Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How if Flew from Her

From her mouth. It gathered its small, soft body and leapt
froward, up and out. And then it was gone. She knew
because of the dark hollow in her chest, like the place a woodpecker makes,
keeps making, until it’s emptied the wood of food
and moved on. She didn’t try to stop it, because she didn’t know
what it was; what came from her mouth
looked like a white moth, the kind that eats wool, so she clapped her hands,
chased it to the window, pulled the shade down
and pretended that was that. It’s surprising it stayed
as long as it did, because most of all, she made it wait. She made it wait
while she beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, drove her point home,
split hairs, threw fat on the fire, killed birds with a stone.
Naturally, it grew tired of waiting,
tried to tell her, made a few practice runs, beat its wings;
she could feel it, don’t tell me she couldn’t, she could hear
the wings beat. She still feels it, like when you lose an arm or leg
and it aches but there’s nothing there
to ache. That’s how hollow she feels. She talks a lot, laughs
with her mouth open wide. Not everyone knows why,
but I do: she’s making a place for it to come back to.

Amy Dryansky

Thanks, Mighty Girl

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Thoughts from this year's Baha'i Fast, March 2-20...



This morning I was looking for a quote to along with the pictures I've been taking every morning... the pictures I've been taking to set some kind of stage, to have some kind of baseline from which to address this time... to speak to a small corner of the world and to myself what is happening on my insides.  This leaped off the page:

"It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character."
-- Shoghi Effendi 

Every year I struggle... every year.  

Every year I never make it through the whole thing, end up breaking somewhere in the middle into shards the shape of myself that are then blown to the winds while I stand, grasping, gasping, looking for some kind of net... harrowed... dropping whatever was in my hands (or what was left of my hands) to try and pluck the shards from the air, assemble them into a neat pile, and systematically put myself back together... back together... back together...

Inevitably with pieces missing.

... and I realize then that this is just what was supposed to happen.  It's always what's supposed to happen.  This shattering, this scattering, the blowing of the wind all to remind me of what matters... what is salient... what is heavy and substantial and real and true and at the core and will keep me grounded... what will resist the blowing, the eventual shattering...

... and there is something that I love about articulating, even inarticulately, what this feels like.  What it feels like in the settling of the water after this yearly wave crashes over my life... 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

somewhere I'll find You

My "nephew" is a little more than 8 months old now, but...


For some reason, the last 48 hours make me think of a poem with the same title as a movie that a boy and a girl in Minnesota sneak off to see.  They hold hands in the theatre.  The poem ends with a line, "... and that's the way it's been ever since," ending with the only period in the whole poem.  "... ever since."

For a couple of weeks, and maybe longer than that, I'd been waiting for my phone to ring and my Soul Sister to tell me that it's time to run to the hospital and cheer as she delivers her son.  I knew that the experience was likely going to blow my mind wide open, but I am not sure that I was prepared for what the experience of living so intensely in the Palm of the Hand of the Most High.  Writing about it is a bit daunting, to say the least, but it feels like some of the phrases need to come out to cement them into my memory...

At 12:55pm on July 1, 2011, my phone rang.  Sister and I usually talk more than once every day, so although this was the phone call I had been waiting for, it took a moment for my ears to connect with my brain and send the message to my feet that this was not one of those regular calls but the one where I run to grab my bag, get in the car, make 6 phone calls while navigating around the parade downtown (Seriously?  Today?  A parade?), and arrive, panting, in the hospital room where I would spend approximately the next 19 hours.

Things started slowly.  Once her Husband arrived, Sister explained that she had gone to her midwife for a check-up... that the baby looked like he was big, about 9.5 pounds... that she was worried that Sister, whose first birth had because of complications been a c-section, would find much difficulty in delivering a baby that large vaginally... that she thought that the right thing to do was to strip Sister's membranes in hopes of hurrying the process up somewhat... that she had slipped and accidentally broken the water... that things were now set in motion.  Sister was worried about her body's reaction to the antibiotics which would be pushed if things kept going for too long.  She was worried about the effects the pitocin would have on her labor process.  She was worried that she might be forced into another c-section, surgery which made the experience of having her first child so hellish.

The pitocin was started very, very slowly.  Labor started very, very slowly.  She was having some mild contractions, and we were talking, joking, laughing, and playing cards until around 11:30pm when Sister began to shiver, and it became clear that she had transitioned into the next phase.  Her body began to amp things up.

This next phase was very different.  Thankfully, Sister's Mother and Father arrived just in time.  Sister was in the middle of what had become very difficult contractions.  Mother hesitated for a moment, wanting to be respectful of Sister's process... her space... but soon Father went to the hotel to sleep and recover from the long, rushed drive, and Mother went to Sister's side.  

