rambling recap

Dear Friends,

It is true, I have not been writing a lot here on these pages. I have been doing some recording of my experiences in Algonquin on my other blogsite http://www.analgonquinaffair.wordpress.com but while it chronicles the travels of my life in a certain way, it does not explore the whole of my soul’s journey in this life. Then again, I’m quite certain it is not at all possible for me to even see, let alone begin to express, what it is that I am up to in this place, where I have been and where I am going, but this is at least a broader glimpse.

The end of a new decade offers a natural window through which to glance backward, to take stock, if you will, at where/how you have travelled over the course of the past decade, at how your life has unfolded, evolved, become, grown.

So, I guess I could call this my annual ‘New Year’s Day letter’ rather than the more traditional Christmas letter, to you, my friends. Mostly, of course, this is a letter from myself to myself (as journaling, after all, is) So read if you will, but be warned, its rambling recap of my life’s journey may not make sense to any other than my own soul. And that is ok. I have begun to let go of that too, you see… the being seen and understood, remembered even. I think I’ve grown pretty okay with being mortal, finite.


So, here goes.

This year, I continued to struggle with being ‘enough’, and with comparing myself to others who I perceive as being more loving, more generous, or more devoted – somehow, at least less selfish than I. On the contrary, it continued to be difficult for me to give myself permission to make choices for myself.  I continued to feel the angst of guilt when I fell and I failed, which I realized I seem to feel most when that failure surrounds something precious to me. (although that feeling has also helped me to identify those things that are indeed precious to me and to name them as such rather than mislabeling them as other’s expectations of me, to notice how it was that I also failed myself).  This year, I continued to struggle with striking a wholemaking balance, as I continued to struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed, burntout, and with feelings of not-enoughness. and I continued to feel manipulated/bound by my feelings of shame around that.

This fall, however, several deeper awareness seem to have converged, or come forth, that feel like the beginning of healing some of those wounds.

One is an awareness that came up around one of my granddaughters. It seemed she had been struggling with the intensity of her feelings — frustration, anger, powerlessness— and had begun rubbing her forehead against the carpet, giving herself rug burns, in order to, what seemed to me, release that inner pain in an outward expression? What I noticed was that my own response was to help her learn ways to soothe herself, rather than hurt herself. Later, though, I wondered at that response in me. Could it be my own discomfort with, or fear of, intense feelings – in myself and in others, my own need to quiet/suppress those feelings rather than express them?  Maybe what she needs might be different than what I need, after all. Maybe learning to go inside and silence the chaos is not always a good thing. Maybe she needs to scream or to run or to punch a few pillows to release those feelings from her body. Maybe that’s ok too. My love for her (something about a grandchild allows you to step outside the fear of getting it right…her feelings and behaviors are not my ‘fault’, after all..and to purely see through eyes of compassion ) allowing her needs and her personality to be different than mine (she is not, after all, an extension of me), lent to me some subtle permission for my own needs, personality, and coping mechanisms to be just right for me too. It opened the door to a vast room of compassion in me where there is space for all of us, in our pain and self-inflicted wounds, with our unique gifts and life experiences, to feel and respond differently to life, releasing me from the bondage of right and wrong. There was space in that room for me to be ok, for you to be ok. There was breathing space for me to be utterly wrong- without self recrimination- and to acknowledge that I probably messed up in not understanding someone else’s needs or responses along the way. In not empathizing correctly. My own children, for instance. Maybe I silenced them when they needed to be heard? Maybe I misinterpret their feelings and responses even now, based upon my own projections.

I can’t really explain how/why this hit me the way that it did. Perhaps I was ripe to fall. Perhaps it was one of those ineffable glances of grace, stripping me of judgments or right or wrong. It was a great healing dose of humility, as well. I don’t need at all to know what is the right way, response, or cure – for myself or another. Perhaps there is no cure needed at all. Simply Love. I also was reminded that it’s ok to be wrong, to change my mind, to look from the other side, to mess up. It’s been good to walk around realizing that everyone walking around her with me is coping with their feelings, their traumas, their learnings, their perspectives and their life in the best way they know how.

