Yoga

Closed eyes meditating, my butt sitting on a yoga mat, the one I bought at Whole Foods, the one that my hands slip on when I sweat, which is usually. Class hasn’t started yet, but I can sense them, surrounding me, their mats slapping the floor, stretching in their Lululemon pants, the women. I don’t have to open my eyes to know they are there, flexible, strong, relaxed, focused. A few minutes later the teacher welcomes us, thank you for being here, for being present to yourself. I open my eyes, take a quick look around, sometimes see another me, a guy with hairy legs, but not this time. Ladies, what would you like to work on today? Ellen asks, then makes eye contact with me. Daniel, something you’d like to work on? She says with a smile. I’ve been at it for more than a year; Vinyasa, Flow, Kundalini, Restorative, each class an inner and outer adventure, a 75 minute voyage, breathing into tendons, muscles, discovering hidden recesses of my body’s stress. I make no suggestions for Ellen, soon find myself on my back, legs far apart, like I’m giving birth to twins. Downward Dog, Warrior 2, Plank, Happy Baby, Pigeon, names that sound like video games, my contorted limbs pressing into earth and air. Eyes stay closed, but occasionally I peek, we look like kids playing a sophisticated version of Simon Says. Minutes pass, life loosening its hold, I forget where I am. Shavasana, corpse pose, Ellen’s tranquil voice offers us simulated death, an ending. I hear sighs, relief, rest fills the space. My mind wanders off to the future, wonders how it will be with me, those final breaths, then namaste.

Trampoline

In the air I’m a kid, split second floating, suspended, before gravity tugs me back to the coiled elastic mat. Legs, torso, shoulders, body of pounds, my weight denting the flexible floor. Calve muscles support the landing, trembling energy moving like a feeble pogo stick. Is that all you’re gonna do, just sit there jumping up and down? My daughter asks. As if I have a choice, as if I could leap spontaneously, do a flip or twist. I smile watching her limbs lunging carefree, that song Riptide playing in the background, the one we both like. This is all I can do, but I won’t stop. I say like the middle-aged man that I am. Do a trick, come on, she cajoles. Deliberate, I push harder, hop higher, watch this, touch my toes in mid air. That’s your best? She laughs. I just grin, glad that I’ve fooled her, glad that she thinks there’s more in the tank.

Noe Valley, San Francisco

Once the Irish, the Germans, the workers pressed together, clustered little Victorians, where they were born, lived, then died. Now babies in strollers, babies pressed against mom, against dad, toddlers wobbling, wide blocks of deconstructed, reconstructed, houses, pasted photos, smiling women and men, realtors, listing, listed, selling, sold. White buses, elevated people, wearing laptops like blankets, heading south to touch more technology. Hilly hills, wisps of fog, oceanic clouds, permanent winter like they say Twain said. Past and present commingle in gusts of wind, September summers, sometimes rain and rainbows.

Camping Out

He’s almost 8, my son lying next to me, his permanent smile mirroring my own. Is that Saturn? he asks, looking up at the sky. I ditched the tent’s cover, only transparent thin fabric between us and the universe. Am I trying to remember what 7 was like, or did I never grow up? It doesn’t matter, we are here, together, our fingers pointing at constellations, sometimes a plane flying off to cross the Pacific. We talk about other earths and aliens until he drifts into slumber mid-sentence.

As he snores quietly I read about Lydia Child, her quest to end slavery. I listen to the crickets, imagine camping without the tent, without freedom, following the north star to Philadelphia or New York or Canada. Then I’m asleep. I dream about walking deep in the woods, seeing a gray fox. I wake to the sound of rustling bushes. It might be 1am, click my flashlight on, sets of eyes reflect back from outside the tent. Two deer a few feet away nibbling grass. Pausing they stare at me, then trot off. Asleep again until maybe 4am, then Hudson has to pee. We totter out half-awake, an owl hooting nearby, the two of us in our pjs, little streams in the dark.

