+

Blood, Sweat and Tears

By the time I reached the taxi stand underneath the bridge, it was 10:40 in the morning and beads of sweat were dripping into all the wrong places. My jeans were suctioned to the backs of my legs and I kept wiping my brow on my flowy cardigan which sort of felt like scrapping sandpaper against damp skin.

Little bits of me, thanks to the gorgeous amount of sun I had not put on sunscreen for during the previous two weekends, were peeling in the crook of my elbows, my neck, and it gave the impression that I had walked under a tree in the process of spring cleaning.

My pack was stuffed with what would make me a happy camper for the weekend—my blanket (excellent for picnics), laptop (for writing my little heart out), jar of peanut butter (perhaps not a necessity), a plethora of sanitary napkins (thanks to my womanhood), a swim suit, a change of clothes, two books (Quiet by Susan Cain and A Farewell to Arms by Hemingway)—but the load upon my shoulders in the stuffy midmorning heat was doing a number on me.

I was to spend the weekend in central Jakarta at a lovely place I had found on Airbnb for very cheap. A sort of “staycation”, as central Jakarta was just a day trip away from my place in Serpong. But I was looking forward to a weekend snuggled up in fancy eclectic cafes drinking Sumatra coffee and writing like a fiend.

I draped myself into the first taxi.

“Rawa buntu, please,” I said, in my best Bahasa Indonesian accent.

“Huh?” came the reply, whistling through a missing front left tooth.

“Rah-wu Bunt-oo?” I said, a bit disappointed that all the pronunciation I had practiced in front of the mirror that morning was for naught.

“Huh?” came the reply, whistling through a missing front left tooth.

“Uh…station? Wait, I know this one, stasion? Train? Vroom-vroom?”

“Huh?”

I began a very elaborate charade of a young boy unwrapping a train set for seventh Christmas and in his joy at getting to be his very own conductor, something he had longed for since he could remember (about three months), he threw his arms around his parents and kissed them heartily on the cheeks and spent the rest of the day putting together his new track.

“Huh?” came the whistle.

The sweat had now completely saturated my handkerchief-cardigen and was threatening to capsize the entire Josie vessel. I abandoned my carefully constructed character development and pulled out my phone. I clicked open maps.me (a capital resource for the data-less traveler) and zoomed into the train station. It was about a 20 minute drive, and the closest station to BSD city. I handed him the phone, the picture on the map showing little train track markings, a picture of a train, and the words Rawa buntu.

“Huh?”

Good freaking gravy! Had he seriously never taken someone to the train station?!

“Address?” he whistled.

I shook my head. The address is “Rawa buntu”. Can we please go there? I am going to miss the 11:18. I then abandoned further attempts to make contact and popped back out of the taxi, giving him a cheerful wave and a thank you!

“Huh?”

Should have seen that one coming, really. I hopped into the next taxi in line.

“Ra-w-ah bun-too?” I said.

“Huh?” came the reply.

“Ruh-whuh-bun-tuh?” I tried again, my hands starting to shake. It was 10:55 and the train was to leave at 11:18. Before he could shake his head at me or utter another “huh?” I whipped out my phone and showed him maps.me. To my delight he flashed a big smile and laughed.

“Ra-wa bunt-oo! Yes!”

I was pretty sure that was exactly what I said the first time. But the sudden flooring acceleration was enough to dissipate any further irritation. We made it to the station at 11:08, I got my one-way ticket to Palmerah (for 15,000 rupiah, or $1.08) and walked to the platform.

P4202546.JPG

The sun was very eager to make friends with all the passengers on this side of the track, and when the train came 15 minutes later, I was a pool. My hair was stuck to my sticky cheeks and despite attempts to remove it from it’s perch, it bit at me and stubbornly refused to leave.

I loaded myself into the train. It was very full, especially for a Friday at noon. The woman standing behind me was spooning my backpack, as if she were the banana peel, and I thought this was very excellent anti-pickpocketing. Unless, of course, she herself was a pickpocket.

It was a thirty minute ride to get to Palmerah station. Here I was to meet Renata, my airbnb hostess, at the street entrance to the station so she could motorcycle me to her apartment in central Jakarta. I was very grateful for the offer, and as she was coming that way from work anyways it was inconvenient to neither of us.

Well, the station at Palmerah was very large and had not one street entrance, as I had imagined, but four of them.

Four of them to choose from.

I don’t have a SIM card or any form of communication without wifi, which I also did not have, so I was slightly alarmed at how I would locate Renata. The heat was climbing and the number of sticky bodies pressing against me (and walking extremely slowly in front of me) was doing nothing to calm me down.

