STONE LOVIN’

Dear reader, is there something in the natural world that you are really drawn to? Birds, clouds, pine trees? Lightening storms? Is there something for which you have an unrelenting affection? For, me, it’s stones. Specifically, I’m drawn to stones that hail from the edges of the sea.

I feel so very alive and content when I am walking on a stone strewn beach, or when I am crouching over them, admiring their myriad patterns and shapes, colors and textures. When I’m in communion with these rounded beauties, I have no age, no name, no agenda. I am not weighed down with layers of labels and hurry-ups and I’d-better-nots. The stones­­­­­­­—all colors, sizes, and shapes of them– touch a place deep inside me that feels like it’s been alive forever.  My relationship with them is simple and straightforward. I adore them, I respect them, I’m in awe of them. I also delight deeply and earnestly in my time with them, and…. I know them to be alive. They vibrate at a much slower rate than humans do, but they have life nonetheless.

I collect them, but only if they tell me they want to be gathered. My hands and eyes move towards the stones I am drawn to, and sometimes the vibration coming from a stone feels like a definitive NO, don’t take me. Not today. And so I don’t pick that one up, or if I already have I’ll place it gently back down with a silent thank you. Sometimes they are happy to be put into my bag or bucket, and other times it seems they are entirely neutral.

When I am on a beach that is home to stones, preferably in the early morning or late afternoon, I feel like I am surrounded by the most exquisite jewels the Earth has to offer. Who needs diamonds, when there are such gems as these, smoothed by time and water and wind and imbued with a wisdom I cannot adequately describe.

I have thousands of stones in my home and yard. When I have the time and feel the calling, I make art with them. Cairns, specifically—intentional stacks. Here again, the stones guide me in the process. Some want to go together, some are neutral. Some will make it quite clear they do not want to be placed on top of that rock, or in that cairn.

I used to just balance the stones, and I do have some cairns that live that way for a long time. About ten years ago, the thought of gluing them together came to me. I felt my way through that idea, and then brought it to the stones, not knowing how they would feel about being glued. Their radiated answer? Yes, glue is OK. A decade of our time seems to be like a few moments of theirs, and their languid vibrations do not react the way ours might. My deeper sense is that, if they are glued in a cairn and the time comes for them to be free again, the cairn will simply break apart.

My stone love brings me peace.  I’m grateful for their steady reminder that true strength and real balance can coexist in unlimited combinations of color, size and shape.

So, reader dear, what calls you out of doors, what helps you stay grounded when the ways of the peopled world feel oppressive or overwhelming? You can email me privately by replying to this blog, or you can leave a comment below or on Facebook. I do so love to hear from you.

Melinda Coppola

Of Two Minds, or Many

What if there’s no such thing as right side up?

 

Of Two Minds, or Many

When Left Brain speaks,
she is right on
about doing it
right or don’t do it
at all, do it
all right, do it
right now,
for all the right reasons.

Left Brain says I’ll whip you
into shape and that would be square,
four equal sides,
no curved lines,
nothing left over and nothing
to spare.

Right brain listens
before she speaks,
and after,
or doesn’t speak at all,
just listens, nods,
listens again.

Right could not care any less
about being true to her name.
She knows what’s left
after all the talking and listening,
after all the reasons and arguments,
what’s left is the raw, moist truth.

Right sings to left body,
coos and coaxes, makes suggestions:
Write with your non-dominant hand.
Pick up the paintbrush, charcoal,
Breathe out a poem before breakfast.

Chakra Theory says there is a meeting place,
a union of two minds,
found deep in the Ajna* forest
of your third eye, where the trees glow
an unearthly shade of indigo
and the birds, when they come,
beak out soundless songs
that make exquisite,
immediate sense.

It’s on my To Go list,
this mercurial destination,
and I know I’ll get there someday,
but right now, my Left says
a unified I
is on the no fly list,
and balance evades,
and all my selves seem content
to wander internal circles,
muttering niceties to each other,
and humming.

 

—Melinda Coppola

* Ajna is the Sanskrit name for the Sixth ( or brow) Chakra, home of inner knowing and intuition, where the energies of Yin and Yang meet

5/24/17

Today I celebrate my incarnation

Fifty six trips around the sun,
carrying a moniker
that took decades to like,
and I continue,
residing more,
or sometimes less,
inside this soft tent of skin
held up by strong bones
that shape this form
we keep agreeing to call me.

So much to marvel at,
a couple tens of thousands
of sleeps, of sunrises,
so many chances
to shake it off and begin again.

