transitions

DSCF0091I am home on my porch in Mt Gretna still easing in to life here after 2 weeks visiting the lakes of Canada….

….Ok, there is so much wrong about that opening sentence, for my sense of home is quite the reverse of that statement. It is on the lakes that I feel most at home and here where I can feel like a visitor, and ‘easing’ is not at all how this feels. Dis-easing my way in to life here would be a more true way of putting it, for I am, as a wise friend puts it, ‘away-from-home-sick’. Already, I am planning the next trip and reading of other’s experiences, placing myself in those stories so completely that my spirit feels free though my body lies heavy on the sofa. Sometimes, I don’t know what to do with that. For so long I have been yearning, yet I know that this feeling is true of many of us who fall in love with a place. We visit and then we long. For more. Perhaps it is like romantic love, wooing us into a new life. Perhaps there is some quality of being that we glimpse in ourselves, beheld for those precious moments away. Perhaps, free from constraints, we are free to be who we are.

Thinking about transitions, I find myself back on my perch on the rounded boulder on the north side of our small island campsite, at water’s edge, listening. The more boisterous sounds of the breaking dawn have faded, for the sun is already marching its way across the midmorning sky towards noon, but I can still hear the occasional howl of the wolves, in the distance now as they are also on the move. Their songs have been moving us to silence each morning since we arrived in this place.

So much of the trip thus far has been about the sounds of spring awakening. Just 2 weeks ago this lake would’ve been covered in ice, but things wake up in a hurry here, all-at-once like my husband at home jumping up out of bed to greet the day. Already, the trillium and arbutus are blooming along the trail. Last evening, we were amused by the low glub-glunk of the American bittern, calling out for a mate, a sound one might more likely expect to come from the throat of a frog than a bird, and during yesterday’s paddle through the serene mirror-like waters of the neighboring David Lake we were accompanied by the periodic drumming of a Ruffed Grouse doing the same. Two barred owls caterwauling  with hoots and caws and gurgles filled our ears two nights ago, and the trilling and purring of sand hill cranes have delighted us both morning and evening. Of course, there are peepers and peckers and white throated sparrows, ravens and loons, even robins.

As I sit, listening, I note over my shoulder the singular buzzing of a fuzzy bumble bee, visiting, one-by-one, the leatherleaf that crowds the shoreline with its miniature dangling white bells. As his droning fades, and my attention returns to my body, I realize I am quite chilled. Though the sky is brilliant and clear, the sun has not yet broken through the treetops on this side of the island. Soon enough, I will be shedding layers in the afternoon heat, as has been our pattern these early spring days, waking each morning chilled to the bone at near freezing temperatures, bodies bundled, toes and noses seeking the warmth of the small stick fire that is heating our morning brew, by afternoon stripped layer by layer to shirtsleeves.

The chorus likewise is stripped away, each voice letting go of its bit of harmony until by midday there is a silence almost as deep as the darkness of midnight. So often we associate silence with the night, and I suppose there are those hours, when the stars are polluting the sky with wonder, when such a dark silence does fall (well, except during a warm, clear, looong night of peepers). But if you pay attention, you’ll notice the silence of midday too, when life seems to settle into quiet for a time. Similarly, as we move toward the middle of our time here, as with each passing day a layer of civilization is removed, a layer of defense, a layer of control,  I grow more silent.

I move to the opposite side of the island, into the sun that is washing the earth. A pine tree offers a rest for my back that the boulder did not afford and I sigh, as a soft sun-kissed breeze caresses my face, grateful for the lullaby-like lapping of the waves on the rocks of this graceful cove.

I return to pondering the rhythm of silence and sound in this place, noting that it is during the hours of transition between darkness and light that the cacophony of life is at its peak. I think about labor, of course, and that stage of transition when birth is so very imminent, the sounds of the laboring mother most intense, reminiscent of the cries of lovemaking that ushered her toward that birthing bed. I think about the transition at the other end of life,  of a conversation I had with a hospice worker recently heard about certain Buddhists requesting that pain medication be withheld so that they can be fully present to that passage.  I wonder about that. I think about wailing walls and the keening of mourners. Without negating the very real suffering that physical pain can bring, nor the great gift of presence that pain relief can offer, I wonder if we too often and too easily reach for something to numb or distract us from facing our pain and the passage it may be offering? Is it possible that when we inappropriately anesthesize ourselves during life’s transitions that we strip them of the sacred invitation in the silencing of the struggle? Of course, there is a great difference between silencing (being silenced) and this silence that brings with it peace

Back home, on my porch, I am struggling mightily with the transition back to the ‘real’ world, full of its own kind of noise … lawnmowers and traffic and power tools and the drone of something I cannot quite pinpoint. My own springtime longings are running high in my blood, causing cries of my own that might amuse a nearby listener’s ears. There is, like the bittern and the barred owl, a similar urgency in me to conceive a new life.  I sit at the laptop this morning to attend to it, hoping that being present to it, rather than numbing or distracting myself with busy-ness, will honor this passage, call forth the sacred story that my soul is longing to sing.

 

 

 

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