It was 11:49, two minutes after our selected meeting time. I was quite anxious to inconvenience her as little as possible, as her offer to transport me to her apartment was above and beyond for a hostess.

Before I began my search, I went to the ticket counter and handed in my commuter line card for a refund of 10.000 rupiah, rendering my one-way ticket $0.56.

Then I shuffled myself around strollers of children and slow-moving adults and made it to the northwest entrance. I scanned the motorcycles on the streets, looking for Renata.

To my horror, I found that, first, everyone looked the same, and second, that I didn’t actually know what Renata herself looked like outside of her airbnb picture. My only hope was that someone would shout, “look, it’s a bule! And then someone named Renata would recall that her guest was American and come and take my hand and lead me across the street and perhaps give me some cookies and a glass of milk and a train set for Christmas.

I scanned for two precious minutes until I gave up on the northwest entrance. It was all I could do not to forcibly remove the people who walked like turtles in front of me. I severely disliked them for the oscillating leisure.

My watch read 11:55 by the time I made it to the northeast. I scanned the faces, which, again, looked like a clone army, and heard no shouts of “I’m Renata!” and no offers of cookies.

Life abroad is teaching me many things but not attending to my anxiety over being late. Come on buddy, I say to my amygdala. We’ve been late loads of times! Cool it in there, will ya?

I had to pick my way now to the southwest entrance. The throngs of people increased, my state of mental sanity was not good, repeat, and the heat was getting at me so much that there was a little sweat waiting line at my pores.

Suddenly, as I was striding myself across the bridge connecting the entrances, the call to prayer from the mosque right next door SCREAMED into existence. It waas the loudest, most forceful I have yet heard in all of Indonesia (and Bosnia and Morocco, for that matter).

I began to cry. Wild, hot, breathy tears. I was extremely moist. I was a child who had lost her mother in the grocery store, except that I was taller than nearly everyone around me and no one was giving me any cookies.

At the southwest entrance there was again no one who could be a Renata. It’s past noon, now. I went back into the main part of the station and wrapped on the “customer service” glass with one sweaty knuckle. With the other hand I wiped away hot salty tears. A neon-vested man came out and before I could explain my problem and ask to potentially borrow his phone, a woman with a purple hijab and about thirty thousand shopping bags pushed me out of the way and began speaking rapid Bahasa with the customer service man.

She was older than me, probably, so “respect” and all that. But I was pretty pissed. I did all the knuckle work, here lady, he’s MINE. But I stood “very casually” behind and allowed her to recite Tolstoy’s War and Peace from memory. After about forty years, she grabbed his arm with her third hand and began leading him away. My face was concerned. The man shot me an I’ll be back soon look, and I had to bite my tongue before I shouted,

“DO NOT LEAVE. I NEED YOU.”

Which would not give the correct impression, I believe.

I swayed back in forth in my anxiety and anger and frustration and the call to prayer was not ceasing and I wanted to throw things. If I weren’t absolutely positively sure I was an introvert and of the “high reactive” sort that Jerome Kagen had defined, I was sure of it then. The self-reflection and introspection wasn’t helping, however.

The man came back, sporting a fully grown salt-and-pepper mustache and a bald spot, and I, wrinkled in my old age and lack of dryness, explained my situation. By some miracle he understood me and allowed me to borrow his phone to type in Renata’s airbnb phone number which I had screen-shotted from the website. Look at me, eh, I really plan ahead.

Well, she didn’t answer.

We called her back. No answer.

I was prepared for the marathon here, and steeled myself in for just massive amounts of redialing until she answered, but he looked at me and shrugged and I realized we’ve both got to move on. I’ve got one last entrance to try, so as much as I am more than willing to crawl back onto the train and go home, I persevered. I thanked him for his time.

I shoved myself through molasses once more and made it to the southeast entrance. As soon as I stepped out of the building, I locked eyes with a petite woman sporting a Minnie Mouse motorcycle helmet.

“Josie?” She asked. I longed to throw my arms around her neck and vow to never leave her ever again, but I decide that’s not a great first impression. I settled for a wild nod.

“Sorry I’m so late!” I said, as it was now 12:15. She looked confused, and handed me a matching Minnie Mouse helmet.

“Did you not get my email? I was running late from the office. I told you I’d be at this entrance around 12:15.”

These are the moments when having a working phone is really splendid. I like to say that I am a voice for the campaign to free yourself from the phone, as it is the norm for me to travel internationally without the use of a phone. But still. This is one moment when having a working phone would be really splendid.

