Cat Lives

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Of late, I have found myself musing over my mortality. Last night, I started calculating the years left in my life in terms of the number of cats I might possess (in truth, I am less certain that I possess my feline companions than the alternate option).

I am 33 (and almost a half).

I share a home with several felines. In order of age, eldest first and youngest last, they are:

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Smokey (Grey Tabby of slight design)

Gender Ambiguous Age 9

IMG_2760Fingolfin (aka Bruiser, Siamese Himalayan of stout stature)

Born summer-ish 2008, adopted September 2008

Male Age 6

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Arwen (aka Stella, Grey Russian Blue Tabby of rotund stature)

Born summer-ish 2008

Found at gas station in Skagit Valley

Adopted December 2008

Female Age 6

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Puck (Maine Coon of fluffy design).

Born summerish 2009

Abandoned litter

Adopted fall 2009

Male Age 5

Let’s say that the Skagit cats all live another 10 years, give or take. That will put me at 43-44 years of age. If I adopt another two cats (because let’s face it, four is just too much), each creature will likely live another 16 years.

Now, I am 60. What does 60 look and feel like? Will I want a cat? Will I want the freedomt to travel?

I could potentially get two more rounds of cats, possibly three if I am very long-lived and able.

Anyway, as I sat in the passenger seat doing the math, I could see my entire future before me. Did I have time to get an orange cat? What about a black cat to replace my beloved Izzy, whom I had given up to a family in Alaska before fleeing the state?

I love Russian Blue and Calico, too. There were so many choices and so many beings in need of safe haven and love.

It was clear that I needed to live a long life and also that I should probably try to relax a little bit.

I can remember my dad telling me about his desire to read as many books as possible before time ran out. Periodically, I think about all of the time I am wasting by not spending several hours a day dedicated to reading.

Am I just frittering away my precious time on this earth?

I don’t think I am, but there are so many hours in each day. Sometimes, I feel that I should be accomplishing much more with each passing hour.

Additionally, I must admit that I am a bit terrified of growing old. All of my joints and muscles ache, and I am still in the early 30s realm of my current decade.

And so I sit musing over mortality on a Monday morning.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this one life we are given; or if you believe in another realm beyond, reincarnation, or something entirely different.

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I am who I am, but who is that?

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 “I write for myself—and through myself for everyone.”

(Natalie Goldberg, 2000, p. 215)

I created this blog after my first year in a doctoral program. I was studying Sustainability Education, and professors and students in earlier cohorts had recommended that we keep a journal. I was about to move from a small town in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest to an even more remote community at the edge of the earth in Southeast Alaska.

It seemed a reasonable idea to keep in the practice of writing over the summer by committing to a post a week for a blog with a theme of capturing my experiences rooting myself in a new place.

And so I began.

I had never considered myself to be a writer. I had often wondered what it would be like to be a writer and imagined it to be quite romantic.

A writer is an artist with words creating images on an empty canvas.

I never imagined myself an artist, though dozens of people from all stages of my life have observed this identity as a deep part of who I am and how I interact with the world. My low self-esteem held me prisoner to embracing this part of myself. Someone else was always more gifted than I. I could never reach the level of brilliance they had already attained, so why should I bother?

I was quite a defeatist child. I rarely had crushes on celebrities because there seemed to be such little chance of ever realizing the romance that I refused to allow myself the gift of simply dreaming about something beautiful.

In July 2010, I allowed myself to dream. I began writing. What I had envisioned as a doctoral practice became a gift I gave myself.

It was less romantic my childhood visions. I found myself composing sentences every time I went for a walk in the woods or along the line where water meets the shore. It was more annoying than anything else. I grew so attached to the phrases and paragraphs forming in my mind that I had to repeat them over and over so as to set them to memory until I was near a computer.

Thinking about it now, I suppose that love can inspire us to madness, and this was definitely a form of madness. I am already prone to strange mannerisms and habits, so perhaps writing has always been in my blood?

Writing began as an exercise. It became a meditative practice. I began by writing about my relationship to place.

I was living beyond the edge of the “civilized” world. Flying in to Gustavus, one found little visual evidence of a realm inhabited by people. There was a paved airstrip and dots of unmaintained roads and houses. Yet, stepping off the plane that first morning, an owl pillow held close to my chest, I felt home for the first time.

