where am i?
obsessed with fermentation. you must not understand what you are dealing with. every death that has made it possible for you to live, and you keep stepping upon them without grace. the temple is beautiful, but upon further questioning, I wonder if it is not empty. don’t imagine yourself devoid of the death that surrounds you.
Death is the mother of your moment.
I am sitting drinking coffee in a sleek room with an obscure name that references the history of the building-small talk for those in the know.
These are my judgments. They have floated in my head for years. Listening to two young men talk about gentrification as if they can escape their whiteness by wearing enough black, and coating themselves in dirt. Uniformed by an unspoken shame.
My face is simply a luck of the draw. Mexican and Lebanese. Allowed into so many rooms. A voice shaped by its own broken shame. Fit into the hills, and tossed into the possibility of being anyone. The young man to my right is speaking about the lack of the local Food Not Bombs. Sprouting his opinion on the inability of the Portland scene to truly serve those in need. He knows service. He lived in Boston. That was an authentic Food Not Bombs. Not this hippified shit labeled in frivolity and play. I can’t speak. Does he know any of those people? Does he know about the seven plus years that they have showed week after week serving without pay? Does he know their names? Has he seen their homes?
Some of them don’t have homes. It’s self-chosen. They have seen poverty that exists in the most hidden spaces of our country. Yet, he sits here and judges them, and I sit and judge him. I want to scream. Did you step up when they asked for help? Did you volunteer to take their mission further? Did you take on those years of fortitude and sacrifice? In this moment, I want to silence him, but I don’t speak. Left in my own sacred silence. Unable to bring myself to the table. Too concerned with being polite. Imprisoned by my own shameful lack of faith.
small hands hold my own, and he tells me that we must speak our gratitude. I list them first, because he cannot find them without me.
I am the seeker of his seashells. Clasped hand within hand, and held again our ears. Please send us the grace of the ocean.
Only bounty can renew our strength.
I have a strange way of knocking into people.
I have seen the same person in three different states without planning two of the meetings. She was meditating naked the last time I saw her. I have told myself that I wouldn’t see someone the next day, and immediately seen them the next day. I hadn’t seen him in two years. He had heard my voice across distances, and that was the most of my love that I have ever been able to give. I have avoided a store for almost a year in order not to meet a certain someone-only to walk in on the exact same day and hour they did. We had both been avoiding the same place for the same amount of time. I wished to be able to walk, and have found the same people on different sides of the country. I have cycled away wishing the other would follow, and thinking they did-shaking my head in denial. They tell me later that they followed.
Again and again it has happened.
These odd little coincidences have plagued me for years, and each time it happens I try to politely shrug it off and think about what a small world it is.
I want the world to work in boxes.
When he tells me that he’ll probably knock into me somewhere else in Portland. I almost want to believe, and the rest of me wants to run from the inevitable. I hate knowing about certain things before they happen. I suppose it makes it possible for me to keep my composure, but it leaves me questioning a lot about these boxes that I try to force things into.
When I do finally see him the second time. I am thankfully present. Happy to know that it finally happened, and I’m done. I don’t have to stand in nervous waiting. I hate the waiting. My skin feels tightly strung. Pulled out of place, and when the moment comes-finally released. Blessedly calm. I can barely manage to be angry. I am so grateful. I want to lean in and hug him. Tell him thank you, but I walk quietly away. Uplifted in my own energy.
Amazed by the things that I can not understand.
I am my own once more.
There is something about the basic idealogy of hippies that I want to embrace. Their belief that everything will be alright; even though my mind screams that this is not possible. I want to wail and coon about suffering. I want to slap them as they coat me with soft smiles, hooded eyes of gentleness, and flowing voices that drone on in lullaby monotony.
I visit their temples of permaculture and cob hoping that by touching the ground that they walk on I will be infused with some grace that propels me out of my self-imposed shackles, because it is “I” that has manifested this reality. Their invisible bible tells me so. It’s knit together with Zen Buddhism, tantric yogis, and organic local greens-grown within twenty feet of their doorsteps. Plucked by their fair paid/fair trade polyamourous w.w.o.o.f.ing lovers.
I come to be cleansed. To sweat out the years of dis-ease that have settled into my skin. A sauna. I take off my clothes and fold them beneath the waning full moon. The sauna is not hot enough. I climb up between sweating bodies, and lay down my thin travel towel. My legs crossed; my heart beating through my fears. When the first voice comes up I cringe at the pale notes. Please speak as if you mean what you say. He tells us that the sacred hour of silence has come to an end. I do not wish to speak. He breaks it with the only song that I will know. Amazing Grace. I feel my Appalachian Voice push past my lips. She wants air in this room.
More people flow in, and a new speaker is in the room. Declaring a second hour of sacred silence. There is a hovering breath of uncertainty. Indecisive. Without the passion required to live in this vivid Universe of pain and delight. He cautiously tells her about the prior sacred hour of silence. A long pause. Breathes held. Thoughts unfiltered and sweating onto towels. Bodies shift.
“Just so there’s no misunderstanding there will be a sacred hour of silence.”
Lips clasped. Politeness wins. Silence passes. Undesired. New bodies flow in. Not present during the proclamation of the second sacred hour of silence. Their soft voices rise through the hot, tightly strung room. Posed, sweating bodies lean away in quiet anxiety. The unintended anarchy of the second sacred hour of silence begins, and we stilly follow the painfully solo voices. It is in the second song that I hear the first tentative voices join in. Fearful and then climatically hopeful. Bursting into the room-until almost every form has joined in.
The voiceless have spoken.
hiking in the gorge. mossy rock walls rising up above. inappropriate shoes. balancing over wet logs. fearing everything below. cold, bare feet slipping through the water. numb. it’s a short hike. it’s not hot enough. i can jump into the places that make me uncomfortable. i can let go of the rock wall and fall into the cold water-that envelopes me. swimming to the end. Evan and I have made it. remembering me in portland. willing to do those things that scare me. standing below the rushing water-laughing hysterically. keep me warm in this unfamiliar territory.
i can’t stop shivering
breaking out in hives.
it’s time to go. Liz is rushing us out the door. Jenny is standing there ready to lead us. They are both from the same valley. I am comforted by Virginia. finally, not alone in Portland. we wind through the streets. down into the industrial section. we arrive. standing outside impatiently waiting for someone to open the door. they’re going to begin.
stumbling into elevators. laughing nervously about warning about gates, and almost having fingers crushed. everything is ok. crawling out windows. realizing that going up means having nothing to hold you below. but the street. it’s not close enough. swinging my leg around, and going. holding tight to metal ladders. crushing my body close. finally arriving.
this is the city i loved.
the river, the buildings, made in oregon, the moon. engulfed. we can see for miles.
Virginia screams above the city.
fireworks rise in celebration.