Monday, June 27, 2011
Christina has an idea
Christina has an idea she has been working on for the past two days. There is a colored drawing of a boy cardinal. Picture his masked face and irreverent flittering─the rowdiness of his red feathers, his undulating whistle. He is the epitome of boy, somehow different than the rough masculine of the blue jay or the certain man caw of a crow. Christina rolls the thought back and forth across her mind, revels in the delicate control of thoughts. She can watch them expand like a pop-up book, more real than any others.
She lives in New York City and she has arrived to the retreat center just two days prior. It is a rustic setting in the Catskills. An early summer ease has set in. She has come with her friend Rebecca. They are both regulars to this kind of thing; reaching for revelation in an extended weekend’s time. Clearing the mind has made its way from a hobby to a rough riding passion. It starts and stops in jerks. She is here to point to the door of clarity and fortune. Can it be, Christina wonders?
At breakfast she uses the tongs to transport pieces of fruit to her plate. It is morning. She is on retreat. Her white pants are made of thin cotton and she wonders if anyone can see her underpants; and if so, what do they think of them, or her. Her underwear has a wide band and rides low on her small hips. They are tan and are probably not visible. She sits with Rebecca and two other men, Ben and Chris. There is immediately a sexual consideration. Not a tension necessarily, but a curiosity engendering desire between and within the sexes. This always happens.
Christina plays it cool, doesn’t show so much this time. It makes her smile because for the moment she knows she is not working sexy anymore than is naturally exuding from her. That is right. She eats a strawberry. It is fantastic; an expression of its fullest potential. She feels alone in her celebration of strawberry, rides that line of it being an act of independent, womanly beauty, and even dips it into cream. Chris sees her and is struck by it. The quintessential woman is, perhaps, what he is thinking. She struggles slightly with wanting to be wanted and then drops it. She sees Chris close up like a house in winter without her response and he seems only slightly embarrassed.
She drinks her black tea with honey and milk, the color of her skin. The windows are propped open, and the trees outside are dark green. Blooms are exotic, almost tropical despite being in and of the northeast. She eats yogurt and granola, breathes, and smiles freely at the two men and Rebecca. It is not her job to please others she thoughtfully remembers. There is a consistent temptation to amend everyone’s thoughts without knowing how. Each friend, stranger, man, woman desires a connectedness that elusively but truly originates from the inside. And so they are all there, rediscovering. They spend the rest of breakfast talking about assorted details of their New York lives.
In meditation of the first day she sits on a cushion in an open walled wooded cabin, up on a low ridge. The room is full of twenty participants. Each body a plot of land with neighboring plots all around. Rebecca sits across the room, somewhere out of sight. Christina is surrounded by a spectrum of men and women, eagerly seeking. How could we have lost this most basic connection? It seems illogical that the foundational premise of feeling comfortable with one’s self should be deferred for so long.
She stops thought. Her buttocks soften against the large, round pillow. It is time for calm. She opens and closes her eyes intermittently and it pleases her to choose the openness and then the closedness without the teacher telling her when. She inspects the details of each state for the sheer pleasure of it. In a moment of open eyes she watches a pair of cardinals. The girl seems womanlier than the boy manly. She considers boy, and a freedom he has to be unpolished and irreverent.
Freedom thrives in boys. It is like a boy as old as thirteen, perhaps even older, living in a man, has a reserve of playfulness that is unlike any other. Why is shethinking it? Boy is an archetype, not just man but boy too. Even for women, there is boy. It is a sparkling feeling that comes over her, of invention and peace. She can see an extended set of details about the presence of archetypes and she has added unto it. That first time of meditation, that first day, is the beginning of an idea.
The second day begins with little more than a struggle for clarity. She is back into assessing scenarios of how humans are disconnected, perhaps without purpose, and she feels unconsciously irritated. She sees many things, including Rebecca smiling, flirting with several men and Christina judges her. It doesn’t feel good to miss the movements of summer even for one moment of one day. The doorway to clarity is darkened, inaccessible, and in the back somewhere. She fights against the sunlight with its bright reach between branches and full leaves. She eats with Rebecca alone for lunch on the second day, and from an empty heart reproaches her for flirting with Tom.
