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JOY

The word joy perfectly describes the intense happiness I feel whenever I am immersed in nature.

We evolved in the natural world. Over tens of thousands of generations, it is where we became who we are. And while many of us may have left the natural world of our own free will, the natural world has not left us.

It is impossible to be fully human without nature; we are part of each other. Nature is not separate from human nature, it is a deeply rooted part of who we are. If we cut ourselves off at the root, we will perish like a wildflower wilting in a vase. Yes, the vase might be beautiful, but the life it holds inside will slowly vanish until there is nothing left but a lifeless withered stem. Sadly, I know too many people like that. I’d venture to guess we all do.

I spent a lot of time in nature when I was a child. I sought out my designated special places to escape to whenever I was unhappy or wanted to be left alone, knowing at a very early age I could always rely on nature to transmute my pain into joy. Because of this, I often feel like nature saved me which is why I feel so passionate about returning the favor.

Like the earth itself, spring is when I reawaken. Clothes are shed like the tenacious leaves of a beech tree; defiant throughout the long bitter winters, they finally fall away when sensing the signal new life is ready to emerge.

When my children were babies, I would watch them sleep so that I could be there to watch them wake. I would hold my breath in those tender moments of pure joy, watching them smile softly as they began to wake and take in the world once again.

Then the moment I would have been waiting for would come, when they would lock eyes with mine and a smile would spread across the whole of their face and their tiny arms and legs would start waving in excitement and my heart would be so full of joy at that moment it felt in danger of bursting, though my breasts heavy with milk, would always burst first.

As they grew, their joy being in the company of nature grew along with them.

Spring developed their senses. They were stained red as sweet strawberries left juicy tracks down their chins, leaving them with sticky fingers and an appetite for more, and bathed in green as trees leafed out and determined blades of grass pushed their way back up and out and into the world to tickle their tiny toes.

Hundreds of peepers sang them to sleep, then barred owls would sometimes wake them in the middle of the night while serenading their mates in surround sound. The four of us would stick our heads out the windows to listen as we howled with laughter, believing we had somehow woken up in a jungle.

While hunting for lady slippers, the heavenly scent of lilacs and lily of the valley perfumed the air they breathed and became a part of them just as they had for me when I was a child – an inherited olfactory memory.

If they happened to spot a salamander or a snake while walking in the woods, they would greet it like a long lost friend holding it up carefully for me to see. And with kid-sized shovels they helped me to till the soil and plant tiny seeds in the garden, learning patience in an increasingly impatient world.

The older they got, the more they blossomed, and like a tree in full flower seen from a distance, they began to resemble big bright bouquets of beauty spreading joy to everyone they’d meet.

During the long hot days of summer, we’d spend as much time as we could at the lake, swimming and fishing and catching frogs. Or drive to the ocean and spend the day playing in the waves and scouring the tide pools for crabs. Arriving back home, their skin still warm from having been kissed by the sun, they would be lured into a late afternoon nap as if the tide was still pulling them under, reminding me of when they were babies.

On rainy days, we would lay in the hammock reading together, our favorite shared read being, Watership Down by Richard Adams.

We enjoyed that book so much that we surprised my husband with a kitten for his birthday that year, naming her Hazel, after the rabbit who, like him, was known for bringing out the best in his friends.

Summer also meant riding, for my son that was dirtbikes and the like – that’s what brought him joy, while my daughter’s joy came from the real thing; living breathing horsepower.

She learned to ride at a very young age, so over the course of the next sixteen years, I had the privilege of watching her considerable abilities in the saddle, grow alongside her long, lanky body. Having our own horses was an enormous amount of work, but like the horses, she took it all in stride, very rarely if ever complaining about it.

Our horses filled our hearts with joy on a daily basis, and I will forever look back on that time with an appreciation for the memories they left behind. Like the time my daughter and I were galloping up a narrow trail in the woods, her and her horse Apache leading the way, when a buck came out of nowhere, leaping across the trail as it almost collided with them, causing both of us to nearly fly out of our saddles from their effort to stop on a dime. Our hands were shaking from the adrenaline coursing through our bodies, but we were laughing hysterically from the feeling of pure unbridled exhilaration.