I wrote about my connection to the flora and fauna, to landscape and waterscape. I took pictures of wolf and bear tracks and described bird song. It was a romance full of passion, like a teenage crush. I was certain that I would live and love Alaska forever, just as I had been certain that I would marry and live happily ever after with my first boyfriend. It hadn’t mattered that he wasn’t Jewish (as my relatives desired) or that he wished to change me to fit his own idea of who I was and who I could be.

First love can be fickle. And so, too, was my relationship with Alaska. I held on long after the flames had died out and insisted on stirring the coals in desperate attempts to rekindle what had been lost.

Loss is great fodder for writing. And my writing continued, despite my broken heart.

The subject matter shifted, however. I turned from writing about the world outside to a world within, what I came to call my inner ‘scapes. I focused less on the immediacy of the visual environment and more on what I could not see inside of myself—an interior environment that was wild and untamed and trying desperately to get out.

Who was marieke slovin? Who had she been thus far, and who could she be?

I wanted to find out. Through the practice of writing, I was able to peel back layer upon layer of cultural norms and mores, ever so gently, until I discovered a soft, warm, infant. It was curled up in a ball, breathing ever so delicately. At first, I did not wish to disturb it, so beautiful as it was all red and perfect in its innocence. Why wake it only to harden it with the realities of the cold, cruel world outside? But I had this sense that if I left it alone, it may wither and die.

So wake it, I did. It was a part of me, after all, and I was curious. I whispered my deepest secrets to it, and gradually it grew and took shape. As it grew, it seemed to spread out, like wings pushing out from a chrysalis casing. From something so impossible small and fragile, it metamorphosed into an entire being, one with purpose and newfound confidence. It had a different voice, yet there was something familiar about it.

It was foreign but seemed to spring from the vestiges of something I recognized.

The entire process took several years, and it was only looking back over the stages of growth that I was able to see myself in this strange creature. I had gone deep within and created something new.

Had this version of myself been inside of me all along?

Perhaps.

I remember a moment of extreme darkest and despair when a small voice came through the dark.

“If you do not find me now, I will be lost,” it whispered.

“Then you will be lost,” I heard myself snap.

“Don’t be so hasty,” it hissed. It knew from experience that I could be quite stubborn. “I know that you need me. More than that, you want me.”

“Maybe,” I hesitated. “But I am afraid. I do not wish to break and more hearts because of you.”

“And what of your own heart? Your own spirit? Your own happiness?”

“I don’t need it. I have been doing just fine all these years without it.”

“You of all people know that is not true. If you do not allow yourself to find happiness now, you may lose motivation. You risk spending the rest of your life as half a person. You deserve this.”

I closed my eyes and sat silently. Then came the words that shook my reserve.

“If not now, then when?”

Something hit me in the chest. It was a powerful force, enough to knock the wind out of me. Even more, it frightened me. I knew so many people who had spent years of their lives settled comfortably into unhappy habits. I did not want to wake up 20 or 30 years from now and realize that I had missed my chance to find true happiness.

“Ok.” The words were barely audible. I cleared my throat and continued before I lost my nerve.

“What do I do now?”

“Listen,” came the response.

And then silence.

Tales of sleepless nights

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My parents claim that I was a very good sleeper as a baby. I wonder sometimes if I was just putting on a really good show. I do have a flair for the dramatic and theatrical, so it could be a real possibility.

In all honesty, I cannot recall a time that I sleeping was easy. I can remember lying awake for hours as a child, my mind fixed on the hours of sleep I would get if I fell asleep at different times of the night. The running dialogue in my head went something like this:

If I fall asleep now, I’ll get X number of hours of sleep.

…..

and if I fall asleep now, I’ll get X number of hours of sleep.

…..

And if I don’t fall asleep immediately, I will be so tired tomorrow.

And so it would continue, my child’s mind worrying ceaselessly until I wore myself out and finally fell asleep.

As a child, if I had a nightmare, I would call out to my parents or sibling. My dad would rise and go into my sibling’s room.

“Marieke had a nightmare,” he would whisper in the dark.

My younger sibling would crawl out of bed and walk down the hallway to my room, blanket held up close to one cheek in a tiny fist, the remainder dragging on the floor behind them. Index and ring fingers from the other hand held steadfast between delicate lips, and a tiny pinky brushed repeatedly in sweeps against their cheek.

