Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heart

Today we brought my mother home from the hospital where she has lived since two days after Christmas when an aneurysm, on the left side of the aorta, began to rupture. She's sleeping now. I just tucked her into her own bed for the first time in almost two months.

But first, I served her a slice of buttered toast, with raspberry jam - and a cup of tea in the brown hand-thrown mug made by the daughter of her best friend from college.

First, I made her two organic scrambled eggs in the little saute pan that she always insisted I line with a piece of protective plastic before putting it back in the cabinet.

And we opened the Christmas present that my sister sent to her on December 23rd. A book of short stories - the same book, my mother tells me, she coincidentally, sent to my sister.

Anyway, she's home.

I'm ready to blog about it.

All year, I'd been studying the physical and spiritual anatomy of the heart - the way that oxygen enters the lungs and is circulated through the blood vessels, veins and arteries - the way that it cycles back back back to the heart.

So, when my mother clutched her jaw and then, her chest, I knew.

These are my notes from the hospital:

Beep beep beep. The monitors track my mother's life across a screen in waves. Heart rate is red. Blood pressure is yellow. Oxygen is turquoise.

Anahata is the Sanskrit name for the heart chakra, the emotional center of the body. Anahata means "unstruck."

In the Intensive Care Unit, people stand right outside my mother's door and discuss her case. They stand right over her bed, calling out terrifying words like stroke, cardiac arrest, pneumonia.

Could you take this outside? I ask her best friend, who happens to be a physician.
No, I can't, she snaps, unaware of the things of which I am aware. That thoughts create our world; that my mother is listening and that, out of the pictures that drift in and out of her consciousness, she is creating how all of this will turn out.

It's okay. She is aware of other things of which I have no inkling - blood gasses, dosages, saturations and infiltrations.
And she's terrified.

Two days before the wall of my mother's heart tore open, my son and I had a shouting match in her living room. It was Christmas. It happened that I was bleeding and I needed his help. It happened that his heart was breaking and he needed mine. Neither of us knowing how to ask for what we needed, we shouted at each other.

Two days later, my mother clutched her jaw and screamed, "This is the worst pain I have ever felt in my life."

I'm not saying it's my fault. I'm just reporting what happened.

The day after Mom's surgery, Max developed a stomach virus that lasted three days. Vomiting, fever, chills. I think he felt responsible and that this was his way of dealing with that.

That same night, my daughter, Katie, had a dream. "I am sitting in the middle of a circle of people. I am at the center of their activity but I am not one of them."

"There are two doors," she told me. "One through which things flow, the other opens onto a gate, which opens and closes.
Every now and then someone gives me a bite of a brownie and I drift away, losing my thread."

You dreamed Grandma's surgery, I tell her.
Yes, Katie says. But it's also my life.
Of course, it could have been a coincidence.

Last week in yoga, when I reached for the floor in Triangle pose, Suzi, my yoga teacher, said, "Shine out. Shine out from the heart with full commitment." I thought about something Max asked me once, when he was six and we were driving up a road that winds up around the edge of a mountain overlooking the Hudson River.

The river glinted with light, a rippling sheet of cellophane, flowing fire as the sun, barely risen lifted into the sky like a golden balloon.
From the backseat, Max asked, "Mommy. What's sunlight made of?"
He's 21 now and I still think about this.
The question is a koan, a riddle, a poem.

At the time, I said something about waves and particles, about fire and how hot the sun must be to be able to warm us from so very far away.
And of course, as I was talking, Max yawned. It wasn't what he needed to hear, or wanted to know. It had nothing to do with what he was asking me.
But I didn't know what to say.

In the Intensive Care Unit, my mother opened her eyes and looked at me. "You're such a lovely blue," she cooed. "How did you get so wise?"

A few hours later, there were hundreds of balls of white light floating through the room.
Or so she said.
"Can't you see them?" she smiled. "So pretty."

A few days earlier, I'd called on a million angels as my mother was wheeled into surgery, wearing the blue paper hat she was given by the anesthesiologist.
Now you're one of us, he'd said.
I am, she'd giggled.
So I knew what those balls of light were... even if I, with my unfocused eyes, was unable to "see" them.

