full moon parable

I can really relate to the full moon most months.  Sometimes it is mostly physical, tingles and agitation in my arms and legs.  Sometimes it is the intensity of dreams.  Last night was one of the dream nights.  It’s been awhile since I have had one so vivid, so clear.  After such dreams I lay in bed in the predawn dark, still solidly feeling the weightlessness of being on the other side of the veil, lucid enough to know I want to write this dream down, but peaceful enough to just stay where I am to absorb every second of feeling so good.   I think of the essay I was reading before I went to sleep, about finding freedom in love.  I’m losing the exact details of the dream now.  In its place, a story forms.  I call it full moon parable.

          “It was the day of the full moon. The family was together inside their vacation home. Everyone was there except one brother who had exiled himself years ago. The reasons were no longer visible. He just wasn’t there and a collective sadness had settled into the heart of each member of the family, Mother, Father, Brother, and Sister. But they all still came together each year at the same time to celebrate what community was still there, to honor the actual real time they could commit to being together in this sacred place in their hearts.    

          That day of the full moon the exiled brother appeared at the back door, uninvited, unseen by all in the house. He wanted to sneak in. He stood there for a long time. He raised his hand and hesitated, slowly reaching for the door knob. He pulled gently. As the door cracked open, a swirl of soft mist surrounded him and he froze. From within this mist, the face of Mother appeared, soft and beautiful to him, as he always remembered her. She began to tell him a story. He saw her lips moving, felt the words enter his consciousness, but heard nothing. He noticed that with each passing sentence he couldn’t hear, he shrank a little. He noticed that he was now looking at the door knob right in front of him, instead of looking down at where he was holding it. Her lips kept moving and he kept shrinking until he was looking through the crack under the door. He was on the verge of disappearing completely.

          It was then that he opened fully, exposed to the rawness of his own heart in this place he so desired to be. Mother’s face had remained expressionless throughout the telling. Mother knows best. Isn’t that what she always said? Isn’t that what he always fought against, refused to believe? She was offering him a choice, to choose love, as she always had. What did she know of being a boy, of being a man? Except he was no longer a man. He was no longer big enough to carry the jealousy and loss he had been carrying for so long. He was only big enough for one thing now. He had to choose. Choosing from here had the power to change the truth.

          The light around her had became so bright, brighter than he thought eyes could hold. He was just a single cell now, his whole life in this moment. Sound swished open and he heard her clear voice deliver the end of the story. She said, “…because if you don’t tell your brother you love him, you will be lonely for the rest of your life.”

  

play

Sometimes a question hangs around for days before I can get a glimmer of rhyme or reason for it. For instance, why brown?   For some reason it is not the golds and oranges and reds this year that are vying for my attention, it is this brown?  It is a kind of infused with earth brown, deep and shimmering at the same time. Like copper.

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Why am I so drawn to this color that seems to be everywhere in the landscape right now?

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I’ve taken endless pictures of the views around the house, with the sun coming up, with the sun going down, without sun, after the rain, even in the frost,

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trees becoming more bare with each blow of the wind.

No matter what the scene or focus, it is this brown that draws me inside, registers, tugs at me, makes me feel something distinct, yet with no words to give voice to this feeling.

An awareness of relating from the inside becomes prevalent over a period of days, as if there is even a way to relate from the outside in comparison? The rain and cold that keeps me and Nora physically inside only accentuates. No long walks outside with sun that illuminates, casts shadows and defines form.  The landscape inside is harder to see, lots and lots of light is needed and light here is harder to come by.

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I wonder if this coppery brown then is the shimmer I feel in it’s depth when there the light is dormant, stored and ready for release in a manner of all  things unfolding naturally…

Of course, being inside on a rainy day only accentuates Nora’s ability to give voice to what is there for her inside, the need to play, the insistent bark her siren call to play play play.  I do play for awhile.  But when ‘play with me’ eventually fails, she actually finds ways to play with herself, tuggy in mouth, swinging her head wildly from side to side and holding on to it for dear life.  Then she actually tosses it herself, runs to retrieve it and starts the process again. Conversely, she can be standing at the edge of the woods, barking loudly in her call to what is out there and all I have to do is say “Nora, inside, tuggy!” and she comes running. Temporarily spent, she will settle in on the couch next to me, or press her body up against me sitting in front of the fire. After a time, the impulse to play kicks in again and she resumes her ritual. It does my heart good to watch this, even when feeling a tinge of guilt for times of not participating.  She reminds me how sweet it is to play, to make this kind of connection.  She reminds me of how little I actually play anymore.

