(...Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse....)
I shall part my hair behind.
I shall dare to eat a peach.
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
(sound is the last sense that remains with us before we die)
i grew to appreciate sounds that were once new:
your bare feet on the hardwood floor,
your knuckles cracking as you finish the crossword puzzle,
your and abby's footsteps on the wooden stairs,
your hand sliding along the banister,
the shower as heard from the kitchen,
you switching on the reading light over the chair,
you saying, "ah, the bulb's out. I'll get a new one tomorrow,"
you peeling carrots,
you dropping a glass on the floor,
you smoothing the placemat on the table,
you opening the window,
you clearing your voice in another room,
you talking into the buzzer, "I'll be right down,"
you humming a slow tune I don't know,
you singing the words when I ask you to,
you saying, "knock knock" to V
your heart thumping into my ear on your chest,
your quick inhale before "I'll call you back" on your voicemail recording,
your slow exhale that is very, very, close to me.
1. you weave my long hair into a loose braid. slowly, and with great care and patience.
2. you slip a thick sweater over my head, then hug me for as long as it takes to share and seal in your warmth.
3. we step outside. the grass is wet. I follow you as we step from one stone to the next, down this new path to the ocean.
4. we do not speak. we are practicing loving in silence.
5. we stand in front of the ocean, side by side. the waves are roaring, like we have been all this time.
6. i start to cry. hard. you reach for my hand, find it, and hold tight.
7. you wrap your arms around me and pull me even closer, in front of everything that's roaring and spraying everywhere. we both feel it within us, around us.
8. we scream together. not at each other, but together, at everything.
9. i fall soundly asleep. you carry me home.
There are 108 beads on a mala and 108 stitches on a baseball. Coincidence?
(there are no coincidences)
He called me on a Tuesday and asked me to block out Saturday afternoon and evening. I asked him why. He laughed. Don't worry about it, he said. Also, get a walker for the dog. Before I could say okay, he hung up. He then called me back five minutes later and said he would be at my apartment at 3:00 on Saturday. He then said, "I can't wait to see you. We're going to have so much fun. I love you."
His voice was jumping, electric.
"I love you, too," I said, with no hesitation.
When he showed up, he was wearing gym shorts and an old Yankees t-shirt. He told me to go upstairs and get my baseball glove, that he would wait for me by the curb. I ran back up, grabbed my glove from the closet, and closed the door behind me. When I got down to the street, he was waiting in a cab with the door open.
I hopped in next to him and closed the door. He told the driver to go to Central Park West and we pulled away from the curb. There are afternoons when the streets are just clogged with cars and driving one mile takes 45 minutes. That day, for whatever reason, the avenues were like smooth, wide-open seas, and we sailed through one green light after another. It was a warm, late-summer day. I looked out the window and watched the clouds skim over us, one by one.
We got out of the cab at 102nd Street and Central Park West. He motioned to me to walk with him as he slung a backpack over his shoulder.
"We're going to the baseball fields," he said. I smiled and skipped alongside him.
"What are we doing there?"
He smiled and looked up at the sky as we walked under the trees.
"Playing catch, obviously." He looked at me and grinned. I stopped walking.
"You drove all the way into the city today to play catch with me?"
"Come on," he said. He started to run and I jogged after him.
We started off standing about thirty feet apart, just tossing the ball back and forth and warming up our arms. We then started to remember all the games we used to play: pitcher/catcher (how many strikes can you throw in a row?), sweep-tag the runner sliding into the base, high-pops, hot grounders, throwing the ball at shin/waist/chest/head levels. We threw each other curveballs and sliders, fastballs and knuckleballs. When the ball flew over my head, I chased it. When it skipped between his legs, he turned around and ran after it. When he did, I paused to take deep breaths and absorb the fresh and wild baseball air. We then started to step farther and farther apart so we could watch the ball soar between us, arching over long distances like some kind of small, compact bird that loved us both.
After an hour or so, we came together to take a water break and sit in the grass. He asked me about my life, what I was writing. He told me he was so proud of me. He asked me about who I was dating, how I felt about Emerson's essays. Could you really hitch your wagon to a star? I told him I wasn't sure, but maybe it was worth a shot someday.
"Okay," he said. He looked at his watch. "We have to get going soon."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because," he said, reaching into his backpack, pulled out an envelope, and handed it to me. "We have these." I opened the envelop and pulled out two tickets. I looked more closely: they were bleacher seats, in the home run section, at Yankees Stadium.
