Day 6, Hallowing Diminishments

(from the Quaker booklet  ‘Hallowing One’s Diminishments’ ,  “I saw that the first step for me in learning to “hallow” the progressive diminishments in store for me was deep-going acceptance. But the acceptance would have to be positive, not a negative one, if it were to be a real hallowing. I must learn to do something creative with it”)

Late afternoon, atop the granite ledge

Oh my! What a spectacular view from this ledge. THIS is the most wondrous campsite I have ever seen. Thank you, thank you!

The day began in wind. Wind has accompanied us throughout our day. It is not so terribly cold anymore, but so very, very damp. I am able to sit here only because of good rain gear.

Pandion pond was the first body of water we passed through today, after the short portage from Shah lake. I found it to be magical, a ‘secret garden’ of a pond, replete with beaver lodge and otter scat, definitely worth a revisit at dusk to watch it come alive by twilight, if we were to camp somewhere near the trail.

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The second portage, from Pandion Pond to Misty Lake was much longer, with some muck and a few uphills and downs, but all in all not a bad trip. Abundant moose’berries’ (scat) and fresh tracks along the way, but still no moose. (S/he seems to enjoy using the same trails as we do.). Bonus – we were greeted at the end of the trail by a marsh being hunted by two harrier hawks.

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The morning winds finally brought afternoon rain and so the paddle across Misty into the driving rain was hard. My muscles are more weary from that paddle than from the two portages. We finally crashed into this campsite on the west end of this island just to get out of the elements.

But, oh, how fortunate that crashing, how worth the aching muscles, is this picturesque panorama.

Again, it seems we are alone on the lake, a large one, even though it is a Saturday and we had expected weekend trippers. Perhaps the distance from the nearest put-in is still great enough to keep weekenders from intruding this far.

I am so very ready to settle in here for some quiet time, to be still, to listen. Three full days are planned here, though I am sensing a mutiny afoot. It seems the others are already three days ahead of me in their minds, fretful about the paddle out/up the Petawawa River.

Of course, it didn’t help their cause that my husband brought their inkling to my attention. I am sensitive enough to his seeming re-doing or re-thinking of everything I do. (There is always another way, always!)

I wonder, how can I understand this better? Love this more? We continue to bicker and nag….so much push and pull,  power and control, opinions and second-guessing, my way and his way.  I wish it weren’t so. How can I love him more open-heartedly, less defensively? Appreciate him more. Let him simply be who he is, with tenderness and love.  Honor his particular wisdoms and respect his perspective and ways. I wonder, do I disempower him, disallow him from feeling accomplished at something? Are there places I could hand things over to him, entrust him, let go of control?

These are the things I can watch in myself.

But he is so stubborn!!

Of course, choosing to paddle a tandem canoe on a 10 day trip is great fodder for such discord… as well as for such awareness. In fact, paddling a tandem canoe can be a lot like a husband’s retirement — too much togetherness, not enough autonomy, making of him both a blessed companion and cursed antagonist. Over these last years, when I witness these snarky places in myself, I’ve often had the realization that I really need something that is completely my own, something that I can choose and direct and sculpt, be accomplished at, into which I can pour my creative energies, so that I don’t have to wrestle it from him. (There is something to be said for division of labor, after all!) Though I’m fairly good at being a ‘helpmate’ for his projects, coming up with creative ideas and solutions, lending a hand, the problem for me is that they always seem to be his projects and priorities.

When was the last time that I was alone? No wonder I yearn for some solitude… I haven’t heard my own voice in years!

My husband has come to sit next to me. I feel so close to him this way, together, side-by-side, breathing in this view…. letting go

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Evening, in my sleeping bag

I have come to understand that this trip has been taxing for my friends. This is perhaps the source of the tension I have been feeling. Much of their stress has been the result of weather and equipment failure (a leaking tent, a lightweight canoe that does not handle wind and waves well), beyond my control, which has made things quite challenging for them. We have had no easy paddles from site to site in pleasant conditions.. they have all been in rain and fog, wind and waves, where we have been so focused on ‘getting there’ that we have been unable to take in the majesty of the moment of which we were in the midst. Likewise the portages have been challenging. It can also be difficult to look around and appreciate the journey as gift when the destination looms unknown.

These grueling days on the move, move, move have reinforced the need for some stillness in me. That was supposed to happen here on this lake. However, now it seems my friends wish to move on as soon as possible. They fear the conditions ahead on the Petawawa after so many days of wind and rain, and want to move much sooner than planned to a site closer to the take-out, where they can rest, assured.

