Monday, October 12, 2020

Chaos & Equanimity


And so the United States slips further into chaos. 


I look out the window and see leaves fly, hear them scrape across macadam all night long. They sound like footsteps. Ominous. 


The fire-smoke has cleared. Right now, the wind is kicking up. It rakes across the window screens, pulls incoherent words from the thin metal.


Just this week, I heard someone use the word “equanimity.” I wondered if I’ve ever heard anyone use that word out loud in my life?

So, what is equanimity and how does it relate to chaos?

One definition of equanimity online said this: “Mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.”

Okay, a way of maintaining balance in the center of a storm? 


I also heard another way of expressing equanimity this week that seemed more helpful to me:

Imagine that you are a mountain. 

Imagine you are a mountain, solid, experiencing the seasonal changes around you. 

You are experiencing all the changes around you and yet you remain a mountain.

You are experiencing all these changes, with a sense of continuity.

So, I spent the week feeling the chaos.

Personal chaos, social chaos, national chaos, world chaos. 

I tried to lean into all the emotions. The ones I liked, the ones I didn't.

And there were some moments (brief seconds, mind you) where I suddenly could hold all of it at the same time – without choosing one thing over the other.


I wrote the poem below a couple years ago.

My surreal take on equanimity.



Balance, A Definition


1. What I Found:


In a dry wash at twilight, on cold sand,

a cairn, three feet high, intricately balanced.

Close to the cairn's foundation, a deer's

hoof-print, sunk deep. Just one, no others.

2. A Few Questions: 


Why did those awkward and precarious angles of stone

            re-open an old dream of floating (floating trees,

half-moon and stars below roots; floating stones,

                                                                imitating hawks…)?

How did a deer pass so close to the cairn

                                                     without knocking it down?

Who first said float but really meant sink?


3. Some Answers:

The deer appeared from the space between the stones.

The cairn appeared when the deer floated by

                              and touched down one hoof, testing reality.

And the sky, the sky, with its thousand

                             interlocking blue staircases, built from nothing

     but air and the breath of the dead, appeared

                out of the dark atrial chamber of the deer's heart…

(previously published in The Bitter Oleander)