Once in my room, they would lie down on the floor beside my bed. Relieved by the presence of family, I would instantly fall asleep. It was years later that my sibling confided in me that they were terrified of the large, wicker bureau in my room and would lie awake, looking up at its towering features in fear until finally the morning light began seeping in.

As an adult, I tend to sleep better with a trusted companion, be it human, canine, or feline, but even then I do not always succeed. My mind can easily become active with even one thought entering the premises. One thought turns to another until I am held captive by a spiraling vortex of images and emotions from past, present, or future.

Most recently, the thoughts that have kept me awake have been from my life in Alaska. I imagine this has to do in part with my recent transition from Lowell, Massachusetts to Prescott, Arizona. Moving reminds me of the circumstances that surrounded my departure from Gustavus, Alaska. It was not a happy uprooting but felt more akin to a fleeing from a prison in the dark of night, hoping to get a headstart on whoever might be following suit.

Dramatic?

Well, I did not warn you I had the flare, did I not?

At the time, it felt like I was running for my life. There were a few friends who shared love and laughter and incredible support as I made last minute getaway plans. There were others who were less interested in the details of my departure.

Did I hear a sigh of relief from my supervisor and upper management in my division at work? I have met many people who claim that no one could dislike me, but I will be the first to tell you that this simply is not true.

I can be loving and generous and all heart toward people who embrace me for who I am; but when threatened and made to fit into someone else’s vision of reality, I become defensive and lash out in a desperate attempt to preserve my sense of self.

This is exactly what transpired at my job and with several members of the Gustavus community in Alaska. I have written about it a lot in an attempt to understand my own behaviors and those of others. I do not hold ill will toward anyone because I think we all did our best in difficult times with ways of being and perceiving the world that were at wildly different ends of the spectrum.

I am not a traditional kind of person. I am impulsive and emotional. And my practice, particularly since moving to Alaska and going through a divorce and a doctoral program in sustainability, has been to be as honest about who I am as possible while respecting and honoring other perspectives and ways of being. I do not always succeed in this endeavor, though I would like to think that each situation I move through I learn something and improve.

I was so desperate to maintain a tenuous grasp on what felt like the beginnings of discovering my own self, I cannot claim to have done well with managers at my job who seemed themselves to feel threatened by my journey to sustainability. They did their best to contain my independence and re-assimilate me into the fabric of tradition in small town Alaska where there are many big fishes in little ponds.

I played their game while biding my time and planning my escape.

Suffice it to say that my escape came at a time that has since become dark and painful when it resurfaces from the depths of my memory.

There were beautiful moments and connections with people and place in Alaska, but my leaving was not one of them.

Since leaving my connections with members of the community dwindled to a handful and then fewer people still with the passage of time. It didn’t help that I had two friends vying for the opportunity to rent my home and my choice please some and angered others so much so that my name was slandered around town.

You know that “sticks and stones” phrase they teach children? Well, names do hurt, especially when you are not there to even defend yourself.

Periodically, thoughts of the darker memories from Alaska resurface. They tend to return with the sting of a more recent happening.

This most recent happening has been building for a long time. It came with a simple attempt to “tag” an Alaska friend on a facebook post. Her name did not come up.

“Huh,” I thought. “Must be something weird with my internet connection.”

I went to her profile and saw the option to send her a friend request.

“That’s odd,” I thought again, the stirrings of something deep down beginning to rumble.

I sent her a friend request and sent a short, friendly message inquiring after what could only be a misunderstanding.

I waited.

Several hours (was it a full day?) later, I received a response, stating without any kind of sugar coating that it did not seem to be worth keeping touch as they had come to realize that our ways of perceiving the world for so very different.

I read the words once, twice, and a third time. Though I was not completely surprised by the response (her previous responses to my emails had become shorter and less personal, until all I received was one-liners), I still felt an emotional punch to the gut.

This person had been like family when I lived in Gustavus, and I had spent many hours with them and their children, in their home, hiking trails, and drinking tea.

In my mind and heart, the message read, “your perspective is one that I disagree with and am disappointed by; thus, you no longer exist to me.”

