Sunday, December 14, 2014

After The Storm... (or not...)

There is nowhere I would rather be than the ocean, and there's really nowhere I'd rather be after a big storm than there. It's messy and chaotic and powerful and so very alive. That, plus the absolute abundance of negative ions everywhere, it's hard not to be in the middle of that without feeling its affects. Even while the hurricane is still thrashing about in one's personal life, for the moment it is washed away, and there is clear space, some peace and relaxation, and yes, even some awe.

I feel so lucky to live within about an hour's drive of the ocean. The love affair began early; my mom throwing us all in the station wagon, egg salad and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the picnic basket (pimiento-cheese for her), Kool Aid in the jug, if we were lucky and it was near payday, some Hydrox cookies and we were off. As a teen, I piled as many friends in my red VW Bug as would fit and headed south or west depending on our mood. Pepsi, Marlboro's, transistor radio, sand, surf, sun on our skin, wind in our hair... and if we were lucky, cute boys to ogle... oh my. It's where I took my own kids, watched as the spell took hold, and then, once in therapy, I took myself often, sometimes it was the only place I felt safe, and I would stay for hours, listening to the waves, processing, walking the long beach, reading - devouring actually - books about healing, about the descent, about the wild feminine soul, the words burning a fire in me... the brightest light, the truest knowing even in the midst of the dark. And sometimes, most often actually, doing nothing, nothing at all but sitting and letting it wash all over me, sooth me, hold me as I prepared to dismantle more, to dig ever deeper. One day I saw dolphins, like magic, nearly forty years going to the same beach and there they were, unbelievable! and another love affair began.

Yesterday my oldest daughter and I headed over after the big storm two days ago. The surf was magnetic; loud, frothy, beautiful. I watched it work its magic on her, if even for a few moments forgetting, snapping photos with her iPhone in one hand, her DSLR in the other, confessing her love of film over digital - as though criminal behavior! As waves crashed all around us, talking the mystery of creativity, the uncertainty of life; of endings and grief, dreams dashed, the void; awash in the long-awaited news of a story being published, and with it hope resurrected and seeds planted. Precious moments of heartfelt intimacy.

All too often, mostly since my own upheaval a few years ago, I tend to focus on what is not instead of seeing what is right before me. Even in the dark, stormy times there can be such beauty. If we can only see it. And I don't mean the light in the dark, I mean the beauty in the gloomy, stark landscape itself; where there is no choice but to just be, where all of life ends and begins, where there is nothing and where, in actuality, there is everything. Especially as we head toward Winter Solstice and the darkest time of the year, honoring the change of season, the dark, the endings, the pain and grief of transformation, the mystery itself, and at the same time opening to what is always, always here, no matter the season or the weather or the circumstances... that thing of the heart we call love, plain and simple and humbling in its intensity; the river beneath everything, sweet, holy, precious, heartbreaking, messy, chaotic, sacred, life-affirming, the-only-thing-that-ever-matters love.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


In the past five days Northern California has gotten more rain than in the entirety of last winter. A mere drop in the bucket for this serious three-year-long drought we are in but still, I swear I think I can hear the earth singing... or maybe that's just me, or maybe it's this sweet creek, that has not had a drop of water in it in the two years that I have lived here. Hearing its melody as it trickled over rocks and roots, imagining how nourished the plant and animal life - the very earth itself - must be feeling because of it, feeling my own awe at such a small, beautiful thing, was a joy.

When the downpour broke for a few minutes, I couldn't wait to get over there to the park. I donned my raincoat and boots, grabbed my camera, and headed out the front door, a woman on a mission. Only to be stopped by the sheer beauty; everywhere I turned such stunning fall color, more vibrant I'm sure after getting their leaves so thoroughly cleansed. Everything seemed to vibrate, the leaves, the clouds, the air itself. 

Life is hard right now. Big changes are happening for members of my family. The air here is awash in loss, grief, conflict, sorrow, vulnerability, fear of the unknown; and I am fighting, though most of the time losing, trying to keep my own balance, wanting to be there for the deep need, feeling pulled in too many directions, my own childhood traumas triggered at the same time that my own loved ones need me, and my normal go-to's not working. But on that little break yesterday, out in the crisp and clean air, under thick, full clouds, everything covered in raindrops, trees painted their fall colors, puddles full of leaves, water flowing, squirrels scurrying about, birds calling out tentatively, there was respite. In those moments, my mind grew quiet, and I could feel a letting go, a calming of my nervous system. She - Mother Earth - is the very ground beneath us; without Her there is nothing, period... and I need to remember that a profound nurturance is found there, that it is there we can experience renewal; even if it means no more than opening the front door and breathing in the fresh air, stepping outside and feeling her solidly beneath me, taking in her colors, shapes, textures, patterns, her myriad life forms, or staring into the vastness of the sky that holds Her. It's so simple really... I just need to remember.