exposure

dscf0210

 

She makes that steep climb, parting

the gentle man’s garments that guard 

the entrance to those dusty rafters

where memories are crammed

into rubbermaid

pandora boxes

 

She’s been avoiding this opening, for they tumble

en masse when she reaches for one

and her allergies always admonish

But persistent requests from her darlings demand

she comply.

 

Life is still enough

now, she presumes

there is space enough

 now, for what comes

 

She’d remembered the chaos, this

is what kept her at bay

after all, for they have been sifted

and sorted time

and again, so that 1978 comes stuck fast to 2001

as she searches, forgetting

what it was she came seeking as

hours become days, lost

in those images,

savored?

 

Surprise.

Even the photographs ripped

bring a smile

remembering how broken she was,

her bespectacled gaze wizened to see

herself as she was

without shame

 

And tears, not of pain, but of joy

finally flow, blessing

this breaking

of birth.

 

 

 

 

pro woman

Sharing this here for those of you who are not Facebook users.

Okay, I hesitate to enter into this ongoing laborious conversation, but here goes. 

I am aware that for many people the issue of abortion is a sacred one, with the belief that the sanctity of life begins at conception and that a woman’s own sense of her self as sacred is somehow damaged in the act (though I might argue from my own experience that the meaning and shame we, as a culture, attach to the act does far more damage to her).  I appreciate and understand the distress, perhaps more even than some, having labored and delivered 2 separate 20 week preterm fetuses who died, one of whom struggled to hang on to life for an hour, whose hearts beats were as music to me and whose fully formed features are etched in my memory. I also delivered two 6 1/2 and 7 month infants, who were kept alive by machines that breathed for them for months, and who now are fathers of daughters themselves. So I understand it is difficult to separate the threads.

 However, I also know that for SOME people, there is a strong relationship between an anti-abortion stance and the objectification and control of women’s bodies. Suddenly, in election seasons such as this one especially, those folks jump on the sanctity of life bandwagon as if they truly honored women and children and the sacred trust of bringing life into the world. They bring it out of the attic and wave it like the flag to arouse indignant fury, controlling the sentiments of the body-politic, as they seek to control the bodies of women.

I also believe that a woman’s body, as bringer of life, is sacred and that she has the responsibility to honor that sanctity, with full consciousness and intention, entering fully into the role of motherhood with love and due diligence. It is a sacred trust that she enters into when she chooses to bring a new life into this place.

For many of us, a time is imagined (a matriarchal period, perhaps) when we had the right to name and to choose when we had the resources to honor that responsibility…physical and emotional maturity, community resources (tribe), family support, food, shelter, steadfast companion etc. We celebrated and intentionally sanctified the time when we were ready to accept males into our bodies in order to honor that lifebearing trust. We also had the wisdom and knowledge to know when and how to induce miscarriage (with herbs etc) if we were not able to honor that trust. We dream of a time when that might be a respected reality in the future. We also dream of a time when the culture we live in is supportive- economically, emotionally, resource-fully – of a woman, young or old, giving birth to a child.

However, that time is not yet upon us. As long as our bodies are viewed as objects to be used for another’s objectives rather than something sacred, then genital grabbing is considered trivial, marital rape is considered ‘impossible’, rating of f***able worth is fair game, and a woman’s ability to choose for herself when she is ready and able to bear life and to nurture it is considered out of her domain. In these cases another has the right to do with our bodies whatever they deem acceptable.

I believe that for another person to deem what is acceptable as far as when we decide to enter into the sacred trust of bringing a life into the world is similarly a statement that our bodies are not our own but objects of another’s determination. Whether it is forced upon us physically in an act of unwanted sexual contact or forced upon us by the laws of the state, it is dishonoring of our bodies and of our wisdom as women, and a misunderstanding of how we are made to receive and to give with the whole of our being, not merely our genitalia and breasts.

I know the arguments that will come. That she should just keep her legs closed if she wants to be intentional. Perhaps, if you believe that sex is merely for procreation and not at all about the deep human need for connection and intimacy and the sharing of mutual and reciprocal joy. Perhaps if birth control were not also under the control of the church and the state instead of in women’s hands and bodies. Or you will argue that if we wait for all children to be intentionally, consciously invited into this place, then none would come at all, for the enormity of entering into that sacred trust would overwhelm all but the very naïve. Or perhaps you will remind me that the arrival of children is a blessing, one that transforms even the most resistant mother, gifting her in ways she cannot possibly understand from the other side. To these, I say yes, I understand.

