each time the trail curves, i can imagine it. next.
but as weeks go, this one has been harder. we tried our best to be positive, to believe that the new bend in our road is not so fraught. but, the fact of the matter is that it is. fraught.
we are pretty tough. kind of scrappy. definitely frugal. well, most of the time. we have both been presented with lean times in our lives. even our life together has had its lean times. we always eat leftovers. we always repurpose things. we always turn the shampoo bottle upside down. we always keep the heat low. we haven’t bought a vehicle in sixteen years. in some unknown intuitive move for which we are now grateful, we put off the big chimney-fireplace project, necessary but ridiculously expensive. we haven’t flown in three years. we find sanctuary in a forest we know well. we know where the trail curves.
and each time the trail curves, i can imagine it.
as the sun glimmers on what-looks-like the other end, i think – this is just one day, one week, one time in our lives. tomorrow will dawn and it might be a completely different day, starting a completely different week, a completely different time in our lives. and we just don’t know. again.
we are now in a woods we do not recognize, on a path we can not anticipate. off the trail we know. anxiety hikes with us, as do worry, sadness and disappointment. we worked hard on our plan, but the best laid plans are laid down. and this week, as weeks go, this one has been harder.
the sun quivers through the trees in front of us, setting. we keep walking.
day is done,
gone the sun,
from the lake,
from the hills,
from the sky;
all is well,
god is nigh.
dims the sight,
and a star
gems the sky,
falls the night.
(taps - d. butterfield/unknown)
it is most astounding to me. each and every time. it doesn’t matter the shining of the sun or the drizzle or the misty humid air or dusk falling around us. and though it is familiar – oh, so familiar – it is new when we visit, our footfalls on the path erased and lasting as we walk. i’m comforted by this trail. and it teases me – into truly wondering about thru-hikes and exquisitely ordinary days that explode into extraordinary just by entering them.
this is an easy trail. we have hiked many others. easy trails, moderate trails, difficult trails. elevation gains, a little scrambling here and there. but when – and it is often – we need an old quilt of a trail and time to be quiet, to think, to talk, to sort, to sink into astounding beauty, stillness and ever-percolating life, we hike here, close by.
my camera is ready. i try to capture it all to remember. the trail is full of linear lines now as the underbrush succumbs to the season. a bounty of astounding. even in transition.
i believe – as we enter the woods – that it greets us back.
and as we leave – filled up – it waves and whispers, “see ya.”
“have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives — tried to imagine what the crisp fringes, full of honey, hanging from the branches of the young locust trees, in early morning, feel like?” (mary oliver)
i suppose this is one of THOSE things – when you look back and see, with more clarity than you could ever have had in the moment, that you were nudged, pushed, prodded, indeed, shoved along. as you stood resolutely in the spot to which you were dedicated, something prompted change and things were no longer the same nor would they ever be. one of THOSE things.
i remember the early days of hearing garth brooks singing the country song “unanswered prayers”, decades ago now. he released the song and it exploded on radio not too long after i moved to wisconsin, away from family, away from two jobs i loved. i stood outside my then-husband’s workplace and gazed out at soybean fields wondering where i had landed, what on earth i would do. i went to the grocery store and wept in the pasta aisle; no mueller’s pasta to be found. i read the local paper and was disconcerted. i found solace in long-distance letters from my mom and brought lunch to the office at the local airport every day, the place my husband worked. i was lonely and lost.
but the universe had a way of catching up to me and consoling my soybean-cornfield-factory-town angst. that next year, my beautiful daughter was born – my first baby, i found new friendships, and a job i loved in a community of people who grew to be important to me. my amazing son was born in years to follow and then, in serendipitous ways, i started recording albums and i looked back and knew that, though my discomfort in – literally – moving was justified, life would not have been the same had i not moved. the complacency i had earlier adopted was not going to be enough and life had some gaps to fill in. nevertheless, i still sometimes wonder how it all would have turned out without the big jostling-along-to-wisconsin. for that matter, i still sometimes wonder how it all would have turned out without the big jostling-away-from-new-york. things to ponder and never know.
i will never know – really know – how it came to be that i am sitting next to this lovely man right now, writing separately together. how we each have grown and how we each have struggled and sorted through our figurative attics and basements, stuffed with things that have happened, things we have saved, things we have discarded, things we’d rather not remember, things we celebrate. how, from two entirely different places in this vast country, we found each other. i suppose love has a way.
time and again the understanding of events, situations, disappointments, things-that-are-really-hard is delayed. in-the-moment it – the why – is not clear. sometimes it is never clear or perhaps it’s just that by the time clarity arrives, it is far, far after the fact. so far that we have forgotten our dismay or our agnostic questioning or, in those that seem synchronistic miracles, our awe. it is in the looking-back, the time-line reflections that we might parse and question and realize that there was a reason, a cause and effect, maybe a prayer or two gone unanswered. though i could still list those and wonder why – through actions of others, good and bad, or decisions i’ve made, good and bad, or stuff that just happens, good and bad – i would guess that somehow the puzzle fits together in the end. no doubt the discomfort brings learnings we may not have signed up for, given the choice. the story is a mystery.
as i find myself in yet another nudged-pushed-prodded-shoved place, i’m trying to remember to stand still for a moment. to take it in – the discomfort – and to be open to what might be. and, in watching what shows up, in really looking and studying and listening, to take baby steps and move. maybe later on it will all make sense.
