Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Exhaling and Meaning It - Hope for the New Year

I wanted to exhale and be done with 2010. There isn’t a particular event or singular reason for this. I am simply ready for a fresh, new, year. Like all of the other years that have come and gone, 2010 – a year that sped by – was laced with accomplishments and disappointments, discoveries and more loss of innocence. I know that time is constant, but as it passes, it seems to be accelerating.

I was so busy running away from the discomfort of the empty nest, that I actually scored a few points in succeeding. Like everything that you run away from, ‘it’ eventually catches up to you and makes up for lost time.

I don’t lack for having my own high level of creative and academic interests. In addition to my work, I am involved with nature almost to a fault, meaning that when dead birds fall from the sky, turtles burn in the Gulf and oil covered pelicans die before our eyes, I get deeply depressed. I have always relied on my connection with Gaia as a companion to my own support system. Since childhood, I have maintained my balance with her.

Our natural environment was a vital part of and incorporated into our home school curriculum. We lived near the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, where my oldest son worked for some time, meaning that we went to and from the center daily. Our activities involved bird banding, hiking on and around the center and a variety of self designed programs. We conducted aqua labs on the pontoon boat on Squam Lake and participated in workshops about habitats, solved environmental mysteries and were dialed into the vast, active wildlife center.

On our farm, we had laying hens, goats and cute but useless bunnies. I have written about the significance of our farm in several previous blogs. We lived outdoors; we lived hard. From collecting, splitting and stacking firewood and cooking on a kitchen wood cookstove to heating our water and using a clothesline and every possible method to conserve, we enjoyed and carried a sense of pride in our respect for nature.

When life took a dramatic turn, and we found ourselves on a different mountain with a different set of challenges, all of our previous voluntary sacrifices became a necessity. My own life came into sharp focus.

My awareness of the importance of nature always heightens during difficult times. Recently, I actually lived on a pristine lake – a wildlife reserve – for three months completely in the elements. My nature journal, “The Summer on Duncan Lake” will come of it.

When I face uncertainty or hardship, it is always my instinct to go to nature in some manner. I have spent most of my life in or around the woods, on mountain tops for the most part, although now I am deep in the woods surrounded by rivers, lakes and mountains. I’m in a valley this time.

I feel lost when I am not in the woods or at least near the wild. If I am separated from nature too long, I have severe anxiety attacks. One time I had been very ill for a few months. Although I was living on a mountain top at the time - during the phase leading up to our swift and dramatic departure - my mysterious illness had taken a great deal of strength. I went to the ocean. It had been a good year since I had visited my old childhood spot in Maine. When I got out of the car I ran to the beach and dropped down on the sand. I could not move. The sand was cold on my face, because it was May. I could feel and hear the pulse of the waves. I fell asleep and did not wake up for two hours. When I awoke, I felt dazed but renewed. It was as if I had slept for the first time in months.

I spent my summers on the ocean in Maine. I am a Cancer; the moon and ocean is a life force for me, even though I have chosen the woods. I am still always near a body of water; there is a pond, brooks, lakes and rivers all around me.

I had a rule for many years, and that was that we (my children and I) could never wear shoes when we went for a walk, unless it was cold or in a place where the ground was unforgiving. Wet, damp or dry grass, warm smooth rock, sand…they all serve as a healing balm on bare feet.

When life is overwhelming, I immerse myself in nature. I go for a walk, swim in the lake, ocean or river. I sit in the middle of the woods and listen to birds, a trickling brook, wind in the trees and various creatures, or I listen to enchanting nothingness – stillness.

Even when life is great, I need my fix. I don’t use nature to cure all of my ills. I celebrate and honor her as well. I think that is why the four seasons are so appealing to me. By the time I start to tire of one season, the next is born. My biorhythms are in sync with New England changes.

When my daughter decided to be a traveling kid, a certain part of me became helpless and fearful. I wasn’t sure how to process her choice of lifestyle. It was foreign to me. I have been learning to take in the information that I have about her and release it. This has probably been the most difficult aspect of parenting thus far. Raising my young primarily on my own was demanding but not impossible. Having your beautiful and talented young daughter hitchhike and hop on box cars and travel the country seems impossible. Avoiding eye contact with harm’s way seems unattainable.

