I feel like reading love poems. I don’t know what happened to my E. E. Cummings or my Pablo Neruda. They might have been in the box of my books that self-destructed on the way from New York to Portland, or they might have vanished long ago. I read a lot more love poetry when I was younger. Now I read a lot of Rumi, of course, but the Beloved in his poems isn’t so much a person, and there’s relatively little mention of bodies. I want to read about bodies.
Today I took my fourth yoga class in under a week, and my own body already remembers what it feels like to have a regular asana practice. I sometimes think the “yogini me” was a former self, but if I go to a few classes in a row, I can feel that those months in 2003 and 2004 when I was working at Tranquil Space and taking free yoga classes nearly every day will be with me forever. It’s funny how little I knew my body in some ways then; I had never seen the x-ray of my spine with its 22 degree curve, but I could balance on my forearms in the middle of the room.
I’m living in a beautiful house with three women and five dogs and a gigantic rose garden two blocks away. This week, I planted herbs in pots, and I’ve been cooking at home for the first time since I lived with a boyfriend when I was 19. It’s amazing. I get up at 7:30 or 8 a.m., even though I don’t have anywhere to be, and I make my own coffee and cheese grits.
I ate out 3 meals a day in New York, for years. It wasn’t just because I was lazy and the groceries were so expensive, both of which were true; it was also because I didn’t have time. I was so busy I didn’t have time to cook a meal (or take a yoga class, for that matter). I complained about how busy I was as much as the next New Yorker, but I didn’t really realize how busy I was until I left. I was so used to running everywhere, it was like I forgot how to walk, or that walking was even an option. I remember how hard it was to adapt, when I visited Vilcabamba (a small village in Ecuador) the winter before last, and when I was on retreat at Blue Cliff, where one of the primary practices is slow, mindful walking meditation. But then I’d go back to New York, and my old habits came back very quickly, and were made necessary by the life I led there, which included a full-time job, and part-time school all year round, and a hefty schedule of social and church-related commitments.
I had an amazing life in New York, and I am so grateful that I had a job that made it possible for me to live in Greenwich Village, and to experience all the cultural richness of the City, and to graduate from NYU (however belatedly) without student debt, and that was intellectually challenging and interesting and (hopefully) allowed me to contribute something to the world’s understanding of an important topic (how we see).
But, I thought I’d miss it. I thought after a month away from the City I’d start getting antsy and feeling out of touch with the “real world.” I do miss my friends, very much, but I don’t miss my job, and I don’t miss New York. I don’t think it was the “real world” afterall. It’s a good place to spend one’s early twenties, for sure, and I highly recommend living there for a little while, but, up until the second I left I was still telling people I’d probably be back, that I’d get out here on the West Coast and the Village itself would somehow reel me back in. That seems so silly to me now.
If anything, being here in Portland has taught me how very important it is to pay attention to one’s environment. It has far, far more impact on our health and how we feel on a day to day basis than we give it credit for. Places can actually harm us! And places can heal us, and that’s part of why I want some of my New York friends to visit me here so badly. The notion that we are separate from our surroundings is just as false as the notion that we are separate from each other.
Architecture suddenly makes a lot more sense to me as a discipline, and one worthy of utmost respect.