“Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear.
Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.
 Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named.
Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, from mistaken ideas we have about our selves. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.” – David Whyte

I felt like hibernating this morning. Honestly, that’s a common feeling for me this time of year. My body feels so out of sync with the busyness thrust upon me, when my natural instincts are urging me to slow down, grow still, be quiet. ( I KNOW I’m not alone here, though we are told there’s something WRONG with feeling this way. It’s labeled as a ‘seasonal disorder’, but perhaps we are supposed to settle in to the darkness, grow slower, quieter, more introspective. Perhaps we have forgotten how, or are no longer given the tools, to be with the darkness we encounter there without perceiving it as something to run from. I wonder if it’s possible instead to name the darkness as embrace)

But this year, this season, in particular, with the freshness of this recent grief, I am even moreso feeling the pull of the earth, urging me to stillness. With the solstice just around the curve, the day where even the sun appears to stand ‘still’ to those of us on earth who are attuned to her trajectory, I am being drawn like gravity toward her wholeness.

And yet this morning, I awakened early, the grayness of predawn mirroring my grief, with another obligation on my calendar and few precious hours to myself before I was required to show up with my light on. There ensued, intitiated by me, an hour long, quiet and connective text conversation with a sister-friend that allowed me to reach out from within my solitary watery realm, to love and be loved. No, I am not in some sort of free fall into a pit from which I won’t emerge. There is nourishment in here for me.

Yes, there is pain, but it is not defining me the way I have at other times in my life allowed it to do. Nor do I need to label this pain as ‘brokenness’, as if there is something wrong with me for feeling, or even as if there is something wrong with pain itself. 

From this ripped opened depth in me, I have been noticing—there are a lot of other human beings who feel this pain too. Broken relationships, painful interactions, feelings of alienation and disconnection, tragic misunderstandings, feelings of invisibility and marginalization, loneliness, insecurity and outright rejection, are internalized by the precious individuals who experience them as a belief that they are tragically flawed for feeling them.  There are a lot of people feeling longing who are labeling it as brokenness. There are a lot of people who are feeling hunger who are labeling it as sickness. It’s hard to just sit with darkness and let it be what it is without judging it as worthy of banishment or shame, or conversely binging upon some remedial feel good fix. It’s difficult to accept pain without branding it as bad or assigning to it blame, to simply let it be human, with tenderness and compassion. 

By the time I reached out to my sister on the phone, much later in this slow morning, I was feeling more at ease. (The inclement weather outside my window had cancelled my plans and graced me with the unexpected time to be still and to listen, without judgment or expectation, a little while longer) She has been aware of my dis-ease of late and I wonder if she was confused by my seeming quiet contentment. I had awakened feeling weary, feeling sorrow, feeling dread, but by now I was feeling quiet peace, hope, connection, love, relief.

It might appear to be incongruous, to be experiencing moments of contentment and peace right in the midst of experiencing intense sorrow, to be feeling beloved in the midst of feeling despised, to experience peace in the midst of dis-ease. I suppose I could label that as inappropriate, dissociated (or at least divided), as if this being human is an all or nothing deal. As if there is one right way to feel or express. But being human is not an either/or; it is a both/and, where neither ‘side’ is right or wrong. 

We contain multitudes, and our hearts have the capacity to hold more than we have been taught is right or true or possible. At least for today, I am choosing to see the my capacity to gently hold all of these disparate parts of me as a sign of wholeness. I do not have to feel “good” to be ok. I suspect this gift of being still with it, of hibernating, if you will, to simply observe it, let it be what it needs to be, is essential for such wholeness in me to emerge. 

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
asa guide from beyond.


Beavers hibernate beneath the ice that blankets their underwater world, within that world of safety they so carefully tend. Before they turn inward with the freeze-over of the ice,  they are diligent to gather the nourishment they will need to survive those months of being cocooned within that darkness.  Cutting, dragging, and impaling branches of birch, aspen, willow into the mud at the bottom of the pond, just below the entrance to their hearth (notice the closeness of that word with ‘heart’), they are prepared for winter’s blast. They need simply dive to the bottom to retrieve what they have cached away for such a time as this.

My phone calls and texts to my sisters today were one way in which I accessed such a cache of nurture for myself, and when I had had enough paddling in those waters, I was able to swim back up into the protective closeness of the lodge for rest. Writing these words offers another source of nourishment. There is reading, walking, watching the rain (and the last of the leaves) fall, listening to soothing music, looking for beauty through the lens of loving awareness, moving into quiet stillness. In any of these ways, I can pay attention to the darkness without rejecting anything as unwanted or inappropriate.

