I was so happy to make it up to the Long Meadow this morning, even though I couldn't help feeling that I had missed so much of autumn. I go to the meadow so I can practice leaving the path. So I can move my steps through damp soil and piles of leaves and not know where exactly I will end up. I go to the meadow to teach my soul how to seek something, even something as simple as a hidden look-out spot with a wooden bench on a hill, and not find it and not find it and then at the last possible moment, see it come into view. This morning the sun kept moving in and out of clouds, and I stood with my camera and waited for the light to come, just as my heart patiently does the same.
There's no fast-forward button on life, and sometimes it feels that as much as we would like to breeze by, time is our greatest ally. I am impatient for arrivals, I lust after finish lines, but reminding myself of this forecast brings me so much comfort as I remember that this moment and the next and time in all her outstretched glory are the dearest of friends.
Time it takes me to recover from a teaching trip: 7 days
Time it takes to heal a broken heart: varies, but current conditions say 6 months
Time it will take me to fully step into my own: my guess, 3-5 years
Time it takes the words to catch up to the soul: always unknown
Before I arrived in Nags Head, I had already heard about Jockey's Ridge State Park, and how the top of the ridge hosted great views of sunrises and sunsets. From this high point on the island, you can see the sun rising over the ocean on one side of you, or the sun setting over more water on the other side. The house I was staying in backed right up to the ridge.
On the last morning, I slipped out with a few last exposures in my camera and climbed to the top of the small mountain of sand to watch the sun come up. We'd had a full moon, and it was still hanging high to the west even as the sky was dressing in morning light.
I got to the highest point and watched the horizon come alive with color. Then the sun rose above the ocean, large and electric red and I stood suspended in between night and day. I looked straight ahead in between the sun and moon and the light drew a line down the center of my face and frame. To my right, crickets chirped loudly and to my left birds sang. I tried to hold the paradox of having a foot in each world, of standing literally across the threshold of light and dark, night and day.
It was such a powerful moment for me, and such a visceral experience of my interior journey as I've worked to stand on the threshold of my own sun side and moon side, to own them both equally and integrate them into an awake and aware whole. It's amazing to see and feel in my own body that there is a way to stand in the presence of the full moon and the rising sun, to hear at once the chorus of the songbirds and the crickets, to have light and dark draw their line down me and not be split.
The waves call you out with each wall
of white bubbles that reaches up the beach to meet you--
the sun promises to warm your cheeks
even as the wind whips your locks to and fro.
So out you go in the morning mist, into the gray air
folowing a trail of seagull steps and paw prints.
The water comes up and runs high on your boots,
sinking into your feet a coldness it has carried for many miles,
from ancient years.
This sea is as old as the earth itself,
older than you feel when life rushes high
and leaves you standing in its cold.
A rock comes up near your feet, nudged closer
each time an arm of water gives it some encouragement.
It travels up and up the shore,
then settles deep into the sand
moving whenever the water wills
and staying wherever the sand catches it.
You turn your back on the water
as if to go someplace you like to call “home”,
but then the wind catches you from behind.
Your feet ask you to stay a little longer,
invited by a soft spot in the shore.
The air presses its palm into that low place on your back.
With the rhythm of an ancient ocean behind you
a wind that has come so far and so fast to meet you
and a firm sandy floor beneath you,
you let yourself lean
let yourself rest
you let yourself be held.
I'd scan this if my handwriting were in any way legible today. Anyway, here's an excerpt from my journal:
I wonder why it's so hard to write these days. Is it the permanence of the way it commits you to a certain or particular expression of your reality?
Maybe it's the way it forces me to line up my thoughts as if with Captain von Trapp's whistle, when they would rather frolic by the water in clothes made of curtains.
At any rate, I keep trying to write insomuch as it feels good for me, just like the walk in today's heat was keeping my joints moving this morning. I have to keep a certain amount of flow.
Maybe I'm just writing to fill up this damn journal once and for all.
David Whyte says all there is to do is to explore the nature of our exile.
Well, these days I am still and quiet, even though I feel like my soul is carrying great weights over long miles. Everything begins with our own soul work, our own transformation, and mine is taking a lot of juice these days. It takes untold patience and trust and discipline to hold myself still, as I feel I must do right now.
It's so tempting to stay skimming the surface, looking busy and maybe even flashy. But too much surface-skimming leads to thin work and thin living. Doing a lot of work counts for little if we're not doing the right work--the work that is centered and grounded in our core.
And my core is easy to disregard.
I'm watching the trees for guidance about being still. Their roots plunge deep, they flower and fruit and add another ring to their girth, so quietly and slowly that they appear to be doing nothing at all.
And yet, they have grown so tall. So strong. Rooted firmly so they can stand through wind and storms.
I'm using up most of my words off-line these days, writing on a new project, but I can't resist sharing this pic of Lucy under the Cherry Trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The grass with its shadows and light makes me think of the night sky with its stars. May your day be so dreamy.
Spring is coming, and my arms are open wide.
This is a famous stretch in Central Park called The Mall. The towering arch of trees marks the seasons like nothing else. This is how it looks in February, with snow spreading from each side of the path like frosting on a cake. Just try to imagine how it looks in April.
Green. Blooming. New.
Here are some thoughts on running in bad weather, and one of my writing tricks for stormy days.
My friends tell me that because I sound so calm and mellow, people don't realize how "Type A" I am. So I'm just telling you that now.
Click the link below to listen in your web browser, or right click it to download onto your computer.
This is a season of putting so many things in order for me. Thoughts. Words. Paperwork and winter clothes. I'm in the tension of doing what I know to do, and also waiting for things to finish unfolding within and without.
I know for sure that it's always the right thing to snuggle with a child. To take time to be a friend. To take a cue from nature and give oneself over to the changing of the seasons. To let some things turn color, change, fall.
I walk down toward the water, to follow the beach into town. But the tide is so low, and the morning fog is so thick that even when I hit wet sand that is smoothed and firm from the stroke of waves, the water is still out of sight. There is only the sound of the ocean's constant sighing, somewhere far to my right.
On my left, I can't see the road or the mountain, either. There is just the cloud's breath, as if exhaled into the cold. The occassional chatter of children a long distance away, or the dark shadow of a person or a family walking near by. My body is immersed in the experience in which my mind has been swimming all week. Commanded to surrender to the unknowing and the unseeing. Forced to adjust my eyes to blindness.
Life is like this, maybe all the time. Sometimes you get more clues than others. "You are somewhere between the water and the shore." Or only, "You have ground beneath your feet. Now, walk." This is a gift, I think, to have the earth teach me this lesson in my body, for all my senses to feel.
I can learn to walk like this, I tell myself. I try to believe it, to practice, to take my fear by the hand and make her my companion.
I step. I breathe. I do it again, and again.
I sink into my instincts about how far I am traveling, and I turn and walk into the cloud on my left just in time to cross the street into town.
No experience is as grounding as getting your bare feet in dirt.
Beginnings are more beautiful than your finishing-obsessed mind will concede.
Real air, infused with the real scents of nature, is good for your body AND soul.
Regardless of whether you succeed or fail, in this endeavor or a hundred others to come, the sun rises and the sun sets, and in that you can find comfort.
When the light finally comes, color saunters in, several steps behind.
No matter who you are, how you feel, what thoughts swirl in your head or which circumstances spin around your feet, it is morning. It is day.