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SOLACE

Like every other human being ever born, I came into this world a very needy creature.

With my connection to my mother cut, I was suctioned and weighed and measured and tested and pricked and bathed and dressed and fed and changed and (hopefully) consoled.

Finding solace in the arms of my mother would be my first introduction to love.

My love for her grew as fast as I did during those first formative years of my life. As did my love for my father and the rest of my family and friends, all of whom have, over the years, given me solace during difficult times just as I have tried my best to do for them.

And like the title of David Whyte’s wise and wonderful book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words I have based this blog on, words also bring me solace in so many ways.

Whether it is someone else’s written word, like David’s, read at the perfect time when its effect on you is one of further opening your heart even when it is already breaking. Or my own, when I am furiously scribbling down my thoughts in my journal which comforts me to know that I’ll have them with me long after they’ve disappeared from my mind.

And music lyrics, too. Melodies that give wings to words which flutter in your heart and leave you feeling breathless from their brief visit and changed.

A few days after my beloved dog died, I heard Peter Gabriel’s powerfully soulful voice pouring from the speakers in my truck on my way to work as he sang, I Grieve and had to pull off the road because I could no longer see through my tears.

She was our first dog and lived to be fourteen and a half and was in many ways our baby before our actual babies were born. As the music played on, I dropped my head into my hands and stayed by the side of the road sobbing wildly as I let his music wash over me and comfort me.

When a good friend’s five-year-old child died from cancer some years later, it was music that offered me solace when I was inconsolable.

I remember the night I returned home from the funeral, unable to get the image of the tiny casket out of my mind. I locked myself in my office where I had a twin bed directly on the floor for times when I needed to shutter myself away from the outside world. I lit several candles and encircled myself in their gentle flickering light then hit play on Damien Rice’s CD O, and braced myself for the onslaught of pain that followed.

“…It’s not that we’re scared, it’s just that it’s delicate.” – Damien Rice Delicate

The injustice of a tiny life being taken by such an unfairly more formidable opponent was too much to bear or even bear witness to and left me childlike, in a fetal position all alone on my bed, weeping for the family left behind.

I stayed like that long after both the entire CD and I were played out, and when I woke the next morning, I found my strength somehow renewed enough to face another day despite never knowing when death might come for another of my loved ones.

But after my sister died, not even words worked. No matter how thoughtful or comforting the ones offering them might have been, nothing could break through and offer me solace other than perhaps the touch of my loved ones.

An embrace, a hand being held, an arm wrapped around my shoulders steeling me to withstand the pain, offered some solace without a sound.

After September 11, 2001, hugs helped, but words even when set to music failed me. I found no solace, not even in a smile, only finding solace from the solitude I sought in the woods.

Nature has always offered me solace unlike anything else ever has, or I suspect ever will.

Everywhere I look I see beauty as a balm for my soul.

I can be having a horribly bad day, and within those few first steps, I am surrounded by beauty and transported into a world that no longer revolves around me and my problems.

Spider webs that break across my face on my way to nowhere snap me out of the past or the future or wherever else my mind may be and plant me firmly back in the present moment. Birdsong welcomes me and invites me into secret conversations making me feel a little less alone. Trees and the tiny mushrooms that grow in their shade direct my attention to all of their unique shapes and sizes and variations, reminding me of the beauty of diversity.

And so it goes. With each step, through some sort of mysterious alchemy, I am taken further and further away from myself and my pains and problems and closer and closer to a new perspective where I am reminded that someone else somewhere is always worse off than me which also offers a sad strange sort of solace.

I walk along the trail and watch a swollen river rage against its banks after a heavy rain and think of all the souls whose homes and businesses have been visited by floods. The unwelcome and unwanted guest leaves them with no firm place on which to stand, their lives forever marked by the tragedy like the high water marks floods leave behind.

I zip my coat up as protection against a biting bitter winter wind and think of all the souls whose lives lay in twisted wreckage from hurricanes and tornadoes and realize whatever wreckage I may face in my life pales in comparison.

I hike through heat that pulls sweat from my body and leaves me thirsty, my throat desperately dry, but never as dry as the shells of cars and homes and families that have been hollowed out and left behind after a raging wildfire.

If I’m lucky, by the time I return home I will have shaken self-pity and sadness from my body like one of my dogs spraying water all over me after exiting the lake.

But lately, there are times when that no longer works. Times when the clear and present threat to nature itself overwhelms me and leaves me trembling like a leaf on a tree as I walk through the dense woods with the knowledge that we are killing it.

It’s as if I’ve learned that a dear friend has been diagnosed with terminal cancer that they are oblivious to.

We have been altering the natural world to our advantage for millennia, and the ramifications of our actions are rapidly catching up to us.

In California, the extreme prolonged drought has turned the state into a tinderbox (as we have seen with wildfire after wildfire) and across the country and the rest of the entire planet, the changes we have made to our climate put us all at risk in new ways every day.

Where will humans go when nature is no longer there to offer us solace?

Will we still find solace and be made to feel better about ourselves and our lives by watching archived footage of a bluebird alighting on a branch via our widescreen TVs instead of standing in a field holding our breath while we listen to their sweet distinctive song?

It’s a tough question we’ll need to come to grips with if we continue down this road with no thoughts of such things.

“But solace also asks us very direct and forceful questions. Firstly, how will you bear the inevitable that that is coming to you? And how will you endure it through the years? And above all, how will you shape a life equal to and as beautiful and as astonishing as a world that can birth you, bring you into the light and then just as you are beginning to understand it, take you away?” – David Whyte Consolations

I can bear the thought that my life will eventually end. I can endure it for however many years I have left by being surrounded by beauty and shaping my life equal to that beauty by always being appreciative of it.

I just can’t bear the thought that life in the natural world as we know it may eventually end while we’re still living in it.

I want more than anything for this story to have a happy ending, but with every day that passes, it’s turning more and more into a nightmare I cannot wake from.

 

NEXT WEEK: TOUCH

About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

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