“To feel a full and untrammeled joy is to have become fully generous; to allow ourselves to be joyful is to have walked through the doorway of fear… the laughter of friendship, the vulnerability of happiness felt suddenly as a strength… I was here and you were here and together we made a world.” – David Whyte Consolations

Another of my favorite memories took place on a gorgeous and unseasonably warm late fall afternoon when my daughter and I were trotting the horses through an overgrown field. With the grass nearly reaching their bellies, their slow deliberate motion set a wave of monarch butterflies into flight so we stopped and stood in the center of this incredible orange storm, knowing intuitively that we might never experience anything like it again. Sadly, we were right.

Autumn, happened to be the name of her first horse (pictured above) but it was also one of our favorite times of the year. The tadpoles collected in the spring were now frogs that we released back into the pond. The fat monarch caterpillar we had found and collected along with its dinner, the milkweed, had undergone its metamorphosis and was released back into the wild, a breathtakingly beautiful butterfly we named, Flutterby.

All these many years later, I can still see the look of pure joy on their curious faces as they watched it emerge.

My children were also slowing undergoing a metamorphosis. Their chubby baby faces had, over the passing years, morphed into the adult faces they present to the world now.

Just as every fall signaled the coming to an end of another year, so too, came the end of their childhood.

Gone were the days of stripping ferns fronds from their stalks to turn into makeshift bright green bouquets, and popping open milkweed pods to run their fingers through its fluffy white floss. My kids were ready to take on the world, and I somehow had to find the strength to encourage them to leave me.

My greatest joy in life has been watching them grow into the kind, loving, strong, confident adults they have become. My heart is as full today as it was watching them sleep in their cribs all those years ago.

“If joy is a deep form of love, it is also the raw engagement with the passing seasonality of its existence, the fleeting presence of those we love understood as gift, going in and out of our lives, faces, voices, memory, aromas of the first spring day or a wood fire in winter, the last breath of a dying parent as they create a rare, raw, beautiful frontier between loving presence and a new blossoming absence.” – David Whyte Consolations

My son has moved out and into his own home, and his absence is still felt every day nearly a year later. My joy for him as he starts his new life is the deepest form of my love for him.

I know my daughter will be following in his footsteps all too soon, so I savor every minute I still have with her. I will forever treasure the joy she has brought into my life as well as the joy she brings to the life of so many others.

Even in the brutally cold conditions in the dead of winter, they warm the world with their love for it. Their love of all things snow brings them copious amounts of joy which in turn makes me joyful – from the comfort of the couch in front of the woodstove.

While I don’t share the same joy they do while snowmobiling and ice fishing and snowboarding and the like, I am still able to feel genuine joy while walking through the bleached winter white landscape.

There is an almost indescribable beauty that comes from the first snowfall of the season. There is a settling in, a seeking out and a finding of a warm, comfortable spot, the ease of the shortened dark days feeling a bit like a sigh of relief. And that, too, can be joyful. Because even during those dark days, I am filled with joy to be alive never knowing how many springs I may have left.

Like the frozen cherries in this picture, I trust that I too will eventually thaw and be overcome with joy once again when I hear the red-winged blackbirds signaling the return of spring, conk-la-ree! conk-la-ree! conk-la-ree! 

With joy in their hearts, their songs blossom like a crocus pushing up past the snow and our deep and abiding love of nature flourishes once again.

It has been a joy to write this love letter to nature and truth be told a joy to know that I have now reached the halfway point in this blog.

I hope you are enjoying it.

 

NEXT WEEK: LONELINESS

ISTANBUL

Full disclosure: I have never been to Istanbul, so I’m afraid I will have to do a bit of improvising with this post.

Having said that, I do know that traveling of any kind can be a powerful way for us to learn about our relationship to others and to the natural world. It can remind us of how interconnected we are and of what a tiny space we actually take up which can be a very humbling experience.