Second, was the reading of a book, a few year’s old now, entitled The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. The story revolves around two sisters surviving the traumas of occupied France during World War II.  One of the sisters resists and rebels. The other keeps herself alive by being ‘good’ and seeking security. What I felt rise in me as I read the book was the understanding that each of these sisters’ responses to life was formed not only by her unique personality , but also by her earlier responses to the shared childhood trauma of a mother’s death and father’s abandonment.  Each woman’s particular response to subsequent life experiences, during the traumas of war, for instance, then was totally understandable, relatable, and lovable, expressed compassionately so by the author. The author also deftly described those secondary traumas and griefs—one of which was the miscarriage of several infants and the grief which engulfed the ‘good’ sister  afterwards. 

Soon after reading the book, I was having a casual conversation with a young woman, who happens to be a NICU nurse. I asked her what gestational age they are saving babies these days (24 weeks seems to be a strong, almost certain survival, though there have been some as young as 22 who survive. My own miscarriages occurred at 20 weeks. I’d felt them move inside of me, filled my heart with dreams for their lives (which was full of the hope I’d desired for myself), labored and delivered their small bodies into the physicians hands. I still have clear images of one of those girls…long long fingers, cradled in the hands of a delivery room nurse next to my head…I also recall the guilt and grief that swallowed me afterwards, although the details are lost in the fog) The conversation with the NICU nurse circled around to the bonds (traumatic?) that are forged between NICU nurses, babies, and moms. My later preemies, who survived, were each in the hospital for 11 weeks, and I acutely remember those relationships. The loss of them too. I also recall the feelings of emptiness, leaving the hospital with my arms empty, the feelings of numbness. The young woman told me that PTSD has also been identified as a symptom/response to a NICU experience for parents.

I remember also being told so many times how strong I was. Of course, I went into give-me-the-facts, no nonsense, survival mode. That was already my learned coping mechanism. Shut down feelings. Be strong, resilient, self-sufficient. Use your wits. Be competent. No warm arms to fold into for comfort, no breaking down, no coddling allowed. No receiving of empathy or compassion or help….. Years later, after delivering my last child, an 8+ pound son, I was commended by the labor and delivery nurse for how easy I had made childbirth seem. She wished she’d “have filmed it to show how its done”. Yes, pain is something I have learned how to quell and to silence. She chalked it up to experience. I suspect it was a different kind of learning from experience altogether.

And so, getting back to this idea of looking back to take stock…. Suddenly, I was filled with compassion for the young girl I was between the ages of 16-21, dealing first with the traumas of 2 miscarried 20 week infants and the grief that overcame me, and then with 2 infants struggling for life in a NICU, and how she survived, with her unique sensitivities, needs, courage, strength, childhood abandonment wounds etc. Without comfort. I was able to somehow forgive her for her fears of failure, her ways of adapting, and to honor her gifts/ love her for who she became. 

A friend had a grandchild in NICU this summer. I’m afraid my response to her experience was colored by my own. I hope I offered comfort/empathy/strength …. ‘trust me. I’ve been there. It WILL work out in the end. She will be fine’. I’m afraid I offered coldness and toughness, invalidating her fears. I honestly don’t know. Her response will be different than mine…

Observing myself, I wonder. Am I intolerant of others fear and pain? Of their unique responses to life’s traumas? Did I somewhere along the way become a “buck up” presence? Strong is a word that others use about me. Is that a compliment? Does my strength offer safety or does it invalidate the others fear?

I absolutely thrive in the wilderness. I come alive, feel vibrant, free, and connected, where some others find challenge — both physical and mental. I do not seek adversity, however. It is not adrenaline or conquest that fuels me, but beauty, silence, wonder, spaciousness, freedom, remoteness. Still, I led a trip this summer where a few of the women were incapable of coping with an environment that stretched them– both the human personalities with whom they were journeying and physical realities of the trip. At the time, I felt troubled by their complaining and betrayed by their negativity, perhaps taking it too personally. One of the women began to employ passive aggressive tactics – complete with eye-rolling and feet dragging (I half expected her cross her arms and stomp her foot)– her own learned responses to discomfort? But I also wondered at how I was responding. How difficult it was for me to stay grounded in a state of grace in the presence of that negativity, when the gift I was sharing seemed to be being rejected. How easy it was to slide into an an us vs them mentality, to look down upon/negate/judge another when their response was different than my own.