And I can live with the paradox and the tension inherent in this place of both/and. Of knowing from my own experience that a 20 week fetus or a 29 week preterm delivery are imbued with the presence of life, sacred and precious. And of knowing, from my own experience, that there are times when the most sacred word you can say is ‘No’

I felt the earth move

yellow-leaves

 

Yesterday afternoon, the earth moved. I felt it. In truth, I’d been sensing the shift beneath me for several weeks, felt it coming. And yet, when at last the earth lurched, it seemed to happen at once. First, the quality of the light changed – suddenly golden rose as if twilit, except it was the middle of the afternoon. On the heels of that glowing premonition came, high in the treetops, the wind, which at first we thought was the sound of rain, except that it brought a shower of golden leaves, not in a delicate flurry but falling as if heavy, the weight of them let loose at once. Dropped. Soon came the driving rain, which for a moment mingled with those falling leaves in a deluge of water and earth and sky. And after all of that letting go, the temperature itself fell. From summertime 80’s to autumnal 50’s in the span of an hour of daylight in the mid afternoon.

I was sitting on the porch over a pot of hot tea with a cherished friend when it happened.  My husband was sleeping just inside the window, deep in a healing slumber, aided by the morphine that diminishes his pain. We were speaking of the things that women so often share. What it means to love. To love a friend. To love a partner. To love a child. To love oneself.

Not that it was some lofty philosophical examination, of course. No, not the detached-from-experience ideals of the head, but the real, raw, wild stuff of living and loving, of struggle and hope. Pundits and experts can lecture and wax, but two women can question and search, reflect and reveal, what is real in their slow pondering longings and suddenly bared understandings.

I suppose I could say that some of my own colors have been revealed over these last several weeks as autumn has quietly emerged on my landscape. My understanding is that those colors are always within the leaf, that it is the ceasing of manufacturing chlorophyll that allows them to be seen, as wisdom, perhaps, is likewise unmasked when busyness slows and the need for performance diminishes. 

The events in my personal life and in the world around me over the past several weeks… months… years… okay lifetime….have been building up a reservoir of understanding that seems to have suddenly fallen into place for me. (and, yes, I know that winter is coming, of course, and then spring with its new buds, and then..) The word integrity comes this morning as the best way of describing this sudden shift in awareness, when what has been harbored within is suddenly apparent without.

We were talking about my husband’s surgery, the patient gentleness that seems to have replaced the stubborn resistance and forced will of the last surgery, the way in which he seems to want to honor both my wisdom and my dignity this time around, the way that perhaps I am receiving him differently too. I realize that my partner and I make a much better team when each of us honors the integrity of and the wisdom within the other, letting go of control, to give and receive support.  Being received by another can allow the beauty of one’s inherent colors to be revealed and beheld. Perhaps it is true that we are “heard into being’. We are also seen into being.

…From my porch perch, I take note of the way that the earth here gratefully receives the fresh blanket of leaves, even as the leaves let go their clinging …

This has been a great and sudden release.  Beneath the surface of this named relief lay years of frustration – not in this particular relationship but in so many others- of not being seen and received in an honoring way, of being told I am too this or not enough that, my gifts and my ways not only diminished but ridiculed. Perhaps I had grown weary and brittle, bitchy. Perhaps that is a natural defense, a clinging to self, of some sort, a gall guarding that which is precious but devalued. Gradually the defending of your ways as valid becomes a One Way, which is always a problem in loving …and in seeing.

I have been pondering the way in which I felt at home in my skin during those weeks on my own this past summer, without needing to justify my rhythms or defend my ways, following and honoring my needs and intuitions, trusting myself without being directed and questioned, held back or pushed. The way that I blossomed in that. I felt like a virgin, perhaps, a woman whole and unbroken.  Undefended and Unintruded upon. 

The light shifts from harshness to golden

The events of these past weeks in the news, which have revealed, also in a seemingly sudden way what has always been there hidden in plain view, the reality of women being devalued and dishonored, seem synchronous with that.   Some of us could feel that long before the news ‘validated’ it.  Others still cannot. I think they have not had the gift of eyes opened by experiencing the contrast of that harsh night with the daylight of real respect.  I have been remembering my years in that darkness, completely unable to conceive of this beauty, my years of thinking that what I was receiving was love?!… when I was not being received at all.  On my porch, my friend reveals that she also has not known the kind of friendship that sees and receives with love, rather than judgment or shaming or attempts to control.  