I clambered on the back of her motorcycle and we sped away from the bellowing mosque and the throngs of people. We maintained a bit of small talk, which was surprisingly pleasant in how human it was. As the wind evaporated the sweat on my skin, I began to feel a return to Josie. My anxiety was dissipating, blessedly, and I was breathing again.

It took fifteen breezy minutes to reach her apartment in the Diamond Towers and she dropped me off at the door to the lobby. She handed me a set of thick golden keys and told me “press 8 on the elevator, I’m room 8S.”

That lobby was fancy. Tall, gold-rimmed sofas and huge paintings on the thick purple wall. The floor was speckled marble and reflected the chandelier light around the room in a dazzling sort of spectacle. I had a bit of…miscommunication with the door to the elevators (not realizing that you have to use the keycard before selecting the buttons) but eventually made it to the 8th floor, room S.

It was a beautiful, cozy studio apartment (exceptionally clean and featuring much Minnie Mouse memorabilia) with a fabulous view of the city. More than that, though, I was alone in a cool, humidity-free place, and very shortly I increased my joy by slithering out of my pants.

AND. My god. She had left a myriad of snacks on the counter for me, including (but not limited to) chocolate chip cookies. In the fridge there was a little cartoon of soy milk, which she had indicated was for my enjoyment, too, so you can bet that I had myself some milk and cookies.

I went out to explore the area for a bit, and came back just in time to watch the sunset from the 5th floor (which was really the 8th floor, I believe, because the numbering system goes GF, P1-P7 (for parking), then floors 5-36).

It was glorious, truly, and made the entire flutter of a day worth it.

I changed into my swimsuit after that and came back to the 5th floor to swim in the empty pool and watch a little lightning storm.

P5182749.JPG

Ahh, beautiful lightning. The sort of unpredictability that I prefer.

 

Peaces and blessings,

Josie

P5182757.JPG

 

+

Play Dates with the Soul

He liked the first 15 seconds of the song;
to some that was annoying
but to him it was soothing
and good exercise to reach over so often and press rewind.
His life was a boxcar, a dream
capitulated to the infinity
and they mistook his focus for seriousness
not understanding that he was engaged in
a play date with his soul
that was anything but solemn.
He was his own marksman.
In a jean jacket and frizzy hair
blue backpack in his lap
he swayed softly to the beat of his song
(so soft it looked like breathing)
and that 15 seconds was like fresh air to him.
His boxcar didn’t have retractible windows
so this was important, see.

He knew what was important.


The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience.
+

Time Traveling

Almost every morning I snuggle into cross-legged position with a cup of coffee and write for a while. Clear the cache. Explode a bit. Stream of conscious all the mindless rumblings of my soul until I can begin the day as blank a slate as possible. It’s a form of meditation; I actively practice non-judgment and non-attachment to my thoughts and ideas.

I’ve detailed my morning writing routine here, if you’re interested. Perhaps my favorite effect of doing this (sans the immediate cleansing sensation) is that I can time travel to certain days and reconnect with myself. Reconnect with who I was on Wednesday, December 13th, 2017. Tuesday, June 14th, 2016. See my own progression. Both as a writer and a thinker.

These aren’t “diary entries”; I’ve got a section in Evernote for “Memories” (where I record events from the previous day, keeping a log of my life). I don’t begin:

Dear Diary/God/Love/World/Reader

I just begin however I need to. It just happens, and I get to watch it (and then eventually re-watch it).

When I go back to read these, I am a time traveler to my own soul. I get to see what I was struggling with, what I was longing for, what frustrated me, what set me on fire. Many of these articulated meditations feature me dreaming at the end. Writing out my ideal life, or where I would live if I could. I get to see the progression of my dreams, in these time travel sessions of mine.

I find, too, that I have a lot in common with my past self. That some of the things she was working on, I’m working on. That’s sometimes…frustrating, because it’s been so long on this one struggle of ours. But sometimes it’s calming, as if someone deeply understands me. Someone who has gone through the same thing as what I am going through now. We get each other, past Josie and I.

It’s kind of like writing letters to myself. It’s hard to say you just don’t understand, to ME like it is to say to other people.

I spent this morning in nostalgic time travel, reading back on my articulated mediation sessions. I’ve forgotten a lot of what I had written in the past (how brain plasticity tends to work) and some sections of my sessions made me giggle with absolute happiness. I’d like to share some of these with you, too, both in encouragement to document your own life, and also because they are amusing.


Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Okay, so today is definitely going to be a good day. I feel good except that I have to poo because I always do after a run and after some coffee. But I think I’ll persevere and it’ll be chill and stuff.

