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.

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.

Jury Duty

We wait in a large quiet basement room, a voice calls out our last names. We are the citizens, non-convicts, resident San Franciscans; the ones able to judge right from wrong, upholders of the Constitution. The orientation video entices us, invites us to witness the criminal justice system up close, be Judge Judy for a day. We shuffle into the courtroom, African-American, Asian, White, Latino, all here when called upon. I become a witness to factual knowledge, as people in the jury box state their occupation, marital status, whether they rent or own. A voyeur, I listen for stories. The man married 32 years, the older woman still living with her parents, the UCSF nurse who helps the chronically ill, bits of life shared with a room full of strangers. Potential unlawful eviction, but I’m not to reveal trial details, took an oath not to tell. I scribble notes on the book that I brought to relieve boredom, think of my father and sister, both lawyers, they’ve lived in rooms like these. I observe while the attorneys work, sweating, brains churning. Who to keep? Who to release? Juror number 5, tell me again about being a landlord, you own three houses? They query, looking for answers, for an advantage, sizing up faces like poker players. Women stand up, men sit down, human beings shifting seats 1-21 like musical chairs without the melody, money at stake. Hours have passed, I find myself spacing out, listening to my breath, what am I doing here? I’ve forgotten. Then suddenly the words, the rest of you are dismissed, you have done your duty. We walk out of the room, the doors of democracy opening into afternoon sunlight.

Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

plant seeds in fields
knees in wet dirt
rabbits watch and twitch
sun and fog above

lunch bell starts slowly
come and get it
what they have harvested
the ones who meditate

they smile with peace
bow to each other
cut bread, scoop soup
some sit in silence

voices of children sing
small feet on earth
present moments at play
grateful for this day

Summer in Hillsborough, California

Japanese maple tree, its delicate leaves shade the pool where my son teaches himself to swim. Jumps from the edge with his sister, free in July air, the two tumble into clear water splashing. Adonis, my wife calls me jokingly, as I lie tanning in the sun, meditating, absorbing the warmth of summer. Afternoon breeze blows the camellia and purple princess flowers, while hawks and crows circle overhead patiently watching the earth below. A baby deer trots up nibbling grass, then jolts off. Hardly seems real, these moments away from the city, away from computers and planning. No past, no future, only dragonflies navigating the present wind.