“That’s the general hubbub of a Covent Garden Cafe in the background, people coming and going. I’ve closed my eyes to connect to the sound more fully.
I long thought that adulthood was a point of arrival, not a series of little deaths and rebirths, of rites of passage for which we receive no schooling. We all seem to be winging it, in amongst the other birds, trying to attune to each others movement — hoping to create a murmuration.
Transition from one version of myself to another has been messy, and at times distressing. It hasn’t been the turning of a page, a clean end of a chapter and the fresh start of another, my transitions have spilled and bled into one another.
The larger responsibility throughout has been to minimise any harm I might have caused others in this process, and I cannot claim to be a Master at it. ‘Larger responsibility’ isn’t meant to imply an overcautiousness, or a over-self consciousness, by all means express yourself, throw paint; just choose the non-toxic kind.
Many times, transition has been initiated by the heat of embarrassment, so uncomfortable to feel that whatever behaviour preceded it will never again be repeated. ‘Humiliation’ and ‘humbling’ derive from the word humus, which refers to Earth’s top layer of soil. When we are humbled we are brought to earth.
I notice now as I’m sitting here, a certain amount of hesitation creeping in at sharing one such sudden grounding with you…”
During the late-90s I was invited, as a guest, onto a National morning TV show to talk about an album I had made called The Planet Sleeps. The call time was something like 4.45 am, and my segment finished live-broadcast at 7.30 am, so I drove back to Santa Monica from Studio City in time for breakfast.
My spot of choice was a bakery on Main Street called Manni’s, now long gone, sadly. I sat against the back wall facing the door so I could people-watch as the place began to fill up. Much to my surprise, incoming customers would stand and stare in my direction for a moment as they entered.
They didn’t seem like typical early morning TV viewers—however as more and more people gave me the same prolonged gaze, I felt prompted to respond as I didn’t want to seem aloof. So I smiled and offered a simple wave repeatedly over the course of the following hour.
Although no one came over to comment on my television appearance, I felt I had acknowledged their appreciation with a humble courtesy, and returned in kind all of the smiles that seemed to say — come hither.
As I stood to leave, I turned to retrieve my jacket from the back of the chair and noticed for the first time that I had, in fact, been siting directly beneath the daily specials menu.
In an instant, my inflated ego peeled away and slid to the floor.
I walked between the tables and out the door with a burning face and unsteady legs, leaving my needs sitting at the table waiting for someone to join them — though I had yet to meet those needs properly myself.
Blessed was the Pacific breeze for cooling my burning face, blessed was the Earth that I felt more keenly beneath my feet, blessed was the Spirit of Disappointment for inviting me to live with poise, not posturing — for inviting me to live more courageously.
I love the reminder to think about these moments as gifts from the world- teachers. Maybe one day I will learn how to humble myself regularly and appreciate the unique breeze of my environs. And yes… murmuration!