Volunteer State- Part 3 “Spiral”


I drive around a lot, partly to get groceries, partly to explore Nashville, and most especially to resume my “reading” of Eat Pray Love in the car. I left the windows down when I arrived in the dark that first night and the rain that so soothed me on my marathon nap also happened to soak the interior of my car, which now smells mildewy and suspicious. No one hurt but me and me hardly hurt, no big deal.

I drive to Nashville and am surprised by my lack of curiosity. Maybe it’s the grey day, or the good book, or the pedestrian-free sterility I see all around me, but I have no desire to leave my car. I finally park but wait to withdraw my keys until the end of a chapter. And there, as I gaze out the window listening, a large metal sign loosely nailed to its post swings in the breeze to face me and invites me to read it. “Parking By Permit Only” it says. I smile. I didn’t want to get out of the car anyway.

I drive all the way back to the small town near my little cabin, and I pass a few easy at a coffee shop. A woman– apparently a regular­– enters to compliments about her hair. She announces that this was the first day she’d worn her hair “down” in 5 years. She’s had cancer. She lost it all, and now it’s back. Such talk to announce in public! My ears perk. Everything seems to be about hair. I see it everywhere. I am self-conscious of mine already­– I can only imagine how I’ll feel if I actually shave it. I am so thin-skinned. Will this make me stronger or pierce me?

I actually attend an OA meeting because I want to share my “5th Step” with someone in order to induce the proper state of piety that I feel will accommodate the Act of Shaving. It feels so. good. to enter a room for the first time but to feel before I’ve taken my seat that I belong there. Thank god for this program. I make an appointment to go back to another meeting tomorrow morning and meet with Jo, and then I take myself home.

I cook myself a nice dinner in silence and pause to say a prayer before I take my first bite. It goes something like this:

God, thank you for this gentle day

where I have not asked myself for more than I was willing to give

or given myself more than I was comfortable receiving.

Thank you for giving me one whole day where there is nothing whatsoever to recover from.

My eyes snap open and I smile to myself. I think that’s the definition of “clean.”

And yet, I cannot sleep when it becomes time to go to bed. My stomach is churning through the digestive process and my mind is burning through equally heavy thoughts and my body is damn cold because its 30 degrees outside and I am eye level in my mattress with a space heater that lights up and beeps when I press its buttons but does not produce heat.

There in the dark, I half-dream incredible bold things for myself in 2016. I turn the light back on at least 3 times to write and read and write again. Realizations are happening, understanding is happening inspiration is happening. There is a time for sleep and a time for wakefulness, this trip has given me a bounty of both.

When it is finally 5 in the morning. I decide there is no point in laying here cold and awake, I might as well get up and be cold and awake. I dress in the dark, with lots of layers and socks on my hands for gloves (I didn’t expect this cold weather) and take myself down to the labyrinth. The very idea feels mystical.

The labyrinth is a walking mediation made not of British shrubbery but simple bricks and slates, no higher than the dull grass around it. It is maybe 30 paces across. I approach it silently and walk around its perimeter until I find the entrance, and then I begin to walk the spiral.

My mind is no more still here than it was in my bed, but I watch my feet and try to focus. I notice that the novelty of changing my direction has the effect of re-centering my brain, so I decide to try to match my breaths with each leg of the maze.

The first time I try this, I have to traverse the entire course and my snotty nose is rattling and my lungs are burning when I arrive. The next ones are easier though as my breathing slows naturally. To my surprise, I eventually arrive at the center. I stand there, simply, waiting to see how I will acknowledge this auspicious location. My left ear picks up the surprisingly loud crash of water produced by the little lake as it flows into the little stream beside me. It is always going. All day it does that. I am here to hear it now but, when I’m not, it is still going like that, still making that noise like perpetual labor pains of birthing itself to itself, one body of water unto another.

I decide to try to fixate on each of the 7 chakras in sequence. I can’t focus the energy on my own body so instead I close my eyes and try to conjure the image of a point of light. The first color is red and it comes rather quickly but then shifts to orange and then dissipates and then goes back to red again. Imperfect as my little light is, I inhale into it and then exhale an even “om.” My voice is lower than I expected and it almost startles me. As I cycle through the colors- ROY G BIV, I pause between each until I can more or less form the image at hand. To my pleasure, blue is the easiest, but its also the sloppiest, smearing all across my vision like a contemporary canvas rather than the dainty traffic light that the other colors produced. Indigo is odd because I first have to define just what it is an then mix it together. I end in a gaudy purple and open my eyes to notice that my head is cocked way up, close-eyed gaze facing the heavens, chin tilted to the dark but starless sky. That’s nice.

I uncoil myself back through the labyrinth and walk back toward my cabin. Immediately when I step out, my chest erupts in a silly fit of hiccups­– how quickly my breathing has strayed out of my grasp!

I make my breakfast and look out the window at the birdfeeder outside. It is busy with Cardinal and chickadees and some others that I can’t name. I’ve “gone bird watching” for countless hours but I’ve almost never done it out of my own inspired curiosity. This time, I pick up a little bird book conveniently resting on the table and flip through to learn what I am looking at. It feels almost [almost] exotic that I get to focus on different region of the map (I’m on vacation!) and the drawings help me notice the different markings on the sweet little chickadees. As I watch, the force of the landing birds causes the feeder to spin around, giving me a multidimensional view like a jewelry display case while I sit here in place. I smile at the simple fruits of stillness. Thank you.

Its so rare that I wake up early like this but I enjoy the feeling of getting a head start on the day. Its December 31 and this week of reflection feels like waking up early for the new year. I’m filled with hope for what it will bring.

Next Entry: Part 4: Song

Previous Entry: Part 2: Sleep

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