Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air: a raw, foggy day at the beach.
I'm craving yin the way a plant craves light.
Last night, coming home on the down slope of Nob Hill, the fog fingers curled their ghastly talons up and over, spilling and whirling, teasing of sanctuary: the noir kind of sanctuary, that dark delicious refuge that reeks of wearing cloches and all-black and drinking martinis and reading the New Yorker and brewing muddy coffee in the early morning quiet and writing thick social theory and playing 30s ballads on the piano and swearing.
A lot of swearing.
So very much yang of late, you see. Coming on the heels of last week's early morning trek through the foothills up to Wanderlust and the ensuing several days of non-stop going and doing and stretching and talking and catching-up hurtling into a rushed drive home toward the Pacific in time to shake a few martinis in time to squeeze in a quick yoga session in time to meet the ever-lovely Molly and Zoe coming from the airport for a packed few days of San Francisco from the point of view of a 2 1/2 year old. Yang that looks like searing Tahoe sunshine and urban hikes and carousels and gelato and the SF MoMA and fountains and swings and the buzzing hubbub of beloveds at Urban Flow last night, and a last-minute cable car ride up and over Nob Hill once more this morning to deliver the traveling twosome at the Bart station just in time to make the next train to SFO and thence on the way back home to Charm City.
Yang up the wazoo. Yang in the best of ways.
But yang in the most exhausting of ways, too; the kind of talking-buzzing-going yang that fires up the extroverts in the room and depletes the introverts hovering contentedly, watching, listening, along the walls. The kind of yang that reminds me how imperative, how fundamental, that quiet still small voice is, that echoing tumbleweed-strewn expanse of mental geography that we work so consciously to cultivate, the letting-go, the emptying-out, the kenosis of sorts that Buddhists and yogis and Taoists and other Eastern religious practitioners seek. The "Big Sky mind" that comes of silence and stillness and early morning dark and twilight pause and savasana, ever, ever, savasana. The yin. The drawing in. The darkening. The softening. The refueling. The relinquishing.
Yes, craving it, all. Not surprising, this.
The Taoists were so right in naming that ancient inherent harmony of the universe, the fundamental balance, the intrinsic complement: the yin to the yang, the light to the dark, the fluid to the static, the chaotic to the calm, the vital to the dormant. Sure, the binaries are fundamentally problematic, limiting, suffocating, as many would agree - especially your queer theorists, who point out with such great legitimacy the fact that most of life, much of catalytic change, actually relies upon some measure of a destabilizing triad, a holy trinity, a wildly thrillingly off-balance guest star, an outlier, something to upset the false stability presented by a binary. And I agree with this, completely, yes, and relish being a bit of an outlier myself, peripheral, destabilizing, yes, and know that the vision of two dual complements is so often incomplete, inefficient, oversimplified.
But. That being said....
By god, if there isn't some great truth to this Taoist understanding of a complementary universe; that the sun finds its harmony in the moon, the left in the right, the morning in the night, and so on and so forth. I can see the truth of it here, now, resting in the echoing silence of my little urban garden, looking out at the apricots greening, listening to the planes overhead, more aware of the power of the silence here than I've been in some time. After such a week of non-stop yang, so much vitality and movement and dynamism and interaction, it's no surprise that all I want, after so very many big days of going and talking and moving and dancing and laughing and eating and drinking and doing, is to just be. Just breathe. Just read. Write. Be dark. Be noir. Be silent. Listen. Watch. Move quietly. Wear black. Zip up. Fold in. Curl inward. Play piano. Drink martinis. Quietly. Alone. At a bar. Wearing red lipstick.
(And did I mention the swearing?)
Old friend Molly - dear old friend in the way that means we've known one another for more than half the time we've been alive, since we were 15, since we were young and naive and singing and hopeful and smart and absolutely searching, and whose paths have crossed and meandered and crossed again in so many serendipitous ways over the years since - hauled herself and her beautiful daughter Zoe up from Half Moon Bay Sunday morning after sending Tim back home to do more doctoring in Baltimore. And we had a little San Francisco reunion.
So we played. And explored. And wandered down to Aquatic Park, and climbed to Huntington Park at the top of Nob Hill, and scoped out crabs, and slept, and visited Rich at Nob Hill Grille, and read books, and ate pancakes on the floor, with blueberries, and 100% pure maple syrup. [I knew those blow-up flamingos from Stern Grove would come in handy.] And Zoe met Rusty last night at the studio, and we sang, and colored, and wore sunglasses, while Mama had a chance to spend a precious 90 minutes alone on a mat moving her body to the music in the presence of other fabulous people moving their bodies to the music. And we came home to fog and Thai take-out and peanut sauce and a sleepy little girl who had to keep her bright voice quieter than she should've, because of the city and the thin floors and the creaky building built in 1920, not made for strong fiery little girl feet, and enthusiastic high voices, and morning sing-alongs.
And it was enough.
("True affluence is not needing anything," wrote santosha ninja Gary Snyder.)
Santosha. Contentment. Enough.
Buddhist scholar David Loy, one of my favorite writers on religion, culture and capitalism, argues that a pervasive sense of Lack is what most haunts American consumers. The kind who seek sustenance, meaning, joy, fulfillment in the shopping mall, the car lot, the McMansion, the football game. How radical it is to assert that we have enough, here, already, now. To give in to a wild sense of affluence, the outlaw certainty of having, being, abandoning that source of suffering that is the desire for more, bigger, better.
