Resist, says the train, in large flowing rust-colored script. Resist thinking these cars will only pass once. Resist thinking they are bound to trundle past a second time. There is no knowing either of these things.
The wall next to me exhales a winter breath from between two bricks. What's back there? Who's breathing? What if all resistance to winter were to pass? Resist thinking it will never stop snowing. Resist thinking we'll pass straight on to April, with only a muddy pause in between. None of it is worth sticking to.
The wall cools the skin of my forearm, and the train has stopped. Two dozen cars of non-odorized liquid petroleum gas - enough to blow up downtown White River Junction ten times over, I think, and then resist the train of thought that might entail.
Resist, subsist, desist: so many intentional words, so much volition, with at their root some sense of a darkness, against which effort is the only bulwark.
Penn of Penn & Teller says: I am already doing all the raping and killing I want to do, which is zero. I don't need rules to keep me from raping and killing. What if, under all our resistance and effort lies the great heart of compassion - the birthright that, more than anything, wants us to wake up, to be free, to know ourselves for what we truly are?
Mingled smells of egg and vinegar. This morning, Larissa and I are it for Notebook Club. We've been holiday-exiled to Tuckerbox, and there's a lot more happening here than at the library. No Canes of the Elders of Lebanon. Instead, the train, the baristas talking, another table behind me comparing cell phones and talking about time. "Oh, no!" No resistance there. Knives and forks on plates. The phone rings. "What time will you get out?" Resisting some degree of distraction, anchoring attention, while still aware of all this new life. Larissa looks to the door.
Talking earlier, about all the ways to be in the world: how different & how interdependent. Somehow, the task is to figure out one's way of being, and allow that way to draw one like a magnet. But what if some ways of being are rent with suffering? Yes, what if?
"A watched pot never boils," says the your man behind the counter. "Right, guys?"
What if the suffering we encounter is the one and only possible fuel for the journey we need to take? What if it swamps us, breaks our hearts, drives us mad? Yes, what if?
Chai, the lottery, choices, no-choices.
I can feel into my hands, and know that I am alive. On my left wrist, a sloppy, shaggy mass of blessing cords, including the Bodhisattva Vow cord from the Winter Retreat, now on its third knotting:
I am learning that a blessing cord made of slippery nylon requires constant reaffirmation and frequent assistance. So, you'd like to be a Bodhisattva? OK. Just remember - not about you alone, ever. Do not resist the help that comes to you. Your neighbor, Jack, eighty-one years old, will snowplow your driveway. Your husband will help keep your Buddhist paraphernalia in order. Your dog will wake you. Welcome to the blessing cord made flesh.
Someone comes in with jingling buckles on their combat boots, and I think DOG. I hope DOG. I am obsessed with the salvific properties of DOG.
We are about to test out the theory that having two dogs is a good idea. It's debatable, actually. Two tumultuous and vigorous monsters, in addition to the two human monsters already present? Maybe. I am aware of Chloe hurtling towards her death seven times as fast as I am (theoretically), and so I want to cultivate non-resistance to her dog-happiness.
So, you would like a dog-boyfriend to come live with us? OK. We can try that. We can try having me let go of some more of my control & resistance. You've already nosed your way into sniffing me awake in the mostly-dark of 5:17AM.
Elliot the dog is a goofus. He's big, and has lion-yellow eyes. His foster-mom says the wind passes between his ears, but we are not taking him on to solve quadratic equations. We're taking him on for the chance to run and roll in the woods, to have a pack friend, to flare the freckles on his long nose and smell a full dog's freedom, now and then. We'll see.
Resist the story of it will work.
Resist the story of it won't work.
Resist the need to be a salvific presence anywhere.
I have been listening to Patti Smith's memoir, M Train, and one of the most amazing things to me is the complete lack of striving toward anything I find there. Partly, she's depressed a lot of the time, and also, partly, she's not haunted by Bodhisattva vows and oft-retied knots. She gets up whenever the hell she gets up, pulls on her watch cap, boots, and coat, and goes to drink coffee. She travels to London to sit around in her hotel room watching crime shows on TV. She writes in her notebook, and whatever she has written, she reads back aloud, so that I can listen to it on the way to tai chi, or to buy olives, or whatever.
There's not a lot more, and at the same time. there's everything. Patti Smith becomes a kind of possibility in the world: useless and harmless, bearing witness to the silliness of striving & the incontrovertible truth that there is great heart underneath it all. People come to her door and invite her to come to the ocean. She buys a beat-up cottage near the beach in Rockaway, paying cash for it by simply accepting all the invitations people have been trying to issue her for years. She doesn't name-drop. Her cat barfs on her pillow. She grieves her husband, and her children seemingly stay away. That's it, and that's all anyone ever needs.
Just sitting here with whatever arises makes space for the world to be seen. Clear forest pool, with Guns 'n' Roses in the background. Jennifer comes to introduce herself. She's new, she's looking for friendship, she's lovely. Had Larissa and I been running around declaring things, instead of hunched over our notebooks, this meeting would not have happened. Who knows what would? It might have been full of grace.
Two kids come to our house on Saturday, canvassing for Kasich. Chloe goes into full-bore death-hyena mode, fear-mohawk standing on end. She doesn't vote Republican. One of the canvassers is wearing a Dartmouth Crew cap, and I think, For fuck's sake! Don't you have any idea how the world works? Timothy thinks they're OK. He might not be sabotage-voting for Trump anymore.
Two days in a row, I do not go to canvas for Bernie, even though I enthused on Facebook that I would. Why not? I don't really know that he'd be a better president than Hillary, and I know Patti Smith wouldn't bother. Plus, there are things I want to do at home, like move firewood, write questions that might or might not prove inscrutable, and eat lasagna.
Good citizenship comes in many forms, many recipes of resistance and non-resistance. Today, Martin Luther King Day 2016, I write in praise of all of them.
Julie Püttgen is an artist, expressive arts therapist, and meditation teacher.
108 Names of Now