The Box That Is Not You

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Photo Credit: Pixabay 

You are not the box, you are what’s inside of it.

At 46 years old I am feeling more limitless than I ever have before. Even as a young child. You see, I never had the freedom of a child unbounded by constraints. And, that is okay. One cannot change the past, and nor does one have to. The freedom to allow the self to break through the barriers of restrictions is not conditional to time, place, or age.  It is, simply, you allowing yourself to be you. To really get to know the you that resides inside the outer representation of the self, and come home to that realization with joy.

“Whatever you’re doing. Keep doing it. You look good. I can tell you feel good,” were the words of a friend of mine as she left my morning yoga class. She also heard my words filled with fear one month ago.

“Do you fly a lot in your dreams?” another friend asked me a few days ago after she heard about my latest flying dream.  There was a wistful note to her words, and I could see the look of longing in her eyes when I told her, “Yes.”

Many adults can remember flying in their dreams at night when they were  children. I don’t. My flying dreams came later, in a steady regularity, after my own children were born. Their births, you could say, birthed my own inner child. But, it’s a been a slow birthing. It has not been smooth and effortless, and it certainly has not happened over night.

I chose the picture I did to introduce this post because to me it is symbolic of the myriad boxes we can choose to carry around in our lives and try to fit ourselves into. There’s not just one, but for most of us there are many. The box of the perfect child. The perfect spouse. The perfect mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, student, athlete, coworker, employer…you get the picture. So many boxes to contain the essence that is you. Shaped not by your own will, but the will you have given away to another.

Yet, we are not meant to live inside the confines of a box, nor are we meant to jump from one box into another depending upon circumstances. Although we reside in a physical body for a limited amount of time, we are limitless beings here to experience the essence of our truths. We are here to grow and evolve into being. To love and to move, ever more freely into the breath of joy.

The boxed self might conform to a specific ideal, but it is never your truth. When we close in the sides and seal the edges, the light inside is trapped. In an effort to constantly please and conform to a false ideal that is not our own, you not only suffer, the world suffers. Herein lies the irony of the “perfect” self. Although we may believe otherwise, no one is served by the confines of limitations. The free soul living in truth shines with a brightness that ripples through time, space, and age. It is never too late to become it. It is never too late to step out of the box and fly.

Go ahead, give it a try. Imagine your self as a limitless being. Feel it, see it, know it. Joy is yours to find. Reach inside and grab ahold of it. Then, let it go. Feel the expansion that is you. Wholly and completely. Let self limiting believes slip away with the breath. Let old restrictions free their tangle until only you remain. Breathe into that light that is you and know it as truth. Take a good look at you and remember who you are, so when you forget, you can bring it back.

Magical Mornings #yoga

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Photo Credit Pixabay

I was a little apprehensive when I agreed to teach a fall yoga series outdoors, continuing the summer mornings in the field into the chilly lazy dawn of autumn. Cold is not something I relish, and thoughts of ice-tipped blades of grass pulled me inward to the comfort of the hearth fire. Yet, I have found that agreeing to walk the path of potential discomfort often yields the greatest and most unexpected rewards. As the heart opens to trust, magic unfolds. And so, after a brief interlude of transition, Tuesday morning yoga in the field continued at 8:30am.

The sun crests the canopy of pines ever more slowly as the days shorten in length. Unlike during our summer classes when we nestled into the far corner to avoid the boiling sun, on the first day of our fall session we laid our mats near the parking lot in the hopes of catching the first rays whenever they chose to stretched their languid arms over the tree line. There were just three of us, a trinity of yogis. Where were the others on the list? I wondered until I let worry give way to the flow of the elements and the dance of the body that is yoga took over.

Midway through class, we straightened our spines into balanced as the sun broke the cold of the morning to bring its golden face above our crowning bodies. It was not planned, yet perfectly timed. In these moments, time stills as we open to the embrace that is life. It is beautiful to bear witness, and even more beautiful to take part. One cannot help but breathe more deeply into the space of joy and the knowing that the self has been brought out of the shadows into unity. Separation slips way and division dissolves. In the imperfection of the individual dance, once finds the perfection of Life.

