According to time-honored ritual, Larissa pulls this week's prompt from the box: paisley. I think to myself, Paisley is only one letter off from parsley, Precisely, Larissa chimes in, Well you could write about parsley, if you wanted to.
Hive-mind lightnings across the table, across the world, through the pages of type in the just-right book that falls into your hands when you are busy looking for something else. Hive-mind is the beautiful weather patterns of the truth that we are all connected.
Giving voice to serendipity works, so long as it references the present moment. Did you just see that? Yes. Wow. OK – what were we doing? Writing about Paisley-Parsleys. Where hive-mind doesn’t work is as an appurtenance of the woo-woo self. We have all had the experience of trying to describe this amazing thing that happened, back in that special place, with that special person. For me - both as speaker and as listener - these experiences are usually tinged with loss. The speaker is longing for a past peak experience. The listener feels left out of something perceived as more significant than the present moment. Over time, this sense of loss reveals itself as nonsense, tied up with the delusion that there are Special Moments in life, and then there’s all that regular crap. All that regular crap turns out to be the only place where we can notice the through-line linking us to Being itself.
This morning, I woke up at 4 AM with snot-clogged nostrils, and my body feeling bruised and exhausted. Then, more sleep, which I wanted more than anything to stay in. Comforter, comfort me, keep me in your warm, grey half-life. But I had committed to this day, and so I rose. Dentist first – uncomfortable. Not only can I not breathe, I cannot speak around the mouth-guard used to keep myself from clenching my teeth to smithereens. Resin taste. Drill. Biting, biting, biting. And then, done. No charge. I see the kindness and integrity of my dentist. She's worked hard to install this implant in my quantum mouth, with its Schroedinger’s teeth rotating and shifting, more than anything with roots ought to be able to. I see the hydrangea outside, glorious in its autumn fade to ultraviolet, grey, and fuchsia. Just as I am leaving, I turn back and open my empty mouth-guard box. I pull the doorknob to the examining rooms. Right there, I see my dental hygienist, running forward with the guard itself, forgotten/not-forgotten. We had the same thought at the same time, I say. She smiles. The whole exchange takes maybe five seconds. Hive-mind. Moving parts, leaves on a single great tree, whose body we glimpse in the snotty mornings of this life.
As I drive to Notebook Club, I settle my eyes on the flight of golden leaves scintillating in the bright, clean air. See this. Do not abandon your post. You are here to know the world as it shows itself through you and all around you.
There's a different, more ludicrous form of hive-mind happening here in the café, as different people's orders get mixed up and reassigned in unpredictable combinations. My sandwich arrives in a box, with ham, instead of on a plate, without. Goes away, comes back, still with ham, but now on a tiny plate. Then it turns out I need a box anyway, to take half of it home. Oh well. Larissa gets me a box, while asking for her vanished scramble. Getting there a bit by bit is the way it is, and we get fed, somehow. Our daily bread.
I used to want absolutely minimal perfection – to predict the precise action needed to catalyze resolution. Now I see things differently. I accept that my actions may be squirrely and flawed. Keeping my intentions clear is the important part.
Yesterday, on my way to dance , there was a homeless-looking person with a cardboard sign at the bottom of the exit ramp. At the stop sign I looked over and saw a slight young woman. A kid, really. Her sign said HUNGRY. It said TRAVELIN. I waved at her, and drove on. What might it be like to be in that body right now? The news sank in. Cold. Dark coming. Alone in the middle of nowhere. What would that body want, and what could I do about it? Follow the sign: food. I drove to the deli nearby and ordered the day’s last bit of Cream of Chicken soup, with some toasted cheddar-bread. Waited. Stupid proliferation of awkward, unbalanced packaging: foam, plastic, paper, everything that offends my sensibilities. But still. The lady at the counter and I agree that it is a beautiful evening. We agree that the leaves will stick around a while, and maybe they will.
I drive back to the girl, and park behind another car with its blinkers on. Two smiling young dudes, who, having just dropped off some pizza, pass the baton to me.
Sweetheart, I say, I brought you some soup. I dropped it on the way to you, so it's a bit messy.
Oh, you’re so kind! She says, absolving me in some way I have just now realized I needed.
I ask if she’s got somewhere to stay.
Oh, you know, I usually just go somewhere and start a fire.
What? She sees my alarm.
Someone’s coming to pick me up, and I’m almost home.
Which is it, the barn-fire, or the homecoming, or both?
Just then, a police car pulls up, lights blazing. A fat, stern-faced cop.
What’s your name?
Are you going to tell me your real name?
In stopping, I have helped to bridge something and something else. This girl is no longer alone. I tell her, I need to go. Take care of yourself. I tell him, Be kind to her. He ignores me; she smiles, I turn, to find a kind-looking woman cop just behind me, parked where the young pizza-dudes just were. We are hive-minding this intervention, the one that says, You are not alone. We see you. We, the people who wish you no harm, will stop and take notice of you, will extend ourselves to meet you and be met. Be safe. You are with us.
I arrive to a bit of chaos in dance-land. The sound system is refusing to play music, flashing instead a message no one's ever seen before, which flashes (over and over) the one word: PROTECT! PROTECT! Fair enough. That's where we need to be, sometimes. I turn the whole thing off and back again. Victory! The connection is made, but in some way that no one completely understands, it required human hands on both ends. See me. Hold me. Notice me in my vulnerability. Take time away from whatever obsession’s been riding you, to step into the role this moment requires of you.
We dance, together and apart, efforting through when the mind lags behind the body, shedding the layers of resistance between going through the motions and truly being in motion. Sophie’s built the Rolling Stones’ Emotional Rescue into the playlist, and I enter completely, swaggering and hooting along with Mick, in this sacred-ordinary space, in this body, mind, and breath.
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now