In my early adulthood, with aspirations not for wealth but for creative fulfillment, I disciplined myself to live down to the bone. I nurtured thrifty tastes, saving my dimes for guitar strings and reeds. With my vegetarian diet, I shopped frugally, buying from the bulk bin, shopping in season and local, for a time splitting a $200 monthly rice and beans budget with a friend. I did not drink much alcohol, did not frequently dine out, did not indulge in fancy coffees or convenient sandwiches, did not buy frivolous clothes. Glad to finally enroll in what I fondly call Hogwarts School of Music, in my first semester at Berklee, instead of scrounging together $75 for a light-weight guitar gig bag, I drilled holes in my heavy hard-shell case and fashioned it with thick piano moving straps into something I could wear on my back. It was heavy, very heavy, particularly with my clarinet and laptop slung over my shoulders. I walked or took the T everywhere, and my back bent under the weight.
In a recent newsletter to you, I wrote about raking up backyard leaves in a forgotten spot behind the garage, and my nascent vision of a cabin where I could practice my clarinet, try out song ideas, and work on essays and poems. It's been ages since I've had a room of my own, as Virginia Woolf wrote. I have long wished to sit in a windowed room and stare out the door at pale leaves as they unfurl into spring. I have wished for a room strong enough to withstand a thunder of ideas, because I have lately increasingly felt a rumble rolling through my heart, a heady mix of sound and emotion, art and media, questions and exploration.
But I also wrote in that letter about fear of failure. I was worried about wasting money on something so specifically made by me for me. It felt a little arrogant: a playhouse for a grown woman who thinks she's got some talent or ideas worth the expenditure. What if I stepped into that arrogance, that audacity of hope (as Obama says), and nothing, in the end, comes?
My fear might be rooted, in part, in an old Jewish superstition of the evil eye: If I do something so bold as build an artist studio just for myself, the heavens may train their unwanted attention on me, bringing tragedy to me or my loved ones. I should spit three times and hang a blue hamsa on the door.
My frugality (always for my own desires, contrasted sharply, I hope, with my generosity for others) might also come from the valorization of parsimonious rationing in New England, where I lived for college and music graduate school, but whose culture I had admired since childhood. It suited the environmentalist in me: reduce, reuse, recycle. What throw-away materials might I re-fashion into use? How can I avoid purchasing newly manufactured goods, with their accompanying industrial waste and unneeded expense?
But I bent beyond logic under the weight of that guitar case. I hadn't yet read Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, but I rued the albatross around my neck. The irony of it: that in my mid-twenties, finally glad to be at an incredible school and immersed in the study of music, I felt my instrument was a psychological curse I was tasked to bear.
It took until my early thirties to examine the cliche of suffering for my art. Till then, I had accepted carte blance the stereotype of the starving artist. Looking back, I realize how easily I could have found $75 for a gig bag, saving my shoulders and neck a little of the physical pain that inevitably comes from the weight and repetitive motion of playing instruments. But I wanted so badly to be an artist, and from the stories I'd internalized, I thought suffering an essential part of a creative life.
Fast forward to the past seven years, since Darby and the girls and I moved in together. It's a sweet house. Darby and I often say how glad we are that it isn't bigger. We want to stumble over each other, and engage with the teenagers even when they may prefer to sequester themselves in far off corners. The downside, though, is that I sometimes want to sequester myself away. As a musician, I need to make noise in order to get to the music. I am a lyrical writer, even in my prose, and tend to speak aloud every word as I write (even this, now). I've longed for a dedicated place where I can excavate my artist heart. A room of my own where I can throw ideas around, many ideas, because a good idea is not something that happens in isolation, but rather, comes out with dozens of bad-idea siblings. I've been yearning to throw spaghetti on the walls (I just love that phrase, don't you?) because something must eventually stick. Right?
But what if nothing does?
In this world of art as commerce, I have feared that the cost of building a little shed for myself won't find a return on the investment.
And then I came across this passage in Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic, where she writes, "Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life:
You’re afraid you have no talent.
You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored.