We are now three weeks into our fall session, and each Tuesday I wake to meet the habit of reluctance as I check the weather through the gray light of the waking dawn. Donning the increase of layers on all but my feet, I sink into the knowing that my soles will soon meet the bracing grass. I don’t know what will await me, but so far I have been lucky. Frost has not yet spread ice over the land.

I like to arrive at the field down the road from my house early, allowing for the quiet stillness of solitude as I drink in the morning air. Realizing, as I stand amid a frame of pines and listen to the soft pulse of nature around me, that I would likely not be outside at this hour practicing yoga if I had not said yes to another class in the field. Realizing, that instead I would probably be sitting with my computer on my lap, occasionally looking out at, but not a part of, the natural world surrounding me.

Our yoga classes are full now, after the first week of transitions and coming back to the fall of routine. We form a semicircle of unity, each bringing our individual light to the breaking dawn and finding warmth in companionship as we stretch our bodies into heat. Inevitably, the sun rises over the treetops at the moment when our faces lift to feel its warmth. Nothing is preplanned as destiny takes over. Yesterday, in our moment of raising our eyes toward the blue beyond, a flock of two dozen geese or more flew overhead. They were flying low, having just come from the pond below, bringing the element of water to the sky as we stood upon the earth and and warmed our skins to the sun’s fiery rays. You don’t get moments like this indoors inside four walls with windows and a floor that separates the individual from the pulse of the living planet.

There was lingering yesterday, as we rolled mats and folded blankets. There was reluctance to put on shoes and  hoist our belongings back to our cars to resume our separate lives. Pairs formed to talk  while the cells on the surface of skin drank in the sun’s warmth. No one was in a hurry to return to the daily actions of the mundane. For a few more moments the living, breathing present was embraced as the gift it is, always open to be received.

Finding the Beloved as the Wheel Turns, with Some Resistance, into Fall #LettingGo #healing

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The air is thick with the dying breath of summer. It is holding on before its final surrender. For several weeks, it seemed as though fall had arrived early. Heralding its victory over the fiery season by banishing the heat in mid August. Today, though, it has made a retreat. Or has it asked summer for one final chance to play the game, knowing that it will soon be declared the victor, once again?

This inevitable dance of the elements cycles with the ever-turning wheel of life. Our bodies spin with the seasons, and we can resist or we can give way to the spiral journey. I am not sure I could live comfortably without the outer world mirroring the inner. My body is used to the seasons. I was birthed in the element of earth, but water is where I find home. Winter always calls me back to the inner, but before it does, I must heed the gifts of the seasons that come before it.

Summer’s abundance can overwhelm those that are comfortable in stillness, yet it can also spur us into action. The embers of stagnation are stirred back to life as new growth moves its tendrils into the light. The kinetic energy is fired up and things get done. This summer, I passed the days carting teenagers around, teaching a couple of yoga classes, and working on our home and gardens. I made eleven photo albums. Memories of every family trip we’ve taken outside of New Hampshire are now nestled into the shelves in our living room. I also painted. And sanded. Ten doorframes and six doors that were once stained a deep brown are now brightly donning one layer of primer and two of paint. There is a palpable shift in the energy of our home. And in me. Darkness has moved out of the comfort of shadows.

My birthday arrives in the final weeks of summer, at the time when school starts up again and there is the return of routine. I don’t actually like my birthday. It’s not the getting older that draws reluctance and melancholy, but rather the memory of rejection. Each year, at this time, I am reminded of my yearning to be beloved.

I felt the pull of fall early this year, around the same time its breath of victory filled the air outside. Before my birthday, I dreamt of levitation. The weightless freedom of no gravity. I lifted my body with ease off the ground, and brought others up with me. One by one, I felt their weight before I urged its release. “See,” I told them, “how easy it is to let go.” Earths, by nature, care for others more than their selves.

When my birthday came and went, I realized I had not let go fully of the weight that would be free.  I recalled the frog from the same dream, and how it had clung to my skirt like a parasite. Transformation is often sticky. We must remove the glue from the habits that hold us down before we can lift those wings into a new realm of living. We must understand that only we can choose the release. That we must die to the old to give way to freedom.

