"Once I read that there are yogis in India who live on light. They drink a glass of milk once or twice a week and claim to get the rest of their nourishment from the sun. Lately it has felt like certain colors, certain patterns, somehow nourish me."
~ Eleanor Coppola ~
From her diary ~ January 30, 1981, Napa Valley
This evening I have been going back through a much loved book, Ariadne's Thread: A Collection of Contemporary Women's Journals, edited by Lyn Lifshin. I first read it in the mid 1980's when I was teaching journal writing classes myself. All of the quotes used in this entry are from this book. The book was published in 1982 and I read it in 1986. By then I had had all three of my children. Jenny, born in 1977; Rachel in 1979; and Aaron, in 1983. I was a young mother immersed in mothering and self examination. Even then the quotes I am using tonight were marked. It seems I have spent nearly three decades trying to live my way into these passages I have chosen for tonight's entry. I don't know why they struck such a deep chord in me back then, but I know why they do now. I have crossed the portal into midlife and at 54 have turned around and look at the rest of my life before me. I am preparing for the time I have left and it seems to carry tremendous import. Tonight I shall ruminate on these things.
The above quote by Eleanor Coppola struck that chord in me, not because I could possibly "live on light" as the yogis do, but in an odd turn of events I found this quote just as I have changed my diet and eliminated carbohydrates and sugar, and have only a very little bit of alcohol, a small glass of wine on 2 celebratory occasions with the family. What has happened is that as my body releases those substances, something in me has cleared, as if a heaviness has lifted and I have a greater clarity, as if I am living on light, metaphorically speaking. And colors, and yes patterns, not only nourish me, but have a brilliance I don't believe I have heretofore seen. And this is important now, it has been a very long time coming, a decade or so, and most especially the last couple of years. I have felt a turning, an opening, an urgency. I have found myself releasing, more and more, the things of the outer world, the material things that the world today seems to feel necessary for at least momentary happiness. I find the things that I buy, the things that surround me, are tools for transformation, vehicles for the inner journey.
I surround myself with books, stones and crystals, flowers, air, light, color. I am looking around the cottage to see what I might be rid of to lighten my load and the atmosphere around me, too dense with things, needing to be emptied of everything possible so that my mind might have a vast meadow to wander in. I am writing a book, I have animals to care for and a garden to tend. I must cook and eat and tend the cottage. I care about these latter things in a way I never have. My body needs to be lighter and freer, and I must begin to hold everything I choose to keep, to surround myself with, to touch, to hold, to have, as holy objects, sentient beings to share the journey with. I have collected too many things over the years, things that I thought would bring me happiness, things to hide behind, secrets to keep. I was building imaginary walls around myself to feel safe. I was not safe as a child. I am safe now. I am at peace. I am ready to take up the gauntlet and live my way into the world and the work that I have to do wherever that takes me, which is why these quotes by one of my most beloved novelists, Gail Godwin, moved me so deeply...
"My new book is about that junction in life when you know you'd better get moving or else."
"One day I'll look back and be able to explain this curious inertia that keeps me from doing all that I want."
"What has enabled me to come as far as I have? Utter fright at not doing what I know I have it in me to do."
~ All three quotes from one journal entry, December 23, 1975. Stone Ridge.~
The above three lines were from three consecutive paragraphs in that entry. I think of the recurring and often relentless depression I have moved through in my life, periods of inertia when I was as if in another world. It is a beautiful thing, at midlife, to step out of the darkness into the light, to embrace the notion that "it is time to get moving," and to do what I know I have it in me to do. I have been like a slow growing seed that takes a very long time to germinate, to flower, but one day opens it's petals to the sun and hums with a radiance formerly unimagined. I feel that inner humming. It is time.
I believe that I will always live, in the main, my cottage, cloistered life, with brief forays out into the world. This seems to trouble many people around me, but my life is so full here, my work so deep, I need the silence and companionship of my animals, and I need less and less when it comes to things of the outer world that once seemed, to me, so important. I will always have a deep hunger for books, for things for the garden. I read seed catalogs like some people read novels. I sketch out garden plans, I begin to prepare meals mindfully, I care more and more about tending to the things that I have and doing the household tasks, the details of living that for most of my life I have avoided, as if I were afraid to engage with the physical world at all. Abuse led me to slip out of my body and live in my mind and hidden spaces, invisible to the naked eye. Now I understand why I live this way. It is comfortable, it is known. But even within these walls I have lived with too many things and cared for them poorly. With the new clarity I am finding, with the deeper connection to spirit that I am experiencing, with the world becoming more and more precious, each moment a gift, having passed the half-way mark in my life I am happier, more at peace, more awake and aware than I ever have been. It is with great excitement that I open myself to this new phase, that I step over the threshold and walk into the days before me, holding everything close to my heart, while letting go at the same time. It is a time of awe, of wonder, of joy.
I think of those yogis, living on light. I live for the lucid moments now when I am aware enough, perceptive enough, to notice things I would have once passed by without thought. I take more care with the things that need doing, rather than doing them in a perfunctory manner or not at all. I am learning, I am growing, I am on a pilgrimage, unseen by the rest of the world, but felt inside of my body as if I had entered the subterranean caverns of my own being to the place where I might discover my origins. It is there that I find God and we converse in silent communion. This time in my life is profound, intense, a calm respite, an interlude, a time in which I am learning, ever so slowly, what needs to be done and to carry it out. I am patient, content to move at a snail's pace, so that I might fully learn what it means to be alive on the earth, at this moment in time, and I do my work with rapt attention to detail. I've a long way to go to clear-cut the path I have allowed to become overgrown with tall grasses and weeds. I feel like Mary discovering the secret garden. Behind these four walls I will weed, and cut back, and hoe, and take great care to plant the garden of my life that I shall live in the rest of my days. It is a very exciting time. The work, if slow, exhilarating.
And so now I finish this time of rumination and sit silently in the dark, the room lit by one small light, and listen to my animals breathing as they sleep, dreaming their dreams, as I dream, awake, in unison with them, and the world is quiet all around us.
May you find your light, may you live in peace...