As I stand at the horizon it appears as if an artist has divided the canvas in half and I am standing at the edge of the known and the unknown. Each day I have been breathing in a new understanding and breathing out that which has become stale. I am left with myriad thoughts, none of which has had time take hold. And so for the next couple of weeks I will practice what has found me and what I have found. Fresh thoughts need practice. Process without practice keeps one stagnant. As Joan Erikson taught me: “Wisdom comes from life experiences well-digested.”
The very first time we met was on a jetty in our little town of Harwich Port. You have to be a little crazy or daring to tiptoe over the icy rocks as waves splashup one side and down another. On this particular day I was in a deep fog. I had escaped to Cape Cod to seek the direction I had lost along the way. And what should I bump into but a statuesque elder, her silver hair blowing in the wind. She turned and set her eggshell blue eyes on me as if she were expecting a visitor. “Do you suppose we’re the only two people in this town in the fog?” she asked, finishing her question with a bit of a giggle.I soon would learn that she was the partner of claimed psychotherapist, Erik Erikson and together they coined the phrase Identity Crisis. This was my lucky day. She was to pass on her thoughts of a life well digested and many more original gems. No more sitting around pondering my navel and staying in my head. Wisdom was found in the senses. Lethargy comes from lack of action. Energy is created in reciprocity.What jetty or bridge, or mountain will you head off to? “Always keep your hands on the plow and keep pushing,” she would say. Serendipity happens when you step out of your comfort zone.
I once was a fearless girl. But I seem to have lost her along the way probably because I was too busy taking care of others. I want some of that fearlessness back…the stuff that led me to disobey my mother, pelt snowballs at my brother’s gang single handed, swim nude knowing full well that people would soon inhabit the beach, or tell on my best friend when she lit an entire box of matches and almost burned our garage down.
Time’s a wastin’. If I hope to make it into the Odd Gals Hall I best begin to loosen up, be occasionally defiant, not shy away from the ridiculous and begin to take on one fear at a time, not unlike the sculpture on Wall Street called: Fearless Girl who symbolizes Female Empowerment.
What fears do you want to release?
As I was driving in Orleans I came to a stop in front of an old shabby building that would have never caught my attention except for the sign above the door…the Odd Fellows Hall. As I continued on my way I found myself imagining who those odd fellows were and what allowed you have to be labeled one. The more I thought about it the more I wished for an Odd Gals Hall. Too many years of a woman’s life are used up being perfectly camouflaged, meaning being like everyone else. At this stage of life, I long to be odd. What a relief to finally be whatever comes naturally—silly, ridiculous, defiant, peculiar, outrageous, naughty and more. There may not be an Odd Gals Hall but that will not keep me from being one.
I go to the sea for solace and usually return home having shifted my mood from dull to peaceful, my heart somehow beating to the rhythm of the waves instead of the heavy thump of this crazy onshore world.Today while visiting Provincetown, a quaint village at the tip of Cape Cod, I was drawn to a photographic exhibit, titled They Face The Sea, honoring fishermen’s wives who have held this spirited culture alive. Mostly I was impressed by where they chose to install these portraits. They are affixed to the side of a weathered shack which sits far out on a pier, easily claimed by the elements that inhabit the edge of the ocean. I imagine the artists choice of location further symbolized the hardships that accompany a seafaring life.As I stood bundled up with a wet wind glazing my face it occurred to me that facing the sea is not unlike facing life. You never know what you’ll sea/see but the possibilities are endless. No one could know this better that a fisherman’s wife. These resilient women not only face the sea but work with the sea, shucking scallops, mending nets, setting traps, remaining positive as their husbands set sail, all the while keeping the spirit and rituals of their Portuguese community alive.Although I sense that this culture like many others is becoming ancient history, I’m finding that what people are yearning for during this pandemic is memory—a sense of place and people, a belonging to one another. The noted sociologist Ashley Montague suggested that women are the carriers of culture. If that is so, we best get going.
