:: A Family Collaboration ::
i have been thinking a lot lately about co-existence. this summer has brought a lot of odd changes to my life and apartment. once a solitary yoga haven where i could write, eat, and create in a void, it is now going to be occupied by a series of other bodies and voices. Toshi will come and live for a time, as will my European artist friends, Zdenka (with her creative partner) and Lorenzo. after three years of living alone (and loving it), this is a big change to my now-quiet lifestyle.
and yet, i think i’m a better roommate now more than ever. (although i don’t think i was ever a bad one either.) but the notions of sharing, exchange, privacy, personal space, and community are more well-defined in my eyes. i look forward to seeing how i can maintain the personal practices that i have been developing over the past few years, while being in the company of others.
i have been exploring this during my time at home with my parents as well.
my mother, Sumi, and i have been really good about asking things of each other, while also giving each other time to rest or focus on our personal work that we need to do on our own. whether asking each other for help involves housework or artwork or some combination thereof, this is a new development in my relationship with my mother.
then my sister, Alicia, came home and the dynamic changed. for the better, of course. she is my best friend and i cherish any and all time we can spend together. (although we fought like animals growing up, we have since grown into a deep love and friendship that grows stronger with each passing year.) but when you add people to any party, you add relationships, you add energy, and it can sometimes create complexity. so i found myself newly torn with doing the work that i needed to do while also being with both my mom and sister fully.
i experienced this last night in a very uncomfortable way when i was trying to work on my Japan proposal, but was finding it difficult to focus. they had things to discuss and were distracted by other things, plus my parents’ dog, Roxy, was breathing all over me, to boot.
i felt this great tension and frustration building inside me and i quietly left the room. i felt bad because i think Sumi wanted me to stay.
- Sumi: where are you going?
- Sophia: i can’t focus. i’m going to the sun room.
- Sumi (whispers): you can’t focus…???
she said it in a way that made me really sad. but i just couldn’t focus on what i needed to in that room.
so i tried to write in the sun room, but lo and behold, i couldn’t focus in that room either. maybe it didn’t matter what room i was in—i was just stuck. so i put down the computer and i took a breath. i picked up a pen and paper, and i just started to free write, with wild abandon. and what i realized through my writing, was that i wasn’t supposed to be writing. it wasn’t my time. i had plenty of my time earlier in the day. it was time to be with my mother and sister in whatever ways they needed. and that turned out to be exactly right. i rubbed my mom’s leg cramps and she put carrots and honey on my messed up irritated face and Alicia told me tales about the special powers of the Wolverine.
i woke up this morning with a much less messed up face and in 15 minutes of writing, i had a draft of my proposal written without even realizing that i had been writing at all. i was pretty sure that my mom and sister felt better as well.
so when Alicia got up this morning, i had to ask my self: i am on my way to do yoga. should i continue to do what i need to do for myself or sit with my sister and have breakfast with her? but then i realized that i don’t eat breakfast and that i would be forcing that interaction if i didn’t meet my own needs in that moment. i figured our time together would become apparent whenever it was occurring.
so i went to embark on my poolside morning yoga practice.
while there, i was confronted with another level of co-existence: my dear friends, The Bugs.
as i was began to stand in Mountain Pose, i felt something tickling my right calf. i felt really distracted to begin with and wasn’t sure if i was just itchy in my own skin. so i took a breath and looked down at my leg, and there sat a freaking spider—a fluorescent green spider with long brown and white legs.
great, i thought, that’s probably the scariest, most alien-looking thing that could possibly be there. emerging from the spider was a shimmering thread of webbing connecting him, the pool, and myself to each other. i was, at once, grossed out and bewildered and amazed—all of these emotions at the same time. i believe the spider actually thought that i was a semi-permanent fixture that could be a partner in his collaborative efforts. i regret to say that i could not, at this moment, accept his kind offer.
my apologies, but i am just not there yet, Mr. Spider. so i took a breath, and slowly reached down to remove him from my midst.
he froze after i nudged him onto my finger. oh my gods, it was so horrifying to have him there that i stopped breathing and almost completely destroyed our bond by fiercely crushing him to the ground. but i took a breath in and picked up a nearby leaf that had blown over from yesterday’s storm and nudged him onto that instead. when i put the leaf down by the pool, he was frozen again. i could sense his confusion. so i picked up the leaf once more and placed him into one of Sumi’s nearby herb plants. he immediately jumped off the leaf and scurried away.
i continued on with my yoga and thought about how maybe the threads that connect us are not just to our fellow humans but to the natural world as well.
then my sister came out to the pool. she was sweeping the remainder of the storm-blown leaves. i became acutely aware of her presence and the sound of the broom sweeping the brick, while also staying connected to my breathing and attempts to stay centered.
at one point, a bird became super present in the aural landscape. i swear, as soon as i tuned into it, my sister said, “it sounds like that bird is saying, i need you.”
it did sound like that. and maybe it did need us. and maybe we needed it too, in order to bring us together on this sonic and perceptual level.
Alicia began to ask me questions about my yoga practice like, “are you doing that because it feels good or bad?” to which i replied, “both. it feels good to figure out how to make it not feel bad.”
she asked other questions too. not too many to distract me from my breathing and centering, but just enough so that her and i stayed engaged during our separate activities.
and then she found the bones. we haven’t talked about bones yet, but they have been a huge theme in my life over the past year. Alicia found some tiny animal bones while sweeping and she said, “i wonder whose those are…”
to that i said, “i think maybe they’re mine.”
i’m not sure either of us knew exactly what i meant by that, but i’m pretty sure it’s true.
then Alicia and i swam in the pool. we talked about revealing our true selves and being comfortable in our own skin. i have grown increasingly naked during this trip, first topless to the point where i forgot that i wasn’t wearing a shirt. (Alicia asked, “is that your new uniform?” before i realized that, yeah, i guess it is.) and now i write to you completely naked. it feels a little weird (even to admit), but also really good. bugs are landing on my naked skin—it is freaking me out and i am letting it happen. call me crazy, but it just feels better this way than trying to chase them away or tucking my self away under protective layers.
my sister laid the bones next to my yoga mat. we made up stories about whose they were and why they were here. we even collaborated on a photograph to memorialize the moment. it leads me believe that there are many ways to co-exist that are more weird and more wonderful than we may be able to imagine.
when i finished doing yoga, i noticed that a bug had literally crawled onto my mat and died. my sister said, “are you sure it’s not just sleeping?”
to which i replied, “nope. i picked it up and it was dead, so i put it with the bones…
…yoga is death.”
i’m not sure what i meant by that either, except that it feels good to let go.
It was still hot. The sun beat down on me as I biked along. For us, in our part of the world, the sun means life. But in some very hot countries it means death, and with the sweat running down my legs, and my mouth parched and dry, I began to understand why.
~ A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle ~
It is in the very cavern of our heart that we can realize the immensity of spaces, and by controlling our own vital rhythms that we can escape the power of time. It is by reaching the source of life that we can escape the power of death. It is by exploring the unknown spheres within ourselves that we can visit the celestial and infernal worlds.
~ Alain Danielou ~