Waterlogged in Washington

path through the wetlandsI’m soaked. The dog is soaked. The cat goes out for a moment, and comes in soaked, and with an indignant meow, he looks at me accusingly as if to say…. what’s with that door?  Where’s the dry land?

This is Washington State, where (I am told) it rarely rains. Really.  It does not rain.  It pours, it showers, it drizzles, it mists….. but rarely does it rain.  Which begs the question… what exactly is rain?  To that, I have no answer.  All I know is that its wet.  Soggy.  Dreary and damp.

My hands are chronically cold.  They might be permanently numb if it weren’t for those microwavable heat packs that I can wrap around them once in a while.  And it’s not that the temperatures are all that low… it’s just that this constant damp is so bone chilling deep.  I’ve been warmer in single digit temperatures, with snow on the ground.

The other thing about a gray climate: I am never quite sure when morning arrives.  Shouldn’t the  morning sun be a cue to get dressed and begin the day? But here, there is not a clear sunrise. Instead, the sky shifts gradually from pre-dawn rainy black to subtly lighter shades of gray.  Suddenly, you look at the clock and realize its noon, and you haven’t had your morning shower and breakfast because you are still waiting for the sun to come up.

Alright, so maybe I exaggerate a little, but really, this constant rainy gray is tough to get used to.  We are doing what we can to invite the sun –  We placed hanging crystals in all the windows to add a bit of color, and bunches of daffodil buds placed inside the house are opening to a brilliant yellow.   I find myself wanting to wear bright colors, and to throw bright-colored blankets over anything gray or brown. 

It’s not all drab and dreary, however.  Nearby is the watershed area, and mossy treethere are beautiful trails that dip down into the earth and wander through fluorescent green moss and ferns. The trees embrace the wet moss and reach high up into the sky, and  the birds are abundant here. At night:  a beautiful chorus of frogs and crickets.  Yesterday, while out walking, I heard the sweet sound of red-winged blackbirds, and my spirit soared with their song.

An encounter on the rainy trail this morning:  An old man in a red plaid shirt, blue jeans, and brown muddy rain boots, carrying an old ragged umbrella greeted me with a bright good morning.  “I’m wondering when the rain might stop!” he said cheerfully.  “But then, when you’ve lived here as long as I have, you never mind it and you just live your life anyway!”

That seems like sage advice.  To just be in the moment, to appreciate what is, to live my life anyway – this is wisdom.  Regardless of what is happening on the outside, this moment IS my life.   Whining is useless.  It is much more practical, not to mention pleasant to seek the beauty, to live the love, to be with what is.  When I notice that the rain brings amazing gifts I am thankful,  and the doldrums fall away pretty quickly.

And in all fairness, there have been a few sun breaks in the past week or so (my sister tells me that this is the only area where tholympics from capital baye weather casters actually use ‘sun breaks’ as a technical term). When the sky is blue and the air clear, we can see across the bay to the Olympic Mountain ranges.  Really, the area is so incredibly beautiful.

My father, who lived here most of his life, always said that there is no place more beautiful than Washington State.  After long trips, he relished being home where the land is green and fertile, and the salty smell of the Pacific Ocean drifts through open windows and nestles around damp corners.  I think of him often here: I feel his spirit, and invoke his love of the area to keep me sane in all of this gray.

I do know that spring will arrive here eventually (it is only March, after all) and that one day soon the rain will stop, the sun will shine, and there will be the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest to appreciate.

For now, we take it all day-to-day:  living, loving, laughing where we can.

Life Simply Is.
May you appreciate your moments in all that you do.
~Namaste~
roots

Rain in Summer – A Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain! 

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.

From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And commotion;
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Ingulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.

In the country, on every side,
Where far and wide,
Like a leopard’s tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!

In the furrowed land
The toilsome and patient oxen stand;
Lifting the yoke encumbered head,
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man’s spoken word.

Near at hand,
From under the sheltering trees,
The farmer sees
His pastures, and his fields of grain,
As they bend their tops
To the numberless beating drops
Of the incessant rain.
He counts it as no sin
That he sees therein
Only his own thrift and gain.

These, and far more than these,
The Poet sees!
He can behold
Aquarius old
Walking the fenceless fields of air;
And from each ample fold
Of the clouds about him rolled
Scattering everywhere
The showery rain,
As the farmer scatters his grain.