I have tried giving up the news, even though I usually only watch Link TV’s Democracy Now, Thom Hartman and Grit TV and Free Speech TV, other news trickles in. I hear of death and destruction from fires, tornadoes all in the places where my daughter is traveling on foot. I have reached a point where it would be best for me to wear blinders and earplugs.

That won’t work. Worrying about things that you cannot change is fruitless. I have been working on letting go. Like the waxing and waning moon, I succeed or fail miserably. It is because I am still transitioning from active mother to crone. In our society, that is not as honored as in other, ancient cultures, however, I am committed to accepting and celebrating this phase.

Thanks to Our Mother, I am able to turn to her when I need time to regain my strength and composure; when I need to connect to my realness.

I had no desire to celebrate New Years Eve. I felt that familiar clenched fist inside of my chest; the misery of fear of the unknown. I betrayed myself and secretly watched the weather channel and tried to figure out if the tornadoes were still a threat. I bit my fingernails. I refused to watch the ball at Times Square. I didn’t want to drink champagne. I was clearly bitched up. I wanted assurance that everyone I loved was safe. I wanted to exhale and mean it...to get rid of the remnants of uncertainty that crowded my head like sticky cobwebs that I could not reach with the vacuum.

After making sure it was just another night, I went to sleep. 2011 was going to arrive no matter what. Confetti, horns, drinks and hangovers weren’t going to change anything. I refused to make resolutions. They are like those rote prayers that hit the ceiling and fall on the floor. Like rules, they are made to be broken. We need to be in a constant state of evolving. January 1st should be no different than any other day. Got problems? What’s the date? Are you going to wait until January 1st? No.

I woke up on New Years Day exhausted and with an attitude. I knew that change was imminent, and it just happened to be January 1st. I knew that I would drink a cup of coffee and think about breakfast even though I wasn’t really hungry, at least not for food.

The snow on the ground stuck for the first time this winter. It was warm. The Redpolls descended on the ground under the feeders in a flock of about twenty bringing about the first smile of the year. I was relieved because the birds had been oddly scarce. I walked around to the different windows in the house and tried to assess the snowshoeing situation. There wasn’t enough snow and it was getting soft and mushy. I would just have to walk in my gray and lilac colored boots, which I like because they are warm, fat and kid-like.

I pulled on my green fleece jacket and blue checked scarf and headed out into the woods. Within moments, my head cleared. My breathing was deep and cleansing; the cold sliced through my unwelcomed invisible shield and sharpened my view. My pace picked up as I followed turkey and coyote tracks into the woods and around the pond. I stopped and examined other tracks – wildcat, raccoon and red squirrel. The landscape provided much needed relief as I practically broke into a run from one set of miracles to the next. I took over 30 photographs, careful not to take too many of the same thing, which I tend to do in my excitement.

The language of nature spoke. I was wrapped in an unhealthy cocoon of fear, dread and worry of the unknown. I was deep within the confines of this trap, and my attempt to run and seek comfort had caused me to tumble even deeper into the abyss.

Walking in the woods, again, is like bathing. Last night the fist started clenching in my chest as I read more and more about the dead birds falling from the sky and the dead fish on the riverbanks in Arkansas.

My breathing became shallow as I read the list of the top twenty declining birds; some of my favorites were on there, like the Eastern Meadow Lark, Common Tern and Little Blue Heron. Even though I was slightly afraid, which is what happens when I spiral downward with my thoughts; I made myself stand on the porch in the stillness of the cold, dark, night. The icy wind stung my cheeks and I fought the urge to grab the door handle when I heard a rustle in the trees. Within a few moments, my breathing returned to normal. I could see a few bright stars in between clouds.

I cannot save all of the birds or creatures or even my own flesh and blood. But I can reject owning that which is not mine to own. It serves no purpose. Instead, I have decided that I will continue to maintain my wisdom and offerings to all of those creatures who decide to land on my doorstep. I will sustain and nurture, but will not wilt and die from fear or lack of understanding all that there is.

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