"Your mother talks in poetry," the physical therapist said.
"Yes," I said. "She always has."

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, my eyes dart around the darkened room, and I feel afraid.
When it happens, and I can catch the thoughts that dart around the room, I see that I'm afraid that
some brightness will come - a ball of light, an angel or some truth that would be too bright to bear.

And what would be more terrifying than that? Imagine. An angel suddenly appearing, standing at the foot of the bed. I've heard that they're enormous. I've heard they are ten, twenty feet tall. Those wide, white wings would fill our tiny bedroom from end to end.

I can't imagine.

And yet I call to them, I beg them to help. I ask for signs. Who do I think it is dropping those feathers on my keyboard, those pennies in my path, in my shoes? Who?

Sometimes, when I get too close like this - when it feels as if it might actually happen, I look away - into TV screens and websites and mirrors.

But of course, that never works. At the hospital, I looked in the mirror and could not recognize my own face. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation. I don't know.

"Look!" Mom said, on the third day or was it the fourth? "See the Oriole - glowing there, on the foot of the bed? See it? Looking at me?"

On the ninth day, they moved her upstairs to the (oddly named) Step-Down unit.
On the 11th day, they realized she hadn't been ready and stepped her back up... down to the ICU.

There, blazing with fever, zonked out on drugs, Mom pulled me close. "They put a virus in me," she whispered. "Don't let them put it in you. It hurts."
"There's no virus," i assured her. "You had heart surgery. The doctors are only trying to help you."
"Oh, Amy," she sighed, closing her eyes. "They've got you hoodwinked, too."

The next day, she refused to eat. She told me, "They found out that I'm a saint. They're poisoning my food. Tomorrow, when I am on TV, it will all come out. I am a Saint. And when I am famous and rich, tomorrow, everyone will know..."

And I have to point out that this was from a woman who had, at 29, married a Jewish man in a non-denominational service. This was from a woman who hasn't been to church (if you don't count weddings and funerals) in fifty years.

For 14 days, my mother hovered at the edge of awareness - flickering in and out of sainthood, eight bags of clear liquid dripping into her veins (She called it "My holy water")

For 14 days, as my sisters and I (and our mother's best friend) clustered around her bed, I felt myself go liquid and solid and steam. Holding my mother's hand, I passed through a needle-eye, a wormhole, entering an inside-out world.

"What do you see?" I asked my mother.
"I can't say for sure," she told me. "I'll tell you when it's over."

On the 15th day, Mom opened her eyes.
My sister was sitting beside her bed.
"What's going on?" Mom asked. "Why am I still here? It's been five hours."
"It's been two weeks," my sister said.
"Two weeks! What in the world happened?"
"You had heart surgery."
"Oh, come on!" Mom laughed.

On the 16th day, Mom asked me, "So, what happened to me? Why am I here?"
She asked again on the 17th day, the 18th and 19th.
We had to keep showing her the scar.

On the 21st day, she remembered.

"I had to do this," she told me. "I had to be sick. It was this or some other calamity."
"Mom?" I asked.
"I had to do it," she explained. "I am doing this to heal someone else's heart. Someone who cannot do it himself."
------
I keep coming back to the mirror.
I stand on the mossy bank, slipping and sliding, I hold onto the broken tree.
I inhale, exhale. I watch my mother's vital signs displayed in wavy lines over her bed.

I see my face ripple outward, one circle inside of another, moving out from the center to infinity.

You know how it is,
once you’ve tossed your pebble in that pond
it will always be there, peering up from puddles, frozen in ice or sliding between your breasts,
to drip like rain or sunlight down the front of your shirt,
as if
it wasn’t a mystery fish at all

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Almost Spring



Why is my Facebook friend, Cindy Marten, committing to take a photograph a day for 365 days? Why is my Twitter friend, Susan Powers eating raw for 21 days? Why does Mark Silver, who writes the beautiful blog Heart of Business feel the urge to return to the yoga practice he abandoned when his twins were born?

