Chrysalides

Chrysalides

I look past the needles that line my belly, the lowest just above the rise of my pelvis, an inch deep, and further still past the needles at my ankle to the plant circling the room where the walls meet the ceiling, the same ivy-like, heart-shaped-leaf that I have in my house, a plant which was once among several left on a small round kitchen table with the words: “Free,” which despite the absence of a green thumb I brought home after a yoga class or was it a birthing class, both brand new endeavors  after leaving the mid-Atlantic for the Green Mountains in 1993 where I discovered at my first staff meeting at Deerfield Valley Elementary that everyone ate something that I’d I mistakenly pronounced as another word for soil.

A Long Slow Color is Green.

These are the words that were carved into thick medallion of wood that hung above the entrance to a place smack in the middle of Main Street, beside a classic Vermont Inn. The oddly named: Klara Simpla housed the bookstore which is what brought me inside the strange smelling shop filled with something called herbs and homeopathics and tinctures, not to mention the yoga and birthing classes (among other offerings) on the second and third floors. There were also two huge chests filled with household and clothing items that were giveaways. 25 years later, I’m still the plaid blanket that I found in that pile is a family classic when we picnic beside pond and I still wear the black, water resistant wind pants when I snow shoe.

A long slow color is green.

Those words from the wooden medallion which hung above Klara Simpla were spoken out loud to me once by the founder herself, the woman who offered her plants to women like me just beginning to find our way on the path to wholeness.

“There is so much to know. How do I begin?” I asked Faye, at the end of an interview she’d surprisingly granted me when I’d first began writing for the Cracker Barrel.

But what really brought my attention to the plant circling the ceiling in the acupuncturist’s office, beyond the fact that the old period building with its hissing radiators reminded me of my husband’s grandmother’s place in the nearby Berkshires (which is how we ended up leaving the southern New Jersey for New England), and beyond the surprise that my surname was all over the building because in addition to housing the acupuncturist’s office, it housed an organization called the Salasin Center (so named for a distant relative that I found on Facebook) was that its dead leaves were left hanging among its healthy ones, and if not a shouting sign of neglect then some kind of statement which I had plenty of time to ponder as I lay on the table week after week for an hour at a time–from sandals to long pants to scarves to wool socks and hats.

With nothing to do but remain still so that the needles in my belly (or eye socket) wouldn’t move, the story–my story–about the neglected ivy-like plant–began to shift, somewhere beneath my personal anxiety around neglect.

When the acupuncturist returned to the room to remove the needles of which there were a total of 8 on this particular visit–including one at the top of my skull, and one at each of my temples, as well as one between my toes and another placed between my bottom two ribs, I finally said aloud what I’d been thinking for so many weeks in a row (hoping to silence it in my head):

“Has anyone ever said that those–(I pointed toward a particularly long line of decaying leaves)–look like a chrysalis?” (I wish I knew then the plural.)

Surprisingly Dan said, “No,” and nothing more.

But my therapist picked up the thread, the very same week, which is something I try to avoid–more than one appointment in the same week–but which has been unavoidable during this health crisis that has so depleted me (while serving as a boot-camp for letting go.)

“This is a very inward time for you, more so than ever,” Carolyn said, as I sat across from her in a room perched above the Connecticut River in downtown Brattleboro; something I had been doing about once a month or so ever since my mother’s death, a span of time easily measured by the age of my youngest son, 18.

“It’s time to retreat, to be unseen, to rest under the covers,” she said, “To let your work deepen inside like the spinning of a cocoon.”

My mind immediately protested with all that had to be done in that particular month–December!–not to mention the day trip I’d imagined to the sea the very next day–on the occasion of my 55th birthday. (I had arrived in Vermont at 29.)

“Does this resonate for you?” Carolyn asked, seeing past the veneer of my capacity, into the grievous depletion of chi.

I nodded begrudgingly.

There was one last appointment scheduled that same day, which is something I never do, but it was the only opening my friend had to trade massage for the work I’d done on her website.

The afternoon though brightly lit, was bitter cold, and I arrived at her house chilled, and even so, I removed each and every layer, until I stood in my underwear and slid, belly up, under the single sheet on her table.

“Are you cold?” she asked, turning up the temperature on the heating pads beneath me.

Elaina dangled the pendulum over the center line of my body sensing the ongoing obstruction of the second chakra–digestion, letting go, family, finances, overextension.

“How is mothering going?” she asked, knowing that my youngest left the nest this very August, a day upon which this sweeping illness presented itself in absurdly symbolic fashion.

“There is a burden on your left shoulder,” she added. “A responsibility that you’re carrying, that is not yours, which means it’s stuck there because it has nowhere to go.”

I told her about the Ritual of Resignation that I had concocted just before Thanksgiving. My therapist had suggested the ritual as an accompaniment to the potent antibiotics to which I planned to surrender, something I hadn’t needed since I moved to Vermont and began using herbs. I filled the prescription bottle with tiny pieces of paper upon which I wrote all the ways I was ready to let go, particularly with regard to my family of origin who I’d begun to carry as a girl.

“So many of your joints are blocked,” Elaina said, as she massaged my shoulders and elbows and wrists, my hips and knees and ankles.