“So what?” Rebecca asks.
“Well, we are at a retreat center. Don’t you think you could cool it just for the three days we are here?”
“What are you talking about? Are you serious?”
And it is clear that she is not at all clear but confused and a bit lonely.
“It’s only been two days and I actually kissed him...behind the yoga pavilion, Christina...last night, if you must know. Are you the slut police here to lock me up?” Rebecca asks with a wild expression, her hair frizzy and big from the heat of agitation.
Christina’s long, dark hair hangs heavy around her face. She feels a sudden desire for wildness and recognizes her jealousy as tears pearl and stream down her face as they make subtle rivers through her make-up. She considers the value of her own wild nature.
“Oh shit...I’m sorry,” Christina says as she moves her hand roughly against her nose. “I am really pissed today and I don’t even know why. It’s this feeling...of being...oh fuck...” she says disappointedly.
She looks at Rebecca, into her multi-colored gem eyes. They are encouraging.
“I don’t feel free like I want to.” Christina says.
It is normal in this context to cry with a friend, even with a new stranger, away from the rigor of one’s daily life. She notices passersby, understanding. Perhaps even envious of some discovery or emotional movement she is having. Rebecca touches Christina’s leg and the two women assume the female posture, allowing emotion room to roam. As she lets the tears of feeling lonely, not for her man at home or anyone but for the most direct connection to herself, the sun in patterns through the dark hall catch her attention. After ten minutes of tears, the two of them assuredly hold hands and walk out into the bright sun.
There are groups of people stretching out along the sloping lawn in various positions, enjoying the sun. It looks natural and at once staged like it is a theater of people, practicing happy. It is the layer of distance from full throttle joy that she feels momentarily annoyed by. The two women assume their sunning stances. Christina is on her back with her knees bent, a mint green tank top, and off-white button down sweater against the grass.
She relaxes into her breath and considers the possibility of being purely selfish. What would that be like and could it satisfy? It’s all about how I feel, she reminds herself, each breath finally able to touch inside all the cells of her body. She can feel Rebecca close. She is so beautiful, Christina notices─with her olive colored, vanilla scented skin. How does she do that? Infuse her skin with such exquisitely orchestrated vanilla? Christina remembers how she put vanilla extract on her skin in high school. She loved the smell and was unclear as to the difference between that and a vanilla perfume. She still is.
Christina knows that the nose has receptors that make a powerful link to the limbic system in the brain, and subsequently, a direct link to emotions. She feels free to smell summer again, roused by the contact with the sun. But of course, it is something deeper. She can smell the pine from the nearby forest; the lingering smells of lunch from the dining hall; and in intervals, with focus, the tiny bouquets of wild flowers from the woody fields. Here she is. Back a bit from the desert of her fears and into the fresh, moist summer. She reaches out for Rebecca’s hand and squeezes her to let her know that she is more back than she has been in a while.
Smell is always a doorway to clarity. She imagines having a smelling statue of Rebecca that she carries in her pocket to remind her of connection. She sees putting it on her bedside table, to her nose before sleep. Perhaps another statue is of a deer with a wild, musky scent that represents innocence. The scent of innocence goes directly into her brain to remind her that she is as close to God as she can be, right from where she is. The idea is further along, somehow, although what it is she is still not sure.
Instead of meditating in the pavilion the afternoon of the second day she decides to walk into the woods along the winding paths. Maybe she will rendezvous with an animal? Maybe there will be something that brings her even closer to life? She leaves her shoes in her sleeping quarters and walks with tender feet along the soft switchbacks, up toward one of the three ridges. Christina’s mind is soft and open to the freedom she seeks. She feels the dirt and stones and calculates the perfect contact so that the earth is almost inside of her.
She listens to the worship of bird sounds in and out through the trees. She does again think of cardinals and how the boy cardinal is something she would also like to have with her often as a smell, along with Rebecca and the smell of a pocket size deer. Her idea crystallizes as she walks into the woods, off the path and toward a high valley that becomes her destination. She suddenly sees that there are several ideas at once and she is in a place to accept them all.