You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it.
You’re afraid somebody else already did it better.
You’re afraid everybody else already did it better.
You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark.
You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously.
You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.
You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing.
You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree.
You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist.
You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal.
You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud.
You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons.
You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with.
You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back.
You’re afraid you’re too old to start.
You’re afraid you’re too young to start.
You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again.
You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying?
You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder.
You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder.”
I included the whole list here, but the two (of many) that most stuck out to me are the third and tenth. Of those, the line "You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money" hit a nerve.
If a friend came to me with an idea, I would urge her to pursue it, to see where it will lead. Well, after I wrote here about that morning two months ago when I began to clear out the space, I heard from a number of you. Go for it! you said. Darby might have said it loudest. The compounding encouragement was astounding, but more than support for an idea, your words were an actual amplification of a desire deep inside me.
David Whyte's poem Faith came to me recently:
I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,
faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.
But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.
Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.
So, this is all to tell you: I did it. It's a rule of cabins to have a name:
Welcome to Seeds & Thunder, where on a daily basis I meditate, write, play music, and watch the pale leaves unfurl. It is also the world headquarters of Seeding Thunder, a passion project that I hope to tell you more about soon.
If you're hungry to write, starting June 4 I'm teaching a 4-week online workshop that takes inspiration from recipes, menus, and what's in the cupboard. It doesn't matter where you live or when you logon. All that matters is that you have memories, senses, and a craving to put them to words. If you're hungry to write, sign up now - class starts June 4 and goes through July 2. Click: Feasting on Form to join in on our month-long feast of words, offered to the community through Inspiration2Publication from Antioch University. Limited space.
Just some music things I've been into:
I'm super excited about 3 music-inspired podcasts: Song Exploder dissects the writing/production process. Check out their episode list or skip right to St. Vincent dissecting "New York." If you like to get super nerdy over lyric/music prosody, check out Switched on Pop (try the episode on Kacey Musgraves's Butterflies). And though the solitary episode of Broken Record, with Rick Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell, makes me wonder if it was a publicity stunt, Eminem is a master of phonology, and I loved listening to him talk with DJ Double R, and Gladwell as they dig into Walk on Water.
I'm With Her is a bluegrass super group. For years I've been a fan of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O'Donovan as individual players, so couldn't be happier to hear their lush, earthy harmonies all together. Check out their website to see their NPR Tiny Desk Concert. For more on the band, read this.
Last year I sat in the audience, fretting that this annual Mothers Day event would be a pollyanna night of mothers cooing about how much they loved their baby from the minute they first met. Given my own journey of being a stepmother to my kids and estranged from my mother, I didn't think I could stomach the night. Instead, though, what I heard were stories of an adopted daughter's resentment at being taken from her culture, a divorced lesbian mother's relationship with her children, a daughter whose mother was crippled in an earthquake disaster. In short, the storytellers brought well-crafted, polished stories that were deep, touching, at times humorous, but most importantly, authentic. If you're in the Burbank area, I hope you'll come out and hear my story alongside these others -- stories united by the simple fact of parenting and/or having parents.
Pray don't talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else.
And that makes me quite nervous.
- Oscar Wilde
In the spring you can find our front door with your eyes closed. From the driveway, smell your way to the rose bush. A step or two later, pass between the narcissus blooms under the bird bath and the lavender, which has gone crazy since I planted it beneath the kitchen window box a few years ago. On the right, at the wall of blossoming jade, which started as a tiny clipping from the bush outside my former apartment, lift your foot for one, two, three steps. Here, open your eyes. Though you stand nose to twig at a wintery handmade wreath I found on Etsy a few months ago, there is no fragrance. I should probably find a new one for spring.
You'd better have a key ready, even if you hear voices clearly from within. Even if you knock, the door will not open without your effort. Even if you can report the very movie being watched on the other side. Even if you see through the window beside you the figure of a teenager as she passes from the living room through the dining room to the kitchen for a snack. You could try banging a hefty and frantic boom-boom, as she does every single time she comes home, but it's easier to just use your key. It's not as if you're in a rush: A whiff of orange blossoms floats over the roof from the backyard. Somewhere a finch sings.