“when she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. they wanted her to change back into what she always had been. but she had wings.” (dean jackson)
“trust the wait. embrace the uncertainty. enjoy the beauty of becoming. when nothing is certain, anything is possible.” (mandy hale)
i had an IME on tuesday. an IME is an independent medical exam. it is a brief exam ordered by an insurance company and the physician is both chosen and paid for by that insurance company. it is defined as an independent assessment of an injury or illness, in my case, my wrist, and the determination by the doctor-chosen-and-paid-for-by-the-insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will be placed next to the reports of the medical hand specialist and the occupational therapist who have been treating me consistently for the last five months. a basic review of articles about IME reveals that the insurance-company-paying-for-treatment will pick the report they wish to concur with and that will decide if there is to be future, in this case, my future, treatment. so be it.
there is nothing to do now but wait.
my OT is wonderful. she has encouraged me, pushed me, held me accountable and she has brought me from twenty degrees of forward right wrist movement to fifty-five. this is big news, since, at first, six degrees was all i could muster. brutus and my OT have caused me much pain, but what’s that saying? no pain, no gain. we have worked hard. and, in the way of hard work and healing, there are things i can do now that i wasn’t able to do a few months ago. and there are things i fear i will never be able to do again. uncertainty.
there is nothing to do but wait.
sometimes i wonder what life will look like in a year or two years. i wonder what i will be doing. if i looked back a year i would never have guessed back then what this year would have looked like. no, last july looked very different than right now. it just suggests that truly everything is uncertain, that everything is in the act of becoming, in the middle of the fire, maybe everything is ashes transitioning to riches over and over again. possibility, evidenced in tomato plants bearing fruit on an old barnwood potting stand, evidenced in a nest-home created in a birdhouse hanging empty for years, evidenced in the smell of the rain bringing cool on a summer morning.
there are times, when you are simply going about your business, going about life, that you don’t expect change. you don’t expect to be thrust into ‘different’. times when you find out the caterpillars were talking about you all along. after reeling from the surprise, after trying to grab the wheel to stabilize, after railing about the unfairness of it all – for life does not seem to be fair, you find yourself out of the deep, dark water – in the shallows.
and in the shallows there is abundant life, abundant food, abundant shelter. in the shallows we can rest and nourish and breathe. we can sit in uncertainty and the unknown. we can imagine new. because anything IS possible.
there is nothing to wait for and everything to wait for. it’s now.
the cicada was silent, attached to the deck. it was late spring/early summer of 2015 and this insect had chosen our deck as its place of transition. we watched the shell, cautious to not disturb it, waiting for something to happen. until one day it began to emerge, looking much like an extra-terrestrial, wings of flight opening and drying in the sun of the warm day. it was a stunning process from nymph to adult, all silent, with no fanfare for this remarkable transformation. suddenly, this little being was present on the earth, ready to make some noise.
silence to noise – a transition from nymph to mature adult. a lesson, perhaps, for humanity.
our progression from without-words nymph-baby to with-a-voice mature adult, a transformation of growth, of learning, of critical thinking, of fortitude. as cicadas raise their voices to the sky, buzzing and clicking, choosing their song, their chorus wisely, they answer an intuitive call, they align in truth to their purpose, their place on earth. much the same perhaps should be mature adults – answering an intuitive call, choosing their song or chorus wisely, aligning in truth.
there are times we find ourselves in hush. stunned into silence by the words or actions of others, we sit, ensconced in the shell of our exoskeleton. we wait and we watch. and then, as we rise as winged and responsible people, we have the opportunity, the obligation, to speak – to speak up, speak out, speak for, speak against, speak to truth.
perhaps there are adults who have skipped their instar stages, those phases of development that insects pass through on their way to maturity. perhaps they should have lived underground like cicadas, feeding on roots, a bit longer before they emerged, before they walked on an earth where they felt they could use their words to hurt or harm others. perhaps then, after a slow transition into maturation and with no fanfare, they would choose their buzzing and ticking with more forethought, with more compassion, with more honesty, with more wisdom.
the chaos of irato. a passage of angry, passionate. a symphony of irate engaging us, challenging us, buckling us under in its fervor.
“take a break,” earth-the-breathless-conductor would admonish. “hold and rest,” earth-the-counselor would encourage. “slow down. be deliberate,” earth-the-sage would advise. caesura. fermata. lento.
acknowledging the rage. listening. resting in the questions. conscious mindful steps. measured decisive action. slowly leading the way with goodness.
i suspect mother earth, in its mother-earth-wisdom, would hear the symphony as transition. the space between before and after. a time of growth and change and every possible note, every possible emotion.
we listen, as earthlings, imperfect-in-every-way, and we get lost. to live in irato is uncomfortable. a cliffhanger.
but mother earth smiles. after all, she knows all about suspense and the big bang and butterflies.
in pondering what to write about this piece, i took out the jacket for the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART. my first full-length album, released in 1995, an hour of my original solo piano compositions, i dedicated it to my big brother wayne who i had lost a few years prior, but whose presence i could feel as i worked on this project.
in the jacket notes, next to this piece IN TRANSITION, i wrote “many changes for many around me. changes give us time and impetus to sort through (and feel) the stuff of our lives – the transitional time.” that would explain the minor, a key that invokes going inside.
i guess i will have to defer back to that. it’s no different now than it was then. there are still “many changes for many around me”. i would have thought that things would feather out on the change seesaw, maybe leveling out a bit. but now, 23 years later from those moments of recording remotely on stage in an auditorium at northwestern university, i see that life continues to be fluid, change continues to happen, we still have to sort and feel and go with the flow, we are still learning, growing, changing, we are ever on that seesaw. still in transition.