She went into the woods to lose her mind and find her soul.
Photo credit ~ Michelle Thickett Flynn
This past weekend I went back for a visit to the Kootenays. In Nelson on Saturday, I took my brother out for lunch.
Where do you want to go?
What do you want to want to eat?
And onion rings?
Jimmy is bowling this afternoon. I like watching him bowl. He knows when it’s his turn which may seem simple until one of his enthusiastic companions holding a bowling ball is leaping up and down in the way of Jimmy bowling his last ball.
My brother throws/rolls the ball like it’s a discus. It doesn’t matter if all three are gutter balls, or one pin falls, when he turns around his game face is a satisfied expression of getting the job done.
But today is too gorgeous to be inside a dim and noisy bowling alley. And I’ve got monkey mind. Thoughts are whirling; nothing too disturbing but it’s messing me up. I need to hit pause and catch my breath, organize myself. I drive with no destination until the end of Vernon Street. The road veers around a sharp rising mountain of rock, moss and trees, no sidewalk but a woman with a contented smile and partially closed eyes pushes a baby stroller up the hill. This is Nelson.
My first kiss was in the bushes up at Gyro Park. We sat on the bank with Nelson spread out below us. It was sloppy. I doubt the boy owned a tooth brush. Parking beside two vehicles I walk for a bit and find a solitary bench facing the yellow autumn sun. My back settles against the warm wood.
I’ve been reading about meditation. Meditation 15 Minutes To A Stress Free Life by Nathan Farrelly and The Zen Path Through Depression by Philip Martin. I sit and focus on the air filling my lungs, lifting my chest and then breathing out. It makes me yawn and stretch. Fall sunshine is soft against my closed eyes.
Thoughts form and slide by, like fish angling for my hook but a quote I’ve read helps: Thoughts will come but don’t invite them to stay for tea. So, I let them flow by, ignoring the urge to grab onto the merry go round and go for a spin. Nope. I’m going to sit here and let my head rest. And I do. For about 30 seconds.
I hear voices. Automatically my eyes open. An older couple, off to one side, their backs turned are discussing the plants and trees. They admire the varying shades of burnished orange and yellow foliage. In seconds I’m engrossed in one of my favorite pass-times of people watching. After Nicholas died I watched children with an intensity (Oh if wishes came true!) that Ian was unnerved by it and said a person might misconstrue the desperate and hungry look in my eyes.
See how my mind wanders?
I stand up, done with meditating. But I’m better. Really. That few seconds of putting on the brakes and resting my head worked. And it will come easier as I practice. Some of my best creative impulses come after one of these sessions. I absolutely know what I’m now doing. I begin to drive along the north shore beside the Kootenay Lake.
In 1970 my family lived in a trailer park on the lower six mile road. Dad planted a willow tree in our front yard. The trailer eventually melted and has been long gone. Last year I saw that the tree is also gone. My sister and I would swing from its long ropey branches. It hurt more to see the tree gone than the trailer. Who cuts down a tree?
I was nine years old and for seven years rode my bicycle along our north shore back road over the bridges covering the two creeks and to the beach to play in the sand and swim in the icy Kootenay Lake. It’s been 30 plus years since I went to the beach, but my hands turn the wheels onto the leaf covered dirt road, past an entrance that isn’t marked. Thank God because this beach is a secret gem.
“Nothing is permanent.
Everything has an ending.
All of this will go away.
It is this impermanence that causes much of my suffering.
I grasp and clutch at people and things because I know that none of it will last.
I want the things that make me feel good to remain the same.
I want me, my very self to never diminish, to never weaken, to remain constant.”
Moment by moment, step by step, I look back, my youth is long gone, my strong and busy 40s are behind that last bend and ahead of me is only a wish, unknown, my steps shortening and at times I am afraid. It would be easier to love no one, to live my life with a closed heart, let no one in and I can’t get hurt. And sometime I wonder what the hell is the point to this?
“A woman whose child had died went to Buddha, asking if he would bring the child back to life. Buddha responded that he would do so if she could bring him a mustard seed from a family that had not known the death of a parent, child or friend. She eagerly went searching for the mustard seed. When she returned, empty handed, she had learned there is no one who is not affected by death.
I’m amazed when I read a story about two people who fall in love and marry even though one is terminally ill. It is tremendous love and great courage that invites the fear and pain of loving someone who will be taken from you soon.
We go forward, day after day and love other fragile human beings with a tenuous hold on life. This requires great courage and great love. It’s what our lives are for.”
When I feel depressed and sad it is not imaginings when I see death everywhere. Death is everywhere. I don’t watch the news or read painful stories of loss because I hurt too much and become even more sad. I know I can’t give up, or give in to the easy way out that I sometimes see in death.
I must live with an open heart, to live in this moment, with faith and courage.
I can’t avoid grief or sadness, it is futile and causes me more suffering.
I look at the early daffodils blooming in a pot behind the kitchen sink. And I think of the baby, just a few days old, I saw yesterday. People tell me the robins seem to have never left for the winter because they’ve seen them around their yards all these cold dark months. I overheard an old woman in her nineties tell someone not to be sad about the overcast day and the grey skies because the “fog is eating the snow.” She was a frail, seemingly ancient woman, her skin hanging in folds from her bent over body, and death was going to snatch her life at any moment yet her eyes were full of hope for spring.
Spring can be in every moment of every day if I choose to not waste my precious time and life feeling sorry for myself. I’ve got such awesome true and kind friends who put up with my foolishness and forgive me my mistakes. I’m so very lucky to have you. You help me to see the goodness in my life, and even though some of you do not believe, I see more of God inside of you than I feel in my own heart. ♥
“Contains quotes from The Zen Path Through Depression by Philip Martin.”