If I could line you up–
the ones who noticed,
and the ones who never did,
the ones who took me in,
or under a wing,

and those who laughed at me,
and those who laughed with me,
and those I loved but never told,
and those I didn’t love enough,

and those who knew I could
when I thought I could not,

and those who spoke truth
even when it shattered me,
and those who lied to me,
and those who betrayed me,

and those who were afraid of me,
and those who were afraid with me,
and those who lost hope,
and those who gave faith,
and those who questioned,
and those who accepted,
those who showed up
those who left without leaving a note,

those who explained themselves,
those who never tried,
and those who encouraged,
and those who could not,

if I could gather you all together
I’d go bowing through the crowd,
hands in loving mudra
thanking each of you
with my sentient heart,
for all of it.

As it is,
I ruminate
on how you helped me grow,
and how I hope
perhaps I helped you, too.

I kneel and praise a universe
that does this,
that keeps us
offering ourselves to each other
over and over,
as rough stones,

each encounter smoothing a jagged edge
through pleasure or pain,
returning us as pearls
to a larger sphere in need
of our perpetual adornment.

Melinda Coppola

Alone, I am island

Photographer unknown.

I am an unpopulated island
in a teeming quicksilver sea.
I am a sturdy outcropping,
raw, rocky, ravaged
by two thousand years of volcanoes,
seismic shifts.
I am a testimony to the chaos
from which all life begins.

“We’ll smooth, says the ocean, it’s what we do—
soothe and smooth and
flatten your sharp edges, make nice
with all your singular points of upheaval.

Together we’ll make sand.
It will be soft between the toes
and the claws and the webs
of the two and four footed ones
that will someday want to walk your beaches.”

I am an island of resistance
in a placating sea. I will not crumble
under ocean’s incessant coax
towards making more of less,
or less of more.

I am an unpopulated island
in a sea of we-will-change-you.
I live, not to please or appease
a greening
groaning planet,

but to touch the very heavens
with my rocky peaks!
To push the clouds aside,
write my story, cursive
but not cursory,
in pointed stone
across the smooth blue sky.

–Melinda Coppola

Poet’s notes:  I am truly captivated by stories of people like Charles Baird, who lived for a year alone on an essentially unpopulated island off Alaska. I am introvert and dreamer enough to imagine a current of deep and wild joy that could fuel such an endeavor.

My Calling

gifted cairn

From an Inky Path writing prompt “ Writers Manifesto for Hard Times”, about finding your own unique contribution to addressing the challenges of our times.

As I was finishing this, I received a call from my daughters day program informing me that a planned trip to swim at the JCC
( Jewish Community Center, for those who are unfamiliar) was aborted due to a bomb threat.

—————————————————————

My Calling

My revolution is a quiet one.
It stems from seeds planted by spirit
before I was born. It leafs
only with the good rain of compassion
that sometimes tastes like tears. It blooms
only in the rich, common human soil,
the ground trodden and tilled by millions of sisters
and brothers who have one heart that beats
in its own time, just like mine.
Just like me.

My struggle is one tiny flexed muscle,
so small and slow it is easy not to see it.
My fight is not a fight,
rather it is a realized intention
to shut up and listen,
listen with the ears of my heart,–
that waiting garden, — so
I might then sing and chant and poem
exhortations,
urge others to quiet and still
that they may hear
that they may hear
they may hear
truth.

Listen, listen”,
truth hums in time with heartbeats,
we are one we are one we are one
and what we do to each other,
we do to ourselves.
What we visit upon ourselves
we foist on others. Let it be worthy.”

And when I am all used up and
my bag of gifts is empty,
when my body gives itself
to the fire or to the earth,
when my small voice becomes
an integral part of the great OM
which is the song the Earth
hums as she spins through space,
my piece of the great revolution–
(which I hear from my heart is all of life)–
my peace will be revolutionary.
Post script let them say
let them say
She did what she came here to do,
she shut up and heard
what it was she was called to,
what she was called for,
what she was called to be,
and though it was tiny
it was her own kind of mighty,
it was her own kind of fierce.

 

–Melinda Coppola

 

 

CAThartic

Leroy and Olive, Ruby looking on

Leroy and Olive, Ruby looking on

 

“Comes a time, “ said the first cat, when you can decide to be different than you were. You can stop scratching at the window, scheming to find a way to get back OUT THERE. You can stop re-living , over and over in your head, the pleasures and perils of running free, looking for cover, trying to keep warm, prizing yourself with baby rabbits and chipmunks and mice and voles.

