A woman who embraces the lion king of the Lotus Sutra never fears any of the beasts of hell or of the realms of hungry spirits and animals. All the offenses committed by a woman in her lifetime are like dry grass, and the single character myō of the Lotus Sutra is like a small spark. When a small spark is set to a large expanse of grass, not only the grass but also the big trees and large stones will all be consumed. Such is the power of the fire of wisdom in the single character myō. Not only will all offenses vanish, but they will become sources of benefit. This is what changing poison into amrita means.
~Nichiren, The Drum at the Gate of Thunder
So I’m glad to say I’ve done a tad bit of writing as of late, even though I haven’t been blogging it. One thing I’ve been writing and thinking about is authenticity. I’ve grown tired of the “false separation” between my “professional” blog and my “personal blog.” As a result, I’m in the process of merging the blogs to one place (here).
I’d love it if you would subscribe over there if you’re still interested in receiving my posts. There’s one caveat though… I’m trying to get everything (including my blog) up and running on my domain cocostudio, so there may be another move in the offing.
Note: I wrote this a few months ago – late winter, early spring. I sat on it for weeks and worked it a bit in June. Not sure why I’ve not posted it until now…
For the past several weeks, my flight has departed from or returned to the international terminal of the Atlanta airport. This, despite the fact that I was only traveling to and from Cleveland, of all places. Each week I have been struck – overcome really – by the abundance of soldiers in this terminal, dressed in their telltale camouflage. They’re men and sometimes women of all colors, sizes, ages. Sometimes on phones, sometimes on computers, sometimes deplaning from parts unknown, but oftentimes sitting. Waiting.
Today, however, I was struck by you.
Now for sure you are not the first female soldier I’ve ever seen. You are not the first black soldier I’ve ever seen. You are not the first black woman soldier I’ve ever seen. But today you captured my attention. Or more accurately, my heart.
As soon as I entered the concourse bathroom, I noticed you – slight, brown skin, dark hair slicked back in a ponytail. You looked eerily like me. Not babyishly young like some of the boys seem to look. Not particularly old like a career soldier on the verge of retirement perhaps; but about my age, maybe a little younger, a tad slimmer. You were going through your toiletries. It seemed you were unpacking. Repacking. Shifting. Transferring things from one pouch to another. Organizing perhaps. I don’t know, but I was moved.
She is me, I thought.
I felt my heart bursting with the overwhelming desire to embrace you. It was as if I were a vessel and Goddess wanted to send you a message of love.
I resisted it at first and headed to a stall. Yet I rushed, hoping you’d still be there when I finished, even though I really didn’t know if I had the courage to approach you. When I emerged, I washed my hands slowly, decidedly shy, stalling for time as other women entered the bathroom.
This is so silly, I said to myself, heart racing, belly full of butterflies. It’s just a hug.
You, still arranging. Me, hanging back, primping in the mirror a few paces to your right. Breath, shallow. Feet, cement blocks. I silently hurried the other women along. I didn’t want to sound crazy, I guess, to them or to you. The voice, the feeling, the knowingness – urged me, You have to do this.
I applied more burgundy lip gloss. Retied the matching scarf at my neck. Pulled my black dress straight. Gathering courage. Passing time.
Finally, coast clear, deep inhale, I approached you.
You turned to me, face and heart open. Curious. My words tumbled out, a hurried explanation, an apology, I just have the urge to give you a hug. The words barely free of my lips, you threw your arms around me. And we shared a moment. Spirit embodied in flesh. Life to life. Heart to heart.
Throats tight, eyes swimming, we echoed words of thanks to each other. And then, you pulled away, barely above a whisper, You’re about to make me cry in this bathroom. You shook your head, eyes down, turned away. More organizing, packing, shifting.
As soon as I saw you, I had the urge to hug you. I couldn’t leave this bathroom without doing it. My parting words a confession, tossed out gracelessly over my shoulder. And I left, plodding down the terminal corridor, choking back tears, heart full, exhale.
I replayed the moment again and again along my walk to the escalator. I hoped you knew that all I felt in that moment was love. All I wanted for you in that moment was love.
Not fear. Not shame. Not worry. Not doubt. None of those things a person normally feels. I just wanted you to know…love.
That moment we shared was a moment of revolution.
Because loving a stranger is a revolutionary act.
Loving a soldier is a revolutionary act.
Loving my sister is a revolutionary act.
