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.
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 dream...it 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,