I stretch my memory to search for what ‘tuggy’  was for me back when, if I even had one.  I scroll past loving paper dolls, cutting the clothes out with scissors and bending the tabs to make them stay on. I loved making things with boondoggle and paper chains out of gum wrappers.  I loved my easy bake oven!  And I loved playing games, monopoly and parchessi and password and backgammon. I breezed past all these images and then it was there so clearly, the image of my beloved blue haired troll.  This was without a doubt my favorite toy.  Once my mind landed there, I couldn’t see anything else.  And I became obsessed with finding her, quite sure she was somewhere in the house because I have never let her go, she has always been with me.

It took a while, but I found her stored away in a cloth bag with Barbie, vintage Barbie who was wasn’t necessarily a favorite, but has been kept all these years because of her vintage status.  I mean, it hurts to look at her now, the arched feet that fit into what could only be size 4 high heels, the long unbendable unyielding legs, an impossible body, the heavy lidded eyes drooping from so much makeup, the pursed lips of dissatisfaction.

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Somehow I played with this doll, even made her clothes such as the red coat she has been living in all these years.  I always played with both her and my beloved troll at the same time.  They’ve always occupied the same place.  But I really loved troll.  I loved brushing her long soft blue hair and making elaborate hairdos.  I loved holding her in my hand like a charm.  I loved her bright eyes and infectious smile. I would play silently with her for hours, making furniture and clothes, crafting a home for her, with me and my heart right there with her.

So there it is.  I realize this toy troll, this little beacon of light in front of me now, is evoking the same kind of tug from the inside I have been feeling all week.  The one that has been pulling me into a place that may be dormant for awhile, but still very much alive.

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Nora and I finally got out into the woods after the rain. Even with most of the leaves gone, there is a place down by the brook,where the terrain rises sharply on both sides, that makes me feel like I am inside a magic place.  Here, the brown is now a soft solid ground to walk on.  The sun calls from outside to come out and play.

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the art of adding wood to the fire

The morning wasn’t so cold. I didn’t need to build a fire to stay warm, but rather was called to build a ritual fire to do my sitting meditation with. I pulled the screen away from the open fireplace, crumpled a few pieces of newspaper, threw a pile of sticks gathered from the woods to use as kindling, retrieved a few thick stubs of wood from the ashes leftover from the last fire and placed them gently on top. I lit it. Sat down on my cushion, arranged all my props for comfort in a crossed legged posture, put my arm around Nora who was leaning her body into me, and watched the initial flare settle down before closing my eyes. It was an easy peaceful meditation until I started focusing on the gentle snap and crackle of the flames. It wasn’t a big fire, just a small one that would last just so long, just long enough I figured before the timer would go off to signal the end of my sit. I loved this little fire. I was settled and comfortable where I was sitting. I felt good! I spotted another piece of wood charred stub in the back of the ashes. If I put that on top of this perfect little fire, it could keep going even longer, I could sit a little longer, I could prolong the joy.

The irony of course is that once I moved to reach this other piece of wood, once I placed it on top and watched the flames slowly dissipate from the weight of the addition, and then tried to settle back into the perfectly comfortable position I had been in, the joy disappeared. I watched with dismay as the fire actually fizzled out.

I think of all the places that fire manifests for me throughout a day. Not the actual physical orange blue flame kind in the fireplace, but the kind that starts in my belly and has the capability of spreading warmth throughout body and soul. It is the fire that ignites when I begin to cook, when the flow of something known leads me to something new in a way that tastes really good. Like the potato leek soup**  I made the other night. What is more basic than boiling a few potatoes with some leeks in chicken broth? Putting half of it through a food processor to make a thick purée to add back to the pot. Adding some sautéed fresh chicken ginger sausage cut up into chunks, some salt and pepper, and then…. being led to add lemon. Lemon! To potato leek soup? Is this adding too much wood to the fire?

