mixing metaphor

There is such a sweet light this morning. Clear and full and breezy all the same time. Is sweet the right word then? I wonder at the use of metaphor here. I have been known to mix my metaphors. A personal favorite is to be ‘calm as a cucumber’. Smile. Reaching for some measure of that calm right now, I anticipate the end of the week and maybe, just maybe, the offer to buy my house that I have heard might be coming in soon will happen.

Nora and I are rounding the first quarter of what I now refer to as the comfort loop that my body memory defaults to in lieu of a more focused plan. We’re about to dead-end at the edge of the brook before turning onto the section of steep ascent when I hear Meryl Streep’s throaty Danish voice saying “I have a dream…..”

But wait!  That’s not what the line is, it’s something else, right? Something like “I have a farm…” And even then, I know I still don’t have it right….

Of course I am mixing Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous speech of vision and hope with the dream of a different life as expressed through the adventures of Danish author Karen Blixen. It makes perfect sense to me. I have a dream of moving into a different way of living even if it is not meant to happen right now, and I need to believe that the vision of making and modeling a sustainable life is strong and true and will surely manifest in some way.

I’m walking fast through the loop this morning, opening up all my senses to the exquisite light, the still unused camera slung over my shoulder out of reach. But then I come to the next marker for changing direction. It is a well referenced place on the trail, this collection of abandoned cars that must be from the 50’s or 60’s. Judging from what is left of the still recognizable components of these junkers, they have been here a very long time, now completely intermingled with sticks and leaves and moss…

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The shadow side of me wants to identify with these abandoned classics. Deep down I think maybe I am abandoning my antique house with all its unfinished potential and beauty. I let my mind get all wound up in thinking I could have done more, I should stick around longer, how irresponsible to want a new adventure when I seemingly could continue having one right here….

Framing the cars against the light filled forest beyond brings me back into my body with the relief of beauty felt in this mixing of old with new with right now.

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The house just hasn’t attracted the person with that particular vision yet and as a wise friend has recently reminded me, “Patience Grasshopper!”

The light continues to guide this morning as we work our way into the last stretch of the loop.  Yet another morning adventure completed, vision intact, hope restored.

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Back home, I look up that memorable first line spoken in the movie “Out of Africa” with Meryl Streep playing the role of Karen Blixen. What she actually says is, “I had a farm in Africa”. (Can’t you just hear the voice!?)  Past tense of a storyteller. Indeed. It really doesn’t matter.  Because having the story and having the dream are the same, they can both lead to the same place….

arrangements

The morning is extra cool and fall like. It reminds me of the first day of school, when the flow of the day is arranged differently to accommodate a whole new schedule, and the anticipation of new rhythms makes sleep the night before almost impossible. Something has shifted. I find that my gaze is focused on things closer to me this morning, tactile, viscerally a part of each step taken rather than the sweeping views taken in that typically occupy my awareness at this time. I am seeing arrangements of things that have me stopping constantly to capture the image of what I see, stones arranged across the brook for crossing,

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recently living and long dead co-existing,

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architecture of the natural world,

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even a camouflaged woodland serpent.

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The sightings and imaginings are constant, entertaining for the richness of beauty felt. It is fascinating to me that the infinite number of arrangements in nature can provide such fertile ground for imagination and creativity.

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Of course these arrangements are not actually arranged. Or are they? It’s fun to consider how each captured view is divinely orchestrated for that moment, for a message, a knowing, or simply a spark of deeply felt love and appreciation. Or to consider in contrast arrangements made by human intervention. As an architect it has been my job to make intervention by human arrangement. And it always gives me pause. To commit to stone, literally, an arrangement of forms that might last for generations has always felt like a huge responsibility and one that I have not always been comfortable with. I am much happier discovering order within an existing context and feeling the inspiration for how to gently introduce a change that might be required. I find that the important question to be asked with each design is, how will this be able to change and transform over time?