Inside, a barrage of new sensory input. The 13-year-old is in her chair three feet from the television, ten from the front door. You say "Hello!" in a cheery voice, imagining that perhaps she hadn't heard your car, your steps, the key. Her response is teenagery-dull. You pause for a moment to assess. The Matrix is on, 1, 2, or 3, you don't know (are there more?), but her head is bent over a sketch book. You attempt another greeting. "Whatcha watching?" as if you couldn't tell. "Whatcha drawing?" because sometimes she'll say. Maybe something radical like "How are you?" in another pleasant tone. The elements of simple communication that work so well with adults fall flat. "It's nice out this evening," you say, kicking off your shoes, knowing full well that she doesn't give a damn about the weather, the news, or connecting.
I used to resent small talk. The low-hanging fruits of weather seemed only to pertain to the mindless, surface chatter of adults. It neither said anything nor did anything, I reasoned, and I suspect our 13-year-old feels the same, annoyed with the unsubstantial filler. There's an arrogance to her dullness. A judgement, I imagine, that raises her above petty niceties. Say something worthwhile or stop wasting my time. Like the writerly advice from Strunk & White: make every word count. Though she's more likely thinking, Just shut the fuck up.
To her, I imagine small talk about the weather seems worth about as much as packing peanuts. Thirty gallons of the Styrofoam kind go for $9.27 at Walmart, so peanuts are basically worthless. Filler to brush away as you root around for the good stuff. Trash them or leave them to dissolve in the sink. They merely take up space and disappear. Like small talk.
And yet, $9.27 is worth something, isn't it? People spend it gladly to cushion the good stuff. Olive oil. Porcelain. A vintage keyboard. Even our thirteen year old wouldn't think of shipping a delicate object unpadded to rattle around in a box, take every hit. I'm trying to think of something that's precious to her, an object to name here, but nothing comes to mind. She draws and writes, but appears to care little about anything else. Or this: she is precious; that gruff affect is her peanuts. The disdainful glances, dour responses. She's a newly-minted teenager, fresh out of childhood, en route to adulthood, jostled around at every bend. Her mood is her $9.27 of bubblewrap. It's the hard shell of chrysalid, because maybe she's gone completely to goo inside and needs a stern exterior to ensure her safety. It's scaffolding, because didn't you see the signs? Construction Zone! No trespassers!
I get it as best as a forty-something-woman/former-girl with faulty memory can get it, but it's been a minute or two since I was thirteen. Thank the stars. Some day, when she's less gooey on the inside, I wonder if she'll see how stark the chasms can be between two individuals. How we've all been thirteen, all've been goo, but no two goos are the same, and how do we start from that? Humans might be a social species, but how on earth do two people who have been spinning in their own separate orbits all day long possibly begin to connect?
Though I used to resent small talk, it's really kind of beautiful, isn't it? Those slender cords of niceties, weather. "Look at that rain": a rope thrown from one to another. It's a hefty job that a beautiful day commands. Wind, clouds, the jasmine in the air: Delicate as they are, their forces are greater than us. I don't know how your day is, nor do you know mine. So let's talk about the weather, enter carefully into each other's orbits, and look up at our shared sky.
You drop your bags, prick your ears for the others. Music from the studio: Darby is working on a tune. A scrape on the stove: the 17-year-old is cooking. Meaty scents. It's hard to tell whose dinner, with vegetarian sausages lately so close to the real thing. You make your rounds greeting them, then duck into the bedroom for a quick costume change. The backdoor is open to the early evening. In an old Dr. Pepper bottle on the dresser, Darby's put a twig of orange blossoms, white blooms, green leaves.
I am a feminist regardless of changes over the years in my hair style, lovers, and underclothes. In my echo chamber of a world, it wasn't till I was in Florida this past week that I quite realized there still lingers in left-of-center supporters negative connotations of the word "feminist." Some of the most ardent supporters of women's rights -- or people who, in any case, truly believe they are -- balk at the word. They still fear bra-burning and head-shaving and lesbians. What's so scary about those things? What do those personal choices have to do with the word "feminist"?