Labor felt somehow like a group process.  Sister moved as she felt the need... sometimes laying on her side, sometimes sitting at the end of the bed in lotus... sometimes standing, her arms around Husband's or my neck, squeezing like her life depended upon it... swaying, always swaying with the rhythm of the movement clearly happening inside of her.  We breathed together... moved together... spoke together... prayed together... sung together...

... and I had the strongest feeling that there was an invisible force in the room... that when I looked around, someone else was there and should be counted... someone else was present and palpable, although I couldn't tell you who... or Who... ?

Sister labored... and labored... and labored.  And we thought that it would happen at 3am.  Then we thought it would happen at 6am.  She kept going.  Something was wrong.  She had dilated all but 1cm on one side, that one side that wasn't letting her son's head pass into the birthing canal... that one side that was making it look increasingly like there was going to be another surgery... that one side that was going to make the next 6 weeks so very, very difficult for the mother of 2...

And the midwife was forced to call the doctor.  The doctor, who said to give her an hour.  Stop pushing.  Rest.  Except the pitocin made that impossible.  Contractions never paused.  The epidural that was supposed to help did nothing at all to touch the process... the pressure... the intensity.  This was past intensity.  This was pain.  

Sister kept laboring... and laboring... and laboring.

The nurse and the doula came in and explained that they were going to put her into a position that was going to make this more uncomfortable, but it was the last trick in their bag... the last thing to try before surgery... before spinal block... before general anesthesia... and Sister labored... and labored... and labored.

And 45 excruciating minutes later, the midwife said that she was going to do a quick check before calling the doctor to recommend surgery.

And surprise, awe, and relief was audible in the room as she announced that Sister was ready... more than ready.  To push.

Strength came from somewhere... I'll never know how Sister got the strength to do what came next.  Mother holding 1 leg, me holding the other, Husband manning the oxygen, all of us crying.  Except Sister.  Except Sister who, of singular purpose, was pushing with her heart and soul like her life depended upon it (it did)... like the life of her child was in the balance (it was)... breathing... was it 6 rounds?  Was it 7?  

Closer... closer this time... closer... closer... closer... closer... and there was hair!  And there it was again!  

And Husband, put your gloves on, and come and catch this person... Catch This Person.






And there was a knot in the cord.  A knot.  A knot which would have tightened as Baby grew, cutting off air. Cutting off life.  Saved by a slip of the hand and an accidental bag breaking.

Saved by Sister, whose only thought was for her baby... who was apologizing to him for putting him through so much when her body wouldn't get out of the way... 



Precious and Perfect.

... and I am left with a few thoughts.

That process is a holy process.  I was in the presence of Something Bigger Than Myself... Bigger Than All Of Us... when I saw that little person come into the room.

And do you know what else is miraculous about that?  We all came into the world in some way that is a lot like that. 

"somewhere I'll find You..."

You're not only in the Big Things.
You make miracles... earth-shattering, life-altering, head-spinning miracles every single day, and, cliche as it sounds, each and every one of us is a living, breathing miracle.

And my breath is taken away by how living and breathing and miraculous that can be all at the same time.

I'm trying to let that thought sink in and color the way I talk and think and walk and feel and move... to let that color seep into my pores and make me move...

"somewhere I'll find You..."

... and whatever else happens to that little life... that life, little as the entire outdoors, tiny as he makes me feel... let me be of use to that life.  That one right there.  It's a special one.  I can feel it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Fast or Here We Are Again

Every year from March 2nd through March 20th, Baha'is around the world ages 15-70 fast from sunrise to sunset.  There are some exceptions (pregnant and nursing mothers, women who are menstruating, those who are not in good health, travelers, people doing hard physical work, etc.), but most Baha'is are not eating or drinking anything from sunrise to sunset during these 19 days.

Sounds crazy, right? 

Feels pretty crazy most days.  I will admit freely that this is one of my least favorite times to be a Baha'i all year long.  All.  Year.  Long.  Keep in mind that this coming from a 29-year-old virgin. 

I love food.  I love the way that it looks, the way that it tastes, the way that it smells, I love making it, and I loveloveLOVE eating it.  LOVE.  This before I mention my love affair with coffee and how I cheat on coffee frequently with tea (Did you know that there is such a thing as a dirty soy chai latte at Starbucks?  Where they make a soy chai latte and put espresso in it?  Talk about light upon light...)  Yeah, I'm just not one of those "I could eat or maybe oops I forgot let's go running" types.  I could mostly eat.

Getting warmed up to fast this year hast taken some doing.

