Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Notes toward walking in the woods with my mother
And on the raining streets, the globe-lights that go on for no reason
The synchronicity of the boys jumping over the partition into the divide between the roads that is Ulaanbaatar's own Boston Commons, Michael walked with his headphones in his ears. Poh comforted me in her Mongolian cashmere, touching my back, reminding me just what was en exchange of energy--slips of paper, among other things. Today I awoke and climaxed thinking of a broken bead string of things--the upstairs touch that wasn’t even me or the actors who played out the script. The sunset to myself. The eaves and vortexes of an acid sunset--the teenage boys clustered round the front stoop playing cards--the sleepy women or her daughter who have to get up and let me in after hours and the dislike they make apparent each time they do--Michael encircling me from behind the one moment I was alone on the dance floor--making one's way through the geometry of things--a wide range of intimacy then an inability to stop crying on the street in Michael's arms an hour after his play is over--of buildings, I mean, the geometry of buildings---he played see you soon 50 times the day after, to stay in that space, then sloughed it off like a professional when it wrapped--
Apart from thought I wave my hands around to illustrate the waving of the bamboo-like trees. Like seaweed, says Mom. I lie on my back and she does too.
Strong wind one way, then another.
Sofia reminds me of my sister Cricket's baby pictures. I am not sure exactly what it is, I say to Mom. Later in the ger while it rains she pats her cheeks. Face shape, she says. If I have a baby I want her to look like Cricket. I think Cricket was the cutest baby ever.
I'm letting the ribbon tied around my wrist do the prayer flag thing. I wore it along with everyone else because my dance card hung from it. By the river, alternately able and unable to stop the mind noise.
Mom doesn’t know how bad I feel about a moment she doesn’t remember, right after her heart surgery when she thought she was going to throw up and tried to signal us but her breathing tube was in and I couldn't tell and they asked us to leave and I left her there moving her hand feebly.
What was my first word? I ask her.
I think it was cat, she says.
We wander slowly--the sunlight yellow now and a dusting of snow on the farthest mountains, the nearer ones sill adobe brown--
Rafaelo is grounded when we come back from our walk, made to sit just inside the ger while everyone else rides horses. He pokes at the dirt on the ground inside the ger with a stick. He finds an ant. Look mom! he says. The head isn’t on the body but the body is still moving!
We come back from the river and a family of horses mills about, mostly standing, but for the two tiny ones, so thin as to look like paper lying on the ground. Look at the babies, says Mom in her Mom voice. The babies are taking their naps.
The horses were just out, with no minder and no fences. Babies asleep like flounder fish.
When it's time to "get up and amble on", as Mom puts it, from our spot lying at the bottom of the sky-aquarium, Mom has to roll over and get on her hands and knees. Cat Mom, I say. I have to lie down and get up in pieces, she says.
Wandering in the woods, in heaven, in the absence of dogma and in the presence of my mother.
Road trips used to be about dealing with one another, says Mom. Here's this family in Mongolia, each member fiddling with their own gadget...When John was done with college, he and Dad drove home to Portland in John's new car. Dad suggested at one point that it was time for gas, and john insisted they could go for longer, and then they ran out. It was a pretty tense drive...Bob and Mom picked me up from college and we got so hungry, and Montana just went on forever with no towns. There was just one place we could find in this tiny town and it wasn't exactly a restaurant but Mom managed to get a whole cooked chicken. She tore of a leg for me and one for Bob and then attacked the rest face-first.
I am to translate my boss's poem. The literal translation of the first line is "the golden duck of my chest is quacking." Sounds much more poetic in Mongolian. "The golden bird of my heart" fits the tone better but it's a bit trite.
Translating poems makes me stoned. It has me wondering at language--the impossibility of ever saying something exactly in another language, which implies a multiplicity of truths or realities--a new or at least uniquely nuanced one is described and upheld or carried with each language. Oh such an awkward and bulky thing sometimes and it's what transmits knowledge.
There are too many of us; we've outgrown our own myth.
I think we're talking about sustainability.
Or our own importance.
Mom uses a long piece of wood as a walking stick.
We wander slowly together, picking up big stones to throw into the shallow part of the creek. Hoping to make something to get across with. We're not able to master the precise art of aim.
Last night I had too much to drink. Mom, sleeping next to me, on her belly like a seal, and burrowing into the pillow with a small smile, breathed in and out. Her breathing was the sound of god.
Beforehand I talked with Steve about what it is like to be one of the ones with an open heart.
For snatches, I collect rocks with my mother and feel the cold of my feet without thought. With my mother and with no thought. We lay on the ground a while.
There is a camcorder vhs home video of us in the garden when I was one or two, holding the vegetables my mother handed me to my cheeks. It occurs to me that Mom has spent a lot of time with me when I was just existing without thought. I just don't remember those moments.
I was herding yesterday and we found a log so we rolled it over, says Sofia to me, her front teeth like two chiclets. The king yak had biiiiig horns. What makes the king yak the king yak? I ask. The one who saves the herd, she says. This is the first time it's rained since we've been here, her father observes.
What it's like to be the lightbulb the fireflies and moths flutter around to keep warm.
Running stars around us.
When I asked her for an explanation of the pain she just said, your heart is that expansive. When I was here before the river was iced over so you could walk on it. The ice was aquamarine and the willows a burnt sienna.