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Whatever. It’s chill. I’m going to make the plane, I’m not a smidge worried. And I am going to sleep and then eat dinner and watch a movie or read for a while. And then when I wake up I’m going to be in Frankfurt, Germany. And then I’m going to be in Graz, Austria and I’m going to run into Anna’s arms and scream,

“BIST DU? ES IST DU!” To which she will be confused because I most likely didn’t say it correctly. I hope that they have vegetarian items on board.

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Josie Josie Josie Josie Josie JOSIE.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Today I am an animal. That is my intention. I am a productive BEAST of burden, an anomaly of productivity. I am a MACHINE.

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

 I wonder why it is that writers drink so much while they are writing. The fun ones, that is, not the serious. Whoozits. There are a lot of things that I wonder about. I wonder why I like peanut butter so much, and perhaps it’s because I tell myself that I do so often. But I think that I genuinely do.

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

**Editors Note: this one turned into a blog post

Time is a castle and we spend our lives going from room to room, exploring–or not. Seasons of life are spent in the drawing room, entertaining guests. Season of time are spent isolating ourselves within the servant’s corners.

Sometimes we lean out of the window on rare occasions, and a part of us escapes Time. When that happens, we lose our minds. Not in the ceaseless worry of whether or not we are wasting our lives of which we are so accustomed, but in the scent of the wind and the breath of the flowers and the giggling of the pines.

We must be both careful and intentional. Leaning too far out of the castle, reaching towards the sensations of the forests, will cause us to lose all sort of grounding.

But to never lean at all.

That is monumentally worse.

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

 Okay, Jos, remind yourself: you love Churchill, Kerouac, strong black females, writing, coffee, surrealism & peanut butter.

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Good morning and welcome to the morning Bitch session. I’m your host, Josie, and today you will be joining me for some

Ultimate

Morning

Bitch.

It’ll be exciting.

But first, a word from our sponsors:

Jiff’s Natural Peanut butter is the greatest peanut butter in the entire world. If you slit my veins I would probably bleed peanut butter. Which would be a dangerous sign and then you should take me to the hospital, probably.

Back to you, Jos.

Thanks Jos.


I’d say give yourself material to chuckle at. That makes a good sort of life.

Peace and blessings,

Josie

 
+

The Intro-Version

Pause

for a moment
in your intro-jection I’m on an 
expedition and you need to listen
you’ve not been intro-mitted
and I’m kinda offended
I need some intro-pin for the
shock.

Please.

It’s my intro-it for my
officiant see my
introse face that is
intro-spect
we’re all intro-nauts
but I intro-gress

here, I guess.

We halt.

Then intro-sume.

Much deeper please,
you need to see the space
you need to hear the
space
it’s not intro-uvable
it’s not unusable
it’s not for filling up
nor for caving in it’s
intro-ception
not intro-cession.

So breathe.

It’s not intro-punitive
or intro-pressive cause
it’s not a hole at all
it’s a waterfall
and the only rule:
don’t speak so loud.

Just listen.

Let’s intro-dict 
these distraction pieces
which keep me sleepless
and fast lane to 
all the words inside
that ask for quiet.

An intro-duction to the
sort of soul that 
I sort of seem 
to be working with.

My intro-version is
not contagion
to be fixed cured mended
or else defended
I like to celebrate
instead this silence
and my seriousness,
not a mask

it’s focus.


The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience.
+

Both Sides of Blood

Me

You hate me for what I did in Israel,
and you still harbor anger
for the destruction of Japan and
Vietnamese children.
I hate you for what you did in New York
even though you’re half a world away
from the Middle East;
you’re brown and practice Islam
so it still counts.
You blame me for childhood obesity
and I point fingers at your gender inequality.
I say, “who gave you Starbucks
and the idea of a hamburger?”
You say you provided the coffee beans
and all you need is rice, thank you.
I laugh at the state of your traffic
and gigantic free standing malls
and you chuckle at my lack of public transportation
and abundance of fast food restaurants.
I point to your Mac laptop and you
point at my t-shirt and sneakers.

“Who gave you H&M?”
“Who gave you tempeh and tofu?”
“Who gave you Dunkin’ Donuts?”
“Who gave you Sumatra coffee?”
“Los Angelos, California?”
“The island of Bali?”
“Football?”
“Badminton?”

Before we know it, you and I are making
quite the scene,
fingers pointing and hair grabbing and
spit flying and nothing stopping.
Soon, eventually, after a long while,
Mother Nature comes around the corner
and grabs both of our flailing fists.
She sits you down quietly in the right corner
and me she guides back left.

She looks me so deep in the eyes
that my soul lights on fire.
“You, little girl,” she says to me,
“did not invade Vietnam. You did not
drop the bomb. You did not
chose to go to Israel.
You did nothing to cause obesity
you’ve never run a business
and you have nothing to do with
the globalization of Starbucks.
You did not create the Mac
you don’t work in the department of transportation
you’ve never been to LA and you don’t
play football.”

