Crossing the threshold

DSCF0083.JPGHalf-heartedly, I return to the place I call home, uncertain that the whole of my heart has caught up with the time travel (which is entirely too far and too fast for a human body to possibly comprehend anyway).  It seems that surely I have lost pieces of my heart along the way, left behind bits of it on the lake where the howl of the wolves parts the thick morning mists, dropped other pieces amongst the wild cranberries I gathered at the boggy end of a portage trail (leaving some behind some of those for the others… bears or birds…who might also delight in their juicy tartness), while still more bits of it are likely lingering in the hull of my boat next to the beaver lodge, listening to the beavers mewl inside. The rhythms that my body fell so seamlessly into… rising before daybreak to unfold with the dawn, walking down to the water’s edge to draw water from the lake for the morning pot, making fire and waiting for the boil as the loon patiently called for her chick…. are out of sync with squared off walls that block the light and muffle the sounds of traffic.  There, I listened to the body… my own and the earth’s, it’s turning telling me when to rise and when to retire, it’s temperature and rainfall telling me when to move and when to be still. Here, I feel out of sync with artificial schedules and priorities that feel like they belong to some foreign body, not my own.

For weeks, I lived wild in those wide open spaces, so full of sky and land that I felt their expansiveness in my very body, as if my hair had become the wisps of cloud, my legs the flowing water, my voice carried by the canoe to join in the song of the land. How does one make oneself small again after that? I’ve been feeling a bit like Alice, wondering what I might have to eat (stuff?) in order to make myself fit back into my old life.

Out there, I’d become enamored by the plethora of mushrooms, blooming, overnight it seemed, pushing up a clump of soil and moss to emerge in the light of a dawn where they hadn’t shown signs just the night before. Of course, I knew that they had a vast underground growth that had been developing for years, the more obvious blossoms just the tip of that iceberg.  Perhaps nibbling a morsel of one of those might be “fitting’, so to speak.  Indeed, I have felt myself withdraw, down deep into the soil of myself these past days … for protection perhaps. Even the noise of conversation seems too great a demand, as if something is being asked of me that is too great. Can the bloom be so quickly gone?

When I returned to the lodge, those final days after my last trip into the backcountry, I wondered if it was Ok for me to cross the threshold into the inner sanctum of the lodge’s main kitchen, which had been so welcoming during the weeks I was there earlier in the summer, earning my keep between canoe trips. There, I had been fed in so many ways. There was a place of belonging and nurture for my body and soul, where conversations ran deep as the masks that are donned in the roles of hostess or guest or leader or guide or mother or daughter or wife were removed.

I had thought often during those particular weeks at the lodge of the exercise in the book, “Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself’ in which the reader is invited to imagine her life as a house, the center of which contains  the proverbial ‘Room of Her Own’. How might such a room be furnished in ways that are not proscribed or prescribed, not with mass-produced pieces that the culture deems appropriate, but with a life that feels authentic? In the other cluttered rooms of our houses, we may be forced to wear the masks of certain roles, but in this room we are full of ourselves, filled from within.

Between backcountry trips, I’d lived in a sparse little cabin at the back of the lodge’s property.. a kitchen counter with ‘vintage’ appliances perched atop an old, peeling vinyl floor, a paneled bedroom, a freestanding fiberglass shower stall, a small screened porch with a broken door…a hermitage, if you will. There, I was disconnected, inaccessible to the world outside of the lodge. As such, my days were simple and present to the tasks at hand…. often physical labor (which my hostess joked was like that of Cinderella)….but uncluttered and undivided (no running about like the White Rabbit)  Though often quite long and full, there was a certain simplicity to my days there, as well as a strange sense of autonomous interdependence in my aloneness that I don’t often experience in life at home. My days-off were filled with quiet hours alone, setting off to explore by foot or canoe or into the park to fill my heart with wonder. There was solitude and community, interdependence and self agency, belonging and freedom.

Indeed, a sense of  my own rhythms had also emerged while I was living there and I was also feeling the loss of that upon my return, when I’d asked my friend that question, “Is it ok for me to cross this threshold now that I am a mere guest again”?  The disconnection that I felt at not entering that inner space was palpable.

I do not wish to be a guest in my own life, but to fully inhabit it, to move freely into the inner places and back rooms that nurture me, where the language of the heart is spoken and honored, to live openly as well in a heart-full and wide-alive space. There is a vast difference between moving freely into and within that heart space and shrinking into it for protection because the outer space one is in feels unsafe and unwelcome, or closing the door on the heart to don the mask of a role you must play.

There is a vast, almost quantifiable energy that I feel, alone in those wild places where my real and wild self feels strong and empowered to dance and to sing without judgment and negativity. (Indeed, I notice even that taking persons with me into those wild places can sometimes impede that sense of aliveness considerably, dampening my energy and my joy, for it is the times that I rise early to be alone with the unfolding dawn, or go off by myself to climb to the top of a granite lichen covered ledge or down into the mossy roots of a great old tree, or take the canoe out for a solo spin in the waning light, that I feel most free and alive… Dance like no one is watching then?)

My new friend suggested the old film title ‘When Worlds Collide” to describe this home-going feeling in me, and asked if it might not be appropriate at all for Alice to be asked to become small, or to close her eyes to what she has seen in that new world? Perhaps she might instead let herself be SEEN, revealing her true self. (thank you, Erin) Another friend invited me to escort the wildness I uncovered home with me, to never lose sight of the real and wild woman I have always been. (thank you, Cheri) .

And so, as best I can in this place, I will try to keep myself awake… awakening with the dawn, if you will…. and keep myself in touch with my aliveness however I can, letting myself feel the vastness I felt in that land and the nurture I felt in that kitchen. I will go back in my mind to gather those left-behind bits of my heart, tuck them safely into this beautiful body of mine, filling it with love and joy.

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