Looking back in my journal, I find these words in trying to sort out what occurred. “Here’s the thing though. I must remember, I am not responsible for the other’s experience or their responses to the uncontrollable. I am responsible for providing an opportunity, which the other can choose to enter into or not, and into which the other will undoubtedly bring and experience themselves. I cannot control their experience or their response…any more than I can control personality clashes, bugs, or weather and water conditions. I understand this, and still feel deeply affected and saddened that they are not able to let go and enter into the beauty and the gift that is here’

More recently than that, however, was a response to my daughter’s year end accounting of her life. She took stock of the last decades of her life, beginning in 2000, with bullet points from each year, and asked what were some of the things others remembered from the decade. What I found myself noting was  this

“A decade ago, several life-changing, transformative events converged in my life. My youngest son graduated from high school and flew from the nest, my first granddaughter was born, and I was invited to co-lead my first trip to Algonquin. (I’d visited just once before, in 2001, but this was the true beginning of the love affair, where I came to discover a wild self I’d not known before) Each of these momentous events exposed my heart to new terrain and broke it open to previously unfathomable depths of love, often rending it into opposite directions, stretching it always to hold more.….Feathers and stones”

(What I didn’t note in that response was that Don retired just a year afterward, we sold our home and moved.)

Seen from this distance, I realize what a striking convergence that was. Seen from this distance I can witness that tug and pull with compassion, I can validate both the freedom and the mooring of my heart, I can observe with one glance that precipitous change in the landscape of my life … like falling off a cliff and landing in an entirely unfamiliar terrain. With fondness, I see how the discovery of a self separate from the role I performed at home, the undomesticated, authentic self I discovered and fell in love in the wild as much as I fell in love with the wildness of the place (in truth, probably the reason I fell in love with the place was because of this free-to-be-me feeling I experienced there, after all), unencumbered by shame and feelings of not-enoughness, free to simply be happy, clashed with the self I also experienced at home. For, on the other hand, the real sense of grounding in love I feel for my children, and now my granddaughters, keeping me tied to home, anchored by love, is also authentic and true. The invitation extended to me at this decade’s end is perhaps to reclaim an old tired role by polishing it and seeing the precious gem that it is.

Feathers and stones.  Both valuable to a life here on earth.

Another granddaughter came into the house last weekend with a bag full of stones she had tumbled  until they were shiny and smooth in her rock tumbler along with a jar full of feathers. She has noticed that I also have collections of them both. I have baskets of them in my house,  mobiles made of them hanging about on my porch. As with my life, they are tricky sometimes to get into balance… the rocks pull the arrangement askew, the feathers slip from the knots and the structure loses its ability to catch the wind and dance .. but when it works, it is a thing of beauty, reminding me that feathers are necessary for grace and stones for grounding in love.

So, here I sit at the crux, which is my heart. Not a bad place to be seated, after all. Whenever I envision this space inside of me, the dream rushes up from my memory… you know the One. The BIG One, the One with the deep voice beckoning,  and the light flooding.  The One I didn’t want to come back from. The One that instructed me on the way I am to live and to love… to let myself be loved. The One that bid me to just stop, to gaze into that light, to notice the shape of the cross is like that of a tree, with light virtually pouring into it from the top, flooding it with love,  filling it deep into its roots, then flowing upwards into the trunk.  The One begging me to notice the way that the light flowed outward naturally from that filling, horizontally into the outstretched limbs.  The one imploring me to simply ‘do’ that, let myself be filled, that there was nothing else I need do, but let myself be loved. And the love that I am would flow forth from that.

Which love is the feather? Which is the stone? Which one fills? Which is the overflowing?