When I was thirty-six, I traveled alone to South Africa to volunteer on a reserve where my job was to help monitor their lion population, but in reality, I had already traveled to Africa hundreds of times in my mind.

When I was a kid, I devoured the new National Geographic magazine each month and made a habit of collecting the colorful maps that were included in some of the issues. Taking care not to rip them I would spread them out across the carpet on my bedroom floor and imagine myself an explorer of far away places.

When I was older and began traveling to places that required a plane ticket instead of our old station wagon, I remember the delicious sensation of walking out of the airport and seeing the world with new eyes.

I come from the north, from the land of conifers and dense forests of oaks and maples and slender birches.

The first time I saw a palm tree I could not contain my excitement. I had to excuse myself to run over and touch it. I was laughed at by the friends I was traveling with and called a tree hugger. That was fine by me – I couldn’t argue with them. I had been a lover of trees my entire life.

I depended on trees – as we all do – for my very existence, but like a tree’s thick roots my love for them runs much deeper. I appreciate trees not only for their outward beauty but for what they conceal beneath the surface. That network of connection, though hidden, kept me company when I was a child. It made me feel like I belonged to something bigger than myself and kept me grounded and excited knowing it was possible for me to tap into that.

When I was a child, my favorite tree was a hollowed out oak in the woods behind our house. I spent a lot of time with that tree, a lot of time inside that tree. If I was a tree hugger, then I guess you could say, this particular tree wrapped itself around me and hugged me back.

When my own kids were little, and I was homeschooling them, we walked daily and had favorite trees we’d say hello to along the way. Mine was the “chi-chi” tree, so named for its breast like protuberances that we sometimes rubbed for good luck.

For the kids, it was the “climbing tree” a beautiful old maple with think sturdy branches jutting out in every direction like an invitation. It stood guard atop a hill in the middle of acres of fields. I would give them my blessing to climb it along with a stern warning not to go higher than our agreed upon benchmark; then I would leave them to it as I continued on my walk.

The fields that surrounded this tree were often used by old men who enjoyed flying their model airplanes overhead. I will never forget the first time the three of us met some of them. They were gathered around boxes of Dunkin Donuts that were spread across one of the picnic tables, drinking coffee and gossiping about something like schoolgirls. We all waved hello, then I left the kids to climb and continued on my walk.

I was never at any point out of their sight – maybe walking another quarter of a mile down the hill to the turnaround before heading back up to gather them, but I was later told by the kids that I nearly gave our new audience a collective heart attack.

Maybe those old men thought it was reckless for a mother to leave her children alone, however briefly, to climb almost twenty feet high up into a tree. But when I thought back to all the crazy things I did as a kid, things my parents would have flipped out about if they knew what kind of physical danger I sometimes put myself in – mostly when I was all alone, I went with my gut trusting they’d be okay.

They were more than okay. They knew their limits and never pushed past them, delighting in every moment spent up in that tree, just the two of them, talking, laughing, telling each other secrets and probably wondering what their friends were doing in school. Often they’d be in the middle of “an important conversation” when I got back, and I was told to keep on walking. Instead, I would opt to take a seat at one of the picnic tables where I could gaze across the overwhelmingly beautiful landscape we had walked to from our backyard, and send a silent thank you to the universe for my blessings.

To me, traveling also felt like a blessing. No matter where I traveled, whether to a nearby lake or a far away tropical beach, the landscape always left its mark on me but none more so than Africa.

During the second leg of my trip there, I flew over what amounted to the entire continent of Africa, from London to South Africa. The flight lasted more than eleven hours most of which was during the night, but I could barely sleep from my excitement as I marveled at how unlike flying over the United States, for most of those eleven hours there was very little light pollution coming from the land below.

From my journal, August 2005:

…As I look down with only a little over an hour left before we land, I gaze out my window in complete and total wonder at what awaits me. I feel like I am being reborn.