The forest sightings change second by second in ways I will never see. And they change minute by minute just based on the quality of life that is experienced. One minute Nora is there, the next minute she isn’t and it changes the entire feel of the place.

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One minute it is just the two of us on the trail and the next minute Nora has a new playmate Bodie who leads her into a wild chase through the woods while his human and I wait and make small talk. It is fascinating to consider the social arrangements found here in this place as well. It’s all about the dog, their ability to engage and romp for a brief time and then move on without exchanging names or giving the interaction a second thought. Yet something always changes from these interactions, the reverberations of energy spent providing inspiration for something else to be felt and seen differently. Here it is not ‘arrangements for’ or ‘arrangements by’ but simply arrangements of….

I’m ready to drink my smoothie. It is an arrangement of frozen banana, fresh kale leaves, two fresh apricots, some raw almonds, a heaping teaspoon of Spirulina algae (kept in the freezer), chia seeds, a splash or maple syrup, and coconut milk blended together into a particularly creamy mixture this morning. It is very green. I set the glass on the table and note the arrangement of it’ shape and color against the backdrop of manmade pots and green foliage outside the window.

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There is satisfaction in this sighting of a certain arrangement of things here at home too. It is about pleasure after all, and the anticipation of…

release

It’s one of those mornings where the air is cool and the bright sun is lasering through the trees making spotlights. The dream I woke with seems to be jumping from one spotlight to the next, insistent to stay illuminated in my mind. It’s a pleasant feeling. Light. As if something obscuring forward vision has been let go of and all in front of me is fresh and new.

It was a simple dream. Hugging the first love of my life, he offers his knowing smile, and then the verbal acknowledgement of “It’s over then” as if in celebration of release and return back to the innocence of another time. Took thirty-five years. There is no accounting for where the path of love and loss begins and ends. It just goes where it needs to and I am so full of awe right now looking at the blank screen in front of me in release of a very old belief about how love in relationship was supposed to be.Truly excited! What next?

I look at the trees rooted in the bank of the brook. There are new definitions of love in relationship everywhere I look. Unlike the relatives living in forest tribal communion where intermingling roots abound, these individuals are forging relationship instead with the water. The path of roots staying grounded and secure here require a very different kind of growth in relation to new structures like rocks

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and banks of exposed earth.

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I marvel at the creativity, flow, and tenacity of these trees. Their commitment to forge new ground in relation to their beloved water inspires me.

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These trees had to let go of an ingrained pattern of growth not only to survive, but to live fully in relation to something new and perhaps unexpected.  From death comes new life. In the feeling of light that has followed me out of my dream, I too feel the truth of transformation that can come with letting go in death.

Kush is gone from this life. Helping him to pass was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in a long time. And though he did indeed let me know when it was time, the decision to aid in his death was still so poignant. It’s been only hours now and the sense of loss is fresh and keen, but there is light too. I can feel the transformation that comes in this light and thank him for this. He was, after all, another male presence in my life. Like the line of beloved male animals that came before him, he held a space for me to practice connecting with his masculine energy. Even if he seemed sad or cranky or difficult much of the time. He was always there, always making his presence known and I realize now how much I needed this. In these weeks of his transitioning I know I have been transitioning too. Now in release, everything feels different. I think I need something different now. I’m excited to truly begin the exploration to discover what that different is.

The heart rocks have started showing their faces to me everywhere on the trail. Today it is the stones buried in the earth that capture my attention..

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even one with a sprout emerging from the top. I think, okay, new heart growth, this is a very good sign indeed!

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I will bury Kush this afternoon and offer my final blessings. I will thank him for his devotion and for his gift of letting go in a way that I needed to experience.  I will honor his exalted place as the last of a long lineage of spirits that have guided me along a certain path, and I will forever be grateful for his sharing of release into a new way.

