For much of February, I have been experiencing a deep and aching longing. Some mornings, I wake up feeling such intense heartache and homesickness that only the prospect of a hot cup of coffee can get me out of bed.
Brussels is much like western Washington and southeast Alaska in winter: grey, overcast skies mixed with intermittent, driving wind and rain. So great! That hail and horizontal rain sure helps you feel more alive as you running from the metro to the front door. What’s not to love, right?
A dear ranger friend from the North Cascades used to say: There’s no such thing as bad weather. While I am not sure I agree with this statement as I am not a husky or bear, I do make sure to venture outside every day, regardless of the temperature. I listen to books while I walk through civilized woods near our apartment in the commune of Watermael-Boitsfort (boitsfort translates quite literally from French to English as strong [fort] woods [boits]), and I take photographs of faces and hearts I find in the rocks, stones, and leaves and in the patterns of bark on smooth, tall trunks of trees.
The woods are lovely, albeit not so dark and deep as those from Frost. Even still, I long for large cottonwood trees and the tiny birds who live among them. I miss giant rocky outcroppings that I used to climb with my dog. I miss the descending faery call of the canyon wren, echoing through the granite dells I once called home.
I live an urban existence in Europe. In hindsight, I don’t think I appreciated how difficult it would be to leave a land of wide, open spaces and endless vistas, despite the lure of fresh baked baguettes and patisserie. A sip from the cactus lemon drink my husband recently discovered, however, transports me instantly to the porch of our Arizona home, where we would sit in the twilight, watching the sun go down while sipping cocktails made with prickly pear and grapefruit vodka.
One cannot have it all, and I know that even with my heartache I have so much more than many. I have begun volunteering every Monday afternoon at a refugee asylum center in Brussels. There I have met mostly men, some of whom have been living at the center for over a year, and all of whom have traveled alone and survived harrowing trauma. Some whisper pieces of their story to me, and I try not to stand slack jawed while their words penetrate instantly to my own heart. They smile and laugh and even sing the words and phrases we write on long pieces of paper taped to one of the many brick walls of the center.
Their insistence on holding on to hope reminds me of all I have to be grateful for in my own life. Even if it’s covered in mold that makes me endlessly phlegmy, I have a roof over my head. I have love in my life from two- and four-legged beings.
The Sanskrit word sutra means string or thread. In Sanskrit literature, a sutra can be a law or philosophy. I wonder about the sutras or philosophies and laws that comprise my life. What are my vows for the way I will walk through this world each moment of every day? I continue to reflect on my ever shifting perspective, the idea of karma, and my small role in a great universe. I don’t quite understand how karma works or what the universe has been trying to tell me these past several years or especially in the past couple of months.
Does the universe wish for me to continue practicing non-attachment by the theft of my precious collection of photos from my childhood and the violation and destruction of off-limit space by our now former tenant?
It seems clear that the universe wishes to add some levity and humor into the mix. You might recall a post I wrote some time ago about our neighbors in the Dells dramatically auditory and regular sex life? It appears that my karma sutra has returned once more with yet more scintillating sounds echoing between the walls of my old house and those around us. Should this episode prove similar to the previous one in Arizona, nine months to a year from now these will be replaced with sounds akin to the biological repercussions of the former audio track. All I can say right now is thank goodness for the invention of earplugs!
Perhaps, the universe is teaching me, through one ridiculous and often difficult lesson at a time, to weave together the energies and meanings I receive from each moment into a life sutra that mirrors my path through this life.