Dear Soul Beings,
The autumn winds are blowing. Change is in the air. Here in Santa Fe, the prescribed burn in the Galinas watershed has been halted to reduce the risk of wildfire. Smoke hovers. Leaves of gold pile up by the side of the road. Bare branches stretch and dance in the wind while the sun rises high in the cerulean sky. There is always a mystery to fall, the hot sun and cool nights, the turning of the leaves, the settling in the ground and the question of what happens underground, the mystery of change beneath the surface. In the offing, an election looms.
Last night, a buffoon paraded in front of many living rooms. Next to the clown, a woman of presidential stature. The buffoon threatens our democracy and it is madness that he has gotten as far as he has. People are questioning his values against their own. The wind of moral judgment crackles.
The wind and the season remind us that time is fleeting. Time to be smart, to be authentic, to be mindful of what we need to protect, for all of us, as well as for the planet. Our time on Earth is brief. I think of the Earth like she is a big organ, with a thrumming heartbeat. Right now her heart is racing with anxiety and fear. Fracking disturbs her heartbeat, as does denial of climate change, pipelines, hatred and disrespect of her depths.
What we cannot see, we tend to disavow. The ground is trembling. A new cycle is emerging.
On the home front, my daughter is preparing for the SAT’s. She studies with a tutor, works on take home assignments and does practice tests for hours at a time. We are starting to not only talk about colleges but tour them. This is as much for her as it is for me. It will be a radical change when she leaves. Anxiety is running high on all sides.
It is fitting then, that during this time of anxiety and upheaval, an event occurred that began with a visit to Los Angeles and a tour of University of Southern California.
I had not been on a college campus in over forty years. USC is a beautiful enclave, minutes away from downtown Los Angeles. This is what happened. We walk the campus with a very enthusiastic tour guide, and twenty other parents. The sky is blue and the sun is warm, perfect weather in fact. We take in the School of Cinematic Arts, the School of Dramatic Art of Music and Architecture, of Engineering and Business. We cross the quad where thousands of students are biking, walking and skateboarding. We talk with students at the admissions desk. One girl, a senior recognizes Marika from a Los Angeles summer theatre program she did, two years past.
“I was your improv teacher at ACE!” she exclaims. She cannot say enough good things about USC.
We descend the sweeping staircase from the office, into the Student center, feeling dizzy and overwhelmed. Questions circulate: BFA or BA? Big school? Small school? A big school can feel smaller by joining clubs. A small school can’t become bigger. Are there scholarships available? Do they count test scores? So many students, so much energy to absorb, for a couple of sensitive souls from little old Santa Fe.
After three hours, Marika says, “Please let’s go home. I need a break.”
I say, “I need to eat. Look, there’s California Pizza.”
We order pizza and salad and find a table. There is no one over twenty-five in the room.
“What did you think?” I ask her, taking a bite of my Caesar salad.
“I can’t talk about college right now,” she answers, inhaling her pizza.
I chew on a piece of chicken. Suddenly, I feel like I have chomped down on a molar. My whole face tightens as I cradle my left jaw. Searing pain steals across the left quadrant of my face. I am totally unnerved but I say nothing. Maybe there was a stone in my salad.
“What’s wrong?” Marika asks.
“Not sure. I think I may have cracked a tooth,” I say.
She finishes her pizza and I say, “Let’s go.” I’m so done.We pull out of the parking garage and map our way home.
I drop Marika off with friends in the early evening. Even our host is
out and so I pour myself a glass of wine. The sun has gone down and it’s dark now. The moon is rising but I cannot see the stars from inside the house. The moon steals in front of the kitchen window, nearly full, and occasionally I see the headlights of a car driving up the hill.
The kitchen feels warm and homey with its earth-colored tiles and honey walls. A bowl of apples, lemons and tomatoes sits in the center of the dark wooden island. I grab my computer and set it on the round glass table. I grab some cheese and slice a tomato onto a plate. Then I sit down and open my laptop to the chapter I’m editing. I am distracted between my aggravated gum and Marika out with her peers in LA and wondering if I should let one of the boys drive her home. I open a bag of chips to go with my makeshift dinner and fill my mouth with fat and salt when I feel my teeth converge on a foreign object. I open my mouth and out falls the bridge that connects three implants and two screws. One screw is attached to the implant, the other is broken off, embedded in my gum.I hold the white, ridged, porcelain bridge in my hand. My tongue wriggles from my cheek to the empty socket in the upper left quadrant of my gum. I gargle with salt water and spit. There is no blood. I turn my head from side to side in the mirror, then throw my head back and peer down my face. In my reflection, I see a straight row of teeth on the right and a half row on the left. There, just below the zygomatic bone, is a new little line, another crevice to add to the face map. The cheek on the left indents more, like I am sucking on a straw.