“You can decide. You can settle into sleeping all day in a sun patch on a soft carpet. You can spend the eve stalking the four corners of each room and pouncing on bugs and worms and little bits of leaf that found its way in from the garden. You can learn to love the predictable plate of food, half crunch and half fish-smelling soft mash. You can decide to trust the big clumsy humans who demand little, really, except a small patience and tolerance of a head scratch, a lap pat.”

The other felines looked, half-listened, began licking their paws in preparation for a preen.

“Point is,” the first cat said, “the big bright light comes every morning, and the big soft dark pushes it away every eve, and you can be new if you want to, because the old bright is over. You can decide how to be. “

 

carly-12-16-12

Carly

carly-girl

-Melinda Coppola

Welcome, Winter!

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Solstice 2016

On this, the shortest day of the year in my part of the world, I have a confession to make. I’ve been swirling, these darkening days, around and around like a pile of dry autumn leaves. Allowing myself to be picked up by the loudest winds of fear and unrest, carried this way and that, and spun around until I am dizzy. I’ve been letting this happen. And, because I know better, and because I sometimes ask others to know better, it seems appropriate to re-publish something I wrote for my Yoga students a few years back. It goes like this:

How to Welcome Winter

Listening is a dying art and science. Let’s listen to ourselves for starters. We begin to complain about the shortage of light. It is so much harder, we’ll say, to slip in the walk/the run/the gym/the sunrise Yoga, almost impossible, we’ll agree, to Get It All Done. The Holidays, someone will whisper, and you or I will nod gravely and point out the circles beneath our winter eyes. And if we pay attention we’ll hear ourselves repeat the litany of insults that Winter has hurled against us, has slid underneath our skin. It’s so cold, we’ll say to anyone who’ll hear. We’ll find new ways to explain the way the damp chill invades our very bones and how even the car groans when the key inquires about a ride to the market. The market! The lines are long, the fruit is pitiful, the prices prick our sense of decency. Damn the season. You know the one, the one where we are supposed to Joy! and Cheer! and Buy! our way to a healthy economy and happier family and friends.

Stop. Hear yourself. What is it your body needs at this time? Your mind? Your soul? We drown out the true voice within with our very human tendencies to complain and rail against what is. WHAT IS. We know, don’t we, that no amount of protest will raise the temperature, coax the daylight to linger a little longer, or stop the incessant cultural noise that exhorts us to continue on without change as if there wasn’t this season called winter. As if the natural call to slow it down, get a bit more sleep, find refuge in quiet practices….as if there was no wisdom in that.

Winter wisdom doesn’t whisper. When we listen, winter wisdom belts out it’s songs with bold baritone vibrato, sharp and clear in the frigid air. There’s a foot of snow on the ground–stay in! It gets dark earlier; go to bed earlier too! It’s cold outside-eat warm nourishing foods! I am winter, season of introspection. Go within; meditate and bear witness to those seeds sleeping under the frozen earth. They will bear fruit in their time and your worry will not hasten their germination! At least that’s what I hear winter saying, when I really listen.

You faithful Yoginis and Yogis are likely to have a more highly developed ability to tune in and really listen to physical, emotional, mental and spiritual selves. That is, after all, a huge part of our practice, isn’t it? The witnessing without rushing to judgment, the respect for natural cycles and our place within them? This season, let’s do it differently. Let’s go slow as if this is the most natural thing there is. Let’s remember that we are enough, we do enough, and that the gift of being present with ourselves and each other is truly the greatest gift there is. That’s when we can begin to pay attention to that spark of light that flickers in you, and you, and you. We recognize it because it lives within each one of us, and we are mirroring each other. It’s the great grand NAMASTE, the honoring of the divine and universal light and life force in each other that emanates from one source, call it what you will. And that, my friends, is the essence of Bhakti Yoga; our devotion, yours and mine, to what created and sustains you and me and everyone else. It’s highly personal and universal at the same time.

I think winter is a beautiful symbol for the going within that is an essential part of the process of realizing who we are and what we are here for. I also think that’s a run-on sentence, but I digress. What do you think?

Take care, stay true to what grounds you, stay well,

Melinda

 

Love letter to the morning

Love Letter to the Morning

img_2095

There is much they don’t know. Our history,
the ways we cleaved together and then peeled apart.
How you went on without me, blithely,
and I mourned you even when I didn’t name it.

It. The mourning morning, the real morning that
happens between 5 and 6am. I deprived myself
of your inspiration even when awake, then,
gave myself over to the brooming and grooming of my paperworked life.

