Return • 8 October 2010

First, what’s lingering about beauty and rats. Then something new. A quest.

A large rat dislocates its bones to enter houses through holes the size of quarters – the circumference of its skull. This is front page news at the Detroit Free Press. All mice and bats need is a centimeter-crack in your foundation, unhinging tiny shoulder by toothpick-rib on their ways inside. I bet they have the most supple spines.

At our house, the only creatures drawing inside are the silverfish and centipedes in the bathroom. They shudder and bolt each morning at 5 when I turn on the light. All spine, these creatures. There’s also the longest-leg spider ever, who just hangs upside-down like a bud, there in front of the mirror. Won’t move for anything. Do spiders sleep?

At the ashtanga co-op, upstairs from the hippie grocery, the spider plant hangs exactly the same way, sagging dendrites. The plant’s going pale with the rest of us, blanching against the dark of fall. But at least the plant-spiders shudder with the vroom of the heating units on the roof outside. All summer the AC in those metal boxes vibrated my visshudha, but the heat is a much lower frequency. Now, it rolls the practice floor with the depth of a ship’s motor, if that ship were as big as the grocery store. That is the heating system talking the language of muladhara, right up through my feet and inner thighs and in to the pelvic floor. Good timing for root concerns: it is the season to make feral love and mulch the roots, chop firewood, plug holes in the insulation.

Every Wednesday after practice I’m at the farmer’s market, ogling the increasingly colorful riches and composing intolerable blog posts, each just as boring as this one. Do I really want to write about this beauty, which outdoes itself week by week? Or even talk about the kale? There are four local varieties, plus a beautiful, pent-up monk from the Detroit Zen Center who is even more obsessed (with kale) than I am. These monks, in their scratchy winter robes and hipster wool hats, turn out to be a bunch of yoga-loving raw foodists—who knew you could do that in a Michigan winter?

You should see what ecstasies beset the yoga monks when they talk about kale. They bliss in to attention at mulabandha, then wind up to a creative passion at the thought of fondling those leaves, and let loose beyond that to eye-rolling reverie with the memory of the eating. I guess that’s what happens in a sect without statues… you worship your own life.

Or maybe you start a kale cult.

This week I got a dinosaur kale salad with spouted quinoa and an almond-agave dressing, kale chips like the ones Karen makes, plus dried kale seasoning with aminos and tumeric (so that I can season other foods to taste like kale). I paid for these items less than the price of their parts. But how to you calculate the labor cost of a zen monk?

Anyway, a story is beginning here. It was this time of year, in 2002, when a woman on her phone ran a stop sign in front of my apartment in Los Angeles. I was also there, right in that moment, under a street light completely obscured by jacaranda leaves, with my own head wrapped up in thoughts of the seminar I’d just departed – something on macroeconomic cycles in the world polity. There was a wide-eyed moment of slamming my palm in to a red metal surface, though I still forget the impact that left an owl-shaped imprint on her hood. What I do remember is the EMT telling me not to struggle against her IV because my neck was broken and any movement would paralyze me: a threat my traumatized organism took literally for the rest of the night as it lay motionless in the ER. The jaw, with a new chin-chip floating freely from the bone, took several more days to move again. My neck convulsed and unknown head-muscles seized for months, while the doctors doped me on muscle relaxants and steroids and finally, in a last move to keep me from surgery, told me to “take responsibility for this tension” and do some yoga.

Well, that worked nicely.

And now, a cycle of autumns later, the tension patterns are back as whiny ghosts. It may be only my consciousness of them that has come back: maybe as as I’ve opened the body from bottom to top the original block has been here all along. Owl Whisperer has created an awareness of a certain reactivity to feelings of weakness, and identification with the story of vibrant health; but the headache that gently, cruelly pulled me down not just last Saturday but Sunday too was sufficiently long and muscular get my attention. Truth is I'm losing more and more afternoons to this pattern.

So… I’m going to engage this granthi with the resources I’ve got: consciousness and context. The subjective piece is a commitment to investigating that which has been avoided. The context is the University of Michigan, an industrial-era behemoth that runs on the logic of the gross body.

I think this is going to be about institutions and energy, science and spirituality, granthis, kundalini, trauma cycles, mysticism, and code-switching. Working my way through one of the most massive medical edifices that exists, finding the inner edges where the behemoth’s consciousness is ahead of itself. And the edge in myself, which for now feels like layers of memory fused on to bone.