Kitchen Privileges

Wandering through my kitchen at night
Is a freedom so breathtaking
It can’t be understood
Except by those who have been told
That if we behave
We may one day in the future
Get “kitchen privileges”
And are tied down 
For being out of bed
After dark
Without permission
I can barely remember those days now
Not consciously
But every time I feel
A rush of joy and beauty
The taste of freedom
In being able to walk around my own house
Especially at night
Oh yes
Something inside me

Wings of Midnight Velvet

The darkness enfolds me in black velvet wings
She holds me close and she holds me tight
She whispers to me of unspeakable things 
Only understood in the darkest of night
Like a lone hermit thrush, she hauntingly sings 
You are safe here with me until morning’s light
Here in the shadows where everything blends
The darkness and me are the closest of friends

Love Song of Night

I see the shadow-edge
Of her bare shoulders in the dark
And from her slightest touch
Tremors trace a path into my soul

She whispers in my ear 
The secrets of the darkness and the night 
How night is for romance
It heightens senses of both touch and smell

And I smell on her skin
The way she smells whenever she touches me
I vibrate a deep brown chant
Beneath her skin into her chest and heart

Within my own heart I feel
A beautiful ache I do not wish to cure 
And all the stars revolve 
Around us both at this one moment now

She sings a song of night
Of stars and moons and planets whirling past
I sing a song of earth
Of dampened soil and rocks and trees and moss

We do not need to touch
To feel our hearts beat rhythms like a drum
We do not need to look
To see the wonder in each other’s eyes

We both are fully clothed
It is our souls naked to each other
The night has made it so
So we sleep curled together, hand in hand 

When Daylight Is Chaos

Intricate stained glass
Shatters into thousands of pieces
Every time I open my eyes
The shards press into my skin
And this is how the day begins
Every time I open my eyes
Webs of gossamer lace with
Impossibly small rainbow dewdrops
Tear and twist into pieces
Too delicate to survive
Every time I open my eyes

And the stained glass
Tears my skin to ribbons
And the lace webs
Fly into my eyes
And the chaos that is daylight
Overflows into my brain
Until all I know is pain
Every time I open my eyes

I want to take my hands
And pick up the shards of stained glass
Unwrap the gossamer webs
And slow, delicate, careful, gentle
Put everything back the way it was
Before I opened my eyes

But the chaos that is daylight
Has overflowed my brain
And all I know is pain
I try to find my hands
But they are flying through the air
Flapping in the wind
Fluttering with a grace I can’t feel
Outside my control anyway
The rest of my body’s the same
My bones are absorbing the chaos
That entered my brain
The moment I opened my eyes

Twilight slowly forms around me
And I can almost feel free
Free of the shackles that bound me
When the sunlight was all I could see

And when the night finally dawns
I dare to look around
At the remnant shattered pieces
Scattered all across the ground

My hands only flutter a little
As I reach out to the shards
Just enough to keep reminding me
They’re here
And I feel my way across the floor
Until I’ve gathered
Every piece
So clear

It’s winter so there’s plenty of night
That’s how I console myself
It’s winter so there’s plenty of time
To fix all that went wrong
It’s winter and the days get short
With every passing day
And my hands flutter round the shards
To remind me it’ll be okay

I spend all night putting the pieices
Back together, one by one
Not exactly how they started
But a new pattern, just begun
I fill the cracks with gossamer
And look on it with awe
For in the night I can see
And I’m transfixed by what I saw

Even at night I see only the parts
But at night so much chaos is gone
My joints still ache from the thrashing
And my skin burns from the light of the sun

And this is not an idle time
It’s not a time of rest

It’s when I pick up the pieces
And I put them back together
One by one, and painfully slow
Painfully slow because
That’s where the pain all goes

My shredded burning skin
And the joints that rattled in chaos within
These things take time and rest
And I have neither

I hear a high-pitched keening sound
It seems to come from all around
My body curls into a ball
And images flash so rapidly
It’s like being there, body and all
Then I wake up
Curled up
Stiff as a board propped up
Drool covers my face and bed
But there is less chaos
It’s gone from my head

Instead there is silence
Like a deep watery pool
That has never been seen or touched
It’s silver like the moon
And as I lean over it
A feeling as if it is deep enough
To go on forever
And familiar enough
As if I’d seen it every day
Since before I was born

The silence is singing
Its own silent song
More beautiful than any
I have heard with my ears

It sings:

Darkness has a shape
And silence has a voice,
And if you reach down inside
You’ll find both
There are wordless words
And silent voices
And dark shapes
And endless silver pools

And it’s all so familiar
Because everyone has this
Deep down inside
Since before you were born

Before you were born
There was room for eternity
And when you were young
You could play at Her feet
Like that big redwood tree
Near the first house you’d ever seen
It positively shone with familiarity

Now child
Let me renew you
I am the voice of the night
I am the darkness taken form
And the other face of light

And She dipped Her ladle
Into the silver water
Said “Drink when you’re able
My child or son or daughter
This will renew you
From the damage of the day
And it’s here every night
Every night”

My hands fluttered again
But this time with glee
With the realization
That at night I am free

At night I am free
As I’m not in the day
The dark and the silence
Renew me

I took a walk outside
And everything was still
Save a few owls overhead
So I climbed up the hill
I saw the silver moonlight
Reflected on the lake
And the sight was so familiar
It made my heart ache

There is love in the darkness
That heals the chaos of the daytime’s light
There are secrets in this world
That can only be found in the dead of the night
There are people like you
For whom daylight can mean nothing but pain
And you’re welcome to find me
Night after night, again and again

Intimacy with Friends and Forests

Part of a blue lapis lazuli ball on a brown background, slightly out of focus.

Part of blue lapis lazuli ball on a brown background, slightly out of focus.

I sink into my body, and it feels like sinking into the moist brown soil in a redwood forest, full of fungus and forgotten redwood needles, and plants, and decay, and life, all at once. I may have left the forest in body, but in my soul it’s right there. Waiting for me to deepen and put down roots.

I can feel every joint in my body as I curl up in a ball and lie on my side. They ache, but also say hello to me, tell me I’m alive, their voices  indistinguishable from the aching.

I stretch my senses out and out and out. I don’t know how I do it. I don’t even know exactly what I’m doing. I just know that even though my bed is my permanent home these days, seldom left except for doctor visits, I’m able to connect to the world more thoroughly than I ever thought possible. I can become the floor of a redwood forest or the sun hitting a granite mountainside. And I can see what most people can’t. Aspects of the world I know some others can see, but seldom talk about? Because how do you describe it? How do you explain it to anyone who isn’t already aware of it? I don’t know.  These things are as ordinary as rocks, they don’t need to be put on a pedestal. But they’re so central to my life I have to talk about them.

I have a doppelganger of sorts. Sometimes it feels like the two of us are branches of the same thing,  connected at a fork. But if I follow the branch back to where we intersect, I can be part of her as well. I can feel the world from behind her eyes.

I love to do it when she’s concentrating on something she loves. She becomes so focused and so delighted, nothing else in the world exists. Other times, though, after a long day at work, she feels buzzy and confused, like her brain just wants to take a nap. I am so glad she works with feral cats. She does so many things I’m not able to do. But I experience them through her, and doing that relieves me of any regret that I’m unable to do those things, as me. It feels like I can do them as her, and that’s enough.

This sounds bizarre, but I’m told by people who know, that there are levels on which identity doesn’t work how people think it does. Maybe it’s really possible for two people to be part of one whole.

It would certainly explain other experiences I’ve had. Where I connect to the world in just the right way at the right time, and suddenly I’m having the experiences and emotions of a mother who lost her child over a century ago. Or even stranger, I slide into the collected feelings of everyone who has ever had a certain experience. It hits me hardest when someone murders an autistic child, and suddenly I want to tell the world that we were there, we saw, we knew, we understood what nobody thought we could… except who is we? I slide in and out of those experiences without trying, and the anguish  becomes mine for that moment before I’m just myself again. I’ve talked to other autistic people who experience the same thing after one of us is killed. It’s involuntary and heart-wrenching.

But when I connect to her, it’s not by accident. I know how to find her. It’s like placing my fingers ever so lightly on a filament too thin to see. And then pulling backwards ever so slightly. And letting myself be guided slowly forward. To the point where we connect.

I do it when I want to check in on her. I do it when I am too weak and too tired to communicate with anyone else, in any other way. I can touch her and know that she is real, that she is out there, that she knows I am here and recognizes how I feel at that moment. I do it almost instinctively when I am in unbearable pain. I touch her mind and she touches mine back, like holding hands with me only without the overload and exhaustion of having someone in the room. And in emergencies. True emergencies where I don’t even know if I’ll pull through. I reach out without even trying, from the stretcher in the ambulance, and she contacts my friends to make sure her instinct that I was hospitalized is correct. She’s never been wrong.

