Rainy Day Musings

Sunday, May 7, 2019

Dear friends,

It’s been raining at my house on and off for days now. A little over a year ago, we moved into a new-to-us house on the outskirts of town where we are surrounded by trees and grass, and it’s very peaceful. On rainy days, I like to be especially quiet and maybe open a window or two so I can hear the rain fall.

Our old house was the very last townhome built in a neighborhood full of them, and there were not many quiet days, even in the rain. The main road of the neighborhood was a long, slow, downhill slope, and we were at the very end of it. There was a storm drain in the parking lot, but it was often blocked by trash bins, children’s toys, and other debris that washed or rolled down the hill. Children from all over the neighborhood lost basketballs and other playthings that ended up blocking the storm drain, littering the grassy commons in front of our house or washing into the woods. The rain would trickle from the top of the hill, form a small stream in the parking lot, be rebuffed by the blocked storm drain, and form a rushing river down the broken sidewalk.

It was there that I last played in the rain, nearly ten years ago, shortly after Chris and I moved into that house. We were renovating the whole place ourselves with some help from friends and family, but most of our time at home was spent laying tile, building a deck, demolishing old drywall, replacing studs, patching and painting. The to-do list was epic. When we got our first good storm, I stood by the front door, gazing out in astonishment. There were actual rapids. It would have been dangerous for a small child. Someone’s tricycle was pushed by the stream all the way down past our door and up against the retaining wall we’d built to try and prevent our little slice of land from washing out from under us, as the property ended in a steep hill that plummeted into forest. At that time, I felt the pressure of adulthood descending upon me as I realized I’d just willingly taken on a debt I’d probably never see the end of — ain’t home ownership grand?

I was certain our neighbors would not like us much. At our first courtyard cookout, I drunkenly told our neighbor my mostly uncensored feelings about the Catholic Church only to learn that she and her family were practicing Catholics. I was also pretty sure they’d heard us having sex with the windows open one afternoon around the time all their kids were coming home from school. I didn’t think I was doing a very good job of adulting. That day when we got our first real rain storm in the neighborhood, I was briefly taken by an impulse from my inner eight-year-old. I stood in the rushing stream on our sidewalk laughing and dancing like a crazy person while Chris stood just inside the door, sipping his coffee and questioning my sanity lovingly.

I only stayed out a few minutes. Playing in the rain is not the same when you’re an adult. For one thing, I couldn’t stop thinking about the potential parasites in the mud around me. Lots of our neighbors had dogs, and the grassy area in front of our house was a favorite place for walking them. Not everyone was consistent with picking up after their pets.

It’s also more fun when you have someone to play in the rain with. As a kid, I had my two friends Justin and Drew with whom to actually do stuff in the rain, like fight. We would find a particularly wet sinkhole in someone’s yard to fight in. Or we would just … run around. No direction, just glee. Me and Amanda played on her swingset in the rain. Her mom was really mad about that one. It was either hailing or sleeting. She said it was too cold to be out in the rain, but I don’t remember it being cold. I remember the exhilaration of absurdity — how good it felt to do something so out of the ordinary.

Back then, I couldn’t understand why adults didn’t want to play in the rain. Everyone complained when we had rainy weather. They’d call it ugly, dreary, gross, and bad. That made me sad because I thought rainy days were just the best. What an amazing opportunity, you know? And adults were not only passing it up but scorning it —  running to their cars to get out of the rain but splashing their pants along the way, and carrying stupid umbrellas that helped a little but then dripped on everything in the car and in the house. It seemed to me that everyone was just determined to make a bad thing out of something beautiful. It would have served everyone better to just enjoy the rain.

I asked my friend’s mom why adults never wanted to play in the rain, and she said it was because, “then you’re all wet,” and I was like … that’s the point? But she said it’s a pain when your clothes get all wet because you have to wash them. Also if you’re out running errands and you go into stores, you track water everywhere, and it’s just a big mess. Plus the air conditioning is on in stores so you’ll get cold. And also, you don’t want to get the inside of your car all wet and muddy. She did have a pretty convincing point about how car seats would feel gross when you’re all wet, but I didn’t see how any of these things should stop a person from enjoying rainy days. On the other hand, I didn’t do my own laundry back then.

I’ve gotten a bit more practical about when I’ll play in the rain, but only because I had to. For example, right now, I will not play in the rain because I’m very comfortable sitting here at my desk with a blanket over my lap, sipping coffee, and day dreaming about the best parts of childhood. Also, it’s Mother’s Day, and my mother-in-law will be coming over soon, and I don’t have time to play in the rain and take a shower and then still help cook lunch.

I have had some chances to hang out in the rain lately, though, thanks to these on-and-off storms that roll through spring. My derby league had a round of headshots done in the rain, and we’ve had some after-practice parking lot beers in the rain that have been super high quality hangouts. However, much to my inner Ramona Quimby’s chagrin, I have always stayed under an umbrella, except for the few brief moments when I  modeled for the camera and did a handstand in the rain. She really loved that part.

