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.

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.

Orchid Blooms

An orchid sits on my desk next to a window that draws my gaze outside from time to time as I work. My Dad chose this plant when I took him to the florist to pick out some flowers to celebrate his 71st birthday. One stem at a time, we constructed a huge bouquet to give to the residence where he lived and, only after I begged him to choose something for himself, he picked out a purple orchid in a square green pot. It reminded me of the orchids his mother (my grandmother) used to keep on the windowsill in her kitchen. When I asked Dad why he had chosen that particular plant, he replied, “I just like that kind of flower. I always have. Do you like it?” I assured him that I did. I liked that it elicited memories and that it felt both delicate and exotic as well as strong and durable, comfortable and familiar. I wondered if it held memories and emotions for my Dad also.

I watered the orchid each week when I visited Dad and its delicate blooms lasted for months. As summer turned to fall, the flowers died and the stalk which held them fell off too. When Dad died that winter, I brought the orchid home to my house.

For the last 3 1/2 years, I have moved this sturdy green plant from surface to surface trying to find the right combination of heat and light to nudge it into blooming once again. I have repotted it twice, watered regularly and offered orchid food. Then, in February of this year, as the hours of daylight began to grow longer, a promising shoot emerged and began to grow taller. Eventually little purple buds appeared and began to grow. As it grew, I began to imagine it would bear flowers by Dad’s birthday in April. When that anniversary came and went, I set my sights on Father’s Day.  By that time, there were more balls of flowers-to-be, but they were still closed tight.

Meanwhile, outside the orchid’s window, the lupine has popped up, blossomed and is now going to seed within a span of 2 months. I do not know about the botanical construction of either orchids or lupine but I trust that each plant is living out its cycle as it is intended. I am drawn to the contrast between the spare orchid and the lavish lupine field. I am struck by the dramatically different growth patterns, paces, and displays. And I am intrigued to notice that the plants elicit different emotional responses in me.

The wild, abundant, and frenetic lupine patch engages my senses and my sense of urgency. It seems to call me to action and ask what’s taking me so long. It urges me to take advantage of the energy of the season by giving my own energy to full participation in the explosion of potential. Considering all the world needs that are on my heart and at the forefront of our collective consciousness, the lupine’s call is alternately invigorating and exhausting.

Meanwhile, the molasses-slow orchid invites me to slow down and pay more attention. Its movement and growth are so slow they could be imperceptible. I am reminded that just because I can’t perceive the changes doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty happening. As I witness the protracted growth of the flower stem and buds, I recognize my own inner blossoming. Given the personal work that needs to be done to support our communal development, the orchid’s whisper is inviting and steadying.

Today, the lowest two flowers on the orchid have opened. I have been waiting, sometimes impatiently, for this for months. Now that it has finally happened, it all seems just right. The hummingbird is looking longingly through the window at the delicate new blooms as I admire the memories and teachings that they carry. Each flower has a delicate heart shaped center that must have been developing all these months, carefully protected by the outer petals.

 

May I always recognize that the teachings of the earth are teachings of the heart.

May the unhurried beauty and peace in these flowers support the beauty and peace within us.

May our own wholeness bloom in due time.

Solstice Blessings

At the solstice, I am awash in summer’s sensory bounty.

I follow my nose through the yard, inhaling the fragrant blooms of peony, rose, and lupine. Walking the freshly mowed paths through the field, I run my hands through the waist high grass at my side, tenderly touching and touched by the soft and gentle seed pods. Birds sing anthems, hymns, and chorales from balconies hidden by leaves of yellow and green.

I am dissolving into the familiar abundance. Surely, this is how life lives itself to death.

At once, something startles me to awareness. Little droplets of cool water kiss the skin on my hands and face. I pause to notice more fully but cannot really see or feel real moisture. The sky is clear, not a cloud in sight. The air feels dry, save for these curious and delightful pinpricks of coolness that fall here––and there––and there.

I often see and feel water vapor as rain, fog, snow or sleet but I have never felt it just suspended in the air. Yet, that is the only explanation for this sensation. On this crystal clear blue sky day, I can feel the micro-droplets of life-giving moisture in the air. These tiny, gentle blessings are so slight they might be imperceptible on another day and in a different frame of mind.

But today, with my senses alive to the season and my heart tuned to the mystery of life’s unfolding, I receive them with full awareness. What a gift to be invited to this mystery, to feel the cool water that enlivens this abundance.

