Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions.
You know how sometimes your nose runs at the most inopportune of times?
Like maybe when you're in Downward Dog and you're already sweaty and suddenly somehow weeping in spite of your all-business, black-coffee'd, flight-booking morning and then your nose just runs and runs (the weeping, you know) and you're thinking to yourself, fuck, thank goodness I'm so goddamned sweaty because otherwise how embarrassing to have snot dripping back up my face as I invert and try to get myself together in Downward Dog before we hit up another vinyasa, right?
Because your heart's been beating wildly since the instant you sat there on the mat and Rusty started to sing and you suddenly realized there in that moment listening to his warm chestnut voice ringing out across that vast room that that same heart of yours has been singing chants in one form or another every single Sunday morning all these years, even when you were in the womb and they were in Latin or maybe some hippie-folk-song-praise-band-rockin'-the-snare-drum kind of thing, and how beautiful is that?, and it's still beating in spite of the so very many good reasons it might as well not be [that almost-getting-hit-by-a-car thing on the Embarcadero a few years back, or that skipping revving heart murmur when you were 16 and shin-splinted and underfed, or that one time that creepy dude chased you down the twisting Venetian sidewalks until you could duck into a doorway and evade him and you were all alone and really could've ended up a cadaver in a canal never heard from again for all anyone knew].
But no, by god, wow, it's still beating, all these 31 years tomorrow, and isn't that enough, really, well, of course, but you're crying and you're not supposed to be thinking at all, you're supposed to be clear blue sky meditating, thoughts like tumbleweeds blowing by while you stretch and bend and lift, but you're suddenly overtaken by the realization of how goddamned full your heart is, how it's really hit the overflowing point, it's gushing too much goodness like that godawful strawberry cake you made last year, what with beloved E & N across the bar last night radiating hope in spite of the hopelessness and planning travels for December even though there might as well be a thousand carcinogenic hurdles in the way, and what with little sweet J all those 3000 miles across the country and the prospect of being there next month holding her as some unknown Episcopalian priest anoints her a wet-headed child of God and knowing how your heart beats for her fragile wee one and you just wanna wrap it in bubble wrap and hold her close to you and let her know that she's loved, this newest future goddaughter of yours, how lucky to have two!, and your ever-breaking, ever-humbled heart continues to discover so much room for expansion, so much more to hold,
and meanwhile you're thinking all this and the sternum cracks open in Backbend No. 6 and you're trying to focus on Vasisthasana but it's not really happening because you're just so fucking grateful for being right here right now and it's enough and you realize, you've been thinking about, the fact that at 31 your father's life was already well past half-over, though he didn't realize it at the time, and you wonder (as you bobble hopelessly in Vasisthasana) if 31 marks half-over for you, too, or only a third over, or if 31 means 90% done and it might all fold in on itself and quit beating next year for all you know, before you put the finishing touches on that book manuscript and before you master your newest version of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" or before you get around to cleaning out that desk drawer with all the hand-written journals you'd planned to transfer to the old Mac,
and you really kind of hope not, because it'd be nice to rock that old Jerome Kern show tune before it's all said and done, and maybe tackle a little more Ellington too while you're at it, and there are so many books to be read yet and so many cakes to be baked and so many cards to be sent and so many dahlias to be grown and so many floors to be swept and so many men to be loved and so many so much so very very much beating in this heart while it tries to slow enough to get through these 2 minutes of meditation,
and it's all you can do to haul yourself into half-lotus and just inhale and exhale and lay that heavy hand over that thumping thumping heart and calm it and breathe into it and realize your life is this beautiful delicious sandwich in which N is the 60-something sexy radiant badass lusty busty dame fighting survivor and J is the future brilliant musical laughing loving beloved goddaughter of yours who you can someday bring to SF and take to the opera and sit on a blanket at a concert at Golden Gate Park with and trudge heart-racingly up Nob Hill with and tiptoe in silence through the aching beauty of Grace Cathedral with, but for now N's looking realistically at the cancer-colored downslope of things and J's looking up, all up, and here you are really on the crest of things somewhere in between, top of the wave, summit of the hill, the ham in this lady sandwich, and the view just keeps getting better, and you turn your head ever so slightly in Trikonasana and look up past your fingertips reaching out for the ceiling and you see that black cursive scrawled on your left wrist, that same inked Laudate you've been sporting there for the last two days, a drishti of sorts, a physical reminder to "praise" tao-god-allah-krishna-gaia-buddha-yer mom-whoever-this wild rushing beating heart of yours, it's all praise, it's all song, that bodily symphony sung out silently, heavingly, breathlessly in the midst of 10 backbends and 100 tears and so much realizing what it's all about.
And the Laudate Latin makes you think of that Simple Song you sang once, the "Lauda da de's" of that brilliant Bernstein, that lovely Leonard, that poignant piece that's threaded its melody through your family's lives beginning at the ordination thirty-some years ago and again haltingly, impossibly at the funeral and again at a wee little radical service on a hill in Berkeley when you sang and the crowd fell silent and it felt risky and rich and right. And it was all "Laude da, Laude de" and it was loose and easy and lolling off your tongue in that best of tippling Bernstein ways, and you realized that though some hearts stop beating and others go on (yours, today; N's, miraculously, for now; J's, stubbornly, into the future), the music transcends the bodies and it will remain long after yours is gone and so you breathe and listen and wipe your tears and wipe your nose and try to chant and give thanks for the puffy eyes because they're a product of your so-full heart and then later listening to the rain you click "play" on Bernstein's Simple Song and drift away to the lilting grace of that beautiful baritone and you remember other beautiful baritones on other Sunday mornings in Latin or Sanskrit or German or Lakota, and they sounded maybe something like this, too:
From the record label, on Bernstein's Mass:
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis commissioned Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers from Leonard Bernstein for the 1971 opening of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. It was written to be a celebration and remembrance of her husband's life, achievements and ideals. As a result, the gala premiere was as much a political occasion as a musical or theatrical one. It was pointedly boycotted by then-President Richard Nixon who assumed that it would prove to be a rallying cry for his critics.And from LeonardBernstein.com, on his controversial Mass, the source of "Simple Song"
The nearly two-hour long work features a Broadway-sized ensemble including a large orchestra, marching band, mixed chorus, children's choir, dancers and a rock band. Bernstein had always found the Roman Catholic faith intriguing and found its liturgy especially theatrical. The libretto for Mass intersperses texts (tropes) written by Bernstein and Stephen Schwartz into the Roman Mass proper. The work explores the mass from the point of view of a Celebrant, who is experiencing a crisis of faith. It follows the liturgy exactly, but the liturgical passages are juxtaposed against frequent interruptions and commentaries by the Celebrant and the congregation, much like a running debate. The Celebrant's faith is simple and pure at first, as shown in his wish to sing "a simple song" in praise of God. Yet that faith gradually becomes unsustainable under the weight of human misery, corruption, and the trappings of human power. In the end, the Celebrant, on the verge of renouncing his faith, finds that the loneliness of his doubt is no match for the joy of gathering together with other believers in praise. Mass is a tour-de-force - a seamless blend of classical, modern, rock, popular and Broadway idioms and a pointed commentary on spirituality in modern society.