He can behold
Things manifold
That have not yet been wholly told,–
Have not been wholly sung nor said.
For his thought, that never stops,
Follows the water-drops
Down to the graves of the dead,
Down through chasms and gulfs profound,
To the dreary fountain-head
Of lakes and rivers under ground;
And sees them, when the rain is done,
On the bridge of colors seven
Climbing up once more to heaven,
Opposite the setting sun.

Thus the Seer,
With vision clear,
Sees forms appear and disappear,
In the perpetual round of strange,
Mysterious change
From birth to death, from death to birth,
From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth;
Till glimpses more sublime
Of things, unseen before,
Unto his wondering eyes reveal
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel
Turning forevermore
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.

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Stories

Rain by Shel SilversteinRain.  Heavy, steady rain.  The dry ground soaks it up as if it cannot get enough. In an old camping trailer the rain drums rhythmically on the roof, making me feel cozy, yet restless.  Rest-less, as in unable to sleep.  A sense of urgency, of needing to be gone from here before the rains turn to snow, yet still uncertain of the direction.

There is no right or wrong, really, in terms of decision.  Any step leads to a new place, new experience, new stories.  Or unexpected repetitions of old stories. Who are we without our stories?  We define ourselves as this or that, some definitions carried forward from childhood, some developed along the way, some evolving out of radically new experiences, some out of a sense of unending sameness.  Day by day our actions are guided by what we tell ourselves about who we are and what we are capable of.  (Never end a sentence with a preposition, goes a story from high school English class.)

Our stories become our identities.

That’s not a bad thing – it is what being human is all about.  Stories, adventures, experience.  “Everyone should write their memoirs,” Tanza said to me once, her point being that every life is fascinating.  We all have a story, multiple stories that have helped shape who we are in this moment, and have brought us to this point in our lives.   Some of our stories have been adventure stories, filled with travel and excitement, while others are stories of staying home, building family and garden and community.  Some have been comedies, romantic comedy maybe, or even black comedy… Romance, drama, mystery, how about a fairy tale?  Horror stories?  Tear-jerkers?  Happily-ever-after stories?

Ok, maybe I am carrying the metaphor too far, but really, if you think about your own stories ~ the places you’ve been, the people you know, the weaving in and out of connections and paths, incidents and co-incidents ~ it is all fascinating.  Step back for a moment from the drama of your life and see it as if you were reading a book, or watching a movie.  If we can step back, become an observer in our own stories,  we can let go for a moment of  “the way things are suppose to be” and see “what is” with new appreciation.

If I step back from this drama of not knowing where I’m going (what i judge as the failure of instinct) and see it all as story, will a new door open up?  will i see possibilities where I had seen none before?  Maybe, maybe not, but I might be able to appreciate it a bit more as Adventure.

So who writes these stories?  Is it us?  The so-called new age movement had us all believing that we create our own reality – and for those of us who bought in to that we eventually found that such a unexamined belief just leads to guilt, and the overwhelming sense that we must not be good enough, or not doing something right, because our reality sucks, and it’s not at all what we meant to create…..

There is some truth to creating our own reality, as in writing our stories, making our decisions, choosing how to face the situations of our lives. But here’s the other thing…. we can’t see with the long lens of time.  We can’t see all possible outcomes from our small human perspective.  We are, in these human forms, limited.  Can you see what’s  around the next bend before you get there?

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, and for reasons we can’t figure, our stories take us in to dark places, and we wonder how we got here, how we will get out.  Other times, we unexpectedly rejoice in the glory of choices well made, stories well written.  Maybe those really dark places hold nuggets of wisdom and joy that we could not come into any other way, or maybe the things we thought we wanted most are not the stories that bring us the most joy.   We don’t know, can’t know before hand….

No matter what stories we live – this direction or that,  this choice or the other – there is no right or wrong.  It’s all an adventure. We are humans,  maybe just many expressions of god experiencing an amazing range of emotion and actions and stories.  Whatever the plot, our storDeuce and the Dalai Lamaies shape us, give meaning to our lives, create ways for us to share who we are.

Maybe that’s the important thing here: stories need to be shared to be appreciated.  We need to share our stories with one another, give up harsh self judgment for self appreciation, and come together in community to appreciate all stories – to laugh and cry and love and share in the full experience of being Human.   Our stories give us food for relationship; they are beautiful no matter the content, and bring out the tenacity and beauty in each one of us.