I am not wanting to be selfish, but to be sensitive to their needs and concerns. However, accompanying that sensitivity, I note in myself a deep surging well of grief, not solely about the loss of time on this island but a foreboding about this possibility of lost future trips to this place. I had perhaps pinned my hope too firmly onto their eagerness and willingness to go to these wild places with me. There are so few I have met who share my love for this kind of experience. (in fact, M and I joked earlier in the trip, when bonding over the fact that we really do love this experience that it seems so few other women do, ‘So, what’s wrong with us?!’) Now they seem to be acknowledging, with their own concomitant sorrow and sense of loss, that this kind of trip may be too much for them. (and, I’ll just admit it, this brings up the concurrent fear in me that ‘I am too much’, even for them!)

Again, I am noting my dependence on another, which seems to bind me somehow.. in good ways and bad, I suppose…. but this is a similar to the budding awareness of earlier in the day, on that ledge, of the ways in which I lack autonomy and self-determination in my life, such that I must wrestle it from another. Is there an invitation here for me too? To take charge of my own life? To own my own power and strength? To allow another’s ‘no’ to become opportunity for my own ‘yes’?

I acknowledge my own fears (can I do this alone?) which fills me with the longing to savor every moment of this place. The fear of loss can do that too.I also expect this is not easy for them to accept, that it feels like conceding a diminishment.

Wilderness experiences challenge these places in us. Do you choose to embrace the rain as blessing or curse, for instance? Choose to embrace your volatile and vulnerable body in the same manner? Already my friends have hinted at the blessings they experience in a surrender to stillness… the intimacy that comes from staying in place, the way in which one can appreciate the sound of the rain on the rooftent at night when one doesn’t have to worry over paddling swollen rivers the next.

Where in my own life do I resist what-is rather than choosing to see it as blessing? Where do my own expectations create suffering? Where does my choice to see something as miserable (or beautiful) make it so?

Oh, but there is something in me that longs for more….

In the book I have been reading, I turn to the chapter on the South, the Wild Indigenous One, the One who knows/feels her deep belongingness to this earth through her intimacy with it’s wildness. She experiences her Oneness with the solidity of the earth, the flow of the water, the fierceness of the cold, etc. The first thing that ‘pops’ off the page at me tonight is my own need to recall ‘delight’ in place. Where has my delight gone?… not just on this trip, but in my life-back-home.  I acknowledge that there is something about being responsible that affects my ability to experience delight, and I feel responsible for this trip, since I chose the course we would take. There is something about being in the presence of anxiety that inhibits delight. My friends are anxious, but I must also acknowledge that there is something about my need to please and accommodate that creates anxiety too. There is something about fear of judgment that inhibits also delight (oh, to dance as if no one is watching!).

But now, the South asks me to also honor all of these feelings in me… particularly the ones that look ugly and which I want to hide… jealousy, frustration, judgment, anger, anxiety, desire, lust!!… as informative of where things are in.. or out.. of balance. For instance, when I notice my anxiety about being liked and belonging in a relationship, how am I care-taking instead of care-giving in that relationship? Is the flow about giving something from within or getting something from without, about ‘making sure everybody is happy’ or about sharing joy?… hmmm, has that boulder slid back into place?

Reading this chapter, I am struck with how I have lost connection with this part of myself that knows herself to be intimate with the earth, this part of me that experiences delight in that belonging, which not so long ago felt quite innate. How in love I once was… in embodied, erotic, love with the earth. Oh my soul, where are you??

There was this specific line that struck me about ‘delighting in flesh and fur, bark and seed, husk and fruit, wind and water; being thrilled by scent of jasmine, taste of honey, spectacle of elk (moose) or eagle, roar of thunder, buzz of bees or by full bodied immersion in ocean (lake), storm or final dazzling rays of sunset’

Can we not relish it all? The sun and the rain, the rest and the work, the stillness and the wind. Love what is, enjoy what is, be blessed by what is. THIS is my hope for tomorrow. ‘To let this soft animal body love what it loves’.  Tomorrow, I simply love this place…as it is… and the people with whom I am sharing it….as they are.

You see, I want a lot,
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.

So many are alive who don’t seem to care.
Casual, easy, they move in the world
as though untouched.

But you take pleasure in the faces
of those who know they thirst.
You cherish those
who grip you for survival.

You are not dead yet, it’s not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life
that reveals itself quietly there.

Rilke, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

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