Beneath those waters

https://analgonquinaffair.wordpress.com/2019/11/07/this-adventure-of-love-an-interlude/

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

Heartfulness

“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.

Repeat.

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?

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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?

Me and Mary (and evidently a few others)


Algonquin was on my heart throughout the day during a recent Mary Oliver Poetry Day. She always goes along with me when we paddle. I carry a small packet of her poems to read on our trips, so it was natural that so many of the poems reminded me of being in that place I love.

During the morning session, when the presenter pulled out his bird lists, the ones he’s been keeping on 3×5 cards since 1979, I thought of Mary Oliver’s little notebook that she carried in her pocket during her dawn wanderings, jotting notes here and there to carry back with her to her writing desk, where the sparsely recorded words returned her fully to the experience of the morning. I imagine the sensory memory of the morning flooded her heart and mind through the doorway of those tiny jotted words. I know this too… how the recording of my own experiences in Algonquin, in journal entries and photographs, flood my heart with memory, as if I am fully there, the whole experience flowing back to me through those tiny remembrances. Once, when my husband was in extreme, unmanaged pain following an orthopedic surgery in which his bones were manually broken and made to bleed so that they could fuse in proper alignment, he asked me to read to him from the journal entry of a trip we had taken. The pain relief those memories offered allowed him to escape for a time, immersed in the experience of Algonquin.

When the presenter spoke of being in Love with the earth, with place, with immersing oneself, listening to one’s body, I knew that feeling too. The feeling of intimacy with the earth, the water, the persons I share it with, in that place is so real. The rapt attention to it all, the aliveness, the heart wisdom/fullness I feel there. I encounter life there from the very center of my being. I am no where else, my spirit and my mind connected to my body, undivided. No fears of being or doing enough, no anxieties about the other.

My body was restless by the time the second retreat period came around that afternoon of the poetry day, so I heeded its beckoning me to move. Through manicured landscapes and construction zones, where trees were being chewed by giant machinery jaws, I wandered. I got myself turned around in that maze abit and so, the return trip brought me past the copse of trees where I heard the white throated sparrow sing its “Oh Sweet Canada”. Instantly, I thought of the red bird in Mary’s poem we had read. This bird, like hers, of course, was singing the song of my own heart.

And so, I was stunned when a woman in the front of the hall shared her experience from her own afternoon of wandering, of coming upon the bumper sticker on a car, certain she was going to say it was a profound or pithy quote that had stopped her heart. But it was my bumper sticker with the words ‘I love Agonquin’, that stopped her short, bringing her instantly back to her own experience of that place. She Knew!! The way a word can bring you back to the experience of paddling those sacred waters.

During the closing sharings, when we read Summer Day, with its now infamous question at the end, I felt the poem differently perhaps than I have in the past. Not a call to do something BIG or REAL with my life before it is too late, but taken in context with the rest of the lines of the poem…. to take it all in, to fall in love with this place, to immerse myself in wonder, to be present to Beauty, to be idle and blessed, to live from this place of amazement.

I also heard the words of Rumi, ‘The breezes of dawn have secrets to tell, Don’t go back to sleep”. In Algonquin I am awake. When the conversation in the room came around to boats, I thought of sharing a piece I had written a few years ago, taking off of her Summer Day poem, but the moment passed, so I’ll share it here instead

Pray

i don’t know exactly what prayer is, but i do know how to kneel in a canoe, how to ease into it’s belly and drop down to my knees, how to breathe the deep sigh of release as it slips from shore and drifts into dusk, how to move reverently upon those dark waters, watching for what might be present, beaver or loon, turtle or frog, heron or moose, how to share this wordless place with them all. i do know how to softly dip my paddle, let its rhythm attune with the heartbeat, let the drops fall like kisses from the blade, spread out on the water like sun, how to follow the faintest of shorelines, shrouded in fog, how to bathe in the sky. how to be still. let the waters bless me. how to say yes to this. being loved.

All is well,

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