Friday, July 20, 2007

I’m sitting down to write at my first opportunity so far, and I don’t know where to begin. I arrived at camp last Sunday after an adventure which took me on too many turnpikes and toll roads and got me lost in the Bronx. But when I finally found my way to Omega Teen Camp, I found a place of indescribable beauty and positivism. When I think back to the miserable days I spent at camp or in youth groups or even Peru—for that matter, any situation involving numerous people I didn’t know—I’ve always felt like the outsider. I have never been able to make friends easily. I use to be too shy. Now I’m told I intimidate people. I don’t know how to not intimidate people. They should get some aplomb themselves. I have never been able to find that many people that I like in general. But here there’s some sort of strange phenomenon where 40 completely unique people are able to make a true community because they, in and of themselves, are so whole and good. There is nothing but love here, genuine, not the forced or fake acceptance I remember from church. There is no segregation, no cliqueyness, no unspoken conflict. It’s an incredible sensation to be in this kind of energy, especially backdropped with acres of dewy Northeastern forest and overgrown stone walls winding over the hills.

Right now I’m sitting in the cafĂ© of the Omega Institute, about a half hour from camp, having a kind of vacation with the staff before the kids arrive on Sunday. I’m full of delicious organic vegan whole foods and relaxed by the air and the sun and the distance between me and my life in Indiana.

Yesterday was our last day of orientation. I spent most of the day practicing my long-forgotten technique on the potter’s wheel on the porch of the art hut while it rained warm and hard through the afternoon. Before dinner, I went for a run in the drizzle and explored winding paths and meadows. In the evening, a man called Medicine Bear came and led us in an Iroquois peace pipe ceremony around a fire (that he started with a bow and drill). He gave us all a handful of tobacco and we said a prayer over it and cast it into the fire. I prayed that I would find my path. Then I watched the glowing tobacco ashes that were spit back from the violent hot center of the flame and fluttered over me like drops of baptismal water.

The man who works in the kitchen is named Robert and he’s a trained chef and the owner of a bread bakery in Omaha. We’ve adopted each other as friends, and he’s become my jolly, middle aged, white sage with sparkling gray eyes—everyone’s eyes seem to sparkle here. The first night we took a walk to the house on the lake where he’s staying and I told him all of my confusion and pain and lost-ness. Then he told me something about myself that I’ve always known and never really had realized by another person: that I’m intuitive. Well, of course I am, but not just in the obvious way, but in the way I’ve been guided in my life, the way I’ve always had a sense of what I needed to do or what I wanted to be or how things would work out, even when it seemed insane or irrational to others. It’s been the source of all the confusion and self-doubt and isolation in my life, because I haven’t ever allowed myself to trust it completely, even when I end up acting on it. Just like coming here. Coming to this camp was not the practical thing for me to do, especially financially, but I knew I had to. I knew I had to be here, that it would be the next step in my life, and work out all of the strange struggles within me that I can’t even name. I knew. He told me that others may think I’m floundering or directionless or not to be taken seriously because I make decisions like waiting until I’m older to go to school or because I know I want to do (not just try but DO) things that I know virtually nothing about—like making goat cheese. But really, I’m passionate, and I know myself beyond my experiences, and I can’t let the limitations or the needs of others define or set the boundaries for my own life. It was profound. Today, I arrived at the Omega Institute and felt so at home and so at peace. Robert and I walked through the library, leaving our shoes and our voices at the door, reverently absorbing the beauty and sacredness of the books and the feel of life and the wholeness of human experience that I’ve always craved and sought and which feels so good and so impossible at the same time. I somehow knew I’d find it here, this pure, organic joy that comes with a way of living as part of the earth and loving people as part of you. I could stay here forever, I could stay in this peace forever, with these people forever. I can only hope I can give a piece of this to these kids who come next week. If I’d been exposed to this when I was that age, I would have had so much less pain and so much less self-loathing in my life, even now. I spent so many years hating myself because I couldn’t function in the “world” and being lonely because felt disconnected and different from other people. Now I realize that what I’ve lived up until now isn’t the real world at all and that those people were disconnected from themselves.

This is the poem Robert read to me:

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

William Stafford

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Today was amazing. We went to a vineyard outside of Charlottesville at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and drank cabernet Franc outside and ate gouda and french bread. Then we went for a drive in the country and downtown to the main street, which is full of restaurants and galleries and neat little shops and outdoor tables. We had dinner outside at a Japanese restaurant called Ten, which had incredible food, and there consumed our second bottle of wine. The weather was perfect, we were fabulous, everything was fabulous. I love Charlottesville. I don't want to go back to Indiana. If I wasn't taking off for New York tomorrow, I probably wouldn't leave anytime soon. I'm driving up tomorrow, a little nervous about getting lost, and a little nervous about the whole thing. I'm sure the experience will be great though. Still don't want to leave my mom's.