This fall, after returning from Algonquin, I spent a lot of time exploring in my journal the most recent shift in me that I’d been noticing this year. This summer, in the midst of the busyness of guiding canoe trips, I identified that perhaps a source of my burnout (manifesting as a  cranky intolerance and lack of compassion) was living too much out of my masculine-doing nature, with all of the organizing and leading, taking charge and taking-care of in which I was engaged, unbalanced by times of simply receiving, and being-with. No space or time to refuel my drained feminine soul. This fall, I recognized that energy was not perhaps masculine after all, but maybe a resuming of the mother doing-for (domesticated?) role in those wilder settings, a role in which I quickly become fatigued now at this stage of life.

I also noticed how grateful I felt when my boys took over a lot of that role on the Granddaughter-Son (they call it Daddy-daughter, lol) camping trip this year. The way I was freed then to BE with them in a new kind of way, a presence rather than a provider. I also noted the difference I felt in the canoe trip with Don, where there was more of a mutual sharing of the experience, a BEING TOGETHER.

When I came home this fall, I noticed it here too… my fatigue and exhaustion, the way I just couldn’t seem to ‘DO’ things the way I once did them, along with a deeper desire to BE a presence rather than perform a role. I thought about the natural rhythm of the days during our 2 week canoe trip, which I felt so very much with Don, and wondered if I’ve ever really experienced my own natural rhythm before… what with raising all those kids with their own needs and demands and schedules pulling me out of myself and into them.

This fall, though, I also noticed how exquisitely deep is my love for my children. If I am to continue the metaphor of my love for my children being like the stones in my life, anchoring me in love, then on the day that my son was married, that stone revealed itself to be a diamond. The overwhelming feeling of encompassing love I experienced for him on that day was so profound, and flowed from me without contrivance or effort, self-consciousness or shame. It simply was Who I Was.

From this vantage point, I can see how this last decade has perhaps been about making the shift fully into this 3rd stage of life – call it crone, call it forest-dweller, call it what you will – with its undeniable longing to live differently, to be freed from the ways of the previous stage of life, with its soul call to move into a quieter place, a still place, a place of presence, a place of honoring my rhythms, my needs, my weaknesses AND the gift of my wisdom (NOT stepping out of myself, sliding back into an earlier stage of life/development in order to fit in, feel valuable, or be understood but staying seated in my own knowing, the knowing of my own experience, and the knowing of my body, and trusting in its wisdom).

And so, in this rambling letter, I come to where this end of the year reckoning brings me. As I move forward into the next decade of my life, my hope is that I can find peace to Be who I am – warts and all, as they say–and to trust in my goodness wherever I am, however that looks. The surface desire is to live with less anxiety about whether or not I am okay or loved, but I realize that the deeper one than that is to trust that I am Love, as I am. To stop performing and Be who I am, in freedom and grace.

And so, this morning I wrote my ‘goals’ for 2020

To dwell in beauty, to look for beauty, to know that it all is beauty.
To dwell with ease, to be easy-going, to know ease in my heart, my body, and my mind
To dwell in curiosity, to gaze with loving curiosity, embracing mystery, humility, unknowing, and wonder
To dwell in grace– immersed in compassion, trusting all is well, allowing all to be as it as
To dwell in pleasure and peace at the wonder and joy of life, practicing deep sighs and internal smiles

To dwell in Love

Beneath those waters


Been delving into my Algonquin journals, and diving beneath the surface of those waters on my Algonquin Affair page. Stop by, if you like.


“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go”. -Jamie Anderson

I woke this morning with heartache. My first instinct was to do something to relieve it. Fix. Numb.

I woke this morning with self-recrimination. My first instinct was to do something to relieve it. Fix. Numb.

I woke this morning and did nothing about it. Sat silent and still. Paralysis ? Or wisdom?

I woke this morning trusting that I can feel this. Without fixing. Without numbing.

Perhaps this heartache is simply my heart breaking open. Making more space. To have and to hold.

Perhaps it is breaking free.

But, then again, perhaps it is telling me that something is broken. Something truly reparable? What is my heart saying, then?

I woke up this morning, my heart full.

Living from the seat of wisdom.

Dear Soul,

You will be misunderstood. You will be judged. You will be imperfect. You will be human.