The snap peas have grown another inch. The tadpoles have sprouted their back legs. The dragonflies have emerged. The peonies have bloomed and fallen to the ground in a single day. All this life is being nourished and, still, there is some for me.

In gratitude, I raise my hands and bow my head to receive this watery blessing, Invisible and Unknowable, Certain and Sacred.

Searching for Wholeness

I am searching for wholeness

amid the shards of broken lives

and broken promises.

 

I am seeking healing

in a world that is ill

with greed, disconnect and fear.

 

I am longing for grace

that will fill the fissures and chasms

carved by racism.

 

I am searching for wholeness

in the hollow center of the american dream.

 

I am seeking wholeness

As I run down the trail behind my son,

struggling to catch my breath,

painfully aware of the irony and

the privilege that I, a white woman, carry.

 

I am longing for union that 

honors our histories

and also, finally,

dissolves me and you and them

and leaves Us.

 

Then, let us learn to love ourselves more fully.

All of us.

 

I am looking to the young oaks,

now full of bright green leaves.

while a few of last season’s

ragged ones hold on still.

 

I am finding wholeness,

remembering it is born in each of us,

in the healing voices and actions

we offer the world.

 

I am nurturing health,

connection and right relationship

in my own life. 

I am optimistic that

my small contributions

join others in a growing swell.

 

I am finding wholeness

in the clarity of my intention

and in knowing I am not alone.

Won’t you join me?

This is the work of a lifetime.

Prelude to the Emerging Season

On Thursday evening, I finally noticed that I had been burning my candle at both ends. I had hit the proverbial wall. When an event that I had been planning to attend Saturday was cancelled, I had an opportunity to recalibrate. As I crossed the item from my calendar, I noticed that I could, with just a little more schedule wiggling, claim 72 hours of rest time. Rest is not easy for me. I tend to use extra minutes in my day to catch up on a project here or fit in a little correspondence there. But my intention for 72 hours was to find ease, to put some distance between my body, my mind and the insistence to be productive. I was attempting to practice non-productivity. Over these 72 hours, I did not set my morning alarm or follow my regular morning routines. I have not insisted on anything, except for being non-productive. As I observed my impatience and eventually relaxed and found stillness, I regained some balance. I feel rested.

Over these same 72 hours, our community has been formulating a response to the coronavirus in amazing and beautiful ways. Individuals, organizations, schools, and businesses are prioritizing community health and safety over any other agenda. People are choosing to stay home, grounding themselves in order to provide a measure of distance and protection to unknown individuals among us. I have never seen this kind of compassionate, selflessness on this scale in my lifetime. I am falling in love with humanity anew. Business as usual has been interrupted in a most extraordinary way.

There are disappointments, inconveniences, and real hardships involved in this interruption. The impact will not be evenly distributed amongst our population. Those who are most vulnerable, due to age, illness, or access to resources will be hit the hardest by the virus and the response to it. It is not fair. If I stop there, I am swallowed by the shame, sadness, and anger that always arise in the face of inequity. If I trudge on, it is hard not to notice that there is also an incredible opportunity here.

Yes, there is injustice. Yes, there is fear. Yes, there is even death. We will all be touched by deep, heart-opening loss. But there is also great love in our collective response. I am encouraged by that. I am praying that we may use this time to recalibrate, to begin to move towards a world that is more just, more sustainable, more aligned with our true nature. I do not have any answers, but I am sitting with openness, curiosity and a strong belief in our capacity for change. Hope lives here. I offer it to you:

As we slow down and encounter our fears, worries, and regrets:

     What possibilities will we find in the spaciousness of our newly collapsed schedules?

     What love and peace will hold us aloft?

     What belonging will soothe our isolation?

As we spend more time in our homes and local communities: 

     What bridges will we build?

     What support will we offer to others?

     What support will we need from others?

As we notice the impacts of our lives on the lives of others:

     Will we claim our participation in the web of life?

     Will we remember the legacy of survival that ensured our own lives?

     Will we remember that we will one day be the ancestors in someone else’s story?

As we recognize our depth of responsibility to the interconnected human family,

     Will we also notice our interconnection with all living beings?

     Will we notice our interconnection with the living, pulsing earth?

     Will we notice that we are, in fact, one?

The lily and tulip spears nudging through the barely thawed soil in my yard are a prelude to the emerging season. May we also enter this new season as neophytes, open to the promise and surprise of our own unfolding.

May you be well. May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be at peace.