She gets up, tells me to stay there,
and walks to your corner.
she looks you so deep in the eyes
that your soul lights on fire, and she says,
“Little girl, you have
nothing to do with terrorism.
You did not have a hand in clothing
manufacturing and you are not to
blame for the traffic.
Your hijab you wear because it makes you feel purpose
not because you’re a slave.
You did not invent fermented soy and
you don’t even like coffee.
You’ve never been to Bali and
you don’t play badminton.”

She takes your hand and pulls you to the center 
then she comes and gets me, too,
but I can barely see cause I’m pouting still 
and she sticks me right next to you.

“You are not your ancestral past,” she says,
“You are not the country you were born in.
You are not the clothes you like to wear 
or the religion you chose to follow.
You are not so arbitrary as all that.
You hate because it is easier than
saying hello
and you hate because you want to hate
first. It’s easier that way, too.
But you don’t have to be so
arbitrary.
You are a trillion complexities
in a waterproof casing 
with profound ideas on the nature of love
passion and beauty.
For my sake, Christ’s sake, Allah’s sake,
you have to stop being so
arbitrary.”

She leaves just as she came
and suddenly it’s just you and I
and I’m kind of embarrassed
snd I see the blush in your cheeks.
There’s a whole lot of silence
and we feel the absence
and the hollowness and the cave.

I think of myself, then,
as a person, not as a country with a history.
Suddenly I think,
you might think the same.

“I don’t want to be trivial,” you say.
“I don’t want to be trite,” I say.

We extend our hands at the same time
quite slow at first.
You tighten your fingers around my palm 
and I squeeze your hand back.
I can feel the blood pump in the veins
on the back of your hand and it is
to the tune of the blood that pumps in my chest.
How is that?
How can we be synchronized if we are of such different blood?
We inhale at the same time
long and slow
and that’s in tune, too.
How is that possible?
We have different tongues,
they remind us,
how does air go through our mouths the same way?

We are a trillion complexities in a waterproof casing
and sometimes it’s more of a chrysalis;
there’s something deeper
in this body of ours.
I need to hate you less
for my own sake, too, because that hate
is plastic weaving into this skin
making it hard and unyielding
shivering the creature within.
I am a country with the burden of a past
only until I stop thinking of you that way, too.

I don’t want to be so heavy, so swollen, so angry.
I don’t want to assume responsibility
for all the destruction
I haven’t caused.

I think maybe, suddenly,
that you might think the same.



You

I hate you for what you did in Israel,
and I’m still bent up about the
destruction of Japan and all
the Vietnamese children.
You blame me for the attacks in New York
despite the fact that I’ve never been to
the Middle East
and I don’t speak Arabic.
I blame you for childhood obesity
and you point fingers at our gender inequality.
You say, “who gave you Starbucks
and the idea of a hamburger?”
I reply, “we provide the coffee beans
and all I need is rice, thank you.”
You laugh at the condition of our traffic
and free standing malls
and I sneer at your lack of public transportation
and abundance of fast food restaurants.
You point at my Mac laptop and I
point at your t-shirt and sneakers.

“Who gave you H&M?”
“Who gave you tempeh and tofu?”
“Who gave you Dunkin’ Donuts?”
“Who gave you Sumatra coffee?”
“Los Angelos, California?”
“The island of Bali?”
“Football?”
“Badminton?”

Before we know it, you and I are making
quite the scene,
fingers pointing and hair grabbing and
spit flying and nothing stopping.
Soon, eventually, after a long while,
Mother Nature comes around the corner
and grabs both of our flailing fists.
She sits me down quietly in the right corner
and you she guides back left.

She looks you so deep in the eyes
that your soul lights on fire.
“You, little girl,” she says to you,
“did not invade Vietnam. You did not
drop the bomb. You did not
chose to go to Israel.
You did nothing to cause obesity
you’ve never run a business
and you have nothing to do with
the globalization of Starbucks.
You did not create the Mac
you don’t work in the department of transportation
you’ve never been to LA and you don’t
play football.”

She gets up, tells you to stay there,
and walks to my corner.
She looks me so deep in the eyes that my soul
lights on fire, and she says,
“Little girl, you have
nothing to do with terrorism.
You did not have a hand in clothing
manufacturing and you are not to
blame for the traffic.
Your hijab you wear because it makes you feel purpose
not because you’re a slave.
You did not invent fermented soy and
you don’t even like coffee.
You’ve never been to Bali and
you don’t play badminton.”

