Monday, November 30, 2009

More Than Enough

More Than Enough
Happily ever after
Nail it all to the floor
Take the photo now and frame it
I don’t want anything more
I get that it’s not about houses and cars,
The right clothes and all of that stuff
It’s about you and me and the love that we make
And that’s so much more than enough
That’s so much more than enough.

What are we having for dinner?
What do you mean that you’re bored?
What do you mean you’re going out with your friends?
I thought it was me you adored?
I get that it’s not about Yoko and John
And reinforcing all of the binding
It is my mission to protect your solitude
But sometimes I might need reminding
Sometimes I might need reminding.

Follow that crazy gingerbread trail
Follow that constant North Star
See what is calling you deep from yourself
To see who you really are
I get that it’s not about fortune and fame
And my fifteen eons of bluff
It’s about finding flow so wherever we go
We are fully engaged in our stuff
And that’s so much more than enough.

Twenty three hours of labor
Nine months of wondering who
Suddenly something is shifting
Suddenly someone is you.
Smitten for keeps on arrival
New God with a head full of fluff
And all that you have is to want what you have
And that’s so much more than enough.
That’s so much more than enough.

Happily ever after, two kids crawling on the floor
All of our cups are overflowing
Somebody still wants to pour
I get that it’s not about comfort and ease
But uniting when the going gets rough
And to spread it around, to our world, to our town
That's how you get more than enough
I’ll always have more than enough
We’ll always have more than enough.
Nerissa Nields
© Peter Quince Publishing All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Quickie for Thanksgiving and a cartoon

In what might be my favorite parental comeuppance ever:
Elle (whose real name is Lila) picked out a get well card for her grandmother who had surgery on Monday.
Yesterday, I said, "Do you want to write something on the card for Mimi?"
She did. So, knowing she can't write, I said, "Do you want to try to draw an 'L'?"
She drew a straight line down.
Pressing my luck, I said, "How about an 'O'?"
She drew an "O."
I said, "I'll do the 'V' and the 'E'." Then I said, "Now here, draw another 'L'..."
She proceeded to write an "L," an "i" complete with a dot, another "L" and then said, for the "A," "You draw a roof here, and a roof here, and then you put a cross between them." Her 'A' resembles a crooked 'H', but the combined effect totally looks like LILA on the page. I freaked out, in my overenthusiastic way.
"Oh my GOD! LILA! You wrote your name! You wrote your name all by yourself! I am so so so proud of you!" and I grabbed her in a bear hug.
She immediately wriggled away, protesting, "NO, Mama, NO! Don't talk to me like that! Don't hug me like that! You are NOT proud of me! You are proud of YOU!"

Wow. She was right. (And I am proud of her.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Know When To Hold 'Em

My sweet little boy has croup. He's been running a fever for a few days now, and last night he woke up at 3am with That Cough. We did all the things you are supposed to do: ran a hot shower with the door closed, then took him outside into the cold. He was so miserable that he wouldn't even nurse. And his little voice was so hoarse and pathetic. We finally called our pediatric nurse, and because his chest was doing that scary indentation thing, she told us to go right over to the hospital.

So I bundled him up and we crossed the street at 4:15am. He started breathing better right away, but as soon as we were inside, the wheezing returned. There was no one in the ER besides staff. Still, for some reason, it took the doctor 45 minutes to see us, and only after I stuck my head out of our cubicle and said, "Um, excuse me, but what are we waiting for?" She was chatting with another doctor and gave me a look. "Me," said she. "I am your doctor." Jay meanwhile was trashing the place, literally. He's almost fifteen months and his motto is "Leave no trash can unexamined." Also manically pulling out the wires he was hooked up to to monitor his oxygen levels. So we lay down on the bed and I tried to convince him to breastfeed. Fortunately, it worked and we both dozed off. Another twenty minutes later the doc came in, asked me some annoyed questions (I suspect she is not yet a mother. She was very very young). She poked at Jay and declared that he had croup. "We'll give him some dexamethasone" (steroid) "and you should follow up with your pediatrician."

