This week I took a walk with my friend Rachel at a place everyone in Palo Alto calls The Dish. A paved path cuts through the foothills. There are views that unfurl toward the San Francisco Bay, and on a clear day, reach as far north as Marin county. We often have nature encounters. We see squirrels, bunnies, deer, sometimes coyotes, and a lot of birds. Sparrows flutter by the edge of the path, herons stand on one foot in the golden grass, sea gulls slice across the sky, and hawks perch in oak trees.
In the middle of our walk we noticed something unusual. What we saw first was a group of women in bright tops and sunglasses approaching us. They walked quickly and darted their heads from side to side. Sometimes they craned their necks behind them. It was hard to tell if they were doing a new exercise (should we be trying it?!) or if they were in some kind of distress. It was the jagged way their heads moved that made me think this wasn't just exercise.
When they came closer we saw that three wild turkeys were chasing them. The turkeys were puffed up, their feathers splayed tall and proud like on a Thanksgiving card. Their poking beaks getting nearer and nearer to the women's legs.
How threatening is a turkey? None of us actually knew. Their beaks looked pointy, alarmingly they moved pretty fast. And they were big. They were about up to our chests, and like a set of three army tanks they barreled toward us.
Now we were the ones slightly anxious and uncomfortable, was this funny or dangerous? It was hard to say. Rachel retied her coat around her waste as we zeroed in on what to do. Our first instinct was to join the other women, to turn around put as much distance between us and the turkeys. But there seemed something off to me about that. Either the turkeys were a danger and we really should run, not speed walk, or they were dimwitted, but very afraid birds. So I said to Rachel, "These are turkeys. They don't want to chase us. I mean don't we call people turkeys when they are generally acting daft and ridiculous? I think we're probably more dangerous to them then they are to us."
And with that, I just stopped walking. I stood stock still in the path as the ladies in their bright tops blazed by. Rachel stood there with me, now stuck, somewhat unwittingly in my decision. I was honestly a little scared. I did not know if this tactic would work and if it didn't I did not have a back up plan. But it felt like the right thing to do. I forced myself to get very still. I took a few deep breaths. I dropped my gaze about six feet in front of me, where I let my eyes soften. Rachel did the same.
It was like a cloud of calm mushroomed out of us and when it hit the turkeys, they slowed down. In the length of time it took for me to take three breaths they slowed down, and from where we were standing it looked like they almost melted. They shrunk to half their size, pulling all their big feathers back into their bodies. They were no longer looking like iconic Thanksgiving card turkeys, but small brown barnyard animals.
The thing I want to say about this is that I notice I often have a way of making the turkeys in my life chase me down. I have a way of making the things that trigger me bigger. I am often dealing with the problem itself, and the extra energy I have that is inflaming the problem--puffing it up like those turkeys on the path.
We all know what we are supposed to do in that moment. Take a deep breath, calm down. But the thing is, we don't believe it will actually work. We don't have faith that calming down will do anything but give us the relief of a deep breath. The fact is, it does much more. The thing that happened with the turkeys, it seemed almost physical, as if there were tiny strings between us and them. And that by changing the vibration of the string, things between us changed significantly. Animals show us this all the time. Our thoughts are just to big to let us believe it, I think.
There you have it, unedited, typos and all.
I would love to know what you do, not just to calm down, but to convince yourself that calming down is worth doing. What is the thought or impulse or feeling that tells you it is time to get back to center?
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Half way through I realized this heart drawing was not going to come out "right." But the thing I heard inside was see it through and see what happens. I keep it as a reminder that imperfect work is better than no work at all.
Friends of my blog,
I miss you. I have been posting less often, as my writing has been taking me into yet unformed places. I have been visiting the edges of my writing skills. I have been focusing on some longer pieces and hunkering into creating the kind of freedom that is needed to produce work that is truly new--that is written for the adventure of writing it. And yet, part of the big adventure for me has been the opportunity to be in touch with you, the people who I know, love, enjoy and who, more than anyone else, have encouraged me to keep at writing. You are such an important part of it for me. Write for yourself, first, the teachers say. And I get that. In part it means do it for the sake of doing it. Enjoy the process of writing, figure out what writing offers you minus any outer recognition.
But what I realized just this morning, is that my writing, from its earliest inception, was in the form of letters to friends. I was never very good at journaling, like many writers are, but what I did with absolute childhood fervor was write to friends. Long letters that traveled up and down the east coast, making their final stop in places like Skaneatelas, Greensboro, Weston, Allendale, New Canaan, Guilford and more.
What kind of letters were these? Just common letters in their way, contemplations about a new crush, tender bits of gossip, wonderings about what grown up life would be like. But as a whole, when I think of all of you to whom I wrote as a girl and a young woman, and when I think of those of you who follow the blog, I know in my heart these were love letters. They were meditations on the people I was writing to, my hopes for them and my hopes for myself, braided together in words. They were a way of keeping in touch, and a request for companionship around the questions that life, at every stage has posed to us.
So with that, I've realized that my writing will never exist in a vacuum, without you. And given that I have other pieces in the works that require a different approach from blogging, I hereby announce that I will be posting shorter bits, questions, unformed thoughts and sentences that sometimes will have dangling participles or other such grammatical insults. Thank you in advance for being willing to shift sets, to leave the smooth pavement of crafted prose, and head out onto the road less traveled--dusty and full of rocks, where thoughts are blurted, things don't necessarily match, and where you may watch me change my mind 10,000 times as I wonder about things I don't yet understand.
I would love to hear from you too. I'd love to read your writing, hear about what you are loving (or despising) lately, and generally what you are up to. Don't be shy. Leave comments. You are all good people here and might very well meet some new people you'll enjoy or catch up with friends you love.
With love and appreciation