The pictures I have from my birthday don’t reflect the day after. The mourning that came after the heavy weight had settled back in. They don’t reflect the struggle with rage and grief as the old pattern tore free in a messy release.

We like to see the beauty of fall, forgetting it is also ugly. Summer’s flames burn the leaves into brilliance before they curl into brittle shades of brown. The last of the ripened fruit that is not consumed for nourishment and more growth, turns mottled and moldy as it slowly decays back into the ground.

The return to Earth to be re-birthed requires a decay. The transformation of what once was must give way to what will be. The seed that comes forth from the decayed body of the fruit does not see the light that it reaches for. It simply trusts that it is there. It knows that one day, as it is feeding and growing, it will break through the darkness to feel it.

Yesterday, I had a woman I barely know over for tea. During our conversation, she told me that when she looked at me she could see the beauty of the work I have done to heal. So I told her about my birthday. Not to refute her, but to show her that I am not done yet. That perhaps I never will be, at least in this life. This is, after all, why each of us are here. To walk the wheel in the spiral inward, back to the light that we are. We might walk it in spurts. We might linger long in the shadows, but the wheel, like the seasons, will keep urging us to turn into the return.

My new friend also told me she could tell that I loved myself, a reflection of this inner work.  It is not easy, always, to be our own beloved. To truly love the dark and the light. It is, though, necessary. We can search endlessly for our ideal of the beloved outside of us, and to hope to be beloved by another, but the one true, complete beloved, must always come from within.

A Teenage Daughter and Her Teenage Cat #parenting

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Millie

“So, when do you think she’ll no longer be a teenager?” my daughter asks me after her 13-month-old cat, Millie, nips her for the tenth time while she tries to pet her.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe another year, until she’s two,” I tell her, thinking how fortunate it is for her that cat years pass by much more quickly than human years.

Not that I would trade my years with my daughter for anything, but even she is aware that her fire personality combined with her teenage-hood makes parenting a challenge. I find it rather amusing that her cat is now a mirror for her.

Millie spent her first 10 months with us as a lovable, albeit curious, kitten. She adored my daughter’s adoration and returned her doting affections with smiles, purrs and frequent snuggles. If my daughter wanted to cuddle her, she’d pick Millie up and nestle her into her shoulders. Not any more.

These days, Millie-the-teenage-cat, starts the day by positioning herself strategically in front of the fridge. If she was tall enough, the door would knock her over. Instead, she looks up at the first human to draw near and stares him or her down until bits of turkey or chicken are laid at her feet. Her two dog sisters stand back aghast, waiting for their bits to fly through the air.

After Millie has finished her breakfast (the bits of turkey are usually followed by a trip into the basement to gorge on actual cat food), Millie follows the dogs and my husband out the front door for their morning walk. Two houses down, she leaves the pack and settles in for a day at her second home the neighbor’s to chase bees and dragonflies. Some days we don’t see her until dusk, after I meander down the road and call her home. I say some days, because on other days that are not rainy, Millie will completely ignore my calling and stretch the time of her curfew into minutes, or even an hour past. Choosing to return home on her own time.

I like to remind my daughter how alike they are as she bemoans the loss of her loving kitten who has suddenly transformed into a moody, unpredictable, and sometimes down-right mean little cat. “She’s a teenager,” I tell her. “This is what it’s like.”

Sometimes I want to also tell her to cherish the rare moments. Those times when Millie suddenly remembers that she loves her and allows my daughter to scoop her into her arms for a hug and a kiss…the nights when she curls into the covers beside her…but then I stop, because, in truth, no moment with Millie is more precious than another. Just as no moment with my daughter is. Sure, there are days, more than I can count, when I catch myself wondering when this stage in life will be over, but they are fleeting. Eventually I replace them with the knowing that my daughter, like her cat, is living her life as she should be, and teaching her parents, in the process, many things along the way as we each learn to hold on and to let go at the same time. She knows, just as Millie does, that the doorway will always open for her and there will always be arms to enfold, but those same arms  and that door will not shut to confine.