Another hour later (I am not kidding) I stuck my head out and said, "I hate to bother you" (she was typing on a computer) "but I really need to go home so I can get to work. It's six am."
She glared at me. "Has the nurse brought you your meds yet?"
"No," I said, trying not to make it sound like it was my fault, though that was her implication.
"He'll be right there," she snapped. And he was, five minutes later.

Before I'd stuck my head out, I was debating: should I stick my head out or should I just calmly meditate on What Is? Is this just the way ERs are? Are things supposed to take forever? At what point do I use skillful means to try to get the show on the road? As it turned out, they really had forgotten about me, and it was good that I acted like a squeaky wheel. I was not rude; just present. And the doctor didn't like that I seemed to be questioning her timing.

When I finally got out of the hospital, the sun was rising and the sky was November gorgeous: pink streaks across the sky, the air so perfectly chilled, Jay alert and interested in the walk home. When I told Tom about the weird delays, he was incensed. "You should write a letter!" he said. I probably should, for the public good, or whatever, but I know I won't. If I hadn't been delayed, I would have missed the sunrise. On the other hand, if I had waited even a few more minutes to stick my head out each time, I also would have missed the sunrise. There's always a gift, hidden somewhere, sometimes subtly, sometimes obviously. And someday, that doctor will have a child who will have croup and she might remember how completely bleary I was when she finally came into our cubicle to question me about Jay's symptoms, and she might feel some remorse about not hurrying along to get the rampaging toddler out of the ER. Like me, she will look back at all her former impatience with new moms and say, "Oh, I get it." But the timing's not hers yet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Authenticity and Originality

My friend Lisa Niedermeyer, an amazing dancer and choreographer, sent me this wonderful quotation just now. As I have written before, especially around the release of our fourteenth album Sister Holler, this notion that "Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent" saved me from a life of non-art. When I was a child and a young teen, I used to lie in my bed in the morning and despair about the notion of originality. Every good idea I had seemed like it came from somewhere else. Plus, there were only twelve tones on the keyboard; how, on an earth of 5 billion people (this was the early 80's), was one expected to make up an original melody?

When I was nineteen and working as the music instructor at a day camp, the camp's assistant director came into my classroom with his guitar and played along with me. He was just so obviously much better than I was that I said to him after class, "I feel like a phony next to you. You can really play! I'm such a beginner compared to you."

He said something so helpful to me: "There are as many different guitarists as there are people! You have your own style. And think about George Harrison. He isn't the best guitarist in the world by a long shot. he's got a lot of limitations as a guitarist, in fact. But can you imagine the Beatles without his sound?"

Nope, sure can't. We each really do have our own gift to bring to the world, and I got it that day back in 1986. After that insight, I started writing songs again after a hiatus of three years during which time I thought my chances of ever "going anywhere" as an artist were so slim it wasn't worth even writing for fun.

What a waste of three years!

I had a similar insight last week in yoga class. I'd been going on the notion that I would never really be a yoga teacher because I doubt very much that I could ever do this: In fact, I doubt I will be able to do seventy percent of the poses in my text. So what?
1. I can help little old people (as I will be a little old yoga teacher) and
2. tons of great teachers had mediocre chops, across the board. What is it they say? If you can't do, teach.

Katryna and Dave came over yesterday and at my dining room table with Martin guitars in our laps, we played through a bunch of songs I've been writing over the course of the past three years. Some of these songs haven't really seen the light of day, and it had made me sad to think they never would. I've been so busy with motherhood, writing books, running my workshops and loving my clients (not to mention my yoga practice) that I haven't taken care of my songs properly. Yesterday they got to come out and play, stretch their legs and canter around. Katryna and Dave had all sorts of fabulous ideas for arrangements, and we set up some dates to record them. Afterwards, I felt more mentally healthy than I have in years. I think artists need to be listened to, seen. Actually, I think we all need that. (Really, actually, I think we are all artists.) Our new CD still needs a good title, and there might even be a couple more songs to add to the pen, but I can see it now, and it's thrilling. The idea that we need to be original seems old and quaint to me now, as incongruous as a Betamax. Of course we will be original, because no one has lived our lives and has had our experiences. Of course we will overlap too, because everyone has lived lives and had experiences like ours. Our only job is to be authentically ourselves as we write, learn, arrange, perform and edit. Keep asking ourselves: is this what I want to say? Is this the way I want to say it? And to keep working at it until we get to yes, yes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Easy People at the Iron Horse