And the wind blows.

These weeks, I have been remembering my own daughter’s birth, almost 30 years ago now, the way it broke something open in me then, my sudden longing for her to be protected from the experience that I had of being female in this world. How it hit me one day while changing her diaper in those first days at home with her, like a wall of survival fell down within me in that falling in love with her.  I am afraid that my over-identification with her as she passed through those stages of life as a girl in this culture did not necessarily help her at all, but love can be like that too, fierce protection too often leading to disempowerment, the gift of self-integrity not nurtured. I have been remembering the story of the blind boy, overprotected by loving parents who didn’t want to see him crash into trees but who stripped him of learning to trust himself. On my porch, my friend fears her own mistakes in the name of love. In each other’s compassionate  mirror we see ourselves. Together, we are forgiven for loving.

And the leaves plummet.

These weeks, I have been simmering my understanding of the sacred trust that we, as women, engage in when we agree to be ‘bringers of life’ to this world. In the public discourse, there are those whose votes of assent will go to a candidate who claims to honor the integrity of life as the pro-life candidate, but whose actions and words dishonor the integrity of a woman, to choose when her sacred body is allowed to be seen, touched, entered, or to choose when the time is right for her to receive, to nurture and bring forth a new life. To him, woman is an object to judge and possess, to demean and control. To him her true colors remain unrespected and unseen.

And the rain falls.

It drenches the earth, watering in the compost I’d spread just this morning around the base of young trees, compost created from seasons of growing and dying, decomposed.

What does it mean to be decomposed?

I have been thinking about power, the power to shame and control and the way in which that pervasive perversion of force formed and forged me. The long silencing of the self that fear brings, the aversion of eyes to protect. My story is an old, familiar one of being named-shamed-and-claimed rather than seen-and-esteemed. It is a story of invasion, predation and loss … loss of integrity of body and soul, the loss of trust in the goodness of self and other… and the confusion that this loss of self wreaks around loveability and love, worthiness and value. We have, the lot of us as women, been diminished and demeaned. The shaming and taming of the self leaves a struggle for survival in its wake.

I recall a counselor once giving me the image of lace as a way of helping me visualize a healthy intact boundary for myself. What passes through to be integrated and received for nurture and growth, as opposed to being invaded, is filtered through this intact sense of self-compassion and dignity. What is not mine to take on—the naming and shaming, the diminishing, for instance – passes through that lacy veil. It is not mine to take on nor to transform.  Lace is much gentler than armour, it seems, for it also allows the other in to be received. It allows love in and out.

I think of compost this way. It is made up of what passes through, unusable or no longer needed. In my own life, that means decomposing the stories and definitions that made up my concept of self, of life, of love, or value, letting go of what would become toxic were it to fester within me.  It also means letting go of the ways in which I have judged myself harshly, as failing terribly or not living a life of integrity (where one’s outside self reflects the wisdom and compassion of one’s inner knowing). It means seeing myself and my life’s experiences anew, through gentler eyes of love and understanding. Decomposing those stories means honoring  Life and respecting the gifts of life’s experiences.  

I spread those stories and experiences of love, loss, and learning around me and my friend, where they might be taken up by our roots to build a strong and resilient body and soul, with the integrity to stand, to bud and to flower and fruit. She spreads her stories round me. It is the way of trees, after all, to care for one another in such a way.

At last, the heat of the summer passed, in one fell swoop.

As the temperature suddenly dropped, in the wake of all that was brought forth to be seen and heard, healed and integrated as my friend’s and my own humanity were mutually received by the other as sacred and worthy of value, I thought to myself,

Perhaps this is just the climate change that the earth sorely needs.

 

 

Warp and weft.

So, this thread of thought has been spinning (pun intended) in me since I wrote about it last week (see Weaving a Life) when it came up and out of my pen like Spiderwoman’s silk, unconsciously given as a means of securing the nurture necessary for survival. I’d had no ‘idea’ when I’d sat down that day to sort out my feelings of disjointed belonging that the image of weaving would come with its message of wholeness.  

