Nature

Finding belonging off the beaten path

Wherever I am, whether it's a shopping mall or a local park, I notice how I look for places where people are not, and go there. How often I am literally off the beaten path. How I simply have to be in the places that other people don't go.

Today, I am on a muddy trail running through underbrush full of new young poison ivy. Five yards to my right I can see a nicely paved trail. But, not two yards to my left the broad creek is murmuring. A pair of Mallards are floating past, chuckling softly to themselves. And I can see, through the sparkle of sun on water, algae-furred rounded stones lying on the muddy bottom.

Yesterday, I almost lost a shoe in that mud's cousin out here on the bank. And it didn't matter. Because the experience of the creek from here is magnificent. The experience of the creek from here reminds me that I'm alive.

There is such infinite peace here. My edges soften and blur and take on the contours of tree and stone and murmuring water. I am, simply, home.

This desire to be off the beaten path…

…rises from so many parts of me. Rises from my multipotentialed curiosity, from my highly sensitive self needing the space and the ease of natural spaces to recover, from my introverted self for the same reasons, and for my Crone-woman self.

The more years I spend on this Earth the more aware I become of how essential these spaces and experiences are to reminding me of why I'm here.

I am a being of experience and senses. For me in particular, translating those experiences into words and sharing them…

that's part of why I'm here.

I'm rambling on muddy trails so other people will be inspired to do the same. I'm laughing about almost losing shoes in the mud, so other people will laugh about muddy near misses, too. And so people will fall in love with this place, with this Earth. Perhaps we can rediscover our sense of belonging, and work to ensure that all species, including humans, thrive.

But it's not just to be in service to the Earth that I am here off these beaten trails…

It's also to be in service to women like me.

Women who have walked so much of their lives feeling like they were skirting around the edges. Like they didn't belong. Like they didn't quite fit.

When I wander a new trail, even if it's only new to me, and share that experience, I like to think that it inspires women like me to do the same. And when I share how these out-of-the-way places, these trails that are often unpeopled, help me to find a deep sense of belonging, then my hope is that women like me - women like us - will recover their belonging and start to share their own off the beaten trail experiences.

But it's also about courage. It's also about developing our capacity to navigate unknown terrain despite being scared, or worried, or anxious. Unknown external terrain and unknown internal terrain.

Because, if we're being ourselves, if we're following the urge that takes us to these off the beaten path places, there's a lot of unknown terrain to navigate.

Can you imagine how much richer our culture would be if women like us shared our experiences rather than discounting them?

Terrified and hopeful

Recently, driven by a restless yearning for thinking of substance and concern for the future of this country I call home, I've been drinking in great gulps of Terry Tempest Williams' "The Open Space of Democracy."

It started because I’ve been trying to stay present and engaged in the events of this world and that’s tumbled me like a river stone and deposited me into a space both terrified and hopeful. I’m qware of systems - natural, social, and political - collapsing. I can smell the salty tang of evolution in the wind.

My wild she-who-remembers-her-interconnectedness self understands what’s happening. My indoctrinated-in-separateness human self wants to panic.

When I take several steps back and look from the outside, this divisive and chaotic mess looks like the decay it is. In our collective ecosystem, diseased old trees are beginning to fall. Space in the canopy is being cleared for sunlight to reach through. Soil is being made. Fertile places are being prepared for new systems to set their roots. It’s death so rebirth can happen.

Seen through the eyes of one fragile human who depends - or thinks she depends - on the collapsing systems for survival, it's hard to remember this. Hopelessness and apathy stalk me, snarling softly.

So I turn to the words of one who has walked this trail before me, finding both solace and warning.

"Expect anything.
Patience is more powerful than anger. Humor is more attractive than fear.
Pay attention. Listen. We are most alive when discovering.
Humility is the capacity to see.
Suffering comes, we do not have to create it,
We are meant to live simply.
We are meant to be joyful.
Life continues with and without us.
Beauty is another word for God."
- Terry Tempest Williams "The Open Space of Democracy"

Image credit: Unsplash


The Answer to Upheaval

Spring - any seasonal or life transition really - brings it's measure of chaos. 

Facets of life are being shuffled and redistributed. Whether by your hand or by the fine fingers of the Universe.

Chaos, while productive and essential, can become frustrating…annoying…exhausting. Sometimes, you just need the craziness to give it a rest.

I get that…so much right now.

When I need life to give it a rest, I plunk myself down in the middle of the mess, take deep breaths (lots), and counterintuitively open my heart wide. I become a well of stillness and compassion in the middle of the spinning life facets. I just refuse to spin with them anymore.

And then I listen for the rhythms, synchronicity, patterns that will weave everything together into it's new form.

Once you see the pattern it's much easier to deal with the lolloping looniness. It may not all settle into the pattern(s) you've discerned, but you know it will. And that helps. A lot. (For me, anyway.)