"No way!" I shouted. He smiled softly, containing his excitement. "This is awesome!"
"Let's go," he said. "We can take the subway."
"Yes!" I said, jumping to my feet. Before we started walking, I gave him a hug. As we made our way to the train, I looked at the tickets.
"Do you think we'll catch any home runs?" I asked him.
"Hell yeah," he said, with no hesitation.
We rode the subway with other Yankees fans. They were jammering on about the line-up, their seats, the season record holders, batting averages. I watched him talk to strangers about the time he ran into Paul O'Neill at a restaurant, Bernie Williams at the airport. He was lighthearted, open, unafraid. I felt safe, protected, and the excitement I felt throughout the day had settled into a warm, loving buzz.
At the stadium, when we got to our seats, he told me to wait, that he would go get us some food. I nodded and watched him hop up the steps. The stadium was starting to fill up, and some of the players were warming up in the outfield. The warm afternoon air had settled, had become cooler and crisper. It was mid-September, and I found myself wishing that every day was mid-September.
He came back a few minutes later holding a tray of fries, a hot dog for himself, a pretzel for me, and two sodas. We sat and ate, and as I took in the lights, the pinstripes, the green of the green grass and his presence next to me, I felt very, very full, very, very glad, and very, very loved.
Last week, Tricycle published this article I wrote about trees. To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be quite popular. I've received several emails about the article and many comments.
I'm grateful for the camaraderie. Truly. But I also find myself hoping that people who deeply connect with nature can more powerfully voice their concerns. The focus of this article wasn't a plea for conservation; it was, rather, a reflective piece about seeing trees, and ourselves, more clearly.
A few summers ago, I took a trip to South Carolina for the sole purpose of seeing this tree, called the Angel Oak. It's located in a small park on Johns Island, near Charleston.
I remember sharing this with my students last fall. Many of them have traveled thousands of miles—from China, Japan, Korea—to attend school. I figured they would understand the desire—the need, really—to sit on a plane for hours in pursuit of something dear to them.
The class discussion went something like this.
Lauren: I traveled to South Carolina to see this tree.
Student: Just to see this tree?
Lauren: Yes. After I saw the tree, I stayed at an inn near the ocean for a few days, but the purpose of my trip was to see the tree.
Other student: What did you do when you saw the tree?
Lauren: I stood there and looked at it. I walked around it. Took some photos. And then I left.
Student: How long did you stay and look at the tree?
Lauren: About an hour or so.
Another student: How long did it take you to travel to South Carolina?
Lauren: Well, if I count the hour to get to JFK airport, the flight time, and the drive to the tree, probably about seven hours.
Yet another student: Are you some kind of tree specialist or tree researcher?
Lauren: No. I just really wanted to see this tree.
My students were polite. I think what they really wanted to ask me was: "You traveled all the way to South Carolina, from New York, to see a tree for a few minutes? Are you crazy?"
Here was the lesson I was trying to impress upon them: please pursue what fascinates you. Engage with it. You do not need to ask for permission or forgiveness to do this.
Yes, I spent a lot of time and money to go stand in front of this tree for an hour. I simply needed to see it. I had no other reason to go. I must say, standing beneath the leaves of a 500 year-old tree was kind of breathtaking. I walked alongside its gigantic branches, which snake under the ground and then reemerge through the soil 30 feet away from the trunk. It basically has its own ecosystem.
These students are very young and so curious. I want them to dive into themselves headfirst, for their own sake and nothing else. I want them to know that the world they design will be better as a result.
Last month Tricycle: The Buddhist Review published two new articles that I wrote:
How Far Are You Willing to Go to Wake Up?
This is an interview with teacher and writer Andrew Holecek. Andrew wrote the book Dream Yoga, which inspired me to talk with him about teachings on dreams, reality, and illusory form.
This is a reflection on birds and what they offer to me each morning as I walk through the park.
I recently wrote a piece for Tricycle (here) about the difficulty of starting. This article is less personal than I intended. Sometimes that happens. The impulse to write about something comes from a place I can feel but can't always access through the practice of writing. The tender spot between the shoulder blades often has a lot to say, as do the hips and the bundle of nerves at the base of the throat.
If they were characters in a novel, they would be those people always show up at the wrong time and say way past their welcome. They mean no harm, though. They just want our attention. They are kind of annoying, but once you spend time with them, they are actually quite wise and have a lot to say.
Tricycle published an article I wrote about yoga practices for surviving Inauguration Day.
It's over a week later. I wonder...did any of us make it?