This was a day when nothing happened. . .
The chicken’s diminished to skin and skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard cold knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
into the winter night.
~ from Ordinary Life by Barbara Crooker
I’ve changed my path walking by water since moving from the historic neighborhood bordering the bay. Sometimes it’s 12 blocks along the wide bayou that bleeds off the ocean, the far border a large small island with large homes and expansive green lawns. I often miss the sunrise because I can’t bear the quiet between night and the beginning of day shattered by a car. But I’m seeing life in a new landscape. Like two pelicans in the top flimsy branches of live oaks, balancing their heavy bodies as they bob and work those long bills made for fishing to break off a twig (a twig!) for their nests. The pickings so small for how long it took to get it.
The other day I chose to walk a longer path up to the point on the bay. I stopped at the sound of a splattered puff. A dolphin’s breath. The next morning, in a dawn nearly black under heavy overcast clouds, I crossed the grass in time to see a sleek back curve up, then down again. And discovered something extraordinary. Thick rolls of waves like a wake moving in a line. Realized it was a dolphin swimming, the water pushed, not broken. I watched the rolls change direction, come back toward me. My heart beat fast. And then, the white belly beneath the still, silken surface as the dolphin sailed by on its side, six feet below the ledge where I stood, its eye looking up. I was stunned at the discovery of those rolls, watching a dolphin’s clear path below the surface.
In a way, seeing below the surface is the theme of my life since moving to Florida 4-1/2 yrs. ago. I’ve felt alone with no close community of friends. Lunch or dinner with others random occasions. Sunrise at the bay conversations, but no people populating my days. Something new for me. Relationships and community always grew quickly, organically, wherever I lived. Alive and growing after decades, even with distance between us. Recently I marvel at the grand, divine design, tho. How I’ve been thrown to conversations with the Universe for answers to my questions, revelations to challenges. Left to see without distractions our everyday world in ways I can only call magical. I’ve been pushed to step out online. Been pushed to trust my strong intuition, trust myself, even when my humanness blazes first. Been pushed to ask what I really want. Because my outward life as it is ain’t it. And the only way to know is to honestly answer what my part is. The past two weeks seriously tested what I’ve learned. A triple whammy – friendship hitting rocks, crossing trenches and moguls with my beloved son who lives in Taiwan, and facing a decision that requires super scary commitment. The brain cramps and heart cramps tremendous.
I have this friend in NM, Rachel Ballentine, who often ponders aspects of the interconnectedness of our everyday world. She recently wrote she wonders “what did they bring to Ellis Island? how would you decide? what teapot? what embroidery? a child’s tooth? what kettle? what would be in the trunk? what recipes? what pots and pans? what would you bring from your village? what was in the suitcases? what was left behind? what lace? what shoes? and who was left behind? who got to go? who got sent back?” She spoke to me in that pondering.
At 21, I watched my in-laws house burn. My own home once caught fire. I wrote about that sort of loss in my second novel. A girl grabs one thing of personal significance for herself and each of her parents as their hard-built dream home burns to cinders. I’ve wondered as I read holocaust stories. Now as I read about refugees. Wonder as I watch friends move every year, sometimes twice a year, for years in a row. What’s their journey of letting go. And I wonder weekly as I scan my belongings, envision my 4th move in 5 yrs. this December. The one I’ll take across many states that I look forward to. I’ve already shed 1/3, then another 1/4, and another 1/4+. As my eyes rest on an item, I search inside for a feeling that might tell me something. Nothing in my home is just there. Everything once chosen by me for the pleasure or meaning in it. Holding more than the thing-ness.
And that’s what happened with each of the whammies. What do I leave behind. Compassionate honesty? Choosing silence, adjusting expectations, depriving a deeper understanding or opportunity to transcend/fix the disconnects, misread intentions, mis-spoken messages as I’ve done. Distance? Depriving the opportunity to be different with the challenges of family history. Myself? Carrying stuff inside that feeds my insecurities, keeps me small. I don’t need to be right or understood. I just need to see below the surface of myself, see myself moving forward like I saw that dolphin pushing water who had no intention but to see the other. Answer what I want, realize it’s what we all want. Connection and Love, to be seen for ourselves, with compassion in the seeing.
I chose the friendship, if it can be saved. Chose to figure how to swim the trenches so the moguls don’t seem so high with my son, feel expectation of joy holding my grandson in a big hug. And I’m hiring the help I need, tho it costs a bundle. Will face my fears of failure, success, being not good enough, stranded. I choose doing it differently. Because below the surface, I trust I’m gonna be okay. We’re gonna be okay.
What do you take, and leave behind?
“A white explorer in Africa, anxious to press ahead with his journey, paid his porters for a series of forced marches. But they, almost within reach of their destination, set down their bundles and refused to budge. No amount of extra payment would convince them otherwise. They said they had to wait for their souls to catch up.”
~ Bruce Chatwin, from THE SONGLINES
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
A secret: It’s not easy being human.
A favorite: Dolphins under water
Photo: free share by Ales Krivec