Friday, September 9, 2016

Not my terms. Better

On Tuesdays I take a day off. To make that mean something, it's also a day offline. This creates a barrier between me and "just one email!" that quickly slides into a few hours tending to work-related tasks. These internet detoxes feel so precious. I find my mind free up remarkably. Thoughts wander creatively, connections occur that I generally don't create time for when I'm guided by my To-Do list.

Going offline and going away feels like maybe the most refreshing thing these days. Like, dewy sunrise refreshing. Like, hot day cold lake refreshing. Like, big juicy peach refreshing.

I keep two notebooks nearby: one for work-related things so if I remember something I have to tend to I can write it down and relax my brain. The other is for creative musings.

Last Wednesday morning, I sat on a screened-in porch in a cabin on a farm in West Virginia and let my mind soften into boredom. Meaning, the incessant "what's next?!" chatter in my mind wasn't tended to. Slowly, it stopped. And then I could be where I was. I listened to the birds chattering and thought about how my grandmother (Tennessee-raised and Georgia-residing) used to say, "the birds are fussing." In that context, her turn of phrase felt incredibly accurate. I've long been a fan of Southern colloquialisms-- I think they're beautiful-- but they also felt more true in that setting.

I thought of her other ways of speech-- "I'm fixing to." Yup, when you're not in a rush you are fixing to. I was fixing to get up from my coffee for about a solid hour. Instead, I poured more and Kevin and I played board games.

I read a quote from Thomas Wolfe:

"Something has spoken to me in the night... and told me I shall die, I know not where. Saying: '(Death is) to lose the earth you know for greater knowing, to lose the life you have, for greater life, to leave the friends you loved for greater loving; to find a land more kind than home, more large than earth."

In the woods, I don't feel too important. The meaning of life doesn't have to be discovered-- it's everywhere. Animals are free but they're also bound by their hunger and search for food. Plants climb to the sun and they're torn down. I don't have to figure it all out. What I do doesn't matter so much. I just have an invitation to create alongside all of creation.

I read a quote from Walt Whitman:

"Now I know the secret of making the best persons; it is to grow in the open air and eat and sleep with the earth."

Kevin is a big fan of Uncle Walt but especially in these words. It's hard to complain about bug bites and desires for creature comforts when a peach feels so satisfying. A few days in a cabin in the woods seemed to scale the world both up and down. I felt far more integrated into the whole of things and the whole of things felt far more expansive. I took open-air showers under a bucket of well water. Afterwards, I used the olive oil we'd brought to moisturize (my long-time travel trick). I put on my pajamas and felt so unbelievably comfortable-- so much more comfortable than if I'd had hot water plumbing and luxurious robes and potions. The simplicity made effort and ease proportional.

I read a quote from Ron Rash:

"That's what wilderness is-- nature on its terms, not ours, and there's no middle ground."

And I felt grateful to this invitation into exhilaration, into movement, though it moved at a pace much gentler and different from time as I experience it on the grid. Life felt challenging and sweeter.

When I came home I answered some writing prompts about how I want my home life to feel. Happily, it's largely consistent with my vision: calm, comfortable, clean, spacious...

To have space to think and observe.

To feel where I am.

To feel at peace with what is.

To be receptive to it all.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fallingwater and into West Virginia

A few years ago I was home along with Laz, our cat, while Kevin was at his residency at Goddard. I was getting reports of impending Hurricane Sandy and I was nervous. Kevin was often unreachable at Goddard given Vermonters wise-- and annoying-- fights against cell phone towers. I get it. The birds and I thank you wise citizens of Vermont. And yet when Kevin was largely inaccessible I was impatient.

I finally got word that he would be home and it seemed, in advance of the storm. I made preparations according to panicked news reports. When Kevin saw, he laughed. Having grown up in Hurricane-prone coastal Virginia, he were used to storms and didn't worry much about them. My brow furrowed.

The storm was intense. When it had passed over, I finally relaxed but Kevin sprung into action. He began removing fallen debris and checking out the streets and neighbor's properties. I was stunned. He knew how to be present and useful, but his timeline was the direct opposite of mine.

This is often the case.

When we travel, I love to read about where we're headed so I have insight and imaginings to place alongside the reality of our experience. Kevin likes to move into something new without any prior impression and then learn deeply afterwards.

When we elected to head to an off-the-grid cabin in West Virginia, I saw that our Ohio Valley destination was only an hour outside of Pittsburgh. I created a route out that included a stop in Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright design.

First, I picked up The Women by TC Boyle. I loved this novel told through the perspectives of Wright's various companions. When Kevin and I arrived at Fallingwater I had a rich imagining around where Wright was in his life, the various influences on him, and his famous ego rising up against his patrons', the Kauffmans.

Kevin on the other hand, was taking it all in for the first time. A true American artist. Design that was neither of our favorite in actuality, but we loved the urge to be located in the landscape, to find integration.

After touring Fallingwater, we continued our trek west to Pittsburgh. We passed through Squirrel Hill and the Strip, admiring the rivers, before heading further west and into "Wild and Wonderful West Virginia." Yes, we absolutely played John Denver as we passed the state line.

I knew that we had to bring in all potable water for our three night stay, along with bedding, towels, and our food. As is our pattern, I had meal planned, prepared, and packed. Kevin had done far less, but as we climbed up the farm's drive and stole deeper into the woods, he was a far more valuable asset.

We hiked 3/4 of a mile into a secluded camp site where we found our temporary home: a one room cabin with a screened-in porch. For cool nights, a wood burning stove. To bathe, a bucket hoisted in an open air shower. Water to wash up around the camp site was pumped from a little seep downhill.

I unpacked what we had brought. Kevin rolled up his sleeves and chopped wood.

I read Appalachian Southern Gothic novels and set that experience against my own quiet reality. We rested in the quiet space between us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

New Moon

I learned that Friday September 2 was a new moon in Virgo, leading up to a full moon in Pisces. Also, a Mercury in Retrograde. Somehow, Chiron, the archetype of the wounded healer, is implicated in all this.

I don't know. All I know is I'm digging it.

I heard that the three annual Mercury-in-Retrograde cycles can be excellent invitations to slow down. They remind us to re-examine our communication and also be attentive to what information we are digesting and internalizing. Leading up to this September 2 event, I was invited to "clean out communication, eat stable food, meditate, make altars, and ground down."

So I went to a cabin in West Virginia.

No communication, apart from conferring with Kevin about who would pump the water.

Very stable food. We brought several mason jars of rice and beans. Reheated them for most meals over the Cookman camp stove. Brought a pecan pie. Ate it by the fire. Often, several times per day. A couple of peaches to ward off the scurvy.

Buffalo creek creates the border of Redbud Farm, the host to our small cabin on a hill. We canoed a bit in the creek. Kevin almost stepped on a turtle (they've been crossing his path frequently of late. I think it's a message to slow down). The creek bed was filled with river stone. One afternoon, we spent a few hours making cairns. Most of Kevin's were architectural, jenga-ascensions, a few of which tumbled. Mine were a bit more traditional, smaller, but well chosen.

I made them because I was reminded of this invitation in a new moon to slow down and think of what I'm creating. To think of how I'm communicating and being present.

Our cabin was also filled with folk art and the owners invited all visitors to make something. I figured stone cairns along the creek were also an offering of art to this particular space.

I was reminded that Chiron is the archetype of the wounded healer. Water serves him, as it reminds of the fluid nature of pain and compassion.

I made lists of what I do, how it sustains me, how it grows, and what paths stop. I made decisions. I decided to let a few projects go so I could feel more balanced and less time-starved. I decided to create some space for less rush and more intention.