Ben captured an image of me with the dogs while practicing with his new Christmas camera. It was a rare brief moment of all three of us in communion. But as soon as I moved even the tiniest bit, the entire scene would shatter and shift into the usual whirling dervish of attention getting behavior. If only I could sit just like this indefinitely, calm and equally loving for the two canine spirits I share my life with.
I read recently that “life is a balance between rest and movement” (Osho) We three would soon all be separated from each other, on vacation from our usual ways, me on a two week retreat away from home, Yogi staying with my parents in their home five hours away, and Nora holding down the fort here with a new companion/house sitter.
My parents left with Yogi. Ben, Nora and I ventured part way into the woods for an much needed walk after days of rain and being indoors. It was almost balmy, and very slippery under foot in the soggy snow that would turn to solid ice during the anticipated overnight freeze. It was hard to maintain sure footing. We wouldn’t get far and it didn’t matter. It felt so good to be walking alongside the rush of water now liberated from ice, the sound of beauty living in the force of nature.
Walking in the woods with the snow requires cramp-ons or snowshoes when the snow comes to stay for good long while. I’d had only one such walk before the holidays. It took twice as long for me to negotiate the short loop to the pond and back with Yogi and Nora making the first tracks in our otherwise clear path. In this, they too have become part of my world where forces of nature create context for feeling joy.
Forces of nature are so erratic these days, and I feel unsettled in the anticipation that a heavy snowfall might be followed by rain the next day, and then a freeze.
Has it always been this way? Is it my yearning for some level of certainty that has me only remembering the long winters of my youth when the snow came and stayed until spring? It feels like a metaphor for the times. Anything goes, even climate change, extremes one day to the next, never any real time for truly resting with what is there before making the next move, or being distracted by the next influx of information.
I’ve been doing this retreat for four years now. In many ways it has become another certain part of my life. We are asked to arrive with an intention for the work we will all be doing together in meditation and yoga practice and fun. My intent is simple this year. I want to re-learn how to read novels again. I watch a lot of movies and old tv show re-runs like ER. I am writing a lot but I can’t remember the last time I actually read an entire novel or short story. I suppose this will require some re-awakening, some re-membering of the pleasure I used to feel as a younger version of myself during undisturbed hours of absorption with the written word. Immersing in fiction in the past always allowed me to stretch my imagination and occupy new terrain. It’s not just about remembering how to engage and stay present with a good story. It’s about acknowledging, perhaps even accepting, my current emotional need for certainty and stability. For so many years now I have satisfied that need by opening to the certainty of beauty that is always there, in the force of nature in every moment.
It’s like a drug. I want it all the time. I want to feel the immediate multi-dimensional emotional hit of an image that I can capture with a click on my iPhone. The narcissist in me thinks I am seeing this uniquely through my eyes. That this my movie, even if controlled by nature. I don’t know if this is truth or not.
Discovering order and seeing beauty has become the backbone of my story and a kind of certainty I can depend on. Is it still possible to fully open to and truly get lost in another person’s story without losing myself? Perhaps surrendering my current fixed image of self to the emotional guidance of a good book, if only for a short period of time, is exactly the point.