I had known this would be coming. Gustavus is small community. If you root yourself there and make attempts to belong, people embrace you. If you walk a different path, people shut you out. I had already been shut out at my work and in the music community, where I had long since stopped receiving invitations to play at music nights in people’s homes (yes, that one really hurt and is a story for another time, if at all).

When behaviors run counter, a cognitive dissonance occurs, and one must make a choice. Ignore the new information, find out more and make an informed decision, or find a comfortable way to incorporate it into your worldview.

My friend had made her choice. I had uprooted myself and others had spread word of my deplorable behavior as a landlord. We were different or at least my perceived behaviors were counter to her way of being.

I cannot say that I blame her. I know that I have made mistakes and hurt people’s feelings. Her words still hurt and hit at the part of me that even now feels raw from my time in Alaska.

So each night since that interchange, I fall asleep beginning with thoughts of my former friend. These thoughts spiral into a vortex of negative memories of other ways I felt hurt and abandoned by those who had offered fleeting support and professed to understand what I was going through, only to turn on me and project their unhappiness at my attempts to create my own.

Last night, the pattern began anew once more.

After several minutes of allowing my spirit to become awash in this storm, something clicked.

You do not have to put yourself through this, a voice told me. Haven’t you suffered and repented enough for whatever ills you have caused others and your own self. You are loved. Lowell loves you. Think of Lowell.

And I did. My thoughts turned to images of smiling, loving faces; to brick and mortar; to ghost signs and painted walls.

I felt a calmness begin to sweep away Alaska dust and cobwebs.

Hours later, I woke up to morning light beginning to seep into the room.

Letting go of Alaska

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IMG_2469Do you ever wonder if a relationship could have been turned out differently had the timing been better or if you had been in a better, healthier space in your life? I left Alaska years ago but have been haunted by our relationship there in dreams and waking hours ever since.

When I write about relationships, I am referring to both people and place. I recognize that people and place come in and out of our lives with each phase I experience. Some remain in my life, even from a distance, for decades to come. Others are more evanescent. All stay in my heart.

I have been writing about my relationship with Alaska for nearly five years now. Two years writing about my experience rooted in the remote community of Gustavus and the following three trying to make sense of the storm of the previous two.

I write as a means of processing and also of letting go. Whether or not I write, the emotions may stubbornly remain; however, I like to think that each time I write, I set a little piece of emotional tether free. I can close my eyes and imagine freeing one small strand on a thick rope that binds us together.

I was thinking yesterday about how some people feel like family when I see them after a long time has passed and others like strangers. Perhaps, some people are meant to come into our lives and we to theirs are times when we both need someone one to lean on. When the storm has passed, some relationships go with it.

When I moved to Alaska, I was at the very beginning of the greatest storm in my life yet to pass. It was a calm before transition. I went through so many changes that shook the very core of my own being. At times, I felt so out of control that I worried I would destroy any person who stumbled unwittingly onto my path.

Some who came into my life weathered the storm and others did not. Looking back now, I know things could not have been different. They were as they were meant to be. I did what I could, made mistakes, and learned from them.

So much of my interaction with people and place are wrought by my choice of perspective. More often than not, I imagine that I am at the root of any ill will that surfaces. I should know better at this point that any individual’s response to a situation has as much to do with their own inner demons as it does with how they feel about me.

I try my best to go deep into the heart of what is happening and to understand what it is going on inside of me and try to imagine what the other may be grappling with.

At least, I have come to appreciate that this is true for me and has been the case with people I have known. There was a woman in my circle of friends from college who I imagined never liked me and so I feigned dislike for her out of my own insecurities. At the very end of our four years, we discovered that we each had held the same fear about the other. Our honesty revealed these insecurities and misunderstandings. Communication gave us the freedom to be friends.

Honesty is key. I appreciate honesty from others, however painful it can be, and I try to be honest with my own feelings.

I have difficulty letting go, of material possessions and even more so of people who have been close companions at a time in my life. Many of my intimate relationships saw me grasping on for dear life long after the initial spark had gone out and unhealthy patterns set in.

Much of my experience with letting go has come from trying to accept the unfolding of events as they happened rather than imagining they could have been different, forgiving my self and others for the parts we played, working to understand our individual choices and inner demons, and giving my self permission to move on.