It’s not always easy, as my daughter is also learning through Millie, for a parent to embrace the adolescent journey toward the independent self, but through the struggles the love that always remains makes it worth it.

The Light Behind our Story #ChooseLove

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Today’s messenger calling for transformation and the return to the unfettered soul

If you choose to, you can see an outer world filled with terrible things. A world on the brink of, or perhaps even over-flowing, with chaos. A world where fear, and all its ugly faces, rules each action and reaction.

Or, you can see a world whose essence is love. A world that, despite pockets of darkness dominated by fear, has at its core only light. If you breathe into the core of Earth, the mother of your body and your home for this life, deep through the multilayers of soil, stone, and water, you will reach a core of light. If you breathe into the layers of your own body, through the skin that sheaths your essence, through the tissue and the bone, you will reach your core of light. A light that is a seed of the very same light in the core of Earth, and of the very same light that exists in the core of each being. Its essence is love. The energetic vibration of creation.

Yet, the mind and body that would encompass this essence easily traps fear. Fear that nestles into tissues and creates the density of disease, distrust, hatred, and paranoia. Along with the false belief that the “me” is separate from the “all.” A fear that breaks apart the light so that its vast web looks as though it is filled with darkness.

We are each so much more powerful than this fear we like to hold onto. This fear that creates separation in a struggle for self-survival. It is but a mere shadow of our true self. And, like all shadows, it is a mere illusion of the truth. Fear looks for separation, love is defined by union.

Instead of holding onto fear, and losing oneself in the shadow of its darkness, why do we not reach inside to find the light of truth? That pure essence of love that threads through each and every one of our beings? Why do we fear who we are? Why do we fear love itself? Why do we fear the true, vast, and limitless expanse of our being that continues on past the death of the layers that would contain it?

Why do we fear the free, unfettered soul?

Perhaps the why is not as important as the habit it has created. Overtime we develop a pattern of holding onto traits and behaviors whose origins we cannot always fully recover. Instead, we simply adopt without consideration of why we are continuing in a pattern that is destructive of the self and the whole. It becomes comfortable, like a tattered and worn blanket we refuse to give up from our childhood. Or, an old coat we’ve worn for so long, we cannot imagine stepping outside the comfort of our home without it. Even though the coat, like the blanket, is no longer of service to us.

Do you ever dream of being naked? Or of lifting your feet into weightless flight? Do you fear one and not the other? It’s a funny thing, this holding onto what our soul calls us to let go of. This returning to the unfettered essence of love that we are is so simple, yet complex in the unraveling it requires and all the letting go of habitual patterns and behaviors. False beliefs dying to the one truth that is you.

Why am I writing these words, calling for love? For the simple turning inward instead of outward as we try to navigate our way through the layers that appear to trap us in density? Because we are in the midst of an age of upheaval. The repetition of the old patterns of fear have repeated to a level of accumulated density in this world that we choose to share, causing a hold of fear that is seemingly tighter than the love that binds.

The Earth and each one of her children is crying out for reunion. For the return to love and unity. It is not my intention to talk of the ephemeral. Of some ideal that will never be achieved. My words are simple, their truth not complex. Nothing is ever gained by fear and hatred, but more fear and hatred. We can cower and ring our hands in dismay, or we can start turning inward to the truth and allowing that reflection to mirror back to us each time we turn our eyes outward. We can simply be, each day, ever more present to the truth of our essence, or we can move that truth into action, rippling the energy of love through our words and movements. Righteous indignation is still fed by fear, even if the outward display of it is for a greater good. Fear feeds fear. Anger feeds anger. Love feeds love. It’s simple math and physics.

Years ago, I found myself lying on a couch for three hours halfway in another realm as I listened to the words of my essence. We all have this voice within us, and it behooves us to listen to it, at least now and then. The words that stayed with me, that haunt me each day are these: “You can always find the light behind the story. Find the light behind each story.”

As I looked through my lives and the greater life around us and ahead of us, I realized these words were not intended for my survival, but for the survival of each and every one of us. If we choose to hold onto our collective fears and all the trappings that have bound us and harmed us, we will get more of the same. There is always light behind the shadow. There is always that core of essence that is love, waiting to be seen, grown and illuminated.