She takes my hand and pulls me to the center
then she comes and gets you, too, but
I can barely see cause I’m pouting still
and she sticks you right next to me.

“You are not your ancestral past,” she says,
“You are not the country you were born in.
You are not the clothes you like to wear
or the religion you chose to follow.
You are not so arbitrary as all that.
You hate because it is easier than
saying hello
and you hate because you want to hate
first. It’s easier that way, too.
But you don’t have to be so
arbitrary.
You are a trillion complexities
in a waterproof casing
with profound ideas on the nature of love
passion and beauty.
For my sake, Christ’s sake, Allah’s sake,
you have to stop being so
arbitrary.”

She leaves just as she came
and suddenly it’s just you and I
My face feels really hot
and you can’t seem to make eye contact.
There’s a whole lot of silence
and we feel the absence
and the hollowness and the cave.

I think of myself, then,
as a person, not as a country with a history.
Suddenly I think,
you might think the same.

“I don’t want to be trivial,” I say.
“I don’t want to be trite,” you say.

We extend our hands at the same time
quite slow at first.
I tighten my fingers around your palm
and you squeeze my hand back.
I can feel the blood pump in the veins
on the back of your hand and it is
to the tune of the blood that pumps in my chest.
How is that?
How can we be synchronized if we are of
such different blood?
We inhale at the same time
long and slow
and that’s in tune, too.
How is that possible?
We have different tongues,
they remind us,
how does air go through our mouths the same way?

We are a trillion complexities in a waterproof casing
and sometimes it’s more of a chrysalis;
there’s something deeper
in this body of ours.
I need to hate you less
for my own sake, too, because that hate
is plastic weaving into this skin
making it hard and unyielding
shivering the creature within.
I am a country with the burden of a past
only until I stop thinking of you that way, too.
I don’t want to be so heavy, so swollen, so angry.
I don’t want to assume responsibility
for all the destruction
I haven’t caused.

I think maybe, suddenly,
that you might think the same.


+

Commitment

Center
fold ask myself
what matters now
who am I
this morning
on this breath
on this blink.
 
Learning
to release
learning how to
blink better
how to
clip my toenails
less angry
 
Staying
with these emotions
and listening
they aren’t flaws
or barriers
they aren’t to be ignored
or shoved to my eyelids
to my throat
I don’t want to be so
heavy so
swollen
so angry.
 
Learning
how to sob myself
into a nap
how to wash my face
with careful
beautiful
circular motions
to look into my own eyes
and smile
slow
authentic.
 
Asking
myself what’s it like
in there
can I help at all
 
Keep breathing
like this
I’m still breathing
look here!
look at my breathing!
look at this,
we are breathing,
and we are soaring
we are learning and learning to love
not just ourselves
not only the breath
 
but the battle, too.
 
I am not
“sentimental”
but I am not a mask
either
and I am not
to be understood
all the time.

 

 
I am
centering my Self
I am reminding
my Self I am
asking
my Self
and I may not commit
to much these days
but I am
staying
with my
Self.
 
 


The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience. 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
+

Hummingbirds

For my mother. 


Breathe, little hummingbird,
She said
As she whisked her wings and
Showed me how to fly.

We perched together,
Her and I
Upon the shadow rimmed daffodils
Set against a bright mountain.

Sing, little hummingbird,
She said
As the stars kissed the pond
And it wasn’t so cold after all.

We gazed at the stars
Her and I
The electricity in the darkness
Bouncing brilliantly off her beaming face.

Wait, little hummingbird,
She said
As we watched the moose glide
Bending back glistening blades.

We admired his gentility
Her and I
The smooth calmness of so great an animal
So carefully combing through the dandelions.

Breathe, little hummingbird,
She laughed
And I smiled at her and let it all go
Determined to follow her anywhere.


The reader brings his or her own experience to the poem and creates meaning. Here is my experience.
+

The Dean’s Watch

In order to prevent deportation (and respect visa regulations for Americans) I have to leave Indonesia every 30 days. This allotted me the absolute fortune to spend five days in Phuket, Thailand, from last Saturday (May 4th) until Wednesday (May 9th). I loaded myself up with reggae music, a notebook + strong pen and a book, ready to spend my days snuggling into the sandy beaches and surrounding myself in words.

I realized quite quickly that the book I had borrowed from the library for the voyage was a dud. It shall remain nameless because it is probably only a dud for me.

There are no bookstores in Phuket, so I lallygagged around the hostel scouring the lost and found and community areas for books that had been left behind by other travelers.

I found one. Only one.

This one.

