STOP: Dangerous Bridge

About ½ mile into the woods on a trail I have been running regularly since last spring, a rotting bridge straddled the creek. A sign, with a crude stop sign shape and the words STOP: Dangerous Bridge painted in red, was affixed to the handrail. Every time I approached the bridge, I did stop. I read the sign, contemplated the risks and proceeded, picking my steps carefully so as not to fall through the holes or the rotting wood ready to give way at any moment.

My pause before stepping on to the bridge and my slow progress across meant that I had time to look around. I noticed the height and flow of the water. I noticed the rocks that protruded and those that were submerged. I noticed the trees on either side of the creek and the darkness of the forest floor in this particular place with its dense canopy.

And every time I paused there, I had an extra breath to notice that crossing a divide takes time and intention. It can be daunting and it can be exciting – and, usually it doesn’t really matter where the crossing lives on the spectrum between “piece of cake” and “here goes nothing”.  The only way to get to the other side is to put one foot in front of the other until I reach the other side.

A few weeks ago, a group of volunteers replaced the bridge with a new one. The new one is lower, safer and well aligned with the trailbed on either side. It does a much better job of protecting human travelers from accidents and also protecting the stream bank from erosion. The new bridge is comfortable to approach, travel across, and step off. The last few times that I have run this way, I have appreciated the simplicity of the wooden structure and the craftsmanship of the rock cribbing on one side of the bridge. But I have run right through the creek valley without noticing the condition and contour of the earth, the rusty water, or the dappled sunlight. Without the dangerous bridge inviting me to pause, I have travelled through this place caught in the thoughts in my head instead of aware of the presence of the forest. I have not only missed the opportunity to connect with this bit of land, I have missed the opportunity to acknowledge the necessity of making each crossing with intention.

While I miss the pause, I appreciate the uninterrupted flow, the continuity created between the two sides of the bridge. The bridge creates unity. 

I am yearning for this coming together in so many aspects of our social dynamic. We need to tend to the bridges of connection in our communities and nation so that we may better recognize our interconnectedness. Despite our apparent encampment on either side of political or social divides, we are one human family. I believe that we––all of us––are more alike than we are different. And sometimes the bridge is safe and accessible, and the movement feels easy. Other times, the bridge is rotting and dangerous but crossing, and pausing to stand in the middle to take stock of the landscape, is the path to wholeness. 

Crossing

This bridge is a threshold,

a passageway,

Between there and here

between then and now

A place of transition

A posture of possibility

A mode of connection

A practice of trust

Can we? 

Will we?

How do

We cross?

 

We must build

from both sides

With hope

and faith,

Courage

 and love.

We must build

from both sides.

Gifts of the Season

So much to celebrate! Samhain. Halloween. All Saints Day. Dia de los Muertos. We are turning into the season of darkness. The veil between the here and the hereafter is thin. The ancestors and future generations are mingling in my dreams. There is much to notice and honor.

For weeks, the world has been golden. The leaves on the trees had turned a deep yellow. Surely they reflected the sunlight but they also seemed to glow with a light of their own.

The sunlight has shifted. This is most obvious at sunrise which happens later and later each day and at sunset which surprises me by arriving earlier and earlier. But it is also less strong, casting a more indirect light on this corner of the planet.

Just this week, the earth and sky transitioned from this golden lingering of early autumn to the late autumn that portends winter. The morning frost is thick and a light skim of ice forms on top of the compost lid nightly. The ground holds almost as many leaves as the trees. 

I am grateful to join the season in turning inward. It has been a generative growing season. The garden yielded a summer’s worth of vegetables and we still have an overflowing basket of winter squash and bags of carrots. While the pandemic has grounded us at home, my family has found new strength in our connections with one another. And throughout the summer, I have finished my new book, Arriving Here: Reflections from the Hearth and Trail. It will be ready for release within a few weeks. The flurry of creation is coming to an end and the season to reflect and digest is arriving. It may be true always, but in this fall season, I am recalling a poem by Hafiz that reminds, “Now is the season to know that everything you do is Sacred.” 

I will share more about Arriving Here in the coming weeks — and I will certainly let you know when it is available for pre-order!

In the meantime, I had the pleasure of being a guest on Suzanne Radford’s podcast. A certified forest therapy practitioner and communication coach. Suzanne expertly guided our conversation from the present moment, to the past, and into the future. We explored the open spaces of awareness, the intimacy of connection, and more. Listen here – and consider subscribing to the Nature Pod for more opportunities to explore the gifts of the natural world with Suzanne.

Turn, Turn, Turn

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

These words from Ecclesiastes, made familiar by the Byrd’s, Bob Dylan and other folk heroes, have been echoing in my mind for several days. I recognize them as accurate and true. They also feel prophetic.

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

There is a generational turning, perhaps even an epochal turning, occurring in our lifetimes. Perhaps that is overly dramatic. Surely, other generations have felt the weight of history and hope for the future bearing down on their decisions and indecision. At this time, it is clear that the breaking down and the building up are happening simultaneously, along with the killing, healing, weeping, laughing, mourning and dancing. This emotional outpouring is overwhelming. To what can we give our energy and attention?