Remember, you are not who you were when you were young. You see life now through more experienced eyes. Your experience is unique to you….your circumstances, your years, your soul…. but is also universally human. We all are becoming.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to be seen through eyes that cannot see from where they stand. You may have once stood where they are, too. Simply love them for that. There is no need to move to their perspective to make yourself look better in their eyes. Let them grow; let them Be.

Let yourself grow too. Wisdom is never hubris. Be unafraid to change. If you stop changing, you wither and die

Trust in your goodness. Root yourself there and blossom into a ripeness that spreads seeds even as it is fading, for this is what it means to grow old. Some may see only the withering stem , but you know the secret, that ripening means fruit.

See through those eyes, if you will. Eyes that have gathered much light and now can radiate without dazzling, without words, without need.

At the end of the day, lie down with grace, let your life be a seedbed of nurture, if only for one tiny seed. Be warmth. Be shelter. Be hope.

A singular Love

I am revisiting my Algonquin journal entries today, almost 2 months after that beautiful, intimate trip with Don took place. (I have begun blogging them on my other page –https://analgonquinaffair.wordpress.com/) Between that blessed trip and today, there have been 2 weeks of deep joy surrounding my son’s  wedding, one return trip to Algonquin,** where for a week we stayed in a cabin by night and trekked into the park’s waters by day, as well as too-many-to-innumerate, desperately needed, reconnections with family and friends.

And while that last trip north was a month ago now, it has just been in the last week that I have felt as if my whole self has returned to me here. All the important heart reconnections have been made – to children and grandchildren, to family and friends – the ties that bind (blessed be) have pulled me back and grounded me, here. My feet walking on the earth here, through the autumning landscape –with Don, the girls, or my camera  (which always helps me to see beauty less carelessly) — has also helped me to settle back in, to reroot my spirit into the soil of my homeland. Three weeks ago, my first day back from that last trip north, my granddaughters and I blew seed-bearing fluffs from dried pods into the wind. At the time, I felt a lot like them, adrift and unrooted…I assume that they too have settled in by now

Bloom where you are planted.

But for a while, I admit, I felt lost upon my return. A little foggy, in fact, as if I could not find my way back, could not seem to call myself home. I longed for the intimacy of those days with Don, the daily rhythm offering me its simple answer to ‘What should I do with my life today?’, and the way that I felt so completely at home in my skin there. With no mirrors, nothing outside of myself informing me of how I should look or what i should be, or what a good (mother, grandmother, sister, friend, community member) was supposed to look like, I was simply alive. No shoulds out there…there is simply the gathering of wood, carrying of water, building of fire, pitching of shelter, cooking of dinner,…packing, paddling , portaging, paying attention, being rapt (and wrapped) in love.


Out there, I am, simply there (here’s that word, “simply”, again. Indeed, life on a canoe trip is stripped to its bare essentials), fully alive, whole-heartedly living from the inside out.  Intact is the word that often comes to me when I reflect upon the feeling – a oneness of being, no part of my mind or my heart pulled from my body, away from the moment, the place. Back here, there are sooo many of those pulls, I can feel pulled to pieces… like those seed pods, and sometimes it feels as if there is no solid place for me to land. Sometimes I don’t even know what I am supposed to look like. Sometimes I don’t even know who I am.

Once again, I am reminded of the book, ‘Gift of the Sea’, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and her own expression of the way this feels. She names the feeling, Zerrisenheit- ‘torn-to-pieces-hood’

“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married woman. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Relationship, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”

(I see now that I have referenced this work here, at least 3 times before, in separate posts. See https://emmaatlast.com/?s=lindbergh ) So, there you go.

If you haven’t felt the difference, perhaps you can’t understand what I am trying to express. And that is ok. That’s perhaps yet another mirror I don’t need to pick up with which to measure myself.

Living from the inside out.

That phrase, which sprung from my fingertips above, makes me pause now. The word Love seems to flow naturally from that phrase for me. Flowing from the inside out, from a heart full of Love, is not at all about being pulled apart, then. Rather it is about flowing FROM an intact center INTO all of the precious connections in my life. It is about living whole-heartedly, centered in Love, wherever I am.