Being around her is like the best parts of being alone and being near someone at once. We can communicate with each other about things that we don’t have the language skills to tell anyone else. We can tell each other things that are impossible to talk about without shared experiences. We know each other as deeply as it is possible to know anyone. And yet we have clear boundaries, we don’t bleed into each other in an unhealthy fashion, we are connected at the core yet separated on the surface, as it should be.

And I lie here curled in a ball, leaning my side on the upward tilt of my hospital bed. I don’t have the energy or cognitive ability to write, to put things into words. But I can hope that at the right time, the words will come and I will be able to describe the inner life that is so hard to explain or describe to anyone but her.

I soak in the night, as I soak in the earth. I reach out into a blue place. A deep shade of blue that glows like the sky above the beginning of a sunrise or the end of a sunset. I’m told that shade of blue has a meaning, but all I know is I catch it hanging around a lot, and that it’s a powerfully good part of the world. Sometimes I have dreams where the entire sky is that shade of blue, and they always seem amazing and important. I try to incorporate it into my paintings.

A lot of what I do at times like this is listen to the world. Listen to it with my bones, even the pain that runs through them seems to enhance my ability to listen. I don’t listen with my ears, I listen in ways that don’t have words. They feel like the forces of gravity, pulling in directions, as if my bones have been replaced by magnets. I listen in gravity and color and in the ability to lose myself inside of things, places, and people.

This is my first language. All of my early memories are of textures, gravity, movement, and colors, blending together. When I was very sick and hospitalized, I had a dream that told me to go back to that, to listen in that way, to root myself in those early experiences of the world and keep going as far as it could take me. So, when I remember, I do. I sink into my body and I listen to the world, I feel its movements inside me, I see color and texture. And most of all, my entire body feels connected to the rest of the world in such a deep way that there aren’t words for it. I can feel where my place is, where I belong, and that I am there all the time.

I prefer not to give these ways of experiencing the world a lot of words. I don’t even bother explaining how it works, other than that the world is different than many people think it is, and that my best mode of thinking and understanding is perceptual rather than conceptual. But I know these things are real, because other people who experience the world as I do feel the same textures and see the same colors. When I connect to someone, they know it and we talk about it. So whatever else this may be, it’s more than imagination.

And for me, is one of the most important things in my life. This is where I get my strength. This is where I get my sense of connection, of having a place in the world. This is where I go when I’m too exhausted and in too much pain to do anything else. This is how I have come to know that my body is me, not a thing separate from me that I fight with. And this is how I know that I am much more than my body at the same time. That identity, time, and a lot of other things, don’t work the way people think they do.

This is how I know that however else I feel about them, my disabilities are deeply embedded in my individual body, in the physical manifestation of my existence. They are not tacked on as an afterthought. And they are sometimes deeply involved in how I do this. My ability to see the world from this perspective at all is deeply connected to the traits that get me labeled autistic. Sinking into my body like that means constant awareness of pain, of things struggling to function but not always managing. Being bedridden for years has somehow enhanced these abilities, and so has encountering death up close and personal.

Speaking of death, I could swear that as a young adult living in the redwoods again, my surroundings talked to me about it, in their own way. About how when you die, all these different life forms live off of you. Bacteria, fungi, plants, animals, trees. They all eat you, and you become a part of them. And in being part of them, you have been absorbed into the rest of the world. And there’s something profoundly beautiful about the way that death is part of life, and life is part of death.

And that is why death holds no fear for me. But for now, I am alive. And I sink into my body. And joy is as deep and physical as pain. And they are as intertwined with each other as life and death. I feel my way towards my friend. I feel her focused delight in existing. Then I feel the sun on the granite, as if I am not me, but some combination of sun and granite, right where they intersect. I feel the sturdiness of rock that is part of mountains. I feel things that have never been given names, gravitational magnetic forces tugging deep in my bones. I never feel as if I leave my bedroom. I am firmly anchored right where I am, no matter what I feel, I feel it here. But I feel like I can touch other places, other people, without leaving this place.

So I am curled up, leaning against the tilted bed. But I’m also curled up leaning against the base of the enormous redwood known to people from Redwood Terrace as the Mother Tree. I hear singing, without hearing a sound. And besides its normal colors, the tree is also a shade of lavender that exactly matches my amethyst ring. And also transparent to a light so clear it’s invisible. A solidness sinks down into my bones. I stay there until I fall asleep.