Inexplicable Me (or, From the Field to the River)

February, 2008

Jena needs prompt treatment.
Jena needs our financial support.
Jena needs justification.
Jena needs now.
Jena needs a slap to the head.
Jena still needs convincing.
Jena needs prayers.
Jena needs to see the light.
Jena needs more preparation time.
Jena needs support.
Jena needs to get off her behind.


This morning when I first sat down to write, I went to look up Rumi’s poem, the one I’ve referred to so many times, the one Maezen uses at the beginning of her Mother’s Plunge retreats to teach, to remind, to show us where our life is (hint: outstretch your arms, wiggle your fingers, and you will see, there is your field).

I know it by heart, but still, typed into the Google search bar: Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field–

I was thinking of it because these past few days, more than ever, I’ve had this sensation of living “beyond comprehension.” I put it in quotes (or “bunny ears” as Aviva says) because I shared those words with Greg last night in an email about some money-related things, but then telling him I wish there were more to say, to explain, other than I still love him and always will and that even I can’t fully claim to understand what’s happening in my life, our lives. It does not make sense. It is out beyond sense. “Why, why is this happening?” he asked yesterday when he brought Pearl over, after a night where each of us had one of the girls.

Standing by the coffeepot this morning, waiting like an addict. Inexplicable Me, I thought, just for a moment chuckling at the play on Despicable Me, which we saw at the drive-in last summer and watched again recently at Ashley’s.

Convincing, justification, preparation, self-inflicted wounds–

It’s as if I wandered away from all of that, right into the field beyond rightdoing and wrongdoing, right into that open space where things don’t make sense to the mind, the mind that is armed like a prison guard with reason and logic. As if I wandered right into some disorienting open space, a freedom from attachment the mind screams at in judgment but that the body, my body, told me to allow, to move towards, to step into, and above all, to stay calm.

By the last few days before we officially decided to separate–late August–here’s what I felt: a life force, a river of energy, spirit even, as mighty as the Colorado, moving through me and around me. Internally, it was that channel whose dam had broken in early June, and every time I tried and tried to resist it, to shut it down, to force it back, to push against it, a voice rose in me that was both my own and someone else’s. NO!!!

It shouted, like a woman under attack. So many times this summer, Greg said he felt like we were slowly moving towards “the inevitable.” I was often the one insisting, with my words, my mind, my will, my might, that no, we could not lose each other. Couldn’t. And then I would stand in the shower sobbing, grieving him already.

We tried. God, we tried. After an already brutal summer, we drove to Maine for a night and spent a small fortune on the last hotel room in Ogunquit, one inn over from The Beachmere, where we spent a few nights in 2001 for a belated honeymoon, where we had sex on the table in front of the bay windows overlooking the ocean, strolled around, ran on the beach, ate muffins and bought knick-knacks, blissful, new. Memory’s afterglow.

This time, we went for a run on the beach, and he told me later that he just felt me gone, as I ran ahead and he went to the water’s edge and looked out at the horizon. I cried during sex, as I had most of the summer, because something had shifted so forcefully, so undeniably, that it was not a matter of choice or will that I no longer wanted him inside of me, and we both felt it.

My body was calling the shots, that river was rushing in one direction only, and after years of sitting on its banks, I was now in it–and at its mercy.

Oh, merciful river. Carry us to safety.
Oh, merciful source of life, hold my beloved as I can no longer hold him.
Oh, merciful one who gives and takes away, give me the strength to trust you.
Oh, merciful river. I cannot fight against your force.
Carry me.
Carry me.

I have to end for now, to go get in the shower and wake the girls. My coffee’s sitting here getting cold. And by the way, in case you don’t live in Vermont: It is about fifteen below zero here.

But before I do, let me close the loop on this post with this:

The people, the words, the experiences we need–they find us, by hook or by crook, magically or messily, against our will or because of it. In the end it doesn’t matter. It’s simply beyond right and wrong, it’s beyond understanding, comprehension, and explanation. Today, the poem I needed found me, the one whose every word describes better than I ever could what’s happening, even if there is not acceptable answer to the “Why?”

First I walked out into the field, and then I stepped right into the river.

Moving Water

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river
moving in you, a joy.

When actions come from another section, the feeling
disappears. Don’t let

others lead you. They may be blind or, worse, vultures.
Reach for the rope

of God. And what is that? Putting aside self-will.
Because of willfulness

people sit in jail, the trapped bird’s wings are tied,
fish sizzle in the skillet.

The anger of police is willfulness. You’ve seen a magistrate
inflict visible punishment. Now

see the invisible. If you could leave your selfishness, you
would see how you’ve

been torturing your soul. We are born and live inside black water in a well.

How could we know what an open field of sunlight is? Don’t
insist on going where

you think you want to go. Ask the way to the spring. Your
living pieces will form

a harmony. There is a moving palace that floats in the air
with balconies and clear

water flowing through, infinity everywhere, yet contained
under a single tent.

~ Rumi, from The Glance, trans. by Coleman Barks

7 thoughts on “Inexplicable Me (or, From the Field to the River)

  1. lemead says:

    I love all of the poetry that you share here, but my favorite words in this post are these:
    “The people, the words, the experiences we need–they find us, by hook or by crook, magically or messily, against our will or because of it. In the end it doesn’t matter.”
    I am still working to understand some of these experiences and people in my life, trying to unpack their legacy and the WHY of it – perhaps that last is a futile effort. I suppose know that BECAUSE is enough, and that the universe is giving me what I need.
    In fact this reminds me now of one of my very favorite quotes (and as you know that’s saying something with me):
    “Life gives us what we need when we need it – receiving what it gives us is a whole other thing.” (Pam Houston)
    Staying open – that is my challenge, and you are such an inspiration here. Thank you.xo


  2. dawnskor says:

    There is never a time when I don’t finish one of your posts with an open-mouthed WOW. You are an amazing writer and human being, Jena. I am so glad you crossed my path, and I yours.

    That’s one mondo beyondo, isn’t it? xoxooxd


  3. ashleydwatson says:

    I’m realizing that life has to be slow right now, moving from one cathartic cry to the next. It does get better. But sometimes, more often than we’d like, it has to get worse first.

    It is 20 below. Maybe your river is just frozen.

    Keep writing your way into the Spring thaw. And let me know how mud season goes.



  4. larissaschwartz says:

    Carry You, Dispatch

    Green river flows
    Like grass melting
    Later it will run back down its track
    Into an ocean
    She stands on the bridge
    Dim light on her back


    I will carry you…
    I will carry you…

    I want to float higher
    Above waves of electric wires
    Stare down onto the street
    I see a drunk with kiln-glazed eyes
    Telling me about the girl I should meet


    I will carry you…
    I will carry you…


  5. gailnhb says:

    Dawnskor got it right: WoW!!

    Thank you for being so brave and open and vulnerable. Thank you for being the amazing woman and writer that you are and for allowing me to follow your journey from afar – and in my heart.

    May your river flow freely and warmth find its way into your heart and soul and home too.


  6. skippyjonjones says:

    Again, thank you for your words of sharing.

    And yes, the work of our souls defies logic and explanation. There is no answer to “why?”.

    I’ve been clinging to (ha! or trying not to cling, actually) river analogies a lot lately. At times there is nothing left to do but let it carry me ~ and go with the flow.

    Amazing poem. Wow!



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