Why do I feel compelled (almost suddenly) to commit to a combination of all of these things... and more?

I suspect it has something to do with this, found in Tom Hirons' poem, The Wild Breath:

Today, the earth began exhaling.
All Winter, it held its breath,
Kept its fragrance to itself,
Held itself so tight, I could feel its ribs ache.
But, today, the earth began to smell again

... read full poem

This is the energy of The Almost Spring, of the Great Wheel turning. This is our bodies, responding to the clock of the seasons.

The Almost Spring is an edge. A time of waiting. Like seeds germinating under snow, our ideas and plans grow plump, pregnant as we linger in our warm winter cocoons.

In this time of the great wake up call. I feel myself drawn toward doorways; even with a foot of just-fallen snow on the ground, I, too, am pulling open windows to sniff at the air. There's a building, a bursting, an outward leaping, tossing off the blankets sort of energy coming. . .

But it's not here yet.

Though the light is returning; the days are lengthening - and every cell in my body is stirring, I'm still sleepy, dreamy, still craving the fireside, the lingering cup of tea, the stew, long-simmered on the stove.

Soon enough, my new beginnings will break the surface of the soil. Soon enough they will lengthen into hardy stalks and blooms.

In The Almost Spring, pulled by impulses which seem to conflict - to open wide, to curl inward -we manage this restless time with practice.

This is why so many are inventing new practices now - the 365 days of photos, the 21-day shifts in diet. We are drawn to renew our daily yoga, our diet and exercise. This is what draws us to empty the closets and toss out anything we no longer need.

During this time:
1) We sit down and observe ourselves.
2) We forgive ourselves for what we have let slide, left neglected, failed to take care of in this time of rest
3) We feel our way outward, beginning slowly, and allowing ourselves to stop, if it is too soon.
4) When we are ready, we build our practice slowly, one action and one day at a time

Repeated gently, our Almost Spring practice becomes the cornerstone for a bright emergence into the light.

But remember...

If you find yourself pushing too hard, if you feel resistant to the practice you've taken up, allow that it may be too soon - allow yourself the blessed rest of the season. Turn back to the warm bed, the tousled sheets and crawl in.

In this way, when the sun returns and the snow melt begins to sluice down the sides of the world, we will be ready to burst through the back door, into the sun, and grow.

Happy Almost Spring.

PS Here's a glimpse of the season from Marjory Mejia at her beautiful blog Sacred Flow

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fake Shopping

If you follow me on Twitter or on Facebook, you know that today, I attempted to order a chocolate brown sweater with pink cabbage roses from Garnet Hill, an online catalog.

What you don't know, unless you are my daughter, Katie, is that this was a very big deal.

Like so many American families, times at our house are tighter than usual. But even during our best financial times, I find it hard to buy things for myself. And an even worse time buying them retail.

Oh, I get my kids what they need. I make sure my parents have the little treats they need to feel that their lives are still worth living even though, right now, they're both living in a nursing home. I make sure the refrigerator is stocked with healthy food. But when it comes to buying things for myself, I just...

I have a closet full of beautiful things. But unless I get it on sale, for a great price, it just seems... frivolous. So, I satisfy my shopping urge... virtually.

A catalog arrives, I make a cup of tea. I sit down and, carefully consider my choices of color, size and outfit coordination, I fill out the order form. When my choices overflow the form, as they always do, I use another sheet of paper.

I fake order Eileen Fisher tunics and leggings, and cashmere cardigans in colors that actually look good on someone like me (not blonde, not 5'10" or size 0.) I order a pair of soft leather boots and a pair of Gentle Souls shoes. I order a set of Hanro underwear. Once, I even fake-ordered a cashmere bathrobe. I know, crazy, right?

My fantasy bedroom is fake furnished with Washed linen bedding and a puffy white down blanket. The fantasy carpet runnerr between my living room and my husband's office is spangled with flowers. And every morning, I pad down its length in my fantasy pair of Haflinger boiled wool mules with polka dots.