I have frequently walked past this hastily constructed staircase built with rotted wood seasoned by the sea. In its own way I suppose you could say it is a modern day sea sculpture although that would be pushing it. Most days I pay no attention to such things, but today (probably out of extreme boredom), it has captured my curiosity. The Pandemic has temporarily stuffed my curiosity and I’m hell bent to get it back. It’s all about going forward, I say aloud, I place my right foot on an old piece of clapboard. Ouch! The first step snaps with the mere touch of my foot.No matter how precarious, frightening, steep or fragile this climb could be, it has the ability to take me to another level both literally and figuratively. I smile imagining my grandfather, frugal as they come, creating this monstrosity so we might have a little more vision for a better life. We had to be patient for things back then and I suppose that’s why that virtue is coming in handy. Just as I happen to have extra time to not only climb these stairs and reflect on past experiences so I need to also make ample time for patient doings.It’s all about stepping up to the job.
The Celtic peoples receive much of their wisdom from the natural world. They walk in specific directions for specific reasons. North offers healing; West offers patience; South offers clarity; East offers grace.Right now I find so many soul seekers facing west to watch the sunset. I, for one, can’t get enough of this amazing experience. Is it because I am searching for patience…that quality that has eluded me during this pandemic and civil strife? Whatever, after the sun sinks into the sea, my shoulders drop, I take a gentle breath and for a time I know a way will open.
Women instinctively know that all solutions involve action. What’s more, action creates change. Action gets reaction. Action inspires. Action in the Greek means to stretch toward something. Keep stretching my friends, and your whole world will open up.
It was she who saved her…pulled her up…and pulled her through. They wove a lifetime blanket of old and wise, green and blessed truths that cradles her soul and saves her from freezing.Muse: A gliding spirit; A source of inspiration; Nature as muse…Friend as muse I want my very ordinary life back…the one where you get up in the morning, make a cup of coffee, check the to do list, feel a little contentment watching a gentle snow fall, luxuriate in the ordinariness of the day, no emergencies, a few boring errands, mail a birthday gift to a friend, and just melt into the hours.I’ve tried really hard to be a good sport, during this dreadful pandemic,,. realizing how fortunate I am, appreciating the hard work of the front liners, and relieved of the mourning that dwells in homes where death has come.Still, with the cancelling of holiday festivities, family get-togethers, informal coffees, volunteer work, church services, sporting events, to name a few, regular living as we knew it is no longer Technicolor, but black and white. A life that keeps presenting us with season upon season of stagnation is killing the very soul of community. Missing human contact which awakens the senses only comes with connection…tactile and otherwise. Being anti-social discourages reciprocity which then creates dead zones. In fact, we’ve been breathing oxygen deficient air. Without motion, without reciprocity that comes with relationship, without fresh air (fresh thought and deed as well) we begin to wilt. If nothing else, the pandemic is teaching me to not only BE in the world and own that experience but to also share what I’m learning in hopes of growing my spirit from a negative place to a more positive.As if on cue the phone rings. It is a true friend, Cheryl. With Cheryl, I can be serious, ridiculous, truthful, silly, bitchy , wild, passionate and frightened, to name a few. Some discussions are trivial and whimsical while others we consider courageous. No matter, whatever the theme we thrive on connecting our thoughts, sharing true feelings , being heard, and coming away having made sense of life’s paradoxes is the gift of friendship.Today I asked her if she wished to have more delight in her life?“I’m not sure I even remember what that is.” she quipped..And that became a starting point for our next chat. We would both get out our “delight detectors” and see if indeed we actually received by surprise or a choreographed moment when, ah yes, a high degree of pleasure or satisfaction was experienced. To harness the muse it is helpful to play it out with another to make for a lasting experience. That way we climb out of the muck. What has delighted you recently?????
“If it is woman’s function to give, she must be replenished too.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh