“Comfortable Mystery”: Creating Ritual

“How was your year?”
Deborah’s first question was too big for me to answer right away. It was, in fact, almost exactly a year ago that I returned from Istanbul and spent a day with Lee, meeting her friends Deb and June on Long Beach. As usual, Lee outdid herself with hospitality on both ends of this year’s quick trip to Albuquerque, not only taking care of me but spontaneously entertaining three of my friends.
On the return flight, I’d done as much work as I could, continuing to read and write on my proposal. Underneath the intellectual activity however, a crevass yawed open so sharply I could hardly find means of articulation:

I would like to believe that the pain will fade. I know its pang will mellow, becoming more manageable if still poignant. Smaller triggers will elicit edges, twinges persist in their acuteness. The overwhelming character will ease, etching itself into identity such that intangible nuances of care and compassion will be enhanced. Unless one turns bitter, or chooses to ignore pain’s presence, these simple if tragic events will not be repeated. Indeed, exactly the same “mistake” will not occur again, rather conditions will call out disguised in a new form, sneakily enticing enactment of another version of the sad same ol’ same old thing. A quick wit and sharp intelligence will recognize the pattern &emdash; at least momentarily &emdash; before defenses once again seek to avert disaster (bringing it on? We must learn new ways.)

Arriving late to life, my mind opens so slowly to intersubjectivity. Communal relationality at the core of all myths that inspire me, even those of heroic deeds (which must be done on someone’s behalf). Sleep seeks me, the computer’s battery fades, this flight home extended, a delay. I am such a product of my time, yearning yet hemmed in, alive against the crushing numbness of institutional regimes demanding my labor, my subsistence ecked out against rules and policies and expectations not to rock the fragile boat. There are no life rafts here.

Lee’s generosity is always a surprise – not that she offers, but that she so means it. Sam’s progeny. 🙂 The connection between Deb and I continues. Her new work is fascinating, pursuing the theme of gestation shaping her (and my) work and life. I am compelled even more by Deb’s words about her art. Perhaps next time I will bring an audio recorder? She could be podcast. 🙂 The new watercolors continue exploring bodily and root systems but invert the positive and negative ground. Her guiding principle, “everything contains its opposite,” allows her to generate abstract images which haunt with familiarity. A chord of recognition is struck, then followed by a question: this speaks to me, eliciting a sense of ease, but I do not know exactly what or why: in her words, what is evoked is “a comfortable mystery.” Lured by mystery yet safe enough in the zone of the familiar, perhaps we can look more closely?
Our reunion has that feel – none of us realized the timing until hours of interaction had passed. Yet the bonds that tied us last year are as strong and sudden now as they were then. An anniversary marked with all the important things: fellowship, food, fun. I must follow up on June’s suggestion to read Christopher Moore (Practical Demon Keeping seems exactly right, and The Stupidest Angel definitely appeals).
Meanwhile, as we compared notes of the last year, Deb dropped some gems about acquiring “a knowledge of how you do things,” and that what matters are not your circumstances “because everybody has circumstances” but “how you accommodate the circumstances.”


So, whether you can’t convince a dog to accept a hardboiled egg from your hand, or your jeans get wet in the surf, the point is (as an email from Ruth asserts) to learn to dance in the rain.

One thought on ““Comfortable Mystery”: Creating Ritual”

  1. it was so nice to see you! hope your drive back was safe and tolerable! just finished the chris moore book blood sucking fiends, funny stuff! i hope you get around to reading some of his books -they are so goofy and fun! check out the website icanhascheezburger.com for funny cat pics. have a wonderful fall and maybe we’ll meet up again next year! 🙂 june

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