I’ve never told anyone this before, the guest says to Terri Gross.
I lean into the kitchen counter, turn up the radio. Here comes the reveal: The world class chef sometimes eats Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches for supper. Oh.
I say to my friend, Damaris, don’t tell anyone, OK? I have never told anyone. I once drove a pickup truck…And Damaris says, of marijuana to Arizona? So, you could afford Contemplative Dance Practice, with Barbara Dilley in the summer of 88 at Naropa.
I told you? I say.
You told your whole class, she says.
In 2010 I am sitting in a meditation teacher’s training class with Acharya, Dale Asrael. Dale tells our class about outer, inner, and secret. Secret gets to stay secret, she says, unless it is necessary to share. Then it jumps over inner to outer.
We work in pairs. First, I’m the pretend student with anxiety, afraid to sit still. Then we switch and I’m the guide. All I have to do is steer the student back to his practice. I can’t seem to do this.
Dale talks to the class about gentleness, precision and letting go. She is holding a bundle of sticks. She opens her hands and the sticks fall all over the floor. That’s letting go, she says. Let go of thinking you’re a self- improvement project.
I’m sitting, imagining myself in a corner of the room balanced on the ball of one foot, the other foot dangling in space, touching the wall with finger tips. The image begins to fade. A tear slides down. That’s where I’m stuck, I think. The last part, letting go.
Laura Ann Samuelson performs a dance where she gathers huge amounts of bunches of paper which keep falling away and she tries to gather them in. She can barely move. In the parking lot she shoves most of the paper into her car and dives in after it. She drives off with a car crammed full of bunches of paper, so much she can barely see.
The first time I went to Arizona was in 1984 for grad school. When I arrive in Tempe, I ask my new housemate, David, to help me rip down the orange and yellow swirly wallpaper in my little room. Can we do it in the morning? he asks. I had just read the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. * It’s about subtle and pervasive repression of women, written in the late 1800’s.
We left a cut- out wallpaper figure of a woman trying to escape the walls.
When I left the cabin above Jamestown, Colorado for grad school, I saw Bill in the rearview, waving, with Franny and Zooey, tails wagging. I cried on the road down the mountain. I cried in the motel room and couldn’t eat the waffle. I cried on the highway to Tempe.
I cried through the first week of ballet and modern and dinner and composition and pedagogy. This made it difficult to stay in the classroom. I commanded myself to stop crying. I replaced my tears with technique, and found a way to be, slightly tranced. I stayed in my little room writing poems. I ate homemade chocolate chip cookies Carla baked. I laid on the beach in Rocky Point with Cindy. I hiked in the Tuscon desert with Joanna and Grace. Once a week I cleaned a professor’s house and weighed myself on her bathroom scale. She was from New York and wore Birkenstocks. I stayed at school during the Thanksgiving break, watched dance films in the library and wrote synopsizes of each one. I shot videos of ballet student’s feet and torsos and made business cards in women’s art class with Muriel Magenta. I squeezed a dropper full of peaceful-easy-feeling tincture in my carrot juice at lunch. I didn’t return phone calls from friend and composer, Brent Davids, so he walked to my house, knocked on the door of my room.
I walked from the dance building to the English department where professor poet, Norman Dubie sat. I waited on the wooden bench in the hall, listening to actual poets discuss i vs. I, and words, “it” and “this” in a particular poem. I chose my best poem of the week and gave it to Dubie. I wrote, the mourning doves sang. He changed it to, morning doves. I wrote about a screen door. He called his wife, the poet, Jeannine Savard and asked her to read her poem where the porch light was a metaphor for memory. He asked her to bring cigarettes and something to drink for the party that night. He said he loved her and missed her, even though I think he had only been gone for a few hours. He tilted the phone, so I could hear, and we closed our eyes.
I didn’t tell anyone for 20 years I drove the cubes of marijuana across the states a year after I graduated from ASU. Glenn and I broke up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I lived in the Ponderosa Mobile Home park in North Boulder, where my neighbor poured circles of salt around everything that stood up, lampposts, trees. My other neighbor threw his empties out his open door, creating a massive pile of cans between trailers. I taught dance at a couple colleges, made Chai with Claudia at Dot’s Diner after they closed at night. I carefully strained black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and a small amount of pepper; mixed the brew into huge kettles of hot milk and honey.
On Christmas morning, on the way to Saratoga hot springs, in Wyoming, I didn’t tell friends Sally and Tom I just returned from Arizona driving exactly the speed limit, with freeze dried blocks of marijuana in the back wrapped in Christmas paper. The gas stations were closing early for Christmas eve. At the border crossing I could smell the huge cubes thaw.
And then I did tell. At some point it loosened my nerves to tell it— except maybe my right hip where the sciatica reminds me of my long truck drive, solo.