Ah, not to be cut off,
not through the slightest partition
shut out from the law of the stars.
The inner — what is it?
if not intensified sky,
hurled through with birds and deep
with the winds of homecoming. (Rainer Maria Rilke)
I fly above the broad waistline of the country on my way home. The clouds look like whitecaps on the ocean, and Rilke’s words ribbon through my mind. I’ve been in the air often lately. Each month I travel to Boston for a weekend of yoga teacher training, then fly back to Wichita.
It’s one of the most ridiculous, unlikely, and important decisions I’ve ever made. My head said, “You don’t need to be a yoga teacher,” and “You can’t afford this,” and “Who do you think you are?”
But my belly said different things. Well, it didn’t say anything, really. That’s not the way of bellies. It just knew and held onto its knowing. I’ve read lately that we have brains in our bellies: dense webs of neurons lining our gastrointestinal tract. In the matter of head versus belly, I know better than to acquiesce to my head.
Nonetheless, it’s a struggle to leave each month. The weeks that I go invariably feel like the worst possible times to leave David. I weep. I worry. I rush around like a madwoman. Fortunately by the time I fly out of Wichita I’ve pretty much worn myself out. I watch the sunrise from the plane, feeling awed and undone.
When I return, I’m awash in intensified sky. It’s a marvel, because the weekends are jam-packed, and jam-packed doesn’t often lend itself to rejuvenation. I spend 19.5 hours in training, six or seven hours a night sleeping, and the rest of the time soaking up as many loved ones as I can.
I snatch hours at Dan and Becca’s, marveling over the ebullient Eliza, our beloved niece.
I savor meals and book club meetings with friends.
I watch my former students soar and sing.
I walk with friends, taking in autumn, the ocean, and the transforming hydrangeas.
I get to stay with Willa when I come. Sometimes all you need is a glimpse of a friend’s back staircase, and your body softens.
This past Saturday I walked Vespa the dog and found myself weeping. The North Shore of Boston feels more like home than anywhere I’ve lived. I haven’t wanted to say it or write it or even think it, but my heart aches to return.
Weeping helps. Saying it aloud where only Vespa can hear me: that helps, too. Afterward I breathe a little deeper, feeling the reality of my blessedness. I want to come home and I am home.
Have I mentioned how amazing PranaVayu teacher training is? I’ve worked with voices for years, but instructing entire bodies can feel overwhelming. These weekends provide the fuel I need. Our teachers make the task accessible; the new friendships make it beautiful.
I lived a block from the ocean for five years. Now fifteen minutes can restore me for the month to come. This beach is where I learned to spend time with my shadow. I lie in the dying grass and practice believing in a God who is bigger than my narrow vision.
By Monday morning I’m eager to return to my other home, the one with David in it. I’m eager to cuddle the cat and to tackle afresh the work of our fledgling Midwestern life.
There are many lovely things about my weekends in Massachusetts, but the thing that astounds me is the calm I feel as I leave. Waiting at the gate, I put aside my work to gaze at the backs of strangers. How often do I glimpse holiness in fluorescent lighting?
Rilke was onto something when he wrote of the winds of homecoming. Home is not a place we land but a connectedness we nurture. We can feel it with the people who know us best. We can sense it in the places we love. With practice we might find home anywhere.
I’d like to hit upon the right formula. I’d like to earn this warm, fuzzy feeling through meditation or yoga or altruistic accomplishment. But homecoming is not an achievement or an acquisition. It’s wind. It’s intensified sky.
Don’t try to hold it in your hand. Just breathe it in and echo Rilke’s prayer. Ah, not to be cut off . . .