"They were such intelligent, interesting, and reallllly nice people. I hooked up to do a weeklong backpacking trip to the top of the highest mountain in the lower 48. I'm going to rekindle my art after twenty-five years (my mom had my metal sculptures in the garden hauled to the dump). I set to definitely go to Iran after nearly bagging the idea earlier this week. I met my awesome yoga teacher's husband..."
At this point I'm losting track of my ability to remember the insightful connections David (blog) is rattling off breathlessly as we have a cup of tiger spice chai tea at the Coupa Cafe last night after the first salon. "And I learned," he said wrapping up, "I don't need to be in control."
"Well, that's an infinitely more pleasant way to learn that. And you didn't even need a tsunami. What do you mean, though?"
My friend David, whom was helping with errands yesterday afternoon continues. "Well, I've never seen you so stressed before. And when we show up at Diane's gallery, I'm thinking to myself: It's six o'clock, there's people already here, and we haven't even started getting ready. My thoughts were, Evelyn's a great writer, she's great at lots of things, but she is definitely not an event-planner. I thought this is going to be a disaster. But I learned from watching you give up control."
"Yeah," I begin. "I was meditating on the drive over."
Meditation is much like a river. It is a movement, a flow. (Source forgotten)
I looked over at the trees, bushes and grasses along the highway and I felt such stillness. I knew everything was not proceeding according to my vision of it. I had no time to finish collating and knotting together the inspiration handouts with ribbon. I never got an inkling of a chance to handwrite the name badges onto the French cards with turquoise ink calligraphy pen. I wasn't sure if Diane would have enough serving platters for all the fruit. Did she get the fresh flowers? Dozens of loose ends.
Other people have panic attacks the way I have guilt attacks. (Although panic was in vogue yesterday.) Perhaps the Buddhist Catholic thing. The last major guilt attack I had I've never blogged about, but it happened a day before the realization. I realized my mind could be racing, I could be devolving into a bucket of nerves, and yet strangely enough I could still simultaneously perceive this enduring unchanging stillness under that layer of frenzy. Yet it was not my calmness, my stillness. Simply Stillness.
Last Sunday, after I'd bought a few tomatoes, almonds, peaches at the Santana Row farmer's market, I listened to the flute player at the courtyard under the sprawling tree as a dark-skinned four-year-old girl played with the water spigot near the mosaiced fountain as her dad watched, families played chess under the honeysuckle trellis, and I sat on one of the Smith-and-Hawken wooden chairs. I'd written email to a friend that day but he was already on his river trip. Among all my long lost friends there's probably a few more on a river trip somewhere.
"The flowing river, my Self in flux. Nothing needs to be added or subtracted or...anything. This. No need to stain it with commentary, interpretation. This. Just this.
I think about the river, I think about the rapids and how tumultuous my life appears right now. [Every big ticket C-item: car, computer, cellphone went kaput within two-week period. Worse: I started believing my old conditioning...Enough said.] But beneath it churning water is this pure calm current going surely to the ocean over granite boulders and all manner of obstacles. No matter how it meanders, definite.
I remember that gooseneck on the Colorado [or is it the San Juan River? or both?], where you go dozens of slow miles and miles to end up right where you were. Yes it's like that."
There's a part of me that could weep right now it is so beautiful. Most people could not withstand this much light and flow - or so they think."
So by the time I veered off the Alpine Road exit yesterday evening, I knew that whatever happened it would be just as it should be. I knew it wasn't going to be my perfect and that's okay. I was re-reminded by my both my Sunday book group and this week by my friend Kamal's timely email:
J. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher, spoke and traveled almost continuously all over the world for more than fifty years attempting to convey through words - which are content - that which is beyond words, beyond content. At one of his talks in the later part of his life, he surprised his audience by asking, "Do you want to know my secret?" Everyone became very alert. Many people in the audience had been coming to listen to him for twenty or thirty years and still failed to grasp the essence of his teaching. Finally, after all these years, the master would give them the key to understanding. "This is my secret," he said. "I don't mind what happens." - Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Kamal adds: Wow, this post made me stop flat. Had to immediately mail it to other people. Reminds me of what a monk in a monastery in Big Sur told me when I asked how he finds peace. "I say yes," he said. "Yes to all that happens."
