Algonquin prelude

Don and I have arrived at Edgewater Park Lodge for the beginning of our 11 day trip into the backcountry of Algonquin. It will be just the two of us for this first leg of what will be a 21 day experience here. We are seated now in the Adirondack chairs (they call them Muskoka chairs here) along the water’s edge at Sand Lake. At 5 o’clock the water is just beginning to smooth itself into shimmery late-afternoon ripples. The sky, heavy with clearing cloud cover, reveals the sun, though only occasionally, peering through short-lived breaks. It is so incredibly warm – perhaps close to 80 degrees – and I catch a glimpse of what summer here may be like. Sand bars and edge-of-the –water grasses are visible in lower water levels where they were not a year ago and some noisy geese are populating them.

Oh, I feel the beginnings of release already. The low, soft-spoken voice of the young man at the office in Kearney, where we picked up our permits, hinted at a gentler pace. The unhurried wait for lunch service at the restaurant here had both Don and me reaching for our phones to check messages and social media. How revelatory was that, the way we both felt the need to fill the space with distraction, to cram one more thing, one last thing.

Even when packing for this trip, I noticed this in me, this need for ‘one more thing’, this filling of my time with busyness, leading right up to the moment we pulled away from the curb in front of the house. Now I am thinking I might just leave behind altogether every one of the ‘slim’ books for which I’d rushed back (oh yes, I’ve a selection of thin books so numerous they’d fill an entire backpack themselves) ‘spend’ this time simply being , emptying out.

What am I afraid of?

Ironically, the book on the side table next to me is entitled ‘A Life of Being, Doing, and Having Enough’ . I am soo full – my mind is so full, full of anxiety and chaos, worry and fear, lists and ideas, people and things to keep track of.

I breathe out and a little of the frantic energy dissipates. My soul begins to quiet, to settle like a restless, jittery pup at its mother’s teat, sighing as its belly fills with warmth.

An island rests on the water between me and the horizon. My eyes rest on its invitation. The water begins to lick more insistently the rocks near my feet. A gull squeals as two mergansers make their way past. Crickets or tree frogs slowly break into their evening’s song. The ever changing sky opens into patches of blue.

It is good to be still, still enough to pay attention. To be filled (nay, nourished) by what is here, not by what I can distract myself – busyness , information, minutiae . I wonder what distress I am covering with all of that? What I am seeking to avoid? Or is it just habit/addiction developed as a reaction to the lack of spaciousness/solitude in my days. This feeling of being overwhelmed and exhausted, of ‘too much’, has filled pages in these journals now for years. With no space to be still, nothing in me feels settled. Busyness is such a strange antidote for that, like poisoning a body to heal it.

Something in me seeks healing, yearns for permission to let go of this surface striving, so that she can rise up.

The book I carried to the water’s edge asks me to slow down, to listen for the most essential ‘why’ of my life, to let that be the thread I hold onto as I make may way through my days, the touchstone I reach for, stoking gently. Each choice I make then would be drawn from this essential internal knowing. Lately, in my return to a practice of prayer and meditation, in seeking to make contact with that quieter, wiser, more peaceful place in myself, I have been finding myself (hmm, interesting choice of phrase) anchoring my meditation in lovingkindness, in my intention and desire to live from a place of gentle, tender presence. That could be such a thread .

I had once thought that beauty was the thread for me – seeking it always in all that I witnessed and experienced was a way of noticing the sacred in the midst of the chaos of life – but perhaps being attentive to beauty was merely a means to reach the bedrock of some deeper, quieter place in me, one so often hidden beneath the ripples and waves on the surface. Ripples that now shimmer like so many diamonds cast out on the water by some Godde playing craps, wagering whether or not I will be drawn to the light; or will be thrown off course when ripples turn to whitecaps and my focus is forced to (too) narrow.

Oh, may I not rush back into striving, and may my doing be full of presence- gentle, loving, peaceful presence. Three weeks, 14 days of which will be spent alone with my beloved… may it be a time of re-turn, not of refueling or re-charging or replenishment, but of return (repent?), turning inward and back to some deeper, quieter place within me, a more loving place, a still place. Perhaps this is not at all a time to fill up but to release what is no longer serving, to strip what has covered over my essence.

Then, only then, may I carry myself with me from this place… the me that I find here—alive, naturally peaceful, naturally joyful, the me that is so often, too often, covered over by the urgencies and the trivialities of a more frantic self.

And now the setting sun breaks through at last, gilding a line on the opposite shore, where the subtlest of waves break on the sand, causing ripples to sparkle.

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