A Full Moon, Terra Firma, and a Full Life

Harvest MoonWe’ve had a full moon in the air this week, ripe with possibility, the unexpected and new, the birth of things that have been incubating for some time. The stale heavy air has been blown dry with fresh breezes, a bright sun and a bright moon. Days are still warm; nights have become cooler. I notice these things—the sun and the moon and the earth—because they ground me.

My psyche too has been incubating a few things, and, by way of the periodic dialysis I go for with the intuitive, kind, solid-as-a-rock and generous-beyond-words woman I turn to for this purpose, I think I may now once again be clear enough to turn from languid mid-summer days to welcome the changes in the air.

Earlier this summer, savouring the season’s sweetness—once over the most delectable backyard barbequed steak on a Cobb salad followed by the best homemade apple pie, and more recently with other friends over an equally delectable cedar plank salmon and paella followed by fresh U-pick raspberries on cheesecake—I’d sensed the first hints of fall. Not in the air yet on those evenings, but perhaps rather in the faces of our friends.

Change is usually bittersweet, but with the bitter aspect comes crisp, and bright, and a new kind of sweetness.  Yesterday, I saw so clearly days from 20 and 30 years ago, the days I first greeted the unspeakably sweet faces of my babies, the sunny magical days of promise, days overflowing with love, literally. These were days when my children’s kisses and laughter and fears and tears filled my days with purpose and joy, days when our little family was on the cusp of so much.

Today I see clearly again how deeply the earth sustains us through so many seasons and storms. She watches, listens, breathes, shelters. She is susceptible to erosion by wind and water and fire, but she absorbs, regenerates, heals, nourishes. She is solid, and provides beds of soil for growth, and beds for hydrating, cleansing streams of water. She is loyal and patient and forgiving. She whispers the truth: we are all made of star stuff, we are all connected—connected to her, to the universe, to each other, those who have come before us, and those will follow us.

What has been incubating for me in recent weeks is this message for my offspring: live fully, now, in the summer of your lives. Remember that the ordinary—everything from stepping out onto wet grass in bare feet to scrubbing the mineral deposits from your shower—can be grounding and nourishing, and remember that being well-nourished is what protects us from the ennui that can come along to haunt us at times.

So work hard, but take time to play too, and to rest, and to cry when it is the only thing to do, and take time to breathe and give your deepest self a hug. Remember that it is in inhaling and exhaling deeply that we are renewed, that this is how we slow down enough to take in all of reality, both bitter and sweet, which is what we need to do in order to digest it and allow it to dissipate, and keep it from weighing us down too much, and yes, nourish us and foster growth.

Remember these things, because along with the intellect and talent and energy and humour you have inherited from your parents and grandparents, you have also inherited their burdens, though it is your job to shed these, not bear them. It is your job to fly high, higher than we have, and leave something better than you were given. It is your job to chase your bliss, and to someday pass on to your own children their own bliss. So grab the ticket that is your birthright and go, chase your dreams with all your might. Don’t look back our way. We have all we need to find our own way through our own continually emptying and refilling seasons; you have all you need to find yours.

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Joy Beneath the Ruins

Our lives are ennui and insomnia and alarm clocks and endless contradictions. They are caffeine and bills and cortisone. They are machines that don’t work, and relationships that challenge, ever-hungry chequing accounts and equally hungry souls. They are ever-more demanding jobs and ever-more fatigued bodies, and they are deception, messes the scale of Fukushima, which is still, I learned this morning, seeping a daily 300 tons of radioactive water into the wonder and gift that is the Pacific Ocean.

So what else is there to do, but try to transcend it all, regularly and often? And what better way to do this than through music and love and beauty and play? These are tried and true modulators of stress hormones and blood pressure, boosters of endorphins and dopamine and oxytocin and all things gold. They help us integrate the shards of our dreams and make a semblance of peace with the ruins we carry around at our core.

This is why I continue to fight for my pass to the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

At Gallagher Park, sun and fresh air and beauty are abundant, as are smiling faces and friends and apple cider. But most abundant is the music, music with the ability to split us open and penetrate past the rubble of our crumbled castles and down to the existential joy still there beneath the weight of the years.

The sounds coming from the mouths of the artists and at the command of their fingers on instruments of all kinds drew smiles and shouts of surprise and joy. Some of it, as in the case of LP’s stunning vibrato, and John Butler’s equally stunning guitar skill, was literally jaw-dropping.  Jam sessions on stages crowded with talent willing to risk themselves by giving in to the current infused energy into our muscles and bones and cells as we synchronized with the sounds and rhythms and each other.

Some of it, like Bruce Cockburn, was deeply integrating, calming, comforting. With him, we swam deeply in an ocean of beauty and felt no need to come up for air, as he evoked images of mercy, of the rose above the sky, the light behind the sun, a story beyond that which we see and understand in this moment.

We walked home late that night over the footbridge crossing the river under a starry sky, most of us quiet, calm, deeply nourished, warmed by dopamine, reset in some primal way.

But come up for the air of the quotidian we must, eventually, though hopefully, after the initial shock of adjustment, we come up a little more integrated, a little more able to see our way back to the existential joy still there, beneath the ruins.sunflower

Persona

I took the long way, because it’s the most delicious month of August, and because I wanted to feel a breeze and the morning sun on my face before summer is gone again, and because I needed to air out my brain cells. I thought I might do some work from this spot for a change too, but couldn’t connect to the Internet. No problem: I’m happy not to be productive for a short while. I’ll just have a coffee break and read things already downloaded to my laptop, and get back to my little Internet-connected cave shortly.

A blog post in my inbox resonates deeply with me. It is about the lengths others sometimes expect us to go to in order to maintain an easily received public persona, one that hides our loneliness and pain. It is about the reality that others are not always comfortable with the inescapable truth that we are not always optimistic, happy, and in control.

The post resonates deeply with me because the thing I’ve most been criticized for with this blog is my honesty about the darker facets of my experience. Like most of us, I sometimes feel abundantly happy, strong, confident, optimistic, competent, valued. At other times, I feel desperately vulnerable, overwhelmed, alone, uninteresting, sad, and powerless. Oh, and short (I think I’ve been shrinking), old, and washed-up. (I know, that probably just tipped the scales a little too far.)

We understandably prefer to keep the darker side at bay a little, and consequently often become uncomfortable when others tap into it. Those who highlight their joys and successes can make us conscious of our failures. Those who lay out terrible realities can tap into our fears. Perhaps this is why we’re quick to judge others as either too perfect or too pathetic for our tastes? Only neutral and balanced, not too happy, not too sad, allows us to keep our equilibrium?

It was a good walk in the sun this morning. It was a good cup of coffee, a good reset. Some things in life are heavy and complicated. Others tip the scales back to abundance and joy. And my unplanned break yielded a timely reminder that I don’t need to keep the truth about the balance at any given moment to myself.

Perhaps if we presented a more rounded and truthful public image—our successes and failures, our joy and pain—we might be more likely to keep that more complete image of ourselves in our own minds too, when the scales tip deeply into uncomfortable zones? And perhaps this in turn might make us a less likely to retreat from one another as often as we do?

The irony is that I have friends and readers who retreat because their perception is that the shadows of my experience are deep and dark, and others because their perception is that my life is full to the brim with good fortune, love and joy. Which is it?

It is both. And I will continue to present the sometimes confused and confusing truth of my experience to friends and readers alike. We’re social beings, and it seems to me that the only thing that makes any of it worthwhile—the only thing that makes the flow of love possible—is sharing our truth with others.