richard

Nora and I arrive at the trail today at 6:20. It is decidedly cooler this morning, quieter too for the Saturday morning that it is and the shift in energy of the work week. Not a soul in sight as we approach the entrance to this mornings’ adventure…

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I roll down the sleeves of my linen shirt, glad that I didn’t succumb to changing to a sweatshirt when I felt the chilly air stepping outside earlier, glad for recognizing the premonition that I would be generating some heat this morning.  The sun is still low and I gravitate to the light at the edge of a field down one of the tangents off the trail…

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Seeing the adolescent stalks of corn rising above me with sun just caressing the tops of the trees beyond, I feel how much I am still embedded in the earth of this place. Taking the feeling with me, we move into the forest again and I feel the impulse before we even get to the typical decision-making place where three trails converge. I know I want to work my way up the section of the Robert Frost trail that leads to Mount Orient. Like the day before, I think I will just walk up until feeling the impulse to turn around and walk back. Because I’m also thinking about the farmer’s market and all the things I’d like to do this morning and not that I need to rush, just acknowledging the limits I have already placed on this time.  I round the corner and walk past the usual turn off I make to walk the lower ridge loop. Within moments of continuing up the steep incline, one word washes through me as clear as a church bell….’Richard’…

What’s in a name I think? An amalgam of sources tell me that Richard means ‘brave power’. Obviously this can manifest and be interpreted in a variety of ways. Leadership is implied. A willingness to persevere in moments of adversity is also implied. It is no surprise that this name would rise in me in response to where I am on the trail at this moment, having last shared this stretch of ascent with the love of my life at the time Richard. It was this Richard who introduced me to the wonders of hiking in the forests of his backyard in the Berkshires and on the majestic trails of the White Mountains. This was the Richard who personified the name in his quest for living a spiritual life with a kind of dogged determination to create space for meeting the divine everyday in practices he dedicated himself to. And like Nora, his latent wildness would manifest in a desire to literally pull us off trail into unknown territory which always took me by surprise and threw me into fear. This ability of his would consistently bring me to the edge of something that really scared me and it manifested in all areas in our relationship. His need to exercise this power in him despite my clearly expressed reservations eventually brought us to the end of our time together.

I can’t remember how long it took to get to Mount Orient that day years ago. Lost in memory now, I keep a steady pace, the morning still infused with youth and promise. The trail levels out into a beautifully soft section of pine needles and monochromatic ease. I now think of the Richard who opened his arms to embrace me in a soft, firm and enduring hug that would open the door to my heart in a way that could never be closed again. With honor and great skill he also led me to places that scared me, and like all great teachers, taught me that it is possible to stay here even if the outcome is not what I want. We didn’t climb any mountains together. No, he was the mountain and I learned from his steadfastness over time to accept this style of being Richard as simply letting me take the time I needed to get to the place I needed to get to….

I don’t notice the change until I slip on the rocky terrain and narrowing path. I could turn back now. But I don’t. My feet just keep moving forward as if being gently propelled now by something beyond my control. It doesn’t feel like coercion or power over in any way. But I am conscious of the forward movement taking precedence over each moment…

The next Richard that comes into view is the one who actually called himself Scott, keeping his given name hidden like the parts of him that created the mysteriously sexy mystique he oozed. He had a power all right and it took almost the three years of being students together for me to discover its source. Smiling now at the memory of us scrambling up the rock climb in historic Concord one Saturday afternoon and then eating a touristy meal in one of the local restaurants, we were out of context and vulnerable to truth. He shared that day of the psychic ability he had been aware of in himself since a young boy. His parents knew of his gift and yet encouraged him to keep it hidden. I wonder if he thought he was keeping his sexuality hidden within his spirituality. He oozed sex and yet projected the demeanor of an innocent boy. My attraction to him was already keen enough and this secret only added fuel to the fire. I thought it was love. But we were not meant to be lovers. His steady friendship would bring me to the edge of lust in a way that felt scandalous and scary, forcing me to reckon with my own sexuality in a new way. Meanwhile he simply channeled his power into becoming the successful architect that he is today.

I’ve now reached the point of no return. I’ve lost track of time and know I am close to the top. I see the rocky ledge portion of the trail ahead that signals the last bit of tricky climb before finding the famous Mount Orient view. The first of all the Richards is with me for this last bit of the journey. This is the Richard that made my heart sing in laughter. This is the Richard that showed me a depth of creative spirit that still inspires and lives in me today. The intensity of our connection was almost too much to bear at such a young and tender place on my path and so our brief and tumultuous love affair ended too soon. As I scramble up and over the last bit of ledge to stand on the 400 million year old rock, I am reminded that beginnings and endings are the same. They shepherd us into new, scary, and potentially unknown territory. I think now of the brave power of ‘Richard’ to keep bringing me to this edgy place and the forced reckoning with where true love lives in me.

The view is grand, even more so in the solitude of being the only person here to witness this moment of the day. In witness mode, I’m humbled by the thought that this really is just another moment in the day, nothing better or worse than what was before of what will come…

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Nora continues to forage and play in the surrounding woods, not ready to settle yet, smile….

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And so I wipe my brow, let my heartbeat return to normal, stand, do a few yoga poses, and begin the descent. Once the trail is solidly beneath my feet again, I feel a lightness enter me. It is an overwhelming warmth in the chest, reminiscent of what I felt coming down the mountain yesterday. And click, a tumbler goes into place as I realize that it is in the descent back into the noisy, messy, earthy, and yes, sometimes very scary places in my life that my heart opens in love to myself.

The trail is dotted with sunshine now

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and I revel being in this middle ground where ‘Richard’ no longer feels like just a beginning or an end, but instead like the true companion in spirit he has always been….

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