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invitation

Nora is invited to play with Lulu the moment we hit the wood chip path this morning. Lulu is a tiny dog with a huge squeaky voice. Nora rises to the challenge of making as much noise as she can too and it’s any wonder Lulu’s human and I can hear each other over the riotous cacophony of their dance. We are all out early in this overcast gray morning to beat the impending rain, air heavy with the pregnant dampness already. Remarking about yesterdays gorgeous weather as a contrast is an invitation for me to share that instead of being out on the trail with Nora yesterday morning, I was being treated to my first ride on a motorcycle…

I was the passenger riding with someone I trust.  It didn’t take long for me to relax into the balance and rhythm required to maintain equilibrium with my dear friend steering the way. My sacrum was beautifully supported against a back compartment, hands comfortably holding the side grips, legs flanking the sturdy body of my companion on each side, knees pressed into his legs. Coming into a section of road with a series of tight curves leading uphill, I could anticipate the ever so subtle lean required to stay ‘as one’ with him. I could smell things in the air I’ve never quite smelled this way before, pine, grass, heat, even water. What a thrill to experience being on the road in such a different way. I now understand what all the fuss is about. I didn’t fully feel the sedative effect of that sixty miles until later when the accumulation of all the sensations of the experience kicked in. Who would have thought simply being along for the ride could be so engaging.

Now fully into the trail, Nora encounters a potential new playmate. She stops and waits to see if there will be another opportunity to engage, this time with the beautiful golden retriever named Tink who is leashed at the moment. His human assesses, leans over to gently unleash Tink, and Nora accepts this next invitation to play with enthusiasm.

I think I am not all that different from Nora. I realize it is not my way to seek out and initiate the kind of thrill seeking experience that riding a motorcycle can be. And yet when the invitation is there, I accept with curiosity and enthusiastic abandon. With this thought I look down and see the most amazing curved root rising out of the ground…

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As if to encircle, protect, and nurture what is within its range, this root is seemingly returning back to itself, an eternal return, like the ouroboros of serpent circling back to swallow its own tail. I turn and regard the roots of this lady’s partner also prominently rising out of the ground…

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It has to be a man. I wonder at the gender implication here, of the nature of masculine energy that needs to stretch and reach out and seek a form of experience that can rouse all the senses. In contrast and balance, it is then the nature of feminine energy to encircle, drawn in, and hold the space for sensation to just stay and be. So primal. So simple really. And complex too when considering all the different ways these two contrasting energies must learn to dance in order to be together in harmony, peace, and balance.

Nora’s play has already allowed her to release much of her exuberant morning energy and I’m inclined to do an abbreviated walk this morning.  But the trail has invited me to do my usual loop and I am climbing the side of the mountain before I can stop to make a different decision.  I’m smiling now at the memory of an exchange earlier yesterday with my friend.  Nora was being particularly frisky and playful and I said it would take another two or three years for calm, settling, and developing into a perfect companion to happen.  Without missing a beat, he replies, “Are you talking about her or me?”  We laugh together, but yes I think, indeed.  There is some truth here,  He is a perfect example of the frisky masculine essence that needs to be out and exploring and mastering the universe in some way and settling may never be a true option for him.  It is a joy to behold such a pure and self aware manifestation of this energy as I consider where I am in relation to a pure manifestation of my own feminine essence.

I climb up over the edge of the steep bank and the first thing my eyes settle on is this turquoise covered stone shimmering in the otherwise gray and brown environment it lives in.

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I am drawn to the cleft joining the two halves into one and consider that the moss encircling one half of this heart is like the embrace of the root encountered earlier.  My essence is to grow around that which I love and provide a container for rest. It’s a risky realization.  Now it is impossible to deny that each moment will always be an invitation for someone to join me in this place or an invitation to move out of this place into unknown territory.  Either way, the success of relationship will always be in the balance…

 

yield

The ritual of the morning hike comes with its predictability. The wide wood chip covered path that leads out from the parking area is surrounded by open fields that are dotted with wildflowers. This morning my attention goes to the queen anne’s lace, a childhood favorite. I zero in on the perfection of a single blossom. Isolated this way it reminds me of a single snowflake.