I think much of the difficult interactions have stemmed from my own personal growth. I went through a storm in Alaska, and it was by my own device. I wanted to go into the storm to find out who I truly was and to allow my self to fully be that person. Not everyone is comfortable with this kind of shift, and I think I set many on the defensive edge.

Part of embracing change is letting go of the past. This does not mean forgetting the past. It is always with me. For me, it means being free from the ghosts of my past. In some cases, I can only experience closure through my own choice to practice acceptance.

And it is time. I left Alaska more than three years ago. To truly be where I am, I need to let go of who I was.

So, to Alaska, I say:

You are the first place I felt that I belonged, and I felt it from the moment I stepped off that tiny plane and onto your wild ground.

Your wildness filled my soul but also made me lonely.

You were both sanctuary and prison.

I went to you seeking my self.

I left you to truly become that self.

You are in my heart.

It was difficult to be with you and also to leave you, but I am glad that I had the courage to do both.

I am thankful to know you are out there.

Goodbye for this life.

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There’s no place like home, wherever it may be

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In the darkness of the early morning this past Friday, I left Lowell. I left with a lump in my throat nearly three years after leaving Alaska for Massachusetts. I remember thinking it strange to shed tears for a place that had seemed akin to a kind of karmic prison sentence. I had not wanted to move to Massachusetts. I had left well over a decade before and vowed never to return. Yet, I wonder if it was a destiny of sorts to be reunited with the land of my childhood and to create a new relationship to place.

Before Lowell, I had never lived in a city. Lowell felt like a big city in March 2012. I was afraid to cross the street and thanked the universe for my life each time I survived a car ride anywhere. I felt like the people were against me, breaking into my car and making life so difficult with aggressive, defensive behavior.

Today, I sit with the sun streaming in through windows in a quiet corner of Arizona. No sirens; no bass from the cars below my window; no brick buildings; no canals.

Leaves are still on sprawling cottonwood trees, water flows in a creek across the way. The air is warm and dry, no sign of grit.

The landscape is familiar, yet I feel as though I am seeing it for the first time, truly seeing it as my home rather than a place I visit.

I think I fell in love for Lowell when I began to see it as my home and the people my community. I cannot remember the exact moment when this transition happened, but I do know that I began to feel at home when my dissertation was complete and I began to venture out from the my apartment sanctuary and into a world of music and misfits.

I am certainly not romanticizing my relationship with place. Each corner of the globe I have called home has had it challenges, and Lowell was no exception. It took much practice to not take idle threats, horns honking, and expletives too terribly personally. There were many nights of wine drinking as antidote to my easily shaken sensibilities.

A new chapter begins before the other has closed. I often feel this sense of abruptness when I uproot myself from one place and plop down in another. Yet the warmth and love I feel from Massachusetts is a far cry from the rawness and pain I felt upon leaving Alaska. Here in the desert, another place I never imagined I might call home, I am thankful for my time in the city of spindles and full of gratitude and love for the misfits who welcomed me into their fold.

I have come to realize that the people and places change me. I am thankful for that change, however difficult it can be at times.

And maybe, just maybe, I change them, too.

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Be(e) simple

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For the past three years, I have entered into the cool waters of Walden well into the autumn. My goal has been to swim until October and later, if my body can withstand the fast cooling temperatures of the deepest pond in Massachusetts.

This year, I have surpassed the October 1st goal by several weeks, all in thanks to the inventor of neoprene. Around this time last year, I received a wetsuit in the mail with a letter that read, “Now you can swim until the fish freeze!” I never had the chance to use it because the weather was not nearly as hospitable as it has been thus far this fall.

Hospitable it has been. Warm, humid, rainy, windy. Perfect for a dip in my favorite pond.

When I swim, I feel as if I have been granted the gift of entering another world. I am far away from the troubles of land dwellers. I can move my arms and legs and meditate on being surrounded by a liquid universe.

This past Tuesday, I swam way out to the middle of the pond. I kept my head above water, not feeling quite bold enough to get my hair wet. The possibility of hypothermia, even with a wetsuit, was not particularly appealing.

