It happened again this year. After just a few days of being here, my legs have become bitten with lots of little small itchy insect bites, sand flea/noseum variety with an occasional mosquito size bump to make the landscape a little more interesting. This is all concentrated below the knee for the most part, with some evidence also appearing in odd places like my thumbs. Just like last year,same thing, so distinctive that even my fellow retreaters remember this concentration of assault to my calves. It has become a great mystery. The only time this has happened like this, so dramatically, has been while here in this place on retreat.
Of course I forgot last years realization, after days of copious and dedicated removal of all grains of sand from floor and bed, when still getting bitten, that it must have been the delicious coconut oil and creme I like to feed my skin with. Reminded of this after the first display of bites this year, I buried these beloved products in the dark recesses of my suitcase. Confident that the assaults would cease.
But no, sitting in meditation just before dawn the next day on the small porch that overlooks views of morning paradise, even in the strong balmy breeze, my biting friends made their presence known. I felt what can only be described as the shock of a sneak attack, tingling and itching around both ankles, calves and thumbs. Was I hallucinating? Had I entered in to a state of consciousness that was letting me experience past present and future simultaneously? Yet on inspection, sure as the sun rising before me, I saw the new raised bumps intermingled with the fading ones.
So began a day of introspection about why this might be happening. Aiming to shine a light on where, hidden somewhere deep in me, I was so prone to being bitten. There are all the obvious choices, the list topped by my sweet smelling skin, perhaps loaded with sand flea loving pheromones. But why just the ankles and calves? Was this a particularly vulnerable place for me? Did it have something to do with the fact that this was one place on my body I was seeing most clearly during yoga practice, with feet propped up on the deck rail,
or while legs were outstretched on the beach. The sight of these red itchy dots sent me back to the couch I occupied while I had chicken pox as a young child. Five years old, watching repeated episodes of Superman on TV while enjoying the biggest tootsie roll ever, the one my mother would give me as a reward for not scratching to relieve the relentless itching. I remember on of those Superman episodes like it was yesterday. The one with the little child sitting on her bed and seeing a glowing head slowly rising into view at her window. We would find out soon enough that this was a benevolent creature who lived in the dark bowels of the earth, emerging through city sewer covers with its luminescent body only to experience what was ‘there’, but seeing that image of that glowing head haunted me for weeks after. Now of course it is a great metaphor for me, the thing we are the most afraid of is actually the light we need to see what we want to see.
Is it a coincidence that the psoriasis, the ever present daily itchy reminder of something inside that just cannot be relieved with surface scratching, would appear on my little ten year old head?
We are taught never to shoot directly into the sun if we want to actually see the full spectrum of color and detail of the subject/object being photographed. But somehow this just hasn’t been an issue of late. I’ve noticed a recent fascination with things I see while looking right into the sun. How the sun will illuminate a space in between like a huge beacon to the source of something we truly want to experience and accept.
I think it is useful to look for this light when bitten with love and the burning desire to keep inquiring about, and experiencing, its source.
I’m trying to get to a place of gratitude for my small silent biting friends. Smile. They sure have reminded me that the suffering is truly only on the surface….