This morning I listened to the Life Kit podcast while walking the dog. It was about dealing with dread. And one solution they offered was Death Meditation.

I don’t know. I think I am on board with scheduling time to worry, but I am not convinced that meditating on my own death will help me learn not to sweat the small stuff, as they say.

What if my anxiety builds with the concern that I don’t have time to line up and sort the little things? What if I don’t have time to tie up the loose ends to this self-image I am trying to form – form and show the world?

Really these aren’t rhetorical questions. B. told me that in the sure knowledge of having only months to live, she still sweats the small stuff. Which I tell myself is as much as she ever did: from my point of view, it being a matter of injecting humor into every experience of frustration.

But then, we never really know what is going on inside someone else’s head.

Heart.

There are clubs in India, I think, maybe Japan (one of those countries with a culture that we attribute superior wisdom to), where people stand around and laugh for no good reason. Laughing for no good reason – for no reason at all – requires effort. It requires more effort than I am willing to put into it.

Should I be ashamed of that?

Isn’t it just easier to lean into the wallpaper? To press myself into a deep groove of irony that only passes for humor from a distance?

One of my colleagues has a drama project called “See Me”, which of course centers on how each student sees themselves – as mirrored in the archetypes and character tropes of a classical artwork (my academic reductionist view of the drama exercise). Despite the title, I have always thought the project is about “Me Seeing Me”, really – what I want to see in/of/about me. What I want to project.

And – oh, my god – the effort required to create that story.

I am short-tempered this week, for no good reason. But it takes surprisingly little effort.

Yeah. I’m just rolling with it. I am not sweating anything.

Freezing rain. Nothing new on a dark and gusty morning. Feeling myself settle into the familiar. Even the familiar pains are comforting.

Maybe there is a center that holds, patiently, to be discovered again after the turmoil and apparent displacement.

I am in the process of cleaning out the library and the “atelier”, which has never lived up to its potential for so many reasons. I have no access to the studio that was shiny, new and something of a promise. Sorting through it all like an archaeologist, I keep unearthing fragments of whole lives. And for a moment I let myself imagine parallel universes where the pieces came together. This way. That way.

Means and desire. Anupama talked to me about an artist’s requisites of means and desire. But if I am honest with myself it is far too simple a thing for me to use the absence of one or the other as the excuse for silence. I will wait for things to fall into place, wait for the world to align as though it is some kind of destiny.

I have done that again and again, forgetting the burning thing until it smolders. Ash.

The once-famous Zimbabwean writer told me, and everyone else he would mock, that often the overabundance of means will kill the desire. He didn’t use the words means and desire. In fact, I forget the word he used: comfort and relevance? His opinion was that if you are not suffering, you have nothing to say worth listening to.

I still think that is a warped and self-serving point of view.

These days I want to – need to – take it all in at once.

B. calls and we laugh together. Then I send her a voice message to tell her that I’m crying. I need her to know. I need her to see the wholeness of us from my perspective.

I wonder if it is absolutely necessary to make everything visible. Knowing matters, doesn’t it? Just knowing?

Because you can always return to the center, and pick everything up again, artifact by artifact, and turn them over in your hands. Whole – and not – at once. Whole again and again, in changing constellations.

So many rabbit holes I want to explore today. I am procrastinating. The laundry needs sorting and washing, the atelier needs de-cluttering, and my bookshelves are chaos.

Thursday was the first day of spring in the Hindu calendar, and I missed it. Saraswati is honored on that day, with lavender, saffron and turmeric. I wouldn’t have “celebrated”, but I would like to have known. There is something life-affirming in rituals, regardless of belief. There is something I envy.

A moment of envy can be an awesome thing. It is an admission – a recognition of desire. It’s humbling. It situates you clearly outside of the center of your own subjective concepts of meaning.

I just learned about the goddess Saraswati last month while talking to the theater director and artist Anupama Hoskere. (I am working on an article for Drama magazine, and will link later.) She explained the connection of education through the arts to the universal. She talked about means and desire, and about Dharma.

I am still letting all my thoughts bump up against each other. I don’t really want to put them down as sentences yet. Poetry, maybe. Poetry at the moment is an expanse of dark, open water.

Anupama’s husband is something of a philosopher and I heard him tell a story to children about how water is essential for life. How it is the necessary conductor and filter for all things.

I loved India in a way I didn’t think I would. The aesthetic appeal is obvious. I joke sometimes that if I had a former life it was there. But really, I am quite certain my emotional connection is rooted in the early 70s’ flowing fabrics and paisleys. Incense and flowers and vibrations. The barefoot summers, the criss-cross legged dinners at low tables. Love beads and elephants. Candles and flowers.

Cultural appropriation is a complex subject.

These are my earliest memories. My earliest impressions – even Jesus wore long robes and walked barefoot on palm leaves. And I am not going to lie: at the festival we ate our meals off of palm leaves and I felt a deep-sweet tug coming from flikker-dim rooms. It felt okay to “come home”. These dark, umami memories are mine. And (as Anupama brought up in our talk) duality doesn’t really exist. Certainly not in these memories. They just are. It was much later that any of these things were picked apart and named.

There is a reason we eat yogurt with chilies, not one after the other.

It is what it is. We are more than our parts.

I know it is absurd to say that I felt at home. But then, I am accustomed to feeling at home where I don’t exactly belong.

Years ago, in Egypt the locals badgered us to take photos with them, then demanded money. We were naive about the tourist industry there. In Cubbon Park, two teenage girls asked to take a selfie with me. Look! An old, white woman wandering the park. I hesitated, wondering what I represented to them. I was wondering if it was all the things I wanted them to be free of? The plastic, shiny West? I felt uniquely ugly. And my turkey-neck had nothing to do with it.

And yes, I have read Orientalism by Edward Said.

I have truly given up now of believing I will ever find the “correct” way to view the world. I have let go of the desire to chase that moving target to please anyone. I question myself, and I know my intentions.

As travel notes: I spent only ten days in Bangalore, but I’ve seen more people sleeping rough in London. I have seen as many shantytowns along a single canal in Berlin. And in the city where I live, I have seen the well-heeled (and likely myself), snub the people who sweep the floors in public spaces.

That first day, I felt my body tense when I walked down the street. Yes, I am afraid of cows with horns, but I didn’t lie to myself – it was run-of-the-mill xenophobia. It was knowing you can’t blend in no matter how hard you try. But it seriously didn’t take much of a personal confrontation to let go of it all. Right? Let go of it. Let go of it…

like dough sticking between your fingers.

One of the puppet shows was done by children. They told a story (31 Dosas) that included a recipe for dosa batter. It was repeated by the characters several times, so everyone could learn it.

All of the ingredients need to ferment in a bowl. Together. (Emphasis my own)