For such a giving landscape, the winter gives nothing.
Up on the ridge Mom pauses at each landing of the stairs up to the monastery.
On the way out Byambaa asks how my mother likes Mongolia. I translate the question for her. Big, she says.
My mother has one of those inviting faces. It' always looks good on film and in person. When she was young she looked like Julie Christie. Now she looks like Judi Dench.
I missed my ipod dearly on the drive up here--having been mugged the day before the body and mind I was left with to listen to instead of episodes of cross-cultural poetics are not happy.
Mom reads the BFG to me. This is the voice, the body, the person I would be near. This is where I would convalesce.
The lake has two colors, I say to our driver on the thin blue bench. Later he comes in the ger asking if I have any heart medicine. My heart hurts, he says in Mongolian. (They say this. They say their liver hurts.)
I don't remember clearly, so my body is telling me the story bit by bit. The limp: he took my down by kicking in my knee. The cut on the lip: where he covered my mouth hard. The aching wrist, where he wrested my gadget from my hand. The left side ache: where I hit the ground.
I try to memorize her lovely face as she reads.
We hear something along the lines of howls.
The pretty girl who brings the food knocks the stove door from its hinge. It's hot to the touch so she lifts is with a bendy piece of kindling bark.
It's the horsemen, singing.
There are too many of us; we've outgrown our own myth.
The myth of our own importance, says Mom, when I repeat the lines to her, the lines I first wrote over a year ago that have repeated themselves over and over in my mind.
There is a myth I have been telling myself that I'm not strong enough. To endure pain. To do it alone.
A guy my age singing a traditional song to no one in particular, lounging on his motorbike.
My mother and I plopping stones in the creek.
7-10 am or pm? Asks mom.
I think if it were pm it would be 17-22, I say.
No, says mom, 19 to--
--you're right, I say--
There aren't 25 hours in the day though, I say.
Between the two of us, we got it.
Later she puts her arm toward the mountain ridge over Maine-like (conifer?) trees and says--now--
You're right about the doors facing south, I say: rises in the east, sets in the west--
We run into two backpackers from Romania who are excited for their first grandson's arrival, around 16th August in Vienna. Everywhere we go, we meet Polish people, the man says. We were alone in Mongolia on top of this mountain except for one guy and he was Polish. Caixan yum yum! Is their word for delicious.
I toss stones. It's not that it never happened. It's just, these men aren't here.
As if to prove my own point I forget for a moment the name of one. and then another. At moments like these it's easier to see the men in my life as different forms of the same love, the love that makes up the still lake I toss rocks on. I limp down the narrow beach, small overhang above. Small kinds of wildflowers: small white, small yellow, and the drooping purple flowers that, like poppies, turn upwards late in life but look rather dejected til then.
My aching body is here, the lake, my mother.
Only, experience changes how we receive text. Mom reads me the BFG and the beginning, about how a huge man sees Sophie in the dark and grabs her, is alive for me now--I have the visceral memory. I have loved the Tom Petty Wildflowers CD since I was 11 years old but but I will never forget the new pang of recognition I felt when I had the experience to make these words come alive from their inertness: "I'm not afraid anymore/ it's only a broken heart."
If I tell my family about the mugging I must tell them this because they worry so: my heart is broken and my body is bruised but I know that my self, my soul, is stronger than it has ever been before.
He slashed through a canvas behind which was not a fragile something ready to spill out but a forest, a mountain. An ocean, a world.
You have chosen struggle in the past because you did not realize you were writing your own script.
Fear closes down the loving heart.
Forget about how unkind he's been to me--what about how unkind I've been to myself?
Go into every sorrow and anger. Don't back away.
I think of story so often. About the depth of memory, the part of us that knows, inside, our own remedy. That is the remedy, the answer.
Past the pain is a brilliance...see everyone in their wholeness. This allows them to respond with their light faster and easier.
This last part I do know to be true. My mother can do it, and she taught me how to do it.
The cut on my lip makes it hurt to smile. The cut on my wrist where is scraped the ground. I am complete and unabridged.
--I wonder if anything happens to build the banks back up, says Mom. The banks are so eroded.
If you have a problem with something or someone, pay attention to the words being spoken. The purpose of my life story is to allow love to enter, to not be afraid any more.
We are sitting on the banks of one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. In February they drive clean across the kilometers of ice. My glasses are fogged up, says Mom. Again it's almost like something sprays out of my eyes. Maybe my sunscreen.
Annoyed-sounding ducks. The lake shimmering and soft alternately. In the gloaming their full song undulating. I sit on the banks looking at the stones and the two young Mongolian guys in a boat ask if I'd like to come fishing. They tell me to come over later, when they’ve brought the boat in near the shack that houses the pump bringing cold water to the faucets in the camp bathroom.
Nyamdavaa, the beautiful girl who brings the food and firewood, will start university in the fall. She'll major in chemistry and biology in the fall. She opens the door to the ger and asks something about fish. You think maybe she is asking if we want fish for lunch, but no, she's got the fish in her other hand, almost half as long her, slimeslicked fish.
When Mom and I get back from out windy walk with the furs of the yaks swaying with the breeze--
in honour of Khainzaa Gelanduv who dreamed to fly in the blue sky of Mongolia using the wings made by him with sheepskin
The lake has as many colors as the wind has weathers.
Posted by Ming at 3:57 PM