When you pick up a carton of eggs, or a paperboard box of berries at a farm stand, don’t you open the box up to look for cracked eggs, or fruit that is smooshed or under-ripe? A less than perfect egg can usually be replaced from a nearby carton, and a certain amount of less than perfect fruit is often acceptable and still quite usable.
These days, I feel a little bit like I have been left to fend for myself at the Farm Stand of Life. I really don’t like to shop; for food, for clothes, for anything. It makes me uncomfortable to be surrounded by an endless array of possibilities; it is awesome in a scary way and rather overwhelming.
For years, my husband has done most of the errand-running and food shopping. He calls it ‘bringing home the buffalo’. I would guess there is something primal and satisfying about hauling home bags of goodies. I can- and do- ‘shop’, but it is usually only at stores where I know exactly what I am looking for and where it is located and who the store owners are so that I can ameliorate the stress of shopping by having some nourishing conversation, too.
This trip to the US has been… pardon me while I search for the right words here… overwhelming and challenging. It has been sweet, salty, spicy, and occasionally bland; disappointing and surprising in equal measure. Hopes and expectations have encountered the realities of trying to straddle two cultures, two countries, and a path that has diverged far enough that it would be good to hop to one side or the other before I get split apart.
My feelings about the world of yoga keep getting pummeled. I find a book or a teacher, and there can be so much that feels ‘right’- and then so much that feels impossible to attain or synthesize or make my own, when I try to ingest and practice any one ‘school’ as the be-all to end-all. It’s a tough sell, the melding of Eastern ways and a Western upbringing; I envy somewhat the friends who have had the experience of being in a prolonged relationship with just one individual or path. Equally fascinating are the stories of the ‘break-ups’, but that is territory to explore in another blog post.
When I woke up at the usual 4:20-ish this morning, the spilt boxes of berries and cherry tomatoes that have been littering my psyche began to look as though some kind soul had begun to separate the blues and reds and greens back into their own containers; to create a path through the mess; to put some order into the chaos created by the bull in a china shop experience that has been my brain these days.
For most of my adult life, I have looked for that one teacher, or mentor, or philosophy or religion that would tie everything together for me. Yet, no one person or one group or one book or great thinker has said it all. Instead, I pluck parts of many to create my whole; perfect berries from one box and another, and perhaps two or three more, to gather ideas and lines that support what I already know, or that open me up to new investigations.
This morning, I had the thought that I am by nature a syncretist, taking threads from one thing and the other to create my cloth. Or to stay with the farm stand analogy, I’ll assemble my own box of fruit thank you very much. Along the way my world-view has been shaped or inspired by a polyglot of influences: Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and the stories of Tom Robbins; classical composers, the poetry and music of Leonard Cohen, and Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’ (electric and acoustic); the poetry of many, including Rumi and Wendell Berry. The ‘Tassajara Bread Book’, ‘The Book of Tea’ and ‘A Girl of the Limberlost’. Summers on the Atlantic ocean, high school at Interlochen Arts Academy, and the professors of my freshman year at Rhode Island School of Design. The regular appearance of snakes and the dream analogy tools of Carl Jung. The practice of Ashtanga Yoga. The friends and lovers with whom I have a long arc of relating, and the shorter ones, too. The process of becoming a parent, starting with the life-altering results of that very first pregnancy test. The other children along the way whom I have been privileged to care for; my best friend Toby, and my husband Martin.
I could go on, because I know I am leaving out a lot, but the point is made. I am a polyglotting syncretist of the highest degree. Therefore, my current state is to be expected and at some point all the berries will be back in the box. Some will have been tossed, some will have been swallowed, most will be intact for the ride back home. They’ll eventually make it into the Big Pie of Life, and I’ll get to enjoy at least one satisfying slice before others show up, forks in hand, to scoop up my juicy goodness.