This ice will thaw. That I can trust. Seasons come and seasons go, each, even the harsh ones, gifting me with a new ring of growth that will offer up its own nourishment one day, in time of hunger or of need.  I will trust my instincts today, that my body and my soul know exactly the shelter….and the nurture… that I need, and I will rest in this gentle, quiet stillness.

“Listen to your life.

See if for the fathomless mystery that it is.

In the boredom and pain of it,

no less than in the excitement and gladness…

because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”

-Frederick Buechner

beaver medicine


Each day that passes, the intensity eases. The earth within me grows quieter, pieces of my self return. Goodnesses that seemed wiped out, or at least diminished, in the wake of those floodwaters, return on my horizon, like the return of creatures after the fierceness of a storm, or the breach of a dam.

I have witnessed a woodland after a beaver dam let loose. The area that was once underwater, offering habitat for not just the beaver but the others who benefited from her capacity to engineer a place of safety and nurture for herself, all at once laid parched and barren. Rich in nutrients from all of those years underwater, supporting season upon season of life, the seemingly devastated and depressed basin soon will become a meadow, supporting other forms of life… grasses, sedges, flowering and berrying plants, and all of the subsequent reliant species of birds and mammals. Downstream, where a new dam has been built, trees find their feet suddenly feet underwater, their branches graying, their canopies thinned to let in light, soon to become the snags that will support cavity dwellers. Not just those particular waterfowl will follow the beaver’s dislocation and reorientation, but also the wading birds, warblers, marsh hawks, insects, amphibians, fishes, and small mammals, such as muskrat, and moose.

I find it fascinating and wonderful the way her need to survive, combined with her instincts, compel her to build something new, and the way that her subsequent and seemingly destructive flood in actuality offers shelter to others who need her particular gifts of survival.

Gifts have been flooding me. Loved ones — dear friends – old and new –children, grandchildren, sisters, and companions – have come bearing them. With a smile, I picture their arrival, marching over the dry land, carrying a branch or two to stuff into the breach, reminding me that this deep well I have crafted within me is a place of warmth and nurture, comfort and safety, love and blessing to them. My presence on their landscape has provided something important and vital. Precisely because of my particular wounds and gifts, my need for emotional safety, it seems that I provide a space of nurture for others, too.

As I began to explore in my journal yesterday, I am continuing to ponder my capacity to hold all of this… the fierceness of my pain alongside the depths of my grace, my mother’s rejection of me alongside the love that the rest of my world reflects back to me. Today, I’m thinking about that enlarged heart the doctors discovered this summer inside of my chest. I am thinking about my canoe trips… my resilience, my grit, my creativity…..and the way my body celebrates there.

Today, I wonder if I diminish the softness of my heart’s ability to hold all in compassion by labeling it as broken, or if i diminish the largeness of my soul when I label my well-learned and long practiced gifts of self-care as suppression or repression, or even ‘toughing it out’. Oh, perhaps that was what I was doing when I was ignoring my pain during earlier years, or even these last years/months of my mother’s life, when I was trying to fit back in to the dysfunctional definitions of ‘good girl’, but I don’t believe that’s what I am doing now in acknowledging the depth of these waters in me, waters that include both boot sucking, fetid muck and delicate, fragrant waterlilies.

My heart has the capacity to receive the one who comes raging from breached dams. It is a familiar event for me, for she has been dealing with the abandonment of dams for as long as she can remember, has learned to adapt and adopt and make of those waters a place of peace and plenty. I have learned well these ways to soothe myself, to create safety, find nurture, rebuild the dam. Learned to help her see that she can be a place of welcome, that she no longer needs to be alone with her pain.

Yesterday, i received these words.

“Needing emotional safety and support isn’t something wrong with you. It’s the sign of something deeply right with you. You were never supposed to learn to be alone with your pain”

Once upon a time, it was true that I was left alone to deal with devastating pain. Yes, it made me strong, it made me learn to be self-reliant and creative in order to survive, and thank Godde I had some innate instinct to do so gracefully enough, though there were years that could have spun dangerously into darker adaptations. But now I see that the dam I built around that pain, which for some time isolated me, has become a place of life, where gentle creatures thrive within its richness.

A beaver pond is a quiet, soothing body of water, after all, with so much life beneath the surface, so many beings drawing nourishment from its stillness, even along the edges, and so much song surrounding it. She’s quite clever that way, really, to have built for herself a such a environment of safety and support, beauty and bounty, love and light. I think I can love her for that

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Algonquin october

If you’d like to check in on my thoughts during the final days of my most recent trip to Algonquin, feel free to click the links below.

Day 4

Day 5

Days 6 & 7

Algonquin October, day 3

Click over to my algonquin blog again for this one.  http://analgonquinaffair.wordpress.com/2018/10/30/algonquin-october-day-3/

Rereading this entry again today, I receive these words of blessing from John O’Donohue

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.

Yes. This.

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