Apparently not. The lemon finds a surprisingly wonderful place in the flavor of this soup. It is delicious. The fire is not extinguished. But I would do well to stop and stay here now, with what this is. It is wonderful. It is enough.

I think about the fire that ignites when I begin a new quilt. This is tantamount to rubbing two sticks together to get a flame. It takes days, sometimes weeks to catch. Thoughts and images and feelings twirl for a good length of time before I am ready to begin putting pieces of fabric together. And then when I finally do, the fire ignites full force, and I can’t stop adding wood to the fire up until there is something complete enough for me to stop and stay with. This happened yesterday too, and I woke this morning to pieces of fabric laid out on my dining room table, glowing embers now, and the decision before me is to add more wood or stay with what is here…

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And then there is the stopping and getting out of the car to take a picture of a spectacular view, the need to prolong the heart stopping, belly burst of joy at seeing something so beautiful. Adding wood to the fire this way is discriminatory. I don’t always stop. But when I do, I am always rewarded with the promise of a slow continuous burn that connecting with the essence of something can produce and sustain. Like yesterday morning as I was pulling away from the mailbox at the end of my street, the misty fall morning gorgeousness that called out to be seen…

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The art of adding wood to the fire is about learning to stay. To stay long enough. It requires discernment. It requires an intention to be with, to make a choice, and to yield. It is not meant to be done perfectly every time. It is about learning what it feels like to stay with self AND awareness at the same time, about allowing a partnership to exist, if only for a moment, and maybe even illuminate a way to keep that partnership fresh and alive and crackling with warmth….

 

**Potato Leek Soup with Lemon

2 large leeks, tops cut off, washed well, thinly sliced

3 medium red or gold potatoes, skins removed, diced

1 quart chicken stock

2 (organic) lemons

1 large (6 oz. or so) homemade sausage (I used a special of the day freshly made chicken-ginger sausage from my local food coop) cooked in a separate pan and cut into bite size pieces.

Combine leeks, potatoes and chicken stock in a pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low until potatoes are soft. Turn off fire and let cool a bit. Put half of mixture through food processor or blender and add back to pot. Add sausage & its drippings to the pot. Season with salt, pepper and juice of two lemons. Add half of squeezed lemon to pot, and gently heat mixture to blend flavors.

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leaf story

Making oatmeal for breakfast,  I go to reach for the cinnamon. The gorgeous fragrant Ceylon cinnamon in the oversize jar I like to keep filling, frequently, because I love to use cinnamon. But the jar is not where it is supposed to be. Scanning the rows of spices lined up in plain sight I don’t see it. It’s not nestled behind the jars of tea below, hidden from view. It’s no where in sight. Is this going to be like the years of the missing paring knives, when no sooner would I purchase a new one, then that too would seemingly disappear into thin air? I begin to open drawers, cabinets, anyplace I could have mistakenly put this precious jar of cinnamon. But it’s not here. Gone. Vanished. If I have absent-mindedly put it somewhere obscure, I just don’t know. My memory goes back as far as two weeks ago or so when I last used it to make a large pot of apple butter. Did I finish it then? Now I am frantically searching for the empty jar, any sign that will tell me this cinnamon hasn’t just disappeared into thin air. This searching is accompanied by the same angsty feeling that appears these days when I can’t seem to summon up the word ‘chutney’. Every time I am telling someone about the list of apple things I have canned this year, I see the jars sitting there with the others in my mind’s eye but can’t summon up the word. It just isn’t there.

Should I be worried?

Or, imagine if I could just move forward into my day with the other jar of cinnamon I found in the cupboard during my search, without obsessing and spinning into past stuff triggered by this moment. Because the angsty stuff following me into the next moment is not serving me. It just becomes a place of suffering.

It is like seeing the two leaves yesterday. Two leaves, on red, one yellow, lying on the ground amongst millions of other leaves, but for some reason these two stopped me in my tracks.

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I immediately began imagining a conversation between them.

Red Leaf says, “Hey, there’s quite a bit of space here between us. Don’t you want to come a little closer and feel my fire?”

“I don’t know.” Yellow Leaf says, “Can I trust you not to burn me?”

And boom, I am six years back into my memory to a time during a training with one of my spiritual teachers, when she helped me discover just how significantly my inner feminine wasn’t talking to my inner masculine. The means and the language aside, it was a big reckoning for where and how significantly I was isolating myself from the love I so desperately desired. Only two years after my divorce at the time, the loss of family as I knew it was weighing heavy.  I wonder now if this grief ever goes away. Walking along I hardly notice the beauty around me, so absorbed in this thread of past memory, summoning up the angst all over again there too.

Sitting on the meditation stool at the pond I finally take a little break from myself. Smile. The landscape has changed so much in the past few weeks since I was last here. There are thick edges of leaves ringing the edges of the pond now. Everything is a little dull, the brightness of color now submerged. And then I notice how single leaves are floating ever so gently across the water to join the masses at the edges.

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They aren’t fighting the inevitable. Each leaf is so singularly beautiful in its journey of yielding to the current taking them where they are going. I see a family of leaves traveling together, no less or no more beautiful for their connections to each other in relation to their singular friends.

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The conversation that brought me here finally ends. Walking back through the woods all I can see is the thick blanket of leaves all cozy with each other now.

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I will inevitably get triggered to venture into this thread of thought again, but I will also always have an opportunity to search for a better feeling.  Something akin to hope fills me. This is all that really matters, this is the only place I need to be.

a good year

One year has passed living in my new home. Four complete seasons. However, waking yesterday to a deep frost, to the abrupt end of the nasturtiums, tomatoes, morning glories, and ferns, was a turn into deep fall that has come a little earlier than last year.  I notice this now because I now have a garden I am intimate with, because I have now been able to experience a complete life cycle of plants in the woods around me.

Everything changed overnight from this frost and it feels like the marking of an anniversary. The woods are now lushly carpeted with a thick layer of leaves and the sky above is much more present through the bare branches. I imagine the trees simply shrugging, or maybe it was the first shiver of adapting to the cold, the now frozen connections of dead leaves to branches that were still holding on, being able to finally let go.

It has been a good year. I’ve loved being able to watch and experience slowly, the nuances of shifting from one season to another so palpable and clear. I’ve loved that my home has evolved into the warm and inviting place that it is. I’ve loved that my quilt-making shares space openly with the rest of life here in a permanent way, no longer hidden behind a closed door or needing to be put away. I’ve loved developing a more direct relationship to the food I eat and the people who grow this food. I’ve loved that this is a community value, and therefore sustainable. I’ve loved re-engaging with bread baking and preserving food in a consistent way that becomes daily fare. I’ve loved every day of walking in the woods with Nora and establishing what feels like a deep connection with this land. And thank goodness I’ve loved stacking the cords of wood that will continue to fuel the fires in my two wood stoves.

I love coming back full circle to my favorite color orange and all the varieties of squash to eat,

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orange everywhere now, in everything, the fire of fall showing up even in the waters of the brooks and rivers and ponds…

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Yesterday was full of surprises even after the frost. It snowed. The sun shone. It even snowed again while the sun was shining! Most poignant was the walk around the meadow. I was able to look back into the woods through clearings that weren’t there the day before.

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The meadow became monochromatic texture.

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The dark sky against sun drenched golden leaves evoked the continuing drama of the day.

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And at the end of the day, home was filled with good friends, fellow writers sharing our work with each other, sharing a meal together.   It felt like the perfect ritual for this turn into another year, where inviting and being part of community becomes a more active part of the next cycle of seasons.

It’s been a good year. Sitting here cozied up to the warmth radiating from the wood stove I feel the confidence to continue engaging with a full life here, with love and compassion for where I can go when solitude shifts into loneliness, and with curiosity about where desire will continue to lead…

It’s been a good year.

blending in

I invited two of my new neighbors for an impromptu dinner last night. Inspired to make a seasonal meal, I set the intention to spend an afternoon cooking, something ‘pasta’ I told my neighbors, maybe some sort of soup too. Thinking, perhaps this was the night to make nasturtium pesto with the abundance of nasturtiums still filling my garden, or some homemade pasta using the spinach like greens of the mangel beets, also still vibrant and abundant. Or an onion sauce with the gorgeous onions from the farms, sitting in a bowl waiting their turn.   Or a first pot of carrot soup with the dirt covered carrots in the fridge, also fresh from the farm.

