a dear friend. I have spent time with my bare feet in the sand, with cold salty waves breaking over my legs, I have seen whales, their existence so ordinary and so wondrous that I am still humbled and lack the words to express my deep thankfulness and awe at their very being. 

I watch birds, and seals flow with the rises and valleys of the ocean, floating on the surface takes no effort if you let your body flow with the undulating water. Seals don't marvel at how easily they maneuver in the water, whales seem oblivious, it, to their beauty and magnificence. 

I have spent a painful year clutching my own fears, hurts and resentments tightly to my chest, barely breathing at times in fear of letting any of them go. My time by the water and with Patti allowed me to exhale finally open my arms and let go of my clutched wounds. I could breathe in the ocean and it entered every part of me. As I return home to my same life I am carrying less pain, at least for now. 

As Kingfishers Catch Fire
by Gerard Manley-Hopkins

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

What I do is me: for that I came. I struggle so much to fit myself into different boxes for different purposes and roles, the concept of truly being myself is both frightening and exhilarating. I'm not sure who me is, or what I think of myself. In yoga we say relax into the ease and grace of the position; on the ocean, float on that ever changing surface, find your ease in the world you inhabit. The seals with their gentle faces glide within the waves and seem to look at the world with such acceptance. Seals don't complain about having to be wet, about eating fish, you never see one despair over wanting wings, the natural world does not do this. It exists in the grace of the world. What would it be like to live a  life like that? A life where you stopped fighting with yourself, where moved with and trusted the waves to carry you.

On one excursion we found a tiny bookstore with an entire table of Mary Oliver poetry books, signed no less! Our not-so-inner poet nerds went wild. My newest Mary Oliver (signed!) book sits beside me as I write this and watch the clouds. Mary Oliver seems to have come close to being at ease and in awe of the world and I envy and am inspired by her.

Wild Geese
not a goose, I realize
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Patti taught me a new word, Godwinks. I had never heard it, but what a wonderful idea, and reminder to pay attention to the daily miracles that happen all around us.

We are descending now, into the clouds, that beautiful white fog, and soon I will be back in my busy life, but for now I am floating. Just for now I can do anything, I can be myself, I can be aware of the miracles unfolding all around me and I can stop, and just breathe anytime I need to.

“Today I wake up empty and frightened. Don’t go to the door of the study and read a book. Instead, take down the dulcimer, let the beauty of what you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground, there are a thousand ways to go home again.” – Rumi