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We continue into the trail and I see the flash ahead that tells me he is here. Every morning we encounter the same man in the same place. He is walking meditatively, significantly without a dog. Nora senses his presence, pricks up her ears, and body wiggling back and forth, approaches him like she always does with enthusiasm and a desire to connect. But I have anticipated his response and feel my whole insides clench in recognition of his resistance to engage. Sure enough, he stops walking and freezes. Nora jumps. He responds with exasperation. I suggest to him to just keep walking and she will ignore him. The moment is over and we continue on in our opposite directions. It happens just this way every morning. The knot in my stomach unwinds as I think about how this could be a different outcome. He could stop resisting of course. I could choose to come just a little later in the morning, follow a slightly different path, and miss him altogether. Or, I could yield to the situation and trust that what is happening is okay. I could anticipate the encounter with openness instead of dread of concern that I am not in control of my dog’s behavior or being a bad mother. It reminds me of when I would take Ben to the grocery store as a young boy. Ten people would go by without any mishap and then bam, he would throw himself at the eleventh person spontaneously, looking to hug and be hugged. This charm of his open hearted Down Syndrome way was met in kind nine times out of ten. But it was that tenth person’s reaction that always conditioned how I would anticipate our next foray into the public realm.

The temperature has dropped again and everything is sparkling clear this morning. I have been living all these years with the belief that trust can only live in love. Climbing up the steep incline of the first section of what is becoming the ritual hike, I consider how yielding happens in the space between love and fear. Yielding is a choice, that delicate line of deciding to push through or let go. As I am learning after years of yoga practice, either choice is okay when made in awareness of the moment.   Each choice requires trust in the support that will let me just flow to where the choice is taking me. It is a revelation to consider that trust might actually live in this space between love and fear.

We are approaching the turn off to the ridge loop I have chosen not to take the past two mornings in favor getting back to the water’s edge sooner. But I had already decided some way back that I would continue on the loop this morning. How does Nora know? Yesterday she continued down the trail to the brook, but today she took the turn off to the ridge loop. I follow her up into the trail. What if she is actually sensing and responding to my angst as we approach the solitary man on the trail each morning? And like the spirals that move through my heart and entice me to yield into a challenging pose on the mat, I feel the knot completely unwind and dissolve. What comes up now is a flash of emotion and tears of recognition. I am solidly in the heart of where this particular thread has been leading me, realizing how much I yearn to be able to say ‘I love you’ without the need for control. I realize how freeing it would be to yield to the truth in the moment it is being said, to be able to trust just that.

We’re headed to the exit of the trail and Nora begins to encounter her buddies. Being the dog world that it is this time of the morning, I know all their names, even if I don’t know their humans’ names. First we encounter Elosie, Griffin, and Oscar. They run around each other for a minute or so, but do not settle in for any serious play. Nora instead jumps up to greet their human and he smiles, happy to reciprocate the love. Then we meet Maggie and Ruby. Ruby and Nora have a special bond. Their dance of romping and playing is balanced, harmonious and fun to watch. Satiated, Nora feels no need to jump up for love with their human as we part ways. Next is Lea, Sirius and a new acquaintance this morning, Zeke. More greeting and romping and exploring. We finally reach the wood chip covered path. I look out into the fields and a particular bouquet captures my attention.

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The queen anne’s lace is one of many now, happy to be occupying space with all the other wild things just like this.

 

windows to the soul

I’m surprised to see the white morning glories survived the storm last night. They were the first thing I noticed yesterday in the early morning light and humid heat of the day. Everywhere I looked in the open fields leading up to the trail entrance I could see these shining white beacons, as if night lights that hadn’t been turned off yet. Not clumps of them like you might see on a vine climbing a trellis, but solitary blossoms, like windows to the soul of the earth.

