city wildlife, the dark, and cupcakes

Last night while I was sleeping, Bubby encountered some city wildlife in our backyard. He said it scurried over the fence and growled at him.

Growled?

Yes, growled. Grrrrrrrrr.

Did you get a flashlight and look at it?

Hell no, it was scary!

Right.

Earlier that night I’d been preparing for this morning’s class. I was reading Mary Oliver. The poem The Chance to Love Everything kept coming back. (So lovely when read aloud…)

All summer I made friends
with the creatures nearby —
they flowed through the fields
and under the tent walls,
or padded through the door,
grinning through their many teeth,
looking for seeds,
suet, sugar; muttering and humming,
opening the breadbox, happiest when
there was milk and music. But once
in the night I heard a sound
outside the door, the canvas
bulged slightly —something
was pressing inward at eye level.
I watched, trembling, sure I had heard
the click of claws, the smack of lips
outside my gauzy house —
I imagined the red eyes,
the broad tongue, the enormous lap.
Would it be friendly too?
Fear defeated me. And yet,
not in faith and not in madness
but with the courage I thought
my dream deserved,
I stepped outside. It was gone.
Then I whirled at the sound of some
shambling tonnage.
Did I see a black haunch slipping
back through the trees? Did I see
the moonlight shining on it?
Did I actually reach out my arms
toward it, toward paradise falling, like
the fading of the dearest, wildest hope —
the dark heart of the story that is all
the reason for its telling?

I know that sound outside the door. I know that fear. I know the black haunch.

I don’t very well know the courage.

To me this poem is about our darkness. Our very own personal ways of avoidance and denial.

For me, what lurks in that darkness is jealousy and greed and rage and selfishness.

These dark demons, perhaps more than usual, have surfaced this summer in the dynamic of my family: Allie turned 14 (need I say more?), her mother wanted her to go to a private high school (and so she is), there have been situations of exaggeration and deceit, and a whole new level of financial considerations for us. My ego identity wraps itself in the details of these stories and my dark side growls on the other side of the fence.

To continue to deny and cut off that dark part of myself keeps me from being whole. To pretend it does not exist or subscribe to a schema of how a “yogi” would be is not real or helpful. How can I be genuine, happy, or know freedom if I am not wholly myself, all parts included?

I ask this question as though it were easy. Just usher these dark parts in and the shades of light and dark and gray will live together like napoleon ice cream.

It’s not easy. Bubby wouldn’t even look over the fence at the growling possum/raccoon. It’s dark, it growls, it’s scary.

This is where this practice becomes so much more than information or a nice experience. It’s about integration. Putting an arm around yourself, as David Whyte says, when it doesn’t look all that good. Remembering the unremembered, returning your pieces to the whole.

The same emotions, the same sounds from outside the tent, come to me on the mat. There I have a safe place to explore and befriend them. A private way to meet the me I have shamed for so long.

***

I do think there are times to do this work, to really get into one’s stuff. And there are times to retreat and rest and eat cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes.

I made them again. For the people at class this morning. After they did all that hard looking around in the dark.

Maybe that’s what the wild animal in the yard was after last night.

I do believe this frosting could tame the beast in any of us…

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4 Responses to “city wildlife, the dark, and cupcakes”


  1. 1 Elizabeth September 6, 2010 at 4:10 am

    It seems easier and harder to do the work in the fall and winter, when the days are shorter and darker and colder. Easier because that seems like the time. Harder because that’s when it also seems time to rest and retreat and eat cupcakes.

    It’s interesting .. the end of the poem almost seems like it’s saying that part of the reason we don’t want to face the shadow is because we are fond of the story of the shadow and don’t want to find out that it’s not as dark as it seems.

    • 2 blogasana September 8, 2010 at 11:48 pm

      i agree – my natural inclination this time of year is to do the work… at the same time i find it easy to fall into a bit of darkness about it all.

      mmm, i love your take on the end of the poem. it goes different ways for me every time i read it.

  2. 3 Kelley M September 7, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Inspired me to make my own batch of cute and decorated mouse themed cupcakes yesterday. They were delicious and will get me though the day today too.


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