Snowy Egret Landing

The most graceful flight

doesn’t come from

a furious flapping of wings

legs kicking

neck outstretched

eyes bugged out to the unknowable future.

Instead

it is better to ride the

currents of air

and trust

that no matter where you land

on the edge of the pond

that is where you were meant to land.

And if by chance you crash into the water

you have legs

and you can stand up

and walk straight out.

 

Cabin in the Woods (Part III)

I am spending the last few hours in my Cabin in the Woods.  If you want to read my original post, click here.  For Part II, click here.  I am trying to cram in the best work I can until it is time to enter the real world again.  I worked really hard to get here, and I worked so hard to stay here without feeling g-u-i-l-t-y, so I am going to max out every last minute.

Five days in a Cabin in the Woods.  It was so appealing.  And I looked forward to it so much.  And when I got there, it was heaven.  And hell.  Choosing to spend quality time with oneself means that there is no one else to blame when things go wrong.  Or feelings go south.  Or there are crumbs on the table.  You know, the big and little things of everyday life.  But the work was good.  Oh so good.  And cathartic.  Even though I never left my house, I feel like I had a vacation.  A vacation from responsibility.  Errands.  Distractions.  Have-to’s and don’t-want-to’s and even want-to-but-can’ts.  A vacation from everything but thought and ideas and creating and showers.  I took a big vacation from showers.  I don’t even apologize.

Five days in my Cabin in the Woods.  Because there was no real cabin, and I was not properly sequestered, I had to sometimes open the cabin door.  But I only opened it and stepped out into the world for a few, very good reasons.  Several times something came knocking on the door.  I was able to answer the door quickly and efficiently to get back to the work I set out to accomplish.  I fell down the rabbit hole of arts and crafts a little bit too much, but it was real arts and crafts.  With markers, paper, scissors, glitter, glue, sequins, yarn, and magazines- not the mindless pinning of projects on Pinterest that I will never ever ever make.  Ever.  I forgive myself.  It is Valentine’s Day on Sunday after all.

I mostly kept the cabin door shut and locked.  Kept the outside world of cooking, cleaning, errands, phone calls, and the internet at bay.  I was tempted to crack it.  Just a little.  To search for the answer to a question I had.  To reach out to a person in need.  To be with my children more.  I allowed myself to let those things go.  To allow other people to step in where I couldn’t be.  To ask for help.  But I hope that the benefits of this week will bring greater rewards to everyone in my circle than the things I missed.  Because I knew it was temporary, I could allow myself the pleasure of saying no to every non-essential demand on my time.  My energy.  My head space.

One knock came on my cabin door that I knew not to open.  I have opened that door far too many times.  I knew not to open it.  I knew.  But I forgot.  Because I am human and I forgot and also because I always hope that what is behind that door is going to be different.  But I opened it and the bitter cold wind that hit me knocked me down.  Knocked me down hard.  But then I knew what I had to do to get back up.  And I am up.  Up and walking again.  Towards warmth.  Comfort.  Peace.  Quiet.  Connectedness.  Forgiveness.  Empathy.

I am walking out of my cabin with a little better clarity on my life’s purpose and what matters to me and how I can serve others.  I am a few paces ahead on the path with my writing.  And I have a clear picture of where I am headed.  I am walking away from this week with the keys in my hand to return to the cabin whenever I like.  For a minute, an hour, or for a whole day .  I welcome myself home- the place I most love to be.  Even more than the journey away.

 

Winter Walks

Winter walks ever so slowly across the calendar.  Dragging each day out to an eternity.  Even though the days are short and dark, they still  seem to last forever.  I wonder how I will ever make it through these cold and dismal days.  Summer seems like it will never come again.  So to face my fears, I suit up and I step outside.

My weather-proof gear makes a scratchy sound as I walk, the edges of my coat collar scraping at my neck.  It is uncomfortable.  But I am warm.  I have finally learned how to keep myself warm in winter.  It has taken me 42 years.   Warmth is cozy socks and furry boots and knitted hats and wide headbands that cover my ears.  Gloves and coats and long wool sweathers.  Leggings under everything.  Hot tea.  The warm sun on my face, while indoors or out, cheers me in a way not much else can.  Snuggling with my dog in front of the fire.  Snuggling with my family in front of a movie.

I used to waste the entire season of autumn dreading the upcoming winter.  Wringing my hands and gnashing my teeth at the cruelty of the cold.  Like winter was out to get me.  Like it was personal.  Now I can see it for what it is.  It is necessarily hard- the clothes, the gear, the cold, the torment.  So that we will be grateful for spring when she arrives like a long-awaited party.  So that we will be thankful for summer- a day at the beach that never has to end.  And then we will even welcome fall- a time to look back on the spectacular year we have had with gratitude and wonder and awe.  To begin yet another winter.

Lest we not forget, the other three seasons have their challenges too.  I held spring up on a pedestal for so long, until I began suffering from pollen allergies.  And now I have to arm myself with pills and potions and tissues to ward off the poisonous air.  Summer has its share of mosquitoes, bee stings, stubbed toes, and sunscreen-in-the-eye moments as well.  Fall brings the greatest threat of hurricanes in my sphere.  Tornadoes too.  The woods can feel very snakey in fall.  There is a bit of torment in every season.  But a great deal of joy as well, if we can focus on it and not allow our daydreams of different weather to cloud our vision.

In winter, things become clear.  On my walks in winter, I can see deeper into the woods.  The brush has fully died back.  With the leaves completely fallen off the trees, my view extends further than my narrow path.  The silhouette of a tree against a brilliant blue sky is striking.  I can see its true form.  I can see the nest of a bird tucked into a crook where branch meets trunk.  The air has no bugs flying around or pollen swirling about in great yellow clouds.  The air smells clean, like fresh ice.