Like a wife; I’d
married it, you see. The computer, the bills,
endless spin of record-keeping for this one and
that one and those ones.
A rushing stream of ones
and zeros. Ones and zeros the sum total of dead hours
with a glowing box that sucks the senses in and into it,
out and out of me. But you, but we

Prevailed! How could I stay away too long?
You are bejeweled, bedecked with sparkling dew,
your siren song a chorus of birds and bugs seasonal,
their auditions the sweetest breakfast in my ears. Your
fragrance is a heady perfume of mystery and promise.

This heart leaps and sings
each and every time you appear,
like you’re coming just for me,
with an invitation for the daily
private showing, darkness disrobing
to reveal pre-dawn and dawn,
the sky a many-hued tapestry,
cool breeze a healing balm, and
aviary symphony,
delight for waking ears.

–Melinda Coppola

Between Faith and The Cable News

As far as I can tell, we still revolve,
this planet with people sticking out all over it,
around the sun. Seems we still burn, and tan,
and crops still turn towards something in the sky
that glows warm.
Tell me if you know otherwise.

IMG_7224

Art by a teenaged me

No, don’t tell me.
In a year that feels surreal,
in a time that makes it hard to praise
the abundance of good hearts, I praise you. Knowing
in the red marrow of my white bones
it’s all I can ever do.

The curtains fall on precious lives,
musty curtains that fast obscure a score of tragic
demises and all that preceded them; lifetimes of sunrises
and sunsets, love between family members, other love;
partners, friends, a cherished pet.

All these details,
brush strokes in each personal masterpiece,
which every life is, after all.
After all, erased. We forget. We can’t hold
the knowledge that the family of man and womankind is not
wholly kind, that there are deep chemical imbalances on the
planet and in our governments.
We are off kilter, scales tipped precariously,
our hope teetering between
faith and the cable news.
Do you know otherwise?

Street justice: some prefer it to the hot heavy hand
of an unjust judge who claims a blindness as a disability
of privilege, a deafness as a way not to hear.
We turn it against each other,
the judgment. We think the more we talk
the more right we are. We are many, and the many have
much to say, mouthing the words they lately
heard are right, as if to prove to an indifferent world,
Hey, I am not one of them. I am one of you.
I implore you, tell me otherwise,
if you know.

We say things.
We say things like,” Agree with this man, this woman,
this group, or I will not look you in the eye anymore,
will not work with you, will not play with you, will unfriend.”
We say and write these things
when we know in the very marrow of our white bones
this planet with people sticking out all over it,
these people on this planet are in need,
deep need, red need, these people are
in open-weeping-sore need
of more friends, more friending. More.

We feel hopeless, frightened. I am of the we,
and we are sticking out all over this weeping planet
in raw need of more.
Tell me. Otherwise, this I know:

In a praise that makes it hard to time
the abundance of good words, I can only
let them come. And I will, and I do.
I praise you.

-Melinda Coppola

Why Yoga Matters Off the Mat

yoga[1]As I prepare to return to teaching classes next month, I’ve been musing and mulling over new ways to translate the essence of the great big practice that is Yoga. My desire, when I teach, is to reach underneath what you presume Yoga is, or isn’t, and touch your curiosity about your true nature. You know what I come back to again and again, though? There is no real way to explain why your practice changes you. It just has to be experienced.

Yoga is so much more than prescribed body proddery and an opportunity to slow the heck down. The practice is like skin, stretching to adapt to the changes within as we grow and shrink, get taut and then get loose. Mostly, we choose how much we let our Yoga ripple, from that 75 minutes once or twice a week on the mat, outward to encompass moments of intensified awareness: while driving, walking, being with transition to sleep or waking.

We humans can be very good at compartmentalizing, keeping details in their place and honoring divisions between this hour and that, this person and that other one, this insight and that chosen blindness. Yoga practice can weaken the walls that we build to separate ourselves from others and from our own essence. The word Yoga actually means union, to yoke or join.  Body, mind, soul, are not strangers to each other. If we allow, Yoga takes us by the proverbial hand and leads us gently deeper into exploration of what it means to be alive as flesh imbued with something sparkly—call it Spirit or Universal Energy or God or G-d or Goddess.

This – the being alive – is so like a dance. We say yes, then no, we allow ourselves to be led, and dipped and twirled. We hesitate; back into a corner, take a break, decide a different partner will, well, change everything. We’re always dancing with some aspect of ourselves, though, so any coupling or uncoupling just gives us an opportunity to meet ourselves again and again. Yoga as a Way is continually offering up a new window, and the more we peek or study the view the more it begins to look familiar, like a spiral that appears to move outward, yet, when studied, leads in, and in, and in. There is space there, inside. Loads of it. Space and silence and, sometimes, the deepest peace you’ll ever feel.