I tell David last night: "I remembered what Daniel Odier said in Desire: The Tantric Path to Awakening. He said people think tantra is a ritual. They think that getting the romantic candles, the silk sheets, the perfect music playing, the whole bedroom in the just the right mood is tantra. But not any of that truly matters."
"Your lover simply wants the totality of your being. If you're fully there, the candles, the music, the room ceases to exist. Heck, time, space cease." I didn't say it, but I was thinking: They want to be seen straight through to their divinity, to be known as One, not Other.
I had the right ingredients: Fresh cared-for fruits of the season from people I'd actually met at farmer's markets and small artisan boutiques and, mostly, importantly, a small circle of good people.
The secret to a salon is curating the invite list, not the fine handmade paper stationery the invite arrives on. Everything else was totally out of my hands. (And even invite list arised purely from intuition.)
"What your objective for this evening?" David had asked as he lifted the heavy box with cherokee purples, marble stripes, brandywines [varieties of heirloom tomatoes], figs, white peaches, goat cheese, kalamata olive and walnut chunked breads, bufala mozzarella, almonds, balsamic vinegar into my disheveled (and marginally functioning after a trip to mechanic) car.
"I gave up having an objective. It is a gift. What sparks, sparks."
Marmontel's remark about Julie de Lespinasse suggests the secret of the salon in French culture:"The circle was formed of persons who were not bound together. She had taken them here and there in society, but so well assorted were they that once there they fell into harmony like the strings of an instrument touched by an able hand."- Wikipedia entry for Salon (gathering)
The evening before the salon, I thought of the title of Milan Kundera's novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I thought of the assumption of the Virgin Mary into the Light as it was going to be Ferragosto celebration after all, and the light breezy weightlessness of summer in a mountaintown in Italy I once spent July. And that weightlessness spirit, invisible as it may be, was the experience intended. On one hand, I was petrified to have only disposable (made from corn, not plastic) knives and forks rather than real metal cutlery, on the other I knew no external decor - not the best chateau silver, linens, even the beauty of flowers - could possibly evoke this unspeakable simple sense of lightness.
Bonus: Two beautiful excerpts [1, 2] from Italian writer, Italo Calvino's book, Six Memos for the Next Millenium on his "investigation into the literary values that he wished to bequeath to future generations." The first chapter is on lightness. And he shares a moon poem and the ethos of Silicon Valley in same chapter! From an Amazon reviewer:
Calvino draws on areas as diverse as mythology, poetry, art, science and history to illustrate his theses, and brings fresh insights to, for example, the story of Perseus and Medusa. A few small extracts from the chapter on various aspects of Lightness will serve to illustrate this diversity of supporting material:
First, from poetry. "... there is a lightening of language whereby meaning is conveyed through a verbal texture that seems weightless, until the language itself takes on the same rarefied consistency... Emily Dickinson, for instance... "A sepal, petal, and a thorn// Upon a common summer's morn-// A flask of Dew-A Bee or two-... "
Then, from computer science: "It is true that software cannot exercise its powers of lightness except through the weight of hardware. But it is the software that gives the orders, acting on the outside world and on machines that exist only as functions of software and evolve so that they can work out ever more complex programs. The second industrial revolution, unlike the first, does not present us with such crushing images as rolling mills and molten steel, but with `bits' in a flow of information traveling along circuits in the form of electronic impulses. The iron machines still exist, but they obey the orders of weightless bits."
p.s. Thanks to Diane Michlig of Legends Fine Crafts Gallery (816 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park, CA) for graciously hosting. And everyone for the totality of their being: Andrew, Charles, Darren, David, David, Diana, Don, Ekta, Faun, Jacqueline, Lisa, Maryam, Robert, Stephen, Siona, Tom and the couple that were strolling by downtown that followed their heart inside.
images Jacqueline Osborn's Angel of Veronna reminded me for some inexplicable reason of the Holy Spirit overflowing through the Virgin Mary. Jacqueline's (and her husband Stephen Osborn's) recent work are currently on display and available for purchase at Legends Fine Crafts Gallery in downtown Menlo Park. And one of the long gooseneck bends along the Colorado River.