When I've reached the last page, I put my empty tea cup in the sink and place the catalog (and my list and order form) in the recycling bin.

By a wide margin, most of my fake ordering has focused on the Garnet Hill catalog which, though it offers much at my taste level, is kinda pricey. At least, it seems that way to a person like me, used to shopping half price day at the thrift store where, most of the time, I find the items I fake ordered (or a reasonable substitute).

This how visualization exercises like this work. You SEE yourself wearing or using the item you long for and it manifests. That or your mother gives them to you on your birthday.

But I digress...

Today I was going to order something in real life.

I logged on and found the sweater I wanted, which was, to my delight, on sale for only 39 dollars! I selected color, size, shipping option. I filled out my address and entered my debit card number. Finally, I let myself press the Submit Order button.

We're sorry, the screen informed me. That item is no longer in our inventory.

WTF?

Two hours later, I'm still disappointed. That sweater would have looked great on me - would have enhanced my winter coloring and brought out my eyes. I would have worn it to dinner with my husband, and to work. I would have... oh, never mind. I'm going back to fake shopping. It's so much more... effective.

So, if anyone sees this sweater in the Autumn Bloom print at the thrift store, please let me know.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Well, you know, love...

So, it's Valentine's Day this weekend and bloggers everywhere are writing about love.

Sigh.

And I come to the page and I think...

Crap.

What the hell do I know about love?

I have been married to the same man for... Oh, I forget. Honey, how long is it?

34 years. He keeps track.
I have saved every rose he's ever given me.
I keep them in glass mason jars.
We argue... a lot.

Love.

Back when I was 18, 19, 20 - and we were falling in and out of love every week or so, I thought I knew what I was looking for.

To me, love was:

1) A feeling:
I'd be swept off my feet by a blast of lightning; we would talk and talk and talk, so alike that our energy would blend into a perfected whole; we would fall so deeply and completely into the pool of each other that we'd be.. you know, one.

2) A treasure hunt:
The soul-mate thing where "There's someone out there for me" and it's my job (and my destiny) to find him/her

3) A certainty:
He was looking for me as intently as I searched for him. I'd sense his presence the way you can feel the sun on your back with your eyes closed. We would know each other instantly. Our eyes would meet and ... zing... zap... zooey: Love.

Or, as it turned out...
"none of the above."

My husband is not my soul-mate; not in the classic sense of the word. We do not enjoy each other's company all that much; we're lucky if we get through a long conversation without one of us (well, me) sighing and walking out of the room in exasperation.

He is messy. I am, for the most part, neat.
He likes clutter, I like clear surfaces.
He hates TV, I love it.
He is obsessive (my word, he prefers "efficient") about calculating the precise cost of a heating the water to fill the tub; I... well, i like to take a bath.

And yet...

Thirty-four (long) years after my husband and I met, we turn toward each other again. Now that the kids have (for the most part) moved out; now that we have done the whole build-a-nest thing (clumsily, messily... but it's done), we find in each other something unexpected.

I first encountered my husband in a photograph; a snapshot that my college roommate carried around in her wallet (because SHE liked him). Dressed in a red velour sweatshirt, with straight blonde hair to his shoulders and a megawatt smile, I took one look at this 18-year-old boy-man and lost my heart.

Seriously, it leapt right out of my chest - tore through my brand new Huk-a-Poo blouse and landed, flip flop, flip flop on the floor.

I scrambled to retrieve it before my roommate saw it. Quickly gulping it back down without even dusting it off.

Which left a kind of gritty taste in my mouth - a bitter, hard to shake residue - an indigestible: Why not me? that pulsed (Why not me?) from the center of my chest as my (much prettier) roommate ran each day to the mailbox.

When his letter finally came, she opened it. She wrinkled her brow. Then, she handed it to me.
"Can you make ANY sense of this?" she asked.

It was a language of codes and symbols, a cryptographic cry to the universe. It was a work of art.

"Of course," I said. And then I explained my future husband to her.