At this time last year, I was finally seeing a doctor to treat something that's needed treating for a long time, and she was adamant that I not fast while she tried some things to see what worked.  Although Baha'u'llah is clear about fasting during illness ("In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations [obligatory prayer and fasting]; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times." Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 134), I struggled with accepting this, mostly because I hate the Fast.


I said it.

I hate the Fast.  I spend a significant portion of it dreaming up ways in which unforeseen circumstances could prevent me from being able to fast... a cold... the flu... being hit by a car... a sudden 19-day-long coma... and you can imagine that being told that you are ill in a way that isn't obvious to the naked eye that requires that you not do this thing you're so used to using as a tool to punish yourself and judge yourself and make yourself to suffer, this thing that you loathe and that the fragments of your self fight against each other over every year in this annual 19-day long EPIC battle, this thing... that all of these people talk about as refreshing and soul-stirring and beautiful and... did I mention the NOT EATING.  We're NOT EATING.  Not having to NOT EAT... might make you feel... a little... edgy... a little edgy while you figure out why we do this... you know, why we do this without the NOT EATING...?

A couple of days into the Fast, I had a dream.  Baha'u'llah appeared on the scene... on the most mundane of scenes dressed in simple clothes and not speaking.  Upon seeing Him, it because suddenly clear to me that I was loved... that the over-arching thing that He was communicating... that He was embodying was LOVE. 

So much that I couldn't breathe. 

He accepted me fully, flaws seen and dismissed.  He saw straight into my heart--straight into the core of my being--and I could see by the smile on His face that I was asking the wrong question.  My Lord loves me.  He loves each and every one of us so much that LOVE just isn't a big enough word.  We can't lose it; it can't be contained or quantified.  We can fall flat on our faces and lie there for years.  We can eat or not eat.  It doesn't matter.  His love encompasses all.  Babies fall all the time, and it would never occur to us to do anything but cheer them on or to criticize that time they took too wide a stance and fell before moving forward.  In the moment when my eyes met His, words would have gotten in the way of my being completely transparent before Him... would have gotten in the way of my feeling how much I was loved in that way that babies are loved... how we want nothing more than for them to feel safe and to smile and to engage...

I focused on that last year during the fast.  I focused on loving Baha'u'llah from my center through every layer of my self.  I focused on finding joy and sharing it as much as I could.  It was not perfect, but this was the gift I presented my Lord last year... wrapped in wrapping paper I made my self, colored with a crayon, paper smudged-by-accident and folded, but not quite perfectly...

I got angry with Baha'u'llah in the car yesterday.

"Every year?  EVERY year???  Really?!?!!  Can't we just NOT do this?!  My nose was running yesterday, and my head kinda hurts.  And I haven't been drinking enough water.  I bet in the future we won't even do this.  Maybe I won't. 

I could feel Him laugh... one of those deep, rumbling laughs that comes from somewhere inside and reverberates... that laugh that might be the reason the word "reverberate" exists... and I started to laugh. 

I started to laugh, and I couldn't stop.

He wrote, "Verily, I say, fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion."

I couldn't stop laughing.

He asks so so SO little of me.  He asks only that I say my prayers (because all souls need the nourishment that comes from acknowledging the Great Spirit), obey His laws (that protect me from one billion other things), and not eat or drink anything once a year from sunrise to sunset for 19 days (you know, if my body's up for it and not otherwise occupied). 

He asks only that I do things that are actually good for me.

I am a Baha'i.  I believe that Baha'u'llah is Who He says He is.  I believe it in my core.  I love Baha'u'llah with all of my soul and all of my self and all of my being.  For Baha'u'llah, I will spend the next 19 days wrapping my self up.  I will do what I can to allow fasting to heal my own "disease of self and passion." 

It's the least I can do.  I will do this for Him, and I will do this for me.

This year, He has allowed me food and shelter and safety and freedom from the fear that not having those things reliably causes too many...
He has allowed me life in a country in which I unquestionably have access to education and the freedom to pursue it, 1/2 Iranian Baha'i woman that I am...
He has allowed me to live, work, and play with people I love dearly who see me and encourage me and have my back...
He has put a man in my life who chooses his words and actions carefully, who loves me in a way that I am only now beginning to understand...
He has allowed me a working body, one that can do things like not eat or drink from sunrise to sunset for 19 days...

Baha'u'llah has held my hand through all this... all this and more...
He continues to hold my hand...

I have nothing to give my Lord.  There is nothing I can offer.  Fasting is a tiny, insignificant token... In the face of all of these blessings, all I have is this tiny, insignificant token... offered with trembling hands...

(I will try to remember this for 19 days.)
(I will try to remember this for longer than 19 days.)
(I will try to remember this.)