This film was made by the wonderful and amazing Robert Jonas. To see more of his films, go here.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Kali Time

In yoga class on Friday, my teacher talked about the goddess, Kali. Unlike some of her colleagues, she is not a lovely vision of refinement and beauty. Instead, she's kind of grotesque, with a blue face, her tongue sticking out and a necklace of skulls around her neck. "She wears her insides on her outsides," my teacher explained. She's the goddess of death, of dissolution, of decay. She's the goddess of time, too, and when we see deeply, we see how wonderful she is. "The beautiful leaves, when they die and fall off the trees, fertilize the earth for the next season," said my teacher.

I could see that. If there were no death, this planet would be even more hopelessly overpopulated than it is now. Of course we know this in theory, but that doesn't make it any easier when we lose someone we love. And while my greatest struggle these days is my story that there is "not enough time," the truth is that our time limitations are tremendous gifts, because they force us to make choices. It's within the framework of these choices that we see what really matters to us. It's within this construct that we live our lives.

There is no equivalent in Greek mythology to Kali. The closest goddess of this kind might be Hera who, though beautiful, was jealous and vicious. Medusa is very Kali-esque, but she was no goddess, just a punk Gorgon.

In the Tantric tradition, which is the school of yoga in which I am immersed, Kali represents the Ultimate Reality, Byron Katie's What Is, which I continue to believe is nearly as helpful to worship as that loving, steadfast God/Mother of my own understanding. My hope is that over time, these two will merge for me, but I'm not that wise yet. I respect Kali in her guise as What Is. I love my conception of God––Father, Mother, Black Madonna, Holy Spirit–– the way I love my parents, husband, children, sisters, dear ones.

Kali followed me around all day on Friday, and by evening when our I Wanna Be A Woman Like Me creativity retreat started, she had me by the throat and insisted I dedicate the weekend to her. It was good timing; as I posted last week, we are full on within the season of Scorpio, which is Kali time for sure. Scorpio is about going deep; it's about death; it's about psychological probing, turning inwards, meeting our deepest fears about being unlovable, not good enough, not having enough. And, when we bravely go "down there" and meet these fears, sit with them as if they weren't monsters until they cease to be, we rise like the phoenix, or the Scorpion Golden Eagle, and we are given the gift of sight.

So we gathered together, thirteen amazing women, and wrote together, bringing forth our inner Kali and forging the kind of bond you only get when you are brave enough to share deeply. We ate delicious healthy food. We painted and drew and sang in three-part harmony. On Saturday night, in her father's arms en route to bed, Elle announced in a small, shy voice, "I want to be a woman like me."

I figure my work is pretty much done now.

So many highlights. One big one was that this was the first time Katyrna has co-lead with me, and what a joy to work with her! I think we should go into business together. (Oh, yeah...) It was awe inspiring to watch the magic happen with each woman as she brought forth her inner treasures. I felt refreshed and renewed and reminded again about how much I love to draw and paint and color and work with my hands.

On Sunday, we made vision boards. I had intended to do the whole The Secret thing with mine; trying to manifest HUGE THINGS FOR MY CAREER! through pasting images onto a board and searing them into my consciousness. So I took a photo my mother had sent me of Pete Seeger's 90th birthday party last May. Onstage is Bruce Springsteen, Joan Baez, Dave Matthews, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and Pete himself. I cut out an image of myself playing the guitar and glued it into the picture so that if you squint it sort of looks like I'm on stage with them all. But then my collage got away from me. I ripped through a bunch of yoga journals and kept being drawn to the face of Angela Farmer, a 71-year-old yoga teacher from the Greek island of Lesbos.

