COSMOS OF CHANGE

I drove our old Ford past the rusty sign for cider outside Rancho Arnaz. My son fell asleep in the back to the sound of the rolling wheels. An open umbrella beside him. A dismembered torch. A trunk full of groceries. I remember having dreams about this time. This time of Americana. It reaches so far. All the way to Western Australia, the strange music of this country. Part of me wonders about home, and where it is. I know the potency of being on home soil. But this is my home now. A small country town where I feel most like myself, most able to grow, and most able to root down, also.

What do I want to say? I carried our boy in to his bed and pulled the duvet up over him in the room filled with him and our love for him. I made myself a sandwich. I put the groceries away. I find the old oat groats that the mouse has been eating. I sit down at the table. I feel the presence of something as I look out across the mountains. I am eating when a large brown hawk catches my attention. Circling, lifting, turning. Circling, lifting, turning. The hawk seems to be trying to look into the house on the hill, past the Italian cypress trees that frame the deck and in through the windows. At me.

Who am I? Yes, I still ask myself this question. I feel I have arrived at some kind of peace lately. A beautiful surrender, where the silence sits without taunting me. My critic abated. My soul awash with thank you. But still there is the curiosity. What next? Is this…. the end? The beginning of the end? My life up until motherhood was a series of chapters with rollicking sentences and full paragraphs. Sentence sentence sentence sentence comma sentence comma sentence hyphen sentence and so on. But motherhood, or more accurately giving birth, was a full stop. The end of a chapter. A conclusion. New page. New chapter. Not a new book – it’s still the book of me – but a total and complete end. 

I never imagined it would be this way. I imagined I would sail through motherhood seamlessly like it appears in films and fairy tales, with my sweet bouncing baby and myself a joyous mother. There have been so many moments like that, AND there are the other moments too. The moments so taboo we do not dare speak of them. The moments that can consume a woman with doubt and dismay. The moments of not enough. “I often feel useless,” one mother told me a few weeks ago. She has two year old twins, a beautiful house in Ojai, friends and a nanny. Of course the question arises, how can it be that we still feel this way? With all the rights we have fought for, as women, as mothers, to return to work, to start businesses, to work from home and away from home? I believe we still feel this way because we are mortal and immortal. We have tasted freedom, and we know the sluice of bliss beyond form. We have touched it in sex, in risk, in letting go. But we are bound. And with children, we are further bound. Bound to the sweetness, to the slowness, to the patience and the path. In birth, we touch the beyond. In motherhood, we retreat back from infinity to the rawness of now.

I keep thinking of Patti Smith and her words in M Train about how when she was a mother she read book after book of Japanese literature. No shows, no new music. She was mother. She focused. Her two children slept in the room she had wall-papered black in the hopes of having a small Japanese tea room for herself before they were born. I think about her because of the surrender and the wisdom I feel she offers us, we women of today. Raised in a popular culture of having it all, but somehow knowing that the simple things are the blissful things. Waking into the ancient ways, the old ancestors whispering their messages to us: “Slow down. Take stock. Be grateful. Make soup.”

Personally I’ve been grappling with the concept of it being okay to stay at home and be a mother, as confronting as that sounds to me sometimes. Shouldn’t I be off traveling the world!? Working, at conferences, book tours?! Free wheeling with the best of them!? For me, being with my son at home has been the greatest gift and the greatest challenge. To calm my fast and furious heart and tell my artist self, my muse, it’s okay. I love you. We’re not going anywhere right now. We haven’t given you up. Everyone loves you. Stay. Come home. We will write. We are learning from each other. You are learning how to put your feet in the earth and feel her. Learning not to chomp at the bit and throw your body at the gate. Stop running. Even with your mind, stop running. I am learning, as a mother, that it’s okay to be simple. It’s okay to be pure.

When I touch this place within myself, a lake of tears rises behind my eyes. How long you have been running, dear child. How long you have been trying to get to this, this home, this love, this purity of form. The tears come because I am grateful, and I am present to how far I have come and how slippery life is. I am 32 this August, and I still remember the smell of gasoline from our family road trips and the bond we shared which fractured. I remember that last birthday I had before it all fell apart. When ‘Across the Universe’ played on the black stereo and my two brothers and sister danced around while I sat at the head of the table surrounded by ripped wrapping paper and the remnants of croissants. “Nothing’s gonna change my world,” The Beatles sung. But I knew. The seer in me knew. It will change. I knew this was the end, even though I denied what I was seeing and feeling. There was a bitter sweetness to the energy in the air. I knew we would never be the same again. I tried very hard to hold on to the beauty of that moment, in the moment, but the tears were a wall behind my face and I could feel the train coming.

A month or so later, my sister got a phone call from IMG, the biggest modeling agency in the world, and was soon opening for Miucca Prada’s show in Milan, which set off a snowball effect of unseen proportions. The demand for my sister was staggering. Her career was spell-binding. But for me, it was devastating. I missed her so much, the energy of her being in my life. In leaving however, she is the one who got me writing, got my work published. She is the one whose actions carved me up and poured me out in ways I may never have done had she not walked that path. It’s only now I can see, in hindsight, that perhaps she did it all for me. In some pre-being place where souls make contracts with each other, perhaps we agreed to walk that path together so that I could be who I am today, and vice versa. For years I hated the effect that her fame had on me. I starved myself, I punished myself, I despised myself. I thought no one cared about me or even saw me. I felt invisible. She was on the cover of dozens of Vogues all around the world and I was nobody. But it got me writing. It got me dreaming. It got me really living.

I still can’t listen to that song without weeping. Reading the lyrics it seems to be a hearkening spell of the time to come, when I would go on to flow words like endless rain into a paper cup. I moved to New York to be closer to my sister and started a small imprint called Paper Castle Press, and a blog which I poured my heart and soul into. Literally hundreds of thousands of words. And now? That paper cup is becoming a book, and I am a mother. Everything changes. We live a simple life, and I still have endless dreams. In many ways, I am in the last verse of the song, with its sounds of laughter and shades of earth, ringing through my open views inciting (oh yes) and inviting me. To return, to ground, to remember who I am before all of this dancing across the film screen of reality. 

I’m not sure about the chorus though, because everything will change your world. There is something so deeply melancholy to this line. It reminds me of my son crying to either one of us going out the door, “Don’t go! Don’t leave me!” Nothing can change who you are, your essence is beyond time and space, but the world, and specifically your world, oh, it will change alright. Nothing like motherhood, and childhood, to remind us of that. So I am learning to get comfortable with the constant changing. Not just my son’s evolution, but my own changing. I have been learning this my whole life, actually. Turning and turning like a plant in the face of the seasons. Tuning in to the call of my soul on the other side of the wall, where I have thrown my hat. Even a mountain does not stay the same. Even the sun is altered every moment by its own being. The only thing that doesn’t change is this limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns… The essence of me. The emanation of love that radiates from my heart earth-wise, starry souled heart. It calls me on and on…. across the universe. Chasing my hat, chasing the bliss, chasing the memories, too.

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup,
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind,
Possessing and caressing me.
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Images of broken light which dance before me like a million eyes,
That call me on and on across the universe,
Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box they
Tumble blindly as they make their way
Across the universe
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing
Through my open views inciting and inviting me
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a
million suns, it calls me on and on
Across the universe
Jai guru deva om
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.
Nothing’s gonna change my world,
Nothing’s gonna change my world.

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