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

We can sort the stones, cast away those that no longer serve us and gather close those that nourish, nurture, and heal. We cannot embrace but we can refrain from embracing with all the love in our hearts. We can care for our communities, near and distant, by safe-guarding physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

We can use our money, our vote, our privilege, and our words to name the injustices we see and to advocate for a prosperous present and future for all beings. In silent presence, we can heal the broken human heart and hold space for the earth’s healing power to flourish. With every turn, we can stitch together the frayed edges and reclaim our wholeness and belonging to All That Is.

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

A time of peace, I swear it’s not too late… Listen to this beautiful rendition from Judy Collins and Pete Seeger and allow the seed of possibility to find fertile soil within you.

What We Need is Here, Somewhere

Last week I attended both the BTS Center’s Convocation: Engaged Hope and the One Planet Peace Forum. Both events were opportunities to learn from and enter into practice with faith leaders, visionaries, and justice workers. Needless to say, it was a full, thought provoking, and inspiring four days. 

Importantly, the internal and external conversations that continue to resonate from these two conferences have been rich and meaningful––I can feel new learning and ideas finding space inside my body and collaborating with both prior experience and aspiration. 

At one point in the weekend, someone quoted from Wendell Berry’s poem “What We Need is Here”.

And we pray, not

for new earth or heaven, but to be

quiet in heart, and in eye,

clear. What we need is here.

As I re-read the entire poem to myself several times over the weekend, my body relaxed into the sacred truth that what we need is always here.

And then, on Sunday, I saw a video of the Pihcintu chorus, a chorus of immigrant and refugee girls based in Portland, singing “Somewhere”.

Somewhere there’s a place for me. Somewhere.

Watching the girls sing, I could see their innocence, feel their longing, and hear their strength. My own body recognized the yearning for community and belonging to the wider web of creation. And I recognized my simmering anger, frustration, and sadness of the injustice of our world systems. My perfect rootedness here, and my continual longing for connection, are both true.

This paradox of here and somewhere is both delightful and vexing, painful and beautiful, heart-wrenching and heart-opening. As I hold this paradox and turn it over and over in my mind, I recognize that it is expanding both my heart and my spirit and that expansion will benefit all I am and all I do. Here and Somewhere.

So swallow the sun. And wish on the stars.

And let love define the people that we are.

Late Summer Morning – A Haiku Series

6 am

A soft mist is rising

To meet the warmth of the sun

As my feet sprout roots,

Reaching down beyond

Twig, acorn, grass and soil

In a morning prayer.

 

8 am

This melon sweetness

Startles and soothes every sense,

Instigates delight.

I want to linger

In this joy… May I? Should I?

Yes ~ In thanksgiving.

 

10 am

I tend the garden

As a breeze begins to blow

Change is coming in.

The air is cooler

And full of dragonflies, sign

Of transformation.

 

12 noon

Teenagers wake up

To eat both breakfast and lunch,

Looking at the news.

The too familiar 

Stories of fear and violence

Spark conversation.

Yet still, their blue eyes

sparkle like dragonfly wings,

Light and love in flight.

This Lake is a Mirror

This lake is a mirror ~ reflecting clouds, gulls, possibilities, sunsets and sunrises, the crescent moon, a sea of stars, and the shadow of my own face looking back at me.

The lake is a physical place as well as an emotional anchor. For six generations, my family has grown, learned, lived, worked, played, rested, and died here. There are memories everywhere – in the vase with my great grandmother’s initials and in her mother’s garden where I cut flowers yesterday. I remembered my grandfather as I set the vase on the table where he used to sit to do the crossword and I thought of my grandmother as I sat on the pier watching the rising sun splash colors across the water’s surface. As I weed the garden with my mom, I notice that we have been pulling weeds together in this bed for at least 30 years and we will surely be doing it again next year.

This lake is a shroud ~ covering blue gill, bass, lost golf balls, water toys, and secrets with thick layers of mud and plants, hazy water, and the blanket of time.

This lake is a container ~ collecting the raindrops, sweat, tears, laughter, dreams, and memories that fall into its welcoming embrace.

While so much remains available to be revisited and known anew each summer, there are changes to absorb each year also. This year, we greeted family members in the driveway with words and awkward smiles instead of hugs. We created a memorial garden and initiated it to its purpose with a small ceremony honoring a loved one who died this winter. With the help of a computer and an IPad on a nearby stump, those who couldn’t attend in person participated by Zoom. 

This lake is a witness ~ honoring the storms, the calm, the relationships, and the rippling, repeating patterns of the seasons of our lives. 

This summer, our daily conversations about our own homespaces, work, schools, and lives touch into politics, climate, covid-19, and possibility. But our words don’t carry us far; the future holds too many unknowns and uncertainties and there is too much noise, clutter, and fragmentation in our world to posit much. This morning, as we prepare to return home, I am grateful for the constancy and sustainability in this small bit of my life.

This lake is a living metaphor ~ telling the stories of the generations of insects, fish, birds, and people who are sustained here.

This lake is a refuge ~ grounding me in the same love, flexibility, and integrity that guided my ancestors and will support my descendants.

May my words and my actions honor this legacy.