So I pasted her in. Then I cut out and glued on some family photos that had been waiting to be organized, some more yoga poses, some quotations, an image of a lovely painting of a farmhouse. So much for my grand ambitions. Later in the evening after the retreatants had gone home, I sat in meditation and visualized myself on stage with those luminaries from the photo. I was able to do it easily; after all, I actually have been onstage with Joan, Tao and Pete, and it wasn't too much of a stretch to put Bruce and Dave M up there too. So I put myself on stage with Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, definitely my two greatest musical heroes who are still alive. Again, not too hard. It would be fun to be onstage with them, but when I think about the end of my life, lying on my deathbed, pouring through my dearest memories, I suspect that even if I were to be onstage with any of the above, those memories wouldn't crack my top 100. What I want for my future today is deep, loving connections with my husband, children, sisters, parents; I want a strong, healthy body that grows more flexible with age, that weathers well. I want an ever deepening connection with all the forms of God, even the scary ones. I want to love. I want the vision of my vision board, which as it turns out, is a pretty clear reflection of what I already have.

Thank you, Kali.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy Samhein

The Nields-Duffy house is a veritable house of virus currently. Elle's teacher is in the hospital across the street with H1N1 (maybe-she's being treated for it but they can't diagnose yet), and three of four of us have succumbed to a stomach virus (Jay has thus far been protected by breast milk antibodies). Our two main babysitters both bowed out at certain (critical) moments last week.

On Halloween, I dragged myself out of the house and trotted down the road into town to a yoga class. It was warm and drizzly, and the room was packed. Someone passed a blond wig around the room, and our teacher Amy finally put it on the statue of Hanuman, the Monkey God who can take a joke. Halloween, she said, is the pagan new year, also known as Samhein, pronounced "Sowen" (sow like cow, emphasis on first syllable.) It's the time of year when we turn to the darkness, we turn within. The root of "intention" is connected to "turn." (Yes, we did some twists in class). The world gets darker and darker for the next six weeks, and this darkness is the best, most auspicious time to plant these seeds of intention.

It's also the season of Scorpio, the sign of death, depth, determination and occasionally despair. Scorpio is known as the scorpion, but the lesser known avatar is the golden eagle, who rises up like a phoenix and sees farther and better than any other creature. So this is the season of seeing deeply, as well.

So it was fitting that the day after Halloween we also lost an hour of daylight in the afternoon, which always prompts me to turn inward in the evening, cozy up a bit earlier to the kitchen table and put on an extra sweatshirt. Tom and Elle planted last fall's garlic buds on Sunday, and we went up to our church for the first time in weeks. I sang a new song, "Back at the Fruit Tree," my ode to Samheim, and Steve preached about the slow recession of fear in his own experience which gave me great hopes for my future years.

I love this season of Scorpio, as brutal as it can be. I used to be afraid of it, but a dear friend many many years ago told me that if I were willing to sit with my worst fears, really stay with them, they would lose their bite and become like sad and lovable dogs. That friend died in a car crash on Halloween eight years ago.

This season––the six weeks between Halloween and Christmas–– holds such opposites in union, and like magnets whose poles are aligned against each other, the opposites slide off each other in jarring ways. On Sunday afternoon, a perfect New England fall day, as I started my run through the park, marveling at the mottled light through the few still clinging leaves, I saw that someone had spray painted racist slurs and "white power" on the road and the signs and the benches. My mind swung like a pendulum: Horrible! Those kids should be locked away! But they're just confused kids. But so were the kids at Columbine! Beware! Stop them! Lock them up! But silencing them like that will only make them martyrs for other confused kids. And so on.