How do I write my future story?  I cannot see with the fullness of time what outcome my choice today might ultimately have.  My view is narrowed, limited by the current version of my story.  All I can do, all any of us can do, is to make our choices with integrity and maybe a bit of faith, trusting instinct, taking action, being in the moment, and loving the adventure of once upon a time.

Published in: on October 24, 2010 at 13:12  Comments (2)  
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Happy Is

August 19, 2010

It is cold this morning, and Autumn is in the air here.  The sky is clouding over, and it will rain again today, like it does in this part of the world: Rain, unrelenting.  You have to wonder about the weather in a place where “wellies” are part of the fashion statement.  Yesterday, at the train station, a woman wore wellies with her mini-skirt, making my birkenstock clad feet feel woefully under shod.  It was a fore-warning: at the other end of the journey, stepping off the train in Osende, my body was completely drenched within 2 minutes, and my feet had the long forgotten experience of wading in puddles.  I really felt as if I should have a yellow raincoat, rubber boots, and matching umbrella, just like the pictures in children’s books.

Early this morning tho, back here in Humlegaarden, birds were chirping, chattering, lively.  Someone mowed the grass yesterday (there is nothing they don’t do in the rain here!) and so the birds were in fresh grass heaven.  Lying in bed, I heard the birds, and imagined a warm summer day….

Well, it’s not quite warm, but the sun was out for a bit, and before the clouds returned, we walked down to the sea and soaked up the bright blue sky and drenched ourselves in sun and sand.  By the time we walked back for breakfast the clouds were already returning, the wind picking up, the chill in the air.

What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? she asked.

Lots of things…

The sun, after days of rain.
Good conversation, easy company.
Yoga.          Breathing.
Teaching.  Yes, teaching.         Sharing with an open heart.
My cats.  and Kona.
Seeing new things,    learning new things.
Places i’ve never been before.
Writing, sometimes.          Morning coffee.
Sharing a laugh with jb.

Simple things.

I’m a simple person, really.

But here’s a truth.  None of those things make me happy.  I mean, sometimes I can do or be all of that and not be happy.  In fact, I can be unhappy, and do any one of those things and not come out the other side happy.

Here’s what I know: the happy comes first, and only then I can rest in the joy of the simple things.  The magnificence of morning sun only stirs the joy in my heart when I am willing to be present to it.

So what is it that makes me happy?  Being present?   Being open?   Where does happy come from?

I want you to be happy (she says, I say, you say) and I recognize that when we want others to be happy around us, it is really our own deep longing to feel our own state of natural happiness.

surise after a stormIt is true that when the sun shines, it is easier for me to tap in to joy.  And yet, even in the midst of deep fatigue, even in the presence of pain, even in constant rain, and with a gray day headache, or a migraine  –  I can stop for a moment, just stop, and breathe, and drop in to my center.  I can notice the beauty around me, notice the magic of a moment, and touch in to a place of “being happy” deep within my soul.

With that knowing, I can be happy anywhere, even in a clinic with crazy doctors, and radiology departments in hospitals where I don’t speak the language. I can be happy in the presence of pain, and suffering.  It does not minimize the pain, nor does it necessarily take away the pain, or the sadness, or the helplessness of any moment.  Maybe though, happy can exist along side the pain, along with the suffering.  Happy is a deeper state, a place of wellness beyond the sick, a place of joy beyond the pain.

We all have happy in us, somewhere.  Even in the depths of depression, happiness exists.  It has to.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  At our core, at our very essence, is laughter, and joy, and real love.  It is not based on anything outside of us… it is who we are.

How do we get there? How do we access that, and remember that truth?   When pain is unrelenting, when suffering seems the state of the world, when all it ever does is rain, rain, rain….  how do we drop in, and know that behind the clouds the sun is still shining?

Sometimes, we just forget, and that’s ok.  Somewhere, somehow, sometimes, we remember. In a moment, we see differently, suddenly present to the beauty around us, to the life that exists beyond stories, beyond pain, beyond identity…. and we remember, we awaken.

We are the Life that we live, we are the Love that rises up within us, unexpectedly. We are the beauty in a sunrise, the magic in a forest, the song in a heart.  We are here, having this experience called Life, with all its ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and pains… And we are the Joy that exists always beneath it… the pure joy of experience in this human body….

What makes me happy?

Laughing. Suddenly, for no reason.

Who knows, maybe pure, honest laughter is the cure for everything.

Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 04:30  Comments (2)  
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