So, perhaps I should not be surprised, though I continue to be amazed by it, when additional messages surface to be woven into that fabric, thoughts of my own intertwining with conversations with friends or stories I read. Perhaps that is simply what human brains do – process, integrate, make connections – but still it astonishes me.

Last weekend, while scrubbing the camp pots of the soot that accumulates over a season of cooking over a fire, my hands revisiting those memories as my head plugged in to a Ted Talk on “How we Love”,  I listened as the researcher expressed two fundamental human needs as divergent and often conflicting threads. On one hand, the human being NEEDS belonging, security, stability, home. We have evolved to need one another. On the other hand, the human being NEEDS mystery, wonder, journey, newness, adventure, curiosity. We are innately seekers of nurture. The researcher spoke of how difficult it can be for one relationship to support both of these needs.

And I thought of the warp and weft.

I heard another researcher, who is using the new brain imaging sciences to look at the chemistry of romantic love…. which is also now being understood as a human NEED, as it helps us attach and form bonds that we need to survive. She was looking at the various chemical responses in the brain and how ,depending upon the predominant neurotransmitter in our own brains, we will be attracted to someone like us (quiet and stable for instance) or someone opposite us (the intuitive drawn to the logical, for instance)

And I thought of warp and weft.

Then, I read an article compiling the studies of university researchers on the dawning understanding of AWE as a human emotion, as vital and real as joy and sorrow, anger and fear, surprise and disgust. Turns out we DO need moments of wonder and awe. Such experiences elicit psychological and physical healing, inspire art and scientific discovery, induce generosity, and create emotional bonds… to one another and to life itself, as we experience both being small in the face of it (needing one another) and being a part of something phenomenal. More and more studies appear, it seems almost daily, that document nature’s impact on the mind, body and relationships. It appears that we need out-of-ordinary experiences as much as we do mundane ones.

And I thought of warp and weft.

You see, sometimes I judge my need for retreating to nature to bask in its beauty the way that I do, as selfish. I label that desire as frivolous. The culture I grew up in tells me it is not productive, not contributory, or perhaps is not even normal. I worry about myself in relationships when I feel discontent in their day-to-day sameness , even as I care deeply for and cherish the belonging and bonds that I have in them. Then, I fear that our different needs and desires… especially this deep longing, which I have for too long diminished as shallow, in me… will drive us apart.  And I think that I must be broken somehow.

But these studies validated this human need in me as real.

Despite those who have assured me otherwise, I have been woefully uncertain that “Seer of Beauty” is a necessary and needed vocation. With camera or pen or listening ears, is the desire to see –and to share what I see– a good-enough pursuit for a Human Being to expend one’s life?

You see, I am also a seeker of meaning.

Warp and weft.

I think of the seemingly universal (is it?) human desire for journey, for pilgrimage, that seems to manifest at this stage of life. Is it merely because space opens in a human being’s life as the responsibilities of child-rearing and career depart, an emptiness one seeks to fill? Is it merely a symptom of a ‘life of leisure’, only available to retirees and members of a certain privileged class seeking to fill the void of connection and meaning? In a long marriage, is it a way that seasoned couples seek together a sense of newness and mystery, wonder and discovery in a relationship that has grown comfortable and secure ? Is it the laying down of new layers of color and texture, beauty and meaning, over the stable structure of a life-well-lived?

Warp and weft?

Perhaps it is not a modern dis-ease at all. Perhaps it is the nomad, the hunter gatherer in my genes or my reptilian brain, but perhaps it is also a necessary stage in the human journey.