I realize that this is the feeling I want to bring home with me, the sense of Self that I encounter out there, that feeling of intact, present aliveness, vitality, love, and joy, unencumbered by judgement or shame, which is living from the inside out.

Waiting for that alive part of me to return to me here, I walked about my days like a zombie, truly as if something else had taken over my body and was moving me from outside of my self. The outside womanipulators, in this case, were the mirrors reflecting back to me, no matter how real or distortedly internalized , my not- enoughness, my failures at loving right, my screw-ups, my missing-the-mark.

But, living from the inside out is not about being seen from the outside as good enough. Nor is it doing enough to be lovable. Nor is even about knowing that I am Loved as I am. Rather, living from the inside out is about knowing I am LOVE. Not needing external mirrors to reflect back to me my goodness, it’s about living from my goodness, trusting in my goodness, grounding myself in my goodness. Simply Being. Enough.

But there is something more here that I cannot quite wrap my fingers around. I must be careful with my perspective, see the beauty of this through the eyes of Love. (this is what my camera teaches me, that how I frame something can make a huge difference in what is seen… and that stepping back or moving in closer can reveal beauty previously unnoticed) …..

…. Stepping back, I do see the truth that there is only one me. There is not a me ‘out there’ and another ‘back here’, no matter how differently I feel about myself in each place. Both of these persons are me – the one who comes alive in the free and singular presence she experiences out there and the one who deeply loves so many human beings back home that she feels overwhelmed, as if there is never enough of her to possibly nurture each one of those precious relationships in the deep way that she wishes she could.

….the way that she wishes she could…

And in typing this sentence, my lens on myself zooms in closer, for a more intimate glance at my sadness, for within its frame I recognize that this is grief.  Grief that I have misplaced/perceived as judgment, as failure, self-recrimination, and shame, as if I was somehow able to love better, I would be loved, and I would not feel so bereft of belonging. Grief that I cannot have the singular intimacy here, with so many, that I experience there, with just one. Grief, perhaps, also at the loss of the intimacies I once had, as those souls have, rightfully so, grown or moved on, the locus of their intimacies shifted, my orbit about their lives bumped farther from the center, so that they also may feel that they have not enough me.  Perhaps the fullness I experience ‘out there’ merely accentuates the emptiness here.  

Perhaps in reframing it in this light—that I cannot possibly be a singular presence here the way that I wish that I could, and acknowledging that a longing for love is at its core- I can begin to let go of the (self) blame within this grief at last.

I am a finite being, after all. There is only one me but perhaps I can be fully myself wherever I am, one place at a time.  Fully present in that one place with the whole of my self, with all of my Love. One place, after One place, after One place.  

**(I had spent almost all of the month of August in Algonquin too, accompanying 3 separate groups of women on backcountry trips, a mixed bag of experiences with both highs and lows, some of which affirmed the gift that I hope to offer by ‘preparing a place’ for others to enter, some of which pained me greatly by the absence of hospitality extended and experienced ( here I acknowledge my own deep sadness in this regard)   Perhaps I will share those stories here too, though some of those stories are not mine to tell. I mention it here only to reflect upon how much of my spirit was transported to that place over those months.)

What makes you come alive?


Tell me, how would you answer this question? ( It came up as a question of the day in a gratefulness daily prompt that I practice) Undeniably, I know the answer to this question for me. When I am out there in the wilderness with my Don, my senses fully awake and aware and present, the physicality of our days putting me in direct contact with the earth, our bodies carrying or gathering all that we need — food, shelter, fire– the camera helping me to pay closer attention to the play of light or color, to the most intimate of details or to widen my lens to take in the whole, I feel simply alive. The rhythm of the days puts me in sync with the rhythm of the earth, as if we are breathing together ( and puts the 2 of us–Don and me– in sync with each other.) I rise and set with the sun, my nose records the overnight temperatures and also the subtler changes in scents along a trail, informing me of flora or fauna. My muscles grow lithe and strong. My heart quiets. My body rests ay days end on the security of earth.The immediacy of each moment quiets all the extraneous noise in my mind and I am simply there, undivided, immersed without striving. I am not speaking of extreme survival or adversity, of risk taking or proving myself in order to feel alive, but of BEING alive, fully and simply.I have pondered how the modern practices of meditation and mindfulness seek to train us to do what comes naturally out there, away from the distractions and neuroses of the modern world, and I understand the state they are attempting to recapture- a oneness of being, the whole of your self in one place– because this I have known in Algonquin..

