Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A January Walk To Remember

Yesterday was such a gift. Not that every day is not a gift, but yesterday was especially wonderful. Last year on this date we had already had 30+ inches of snow and it was a whopping 10°. Yesterday was 53° and sunny, completely still and nothing but a trace of snow on the ground. But before I tell you about my day, a little bit of an update on the health
front first...

The miserable flu that took up residence in my body has finally started to loosen its grip. My lungs are clearing up and most of my misery is now located in my sinuses. It's snotty business, to say the least. This is a fairly significant success because I have done so without the use of any antibiotics! Good news on two fronts - one, my immune system was able to kick in where needed, despite the fact that I have added yet another immune suppressing medication to my daily regimen; two, antibiotics do not mix well with my current medications, either making them toxic or causing me to flare miserably. So, hurrah for this old body!! Right now...just a bothersome cold.

So back to my day yesterday...
I could tell, from the inside looking out, that yesterday was indeed a beautiful day. Around noon, my husband called, as he generally does at lunch time to check up on me, and asked me if I had been outside at all. He then stated that if at all possible, I should at least step out into the yard as it was "absolutely beautiful out". Being that my cold was lifting and the day had presented with limited fatigue and pain...I thought, what the heck! So I bundled myself up, smothered on the sun block, grabbed my camera and decided to walk. Having no idea how far I could get, I merely made my way down the driveway. (Yes, I brought my cell phone in case of an emergency!!)

You know what it feels like when you go someplace for the very first time? Everything new, your senses heightened, the world seems as if it were on steroids. Colors are brighter, sounds are clearer, air is fresher... you get the picture. This was my world yesterday. I somehow managed to let go of everything else - sickness, pain, worry, time... it all eluded me the minute I stepped outside. Out of the 190 pictures I took along my path, here are a few...

These are my feet, in real shoes, outside on the driveway. Seems like no big deal, but let me tell you, I felt pretty dang excited about the whole situation! For the longest time, after getting sick, I could not bear the thought of wearing my running shoes. As a runner, these shoes are only to be worn for running. There is a practical reason for this - they're expensive and you want to get the most miles out of your buck. There is also an emotional/psychological reason for this - a particular frame of mind that accompanies the wearing of these shoes. All business. Somewhere in time, I transitioned. I let go. Today, it felt really good to have them on my feet.

These are a couple of trees at the end of my driveway. The sun sits so low in the sky this time of year, at noon it bounces off the trees like a sunset. The shadows cast on the branches up against the clear blue sky were breathtakingly stark to me. The contrast of heaven and earth on canvas in my mind.

Before leaving our property, off to the right, there is a small forest, just big enough for a fort. Hardly even a grove to the average adult, a mystical land of make believe to the average human under ten. This fortress is appropriately christened Fort Awesome - so titled by my brother's three youngest boys. This fort was erected by the three (with the help of Uncle Dave) in the summer of 2010 during one of their visits here from Louisiana. It's been over a year since I had been out there. I'm happy to report the magic still resides.   

I plopped down for a bit to rest. The ground dry and soft, layers of pine needles make natures bed inviting. I think of all the animals in the woods that survive our bitter winters. How winds can make it seem as though it's -50° at times. How piles upon piles of snow can blow and create fortresses of flakes. I think to myself how wonderful this spot would be to find. How awesome. 

From my plopped position I look up and see the January sun through the trees. I think about everything that comes between this sun and I. Nothing...and everything. For a moment, I bask in the nothing.

As I made my way off our property and down the hill I was immersed in the symphony of sounds that made their way through the silence. Birds chirping, a chainsaw running off in the distance, this plane overhead. The sky was so bright I had no idea where my camera was pointing or if I would even come close to capturing this spec of wonder in the sky. As it flew by, I watched and pondered what it must be like - up there, in the blue. I smiled and raised my hand as if to touch the wing. United in our journey, we flew, if only for a moment, together across the sky.

There is a piece of land at the bottom of the hill where rows of hand planted pines stand tall like pencils in a box. It's a place we drive by to get to our house. One of those places too close to home, where the daily routine of coming and going creates a space hundreds of miles long - or so it seems. The summer before last, "they" cleared this swath for some reason. A chunk right out of the middle.