Loving myself is a revolutionary act.
I saw me, in you, and I loved us both.
For the raindrop, joy is in entering the river –
Unbearable pain becomes its own cure.
Travel far enough into sorrow,
Tears turn to sighing;
In this way
We can learn how water can die into air.
When, after heavy rain,
The storm clouds disperse,
It is not that they’ve wept themselves
Clear to the end?
If you want to know the miracle,
How wind can polish a mirror,
The shining grass grows green in spring.
It’s the rose’s unfolding, Ghalib,
That creates the desire to see –
In every color and circumstance,
May the eyes be open for what comes.
A thief made off with a prized possession
Snatched from sacred promises of love everlasting
A cage of my own hand
by hurt invisible,
choking out life, love
Twenty years I spent
Captive to that pain
Ignorant of my own walls
Wondering why you couldn’t reach me
Wouldn’t reach out to me
None had eyes for well-hidden pain
And I with it
Cowering behind a guarded heart
Wishes escaped on wings of prayers
Floating beyond boundaries
Sneaking through cracks
Disguised as discarded hopes
Rising above barriers
in my key
Imprisoned heart unlocked
Wishes as balm
As pathway to freedom
Story as star
Illuminating the road home
I knew I needed to come home, to visit you. Every picture of you in all your glory beckoned me – adrenaline pumping, stomach delighted. Yet I trudged around in daily life, wondering why I felt so heavy.
Finally, I listened; heeded the call and went to you. As soon as I caught sight of you, a smile from deep within overtook my countenance. I neared the water’s edge and you breathed new life into my lungs, my body. The sound of waves crashing, rays of sun shimmering on your surface, the smell of salt were all vibrations of pure divinity.
As soon as I could set my things down I went to you, submerged my body in yours. Oneness.
I welcomed your blessings while discarding that which I no longer felt useful. Facing your gentle waves I embraced love, healing, confidence, joy, energy. Facing the shore, I sent out sadness, doubt, fear, uncertainty, praying for their transmutation for the highest good of all.
I whispered a prayer of thanks and retreated to the kiss of the evening sun. Feet white with sugary sand. Body lounging. Warming.
Deep sleep awaited me at home and awoke in the morning, light! Refreshed! Feeling more like me than I have in months.
I almost forgot her. Me, I mean, goddess that I am.
Mother Ocean, thank you for pulling out my burdens and filling me back up with love.
My cousin got married last fall. Like many weddings, it was an occasion for family and friends to reminisce, reconnect, and bond. The wedding reception found me tucked away in a corner with a few cousins, most notably, the beautiful, often elusive, V. She inquired about my dissertation defense, mere days away, and my future plans. At that point I only knew I had to move. The sooner the better.
Home, Not Home
Athens had never been home to me, and Atlanta, although a great city in many ways, didn’t feel all that homey to me either. That I was born and raised there was immaterial. It wasn’t “home.”
V, a flight attendant, gushed about her love of NYC. It was her favorite city. She felt like herself there. Despite her world travels, there was no place she’d rather be. I wondered where my NYC would be. I knew it would be some place with a mild climate, near beaches, but that’s as far as I could figure.
I finished my Master’s degree 11 years ago. Since then I have moved seven times (four of those between GA and FL). Most of those moves were one and two year stints, and I usually knew they were temporary going in. I realized I was closer to finding home a year ago when I left St. Petersburg to return to Athens, and found myself aching for the luscious green grass, the humid, salty air, and the calming beaches. But even though there were many things I liked, even loved, about St. Pete, I still wasn’t ready to call it home.
A few weeks after the wedding, I graduated and found myself “in between.” I don’t do in between well. Job hunting and city hunting, I felt I had no clarity on next steps. Eventually it all took a toll on me and left me feeling kind of blah. Finally, I made some decisions, and in true form, the universe responded in kind. Within a few days I had a job offer, a clear path, and a new city to try out.
Where the Heart Is
This move was the first one during which I felt I were moving toward a new life. It felt permanent. Real. Settled.
I knew I was on to something when I had to visit my “hometown” (Atlanta) a few days after my move. Traveling to the airport, I was a child being dragged inside from the playground. No! Don’t wanna!
At the end of my three days there, I smiled inside, happy to be back on the plane heading back home, even though home was just a few days old.
Everyone who visits my new digs mentions how I seem poised to start a new life here. To them it feels like home.
To me too.