“Much happens when we’re not there.” — Window-Blind — Denise Levertov
My what-to-pack list is not long. This will be a weekend of retreat. Simple needs: dental floss, pajamas, jeans, a skirt, t-shirts, a towel. No hairdryer. One pair of shoes. At weak moments, I’m already missing my hairdryer.
I worry about my toenail polish. It’s my favorite. Revlon #711, “Wine with Everything.“ It’s not bubble-gummy or that awful purple stuff. Rather, it reminds me of my favorite Cabernet Sauvignon. My feet take on that glow of sophistication and dark mystery. Too much information? Well, anyway …
I worry. People with agendas will be at the retreat; there will be those leave-your-shoes-at-the-door sitting meditations and group gatherings. “Wine with Everything” will draw everyone’s attention down to my feet. There’ll be social activists; they’ll assume I’m a Republican. Environmentalists; they’ll assume I endanger the planet with chemicals required for toe upkeep. Then the PETA people; they’ll look at my feet and think about rabbits and mice and monkeys dying in dark cages. And international spiritual folks — the French, the Brits, the Israelies, the Spanish — and they’ll see me as a fraud, too married to the world of appearances. All that harping about American ego.
I’m packing my pajamas, and I decide they’re wrong—I’m an Independent, I recycle, I have a spiritual practice. I’m tossing in my alarm clock, and I decide they’re right—I don’t trust Obama, I don’t always check the triangles on the bottom of hand lotion bottles, and I can be a serious backslider. I’m squeezing shampoo into something smaller, and thinking these folks need to get a grip. I’m thinking I need to get a grip.
“Environmentalists and social activists and PETA people and international spiritual folk will be there … all harping about American ego.”
I can’t stop thinking.
Twenty minutes before I must leave for the eight-hour flight, I remove “Wine with Everything.” My toes look striped of interest, of energy, of summer. I think of slugs. But I’m safe from risk, from judgment, from worry.
At seven o’clock the next evening, a hundred people sit on cushions. The leader of the meditation sitting enters. At the door she whispers “Bon jour” to someone she knows. She settles herself on her cushions, faces us, and smiles. She is wearing “Wine with Everything” or something very close.
I seem to have dealt with the wrong question.
Photo credit: Scott Cunningham