I understand there are often times good reasons why this needs to happen. Not sure if this is one of them or not. In any case, there is a mourning - a recognition of the holy - an honoring that begs of me some sort of acknowledgement. Even in complete stillness I could hear the souls of each tree whispering...whispering...whispering...."We are still here".  As I stood there, feet planted on the stump of what was, engulfed by what is, I found myself in the story.

It was a sacred moment for me. As I sat and rested, anointed by the sun, I listened to the telling. A story without words, a song without notes, a canvas of color beyond the rainbows edge...simply filled every fiber of my being. I took the picture below to remember.

Another spot close to home that I always wonder about is this little cemetery that sits up on the hill. I can see it from my bedroom window so it's quite often the object of both my meditation and my curiosity! Yesterday seemed a good day to visit.

It's a very old cemetery. Many of the stones date back to the early 1800's. Barely legible, worn by nature's rough hand, often in pieces...these stones also tell a story. Again, one to be felt, not heard. It sits on a hill, so many of the monuments have given way to gravity, much like we all do...eventually.

It's more walking than I have done in some time. So I sat under this tree for a bit and took in all I could see from this small ledge.

Sitting there, looking out from where I just came, is this field. Living in the Midwest, I have the privilege of experiencing the seasons to the fullest. Each season paints a different picture - each picture a different story. I like the fact that I can see the pattern left from harvest. When the fall is wet, and the farmers can't get out, it makes us all anxious. There's a sadness when seeing a half plowed field in January. In this field there is a sense of completion, a neatness - like I feel after the last dish is washed or when I tuck in clean sheets. Where the end of something prepares for the beginning of something else. A readying of sorts.

As I sit there, I notice off in a distance what looks like a bench. As I get closer I realize that it's also a headstone. I still don't quite know what I feel as I read these words. There is this odd mixture of things that swirl around in me and I still haven't quite landed on one. It's safe to say that it poked me a little bit. There's a sting when I read it. At first I felt as though there was this harshness..."Like it or not, you'll be here one day, just you wait!" But then it softened as I read it over a few times. In fact, I like that it says, "Seek your Truth, then follow me." No claims here. No corner market on the way. Just your Truth. The only assumption being the impermanence of it all. Of you and I. So I took this friend up on their offer, and paused to rest.

Sitting still, I was received into yet another story. Having accepted the offer, I found my part. Connected, I could feel my feet against the stone, the energy of the earth holding me tight, flowing through me. It didn't feel like a place of death or of ending at all. In that moment there was so much life around me that it was almost more than I could sit with. But I did. And I just continued to listen...

It would have been a bit silly for me to take pictures of every stone that moved me. Although, I did take quite a few. Some broken and propped up against themselves, some adorned in the most intricate of lichens and moss. So ornate in their patterns it looks as though they have been covered in the finest of tapestries. I'll let them tell their own story...

I eventually made my way down the hill and headed back toward home. To be honest, I wondered if I had gone out farther than what I could manage to walk back. It didn't matter though. For some reason I just knew everything would be okay. My job was to put one foot in front of the other and the rest would find me. As I walked, there was a point at which I almost felt like I was in a dream - completely awake, yet completely removed. The sun was in front of me the whole way home. It seemed surreal. So like the plane in sky, I just lifted up my camera and clicked, with the hope that I could capture the moment. When I looked at my pictures later that day, I was surprised to see this one. As if pulled from my is exactly as I remember it.

Today...well, its 20° and falling, the wind is blowing and the snow is piling up on my deck as I type. My hips feel as if they have both been dislocated and turning my neck is like trying to twist a rusty cap off a mason jar! It might have been just a little too far. But it was worth it - completely worth it. The experience filled me way more than anything the pain of today could take away. It was as if I opened a magical book and walked my way through the chapters that filled each page. From mystical fortresses, to bright yellow planes, to enchanted forests and legends of lives lived long ago - I listened to the stories without words. Yesterday truly was a gift, in more ways than I can even comprehend. But this I do know - our lives are what we make them. We can choose to live at a level that keeps us numb, that allows us to skim the surface, being pushed and pulled by what car we drive, how much money we have, how clean our homes are...Or, we can live life on a deeper level - open and vulnerable, full of courage, awake - allowing the experiences of our lives to soften us, make as a kinder more compassionate being, connecting with others and with our universe. This has nothing to do with health or capability, and has everything to do with our minds.
It's simply our choice.

I leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein,

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Peace to you as you embrace your journey,



Unknown said...

This is wonderful. I so loved going on your walk with you here -- and so happy you had this time. I know it was worth it! And 190 pictures! Some of my most memorable times have been walks alone in the woods. Lucky you to have such beauty surrounding you.

Judy Jorgensen said...

I'm sitting at the computer in Mesa, AZ, but I loved going along on your walk. A very beautiful day and a beautiful place.

Christine said...

Thank you for taking me on your journey with you, I found a lot of peace in it today....

Theresa said...

Thank you for the lovely comments. It warms me to know that I somehow "brought you along". As I walked that day, I had to continue to let go of a certain "anxiousness to share". I was SO enjoying and experiencing this beautiful world and I wanted SOMEONE to be there with me. And little did I know...there you were.
I'm not always sure how well received these types of posts are - but I guess that's not the point. Simply putting it out there into the Universe is the beauty of it all. The rest is...well, just another gift!

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Hi Theresa
You don't know me. My name is Tweedles. I accidently on purpose came upon your blog. I have been reading your story. I have been walking with you on your journey.
I wanted to let you know that I feel what you are saying, and I also wanted to thank you for being brave in saying all the words you say.
I am listening, and quite often you say something that touches my heart. Your courage shines like the brightest star in the sky.
I am going now, but I wanted to let you know I am there- there in your forest. I see you in your mirror. I see you in the tall branches in the sky.
nitey nite
love tweedles

Theresa said...

Tweedles!! So happy you are out there...on this journey with me! Your words bring me such peace - a warm comfort, indeed. As I sit here reading I cannot contain the smile on my face, the joy in knowing, the gladness in being a part of such a beautiful world. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Marianna said...

Your artist's nature shines bright from this website, Theresa.

This comment of yours is so profound: "There is also an emotional/psychological reason for this - a particular frame of mind that accompanies the wearing of these shoes. All business. Somewhere in time, I transitioned. I let go."

I am a swimmer - I swam competitively, taught swimming and lifeguarded. My ego has had to take a back seat to the many adjustments I've had to make to my swimming strokes - giving up some of them because my body doesn't go through the "motions" and altering others, for the same reason.

Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Your post in so many ways has moved me to tears. Firstly, thank God for good, no exceptional husbands who take time to let us enjoy a moment. Your walk was heavenly and I so felt like I was beside you quietly taking in the journey you allowed yourself to enjoy. Just beautiful. I too love the quiet moments when life is a hush and nothing but nature speaks to my soul. They are the most appreciated and devine to me. I hope this post finds you feeling better. Hugs.

Theresa said...

Marianna, thank you dear, for your words. I am so glad you appreciated my comment about the running shoes. You know, when I wrote it my head was full of what felt like a thousand words - all wanting to spill out and articulate the many details of exactly what this loss has meant to me. But I did my best to narrow it down to one sentence, in hopes that someone out there would just "get it", having been there... And here you are. And I am comforted in the knowing, indeed. Thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule to bless me, for this is surely what you accomplished.

Theresa said...

Coopy!! First of all, I have to tell you I am so excited to see your new endeavors out there!! Anxious to read all you have to say!!
Gosh, I am filled with joy that so many beautiful women accompanied me on my walk last week! Thinking back now, I am sure I felt all of your presence - together with all those who went before and all those who come after. What a beautiful place to be - never alone.
Simple and Holy.

Jennifer said...

Hello friend,
I thank you with gratitude and appreciation for taking me on your walk. There's something I've always loved about cemeteries. I know some find them creepy, but I used to like to sit in them, growing up, and imagine the stories of those buried there.

As someone with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a popular motto for which is Stand Tall, the picture you posted of the pencil-like trees standing tall spoke to me, as did the tree trunk -- a life truncated. I value the deeper meaning you experienced and passed on.

Thank you again for taking me along. Now I have breathed deeply and felt the sun on my back and my hips are no worse for wear.