I would decide after my time outside with Nora.

Walking in the woods, I couldn’t help but notice how Nora all but disappeared in the fading colors of the forest ferns. I became focused on capturing this in some way. Because she never stops moving out there, I could only catch partials of her immersed in the landscape, blending in a beautifully integrated way with all she touched.

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I sometimes find myself longing for this kind of blending in, to be able to authentically move freely within all I am intimately connected too at the same time, to feel safe enough to hold my energy in a little closer while fully engaged with what is happening outside my bubble too. A friend shared recently that she actually practices pulling her powerful energy in enough to allow others to get a little closer and have their voices fully when she is in group settings. I know I could benefit from this practice too. It’s far too easy for me to take over in some way. And bless Nora for mirroring this for me, sweet Nora who simply must be in the lead at all times, not just a few paces ahead, no, more like the length of a football field ahead. It’s impossible to ignore this energy in her, impossible not to dwell on how it makes me feel. The angst of not being able to control where she is going or what she is doing, especially when we are in a public place. Worrying that I am not able to play in the sandbox easily with the other kids. Seeing her here so integrated and connected to her environment this way shifts something in me, helps me accept the beauty of all she is in her wild focused way.

Before heading into the house, I turn to capture my daily breathtaking, soul catching view.

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Then decide not to decide, but to simply make it all for dinner. I have a clear image of fresh green lasagna noodles, alternatively layered with onion sauce and nasturtium pesto as a main course, and a carrot ginger soup to start with.   I dive in, make an afternoon of it, thrilled with my new pasta rolling machine, the fun of making homemade pasta,

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and the ultra thin layers of beautiful green noodles produced.

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The three large onions are thinly sliced and sautéed gently over low with some olive oil and salt until very soft. Add a half (14 oz.) can chopped tomatoes, continue cooking until oil begins to separate a bit.

I make the pesto with just picked nasturtium leaves and flowers, 2 cups packed leaves and 1 cup flowers. Put in food processor with 1 large clove roughly chopped garlic, 3/4 cup nuts (I used combo toasted walnuts and fresh pine nuts) pulse until combined, then add 3/4 olive oil, salt & pepper to taste, and finally 1 cup fresh grated Parmesan.

Meanwhile, a saucepan is filled with sliced carrots and a large piece of fresh ginger, cover them with water, add a couple of vegetable bouillon cubes and simmer it all until the carrots are soft. Let it cool before processing it all in a blender, put back in the pot with salt, pepper, a shake of ground fennel and some heavy cream. Heat gently until all blended. For garnish, make tamari pumpkin seeds by heating seeds in a small cast iron skillet until just popping and starting to brown. Turn off heat, sprinkle with tamari and stir to evenly coat seeds. Let cool in pan.

Lasagna is made and baked. Gorgeous. Shades of green blended with golden cheese, translucent onions, and flecks of red tomato….

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I had some fleeting worries in the time of making it all. I was fully in command of the kitchen, most of what I was making was new territory. I was engaged in the kind of exploration I can get lost in. I ask myself, what’s the point? Will there ever be room in this for someone else too? Does there need to be?

I imagine that my fully focused creative journey alone in the kitchen is no different from the focus of Nora forging energetically ahead. It isn’t just about physical exercise after all.  This is about being engaged with purpose. She eventually settles down and blends in quietly after her urges have been satisfied. I eventually set the table and greet my guests, and settle into a perfectly lovely evening of sharing time, and delicious, soul satisfying food, with my new friends.

Foxy

I laid my head on the heart of a giant white draft horse named Foxy this weekend. Still only seven months old, still growing in the gorgeous flesh she inhabits, this beauty already embodies a spirit that invites you to be still, open, and trust that you can stay as long as you need to. Any impulse to get close was honored in so many ways. Such as this photo….

