for Christina and Jak

Many decades ago we built a deck out of old railroad ties just outside the kitchen door. It became the hangout for suppers and whispered confidences, naps and the carving of Halloween pumpkins. Winter rains took their toll and eventually the thick redwood ties began to split and then rot around the edges until, this year, it was clear the crumbling deck had to be dismantled before someone tripped in a hole and broke a leg.

As I write, the rotting boards – little more than woody brown pulp by this time – are stacked up to be sent to the dump. Last night when nobody was around, I went out in the dark to give the boards a last pat of gratitude. We’ve had a good long run together, and now it’s time to recognize that an era has come to an end and we’ve got to move on.

What was concealed by the deck was an archeological site of ancient beer cans and lost earrings, pens and pencils and raccoon shit. We even found traces of the old horse path that led to the carriage house, which is now my backyard studio!

Memories of years of family suppers out there made me long for the old days, but those days are over and I cannot will them back, nor should I. So what comes next?

A new deck? I don’t think so. Maybe a patio, or more garden. The space is not very big but the potential for new ideas makes it feel huge. I love creating new things with old leftovers, so I’m a happy lady!

It is makeover time everywhere, not only outside my kitchen door! We are all dismantling old, worn out structures that desperately need a retrofit, from the economy to the educational system and beyond. For me, even my aging body is getting renovated!

It just so happened this year that I had a curious mishap that may have been just the push I needed. In Spring, after a wonderful paddle with a friend on a placid lake in Vermont, we hoisted the canoe up and over our heads to slide it onto the roof of the car and I felt something give way in my midriff. Ouch! It turns out I had managed to draw my stomach up into my chest through a hernia in my diaphragm!

The doctors said it was a rare occurrence but yes, it does sometime happen, and at my age what in the world was I doing lifting a canoe over my head anyway?

I could hardly believe the x-rays! An operation, they said, would only be a temporary fix, but I could live perfectly well on a diet of protein smoothies.

“Forever?” I asked.

“Forever,” was their reply. “This will not heal itself.”

Sigh. Not having much choice, I got very creative with smoothies, but the regime got old rather quickly. Every swallow required mindfulness and quiet, which meant no more chatty lunches with friends if I didn’t want to set off a painful spasm. It took only one of those to convince me.

This was Zen practice at its most austere – but that’s when it got interesting!

One evening, I choked on my smoothie and my diaphragm went into spasm, leaving me gasping in pain and hardly able to answer the door for my friend Christina, who coincidentally happened by at that moment to see how I was doing!  We have that kind of connection, Christina and I. Holding a comforting hand on my belly, she mused,

“I seem to remember hearing about some kind of abdominal massage thingy – I forgot what it’s called.” We googled without success, (thingy not being a good Google word) but under her care my spasm released and I thankfully crawled up into bed. The next day she phoned excitedly from a conference she was attending, where the woman sitting next to her happened to practice a Taoist abdominal massage technique called chi nei tsang.

“Look it up!” she commanded before going back to her conference.

I discovered there were four practitioners in town, one of whom happened to have his office down the block from me and who happened to have an opening for the next day. I walked down the street, showed him my belly and in less than an hour my stomach was back where it belonged.

But from there the magic has continued, as if my wayward stomach was a finger pointing to the deeper issues of childhood and ancestral trauma locked up in my organs. I continue to do  profound work with this remarkable man down the block, as we uncover layer after layer of the old patterns of shame and abuse that are twisted into my system. We are thawing out the stuck energy of the child that I was, bringing breath back into deep organs frozen with fright for decades.

As we collaborate on this healing journey, it feels a bit like being ‘born again’ as my consciousness opens to new levels of awareness, and light floods in where it had not been before. I am in awe of the process, starting with the mishap that brought me here in the first place. Now I wonder about the what-ifs: What if I had not lifted that canoe over my head? What if I had not swallowed that smoothie wrong just when Christina was knocking at my door? What if she had not met that woman by chance the next day…?

And all this time Jak Noble and I have been within spitting distance of each other, never meeting but both hidden in plain sight until the time was right for us to cross paths.

“Magic is real,” he said to me with a smile.

I believe that healing our old wounds is precisely what we are each being called to do now, as our pain forces us to pull out our oldest, darkest stories that have sprung to light when we lifted a heavy madman into the highest office of our country.

But there’s purpose here, if we can see it that way.

In my case, I have vomited up bile for hours on end; awakened in terror from heart-stopping nightmares; wept like a baby for my family, my world, my self – and am coming through to new layers of surprising love, finding a heart rich in gladness I had no idea was my birthright.

The fact is that we never know what is a tragedy and what is a gift. I bow with gratitude to it all – Mr. Trump included.

I am learning that old dirt is essentially mulch in the making, and I believe we all have old dirt hidden beneath our decks that can be raked through and transformed, as if by magic, into good, clean compost.

As Jak said, “Magic is real.”