With my head above water, I could survey my surroundings in detail. A small commotion on the surface drew my attention. I noticed a tiny insect. Upon closer inspection, I saw that it was a wasp. It seemed to still be alive, so I placed by hand beneath it and gently lifted it above the surface of the water. I moved my fingers apart to let the excess water drain and tried to turn the creature over ever so gently. Its drenched body seemed so very fragile compared to my own. I felt like a giant sea creature, rising to the surface to aid in the rescue of a fellow traveler.

I tread water. Gradually, the wasp began to dry off and explore the surface of my hand first, then my sleeve. As one arm would tire, I would transfer it to the other. I knew this could not last indefinitely, but what to do? I am fully aware that humans with the best of intentions who interfere with nature’s systems often do more damage than good, yet I felt a kindred connection to this wee beast and wished to help.

Finally, a solution came to me. It seemed at once obvious and brilliant in its simplicity.

I could place it on my head!

I transferred it to the curly domain and continued my swim. The trip was successful apart from one mishap, where the wasp buzzed by my ear and my instinctual reflex to swat at it sent it flying back onto the surface of the water.

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Repeat rescue mission.

Continue swimming.

Two thirds of the way through my regular route, I noticed a second wasp. You might imagine what happened next.

Up and out of the water it went and onto my head.

Apart from a few moments of little legs wandering onto my forehead and causing a tickle, all went as planned.

As I swam toward the shore, my dad was standing waiting for me.

I stood up and walked toward the water’s edge.

“Are there two wasps on my head?” I asked him.

He took a close look. “Why yes, there most certainly are,” he responded.

I explained how I had found them and asked if he could carefully transfer them from my frock of curls to the shore.

“Don’t worry, they will not sting you. They like the warmth from your hand. Just place your hand beside them, and they will crawl onto it.”

Which is exactly what they did. In a bit of a daze, one wandered directly back into the water and had to be rescued yet another time.

Where they are now, I cannot say. But I wish them well on their journey, as I wish for you on yours.

“I should have taken a picture while they were still on your head!” my dad exclaimed after they were well on their way.” But it was too late. I guess some experiences are not meant to be captured beyond the fleeting beauty of a memory.

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Broken and healed

IMG_9744I am haunted by people and places from my past. Sometimes, visions come to me in dreams and other times in nightmares. I wake up from a deep sleep with a melancholy I cannot explain nor shake. It sits in a ball between my heart and the top of my stomach.

Where and why does it come to me in these particular moments, and why do I still feel past hurt with such present, real rawness?

My theory is that being in yet another time of geographical and emotional transition brings memories of people and place to the surface of my consciousness.

They are all a part of my, however much I try to bury the less than pleasant. I do not wish to play a martyr or victim, though this I have been told by one ghost from Alaska. I met this ghost during a particularly difficult time of transition in my life. He met me at what this culture would call “my worst,” though truly it was a time of great awakening for my spirit and soul. The awakening came at a cost for my own and others’ hearts. There was a storm before there was clarity and calm.

I have lashed out in self defense during difficult times of despair. I have said and done things that came from a wounded part of me. At these times, it was easier to respond with resistance because I simply did not have the energy to respond with empathy and understanding. I was in survival mode, clawing at whatever I could to stay above water.

As I have moved through one storm after another, the more challenging practice has been to learn how to respond peacefully, or better yet, not to respond at all.

Of course, this practice does not erase my past or heal old wounds. They are there, and I feel them deeply from time to time. Even coming to a better understanding of how and why events played out as they did does not always offer closure.

A dialogue within can be helpful. I am not convinced that a dialogue with people from my past would be productive, as we have each worked hard to stay the course from our own, individual perspectives. Responding through our own lens makes it nearly impossible to meet another person where they are and allow space for understanding and empathy.

I have known my own self for a long time. I am the person I have taken the time to know best, and I am quite accustomed to my own approach to situations, as well as my own way of processing events that come to pass.

The more I come to understand my own self, the more I am able to begin stepping outside of that self to view the world from the places where others’ stand.

If I could go back, would I do things differently? If I knew then what I know now, I would. But such is hindsight. It is not always 20/20. A wise friend once told me that no experience is wasted if you learn from it. So, I will continue to learn, make mistakes, and try my best to bring love into each new situation and person I encounter.

So goes the circle of thinking in my own head. So continues the hurt and healing in my own heart.