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The spirits (as orbs) that were surrounding her were strong and as public as could be. No coincidence that orbs were visible in so many photos shared of the weekend.  For me, feeling this energy, stroking the soft white, wrapping my arms around her body, being able to rest my head without fear, was such a gift.

She and her companion that day, Piper, live full time at Blue Star Equiculture in Palmer MA under the stewardship of Pamela Rickenbach and a dedicated community there. They came to be part of the two day open house at Bedlam Farm, home of Jon Katz and Maria Wulf in Cambridge NY this weekend. I knew they were coming, but I’ve never been a ‘horse person’ and was more focused on connecting with and forming in flesh bonds with so many individuals I have been communicating with in the online creative group spearheaded by Jon Katz. So the impact of the presence of Blue Star at Bedlam Farm took me by surprise. I sat riveted to the talk given by Pamela Rickenbach, moved by her open expression of personal grief (of her husband’s recent suicide) in combination with her heartfelt mission to provide sanctuary for horses and humans alike as healers and in need of healing. The message she delivered found home. These creatures have walked the earth along side of us humans for all time. They are here to help us in every way. Our job is to let them.

I woke this morning thinking of my grandmother and her Mr. Equity. Like so many of the tales that swirl around my grandmother, I don’t know how to separate truth from story but I’m not sure it matters. What I know is that my grandmother loved horses and had Mr. Equity in her life for a time as a young woman. She was probably in her mid thirties, already a mother of a sixteen year old daughter who was getting ready to go to college, already with a life’s worth of challenging experiences under her belt.   I have seen pictures of Gramma riding, pictures of the barn and the setting in which they lived. At some point, she had a portrait of Mr. Equity made. This portrait hung prominently in every house she lived in. I actually remember her posing me for this photo when I was only four years old, as if touching this portrait and holding her crop could connect me to her love.

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Gramma posed me for pictures my whole life. I have to wonder what experiences I had, even in those poses, that I would have missed otherwise…

Most significantly, it is this portrait that was the last personal item on her wall at the nursing home the day she passed. Of course I was the one that hung it there for her when she moved in, having transferred it from the assisted living home she had been in before that. Her Alzheimer’s at that point was quite progressed. And I wonder there too, what the experience of having Mr. Equity with her there at the end, even if in the spirit of an image, might have been. I was with her those last hours and there was never a moment that didn’t feel peaceful, supported, and inevitable.  Perhaps it is time to bring Mr. Equity up from the basement and let him live on my wall too…

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The impact of my hug with Foxy continues to linger. It certainly did help me to open fully in a way I needed to that day. I keep thinking of the word ease. I could walk around by myself and not feel any pressure at all to be anything other than just who I was in that moment. And the next moment I could easily flow with who was in front of me to connect with. This must be what freedom in true community feels like, to be able to trust this way.

Driving home yesterday I could feel the momentum of traffic forming on the highway and simply veered off the next exit, re-set my navigation, and felt the freedom of being the only car on wide open beautiful country roads. Within a few miles however, I came upon an accident that had just happened, car flipped over on its hood, fire trucks and ambulances screaming to the scene, road closed, all traffic being diverted. Felt the pinch in my chest that comes with encountering fresh tragedy, and the awe of how quickly help arrives.  This time I had no choice to re-route again, this time on blind trust that I was headed in the right direction. And so the trip home went. Letting go to an impulse. Encountering what could be perceived as an obstacle to fully enjoying the gorgeous day driving in the country. Letting go again. More traffic, worry about time creeping in. Letting go again to engage with what was in my heart right then. And so on.

No surprise here though, that though the drive my heart kept taking me to my relationship to food and nourishment. Reckoning with the truth that this thing with me and food is no small thing. That I’ve never thought it was enough, to let this be the thing that leads me out of my heart in an even more public way, in a way designed to serve. Inspired as I think of the noticeable line of people waiting in front of the smallest antique looking food cart I have ever seen in the front yard of a house as I was pulling out of Cambridge. Eight o’clock in the morning. Waiting for fresh homemade donuts. Smile.