For the next few weeks...
Well, just think Cyrano de Bergerac – me, hiding, in moonlit shadows, translating his messages into meaning; telling her what to write in reply.

Otherwise, I didn't think about him at all.

Then, on New Year's Eve, when everyone in the world was resolving to be better, thinner, more true - I met him.
And ... zing... zap... zooey: Love.

I still don't understand it.
And finally, after 34 years and an almost finished memoir filled with our wrestling match... I mean, marriage... I have stopped trying.

This is what we do now: I leave in the morning before he wakes up. I go to yoga and then, to work. I write in a café because he works at home and his job, as an architect, requires a lot of shouting into the telephone (which is the opposite of what my work, as a spiritual writer, requires.)

Some time in the early evening, I come home and start cooking. I don’t greet him; he knows I’m home. Eventually, he ambles into the kitchen while I’m making dinner and steals bites from the pan before I’ve served it because often, he’s forgotten to eat lunch.

We don’t kiss or hug all as much as we used to (though there are times... ) We don’t exchange moony romanticisms. We disagree about how to handle our son’s identity crisis; he talks about the bills (again) and bothers me about getting my car serviced. When he tells me about a project he’s working on, he goes on too long and I interrupt, telling him, “Honey, I’m kinda tired. Can you wrap it up?”

Sometimes, this offends him. Other times, he apologizes, asks me about my day.
I tell him about my hormones, my diet or the kink in my shoulder from yoga practice. I tell him about an angel story I’m working on – he tells me about the book he’s been writing about a cosmic superhero named C’zor.

Often, we eat silently catching up on our reading. Last night, we listened to a podcast of Radio Lab, from NPR.

After dinner, I go into the living room and turn on the TV. He clears the table (I cooked) and passing me on his way to his home office, squeezes my shoulder. I look up – he smiles. He still has the most beautiful eyes...

I smile back, put my hand over his.

Within an hour, I’ll have fallen asleep watching television. Knowing this, he checks in, puts a warm blanket over me. Turns off the TV and the lights.

Zip Zap Zooey: Love.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Another piece of my memoir

The world breaks my heart. It is so tender, so vulnerable. It just lies there, all land and oceans and underground pools. Or does it lay there, I am never certain... I want to hold it to my breast and feed it. I want to take its pulse and pour it a cup of Tazo Calm Tea--Chamomile, rose petals and lemon balm.

But I am too busy being perfect. Right now, I am thinking about how to impress you with my word gymnastics and how this book has taken over my life. Right now, I am thinking about whether the house is clean (my son's girlfriend is coming over) and what to make for dinner.

Roast chicken, wild rice, grilled asparagus—I tick off the healthy trio, knowing that I may be the only one eating it (they're all so busy) and that by 9:00 p.m., after the chicken has been picked to the bone and the rice stored in a Tuppperware container, I’ll be sticking my head in the refrigerator looking for more.

I want I want I want

I sell my words to a magazine I don’t read. I wake up early to do yoga and sit on my green sticky mat watching infomercials. I prowl the aisles of Whole Foods Market searching for something to fill this emptiness—wild Atlantic salmon, grass-fed-beef, quinoa salad.

Nothing satisfies.

There is some deep-belly emptiness blocking absorption, blocking light.
What to do? What to do?

“Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distractions,” the Yoga Sutras state. “Then the ability to understand the object fully and correctly is apparent.”

I roll the words around like marbles: The. Ability. To. Understand. Apparent.

It seems simple enough. There are workshops, talk shows, and hundreds of books containing maps.

At Barnes and Noble there’s a table by the window that I like. The booksellers don’t mind if I sit here all day; as long as I order something from the café.

I walk through the aisles, letting the books talk to me, pulling down the titles that glow from the shelves. I make a big stack and hide behind it all morning.

But after an hour or two, I get hungry – and they don’t have any real food—just brownies, bagels, scones and a chocolate cheesecake that I know won’t satisfy me.

I circle back to the Hungry Hollow Co-op where they know me, greet me, let me cash a check. I take a long time deciding between the tuna with muenster, organic greens and Bee Sting mustard and the BLT with Fakin’ Bacon, tofu mayo and tomato.