From the moment I arrived I sensed that Africa was, much like Istanbul, “…a place where questions stop being asked as much as a place where they begin…” – David Whyte Consolations 

After all, Africa was where all of our stories began more than two hundred thousand years ago. We can all trace our roots back to Africa.

We are all connected by the root to our mother. We are all offshoots from her taproot. Africa is Mother to us all.

I flew into Johannesburg airport, and as each passenger exited the plane and began walking across the tarmac, I noticed the woman who had been sitting next to me kneeling down the moment her feet hit the ground, then bowing in reverence as she kissed the ground.

I’m not sure if she was just thankful for that long flight to be over and grateful that we landed safely, or if she felt the same way I did and she was greeting her long-lost mother, but I was moved by it and felt hot tears welling up in my eyes.

It was the first but would not be the last time I would be moved to tears while there.

…Today we drove into town to see an almost three-thousand-year-old Baobob tree, and it was absolutely amazing. I could have cried in front of everyone I was so moved by just laying eyes on her…it was almost like meeting a soul mate….even as I write this I want to weep.

Like Istanbul, Africa “…lives and breathes like a real human being…” – David Whyte Consolations

This ancient baobab’s trunk was also hollow, and could easily fit a half a dozen people inside. As I carefully climbed inside her, I was instantly transported back to my childhood, back to my favorite tree, and I nearly lost it. I didn’t realize that I, too, had been feeling hollowed out by life, and with her reassuring hug, she made me feel whole again.

Every moment of every day spent in Africa I was being resuscitated.

Brought back to life by the sights and sounds and smells. By the colors of the rich iron red earth, the deafening cacophony of birdsong, the smell of wild creatures large and small.

The animals drew me there, the landscape enveloped me, and the people showed me their hearts in so many ways I was overwhelmed and moved to tears almost on a daily basis.

I was the only American volunteer during my time there. Besides the native South Africans that ran the program, the others had traveled from England, France, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Spain, and Holland.

To be in their company was so incredibly refreshing for me. We ate over a large open fire every night, sharing rich, colorful stories of our lives. The Milky Way hung in the sky like a masterpiece, the cacophony of zebras and hyenas and the occasional lion’s roar heard in the distance blended into an exquisite serenade.

…Interesting thing Aggie said to me last night by the fire – that since she’s been here, the English words are beginning to pop into her head before her native Hungarian – I thought that was so cool. I never appreciated how difficult it must be for people whose language is not English first, to understand and communicate with someone who is. I just assumed everyone could understand me I guess. How arrogant of me.

I think all of my life I assumed other people could understand me, but I was wrong. That’s just one of the many things I am learning as I continue on the journey that is this blog.

I, much like Africa and Istanbul, “…knows from whence it comes but knows not yet where it goes.” – David Whyte Consolations

Africa changed my life. I would never be the same, and I still cannot adequately express my gratitude for that.

I left there with a new understanding of how little I really needed after being reminded of how much I already had.

I had reconnected to the source and to myself and reconnected to every living thing in my company. Not just to the wonderful people and the landscape, but to every single creature large and small.

Another journal entry from my last night there:

Tonight I found out there is a python living in the ceiling – was told it likely got too big eating the abundance of mice up there to be able to come back out. Everyone is disturbed by how OK I am with knowing that. It’s a full moon, too. Blood red…. Thank you, thank you, thank you. What a blessing my life is.

I had been trained early that week on how to handle a puff adder (one of the top three deadliest snakes in the world) should I have the bad luck to run into one.

That night, as I drifted off to sleep thinking about the snake living in the ceiling just above my head, I was reminded of just how interconnected we all are. No matter the size or shape, no matter if you are a plant, an insect, a lioness, or a goddess, no matter if you are black, white or brown or any shade in between, no one thing or no one person is more important than another. Everything and everyone matters. Even the python slithering around as I slept.

I had uprooted myself from my life and my family in order to travel to Africa, alone, but by doing so, I was now firmly anchored to my life. To all life.

To be rooted

 is perhaps the most important 

and least recognized need of the human soul.

