I've heard it said that we notice the things we're interested in. It makes sense. I always see butterflies and birds. I can tell you if there is a hawk, especially a red tail, soaring anywhere in my vicinity. I notice gardens, white picket fences, flowers, especially roses (pink ones!) and irises. I pay attention to convertibles, red mustangs, men, anything baseball. All things I’m interested in.
But sometimes, what I notice surprises me. Walking around two weeks ago in my sister’s neighborhood in Portland, I kept seeing stairs. All the concrete, rock, and brick steps that led from the sidewalk up to people’s porches. Like this one, my favorite. I loved how these stairs came up from the street corner, how they were dappled in shade, plus all the different lines, angles, and curves in the shot. It was interesting, the obsession with stairs, since I hadn't noticed even one set the day before.
Today, walking in the redwoods in the Oakland hills, the path ahead of me kept grabbing and holding my attention. I was facinated by how ever-changing it was, how it was sometimes straight, but more often twisted and turning, how it wound in and out of the sun, close to and then away from the creek, how it narrowed at certain points, how the sides, and the canopy overhead changed. How I could never see very far ahead.
Yet because I’ve walked there before, I knew where the path led. But not being able to see beyond a certain point in front of me made me think of the path my life has taken, and how I truly have no idea where it is heading. Of course, we never really know where our life is heading, but we don’t generally think in those terms. Anything can happen, at any time that would alter the course, but most often we remain blissfully unaware, in denial even about the possibilities.
For me, the path is wide open. The only thing that I know for “sure” (god willin’ and the crick don’t rise, as my mom used to say) is that I will be heading for Molokai on September 1 (forty-six days!), and that I’ll be there for almost three full months. And even that, those three months, are as un-agenda’d as possible, and as wide open as the beautiful Pacific that surrounds the tiny island.
But after that, I have absolutely no idea. I have a lease on my apartment, so I’ll be back here at least until January 1. After that, I am unencumbered. Truly. No more marriage, mortgage, or kids in the home. One daughter is in Seattle, the other in San Francisco, but eager to return again to France. I have no big career, no need of a job if I live carefully. There’s no essential community that keeps me tied in place. I can say, with every true bone in my body, that I never saw this coming. And it depends on the day, sometimes the hour, even the moment, how I am able to be with it. At times, it is as liberating as hell, and I practically float with the possibilities, and at others, it is downright terrifying, and I feel like a ship cut loose from its moorings, drifting alone in the middle of a vast sea. At night. In bad weather. The GPS overboard.
I think a lot about moving, though there are people here that I really love, and am reluctant to move away from. Who I enjoy, and who have been shelters in the storm. My almost-legally-separated-from husband, for one, whom I remain very close to. Also my sister, and a few good friends. But I also have this intense longing to live somewhere more natural. Somewhere where there are more trees than people, where birds sing all day long, not just first thing in the morning, where crickets harmonize at night, and seasons actually turn. Where the breeze holds the scent of dirt and leaves and honeysuckle, and maybe, in my wildest dreams, salt from a nearby ocean. Where I can put my hands in the soil and garden again, grow roses and irises and salvias, lots of salvias, which hummingbirds love. Where I can not only have my dog, but he can run off leash, where I can have a cat again, maybe even two, and an outdoor fountain—oh, how I miss the sound of water, and where my upstairs neighbors don’t wake me, screaming at each other, at 2am, and then again at seven, when I’m trying to catch up on the sleep lost.
Is the path laid out unseen but perfect before us, or is it created in each moment, hacked out from the previous one, and the one before that? Is there such a thing as fate, or predestination, or is everything random, chance, happenstance? Or maybe this thing we call life is a combo of all of these things. I truly don’t know. But what I have seen in this past year, is how things unfold; how out of a great, sometimes very dark and challenging void, one single thought pops, somehow, from somewhere, into awareness, a match at midnight, a single firework—like Molokai—and wala, the path is not just cleared, but illuminated.
There have been other moments like these, less brilliant maybe, but no less real. I am beginning almost to see a pattern. Let go, and let life take me. Though maybe it’s less a path, and more a river, and our job is to strip naked, plunge in, and simply enjoy the ride. Yes, there will be obstacles; unseen rocks, rapids, high spring runoffs, drought years, the occasional fork. Some will be greater than others--like this year has been for me. Winters will be frigid, summers more languid. Still, it’s how life is, and it’s how we learn, grow, transform, become more fully who we came here to be.
Right now, I'm thinking about Santa Cruz. It hit me "out of the blue" a few days ago that it would be a great place to live. Natural, not too far from "home", lots of trees, the ocean, maybe, maybe even some like-minded people.
Hmmm. I guess I'll just have to wait and see if that's where the river of this particular life will be flowing.
Until next time...