I just returned from watching the HD live simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s matinee performance of Wagner’s Siegfried.  After five and half hours in another world, I’m not really sure what day it is.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’ve been convening with the gods and had a ringside (oh, pun appreciated!) seat at a resurrection which left me breathless and sobbing.  Brunhilde (two dots over the ‘u’) is wakened from her 18 year slumber by a kiss from Siegfried.  It may sound like Sleeping Beauty, but with Wagner’s incredible score underneath instead of Disney, it is a much more transcendent moment.  Deborah Voigt is an amazing actress as well as a singer.  In due time, she rises and greets the sun with a smile that lights the stage and a melody that thrills you to gooseflesh and tears.  Have you ever felt dead?  Hopeless?  Trapped?  Futureless? Depressed?  “There’s got to be a morning after….” is the same sentiment with inferior music. Her salutation of the day and the realization that she is alive reminds me of the Suryanamaskar in yoga, not that she does the position, but the joy of it shows in her entire being.  The passion behind the resurrection in this story is her banishment by Wotan, her father, god of Valhalla and enforcer of all the rules.  That scene as well struck me in the heart and gut as I pictured my own stern father turning his back on his daughter.  Their parting was a wrenching and painful death, again reducing me to tears in the darkness of the theater…last June.  She doesn’t awake until Act III of the next opera, which is what I saw today.

Oh, life!  Light in your eyes, the touch of your own warm flesh, breath in your lungs.  What compares with realizing the richness of being alive?  We can barely endure a moment of this stunning gift.  Something of sentience crashes in on the sparkle like a sledgehammer on an icicle.  Now that I’m alive, there’s so much to fear!  Brunhilde quickly realizes she’s lost her immortality, her armor and shield, and her autonomy.  I know the place where my morning turns on a dime from sunny dawn to mental lists of obligations and anxieties.  It’s like the Easter let down after the trumpet recessional when you know you have to leave the church and the music and go back to your business.  Listening to Deborah sing those first phrases, I hitch my entire being to her joy and long to go with her into that rapture and never come back.

A human emotion, pure and powerful, captured in Art.  It seems simple enough but somehow requires genius…or open innocence…or both.  I feel compelled to become attached, to grab this jewel and hang on, to build a booth around this transfiguration, but that would be a strangle hold.  I let it go, grateful for its presence and passing, and hopeful that another day the sun will rise and I with it.


Suspension of Meaning

In the quiet hours this morning as Steve slept beside me, the maple tree performed a Wayang shadow dance on the south window.

My mind began to wonder: what is 7 billion?  Are there 7 billion maple leaves in this town?  Has my heart beat 7 billion times?  Have I written 7 billion words?  Are there 7 billion of any other species on earth besides humans right now?  Are there 7 billion ants or bats or mice?  If I am one of 7 billion, does my life have meaning?  Am I unique?  Have I produced anything of value?  Am I a “productive member of society”?  And failing to produce any anxiety about this question, I ask myself: does it matter?

I found myself in a rather peaceful state, suspended as any other late fall maple leaf, not very concerned if the next gust of wind should liberate me forever from my connective  capacity.  Steve stirred and asked me what I was doing.  “Just thinking….”  As he awoke more fully, he told me of his late night reading adventures and the existential anger it stoked.  We began discussing morality and deep ecology and meaning.  At breakfast, we listened to Beethoven and Charles Ives and contemplated the difference in the world of the 1800s and the post WWI era.  He mentioned Nietzsche and his mental breakdown and death.  He was an insomniac and took morphine and chloral hydrate; he also had syphilis.  I thought of my brilliant father’s last 7 years living with Alzheimer’s.  What is it like to be separated from meaning?  Steve finds it frightening.  I imagine that it brings you closer to the state of an animal in the wild.  Do they have need of symbolic representations that are recognizable and repeatable?  Do they need meaning to live their lives?  We would probably find it impossible to function for a day without it.  Perhaps in meditation we suspend it for a time.  Is that what Enlightenment is?

Without the blinds covering my window, the maple leaves are golden and bright.

  They dance as solid dark figures when the veil is lowered.  Are they the same leaves?  Why do we attach different meanings to different states of being?  What if we didn’t?

Just wondering.

I’m Afraid So…

I’m afraid so…often.

I’m afraid, so I get surges of adrenaline, tense shoulders, a rather breathless feeling, and I give off a vibe that Steve notices right away as “ungrounded”, even before I’m aware of anything.  Yesterday, I wrote in a comment to my blog post that I have a fear-based outlook on the world.  This morning, it showed up in a small-scale episode of anxiety.  I was driving to a park to do a Kindergarten program when I noticed my engine temperature indicator dipping into the HOT zone.  I wasn’t going more than 8 miles away, so I just continued to the park.  Driving home, the needle stayed on the cool half of the dial.  I called my local repair shop and made an appointment for Monday.  Now, this does not present a real problem for me at all.  I don’t have a job I need to get to, and Steve has a car I can use for errands and whatnot.  But something inside me escalates things into a sense of “OMG!  There are things that I need to FIX RIGHT AWAY!”, and suddenly I’m making mental lists of everything I am responsible for or slightly dreading in the next month.  Subtly, of course, so that I don’t notice, but Steve does.  “Are you OK?” he asks.  And suddenly, I am aware that I am not quite.  I am a foot or so off the ground.  Tense.  Not confident.  Addled.  Alert, but not trusting.  So I take a break, sit in the sun on the couch, take off my glasses and breathe.

"While the storm clouds gather..."

Why don’t I trust myself?  The things that I have on my mind are tasks that are well within my range of skills or conditions that I can survive.  I notice that this kind of “crisis” happens in the weeks leading up to the first snowfall.  Perhaps it’s a biological trigger for preparedness.  Perhaps it’s a feeling of dread brought on by the many memories I have of emergencies that happened in winter.  My husband was in the hospital a lot in the winter months over a period of about 5 years with pneumonia and kidney dialysis issues.  He died in the middle of February.   I also have a lot of automobile-related dread triggers.  I hate driving in snow.  I visualize car accidents all the time, probably because of the accident I was in that claimed my sister’s life.  I can never go to that default position of “it’ll never happen to me”.  I gasp at the slightest jerk of the steering wheel. (Just ask my kids!)  So maybe I have “reasons” to be fear-based.  But I don’t want to be.

I’m afraid, so I’ll “invite my fears to the dinner table”, make friends with my demons, try to look at them head-on and learn from them.  What do they tell me about life?  What do they tell me about me?

Life is unpredictable.  We humans have a biological mechanism to get us hyped up to respond to emergencies.  “Fight or flight”, they call it.  Adrenaline flows into our veins and speeds up our breathing and heart rate.  It’s useful at times, and seems inappropriate at others.  What do you do with adrenaline when you’re sitting in a hospital waiting room?  There’s no physical outlet for it!  So perhaps this response was designed for a more physical lifestyle. I’m afraid, so I should exercise more.

I’m afraid, so I should be compassionate with myself.  Slowing down, allowing my heart rate to come back to resting range, I can concentrate on my thoughts, my breath, my emotions.  “Are you OK?”  I want to check in with myself more often and take the time to get grounded.  The stuff I need to fix isn’t usually immediate life-or-death stuff.  I can take it easy.  I have a frightened child with me – myself.  How would I care for her?

I’m afraid, so I think I’ll write about it.  Maybe one day I’ll come up with a picture book about being afraid.