Desire, Longing & (Deep) Polyamory
“If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, you are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows where you are. You must let it find you.” David Wagoner Yesterday, for the first time, we harvested honey from our bees. This morning, having left this first harvest overnight so it could drip off the comb into a big bucket, I dip a stainless steel ladle into the golden pool and collect 1/3 of a cup of this elixir, pouring it into a squat mason jar. It sits on the counter glowing with sunlight, the brilliance of millions of years of Life extracting its own vitality and genius from its own making, over and over. Genius concentrate.
Regarding the small mason jar containing this, a measurable expression of ecstasy, I’m aware of the intimacy of my connection: I know where this honey comes from. I’ve spent hours and hours on the ground in our gardens, listening to the bees and flowers tell their stories to each other. Watching as the flowers receive these little winged lovers, their insistent efficient tongues and fanning wings reaffirming some ancient vow with a fervor and relentlessness that might indicate the world were coming to an end. But it’s even better than that. This honey I hold this morning is the by-product of a partnership between some of the most treasured beings in my life: these beautiful bees and the self-governed wildness of our gardens - the flowers, vegetables and fruits, finches, squirrels and raccoons, the grasshoppers and industrious drunk small cabbage whites. This morning, seeing, touching and smelling this honey I am filled with a feeling I only experience in one other context. Yet in that context, delicious and intense as it may be, the feeling pales to this one. I want desperately to taste this honey, to have it on my tongue. Yet I feel like, somehow, consuming it might be a fatal ingestion. And of course it is. I will not be same on the other side of this.
This summer my youngest son, Simon, and I participated in a sacred animal processing course at Laughing Coyote. For the first time in his 16 years of life, Simon consciously took the life of another being; slit the throat of a young powerful male sheep, still in his first year. Red blood pulsed and poured from the buck's aorta as they stared, eye to eye, in an embrace that seemed to convey an unspeakable contract. This four-legged perhaps sensed a kindred buck-ness with Simon, whose own eyes had filled with tears even while his muscles remained taught, hands gripping the knife as if his own life were at stake.
Just a few hours later we had the opportunity to eat the buck’s raw liver. It was like eating life itself, made even more available to us by the fact that we had taken this one’s life. We had made a pact with this one. Full of the intelligence of what has us all, and everything else here, the buck’s liver was like mainlining Life. And while it might seem repulsive to many of us, it would be tragic to imagine - or allow - that repulsion is our primary or innate response. It is our fundamental programming, the contract we all agree to and a fundamental need we all have, to consciously engage with and consume Life. It’s part of the deal. Whether we are vegans or unapologetic carnivores, we must implicate ourselves in this way in order to live. And as such, it’s as much a form of love and love making as the act which creates our offspring.
And let’s be clear. This need to consciously engage is a non-negotiable longing. We may attempt to bury it but it will not go away. It is a fact of living. And though what we have done to the art and practice of living over the last many generations may have the effect of slowly gutting our erotic intelligence (to the point of simply coveting other human bodies and only for the fleeting intimacy which sex allows), the longing - in fact the need - still lives in us to participate with Life in the most erotic, tactile all-or-nothing ways.
And so we search. I make a beautiful living in my private practice in Boulder Colorado because we, in this North American culture, have lost our way with our longing. I sit with many individuals and couples as they navigate the waters of the hottest topic du jour in partnership: this thing we have labeled Polyamory. A thing which, to many indigenous individuals, probably looks like only a slightly less horrifying destitution than monogamy and the suburban nuclear family. Most of the time what I see is a practice whose purpose suffers from mistaken identity. I see the belief that 'more sexual intercourse and sexual interactivity = more meaning', that 'more human sex partners = more aliveness', that 'more sexual variety = more vitality'. Sometimes this is the case. Most of the time it is not. Mostly what I see is a desperate attempt to quell our perfectly understandable experiences of emptiness, purposelessness and loneliness. Like a parent who endlessly places their curious (time consuming) child in front of the TV, we find ways to momentarily entertain our innately beautifully human desire for true intimate connection and erotically alive engagement with The World.
It is not merely multiple human partners we crave. It is genuine all-or-nothing engagement with the multiplicity of life. It is not merely sexual variety with different human bodies we crave. It is the sense of our own multitude in relation to all our relations. Yes: we are biologically programmed to propagate our species and continue our genetic line. But our triumvirate brains are built for so much more than this. We are endowed with vastly more sophisticated capacity and accompanying needs than the experience afforded merely by genital sex with lots of people. Our myopic view of the full menu does not make our need or longing go away. Our longings do not cease, simply because we have lost our capacity to grasp the true nature of them.
The Scythians, ancient pony people of the Mongolian Steppe, wrote love songs and poems to the fertile Asiatic grasses that were their homeland. To the Scythians, these grasslands were wondrous beings, without whom they would not survive. The cadence of their songs were influenced by the hypnotic rhythms made when the nimble hooves of their cantering ponies met the fertile earth, the words a homage to the sounds the breezes made as they meandered through the stalks and fronds. Not only are we built for this depth of intimacy, interdependence and love, we require it. Love is not a romantic notion. It is the most profound survival mechanism available to us. Our very reason for being which, if truncated into something smaller, will haunt us to - and perhaps beyond - our death.
Back in the kitchen this morning, I take my finger and dip it into the honey, cold and thick. I bring my finger to my lips slowly, both fearing and longing that I might die or truly finally live from this experience. It is sweeter than anything I’ve tasted. I close my eyes and imagine the distinct pollens from the sunflower, gaillardia, coreopsis and cucumbers. I picture the way the dusted stamens shy away from the incoming bee as her wings create a draft upon entering the flowers. I appreciate the painstaking labor of love that is each particle of this substance. Surely ingesting it gets me closer to this devout love. Surely consuming it increases the chance that I will learn how to live as devout as these wild flying ones. I realize I’ve forgotten to breath. With breath, of course, come my tears. And with them come an overwhelming experience of my own life, coursing through me, in relation to all that sustains me. An awareness of living down into the bones of me.
A gratitude for my own living, down into the bones of me.