At the self-serve coffee bar I make a cup of tea. Spending so much time away from home, it’s nice to pour my own milk, to stir my own honey into the brew.

I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know

My head starts to pound. I don’t want to kill time. I want to use time. I love time. There is so little time. It’s only twelve o’clock and I need another place to go. I get into the car and tune my radio to the Gary Null show. Gary is talking about absorption.

He’s discussing vitamins and the way some people have of letting things bounce right off their bodies like rock salt. He is talking about ozone, about cancer, about healing. He is talking about some people who never learn, and never change. He is talking about blood.

The world needs a blood transfusion—now. It lies on the sofa with an icepack on the back of its neck, watching Dick Cheney (lips dripping with oil) pretend he was not the President of the United States.

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, or so I’ve heard. Right now, it looks more like the edge of the apocalypse. But of course, that depends what channel you’re tuned to.

The world is filled with fortune-tellers. Katie Couric, Jon Stewart, Bill O’Reilly, Rosie O’Donnell. People who say things that stick in your flesh like voodoo needles, things that stick in your soul like assignments from deities.

I am the miracle that might never have been

You’ve heard of the Hero’s Journey. A hero, born under "special circumstances", grows up completely ignorant of how special s/he is until—a fortune-teller arrives to reveal the truth.

“Amy will be the most successful of all of your friends,” my best friend’s mother said when I was 15.
“You will have a boy and a girl,” Dykshoorn predicted. “You'll be a world-famous author."
"Oh, that’s just Amy and her magical thinking,” my mother’s therapist says, dismissing me.
No one ever believes you until you pull the sword from the stone. But as it will turn out, magical thinking is what I do best.

“Are you alright?” the yoga teacher asks, squatting beside me.
“No. I don’t know. I feel dizzy. Kind of sick…”

It’s just that I have this tic, this Tourette's-like “Yes-no” that cycles through my thoughts, blurting, “This way is a very nice way.”
“Did he say something, Toto?
“It’s pleasant down that way, too.”
That’s funny. Wasn’t he pointing the other way?
“Of course, some people do go both ways.”

“Maybe you’re coming down with something.” She helps me to my feet. “There’s a flu going around...”
“Maybe. I don’t know. Thanks.”
Back home, I curl into a question mark on the sofa. Matthew brings me a quilt and some water. I throw up into a saucepan.
What does this have to do with buying houses, or being an artist? Everything is connected to everything else. Keep watching.

“It’s just a midlife crisis,”
my friend, Julia, says at the Barnes and Noble café where we like to meet.
“Just?” I laugh. “You try having one!”
“I won’t have one,” she smiles, taking a sip of her decaf, low-fat latte. “I have low expectations.”
“You sound like a monk: Expect nothing…”
“I am a monk. I’ve been married for almost thirty years.”

“You have to decide how you want to meet this,”
my friend Catherine, who is also my acupuncturist, says.
I tell her I’m considering a mini-facelift, just a little liposuction, and maybe some bio-identical hormones.

Catherine has this way
of arching an eyebrow and looking through the layers to the center of a thing.

She has this way of folding her hands on the desk between us, of being infinitely patient with me.

“This is a natural process,” she says. “Something is coming to an end; something else is beginning. The question is: Do you want to interfere or do you want to support it?”

I know the right answer here.

I know that “everything has a front and a back”—that everything we do has a positive and a negative effect; and, that life is beautifully, perfectly balanced. I know that anything we do to the body—anything we swallow or rub into our skin—stimulates a response from the body: an equal and opposite reaction. There are side effects to everything.

It’s just that I really don’t want to get wrinkly.

I don’t want my breasts to sag and my chin to get soft. I don’t like that, lately, I’ve had to ask people to repeat themselves and that, without my reading glasses, I can’t exactly tell what’s on the menu. And frankly, this extra 30 pounds that’s settled on my waist (I’m told it’s an “estrogen belt”) is really pissing me off.

