You know what’s great? When you search the depths of a situation and you search the depths of yourself and you go in looking for one thing thinking that thing is at the crux, the center, and then while you’re in there… in those depths. That well. You see something else entirely. SO, the things you see about yourself– still true. Things about the situation– still true. And then… surprise. That’s not all you were meant to see. All that searching. All the discovery. Was meant to prepare you for something you weren’t expecting.
So, I can’t stay inside. There’s a danger in locking oneself away. And it’s painfully cold outside. Doesn’t do any good to think about fall or spring. Because I’m in the middle of winter. In Ohio. But even in the middle of the bitterness, there is a moment. Of sunlight and frozen flowers. And I want to grab on to whatever life force is attached to it. I think I need to start gathering up moments like these along the way. And looking for more. Maybe I won’t notice the cold so much.
I visited this tree on a walk recently. It’s in a field behind where I grew up. We used to spend hours… days and nights playing out there. Building pretend worlds. Stories of lives we would live. My sister and brother. Sometimes the kids from the neighborhood. It’s a shorter walk these days. Everything is smaller. The pretend worlds are harder to imagine. And I wish I could talk to that little girl with her freckles and her braids and her eyes that were still wide and innocent and a little too big for her face. I wish I could whisper in her ear, kind things. True things. Things to make her real world as beautiful as her pretend ones. I wish I could make her feel that safe again. That hopeful. Maybe. Maybe I can.
IT’s funny listening to my mom talk about her life. Eighty-six years. And as I listen, I laugh at some of her stories. Some of the others make me sad. But I think what makes me saddest is that so many of her decisions in life were based on fear. Fear of losing something. Fear of not doing the “right” thing. (whatever that means). And according to her, she lived a full life. It’s only when I compare it to what it might have been had she not been afraid that I get truly tearful. Had she done what she really wanted. Had she said what she meant. More often. From her heart and not her head. Had she not been so cautious. Had she taken more chances. And then I realized, the other night, as she was giving me a piece of advice, that I wasn’t sad for her at all. But for me. What she was telling me to do summed up her whole life. And mine, to a certain degree. I politely rejected the advice. But it was like a lightning bolt. And a warning. And if it’s not too late, I’d like to start by living in a place between right and wrong. How can there be fear in a place like that. I think I’ll like it there.
“Something about making art has to do with overcoming things, giving us a clear opportunity for doing things in ways we have always known we should do them.” ― David Bayles Art&Fear
Today, for me, it’s about entering now. Living within now. This moment. And it sounds so simple. I’ve been trying and trying to learn it. But maybe it’s not a learning. Maybe it’s just a doing. And then doing it again. It’s a sanctuary really; the present. And a responsibility…. to breathe deeply…relax and let life be.
The first of a new year and as I put one foot in front of the other, balance has become vital. My aim is to find the center of me. And since I don’t even have the grace to take my first yoga class, this could be a long process. I don’t have the means to eat, pray, and love my way through Bali or buy myself an Italian villa under a Tuscan sun. So, instead of eating gelato in the terra cotta streets of Florence, I put my Pad Thai noodles in a red ceramic bowl and closed my eyes with every bite. Fortunately, my center is within. And once I find it. Align myself with it. I can take it anywhere. Maybe even to yoga class next week.
I spent some time in these images from the last time I was in Acadia Park. Truly one of the most beautiful places on earth and I needed to be in truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. Today. I fell immediately into this shot. Mostly, I was captured by how far I went to get it. January. Probably just above zero. Before sunrise. Down in the rocks. Before tide. And then in the tide. Slippery sharp rocks. I came away with cuts and bruises, soaking and cold. And a moment in time I wouldn’t trade. For any other moment. If you’ve never watched the sun rise through ocean spray… I recommend it. Because someday, five years from now, or five days from now, you might need to be there. Again. You might need to remember how far you went just to live one moment.
Auld Lang Syne. I have given this song some consideration and appropriately so. It seems like my life, not unlike the lives of others, has been nothing but letting go and starting again. Letting go. Of times. Of long ago and not so long ago. And starting again. And again. And today is no different. I suppose I have always known it and I have made a vow to begin living it. Good and bad… letting go. Forgetting what I can. The bad will be easy enough to let fall away. But I think, as I head forward, I will try to let fall from my heart some of the good too. To make room for more good to come in. I think it will be like waving goodbye to a trusted friend… letting go of a hand… glad for the way it filled my heart once, a little sad to see it go, but hopeful that I am fuller because of it and open to welcome what comes after. So, take a cup of kindness and have a happy, healthy, peaceful New Year.
I’m feeling like I am lost. And I only know what it feels like to be lost, because I know the direct opposite. Because I know what it feels like to be at home in myself, I know when I’ve left home. It didn’t happen overnight. I wandered away slowly. And after a while, I didn’t notice. Like when you live near train tracks and the whistle wakes you up at first in the middle of the night. But it doesn’t take long before you don’t hear it at all unless you listen. Unfortunately, if I’m not home, it’s impossible to be home to anyone else. So, it must begin there. Always. Fortunately, I get lost in the physical world quite frequently, so I am familiar with leaving “breadcrumbs”. Markers. To guide my way back. Breadcrumbs… Photography. Dreams, a little altered. Family. Friends. Quiet… my quiet. And my heart, that came with me on this journey, and is always there. Loving me home.
Today, I was handed this very simple gift. Snow. And the quiet it makes when it falls. And the peace it brings.
Sometimes the best gifts are right in front of us. How often have I heard this. And still, I waste them. And then they’re not in front of me. And I miss them like I miss my own breath. I have wasted so many gifts by trying to hold on to them and keep them safe, instead of being in them. Living them. Breathing in them. And today, for the first time, it actually felt possible to learn to be in these gifts minute by minute, being careful not to make them anything but what they are and let them flow right through me. It’s a consciousness. It’s being aware. And it’s going to take some practice. But that’s what my life is now. Practicing what I’ve learned…
When I reached my forties, I thought my choices in life were severely limited. And truth is, they do diminish somewhat. My careers choices are fewer. Certain physical limitations have arisen. But recently, I have discovered that while it’s too late to become an astronaut or start a family of ten, I am faced with more choices about how I live than ever. I have never been so aware of how I interact with people. Aware of the affect my words and actions have on them. And that these are choices. I have never subscribed to the phrase, “well, that’s just me…” It’s only me if I choose for it to be. In the last few years, in particular, I have been made fiercely aware of my behavior, my words, both written and spoken, even my expressions. My interactions with those around me have been more intimate than ever in my life and the impact is profound. I have watched work relationships and personal relationships either thrive or wither over time based largely in part on choices I make. My words, tone, timing, mannerisms, things I simply don’t give much thought to, have all played a part in whether the relationships were nourished or starved. Some of it is perspective. Some of it is simply being caring instead of careless. But every day, it is nothing more than choices. And I have more than I ever imagined I would.