The first is a crisp watercolor of a cardinal. It is called “boy for women” just like she had seen earlier. It is a special perfume that allows women to have access to the feelings of a boy. What is the exact aroma? She cannot quite tell. Earthy and at once floral; she doesn’t know about these things but it comes through purely, nonetheless. In the wild there is clarity. It is a perfume for women so any one of them can remember the gift of irreverence that is boy.
The idea stops there and what seemed like a room of ideas is suddenly odd and unsure. She lies down in soft grass and breathes to find joy again. The sound of birds quickly returns although smell is still distant. Oh yes. The second part of the idea is the smelling statues: one for each animal. To be closer to them from where we are; in rooms, on trains, not necessarily where an elephant, a giraffe, or a snake lives. And that is satisfying, Christina notices. To have an idea that she can walk into and build upon over time. Not everything need be known right at once, of course, but somehow she must trust first in order to think it through.
What is it in the boy or the wild animal that a woman might want? Christina feels a little self-conscious considering it. She hears voices of a man and a woman coming up the path, turns on her belly, and crawls like an army man into the close, dense wood. She settles behind a cedar, invisible, still able to look out and listen. She touches the long strands of bark and inhales the odor. Oh, that woman...and that man. She recognizes them.
The woman is blonde with blue eyes but with dark skin like she is Latina. The man is short, attractive with dark hair, and very muscular like he works out. It is such a pleasure to see people without being seen, Christina realizes. Not constantly, like a peeper but once in a while, to recalibrate the social self. She gets the idea that boy for women is also girl for men, woman for boys, and man for girls. Although it could be skewed into something inappropriate, Christina knows better. There are gifts from every age and every sex.
This is who she always wants to be, she realizes as tears well in her eyes. Open. She could feel alone and silly but she perseveres with staying alert to what she has become. She watches the woman who Christina thinks is named Lily and the man who she doesn’t remember his name, undoubtedly flirting. He is trying so hard to impress her, she can tell, by his body language alone. She is the queen. He’ll do anything for her and they probably just met yesterday. It is funny how people can be strangers and act immediately, unconsciously in the most intimate manner. It is unmistakably beautiful to be human.
Christina’s openness continues to ripple through her and she feels tempted to keep her post behind the tree for years to come. As the woman and man move through the field and up the path, Christina gets back on the path to head down, slightly less available to magnificence but still finding pleasure. The movement from open to close emotionally is as normal as eyes blinking. She must make peace with it, and remember to hold the open for longer because it feels so good and she knows that it is right.
Each foot upon the piney path is like a distant prayer. Again, it is not bliss but is it worth piling on disappointment when there is contentment? It is best to stay ready for more of what she could love rather than rushing in with some agenda of it all never being enough. She sees that she is tired of that. The ground thunders a little. A harder rush, and then laughing; she turns to see the muscular man and the woman, Lily, running like moose stampeding. She steps to the side and as they pass Lily looks at her like they are friends. It is a second’s share of the wildest womanly pleasure and the most dazzling interchange of, perhaps, all time.
They pass out of sight and there is quiet. The moment is entirely Christina’s. It pulses soundlessly around her. Will she be guided? Not by what others have concluded but by what is in the moment happening. To know that she can know what is what, moment to moment, is suddenly her deepest wish. She moves down the path and thinks of joining the last part of the afternoon meditation. Would she know anymore about the cardinal, the smelling statues, the ideas that come and go without conclusion? These thoughts could have a future.
There are endless observations of things that before had little depth. She comes to the last part of the path before the meditation hut. She listens to the swollen silence of her human friends focusing as she looks toward the dark, wooden, rectangular frame. Christina’s dull impulse to be good for others is overtaken as a shell under waves. Her heart beats unusually strong for the still moment as she watches a robin swoop and land on a Japanese maple in front of the entrance. Matronly, and ubiquitous, there is a buoyant weight to his reddish breast.