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Turning

Today we closed on a new house. It is huge, with five beautiful bedrooms and a deck with a view of the mountains. The children’s bathroom has a solar skylight and the floors are a blond hickory shiny as a mirror. The space is pure openness and light, and for the first time in my life I have my own practice room. A large, private practice room, with a window overlooking our lovely new backyard.

There is a path, about a block long, that leads to one of the best elementary schools in the metro area. I’ll be close to Boulder, and to my teachers Richard and Mary, and I’ll be close to a few stables, where I can begin equestrian training again, which I used to do as a child and teen. Ten minutes away there is a ballet studio, and a cafe, and an old German bakery.

The house and its location, difficult to find, silent as a hill, represents a spoiled, settled abundance. It is not the house of a rich person, though it feels that way to me; the neighborhood is suburban, even middle class, though one can feel the gentrifying all around, the same infiltration of wealth that exists throughout the city. I suppose we represent that change to some of our new neighbors, me with my violet hair and Buddhist values, my husband with his mac and iPhone permanently attached to his person, and our three indulged children. “Here come the fucking yuppies,” some of them must mutter… and they aren’t wrong. Slowly the diversity of this city is being wrung out, and what was once an old Western mix of rednecks, Mexicans, a scattering of black neighborhoods and working class sorts is being replaced by, well, being replaced by a bunch of me’s: progressive types in love with their own neurosis, vaguely concerned about the environment and social issues, and acutely concerned with the quality of their wine and espresso.

I have a friend who used to live on a block with truly impoverished people. Her neighbor was a drug dealer who had her own children dealing. She had eleven of them. Her home now, if it even exists, would sell somewhere north of $400K. Where are those people living now, now that Denver has become inundated with over-development and cafes with irritating one syllable single names? The whole country, I suppose, has gone that direction, as if we all want to be San Francisco, while San Francisco itself has gone insane, an unrecognizable and uninhabitable place.

This house, it is an odd heartbreak for me. As lovely as it is, as spoiled as I am, as indulged as I am, this house represents both a refuge and a grief. The refuge, of course, is the quiet, the practice space, the proximity of parks and trees and English saddles, of great schools and a ballet studio. The refuge, really, of anything and everything a person of strong mind and weakened health might possibly need or want.

But it is a grief too: over the summer I lost my final tie to Denver, the breaking (heartbreaking) rift with the owner of the only Ashtanga shala in the the city, a friend and colleague I have known for a decade. I am exiled, in a real sense, from a community I loved with all my being, and the wound remains raw, unhealed. When I practice now I practice primarily alone, and I am missing one of the fundamental pillars of spiritual practice, the sangha, or supportive group.

And yet I have never really felt myself to be “part” of anything, of any group or movement or, really, relationship, even as I know I love my family fully and as completely as I can. As a child I never had friends, and though I was often lonely I was more often overtaken with the sense my life was some sort of dream, an odd and separate illusion. Who was witnessing the illusion is, I now know, one of the primary reasons I continue to be drawn toward (skeptical) spiritual practice.

I live a bifurcated life, a gypsy in mind, never settled, a housewife with three children in reality, with a husband who is indulgent and loving but has no comprehension or desire to explore the stateless nameless element of the spirit. We love across borders, then, and some of that terrain is impassable in even the sweetest weather.

The house. It is a resting place place for my body, for my practice. It is the perfect spot for the idylls of American childhood. It is a gift for them, to them, these three small creatures who simultaneously ground me, as much as that is possible, and drive me mad with the revelations of my own inadequacies. We will stay in that house as long as they are young, and I will travel as I can, both in spirit and body, and the house will be, over the years, a great gift and, at times, a grave.

What place, though, is not both of these things?
house

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