“This is a blood deficiency,” Catherine says.
I nod. “I’ve always been anemic…”
“Well, yes, from a Western perspective, you’re anemic. Working from the Chinese, blood volume is the issue.”
“Blood volume?”
“There’s not enough blood in your body.”
“I don’t understand…”
“Your liver is starving,” she says.
“I’m sorry?”

How can a person not have enough blood and still be walking around?

“We can build more,” she says. “With leafy greens, Chinese herbs, and lots of water.”

I go to Whole Foods. I buy collard greens and kale and a jar of blackstrap molasses. I drink so much water I gain five pounds. I rejoin the gym, determined to walk. I imagine a band of sweatsuit-clad angels following me with a cosmic liposuction device—which, though it won’t build more blood, might help with the cellulite. But I don’t get far before I’m caught in a tidal wave of hot flashes. Sweating and exhausted, I turn back home.

According to Chinese Medicine, I’m at the beginning of my Wisdom Phase—the end of the seventh seven-year cycle of my life. But I don’t feel wise. I feel desperate – a winged thing trapped between two panes of glass.

My children, almost grown, are slipping into the pocket of their own lives, scanning college catalogs at the kitchen table; the world of opportunities - study-abroad programs, summer institutes in dramatic arts, academics, sports…

My son considers international business, law, neuroscience.

My daughter, two years younger but more certain, is interested in one thing only: Film.

My friends are traveling, moving, trading up. Even my parents are starting over – getting a divorce, selling the house. “You’re kidding,” friends say. “Why?” I don’t know, I tell them.

I haven’t spent a great deal of time with Mom or Dad lately. I know it has something to do with freedom, with kindness, with self-esteem – and my mother’s determination, even now, to heal her life.

“How do we know what’s real?” Katie asks when I pick her up from Philosophy class. As if I knew. She buckles her seatbelt and I throw the car into gear.
I think about how everything is made of waves and particles. I think about how, sometimes, the Universe seems perfectly orchestrated and other times, so random. I think about…

“Mommy,” Katie asks. “Are you listening to me?”

“Sorry.” I rivet my attention to her conversation – this idea, this boy, this book she’s reading. But it’s hard to hold onto the thread - I am always being interrupted by a new thought, another driver, a bird swooping toward my windshield. I get interrupted all day by the telephone, the alarm clock, a teenager, parent or husband.

I dream that I’m following a bee. It leads me up and around a spiral path that narrows as we climb. Lining the walls, there are small bedchambers, open to the path like dioramas. As we pass, I peer inside. Each chamber contains a bed; in each bed, a child. “You’ve come!” they greet me as I pass, one after another.

We come to the top where the path ends at a huge golden doorway: I press the door open onto an enormous room – its domed ceiling glows with sunlight. On the floor, a golden carpet in the shape of an arrow lays shimmering with light.

Go in, a gentle voice whispers. I step, cautiously, mincingly, onto the carpet. I shivers with life. Gasping, I realize: the carpet is made entirely of bees! I hesitate, not wanting to hurt them, to crush them.

Go on, the voice urges.

The carpet begins to move, sliding across the vast wooden floor. Pulling me forward, its vibration infuses me from head to toe, piercing my heart with wonder. Behind me, a crowd has gathered, all of the children have risen from their beds, cheering me along.

The carpet stops before a second door, thirty feet high and laced with symbols of a language I do not recognize but can somehow read!

I pull open the door onto another chamber, more vast than the first. Its walls are blue white marble, carved with narrow stained glass windows that soar floor to ceiling.

Here and there, the walls are inlaid with silver and gold. The whole room blazes with bright white light. Drenched with awe, I stand in the doorway and start to laugh. I laugh so hard that I wake myself up.

As I open my eyes, a voice whispers directly into my right ear: Follow the bees!

Voiceover: (Several voices, whispering)
Where is she going to start?
Oh, for heaven sake, it makes no difference at all.
She can’t just start anywhere!
Of course, she can. It’s… Stop pushing, there’s room for everyone. Stand over here. Good, now everyone can see…