Of course, the first reaction, besides pain, is one of vanity. Just as I’m certain I am rebirthing my soul with creativity, writing and painting, BAM! Source slams aging back in my face.
My fingers pad the tender area. I grab my wine glass and take a large gulp. The cool liquid sloshes around the empty socket. But beneath the vanity lies harsher emotions: shame and unworthiness. Suddenly toothless feels like homeless, like death and punishment lurking just around the corner. I feel utterly alone.
It’s not that I’m fixated on death, it’s the general fear that my body will completely disintegrate. I look at the clock. It’s only 7:30pm. I’ve got a few hours before Marika returns. I return to my computer, try reading some, sifting through Facebook, but there’s a lump in my throat. My thoughts are wandering through the past, back to July 1997.
Gavin and I are newly married and I’ve just moved to Dallas. We are dining out with a business contact on a hot summer’s night. The mosquitoes are vicious. I have a glass of wine and then another, waiting for my Salad Nicoise to arrive. I nibble on a piece of warm crusty sourdough. As I crunch through the crust, CRACK! One of my molars has split in half and lands on the bread plate. I cover my mouth and cough and carry on like nothing has happened.
In the car, I show Gavin. “We must get you to a dentist,” he says.
“I’ll call my friend in Santa Fe and get her to recommend someone,” I answer.
So I call my friend, a nurse practitioner, who gives me a dentist’s name. The next morning I give him a call and tell him about the cracked tooth. He fits me in, after hours, at the end of the day.
After he takes an x-ray, he says, “That tooth will have to be extracted. We can do it now with a local.”
I look at Gavin and he shrugs. I say, “Okay.”
He shoots me up with Novocain and kind of grunts as he pulls the half-tooth out, roots intact. When he finishes, he tells me, “Listen, your gums are receding. If you don’t do something like get into braces, you’re going to lose all your teeth.”
HOW TO SCARE A WOMAN IN HER EARLY FORTIES TRYING TO GET PREGNANT:
TELL HER SHE WILL LOSE ALL HER TEETH.
He continues, “I have a recommendation for you. Call her.”
He gives me the name and number of the female orthodontist. I walk out with Gavin, an icepack on my cheek. Panic, fear and anxiety cause my heart to race. The thoughts that bicycle in my brain, I have failed, I am old, too old to bear children, I’ll lose my looks, I’m a burden, Gavin will leave me.
TEETH AND LIFE.
What losses have gone before me? The death of my parents. Tragic. The dark shadow of drugs. Both I survived. Is this payback? How am I deserving of this prediction that I’m going to lose all my teeth? A feeling of helplessness pervades.
The orthodontist takes me on as a challenge. She recommends several teeth be pulled. After which the braces go on. After a year in braces, my top teeth have pushed even further past the bottom teeth, instead of receding. The orthodontist says to me, “We will need to actually pull some different teeth and you may need implants.”
I immediately seek a second opinion. When I visit the second doctor he lays out the plan by first telling me, “She pulled the wrong teeth and your BITE COLLAPSED!”
I am MORTIFIED.
He continues, “We take the braces off. Then I’m afraid we will have to pull several teeth. Once the gums have healed you’ll need six implants. First the posts go in. Three months later, the crowns. Then we’ll have to put you back in braces.”
So we begin the process. Throughout infertility treatments and adoption procedures, I go from one doctor to the next, one orifice to the next until finally, in 2001, the braces come off.
Now here I am in Laurel Canyon, at the end of another cycle, another season. Something has broken. Some new way of being has to be examined. Just when I thought I had all my bases covered. I take a pull on my glass of wine. Marika will be home shortly. She’s just texted. Bronte, the black and gold German shepherd leans in against my leg. I pet her and my other hand gravitates to my cheek. I press in on the empty space.
The next night, following another full day, the Blood Aries Full Moon rises. I collapse on the bed and Marika lays down next to me, her blond hair all entangled, soft jaw, long lashes, mouth open, breath even. I unplug from a cop show on the iPad and drift off. I dream that I am laying on a soft bed and a huge, long, burgundy and gold snake is molding itself into my body like a moving breathing tapestry.
What is my soul trying to tell me? I believe she is calling in my creativity. I know my soul is pulsing with life. It’s as if I am the first woman, in the garden, all over again. A rebirth in the face of aging.
According to Jung, souls are serpents. Teeth may be loss but I have been reassured through Source that my creativity is intact. The skin of the snake bore such a rich tapestry of color, a vision that will, in time, find its way into a painting.
While teeth may be part of the foundation, they also symbolize “to bite through”. I intend to bite through all life has to offer. And while I may be missing a few teeth, I know my Kundalini is intact. I don’t know which way the wind will blow this season, or what mystery is unfolding underground, but fire is in the air.