Me on the Tall Tree Trail in my glory days :)
The blue sky has gotten me through a lot of hard times in my life. I remember my mother asking how I could handle it, right after Stephanie's father burned down my store on the ocean, taking off once he found out there was no insurance money. ("I took you for everything you had," he told me, departing.) "You've just lost everything you had in the world," Mom said. And I replied, "But we're still all alive, and there's still sunshine and trees and blue sky. All the things that mean the most to me are free."
I have started over from scratch many times in my life. It almost feels like each decade was a completely separate lifetime. Except for the sense of wonder that accompanied me through each decade.
I remember sitting with my grandmother at the end of her life, when she was mourning all that was no longer in her life. Looking up at the dark trees, breathing in the scent of the forest, I felt a grateful connection with earth and sky. Grandma watched me wistfully, then said, "You have great joy in being alive, dont you?"
It is with a sense of wonder that I have walked through my life, and this has been one of life's great gifts to me: that even in the most painful moments, my heart has still lifted at the sight of trees poking through wisps of fog on mountainsides, at the way clouds look against a backdrop of blue sky.
It all seems such an incredible gift, that the earth should be so beautiful. That there are canyons of red clay, towering blue peaks topped with white, forests full of magical peace, and always the murmuring sursurration of the sea.
It was to the shore I went the night my son was diagnosed with schizophrenia. (More about him soon. He is the one now battling cancer - life is not very fair.) The rhythmic sound of the waves calmed me, reminded me of trust, spoke to me of his and my connection to something much greater than our little lives, reminding me that, even in times of difficulty, just being alive is a gift. In the tidepools at my feet, in small universes full of life, tiny critters were as intent upon fulfilling their destinies as I was mine.
Life brings us pain, but it also teaches us that whatever life sends us, we can handle. (Do we have any choice? Only in how we respond to challenges.) Especially if we believe something larger than what seems to be happening is really going on. "There is a larger landscape than the one we see." (author unknown). Along with the pain, life brings us so many moments of wonder, so many minor miracles.
When overwhelmed with grief, one's instinct is to shut down from pain that feels too intense to be borne. But in protecting ourselves from pain, we prevent ourselves from also fully experiencing joy.
It is in opening up to the whole of life: the joy and the pain, the difficulty and the wonder, that we live and grow. I finally learned that, when pain comes, I must push my way through it and out the other side, trusting it is part of the process, part of going forward, meeting life with the best one can muster. My work now is to be as perfectly present as I can be, to open myself to whatever work the universe has yet in store for me. J.C.Lucas, our West Coast First Nations medicine man, once told me, "Your greatest pain is your strongest medicine," and it is true. When we say yes to the whole of life, we begin to see a myriad of miracles strewn along our everyday path.
It seems as deeply as we sometimes sink in sorrow, just as high may we also rise in wonder. When we learn to trust the universe, and ourselves, to know something a lot bigger than ourselves is in charge, to surrender, to let go and to flow, our eyes open to the little gifts: herons picky-toeing along the mudflats, eagles perching regally atop scraggy branches, friendly ancient tree trunks breathing peace through layers of moss, crimson sunrises, and always always the sky like a backdrop, a protective cover, a canvas across which cloud shapes more perfect than paintings roll serenely by. In the midst of pain and struggle, hardship and difficulty, moments of grace lift the heart,connect us with all that is, remind us to raise our perspective to encompass the big picture, and to merge with the whole grand scheme of things, rejoicing that we are alive in this moment in time, able to breathe and fully savor the wonder of opening our eyes one more morning to the beauty of a brand new day.
Life is a journey fraught with many tears, but the reward for it all is wonder: when I stood on Radar Hill one early springtime morning, I could see heartbreaking beauty for 360 degrees around me, the perfect and utter beauty of the natural world. I thought of all that was going on below: humans creating havoc for other humans and for the planet. My heart aches for humankind, even while it lifts at the sight of sunlight consecrating trees, and birds wheely freely over shining waters.
Once I learned to trust, to listen and to really see, life became such a magical journey that I now believe, whatever pain still comes, my solace and support and joy will always be nearby, in the natural world that brings gifts each day to those who know how to receive them, and in connection to the spirit world, that is as equally all around us and within us.
I walk each day in gratitude for the gift of being alive, in acceptance and in peace, because I trust there is something leading me the way I'm supposed to go. My heart is humbly grateful to have reached this part of the journey, so open to the wonder, the incredible beauty and blessings I am surrounded by every day.
I feel my spirit rising to meet life, all of it, the joy and the pain, human frailty and heroism, peoples' hearts reaching out, hungry for simple kindness and goodness. I find myself wanting to applaud the courage of those who keep on striving to find their way, as I did, through the darkness and closer to the light. I want to tell them: "you're almost there - the other side of that coin of pain is incredible joy. It is waiting for you, up ahead."
My prayers are almost all prayers of gratitude now, for having come this far in finding peace. I love the fresh hopefulness of each new day breaking, all fresh-smelling. I cant see over the mountain range that separates me from the wild shores I love, but in my memory I see crimson dawn rising over the inlet, love the sight of windswept sandy beaches which each morning bear different patterns from the waves of the night before. I remember my feet fairly dancing as I stepped out onto them to walk to the rhythm of the waves.
It is enough and more than enough to fill my heart to the brim, riches beyond measure, free for the taking. And I feel myself, not falling, but rising in love.