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Fall clean

The final day of September 2014 dawned grey and cold. The first morning of October was much the same: grey skies above, spits of drizzle falling from here, and sometimes there. Cool, damp air wrapped itself around the city and its inhabitants.

I love and despair of this weather.

I am not much for heat and humidity, but I do love being outdoors and swimming in clear, cool water. As the water begins to cool, I feel a bit melancholy that a period of life is ending.

Even whilst I bemoan the end of the my outdoor swimming time, I celebrate and fear the onset of the winter season. The fall and winter are a time of reflection beneath warm covers, for books, movies, writing, and music: a creative time.

By the same token, it is a dark time for me. A dark curtain; a misty shroud falls around me.

I am caught in the middle of an unending push and pull.

What I love most about the time between seasons is the transition itself, the sense that anything is possible and that there is the opportunity for change.

I dust off one layer of fear to find a layer of lethargy. Beneath lethargy lies fear. But the deeper I clean, the more hope and excitement I find.

I can begin anew.

It is a fire rekindled.

And this October, the fire has begun.

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York morning, listen

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I listened last night

To the waves hit the shore

I walked through the front door

And saw the water

There was light shining onto one layer of sand

And the waves would crash once, then twice

And continue to pass over it

Had I heard this sound before?

It felt like the first time in a long time

And I felt comforted knowing

That it would not be the last

For someone

While I slept, the water continued to move

Each wave working to fulfill its sandy destiny

Til the morning

Without rest

I drink my coffee

Look out of tired windows

Through a white arch

Water on the grass

A woodpecker sings it downward spiral of notes

I listen

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Those who can

IMG_8489It would be pretty easy to start and end my day focusing on all that is negative in the world. It is everywhere, whether I look for it or not.

I could also imagine that I am a force for only “good,” but I know that I have the capacity for both the dark and the light. I do not necessarily think of this as a bad thing but more of an opportunity. What I am beginning to understand with more and more clarity is that I have several opportunities each and every day to choose which path I prefer to follow.

There has been a wave of heat over the past couple of weeks in the Northeast region of the United States, which has kept the water and air warmer than usual. Thus, I have continued my weekly forays walking along the pond trail at Walden and swimming in the clear water.

Recently, my dad has been joining me for the walking portion and exploring the shore while I swim.

As we rounded a corner close to my favorite spot, we noticed something different in the water. There is a place near the shore where two pieces of wood break through the surface. I pointed to them to show my dad where someone or some thing had placed two large rocks. Upon the smaller and lighter of the two rocks was set a small, light blue marble with white and pastel blue swirling patterns on the inside.

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It was beautiful. People walking and swimming by stopped to look at it and wonder over its construction. The light shining off of the water added to the subtle yet breathtaking presence it created simply by being.

After taking many photographs, we carried on walking along the shore, admiring rocks and feathers along the way.

I swam out on my usual path. As I was approaching the final stretch, my dad pointed out to the place where the two rocks had been. Only one remained. The wind had picked up, so I assumed one had simply fallen from its delicate perch.

I arrived at the shore, walked out of the water, shivered and reached for my towel.

Did the wind knock it over? I asked. The wind really picked up.

No, my dad said. Did you see him? he asked.

See who?

The man in the blue canoe with the yellow paddles?

No, I replied. Well, maybe. I think I did.

He went by and just knocked it over with his paddle.

Seriously? How nasty.

It really way. It reminded me of an 8-year-old child. Something a little boy would do.

That is so sad. I wonder what kind of unhappy existence he lives in that would cause him to do such a thing? I mused.

I guess we have witnessed both the good and bad in our species.

As I spoke, I knew that had I made different choices in my own life, I could easily have felt the desire to take out my own frustrations and resentment on that fragile construction. I could have chosen to be a victim to the world and its whims.

It was a good reminder that I never want to live that way.

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Of course, who can say what was happening for that individual person. I hope it was a whim or maybe a desire to keep a less human ambiance about the pond.

I will never know.

I did take the marble. I hesitated.

Do you think it would be ok if I take it? I had asked my dad.

What do you think?

I think sometimes things want to travel and sometimes they want to be still.

Will I create bad karma if I take it?

I don’t think so.

In the end, I decided the fairies had left it for me. A gift from the pond to remember it by.

Of course, that is the story I created. The most beautiful gifts are the ones that become a memory.IMG_8547

 

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