Pictures of fabulousness:

Yesterday my mom and I went to Virginia Beach. The day was pretty disappointing... cloudy and cold. We should have gone today-it's unbearably hot and sunny. Oh well. We still had a good time.

Anyway... After sitting on the beach for a while, we both start to notice some suspicious-looking fins bobbing up in the water. We watch closely as they start to move back and forth in front of us about a hundred feet off shore. No one seems to be reacting, including the lifeguards. I'm fascinated-and trying to, as people do, rationalize that "maybe they're dolphins" or "maybe people around here know they're a non threatening type". But I'm convinced that they are, in fact, sharks. After a while, some people start to point at them and look at each other questioningly, but no one seems to be staying away from the water. In fact, one man actually takes his 3 year old daughter out waste-deep and points at the fins which are stalking the near distance. This is when I realized in a rather profound way what stupid sheep people are. This morning I came across this story about a Virginia Beach shark attack in 2001. Somehow I now have a feeling blatant stupidity was somehow involved. I wouldn't have felt sorry for a single one of those idiots in the water if they'd been attacked. Actually, I was sitting there drinking beer and sort of hoping it would happen. Of course, my mom made the observation, especially since we were pretty inebriated, that if a big tsunami were looming in the distance, we'd probably just sit there and say, "Man, look at that big fucking wave."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm at my mom's place is Charlottesville after much driving through winding mountain roads. It's so beautiful here. Now we're enjoying some cheap wine and fine herbal inspiration and watching All About Eve. Tomorrow we're going to the beach and I'm going to sit in the sand all day and try to come up with ideas for my classes. Then I think Sunday we're going to go to the winery (something I've always wanted to do.) After that, I take off for Holmes, New York to Omega Teen Camp, which, I'm hoping, will be as amazing as I have a feeling it will be.

Aside... Christina please water the plants in my art studio! The staghorn fern is expensive.

Monday, July 9, 2007

In my body, a sleeping weapon waits
and no one can warm the gears to move and slide
and open wide, after all these years
I cannot possibly say I’m sorry enough
But nothing is so serious in the candle flames
You look at me and I know what you see:
ivy on brownstones,
your children in homemade sweaters,
and tattered, antique rugs and things.
And you claim to see right through me but you really see
every movie that you’ve ever seen
about beasts and beauties
and I’m much too dark and wide
for you to see the other side.

Dear stranger, there is enough in the universe
and in our strange, young lives
besides emotions and relationships
And the same dull analysis
of insecurities and pride
it makes me quite uncomfortable
to watch somebody lie
It’s not a necessary thing
When we commune so nicely
over wine and weed and dreams.

In my mind, a sleeping woman
Is listening for boot steps
On the creaking stairs
And waiting for a man
Who has been away at war for years
Struggling through some strange and awful place
That is just as deep and wide
As the woman to whom he lied about his fears
And he will place around my neck
the simple string of beads he bought
at a market outside Bangkok.

Don’t kiss me,
he will find you when he comes
And remember your name
Even when I do not.

Hush, you say, the sea is washing in
But we live nowhere close to it
Come, I invite you, try again
I tell you all the rules and
you sit just like a Master
But you are falling far behind, my friend.

I cannot possibly say I’m sorry enough
For the way I am
I am not a woman
Because these strange desires can’t define me
And I am a stranger to this body, but I am accepting of its
I’m resourceful, as well
as you can see
and I understand the equations of beauty and symmetry
and my body’s primordial recipes.

You see, inside my soul, a strange, old man awakes
He sees your boyishness through his age
And you can never be as wise as him
Because he is me, and I am old and I am strong like him
And when I die, this soft and envied girl
will also die
Poor foolish boy, you only touch a phantom lie
And I cannot wait until I wake
and I’ll be him again.
When I was a kid, my mom and I went on lots of great road trips. I haven't been on one in a long time, but the idea that in a few days I'll be trekking towards the mountains with my Honda loaded up with art supplies and tank tops and granola bars has me thrilled. Of course, this trip has a destination--my job at Omega. It's not actually the trip I've always envisioned myself going on. For some reason, since I was a kid, I've always thought that at this age I would take off for the west on some sort of Kerouacian spiritual pilgrimage. I am still compelled to do this. No, more than that. I have to do it. I had a dream last night I was in my car and had salvaged all of my mom's old travel maps from her last garage sale... the ones we had sat down together and highlighted our routes on. Sometimes I wonder why I'm still here. I wonder why it's taken me so long to let go of things I don't really even care about. I wonder if this summer will be the final step.