I noticed him as soon as we parked. Short and bent, his lank mane of greying hair and months-old beard spilled over a loose black rain jacket that appeared to be fashioned out of a can liner. I remember noting that he carried nothing.
Let’s talk about this year for a moment, shall we? Wait, you’re burned out on that? One more 2020 meme and you might junk social media for good? I understand, I do. But the below is a conversation that seems to be showing up just about everywhere in my life right now, and I think it merits unpacking.
I couldn’t wait to see him when I found out he rested outside San Francisco’s Legion of Honor fine arts museum. A famous work of history! I would photograph him and take him away with me as a piece of a masterpiece. Like visiting Michaelangelo’s David of Florence, which I also aimed to do one day.
Rodin’s Thinker sat magnificent against the clear California sky. I framed the figure, pressed the button on my camera to release the shutter. Click, click, click in HD. It wasn’t until I walked away that I read this Thinker was a replica. One of multiple castings. Even if he had been commissioned during Rodin’s lifetime, he remained a copy of a copy, born of a mold.
I wish this didn’t make him different. Wish I’d kept seeing him as a marvel, an original, the way he’d been to me at first glance.
The first time I heard the word Ahimsa—the yogic principle that translates to absence of injury or non-violence—my body was torqued into a position of considerable pain.
I stood on one leg, the other bent with foot placed on my supporting inner thigh. Arms aloft, standing ankle in a chronic wobble, whole body alternately swaying and clenching to hold the position. Sweat bled from my hairline. I hung on each second, begging it to end.
I finished a nine day cleanse yesterday, and to celebrate I walked myself around the park (naturally). This was the only movement I had any real energy for, and even then I could only manage one loop.
The temperature was perfect on my arms. I let myself feel it. The sun was as soft as warm cotton, the grass smelling of seed. The soccer kids were all practicing their artful crosses, balls sliding into goals. Perfect.
Most of the cleanse felt nothing like this.
The other day I drove home from work with the radio on as usual, avoiding potholes and generally disappearing into the glaze of sun off my windshield. The sky pulsed blue and dogs lifted their legs at trees. A summer evening like many others.
I made it home as usual and parked. My partner, Kate, appeared from behind the front hedge with her bike. I got out of the car to greet her.
If you’ve been watching the news, you know that Portland has had a hard time of it over the past months. Our downtown, once an eclectic hub, is now a dystopian pantomime. There appears to be conflict everywhere. A lot of us are homeless and others unemployed, writing our futures not in pencil but in sidewalk chalk that fades fast with the rain.
I have a powerful friend, and no it’s not because she’s wealthy or well connected. I knew Rachel was powerful the day I met her. She has that cheeky, sharp, purple kind of power that some women have running through their veins.
She sat across the table at the little Russian restaurant where we were having dinner and radiated her power, beaming it at me like some kind of 40s movie star. Her boyfriend (at the time) sat next to her, doing his best to dominate the conversation. And Rachel just let him try, such was her assurance in her power of connection.
On nice evenings the park two blocks away fills up with people enjoying the outdoors. They circle with their dogs, sit on benches, and spread out their picnics. It’s essentially a Norman Rockwell scene with every turn of the path. Or as close to Rockwell as gritty Portland, Oregon, will ever get.
There are daredevils at the skate park and high schoolers playing a pick-up game of sand volleyball. I sit on the hill above them to watch these youngsters fly up concrete walls and fling themselves into volleyball nets, reminding the rest of us what it is to inhabit a body so new it can still forget its edges.