In the heat of discussion, it's hard to parse this out in a way that can really be heard. Studies, after all, have shown that it is human nature to cling to what we believe, despite all evidence to the contrary.
But can we discuss this?
Like all words, "feminist" stands in as a symbol of a concept. Can we untangle the misogynist spin on it? The political forces that have been invested in painting it as something to balk at? Can we talk about how the very idea of feminism is not a flipping of patriarchy -- not merely a turning over so that women are on top and men are on bottom? Not a stiletto stamping on the face of a man. Not an army of man-haters coming to tear apart everything known and loved in the world.
Feminism is not a reversal of patriarchy. It is a complete paradigm shift. Read this as "intersectional feminism." Acknowledge that the participants in this discussion has become more inclusive over the decades.
Feminism is the concept of equality. It is the radical concept that re-envisions an historically biased hierarchy that has benefited a single demographic over all others. Feminism is the idea of a level playing field where all people should be valued for what they bring to the table. Where differences are appreciated and considered a benefit, not a detriment, to the whole culture.
Can we discuss this with respect, self-examination, and open minds?
Today, March 4th, is not a sleepy Sunday to fetter away mindlessly with no thought to passing time and unrealized passions. Today is a day of action, a day to look unabashedly into the face of desires, glimmers of curiosity, grand ideas, or tiny tweaks that align more exactly with the best possible life you and I most long for.
Good morning, friends on the west coast, and good day or evening to you easterners. Let’s agree that the universe conspires in our favor and today in full confidence take action that brings us closer to realizing our visions.
Hearts beat. Lungs breathe. Blood flows. Minds think.
The bodily functions comfort me when I list them as jobs. I don't need to know what the spleen does, as long as it does it well. Every year I visit a doctor who pokes, prods, weighs, measures, flattens, listens, tightens, draws, extends, asks a question or two, defends her authority as a medical practitioner with degrees above a desk that I've never seen, and types her findings into a computer for reference next time. I don't need to know the reason behind every test, as long as she knows what she's looking for, and as long as I have reason to believe she will alert me in the event of something gone wrong. I am a writer. She is a doctor. Hearts beat. Lungs breathe. Blood flows. Minds think.
Without any forethought, I recently found myself out in the backyard, gardening gloves on, a small saw and clippers in hand. We have a space behind our garage where someone once thought to build a raised bed for a garden. Half the joy of a garden is in the gazing at it, and this spot is supremely hidden. I imagine only lettuces and herbs might grow in its narrow shade of the garage and backyard fences that keep our neighbors strangers. I don't want to tend lettuces and herbs in this forgotten corner of the backyard. I've ignored it for years and would not think of the spot at all but for a charming white picket fence that surrounds it. Whoever built the bed all those years ago must have had a dog, for why else fence in a small shady section behind a garage in an otherwise entirely enclosed yard?
Blood flows. Minds think. Weeds grow. On Saturday, I pulled up the roots of thorny weeds, scooped dead branches into our yard refuse bin, bundled tubes from the defunct irrigation system, raked tidy lines in the dirt around and inside the bed, and wondered about what this out-of-the-way spot might be used for. Blood flows. Minds think. Egos lie.
I don't know what the spleen does, but the ego is a different story. After so many years of keeping journals and meditating, I know when my ego lifts like a porcupine's needles or a skunk's tail, instinctively guarding me, protecting me when the hard shell of protective armor rises and exposes an inch of my own soft belly of truth. I know when my ego chooses words like wonder, feigning innocence, as if I'd never considered it before. As if the truth is not what led me to the shears. I am lying to you: I did not wonder what this out-of-the-way spot might be used for. It is the reason I wandered to the backyard and spent hours clearing the brush.