The garden is laid bare.  Now you can see the structure of things.  Fix what’s broken, move things around, train the roses to grow in a new direction.  Planting trees in winter gives great satisfaction.  They provide the biggest payoff to a gardener with their low level of care, their multi-season beauty, and the fact that they probably will outlive you.  Once you plant a tree, you need not touch that particular spot of earth again.  You can feel finished in a way that gardens rarely allow.

On my winter walks, I see hawks take advantage of the blue sky.  Turtles venture out onto pond banks on sunny days.  The snakes wouldn’t dare come out of hibernation.  So you don’t either.  You relish the rest that the season affords.  But you are comforted by the thought that by putting one foot in front of the other, you can make it out.

I live in the south, where the seasons fall over each others’ laps like drunk girls at a party.  Spring comes in early, demanding our attention.  Summer has been known to outstay her welcome.  Fall is one week at Thanksgiving.  We rake leaves at Christmas.  So winter is a few short weeks in January and February.  I shouldn’t complain.  By March 1st, winter is mostly over.  The loud and obnoxious spring starts making herself known and you have to begin winding yourself up again to meet the demands of children and lawns and gardens.  Of all growing things.  Including and especially yourself.

You realize you only have three weeks left of winter and you get a little melancholy.  Hoping it will last just a little longer for you to rest some more.  Breathe some more.  Read more books and take more naps and drink more tea before you have to put on your fancy party dress and prepare for the dance.

Cabin in the Woods (Part II)

To read the original post, go here:

I did it!  I created my very own Cabin in the Woods.  Well, my version of it.  The one I could create for myself, where I am right now.  I am in my study.  I have everything I need.  I have removed myself from every non-essential commitment this week.  I have a bright white blank square on my calendar for 5 days straight.  I have nothing but time and attention to pay to it.  I have a stockpile of firewood (2 full propane tanks, actually).  I made a huge pot of chicken noodle soup.  I bought other prepared meals, salad, milk, and bread.  I am not going to clean or do laundry and no one is going to die because of it.  We have everything we need.  I am supported here in this space.

So the question becomes:  What are you going to DO?  I am going to write.  I am going to FOCUS on and FINISH the projects I have laid out for myself.  I am going to rest when I am tired.  I am going to feed myself well.  I am going to drink tea and make art and make plans and set intentions and understand who I am and what will be my offering to this world.  I will use reams of paper and buckets of pens.  I have everything so clearly laid out in my mind.  It took me a month to carve out this space.  The trick is to not get distracted.  I will allow myself 10 minutes if something comes up, then I can move on.

Bill Gates takes a week every year to retreat from his life and to simply think.  He actually calls it “Think Week.”  I have copied him shamelessly.  But it is interesting to consider:  If Bill Gates can carve out this time from his family, his business, his many charitable commitments, then surely I can too.  I deserve the time and energy to plan out my life as well.

Go in front of the fire and get warm.  Listen to music.  You have beautiful piano music.  You have a lovely candle with a citrus vanilla scent.  It signifies a fresh new start and a new beginning.  And warmth and focus.  I don’t think it’s an accident that it is a lunar new year today.  Chinese New Year- the year of the Monkey.  Lent begins on Wednesday.  A period of serious reflection and commitment.  When you pay attention, you can see the patterns that your life has followed.  That you had no idea you were following.  They are ancient patterns led by the sun and the moon and the rotation and tilt and orbit of the earth and the movement of all of the other planets and galaxies.  You can learn from them.  Get into the rhythm.  Follow the flow of life.  Stop fighting.

You can rest when you are tired.  Put on warm clothes or get under a blanket when you are cold.  You can let the sun touch your skin and be happy.  You can take walks with God and let her talk to you.  You can listen instead of interrupting and making your own voice heard.  You can practice gratitude.  You can decide how you want to show up every day and you can write it and write it and write it until you become it.  You can live the life you were meant to live.  You can go after the things you want.  You can say yes.

You can cry if you need to.  You can cry great big buckets of tears.  Then you can use those buckets to water the new seeds you have planted:  Of forgiveness.  Of love.  Of acceptance.  Of understanding.  For yourself your family your community your country your whole wide world.

You can stop holding your breath, gasping when you realize you have so much air yet to breathe.  You can allow your breath to find its natural rhythm.  You can breathe without thinking of how to breathe.  You can live without thinking of how to live.  You can allow things to take the time they are going to take.

You can get up and stretch your legs.  Go into a downward facing dog.  You can dive so far down the rabbit hole that the surface of the earth is but a pinprick of light.  And then you can slowly climb your way back up.  It’s okay to go down down down.  Down down down is where it’s dark and cold and slightly damp and drafty.  Where you finally learn what you need to survive:  Warmth.  Goals and plans.  The climb itself.  Every single step being important.  Light.  The light at the top guiding you the right way.  The light is summer- June 1st.  And now it’s time to work.  To get clarity on what you want to accomplish.  Then start making good on your promises.  I trust you.  Let’s go.

 

Sudden Poem

If I ever crash my car

don’t look for a malfunction, a defect,

a technical abnormality.

Look for the full moon barely over the horizon

a wisp of white cloud on a blue sky

a deer waiting in the scrub at the side of a long country road.

See which song was playing on the radio that made me

lose track of time and space and double yellow lines.

Cause of death:  Extreme Appreciation of Beauty,

which has no cure.

Nor should it.

Look for me afterwards in the moon, the cloud, the deer, the music.

That is where I now reside,

tied up with the things I loved but could never be.