it ain’t easy being green

“This is the work: to take these feelings of loneliness and exile and bring them into the furnace of the heart, where emotional abandonment becomes mystical abandonment” – Fred Bahnson

How full of peace I was feeling just a few short weeks ago, at the end of winter, with all of those quiet, alone days on the calendar nurturing the introvert in me. (well, I do live with somebody, but our days and our ways in our tiny cottage seemed to meld into an easy, quiet rhythm with one another this winter).

Back at the beginning of the new year, I’d begun yet another ‘regular’ meditation practice, which included setting an intention and then letting it go, like dropping a seed into the dark winter earth and trusting that it would blossom. One of those intentions, which seemed to swirl about in those dark recesses, was ‘freedom’, which I realized was really about being released to be who I am without shame.  (I wrote a bit about that here   https://emmaatlast.com/2019/02/04/delight/) The second word that came was ‘delight’, which, of course, was where I imagined I might live if those chains ever came fully undone.

But then I forgot about the setting of intentions, and the praying of prayers, and went about living my life. So, I savored the discovery I made at a poetry day a few weeks ago, realizing that I felt so full of delight that I could claim it as What I Know. Yes, I know the feeling of aliveness, of full-bodied (full spirited) presence, of being In Love. It is Who I am and How I Am.

I’m not sure I can exactly trace what has transpired between then and now. Perhaps with the advent of spring, and the opening of the doors, some pollution crept into my House of Belonging, reintroducing shame and clouding the mirrors of my self-perception. Mirrors that made me appear unworthy and unwelcome. Mirrors that distorted, reflecting that I am not enough as I am. Mirrors so smudged that I have felt utterly unseen.

The world outside can cast a harsh light, and I suppose others will always see through the lenses of their own perception, where I will never quite measure up to their need. But I also know that this is my work, to keep polishing that mirror, keep affirming my goodness. As I am. Beloved.

So, tonight, when I heard the author of the essay, On the Road with Thomas Merton, (in which he shared a bit of his childhood, one of adequate food and shelter but not of love) come to his own realization in these words,“This is the work: to take these feelings of loneliness and exile and bring them into the furnace of the heart, where emotional abandonment becomes mystical abandonment”, I saw myself in that clear, kindred mirror. Those feelings of being unloved and unseen crafted the core of a self, an internal mirror that distorts our own vision.

Most days I believe my mystical self has abandoned ME!, at least the part of me that felt so overwhelmingly beloved and beheld, cherished and healed, by ‘God’. She stepped across the threshold of unknowing into the darkness of agnosticism some time ago. Sometimes that abandonment can leave me feeling pretty empty, terribly alone in the universe, and utterly unseen.

Yes, I know this is not what the author meant by ‘mystical abandonment’, but rather an abandonment INTO mystery……

While I do feel, intensely at times, the profound mystery and sacredness of the earth, in all its terrible beauty, and I am deeply in love (In Love?) with it, do I know myself to be Loved, accepted, celebrated by It. When “God” be ones a What rather than a Who, where do we turn to be known? (Does that even matter, or is that merely a need of my ego?)

Can I simply belong, then, without needing to be seen?  I do feel a deep sense of belonging in the solitude of wild places, know myself to be a part OF it, and so it is to those places I go to experience wholeness. Most days, that is enough. Do I need to do/be/know/love/understand/see more than this?

Someone recently used the word ‘inscape’ (rather than escape) to describe such a flight from the harshnesses of the world into the wonders of the earth – perhaps because it is there that we at last meet ourselves, encounter the sacred mystery of our lives.  Within the landscape of the earth, the mirror of the soul is held, and I am simply free to BE, delighting in it all.

Does this sound like I have just talked myself out of my pain and into denial?

Or into Love?

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