An Open Letter

Dear Someone,

So much of what we inherit we cannot see. I think about this lately—emotional lineage, the weight of grief and wonder and joy that gets passed down, how we carry it forward. What I’m really thinking about is how much inheritance is actually narrative and story, which is no small thing. How we can decide at any point to leave certain inherited things behind, even if it’s felt sense. Especially if it’s that. Changing the narrative. We decide what we carry forward, and what we don’t. I inherited a love for letters from my mother. I don’t remember the exact moment, but I know she taught her children to write thank you notes and cards. We were not an overly decorous bunch, but thank you notes were imperative. My mother’s penmanship, with its neat lines and fluid curves, is unwavering in my mind. We’ve written to each other for decades, since I left for college and throughout every subsequent move afterward, and nearly every time she opens with a reference to the weather. Is this some 1960s salutatory throat-clearing? A contextual grounding in the moment? Either way, it is both beautiful and heartbreaking, for the weather changes continuously once the letter is sealed and sent, rendering a little bit of the missive a moot point, though surely it remains a testament to the moment in which it was written, which must matter more. The urge to sit and communicate, and describe one’s surroundings. How it bleeds into the rest of the letter’s narrative. How weather and temperament so often parallel. Of course letters are mostly a novelty now, an almost anachronistic nod to less technologically saturated times, for we fill the spaces in between letters with texts and emails. The whole letter could be a moot point by the time you receive it, some momentary giddiness when it’s in your hands, and then a text saying got your note! Still this does not lessen my love for the practice. Still I long to write and receive said notes.

What can I say about the weather here, now? It rained so much in May I began to call it the rainy season in my mind. Weeks of afternoon downpours, brief but big thunder and lightning storms. I saw the small forest we have in the park nearby transform into a verdant jungle. Trees laid on their sides after roots were too wet to stay rooted. The dogs and I climbed over and under them during our walks. Everywhere a faint smell of almost-rot, like overripe fruit. Enormous amounts of trash from nearby streets and neighborhoods lined the banks of the creek and the lake, stranded and tangled in weeds. I feasted on endless green—the wild mess of bushes and vines, trees overfull so much that their branches sagged and made a dense canopy for light to creep through in skinny beams, sometimes seemingly backlit by yellow heat.

Eventually the rain stopped. Nothing left but the unyielding humidity I’m convinced gets worse each year. Just this morning I stood in the backyard before coffee and let myself be enveloped with the dank force of it, kindling my headache, squinting against the June haze. I’ve stopped and started so many things this year. Do you do this? Don’t we all? In a recent session with a hypnotherapist I was seeing here, she suggested that the work we do is like turning the soil. You begin with a particular intention, and often so many other things get stirred up in the process. Everything turns over. I think about that constantly since she mentioned it. Another form of practice, in a way. Of process. I am uninterested in progress, in holding myself up against timelines and goals and boxes to be checked, but it’s hard to let go that pressure. I want to be the turning soil, embodying change and emotion and vulnerability. Maybe I am. Some mornings when I actually wake up from a deep sleep it shocks me. Most of the time I am restless and wake too easily. Several times recently when I laid awake in bed poem ideas washed over me, whole lines and titles even, and my heart pounded in recognition. I wish I could say I remembered them or sat up to write them down. But everything I know about this process reminds me not to wait for inspiration, to sit in devotion instead. To commit to practice. I am more fearful of wasting time these days than anything else. But what if it’s feeling I’m wasting? Too sad, too self-absorbed. Haven't I learned that attachment to anything causes suffering? Maybe I’m feeling my age, my mortality. Maybe I'm so in love with the world I'm terrified to let go of it. But I remember letting go every day. How imperative. Still, I’m so tender it nearly kills me.

A couple of nights ago I took the dogs into the park late, after dusk. The dark came on in a way that should have scared me, but didn’t. We made our usual loop around the periphery of the park, and down to the paved paths that encircle the lake. When I say I cried the whole time I mean I let the tenderness guide me. Who could hurt me then? Here, the crescent moon like a brilliant toenail. Here, wild chorus of crickets and katydids calling to me. The bullfrog’s croak like a sonorous pluck of an upright bass string. Here, the heady scent of beloved honeysuckle and gardenia. Here, the rushing creek over ancient boulders. I gave myself to this night. I nearly screamed SAME at the cacophony of insects and animals and tears and what turned within me. Can you imagine life without these moments of exposure and disregard for shame? Can you imagine an even more radical implementation of forgiveness and attention and joy? I care only for this. Tell me where you feel it. That’s all I want to write about anymore. In every letter, poem, text, list, book. Turning and turning and turning. All soil all the time. Is it possible this is something I inherited, too? A tenderness that moves me each day? Once I feared such tenderness, but I don’t now. What about this attention to small things, which will always reveal the bigness to me? Do you feel that, too? I like to think I learned these things through practice, but I wonder if I’m not just unearthing what was already there. An ancient lineage of waking, and I’m awake to it.

 

Yours,