The space is nine feet wide, another two or three if I measure beyond the fence to the concrete wall at the back of our property. Lengthwise, the space is probably twenty feet. Some people, like Darby, can visualize beyond over-grown orange trees, piles of mulch, debris from when the trimmers cut back the mulberry at the start of the fire season. At least a year ago, he suggested that the spot might be good for a writing studio. He has his own studio in the house, and for years I've worked from the dining table. A "she shed," he called it. A room of my own, I thought.
Why lie about that? What stake does the ego have in a little she shed, a little clean up of the backyard? A big one, apparently. As I raked the clutter away, pushing crisp leaves into the green bin in order to stuff in more twigs, the nine (or twelve) by twenty of the space became clear. The area could accommodate a cabin larger than one I once lived in, Thoreau-style, not far from Walden Pond. I could imagine a desk, perhaps a daybed, a music stand. The walls, painted with white-board paint or simply white or unpainted, could be covered with maps outlining the book I've been writing. I could unselfconsciously try out new song ideas, practice clarinet, talk to myself (as I tend to do when I'm writing), or sit in the quiet -- because as I pulled up a vine, I realized how well the garage and fences muffled street noise -- and drink tea.
And the heart beats, and the blood flows, and the mind, the mind, the mind thinks.
My mind turned to how much I don't know about building a little cabin. Because of everything I don't know how to do, I couldn't do it myself. Foundations. Studs. Electricity. Roofs. Supports. Windows. Doors. I can't even really correctly measure. I would have to hire an expert. Services and materials. My needle-y ego raised its fear-mongering head:
What if whatever I create inside that cabin never earns back what it cost to build the space?
I found myself pacing in the dirt, watching the noon sunlight lift higher on the garage wall. What if after all the effort and money, I never make anything worthwhile? What if whatever I write in there never earns back a penny?
I found myself reasoning: I should make due with what I already have, not waste the money on a room of my own. I am not worth it. The dining table has worked well enough, hasn't it? And when the girls are watching a movie in the living room, and Darby is in his recording studio, I can retreat, as I always have, with my laptop to our bedroom. But you never practice your clarinet when they're all around, the non-fear-mongering voice said. And you need quiet space to write, to think.
The next morning, before anyone in the house had woken, I poured my mug of coffee and stood in my socks in the raked dirt. An hour later, Darby was up, and I brought him back there to see my progress from the day before. This would be a good spot for your she shed, he said again, eyeing the dimensions, going back to the house for measuring tape, and, soon after, pulling up websites for tiny cabin building companies. What if I never make back that money, I worried.
And yet: An artist studio of my own.
The heart beats. The mind thinks. It runs over ideas, looking for ones that I might find interesting. Will the fear-mongering intrigue me more? You can live safe and small. Or will the curiosity to see what I might make in a quiet room just for myself win out? The mind thinks, the mind thinks. Next weekend I will fill up the green bin with the last of the leaves and begin dismantling the raised bed. I'm not yet ready to make a decision, but like Anne Lamott's advice - don't worry over the vast sky, just take it "bird by bird," one twig at a time I will make some space.
So much churns and rises to the surface during the night. A few days ago, I sat with my coffee and journal as I do most mornings, trying to capture my waking thoughts. As usual, only after my inner compass steadied could I turn my gaze to the headlines and other people's stories. Though I am enamored with the world, I don't know what magnets may swing too near my needle as I sleep so nearly every morning I do this scan of my inner horizon, as if it's an object on my nightstand, to ensure true north is where I left it the night before. If I can engage the first half hour of the morning with my pen steadied over the page, I rein in some otherwise missed understanding of the world. I write, listen to the hum of the refrigerator or the chatter of finches across the street, and sip my coffee. Sometimes, when there's little to sort out, I just write about the refrigerator and the finch. I aim for at least three pages of anything, and no matter what I write, mornings like that start out well.
The break of a new year is much the same. As one year's clepsammia thins, I hold my inner compass to the events of the previous twelve months. How does my living measure with the map I envision for my life? Have I lived aligned with my values? When the hourglass inverts, I face the future and envision how to rebalance lopsidedness from the previous year and further build on past progress.
