The Sweetie and I have escaped for a while, gone to the mountains for solitude and regeneration. He can go unshaven, practice what he refers to as his “manly survival skills”, hike around in the woods, fish, build camp fires and wear those sad, worn out khaki pants (so baggy the crotch sags to about mid leg) day in and day out. He confirmed his superior survival skills yesterday by catching trout, cleaning them and cooking them on the grill right after. Last night he made a really fine camp fire, which obliged me to stand out there with him in the freezing cold to admire his skills as a true mountain man. I attempted to make the most of the time by starting a substantive conversation. “What are your thoughts tonight as we enjoy nature” I asked him. He thought for half a second and replied “Don’t eat the yellow snow.” I went inside and stuffed my need for a soulful exchange with a hot double chocolate fudge brownie with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.
For me this is an opportunity to just be, no deadlines, nothing I must get done. I have my cell phone ringer turned off, as is the television. I can read to my heart’s content, meditate, write some, and walk the hills. This part of the country has suffered severe drought for two years now and my expectations for beautiful fall foliage were quite low. But to my delight nature did not disappoint, spectacular golden leaves shimmer in the unusually strong breeze and the reds from the maples are so striking I stop and try to capture them in a photo. This seldom works for me; it never translates, lack of photography skills I suspect.
There is no separation between our maker and nature; the closer I am to the earth, the more attuned I am to spirit. Before I started my walk I turned on my favorite mediation music and did my own 60 year old arthritic combo version of Yoga, Tia Chi and stretching. At one point I stretched my arms to the ceiling of the log cabin as far as my stiff muscles would allow and attempted to pull all the good energy into me I could gather. I remembered a phrase from one of my favorite prayers I learned from participating in the St Ignatius exercises. “Jesus, may all you are flow into me.” I said as I pulled my hands back down over my body, willing the wise old woman to take form. When God was at the sculpture’s wheel molding my life, unfortunately I think he finished with a square. But he must have sneezed several times because a couple of the walls are very crooked; I turned out more of a rhombus. That too defined structure did give me a good foundation for life, but sometimes flexibility comes at quite a price for me. Sweetie was more of a free form shape, a little lacking definition. He helps soften my square corners and I support his foundation some. Grace is a marvelous thing.
I love my country, but recognize our good old American work ethic as something we take to extremes; few of us take ample time for ourselves-for what really matters. I know many people who don’t take vacation time they have earned, for years on end! When I sold pharmaceuticals I generally worked six days a week. I enjoyed my work in the medical field; I started each day with the intention that I get the right medication in the hands of the right patient. I know what I did improved quality and perhaps longevity of life for thousands of people. But, total immersion in career to the exclusion of feeding our other very deep needs has become a societal sickness in this country. The effect it had on me was fatigue, inability to think creatively, lack of deep level bonding with friends, insufficient exercise, resentment for not having enough personal time, and anxiety.
The heart has tremendous capacity for love, but often we reject healthy self-love. I’m not talking about empty narcissism, but that grounded knowledge that we are worthy of self-care. The world’s greatest hurts are born of our inability to feel self-love; as individuals we don’t know how to love ourselves. “Inner pain can be a holy summons” (Sue Monk Kidd) that we are too callused to recognize. We are not still enough often enough to learn to know ourselves and when we do have private time we busy ourselves so we don’t have to see. The process is work and often painful but the yield is transformative. So this week Sweetie and I are in the woods, to administer some self-care and see what we can see.