When I want to be kind to myself, I put 24 exposures into the K1000 and set aside an hour of good light with zero artistic goals. Sometimes I smoke a little pot. Just go ahead and blow the whole roll, I say to myself.
Somebody - I think it was Trungpa Rinpoche - said Nostalgia for samara is bullshit.
But what about nostalgia for nirvana?
I guess any nirvana you can lose was samsara in the first place. Suffering is, after all, the truest truth.
I am still feeling sad about the garden, even though now, eight months after these images were made and this post was started, the new garden is green and green is the color of hope and hope - right? - is the opposite of grief.
Oh C'mon. We all know (I know) that grief and hope are neighbors in the body, two ends of the same rope; are indeed handing energy back and forth like right and left feet as we stumble or march into the next moment, relentlessly.
So: I was sad. Saying goodbye to a life. Starting a different life. I wrote about how representative my process with the garden felt of the overall shift I was allowing/ creating/ engaging with in my life.
I look at these pictures and think, Oh, August Devon.
You know how they say (I sometimes say) that the fear before is worse than what you were afraid of when it actually happens?
Not true! What I was afraid of was worse, bigger, more daunting and hard than I believed I was readying myself for when I took these pictures.
I just saw how readying has dying in it. Hunh.
So let's distinguish between fear and sadness. Because fear - in this case, a case of no real, imminent danger, and no more relational trauma than is average in a privileged life in late-stage patriarchal, white supremacist capitalism - is a projection. This sort of fear names something out there that can be a container for bodily aversion so that we can, in our hubris, try to avoid it.
I projected aversion onto, sought to avoid, even as I stepped right toward it: immersion in the American productivity hamster wheel. Wake, dance quickly through the guard or grasp of the beloved; commute in a parade of lonely drivers in a landscape of death; show obedience by being inside for the agreed-upon hours; stumble back to the freeway; indulge thoughts of self-care activities while running errands; drag bags into the house (a thing called home which means mostly that you can fall apart there) and begin the bedtime cycle: bonding, sedation, nourishment, cleansing, rest.
I feared the hamster wheel because I had watched my parents on it, because I had my own innate sense of mystery and magic co-opted by the clock and calendar at their behest. I felt how our connection was so often based on a tired exchange of the days events, followed by a hurried flash forward to tomorrow.
I feared the hamster wheel because of the little bird's joy I knew crossing over smoggy freeway gridlock on the pedestrian bridge on my bike, wind in my hair at 8:30am on a Wednesday. The delight of a Tuesday picnic eaten naked at a quiet lake that was just swarmed for the weekend. The tender, swaddling sac of my kitchen, my garden, my children, my books: I feared that the tenderness, richness, the contact and cloister of these would be made thin and brittle by being sequestered to the edges of my days, and thus the edges of my attention - both the source and measure of value.
I feared it and I dreamed (as we do?) that it was inevitable. I dreamed that I could not survive without succumbing to my fear. I dreamed that I was not deserving of the life I had, because I had not sufficiently proved my worth while I had the freedom to do so. How might I have proved my worth, you ask? By earning more money, of course. By reaching further and sharing more. By being more public with my passions and ambitions. By loving my home and the person I am here ... less. I dreamed that I would never be seen by the man I live with until I could pay my share of the bills.
I dreamed that I was hiding from the truth, not taking my turn, or that if I did not go out in the moment that my youngest child went out - that if I accepted that she would be indoctrinated, institutionalized, but refused myself to know and face this force - that I would become an empty husk, a weakling in the world, a ghost haunting my children's lives.
Maybe more sensibly, I knew full well that many, may women do this and more. They run the hamster wheel and reengineer it while they're on it, and reach out to each other and get the momentum from their wheels to align. Men do this too. I was afraid - am afraid - of not being in their company. Not doing enough. Not being brave enough.
But there is also where I started, which is grief.
And grief - grief is sadness that knows no return. It its sadness deep in the bodily groove of samskara. Grief is the cut power line of unmet attachment, bouncing in the street. Grief is sadness in the place where belonging lived.
Belonging is a link from this breath to the next; a container for the loose parts of individualized existence. Even when grief is for what never was, it is for what we once believed - bodily, for the sake of survival - could be.
So I was right to be sad. I suppose I was also right to be afraid. I have to admit that I grew stuck, too tight, in the space I had made for myself, and had to press my head against the way out. I complained about my own privilege, wished for intensity and business, hoped to have things taken out of my hands that I couldn't quite put down on my own.
I wonder now, as I sit with this school year undigested in my gut, what I guessed then about how this time would change me. I was afraid and excited for how it would change my family. I was sad and resigned about how it would change my home. I was afraid and sad about choosing to go away from the earth, my body, the practice. I was hopeful. Or determined. Willing.
I see this spring how willing the garden is, to be a new thing. More on that, next time.