It’s morning, Hudson says at 7am. He’s snuggled up next to me in his sleeping bag, hair mussed. Good morning, kid, I say. We grin, no words, just love.

Paraguay

20 years since slogging through the reddish mud country roads of Guaira, Caazapa, and Caaguazu. Guarani names that I practiced saying over and over before the flight to Asunción. A language that survived because of coitus, six women to every Spanish soldier.

Sitting shotgun in a truck, 3 of us squeezed in the front (Cayo, Ernesto, Me), no seat belts, sipping yerba mate. I’m speaking Spanish, asking questions about recycling plastic and filtering water with chlorine. Cayo drives, points his finger up at the windshield, motioning to each vehicle we pass on the two lane highway. Yvaga, he says, cielo, heaven. That’s where you will go when you die, his finger silently communicates. Watching this ritual I see the other drivers smiling at us, their fingers also pointing upward, telling us the same thing.

Cayo asks me about California. The Paraguayan campo has no cable TV, no CNN, no movie theaters. He doesn’t question me about celebrities or our president, he asks about the land, trees, animals, what the air smells like, feels like. I tell him about non-native eucalyptus trees, how they suck water out of the earth, take nourishment away from other plants. He understands. The conversation is easy, like the cumulus clouds that float like cotton above us. Ernesto speaks and at first I think I understand, the cadence sounds the same, but then I’m lost in a time before Spanish, before South American roads. I close my eyes for a few seconds, a lightness takes over. I’m hearing a language not of an evangelizing church or of plundering capitalism, but of a people, a community. A few minutes later we slow down, pick up a hitchhiker, normal in this part of Paraguay. I see the guy sitting in the truck bed, a large heavy sack between his legs. A man on a journey, we both watch the road, I look out the front, he looks out the back.

Gray Hair

I actually want the time to show, let the world know that I’m that much closer to the abyss. Aged ringlets at the borders with brown, blonde before that, when hair was just hair. Above my ears a battleground, the grays sending sentinels, accumulating knowledge for the next attack. I stop and stare like Rembrandt with a ballpoint pen, pluck rogue whites from eyebrows where they grow as if I were a 19th century senator. Better than bald, some say, distinguished, the old compliment the old. Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice, my favorite Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young line. Oh but we do, ointments to push back nature, like pioneers clearcutting ancient redwoods. I look in the mirror again, as if it matters, as if I will be here forever, in wonder over the me I see. This face, this head, these gray hairs, human dust clinging to a self making meaning out of molecules.

She’s Twelve

I turned twelve once
the party was chaotic
all boys tackling boys
football on the lawn

she is totally different
sitting by the pool
laughing with her friends
5’5 a girl woman

talks about Victorian houses
between ballet kitchen twirls
in the shower forever
singing Shawn Mendes songs

her door closed now
at night reading alone
wants a phone because
her friend has one

we watch Mamma Mia
imagine her in Greece
want to freeze time
keep us both young

I embrace it all
childhood has to go
teenager around the bend
beginning of the end

Tour de France

Skinny men stuff newspapers against their chests, insulation for the freezing French mountain air, their bicycles soaring down steep roads through tucked away villages. Calve muscles pulsate for days on end, wheels moving past wheels, a colorful trained stampede of lungs pumping, faces grimacing, as fans run half-naked among the cavalcade. Alpe d’Huez, La Rosiere, through the Alps, the Pyrenees, they ride wary, ready to attack, counter attack, slurping energy goos in pursuit of the yellow jersey.

I first watched with old men in Madrid, we gathered around the hotel’s black and white TV. 1989 and I barely knew what France was; Voltaire, World War II, my parents listening to Edith Piaf, not much more. I became captivated, not by the mass of the peloton, but by the lone rider, the one who would pedal ahead of the pack, desperate, confident, like a rogue gust of wind pushing a kite to fly. Some days he’d be caught, reeled in, but other days he’d escape, stay free, win the race. I imagined that he was me, fearful, fearless.