This weekend marked the official start of summer in Portland and let me be the first to warn you: no one is immune to this vixen city's charms. All it takes is a few hours of sunshine and I'm not the only one in town with a shit-eating grin and the kind of never-ending boner one can only otherwise achieve by mainlining Viagra. The ides of June aren't even upon us yet, but my Winter of Ill Repute is already long forgotten. It never even happened! And I'm in too good a mood to care. It's summer! Squeeeeee!
If I didn't know any better, I'd be worried about my Vitamin D erection lasting longer than four hours and find myself a doctor, but I'm be beginning to suspect it has nothing to do with the barometric pressure and everything to do with being turned on by life again. Apparently I forgot how intoxicating a little freedom can be. How being single means I have all this time! and energy! and enthusiasm! I'd go so far as to say I'm shitting sunshine, but it feels more like the Care Bear Stare - all of my resources are coming together to form a single ray of love and good cheer.
Shhhhhhh. It's BELLY MAGIC.
I'm (totally not) kidding, but what I am trying to say is that I'm inspired again. All the time. By EVERYTHING - by my kids, my People, the city itself and runningrunningrunning its endless trails (I just signed up to run all 80 miles of Forest Park this summer!), by the spectacular brains of a certain bald muse, by music, new and old, by dancing my Fridays away, reconnecting with friends, and talking with my parents (we're going back to Cali in August!). I'm even inspired by the fact that Lola doesn't have air conditioning (that fine Mercedes Benz experience, now brought to you in smell-o-vision!).
In fact, by the time Sunday morning rolled around, I was so filled with inspiration I decided to hit The Bridge on my way to the Germantown trail head. A little punk rock gospel and an ass-kicking run? So perfect that Lionel Richie wrote a song about it.
Of course, as it usually does, church ended up doing most of the ass-kicking and that's what this post is about: how my summer wood led me straight into a tabernacle.
Yes. A taberFUCKINGnacle.
A god yurt.
Aside from the Mormon choir, I'd never heard of a tabernacle, either, and had no idea what anyone was talking about or what I was in for. But it's The Bridge and no one gives a shit if you've never read the bible. All you have to do is show up. So when Geoff (foul-mouthed preacher's wife's husband) (which technically makes him Pastor Geoff) (but that sounds gross) led us through all the Holy Furnishings (™ IKEA) of a tabernacle, I just played along like I always do (because I never ever regret it).
Apparently there are seven steps to yurty salvation. Geoff put us though all of them:
1) For step one, we each made a list of the injustices we'd done to others and then scripted step-by-step apologies, which we then burned in a terracotta pot so that God could forgive us our sins. My apology was to Alex and Genoa, and as much as I'd love absolution for my shitty parenting, I'm going to have to wait a few more decades and let them make the call on the forgiveness thing.
2) Step two was The Laver, which meant we had our hands sprinkled with water on our way back into the building. This only reminded me of how Genoa's kindergarten teacher would give each kid a squirt of hand sanitizer on their way in from recess. It also made me wish one of those rad Dyson hand-dryers would miraculously appear.
3) Step three had something to do with bread. Geoff tasked us with writing out the 12 elements of our lives that bring us life and truth and the one element we most mourn. Mine bubbled to the surface faster than I could write them down:
BOOM. Done. I'm still not sure why, but we then put our lists under the 12 pizza-bread rolls on the altar and moved on to the next step.
4) Step four involved looking at a candle and writing about light, clarity and understanding. Honestly - this is where the Care Bear Stare first popped into my mind. I'm feeling whole again and instead of focusing inward, I'm hoping to use all this inspiration as fuel to inspire others.
5) Step five was the Altar of Incense. I really hate incense (one of many reasons I could never be Catholic), but fortunately, I couldn't actually smell it. Instead, as instructed, I wrote down a few prayers for my loved ones (for my children's hearts, for Joel's well being, for SamnTerry's broken water heater) and then moved on to write down whatever thankfulness came to mind. Again, I didn't even think much about my response before it was already on paper:
"I'm thankful that after years of struggle, I'm finally at a place where I can feel all my elements coming together to fuel me into being something bigger (and ironically smaller) than I've ever been."
(I'm still putting that one in my incense pipe and smoking it.)
6) For step six, we finally got see inside God's Pandora's Box! Apparently he had three little questions hiding in there and I had three little answers:
How are you designed to function? (As a writer.) How will you be sustained in this functional beauty? (By having faith that people give a shit about what I have to say.) And how will you get back to it when you get off track? (Simple perseverance, exactly like running.)
7) Finally, we arrived at step seven - The Mercy Seat - where we were asked to close our eyes and imagine who God is and what he/she/it is like. As always, I substituted "The Universe" for God and described that instead. In front of a mic. Because that's how I roll:
Apparently, I see "God" as:
- The Wildwood Trail (specifically that downhill stretch on Alder where if you run fast enough, you ARE The Universe).
- My sleeping children.
- The beach.
- Back yard bonfires.
- My People.
- Sex. (It's a mitzvah, after all.)
Then, without giving it much thought, I added:
… a blinking cursor.
And that was the money shot.
THAT's where all the BELLY MAGIC needs to go. To Chavez.
I think I've decided to name my blinking cursor Chavez. Chavez and I are ready to get 'er done. #nanowrimo— Amanda P. Westmont (@mandajuice) November 4, 2009
I tweeted that three and a half years ago and then proceeded to write 50,000 words in a month. Genoa was only just beginnng to sleep through the night and Alex was just starting first grade. I did all that writing after they went to bed at night. I've barely written anything since.
When exactly did I become a writer who doesn't write? Sure, I may have done some of my best work while I was with Joel - Year of Sundays is the writing I'm still most proud of - but once things started to go South for us, I completely lost my mojo. All my emotional energy went into the relationship and I had nothing left for myself. (Or my children. See #1 above.)
I stopped writing.
And that's what this hard-on for life is all about. All this inspiration has nothing to do with the weather or summer or how much I love this town, and everything to do with the resurrection of my mojo. Somewhere along the way, I think I forgot that I didn't give up everything - my white picket fence, my marriage, my large automobile and well-paying job, my security, not to mention the financial security of my children (all that facade) - for nothing! I didn't reconstruct my world into the antithesis of the American dream just so I could chase bald men and make mac and cheese.
I did it so I could WRITE.
I never would've guessed I'd be born-again inside a yurt, but The Universe wouldn't have given me such a big mouth if I wasn't meant to use it.