– Simone Weil, French philosopher, mystic, and political activist.

 

NEXT WEEK: JOY

 

HONESTY

Honesty is not always the best policy. Or is it?

I was taught that it was. I was taught that it was a sin to lie. But I also learned along the way that telling the truth didn’t always produce the outcome I expected.

Like a storm speaking its truth sometimes it left splintered trees in its wake.

When I was thirteen, I was left alone in my sister’s car for hours while she and another of my sisters went to hang out with some guys they met at a traveling circus that had come to town.

It was getting late, and I was invited to come along, but based on the looks I was getting from some of the men, I opted to stay put where I was.

The circus was set up on the periphery of a shopping center parking lot, so for the most part, I felt safe enough under the bright parking lot lights to not try and find them and make a fuss. Still, I remember looking at my watch and thinking to myself; they have until eleven o’clock, not a minute later, or else I’m calling home.

Eleven came and went. Then midnight, then one. It was then that I decided I would drive myself home.

My sister had allowed me to practice driving her car on the dirt roads surrounding the camp we all went to every summer, so I felt reasonably sure I could drive myself home that night, given that it was only about three miles away.

I was alone and afraid not only for myself but for my sisters and desperate enough to attempt it, but as I made my way across the parking lot I spotted a pay phone in front of the Kmart store, and suddenly found myself steering in its direction.

My father answered on the first ring. He was furious wanting to know where the hell we were, and I immediately burst into tears telling him. I have no memory of what happened after that as to how I (we) made it home, but I have a vivid memory of what happened the next day.

I was grounded. My sisters had somehow come up with a good enough excuse as to why they had left me alone for so long. They were admonished for breaking curfew but never punished for the part they both played.

I, however, was punished on the grounds of not having the good sense to call home sooner. Shame on me. I should have known better. Had I done the right thing and called home sooner none of it would have happened. It was all my fault. I was the one to blame. It was not the first time I was punished for my honesty and it would not be the last.

You might think this experience would discourage me from telling the truth ever again, but you’d be wrong. With so many people living under one roof, I learned early on that it was pointless to try and lie my way out of anything since eventually the lies would get tangled up with the truth and when the truth came out – which it always did – having lied about it first had the tendency to make things a lot worse.

I also didn’t like how lying made me feel. It attached itself to my body like a leech sucking the life out of me, replacing it with lead meant to weight me down. I was always left feeling heavy and burdened by it.

Of course, at times I would be terrified to tell the truth justifiably afraid of the repercussions I might face.

“The fear of loss, in one form or another, is the motivator behind all conscious and unconscious dishonesties: all of us are afraid of loss, in all its forms, all of us, at times are haunted or overwhelmed by the possibility of disappearance, and all of us therefore, are one short step away from dishonesty.” – David Whyte Consolations

I didn’t relish the thought of having someone look into my eyes with profound disappointment or disgust, but I also couldn’t bear the thought of lying to them. I needed to tell the truth, to be true to myself; to not betray my own soul.

But there are other stories from my childhood that will probably never be told. Stories that involve me jumping out of windows while jumping through the lie loophole.

I figured it out around the same time I figured out that my honesty didn’t matter. If I didn’t leave tracks for anyone to follow then no one would discover the truth, so technically I didn’t feel like I was lying.

We’ve all done it as children, some of us still do it as adults. We’re all a work in progress learning as we go.

I have tried very hard to raise my kids with an awareness that the truth matters and that above all else they should be true to themselves. To teach them if or when confronted, there’s no point in lying as they would only be hurting themselves. Having said that, I am sure they have both jumped through the lie loophole, from time to time too.

I have a one-word tattoo on the back of my neck. It says, truth.

It reminds me to strive to speak my truth, no defense, no pretense, no hiding.

This doesn’t mean I’m honest to a fault. If someone asks me how they look, I’m certainly not going to tell them outright they’re looking terribly fat these days, or that the outfit they’re wearing looks hideous on them. Even if both statements might be true, I would never intentionally hurt someone like that. I have felt the sting from a sharp barb thrown my way more than once, and I would never want to inflict that kind of senseless pain on anyone.

