On B

Tonight I walked my dog on Avenue B here in Austin, reflecting on my time on a different Avenue B, in NYC in the 90’s.

And reflecting on the day that’s ending, a mixed bag of moments mostly meh.

Late morning we met in the park for distanced outdoor yoga as planned, despite it being a bit colder and damper than we expected or would have liked. For the first time in more than ten months of Park Yoga the city landscaping team was out in full force at the time we arrived, an unpleasant synesthesia cacophony of engines and gasoline. We relocated mats and blankets to a different area, no grass more shade (nice in the summer) and regrouped. Michele didn’t have a blanket. While she surely would have liked one she didn’t bitch an inch.

I’d been out of sorts all morning and needed something new so I researched unfamiliar mudras. One jumped out at me: Brhamara, the bee mudra. I taught it and we did it along with many other things that we did and we felt what we felt, whether nothing or something or several things, and we parted ways.

In my mind I kept seeing it as B Mudra. Like a B-side, or the key of B minor.

Sometime during the two years I lived in San Francisco in the early 90’s (sandwiched by New York– what a pricey snack that now would be) there was a rare evening I spent alone, home from my temp job at a mitigation firm, happy to have space from my exhausting boyfriend. I collapsed on the couch and turned on the radio. The classical station was introducing Bach’s Mass in B Minor.

The commentator’s calm sonorous voice eased me into a state of relaxed openness. As the music started, something unusual unfolded. Solitude, my reclining posture (otherwise known as crashed out on the sofa), the strange way the announcer’s voice connected with definitely my stomach and probably my vagus nerve and signaled “no danger here” set up a sublime experience.

Have you had sublime experiences? Sure you have.

There’ve been experiences that, in the moment or right after, I’ve thought, that was sublime! But far fewer that I recall days weeks months years decades later, let alone recall as sublime.

A brief diversion, because it’s scary to describe a sublime experience. I have an acquaintance, a brilliant landscape architect, named B Jane. I’d prefer to call her a friend but too much time has passed since we last connected. The art museum was renovated a million years ago; I was in a social class that got invited to the opening. I knew several people, oh hi, oh hello, I recall exhaustion.

We climbed a steep stairway to a tiny roof deck-above-the roof deck. This was good, being outside, at night. It was cold, we were climbing. The person ahead of me wore amazing shoes and had incredible, strong, limber/sexy calves. Perhaps not a sublime experience, but clearly a memorable one; I was transfixed. When we reached the top, our eyes met, me and my friend or acquaintance B Jane. We were delighted to see one another and I told her about her shoes and her legs.

So, the Bach Mass. I guess my mother wasn’t dead yet, but the memory of that experience reminds me of reclining in pain on a different couch in a different city (this one) a year after she died, with a part-time lover who had just, that day, lost a friend to a bike accident. We mourned together yet completely apart. There was no way way for me to be present for him in his pain, no way for him to be present for me in mine. Perhaps there is a hint of something beautiful or meaningful in that but at the time it was only sad and tragic and kind of a drag.

So, Bach Mass Sublimity. Why is it hard to write about? I’ve revisited that San Francisco sofa often. I love remembering the ravishment, the surrender to something larger than myself.

Maybe the problem is that I’ve listened to the Mass again, more than a few times, searching for that feeling and never finding it.

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