32116826_10156452648268417_2352722216472281088_n.jpg

The Dean’s Watch, by Elizabeth Goudge. “A warmly human story of nineteenth-century provincial life”.

Not really my cup of tea. But I was eager to complete my aesthetic back in the sand, so I decided to give it a whirl.

I love a good book, one rapt with tragedy and depth and soul, but I don’t…emotionally attach myself to them very often. If you take “emotional attachment” to be “crying” and “other sentiments”. I haven’t cried at an ending since I read Diana Nyad’s Find a Way last year. And that was because I was proud of her accomplishments. The last book of fiction that elicited tears from my face was Where the Red Fern Grows in fourth grade.

But. Snuggled into the sand of Phuket, Thailand with Elizabeth Goudge’s book in my hands, I found that “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” (or by it’s tagline, or by the synopsis on the back) came to be wildly good advice. Goudge, you were of the brilliant type. The characters are phenomenal in this story, just—I feel like I need to pause and brush away a tear, because I am so passionately in love with all of them. I want to be them. It’s bizarre, really, for me at least.

These emotions rising inside of me are 30% exceeding expectations and 70% the work of a genius who deeply understands humanity. In light of this raging emotion within me, I would like to compose a letter to Miss Montague, especially, because I love her and she deserves it.


Dear Miss Montague,

I know you don’t know me (you being fictional and living in the 1870’s and all) but I am one of your biggest fans. The way that you listen to people with your attention so completely undistracted, your focus so completely maximized. You make people fall in love with you because you hear who they are, and for the first time, they get to hear themselves, too. You never complain. You never voice your opinion unless directly asked. You never give advice. You simply listen and ask the right perfectly right questions. I want to be like you.

When you asked Mr. Peabody to tell you his news, did you realize that was what he needed? Someone to ask him about his mind and what is going on with his life, instead of simply demanding service from him? When you let the Dean cry on your shoulder over his disaffectionate cold wife, you didn’t move a muscle in case he remember how inappropriately intimate that was.

I love that you are disinterested in fashion. That you are devoutly religious but so open minded. I love your compassion towards kittens and bell towers and fine clocks. I love that you took a vow to love, because I agree with you: there is nothing else so profoundly interesting as treating each other with love. When your brother pushed you down the stairs in your youth and damaged your legs permanently, you never once made him feel more guilty than he already did. In fact, you took great pains to show him that you found value in this unexpected turn of events. That you find value in the immense suffering you face at night because of the injury. And what was the result? He became your closest companion. The love you gave him returned to you, and your happiness increased way more than if you had made him suffer like you.

Ahh, you’re truly brilliant. I look forward to reading more of your story, getting to know you more. I wish that I could sit in your parlor with you and have a glass of champagne and a tea biscuit. I know you would listen to me, too, and welcome me.

I want to be like you.

Love,
Josie


For additional mind-boggling quotes from The Dean’s Watch please click here to go to my reading list.

Better than that, though, just go find a copy of the book itself. Maybe tucked away in some forgotten bookstore. It was written in 1960 so it’s still out there. The level of self-examination within this book is intense, and I can only say that I haven’t read something that makes me really analyze my own behavior and instincts in quite some time.

+

The Journey

A week or so ago I received an email with the following poem. I asked the poet if he would allow me to feature it on the Hydrogen Jukebox because I think that it is brilliant. Brilliant and in alignment with the purpose of the Hydrogen Jukebox . 

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.


 

The Journey
Patrick Thomas King

It’s an easy walk from love to hate
The path lies smooth, pebble free
And straight
I start the journey without delay
Unconsciously impelled, till
Well on the way
No sign posts there to prompt my feet
Just trudging forward, the trek
Complete
When I arrive it’s cactus dry
Desert sand and parched wasteland
I rest and sigh and say goodbye
To love

+

The Art of Sleeping on Public Transportation

We learn and master and cultivate passion through practice. We aren’t born with the ability to read. We aren’t born with the ability to do woodworking. We aren’t born with a longing for the perfect cup of coffee. Everything is a practice. Even passion is a practice; we practice and practice and in this manner we cultivate our own passions. We truly can learn anything.

Except the ability to sleep well on a train.

That is most definitely innate and predestined.

There are simply those who can sleep well on trains and those who definitively cannot. There is no sense in practicing anything, because in this case it has long been decided for you. You cannot learn to sleep well on a train. This is not something that can be taught to you.

I was traveling by train to Bogor, Indonesia last Tuesday and I was given the pleasure to witness this art form in action.

P4202547.JPG

I snuggled myself in the cushy blue velvet seats of the woman’s car (the first and last carriage on the train), and after thirty minutes of a rocking, sunny lull 40% of the carriage inhabitants were dozing.