And I think that's the practice here, the lesson today, now, always, of course, but especially now.
I had so many santosha moments at Wanderlust, this overwhelmingly rich yoga-music-nature festival offering so very much, so much more than one person could ever take in over the course of just a few days, and in the midst of Baron and Shiva and Squaw and Giselle and all of it, I couldn't help but just look at the sky now and then, that crazy big cerulean blue sky, so much closer there than I'm used to it being here in SF, so much more searing in the sun's heat, so much more daunting in its scope, and yet comforting in its own vast prairie-expanse-like way, a reminder of my youth, the summer wind and sun and heat bearing down on my all-too-human, all-too-fragile, all-too-sunburnable shoulders, and I couldn't help but just repeat to myself, over and over: It is enough. It is enough. It is enough to be here in the mountains in the summertime moving and breathing and revisiting a dear old friend I've not seen in six months thanks to 3,000 miles, and sweating and listening and soaking it all up. It is enough to live just 3 hours from this little taste of paradise up overlooking Lake Tahoe. It is enough to drive 200 miles and crank through 3 killer, ancient, fabulous playlists, and sing Sondheim at the top of my lungs and jam out to Santana and Rob Thomas wailing me around the twisting turns and bang my head to ridiculous classic rock because, goddammit, jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine, and
joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
joy to you and me
Santosha. It's a practice, this.
People here in SF looove to bitch about the weather. It's cold, it's wet, it's foggy, it's not sunny enough, whatever. This never fails to make me grin, and wince, all at once. Because it's so fucking ridiculous, really. Here we are in the bliss-full heart of the Bay Area, not an air conditioner in sight, not a cricket or locust to be found, not a touch of humidity to taunt us, and people are complaining about the weather?? That they have to wear a sweater, that it's cold, that it's wet? Really?
After enduring summers in so many other parts of the country, each miserable in its own way - the Great Plains and Tornado Alley's thick muggy bug-filled severe thunderstorms rolling across the prairie, and the Mid-Atlantic's unbearable malaria-scented July humidity, and Central Florida's gator-strewn heat, the kind that keeps you inside shivering in artificial cold and escaping to godawful fluorescently-lit malls just to escape the burn - there's no way I'd ever complain about this August, this cool, this blessedly, blissfully perfect weather. The morning fog, ideal for early reading and a burbling coffee maker and legwarmers and a blanket; the few precious hours between noon and 4 when it burns off, just enough to tease you with weak sunshine and false warmth when you're walking on the sunny side of the street; and then of course the old reliable fog, the yin, the dark, the cool, rolling in over the Golden Gate like clockwork, blowing you right on down the hill, giving you good reason to always carry a cloche, a scarf, a coat, even though, yes, it's August, and in New York they're sweating, and in Lincoln they're flooding, and in New Mexico they're slapping on sunscreen.
So - I'll take it.
I'll take any good reason to pull that cloche lower over my eyes, to zip that jacket up to my chin, to wrap that pashmina closer and roll down the hill to the opera or the curl up in a chair with a heavy tome and a snifter of bourbon, or to warm up with that glass of red after too many cold evenings bring the chill to the bones.
Why do we complain? We choose, right? For the most part, notwithstanding unavoidable circumstances, the kind out of our control, we choose; we choose. I chose seven years ago to load up a little Ford Festiva and haul ass across I-80 to start a new life on the West Coast. I didn't know, but I knew. And that day I crossed the Bay Bridge and rolled over the down slope of Nob Hill was also the last day I ever wore shorts in August in California. Because I learned quickly that August here means hats and legwarmers and maybe a little bit of chill. And definitely. not. shorts.
But that's ok. Because the chill balances out the heat, and the light comes 'round noon every day to burn off that blanket of fog, and Tahoe's just a few hours away, and we've always got the choice to stay, or go, or to complain, or to crave, or to wish, or to wonder, or to just goddamned
let it be enough.
And I'm so damn glad to let this be enough. Molly and Zoe are happily East Coast-bound once again, and I sit here sweaty from two hours of ardha chandrasana and ustrasana and a few delicious minutes of yoga nidrasana, and the evening promises darkness and shaken martinis and serious grown-up conversations and jazz and wind and cold and that old reliable fog rolling in at half-past five, and gin, and yin.
And I exhale at the beauty, the grace, of that wild santosha.
Rusty busted out the kd lang a few weeks ago for savasana, and he's been turning to it regularly since. It's fantastic, perfect, obvious for savasana; and that first morning, in the wake of a brief love affair with kd lang's stuff a decade or so ago, and a perpetual appreciation of her stellar duet with Tony Bennett on that chestnut standard "Moonglow," I recognized her voice immediately, its maple syrupy goodness and its lingeringly delicious phrasing, in spite of the exhaustion and the paschimottanasana and the undoing. And I fell back into this song, and lost myself in it, and listened to the words in a way I've not done in some time, and realized what a perfect little snapshot of santosha can be found in this most lovely, most lilting, most mellow, most yin of melodies.
So queue it up, sit back, close your eyes, breathe deeply into that perfect belly of yours, and let it be enough, here, now, today, this moment, this August, this summer, whether you're cold with fog or sticky with humidity or somewhere in between. It's enough.
But you already knew that.
All I Need is the Air That I Breathe ~ kd lang (YouTube)