But the main reason I won’t go out is that it’s still a little chilly outside, as we’re not quite half way through spring, and I am a summer person. I thrive on heat, and nothing makes me happier than a downpour on a sweltering day. I am so looking forward to summer. I can’t wait until the Renaissance Fair starts — the fair grounds are within walking distance from my house, and on rainy days it’s far less crowded, and I will be there, ready to maximize my enjoyment of the people, the shows, the trees, the fresh air, and every drop of rain I can catch.

I wonder what it’s like where you are, my friends. If you’re close, are you in the city or the woods? What does a rainy day feel like for you? Or are you in a place where it’s very dry? Would rain be a welcome change for you? What does the air smell like where you are? How does your environment embrace you, and you it?

I ask these questions knowing I most likely won’t get responses. I always tell the recipients of my letters that they don’t have to write back, and that’s true. But it’s not for lack of curiosity about them. I love getting letters back, but I also know sometimes it’s enough to have received a letter, and for me, it’s enough to have written one.

Thanks for reading. May you always play in the rain,

Mary

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Yoga Sutra 1.11: Humans Have a Memory Virus

Circuit Board

ANUBHŪTA VISAYĀSAMPRAMOSAH SMRTIH.
When a mental modification of an object previously experienced and not forgotten comes back to consciousness, that is memory.

Memory is the last of the vrittis, and it’s also possibly the trickiest. After all, the things we remember are real to us, even though they only exist in the past. How many times have you been sitting quietly, minding your own business, when some memory pops up in your mind for no clear reason? The memory may make you feel sad, or you might cringe with embarrassment. Maybe it makes you long for some happy time in the past or starts you wandering down a winding path of tangential thoughts. Suddenly, you’re not in the moment at all. You’re in the past. That’s memory.

If your computer randomly pulls up items from its memory regardless of their relevance to the current task, it’s really annoying, right? It crashes your game, slows down your work, and generally frustrates you. Same thing for human memory.

Like all the vrittis, memory has its place. We learn from it — I remember the only time I burned myself on a hot stove, so I don’t have to repeat that lesson! But I can’t keep thinking about that one time I burned myself when I was a little kid every time I try to cook something. If I get too distracted with that thought, I’ll wind up setting something on fire or just never trying to cook again. So, we do better when we moderate this vritti like all the others.

And how do we do that, you may ask? Well, that’s what we’ll start discussing with next week’s sutra! In the mean time, here’s a little bonus practice for you!

Bonus!

This week, practice being in the present. Keep an eye on your thoughts as you go through your days. Whenever a memory comes up or you find yourself lost in thought, pause, let the thought go, and bring your awareness back to the present moment. This sounds pretty simple, but you’ll soon find that the mind really likes to wander more than we usually realize. Make some mental notes or write in your journal about what kind of recurring thoughts you encounter and what happens when you let them go. Next week, we’ll delve more into practice and non-attachment.

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for one day a very long time from now

It’s 2 a.m. and for some reason I’ve been unable to sleep tonight. I was thinking about this poem I wrote a really long time ago and how I haven’t been able to find a copy of it for years. I decided to go through my old journals to try and find it. I didn’t find the poem, but I did find this:

image

Today, Dad gave me a hug. Not just any hug, but a hug to save specifically for a day when I am grown up and feeling lonely. He said, “One day, a very long time from now, you’ll be standing in your kitchen in your own house, and you’ll be feeling lonely, so this is for then.” Then he hugged me and said I should remember that. I hope I never forget it.

Of course, I forgot he did that, but I’m really glad I wrote it down. Apparently 17 year old me was not entirely stupid.

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The Best Mix CD I’ve Ever Received

Feel The Music!

This is the playlist from the best mix CD I’ve ever received. I’ve lost a lot of good mixes over the years, but I managed to hang on to this one from my brother, who has possibly the best musical taste of anyone I know. He gave me this CD in the early 2000s when Modest Mouse was one of those bands you’d mention pseudo-casually to see if anyone noticed how cool you were for knowing about them. I’ve reconstructed the playlist on Youtube in order to share it with you. 🙂

As I was listening to this CD, I felt compelled to share it for several reasons. First of all, every track on here is pretty stellar. Second, I don’t know anyone else who can put Frank Sinatra and NOFX on the same playlist and make it work. Third, I find it fascinating how music stays with me over the years, and songs somehow take on more meaning. Anyway, I’m utterly in love with this playlist, and I’ve even considered having a listening party in which this CD is the focal point. Give it a listen and see what you think!

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memories like dreams

Good morning from New York City!

I  made this little video last night as a way of announcing that I will soon be releasing my essay collection into the world.

I spent a long time pondering what to do with this one, and after much deliberation, settled on self-publishing.I thought really hard about traditional publishing and talked to a lot of people about it. There is the whole idea that traditional publishing gives your book more currency. Being accepted by an agent, an editor, and a publisher is a significant stamp of approval. But I decided I don’t want their approval. I did this work. It’s mine. And now I’m sending it out into the world to have a life of its own.

If I went the traditional publishing route, my life would continue to revolve around getting this thing out the door for the next year at least. But I don’t want to do that. I want to move on to the next thing.

So, in the next month, keep an eye out, and I’ll keep you posted on the progress. Wish me luck!

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