Salt

Worry evaporates like rain from sand
in the warm wind.

Granules of self begin to
reconstruct into a solid shape;
Suddenly I have toes
and a torso,
ears, and a nose.

The sound of the ocean transmutes
the agony of self-analysis.
It turns remnants of fear into salt,
the life-giving brine that birthed the world.

I picture my grandmother squeezing a pinch of that salt
from a tiny porcelain dish on her kitchen counter
and flicking it over her left shoulder,
asking god for protection.

The crystals hover in mid-air,
glinting in the morning light
before tumbling joyously onto the tile floor.

That which ails us
also cures us.

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Spare Change

His words came out strung together like they were separated by dashes instead of spaces. Spare-any-change-thank-you. Spare-any-change-thank-you. Spare-any-change-thank-you.

It took me a block’s walk to decipher what he was saying. The hurried rhythm of his chant tap-danced in my ears as I turned the corner toward Pioneer Square in downtown Portland.

A young man in a tan leather jacket leaned against the black iron gate of the Pioneer Courthouse and casually thumbed through his phone. A few feet away, a woman wearing an oversized pink sweatshirt rummaged through a shiny, silver garbage can.

Was it the moodiness of a gray, winter day luring me to further analyze, or were the man’s words about more than just pocket money? Instead of asking for coins, what if he were asking for real change? As in: Can you spare to make a change? Thank you.

Three blocks later, while waiting for the crosswalk to turn, a man sitting in a wheelchair suddenly burst into song.

“I’m so tired of this world, I feel like I could bust!” he crooned to a surprisingly cheerful melody. His weathered, tan skin stood out beneath a white baseball cap.

We made eye contact and his lips parted into a sheepish smile; a beige, unlit cigarette hung from his bottom lip. It was like a confession, and I was his witness. I returned his smile, and then crossed the street, feeling both humbled by this tiny moment of connection and weighed down by my own sadness about the way things are.

And so on my bus ride home, I wondered what it would take to shift our culture of¬† individualism to one that truly cared about the well-being of the collective. As long as we keep failing to recognize how simply another’s position could have been ours, we deny our shared vulnerability in an uncertain world. (A flurry of bad luck and our lot could be quite different.)

Maybe things will change in 2019, maybe they won’t; but today I was reminded how a simple walk through the city can prompt us to consider whether or not we can, collectively, spare any change.

Georgia’s Hands

I want all the people I love to be healthy and protected and to stay with me forever.

Because life is about the people. The people I (we) love.

Tonight is achy, like old bones. It’s tinged with a kind of sadness that balls up in the back of my throat until the corners of my eyes sting. It’s a bad-news-just-received night with a full, blue moon on the horizon.

As an antidote, my mind sifts gently through all the sweet, majestic experiences I’ve just had on a trip to New Mexico, landing on one in particular: when my friends and I hiked to the top of Chimney Rock near Georgia O’Keeffe’s home at Ghost Ranch. Along the sunny trail, I periodically stopped to study splotchy, lime-green lichen on the stone wall, spiky pom pom plants and off-white crystals nestled in caramel-colored dust, and to smell the fragrant juniper berries. I’m soothed by the thought of Georgia’s steady, weathered hands picking up intriguing objects like these to study closer on one of her many desert walks.

My admiration for her has only multiplied after seeing this special place and the paintings she made to capture it. Her artwork’s themes of life and death especially resonate with me. She has a way of capturing the continuous, spiritual thread; how the two are inseparable. And she seems to accept this easefully – perhaps even with a spirit of celebration and reverie! Witnessing New Mexico through Georgia’s eyes and hands – a framed image of bleached bones crested with a blooming, white rose, for example – have offered me yet another touchstone along this path of learning.

Similarly, but in a less enjoyable manner, the achy feeling I have tonight is also a touchstone…a reminder of impermanence, of preciousness, and of the most humbling duty we have to live our lives meaningfully.

Before bed, as the big moon rises, I’ll picture Georgia’s hands cradling stones and bones and wondrous, desert treasures with loving curiosity. And as my eyes grow heavy with sleep, I’ll watch her traipse down the dusty trail towards the mesa on the horizon, pockets full of ideas for her next great creation.