Leavings • 10 November 2008

I’ve been not writing here, letting the hourly blog-sized thoughts walk on by. They are like deer. I like them, with their immature spots and testing-the-waters uncertainty, but when they whisper off again they deposit a steaming little turd to remind me they were here.

I miss the Beartooth mountains. Because I did not make it home this summer, I’m that much more aware of how little time I spend in forests, distinguishing elk turd from deer in the trails up to the tundra. I shrug off the REI fleece geeks who think of backpacking as “fun,” in part because of the one-with-nature elitism the “outdoor adventure lifestyle” entails. And in part because in my experience backpacking is what you do when walking is the only mode of vacation transport you can afford. My dad was a wilderness guide before he started preaching, and doesn’t see much difference between the two vocations: he feels God is more accessible in the mountains than anywhere. It’s finally dawned on my how much my practice, in the beginning, was about finding wildernessy oneness in the city. About packing that aporia of powder days and starry campfire nights wherever I went—to the point where I now see as trite the peak experiences that cannot happen without external promts from actual mountain peaks.

But I don’t know. When I remember the delight and peace that rednecks get from nature, the part of my research that’s about environmentalism becomes metaphysically interesting. Yoga is metaphysically interesting on its face. No contest. But as this dimension surfaces in my research, taking analytical writing from turd-size to book-size makes more sense. Even if books feel so 20th century and my idea of long-form now is a 60-minute podcast.

So yeah, it’s been a week of devotional music—Hildegaard and Arvo Part—and lying on the earth. I stayed until the end of practice yesterday, rather than slipping out early like the rabbit late for a very important date. Sundays form 8:30 until class ends at 8:45, to teacher issues the only spoken “do as I say” instruction of the week. The command: relax. Savasana is deeper when there’s an outer ego to conclude it and you can let go of the anticipation of bringing yourself out. At the very end we chant the closing prayer together, just minutes before my father gives his the closing benediction to his freaky congregation a time zone to the east and more than a thousand miles to the north.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord turn his face upon you and be gracious to you. May the light of the Lord shine upon you and grant you peace. Have a good week.

For now, in this new time, my intention on Sundays is to let myself hear that blessing filtered through the Sanskrit. And to receive it for what it’s worth.

A lot of people have experienced SOME kind of resolution of opposition the past week (predictably, I see this least among the academics: they want to experience this only on a rational level, only as an epochal improvement in the strategic tableaux). Take a duality any duality—whatever is the one that has hurt you most in days of Bush. For many, it’s a sense that Americans are exceptional oppressors: now it’s ok to embrace the scoundrels. For most, it’s the black-white hypocrisy that generations of fear and segregation have kept alive: now, the “all men are created equal” line rings more true. For others, it’s simply an end to internecine warfare in the Congress: now is a time to reason together. For me, I’ve had to look the sexist ignorant Frontier in the rimless-lensed eyes and recognize there is a place in this country—albeit a vanishingly small one—for that way of being. Palin-hate makes some sense because she’s trying to tell us how to be women (though the hate is paradoxical coming from those women who choose against history to re-institute patriarchy “by choice” under a man's name), but only if we actually need to defend ourselves against that. Suddenly the threat she poses to our selfhood is revealed as a vulnerable backwater joke—so why not let the backwater be? It works well for some, and those in transition, who still weirdly wish for a little patriarchy in their lives, should especially understand that.

Recognizing that Frontier ways of being will never again overpower me, and that those folks are still vital on their own terms, I’m suddenly a little more comfortable with the old forms of devotion that the Frontierspeople take for granted. Nature, music, and old prayers that never, ever felt real to me before now. I’ve had to block that out my whole life, and fight it in order to have a self. That has given me energy and self-willed critical intelligence. The urgent need to evolve away from that, the drive to transform, carried me many miles from the wilderess.

But now I wonder if I might be secure enough to be strengthened by the wilderness/Frontier in a different way. With a subversive inclusion into my cultural repertoire of the nature-worship, the old time gospel songs (god I think I might love that shit!), even the scriptures. The last are etched into my memory—I thought for years I’d succeeded in forgetting them but the yoga belies the accomplishment: the scriptures are buried there in rhythmic, otherworldly KJV verbatim, surfacing one by one as I push back the veil. I almost have no choice but to re-own it all, so thank god I feel like I live in a world where there’s much space for mutts and where contradiction is not really contradiction. It’s just fuel for movement, and paradox for stillness.