There were those who were dozing well and those who were not (and it’s got nothing to do with practice).

IMG_0992.jpeg

I wanted to applaud the woman across from me (the one sporting a fetching pink mask) for her immaculate posture. Head resting back, arms tucked in, body aligned head-over-heart-over-pelvis. She remained that way too, perfectly aligned, perfectly balanced. I couldn’t stop watching her, she was sleeping so well.

The woman directly next to me was Blessed Sleeper’s juxtaposition. She was like a fish out of water, flailing to and fro, head leaning towards my shoulder leaning closer closer leaning towards my shoulder getting closer when jolt! her subconscious would reprimand her and jerk her back to alignment. She lacks the sleeping well genes, I thought to myself.

If the sleeper is tiny, like the little boy in the blue t-shirt, the sleeper may curl his or herself up and sleep in that manner. Infinitely more comfortable than proper alignment. Alas, that stage of comfort only lasts seven years or so and what are you going to do with the remaining years?

I related most directly with the woman flopping herself next to me. I lack the sleeping-well-on-public-transportation genes. For long-standing proof of that, here is an excerpt from “Dorothy Got Lucky with the Tornado: A 78-Hour Journey Back to Kansas” on my account traveling from Rome to Ljubljana on a night bus:

I scale the steps into a second flixbus, this one destined for Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia. I choose my seat wisely: perfect distance from the bathroom, comfortable enough to produce a restful night’s sleep, east of the bus for a good sunrise viewing.

The bus is relatively empty which is good: taking a night bus is one thing, but taking a night bus when you are packed like a peanut with a bunch of slightly sweaty strangers is another.

And see, I’m a floppy sleeper.

I begin well, you know, upright and normal; good sleeping-on-public-transportation form with head-over-heart-over-pelvis. But then as I trance into deeper stages of sleep, I begin to flop. Flop to the left, jerk myself back to stage one sleep. Flop to the right, jerk myself back to stage one sleep. Flop again, back and forth.

Sometimes I wonder if I weren’t the inspiration for the “whip my hair back and forth” music video.

A half hour into the haul we make a stop, and a tall, gangly gent climbs on board, over-eager with his thumbs hooking around the straps of his backpack. We make brief eye contact: this is bad.

There are certain tactics you have to learn to if you want a successful, smooth long-long-soverylonghowmuchlonger bus ride: you can be friendly to the other passengers (indeed, should be friendly, they’re human beings after all) but not too friendly. You’ve got to be just the riiiiight amount of unapproachable to deter anyone from sitting next to you.

At the time of above-mentioned eye contact with Gangly Gent, I am nodding along to some Nina Simone. Gangly Gent gets the idea that my nods and eye contact were to be interpreted as, “come join! Let’s be friends forever!”

He makes his way up the aisle, locking eyes with the seat next to me, and the entire time my eyes are slowly squinting and my eyebrows are slowly knitting in a last effort to subconsciously deter deter DETER!

Finally he gets close enough and my facial features relax into the societally-appropriate “you’re a human, I’m a human” expression. He sits next to me, we shake hands, I attempt to subconsciously warn him of my sleep-flop disorder.

Fast forward about four hours: it’s midnight and I awake with a start, my head very INAPPROPRIATELY making a home against his upper arm.

Damn the sleep flop!

Blissfully, he’s passed out. Or dead. His neck bent at a bizarre angle, head back, mouth cavernously open. His breathing sounds like an asthmatic cat attempting to purr.

I lightly wind my head back to the center, softly wiping off the little drool spots that have blossomed on his sleeve. And we fast forward about four more hours:

It’s three a.m.  I awake with a start, my head AGAIN nuzzling against his arm. Sleep flop! I panic and check his face: nope, still dead. Crank crank crank, wipe wipe wipe–leave no trace, Josie, just like the woods–and we’re good to go.


I would hope that one day I could learn the art of sleeping well on public transportation, but I fear that will never be the case. It is simply not in my cards.

To you, if you be one of those preordained like Blessed Sleeper, I say enter into the circus or try and capitalize on your God-given gift. Not everyone is like you, you know. You could make a killing.

To you, if you be like me, I say always have tissues and apologies handy for wiping away drool and explaining your actions. Although it tends to be an ice breaker, so that’s a plus.

At the moment I am in Phuket Thailand fleeing the country of Indonesia so I can renew my visa for another go-around. The topic of artful public sleeping arose when I walked past someone who was sleeping like this:

tyler-nix-537444-unsplash.jpg

I thought to myself, wow. I really get him. He and I are brother and sister in sleeping.

Peace and blessings,

Josie