And now, I am remembering the teachings I was exposed to on the Hindu understanding of the 4 stages of life ( again, this thread of awareness coming forth to be woven into the cloth even as I sit down this morning to write) , which includes the movement into the forest at this time in one’s life (traditionally ages 48-72).  After spending the previous stage of life built upon the more concrete realities of getting ‘things’ done in the material world – providing food, structure, support, offspring, engaging in civic responsibilities, contributing ‘wealth’ to society, etc — the forest dwellers leave the householder stage of life (as that identity naturally falls away) , stepping away from the previous external identities that had once been so all-consuming.  They withdraw from those pursuits to strengthen their connection with the deeper dimensions of life and of their own being. Their desire is to ‘know’ the true nature of the invisible (mystery, awe) and perhaps to experience the beauty they were too busy to see during their householder stage (to fill up that drainage and be healed), but the purpose of their journey is not to merely accumulate experiences. They are gathering the tools and means to foster awareness of that ‘luminous field’ that is also the core of our being (being moved getting inspired… filled with breath). Eventually, those forest dwellers returned, their perceptions of life opened to the depths of both their own wisdom and the earth’s (its teachings of profound oneness,  generosity, and interdependence, for instance, that modern researchers are noting in their studies of wilderness experiences). Detached from society’s judgments (modern psychologists might say they ‘individuated’ from their previous roles during their time away) they are able to bring that wisdom and the ideals  revealed and integrated- harmony and justice, beauty and belonging, connection and oneness-  back to their communities. There, at last, perhaps is the marriage of the inward and the outward, seeking meaning AND reaching out with compassion, discovering what we are here both to experience AND to give.

That is my hope anyway. That I also might bring beauty back to that rigid structure.

Warp and weft.

Ps. One night this week, I dreamt I was a superheroine, red cape and all, like wonderwoman, and I had a flying mobile of some sort. But when I landed, I discovered life here on earth was in shambles and the children weren’t being fed. All at once, I realized that feeding the children was the most needed and heroinic act of all.

 

 

 

 

 

weaving a life

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So life rolls on… hotels, craft booths and doctor’s offices with my husband, rehab facility room with my mother, indoor swimming pools with the women in my exercise class, cell phone calls with my sister, my daughter. Facebook. Of course, then there was my granddaughter’s 3rd birthday with the whole gang en masse, my friend’s leather sofa with a glass of white wine, a walk around the ‘lake’, a visit on the porch with my son and his girlfriend, 24 hurried hours in the cabin with my soul-sisters, and 2 actual letters at the post office. I still have some connections to be made… I missed one son’s birthday while I was in the bush.

Reconnecting in the course of a week feels a bit like plugging in so many dangling cords, or perhaps tying them down, each one grounding me here in this place.

This morning I read a few short chapters in an old favorite of mine, Holdfast, by Kathleen Dean Moore. I had gifted the book to my friend at the lodge and wanted to stay connected with her in the reading of it, if I couldn’t be with her physically in the body. I remembered that I had FELT so much in my first reading of the book years ago, that the philosopher’s love of the natural world and love of her people were interconnected, woven into each essay, touched something tender in me.  Indeed, each time I go to my wild places… within or without… there is a similar weaving in me that I long to compose.  In my heart-alive places, all that I love are embraced, simply, without pulling and tugging (or the guilt of not-enoughness)

As I paddle around the next bend in the lake, to take in the sweep of a granite ledged shoreline, so frequently my heart brings to mind someone back home with whom I want to share this heart-full space. Indeed, all 5 of my trips in the water and the wilds this year were with such persons, whom I’d invited to come with me there. However, when I come face-to-face with the silent invitation tendered by pine-studded island, something intimate and sacred there, though I paddle close, I never seem to disembark there, no matter if  the waters surrounding her are battering or still. Afraid? Or simply respecting her untouchable need for solitude in the middle of that vastness.

So, which is the warp and which is the weft? And does it matter at all.

I don’t know much about weaving, indeed I had to look up which was which as far as warp and weft are concerned. What I learned is that the warp, stretched taut on the frame, is made up of the stronger fiber, providing the structure for the fabric, offering both strength and form. It is pulled taut to the point that it cannot stretch any further. The weft, on the other hand is what gives to the weaving its beauty, filling in the body of the fabric with color and texture.

As Anne Morrow Lindbergh noted over half a century ago, in her now-classic, Gift from the Sea, women’s lives continue to be fragmented and divided, pulled apart at the seams.  At least mine does. Or does it? Is my heart truly pulled apart, in too many directions, or am I simply pulled taut, the structure of my heart resilient and strong.

“In the myriad pulls of a woman’s life, which run counter to a contemplative life, a creative life, how to remain whole in the midst of distraction, how to remain balanced and strong no matter what forces pull one off-center”  (sic)

The solution for Lindbergh lay in either alternating the pendulum swing between the 2 extremes of community and solitude (this feels more like an accordian to me stretching and being compressed) or finding a balance somehow.  Her question was how to bring back the lessons she’d learned in the solitude of retreat to her life back home? Her lessons of simplicity are one place I can begin. Certainly that is a gift of my time in the wilderness, too. Like her, I have only the barest of essentials while out there.. the simple shelter of a tent, a simple diet with little choice but what is next in the food barrel, cooked over a simple fire in one pot, a simple map with the route for the day prescribed, the simple presence of being there, undivided. Back home, the choices each day are much less bounded….

“Only love can be divided endlessly and still not diminish.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Back to my untangling the threads in the warp and the weft of my life, I wonder if, instead of weaving my loved ones into those wild places with me (taking them physically/literally to the water and wood with me), the invitation might be to bring the wild opened spaces of my heart – deepened by beauty and full of joy– back home to my loved ones. (Or perhaps it is a both/and even here….being very careful not to fall into the trap of having to somehow ‘do it all’. In my quest to share those wild spaces with my loved ones, I may have inadvertently filled it with too much to-do, leaving no solitude-space for its own filling up).

I wonder, what does one do with a heart still full of longing? Where does that fit in the weaving?

I have noted often the ways that I feel more whole in places and times when my own rhythms have space to emerge. What are the rhythms of weaving a life? The comings and goings, the risings and fallings, the still moments to ponder the next colored thread, the hours when the shuttle flies, flowing.

Later this morning, over coffee, I opened the new book of poetry I’d received in the mail yesterday.(Life in the Holocene Extinction, by Kristin Berkey Abbott) For some reason, I opened it to the last poem, “Horarium”, the name given to the schedule of those living in religious community. The poet deftly and poignantly contrasted a life of natural rhythms (of a different sort than the ones I experience, but attuned just the same) – rising with the light, tending to the earth, ending the day with the blessing of water – with that of our driven and distracted existence. Here as there, lay the unspoken invitation to bring the peace of that quiet into crafting a life of real meaning, so difficult to do in our fragmented world. I am not alone in this feeling, it seems.

And so I have whiled the morning away. It is already noon and I have done no thing but sit here, wondering how such a life might be woven onto the warp of my existence. Even now, as I type the word, warp, I wonder, is my warp warped somehow? Pulled too tightly in one direction at the expense of the other? What might I loosen then, relieving the pressure I alone give to it, before something within me breaks.

Ah, but my beautiful heart is much stronger than that.

In searching out an image to attach here, I am brought face to face with another teacher of weaving, Spider, whose webs so delight me when laden with morning dew in the fog of the dawn. Cupped like a basket of flowers, or strung like a garland of them, each morning her webs reappear, seemingly crafted anew, blossoming from the very body of Spider, herself. Each day bringing its battering, she begins again her evening weaving, tying down the threads and leaping across chasms. Perhaps, just perhaps, life is this simple, beginning again moment by moment weaving a rhythm to capture the nurture one needs to survive.

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Crossing the threshold

DSCF0083.JPGHalf-heartedly, I return to the place I call home, uncertain that the whole of my heart has caught up with the time travel (which is entirely too far and too fast for a human body to possibly comprehend anyway).  It seems that surely I have lost pieces of my heart along the way, left behind bits of it on the lake where the howl of the wolves parts the thick morning mists, dropped other pieces amongst the wild cranberries I gathered at the boggy end of a portage trail (leaving some behind some of those for the others… bears or birds…who might also delight in their juicy tartness), while still more bits of it are likely lingering in the hull of my boat next to the beaver lodge, listening to the beavers mewl inside. The rhythms that my body fell so seamlessly into… rising before daybreak to unfold with the dawn, walking down to the water’s edge to draw water from the lake for the morning pot, making fire and waiting for the boil as the loon patiently called for her chick…. are out of sync with squared off walls that block the light and muffle the sounds of traffic.  There, I listened to the body… my own and the earth’s, it’s turning telling me when to rise and when to retire, it’s temperature and rainfall telling me when to move and when to be still. Here, I feel out of sync with artificial schedules and priorities that feel like they belong to some foreign body, not my own.

For weeks, I lived wild in those wide open spaces, so full of sky and land that I felt their expansiveness in my very body, as if my hair had become the wisps of cloud, my legs the flowing water, my voice carried by the canoe to join in the song of the land. How does one make oneself small again after that? I’ve been feeling a bit like Alice, wondering what I might have to eat (stuff?) in order to make myself fit back into my old life.

Out there, I’d become enamored by the plethora of mushrooms, blooming, overnight it seemed, pushing up a clump of soil and moss to emerge in the light of a dawn where they hadn’t shown signs just the night before. Of course, I knew that they had a vast underground growth that had been developing for years, the more obvious blossoms just the tip of that iceberg.  Perhaps nibbling a morsel of one of those might be “fitting’, so to speak.  Indeed, I have felt myself withdraw, down deep into the soil of myself these past days … for protection perhaps. Even the noise of conversation seems too great a demand, as if something is being asked of me that is too great. Can the bloom be so quickly gone?

When I returned to the lodge, those final days after my last trip into the backcountry, I wondered if it was Ok for me to cross the threshold into the inner sanctum of the lodge’s main kitchen, which had been so welcoming during the weeks I was there earlier in the summer, earning my keep between canoe trips. There, I had been fed in so many ways. There was a place of belonging and nurture for my body and soul, where conversations ran deep as the masks that are donned in the roles of hostess or guest or leader or guide or mother or daughter or wife were removed.

I had thought often during those particular weeks at the lodge of the exercise in the book, “Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself’ in which the reader is invited to imagine her life as a house, the center of which contains  the proverbial ‘Room of Her Own’. How might such a room be furnished in ways that are not proscribed or prescribed, not with mass-produced pieces that the culture deems appropriate, but with a life that feels authentic? In the other cluttered rooms of our houses, we may be forced to wear the masks of certain roles, but in this room we are full of ourselves, filled from within.

Between backcountry trips, I’d lived in a sparse little cabin at the back of the lodge’s property.. a kitchen counter with ‘vintage’ appliances perched atop an old, peeling vinyl floor, a paneled bedroom, a freestanding fiberglass shower stall, a small screened porch with a broken door…a hermitage, if you will. There, I was disconnected, inaccessible to the world outside of the lodge. As such, my days were simple and present to the tasks at hand…. often physical labor (which my hostess joked was like that of Cinderella)….but uncluttered and undivided (no running about like the White Rabbit)  Though often quite long and full, there was a certain simplicity to my days there, as well as a strange sense of autonomous interdependence in my aloneness that I don’t often experience in life at home. My days-off were filled with quiet hours alone, setting off to explore by foot or canoe or into the park to fill my heart with wonder. There was solitude and community, interdependence and self agency, belonging and freedom.

Indeed, a sense of  my own rhythms had also emerged while I was living there and I was also feeling the loss of that upon my return, when I’d asked my friend that question, “Is it ok for me to cross this threshold now that I am a mere guest again”?  The disconnection that I felt at not entering that inner space was palpable.

I do not wish to be a guest in my own life, but to fully inhabit it, to move freely into the inner places and back rooms that nurture me, where the language of the heart is spoken and honored, to live openly as well in a heart-full and wide-alive space. There is a vast difference between moving freely into and within that heart space and shrinking into it for protection because the outer space one is in feels unsafe and unwelcome, or closing the door on the heart to don the mask of a role you must play.

There is a vast, almost quantifiable energy that I feel, alone in those wild places where my real and wild self feels strong and empowered to dance and to sing without judgment and negativity. (Indeed, I notice even that taking persons with me into those wild places can sometimes impede that sense of aliveness considerably, dampening my energy and my joy, for it is the times that I rise early to be alone with the unfolding dawn, or go off by myself to climb to the top of a granite lichen covered ledge or down into the mossy roots of a great old tree, or take the canoe out for a solo spin in the waning light, that I feel most free and alive… Dance like no one is watching then?)

My new friend suggested the old film title ‘When Worlds Collide” to describe this home-going feeling in me, and asked if it might not be appropriate at all for Alice to be asked to become small, or to close her eyes to what she has seen in that new world? Perhaps she might instead let herself be SEEN, revealing her true self. (thank you, Erin) Another friend invited me to escort the wildness I uncovered home with me, to never lose sight of the real and wild woman I have always been. (thank you, Cheri) .

And so, as best I can in this place, I will try to keep myself awake… awakening with the dawn, if you will…. and keep myself in touch with my aliveness however I can, letting myself feel the vastness I felt in that land and the nurture I felt in that kitchen. I will go back in my mind to gather those left-behind bits of my heart, tuck them safely into this beautiful body of mine, filling it with love and joy.

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