I’ve been thinking a lot about relationship. Wondering about how to change my mind where relationship figures into the uniqueness of my particular life. It’s no small thing. There have been so many years where ‘relationship’ occupied the arena of human family, friends, and intimate male partners. Deep patterns have formed. Some have lasted, many have not. Living alone now accentuates where these patterns have led. Where I mostly feel gratitude for being able to live the way I do, there are consuming moments of doubt and fear and judgement of the choices I have made, feeling both resistance and acceptance of the way I am.
Watching the birds in their relationships to each other has been fascinating. The chickadees are by far the most numerous and most present. Their flight patterns from tree to tree, perched on a limb surveying the two feeders to choose from, swooping in for their seed and quickly swooping out create a field of energetic arcs and swings across this place that is their dance floor. They work alone. There are rarely two on the feeder at one time. The moment one lands, the other takes off. It is a very specific kind of relationship that speaks of always being part of a large flock but acting alone.
So very different from the blue jays and starlings. These creatures arrive in pairs, or groups of pairs. There will sometimes be three or four starlings crowded into the feeder together. They settle in and stay awhile.
Unlike the chickadee that takes it’s food to a private place to eat, these birds finish their meal, together, before taking off. And unlike the chickadee that is seeming fearless, not moving even as I get close, the starlings take flight the moment they sense my presence coming. My relationship with each of these birds is curious. I can relate to both. At the moment I resonate more clearly with the chickadee. I want to change my mind about the starlings. They fascinate me too. I want to get closer. There is a lot to learn by being with these birds.
My relationship with Nora is also no small thing. She is so alive, so present, so clear. It’s taken me a better part of these two and a half hears with her to learn that I can’t will myself into this relationship, any more than she can will herself into it with me. But my goodness, not for lack of trying! Pushing against each other’s boundaries is a daily activity and yes, I am the human, she is the dog, but in the end, does it really make a difference? I struggle to find that place in our relationship where I can let her be her naturally wild energetic self, free to run and explore, and at the same time, create the safe context where this can happen. We were in a good rhythm for so many months, her sitting obediently at the open door until I said ‘okay’, following the established safe path into the woods, aware of each other as we did our dance of call and recall to reinforce the safety net, Nora learning to follow me when I said ‘this way’, always coming back to the safety of the door we left from, off leash while still so close to the road. I thought we had it down, this established pattern that served both of us. And then last week she decided to follow a different path that took her out of our established loop and put her, from my perspective, into harms way. No amount of anxious calling brought her back. There was a part of me that knew she was just fine, she knew where she was, where she was going, and how to come home. But she was crossing the road, she would be engaging strangers in cars because that’s what she does. When my calling became anxious, I also knew there was nothing I could do but walk calmly, call her back from my heart, and trust.
The dilemma now is how to re-create that context of safety that will serve each of us in our relationship. I’ve had to change our pattern. We now walk on leash to another path in the neighborhood that leads to a much deeper section of woods to explore.
We stay out longer. This seems to be what we each need. I miss our old pattern. I resist going down into the woods and brook and path I so love by myself, without Nora. Leave the house on foot and leave Nora behind? I’ve had to change my mind about the disappointment I’ve felt in this change. Perhaps it is time for me to experience walking this path in a new way.
Then of course there is my relationship to certain foods, smile. Most recently it is with sardines. I have discovered that I love sardines. It took me awhile to get here. I’m not sure where the resistance came from. I remember watching with fascination and disgust years ago when a colleague would eat an entire tin of sardines for lunch, right out of the tin. There was no precedent for this disgust. It’s not as if I had been force fed sardines as a kid and hated them. I have always just had this strange aversion. What changed my mind was learning about how healthy this food is, the level of protein and omega-3 is high for so few calories, even when packed in olive oil. I finally bought and tried them. I have now decided they are delicious. I love everything about them, that they are sustainably caught wild in the ocean, that they are a small fish and have had less of a chance of taking on anything toxic, I even love the little tins they come in. I prefer the packed in oil kind that have been lightly smoked. On a piece of fresh baguette with thin slices of daikon radish. With a bowl of carrot ginger soup.
A perfect combination of warm, primal, earth, spice, simple, color, crunch and melt in your mouth.
It seems like changing your mind can be a good thing.