As I began to write my way across the transition from 2017 into 2018, though, I noticed a distinctly uncommon wobble in my journaling. My compass seemed to be spinning. When I asked What did I do with my time? I felt unmoored, and then understood: The November before, not to over-play a broken record, had named the loser of the popular vote the winner of our last presidential election. Though I believe people can change, I don't think Trump will, and I didn't buy some commentators' hopes that his election season manner would temper after his swearing in. Instead, the weight of all the injustices ever wrought against women -- the silencing, the harassing, the violence, the unfair narratives, the pay gap -- pushed at my back and pummeled me through the gates of that new year. I had crossed threshold with a heady mix of anger, fear of the unknown, and a whopper of an election hangover.
Between the election of '16 and the swearing in last January, with my usual New Year's reckoning, I somberly acknowledged that the creative and professional plans I had thought would be my focus of 2017 had been based on an election outcome much different from what came to pass. Instead, I saw, 2017 would be not a year of embarking on new journeys, but on rehashing tired arguments for why, dammit, women need access to reproductive care; why, dammit, people for whom skin color has been the primary correlating factor for economic disparity should benefit from affirmative action; why gender expression or sexual orientation should make no damn difference when it comes to employment, military service, marriage, bathroom access, safety, or equal rights of any kind; why health care, particularly for the very old and very young and very sick and very poor -- and every child, like ours, with Type 1 Diabetes -- should be, in every civilized and wealthy society, guaranteed, accessible, and affordable; why we must be aggressive and progressive against industries that exacerbate climate change; why we must be diplomatic in our foreign relations; why we must encourage and support advancements in science, the arts, and education; and why, dammit, the individuals we choose as representatives should represent us at our best, not just for political reasons, but because, for god's sake, the children are listening.
This week, as I tried to clarify my retrospective of 2017 in order to create my vision for 2018, I saw too well that the past year, instead of moving forward, had been spent going back over the leaks in the boat we'd already built and had thought was airtight. That was the wobble. It came from the gravitas and boredom of battles re-waged. It came from tamping down celebrations; pulling back recording projects; setting aside money for the ACLU and NARAL and other organizations with other letter combinations; and delaying creation of new books in order to have time to consume more articles analyzing what had caused this great ship to dip, and how to simultaneously bail out the water and repair the leak before we all go down.
You many think I'm being overly dramatic, but that's part of what I love about you and me: we are not identically the same in our passions. And sometimes we are.
Still, the point is that 2017 has ended. To honor it, Darby and I chilled a bottle of prosecco and holed up in his recording studio to reclaim what was left of the new year. We staked out the final hours and marked them as our own, getting back to making music and writing stories.
We finished the year like that, never getting to the Prosecco, and woke up on January 1 to continue our work, which is on the Bliss Drops record that we first started over a year ago. Never mind the past. Through this New Years Eve and Day, we picked up where we left off before the election fiasco of 2016, with what is called "the Guru mantra," a Sanskrit chant that I've put to melody and chords, and which Darby has dressed up in groove. Gu = darkness. Ru = remover. Seems a fitting way to start anew: removing the darkness to bring in clarity, truth, healing, and joy.
"By reciting this mantra with a sincere heart," activist, musician, writer, and yoga teacher Sharon Gannon writes, "you will see that the power that enlightens is all around you at all times. [...] The guru is your own self, the inner guiding light."
To you, dear reader, I wish a very happy 2018, filled with love, joy, good health, creative inspiration, and the light of truth so that you may see more clearly in the darkness.
Guru Brahma, Guru Vishnu, Guru devo Maheshwara, Guru sakshat, param Brahma, tasmai shri guravay namaha
Brahma is the force, or guru, of creation; Vishnu, that of preservation; devo Maheshwara is behind the trials that transform us. There is a remover of darkness nearby (Guru Sakshat) and one beyond the beyond (param Brahma). I make my offering (tasmai) to the beautiful (shri) remover of my darkness, my own ignorance; I honor that guru with my life (namaha).