As I write this morning, on the day after my birthday, my hands take turns leaving the keyboard to touch my shoulder tips again and again. The skin there is so strikingly soft, like a baby’s flesh (or what I vaguely recall of a baby), the result of a salt scrub I offered my joints yesterday morning while the sun rose brightly through the trees on another bitterly cold day, on the anniversary of my birth.

So too was my time on the table with Elaina sensual, accompanied as it was by her cat, black, like my own Licorice from long ago with whom I shared a soul connection as a girl in Rockies as my mother disappeared in the bottle. Licorice would drag her paws down my face, and once when recalling this in my therapist’s chair on a guided journey forty years later, I was certain I smelled Licorice’s milky breath.

As Elaina worked on my neck, “Kiki” brushed her whiskers against my left cheek, purring in my ear, and then she pranced across my belly, tenderizing the second chakra, while on the Elaina’s small cd player, a classical version of “Danny Boy” softly played, a song which once eulogized my mother who named her only son Daniel.

After the sunny birthday morning shower with the salt scrub around each joint, my husband drove me to the sea, where I watched from the passenger’s seat, light, moving across frozen lakes and rivers and marshlands and fields, even as my head ached from yet another migraine (a fourth since Thanksgiving week; since the antibiotic?) until I arrived, at the hour of my birth, sensing into the pain of separation–skull crushed by pubic bones–at the open, endless, embrace of Return, understanding in that moment, that the title of my book would be something much larger than I had conceived, could conceive, of the story I’d been spinning several years around a tragedy.

When instead of turning south, we continued along the coastal road deeper into Maine, we passed a tiny pond beside the woods upon which a single skater glided skillfully in tighter and tighter circles.

“He must be professional hockey player,” I said to my husband.

“Such a small pond he’s on,” my husband replied.

“Such elegance,” I said.

And now I recall the moment when I’d fully surrendered to Elaina’s touch on the table, and she asked me to turn over onto my belly, layering heating pads and blankets atop my back, until I grew so hot that I imagined melting, after which she removed the layers, which had grown sticky, peeling them one by one, until I found myself unburdened and light, nascent and raw, like the first unfurling of new life.

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a love letter to a town

a love letter to a town

In 1993, my new husband and I relocated from the Jersey shore to Vermont after I was hired to teach third & fourth grade in Wilmington. We lived in a little cape beside Green Mountain National Forest for 7 years–the longest I’d ever lived in any one place. That property just went on the market, and although we left it seventeen years ago for a home we built for ourselves, the little house and it’s neighbors still hold a tender space in our hearts.

Tonight, I came across this letter that I wrote to the newspaper just after we left the Deerfield Valley for a mountaintop town, 12 miles east. It’s nice to be reminded of how welcomed we were once upon a time.

To the Editor

Although our family has simply relocated to neighboring Marlboro, I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank some of the day to day people who touched our lives in Wilmington:

to Fire Chief Brian Johnson, who was not only our first neighbor for a short while, but also responded with his crew to more than one call to our home over the years;

to retired Police Chief Tom Donnelly whose involvement in the community, especially in the schools, was beautiful;

to Deerfield Valley Elementary School (where I taught for a year), its staff, students and parents who served as my first community in the Valley;

to Harriet and Vivian at Pettee Memorial, who always made coming to the library a joyful experience for myself and my son Lloyd (we are forever grateful!);

to the checkers at Grand Union who never failed to marvel at my children (special mention to Joanne for the video tips);

to Michel (from Berkely and Veller) and Lynne Matthews who were much more than realtors to us when we arrived as strangers to this area;

to Mr. Gerdes, who I have never actually met or even seen from out behind the steering wheel of the school bus he drives–thank you so much for the daily waves, it’s hard to convey the significance they hold for me;

to Deborah and Wendy at the post office, simply for being there every day;

to the guys (and gals?) who do such a good job on the snowy roads;

to the Valley News for letting us know what was “happening” each week;

to the people who create and organize the annual events which help define and enrich the seasons of our lives;

to Len Chapman, aka “Uncle Lenny”, our landlord, and Diane Classon, and to their families (and to all our neighbors in Medburyville), who became our “family” in Vermont and provided a beautiful place for us to grow;

and lastly, to the many others who I have not mentioned- on behalf of myself, my husband Casey Deane, and our sons Lloyd and Aidan–thank you for being such an important part of our lives in the Valley.

Sincerely,
Kelly Salasin
Marlboro, VT
2000

Everything I Aspire Toward…

Everything I Aspire Toward…

When I first moved to Vermont in 1993, I saw this “poem” posted on the board at Klara Simpla–Wilmington’s health food store (aka. Southern Vermont’s well-being Mecca.)

I took my first yoga class at Klara Simpla, bought my first herbs, tinctures and supplements there; and found some books that spoke to my soul.

Of the many ways I was inspired at Klara Simpla, this poem planted a seed that has been watered and nurtured by my life in Vermont.  It’s as true of what I want today as it was when I first set foot into this state.

Beware Signs of Inner Peace

A tendency to think and act  spontaneously rather than on fears based on past experiences

An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment

A loss of interest in judging other people

A loss of interest in judging self

A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of   others

A loss of interest in conflict

A loss of  ability to worry

Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation

Contented feelings of connectedness with others  & nature

Frequent attacks of smiling

An increasing tendency to let things happen rather  than  make them happen

An increased susceptibility to love extended  by others  and  the uncontrollable urge to  extend it

(by Saskia Davis, RN)