“Honesty is not the revealing of some foundational truth that gives us power of life or another or even the self, but a robust incarnation into the unknown unfolding vulnerability of existence, where we acknowledge how powerless we feel, how little we actually know, how afraid we are of not knowing and how astonished we are by the generous measure of loss that is conferred upon even the most average life.” – David Whyte Consolations

When we’re honest with ourselves and others we see that we are all vulnerable to other people’s opinions of us, we all feel powerless at times, and we are all afraid of loss of any kind.

So if someone lies to me because they are afraid of losing my love or friendship if I knew their truth, I can appreciate how difficult it must be for them to do so. I believe them when they say they were only trying to protect me, to spare me from getting upset or otherwise.

But that doesn’t mean it sits well with me.

I try my best to tell the world how to treat me, believing perhaps foolishly that my honesty will inspire others to act the same.

So when it doesn’t, when I know I am being lied to, whether or not it feels justified in someone else’s eyes, I feel betrayed. I feel defeated and deflated like an empty balloon. It fucking hurts to be lied to especially by someone you love.

If I discover that someone has lied to me about something important, then makes the argument that it was done out of love or out of them wanting to “protect” me from the truth, it always hurts much, much worse. By the time it’s all hashed out, I am always left wondering why the hell wasn’t that person just honest with me to begin with.

But then I think about all the times I was dishonest to people I love in the past, and I know I am far from innocent.

In all honesty, I know I am flawed. I’m almost fifty years old, and in some ways still afraid. But I am confronting those fears. I am trying to be brutally honest with myself and the world through this blog. I am telling my truth despite my fears. It is where my courage lies.

 

NEXT WEEK: ISTANBUL

HIDING

In many ways, I feel like I’ve been in hiding my whole life, often in plain sight.

When I was younger, I spent a lot of time alone inside my bedroom closet, hiding.

It didn’t matter which bedroom I was sleeping in at the time – with six sisters and three brothers we rotated bedrooms and occupants; I guess to keep things fair – so I always staked out the closet as my territory. It was the only place I could hide from all of my siblings, my parents and anyone else who I did not wish to be around.

The best closets were the deeper ones, ones that I could squirrel away in and count on not being found. If the closet was big enough, I would set it up like a fort with a lamp, some pillows, a blanket and a few of my stuffed animals. Sometimes I would take a book in with me to read, but most often I would just sit there alone in the dark and talk to myself. About what I couldn’t tell you, though if I had to guess I was probably wondering aloud about the usual things I obsessed about back then, like why are we here?

In any case, I know that I enjoyed my own company enough to think of it as my respite from the world. I would hide so others wouldn’t find me but in reality, that’s probably where I found myself.

If more than one of us who happened to be sharing the same room at the time, were grounded for whatever reason and sent to our room, I would either turn my top bunk (I always slept on the top bunk) into a fort using blankets to try and remain hidden and left alone, or else I’d climb out the window out onto the roof above the porch, and sit there listening to the birds (instead of my sisters) for hours until we were told we could all come back downstairs.

I took this picture to serve as a reminder of what a lovely spot that was for me, just before my parent’s sold the house many years later.

But when the weather allowed, I would opt to hide out in the woods instead. I would have to tell my mother where I’d be first, but once inside my favorite hollowed out tree, I felt completely hidden from the outside world which is generally how I preferred it.

I spent so much of my early life hiding that looking back on it now has me wondering if something was wrong with me because I know that if either of my two children acted in the same way that I did, I would be worried.

But the further along I get with this blog, the more I have come to understand what I never understood before.

Hiding isn’t necessarily a bad thing per se. In fact, “Hiding is underestimated… Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control.” -David Whyte Consolations

I see now that hiding became necessary for me as a way for me to unplug from the rest of the world that so often overwhelmed me so that I could get in touch with my feelings that at the time were all over the map.