Halloween contains this truly horrifying aspect, as well as the more traditional graveyard kinds of fears; and it contains the parade shuffling down Main Street in Northampton; a collection of giraffes, princesses, pirates, witches, Star Wars and Wizard of Oz characters and portable-sized ladybugs. It contains the trilling of little voices finding their power in "trick or treat!"

And the season has its share of dark days where it's still too soon for the reprieve of the white snow cover to relieve our eyes; where many of us legitimately feel the spiral down into the darkness and fear that we'll never bounce back up. I don't feel this way today. In years past, I've thought I had SAD. This year, I am embracing the darkness. (Also turning on the lights in the house and playing a lot of music.)

Last week I posted about my disappointment in seeing various aspects of aging in my 42-year-old face. As I grieved my twenties and my twenty-eight-year-old skin which is as dead as the Berlin Wall, I told Tom, "This is going to be good. I need to do this now so I can move past it and embrace aging. But right now I need to be sad." And so I was for a few days. Good and sad. Viruses are helpful with this, in that being sick forced me to be still and contemplate. As the life returned to me, I tried on a bunch of old clothes from the 90s and I and my inner 28-year-old both agreed that they were passe anyway. I put on a sweater from J. Jill and my clunky practical shoes and made some phone calls to older friends who can laugh and sigh and nod and remember what it was like to be 42, right at the midpoint where some still call you young and some, according to my husband who is 47, have no qualms about calling out, "Hey, old man!" as we pass on down the street. And what I learned is that if you love what is, life just gets better and better and richer and sweeter. My grandmother's cheeks were the softest skin I ever felt. Her hands with what she called "liver spots" were so gentle. In my yoga class on Halloween, as I sat in meditation, I vowed to love my body incrementally more with each day that passes. And does my body deserve it! It's survived two pregnancies and childbirths, breastfeeding, not to mention the ridiculous shoes I made it wear in the 90s when every night we loaded in and out of rock clubs around the country, a feat akin to moving a small apartment twice a day.

And my intention goes beyond my own body. Liberation for all who struggle with the jowels and the wattles and the gray hairs! The most radically feminist thing I can do is choose to love my body exactly as it is, exactly as it changes day to day. I think Anne Lamott has a piece in which she discusses her jiggly thighs and refers to them as "the aunties." I love that. In this season of the witch, let's claim Halloween as our own celebration of the crone. My former mother-in-law told us, after she turned sixty, that she suddenly became invisible to the culture. Older women, she said, are either vilified, ridiculed or ignored. But real witches, real crones have wisdom, kindness, power and magic. They are full of the mystery of life, which they generously share if asked nicely. If I ever forget that, I have only to think of my friend who died on Halloween, one of the wisest, most generous, magical women I've ever known.

When I was a young teen, the idea that a woman could rock out was hard for me to get my mind around. There was Heart. There was Pat Benatar. There had once been Janis Joplin, but she was long gone. But by the time I was in my twenties, the popular music scene was dominated by women. Same with Country. Same with Jazz. Though the pendulum seems to have swung a bit the other way in the last decade, I have no doubt it will swing again. I have no doubt that we'll see a woman president in my life time. And I choose to believe that older women will be a powerful, wonderful, inspiring force in the world in the next twenty years. I have to. I see the generation of girls coming along, and there is no force on the planet that can hold these young ladies back.

And if I'm wrong about the power shift, the paradigm shift, that's ok too. The shift has occurred in me. I will still love my aging face, the aging faces of my friends, the graying, the sagging. It's such a waste of time and love not to.

So happy Samhein; happy new year. What is the darkness in you that you think can't afford to be met with light? Is it safe in there? Can you go to it and nurture it, like a mother to an inborn babe? Can you plunge down into the darkness, and like the eagle, rise up, see far, and tell the rest of us what you see? Can you go by yourself, knowing that in just a few weeks it will be Thanksgiving, and you can choose to invite in those you most adore to hunker down with and eat the fruits of the harvest, of all your hard work?

That's what I'm planning on.