The rain last night cooled things off and it is a very different feel on the trail this morning. The still calm of yesterday has been replaced with the insistent sound of rapidly moving water. Following the rejuvenated brook, my pace quickens. Walking much faster than I normally do forces me to focus on the still point inside of me deep in my belly. This allows for a different kind of attention to where I am on the trail, one that includes the experience of days prior and an opening to days ahead. Once there I can flow forward and backwards seamlessly, my mind free to wander to the light coming though a section of trees as if a stained glass window,

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and to the laser like light framed through an opening to illuminate intimate space within.

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I realize that only seeing the light from outside as the source of illuminating what is sacred inside is as limiting as just moving in one direction. What if? What of the light inside that needs to shine out? Where is the window that such a light moves through?  What is that light illuminating? With such questions now pulsing though my body at the rapid pace I am moving to, I pass a tree with the most unusual opening. It stops me in my tracks, so beautiful even if considered a disfigurement.

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It is as if the thick protective skin of the wood has been peeled back and framed in a way to make a window to the soul of the tree. I imagine the light of this tree coming through to shine on me. And then begin to notice these windows in trees all along this particular stretch of the path, all the while scanning for the place in me that I can feel light living inside; where the window to my soul is most undefended.

Eventually we are back at the edge of the rapidly moving water. Nora stops for just a moment for me to fully take in the magnificent light coming from her, smile…

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And just as we approach the exit, I notice an old soul perched on the bank, skin knobby and marked with age. It is a shock to discover that not only is there an opening to the inside, but that the inside is now completely barren and vulnerable. Her window has become an invitation for the light to come inside, with the promise that the light inside will be there to meet it…

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Walking out of the forest, the light of the earth shining out through the little white gems everywhere is now palpable…

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simple pleasure

There are so many variations to consider from this network of trails. It would be easy to intentionally mix it up and do something different each day. But today I am feeling the need to indulge in the simple pleasure of following the same path I have followed for a week now.

The call from my broker yesterday promised good news and bad news. It’s never a good sign when you think the news being delivered first is actually the bad news. The really bad news was buried under layers of pseudo good news and when the impact of it all hit, I realized just how much my heart has been yearning to be with the piece of land and house I am poised to buy. The bad news was that I might lose the opportunity to actually make this heartfelt place my next home. Sharing this news with a friend after, I found myself expressing that I was feeling ‘heartbroken’, stopped for a moment, then changed the word to ‘heartache’. Heartbroken puts me in a place of inconsolability. Heartache gives me the option of finding medicine to help with the pain.

I realize walking this familiar path this morning that my medicine these days is simple pleasure. Experiencing the sight and sound of this flowing brook in the morning is simple pleasure.

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Receiving sweet text messages from son Ben this past day (from his new phone that allows him to now text easily) is simple pleasure. My meal of gorgeous fresh lacinato kale leaves sautéed in some water and olive oil with fresh lemon juice squeezed on top at the end and sprinkled with tamari pan roasted sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds (seeds pan roasted over medium heat in a cast iron skillet, turn off fire, add a good splash of tamari, let sit until cool) is simple pleasure.

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Finding yet another BBC production of the story of Elizabeth I (a story that never fails to inspire and intrigue me) is simple pleasure, as is completing another few rows of quilting in the hoop…

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Getting out into the garden with my camera, something I typically do all summer long but have let go of all these months the house has been for sale, is simple pleasure…

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The flow of blood through my heart pumping strongly now from keeping a steady pace up this steep portion of the trail is both simple pleasure and the medicine that reminds me of my strength and resilience. Usually this bit of steepness is enough and we circle back down the mountain from here. So it is another simple pleasure to let myself be led as I follow Nora back up the mountain for a bit, the flow in my heart still going strong, as if a reminder that I need a little bit extra today.

Finding out that someone else may be the owner of the particular place my heart is yearning for right now feels like the end of a love affair and that is never easy. But the good news is that it hasn’t actually happened yet. The good news is that space has now opened for considering the world of options still available along this path, all the while being ministered to by a flow of simple pleasures that help maintain the wonder of the day.

It is okay to follow a familiar path that feels good as long as one doesn’t become too attached to the object of desire at the end…