Even as an adult I still like to hide. I still need to hide from time to time, and I still sit alone in my closet, the only difference is now that’s where I meditate.

Once I had kids and then made the decision to homeschool them while also working from home I found myself once again needing a break from feeling constantly overwhelmed. The option to hide in closets was no longer an option, but once and a while my husband would agree to take care of the kids for the weekend or sometimes longer so I could be alone for a time.

I would rent a cheap hotel near some great hiking trails and hide away for the weekend dreaming of what I envisioned for the rest of my life. I would order take-out so I didn’t have to be around strangers and dine alone while hiding in my dingy room making lists of all the things I wanted for myself and my family in the future as a way to keep me occupied.

During my first solo trip, I came up with my top ten list of what I wanted my life to look like in five years and then ten. Astonishing no one more than myself, every single thing I had written down on that list became a reality a short time later.

Of the few things on that list that I still remember having written down was that I would have a new house with a good amount of land near some woods, and it would have fruit trees and a large garden, and wild birds would visit me every day. I would also have had my vision corrected (laser surgery) and I would finally fulfill my lifelong dream to go to Africa.

Of course, none of these things were simply handed to me, my husband and I worked very hard to accomplish all of that and more. But it was the time I spent alone hiding from the extraordinary pressures of the outside world that sparked that fire inside me. It needed to be kindled and required a lot of time and patience to keep it going, but eventually, we got there – together.

As my kids got older, my weekends away morphed into longer and longer stretches. First, a week at a cottage on the beach, followed by another week there a few years later, and then more than two weeks alone in Africa.

The first time I went to the beach without my family, I spent the entire first day feeling guilty for having left them behind. I was renting the same cottage in Cape Cod we had vacationed at as a family, so the memories flooded in the moment I opened the creaky old wooden door.

Everywhere I looked told a story, so instead of diving headfirst into one of the many books I’d brought along to keep me company, I just sat back, looked around and replayed our precious home movies in my mind.

There was no television, and no good stations on the radio (this was back before cell phones and laptops and the like) but I was perfectly happy during those first few hours to just crack open the sticky, salty old windows and sit in the silence watching the curtains be sucked in and out against the screens as I listened to the waves crashing on the beach beckoning to me.

Sadly, even when you’re hiding from the rest of the world time still finds you and before I knew it my week was coming to a close. My last night there, I decided to make a small fire on the beach, something I’d been too nervous to do before that night.

I hauled the small pile of wood that I had taken with me down to the beach and within minutes it was ablaze just as the sun was beginning to set.

It was a hot night for late June, and I was tempted to go skinny dipping, but a couple of other fires dotting the beach not too far away gave me second thoughts about exposing myself.

I remember sitting there in what felt like a state of grace, watching the flames shoot up from the fire, and the waves crashing on the shore as the stars grew brighter in the sky and thinking to myself, this is what it’s all about.

I was surrounded by every element: the earth, the water, the wind and the fire, and I felt such an incredible rush that it felt safe to come out of hiding, so I removed my tee shirt and leaned back in my beach chair to stare up at the stars without that barrier between us.

I had gone there alone, seeking solace from the demands of my life and at that moment I felt a sense of peace wash over me, unlike anything I’d ever felt before or since.

I remember closing my eyes and offering up a prayer of thanks to the universe, and when I opened them again, I caught a brief flicker of movement just beyond my periphery which startled me enough to sit upright.

That’s when with the help of the firelight I saw the coyote. It was not my first close encounter with one, so there was no part of me that thought to panic even as it began to move closer to me.

It was curious and moved cautiously, making one complete circle around me before going on its way.

It was exhilarating and left me breathless. I felt more alive at that moment then I had for a very long time.

“We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others.” -David Whyte Consolations

Hiding out alone in the dark half naked on the beach that night not only reconnected me to nature it reconnected me to my soul. It was the reunion I’d been longing for. The old me had been washed away with the tides, and I sensed something new was getting ready to emerge.

I was a clean slate ready to come out of hiding, ready to be written on again.

 

NEXT WEEK: HONESTY