 

 

The Loss of Cause & Effect… #Mindfulness

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

It kept me up three nights ago. My mind became busy and I got to thinking about mindfulness. I’m sure you’ve all heard the term by now. Mindfulness. “Paying attention to the present moment.” “Living fully in the present moment with awareness.” Sometimes “without judgement” is added. While searching the Internet, I came across this video on the Greater Good Magazine website featuring Jon Kabat-Zinn defining mindfulness in his words.

In the video, Kabat-Zinn talks about living the “story of me” without the realization that there is, in actuality, “no me.” Although I am not a follower of Kabat-Zinn, or any of the many mindfulness gurus out there today, I like what he has to say in this brief video. It’s not a new revelation, in fact it’s very old. His words echo the sages of long ago who carried forth the wisdom that there is, in essence, no “me.”

Three nights ago, I let this mind that inhabits “me” process the concept of mindfulness in terms  of “my” perception of the current state of the world. Not so concerned with the “me,” but the “we,” my mind thought about the mindless actions that permeate our collective existence. In particular, I was thinking about the consequences that result from a mindless existence, or, rather, an existence so focused on the “me” of the ego that all else is neglected. The president of the United States is the archetype of this type of existence. The mindless ego unchecked by self awareness.

Last night, I had an hour in the car with my fourteen-year-old son, who initiated a conversation that, in essence, centered around mindfulness. He, like me, is deeply troubled by the world we live in and the mindless movement we have spiraled into, despite the current attempts to make “mindfulness” the “in thing.”

What’s the purpose of mindfulness if we can’t get passed the concept of the self as all important?

Since my eye-opening experience attempting to teach mindfulness to Montessori school teachers, and later yoga to their equally unmindful students, I’ve given a lot of thought to what “I” think mindfulness truly is. Simply stated, a mindful existence includes the realization that there are consequences to our actions, words and thoughts. The law of cause and effect is nothing new, but it’s been essentially forgotten in favor of our “me” obsessed world.

Am “I” breathing properly? Am “I” paying attention to the bird outside my window? Am “I” living in the present moment with full awareness? 

This is a start, but not an end. This “I” living in the present moment must, eventually become aware of the “I” that is trying to live. Who am I? The I must eventually ask to fully understand itself. What am I doing? What am I thinking? What are the consequences to these thoughts and actions? How do I effect not only myself, but the world around me?

Until, eventually, the I realizes that there is no I, but a vast, limitless “we.”

The day before my sleepless night, I had been in a waiting room eavesdropping in on a conversation that was occurring at the front desk between two educators. When I over-heard one of them mention teaching in the town I live in, comparing the students to inner-city kids, my interest was piqued.

What I heard, in essence, was the frustration of an educator trying to teach in a classroom without consequences filled with kids living in the myopic world of “me.” And, I thought, it’s not only me, before I thought, how pervasive this disease of “me” really has become.

When I attempted to teach yoga to the Montessori children who exhibited rudely defiant behavior, I inquired about whether there was anything I could do to thwart their disrespect. What I discovered as that we are living in a time when, despite our obsession with “mindfulness,” there are few, if any, consequences to our mindless actions. How can we teach mindfulness behavior if we don’t teach the law of cause and effect?

When trying to discover the root of a group’s behavior, we must always look to the leader. It’s rather obvious that the leader of our “free” nation is living the antithesis of a truly mindful life. Instead, he exhibits all the rude, self-centered, and dangerous behavior of the ego out of control.

While I was not sleeping the other night, I thought about how the majority of the teachers at the conference I was invited to present at where not interested in, and in fact seemed to harbor a severe aversion to, engaging in self-awareness exercises. I realized that there really was no point in me trying to return to teach yoga to their students. Before yoga asana, must come a deep awareness of mindfulness and the laws of cause and effect.

I’ll admit, it’s not a “fun” process to really and truly examine the self and the self as a part of the whole, but it can be a deeply rewarding and enriching process. When one realizes that the self is simply a conglomeration of experiences and reactions to those experiences, folded into a cellular body, a process of detachment and non-judgement can result that leads to fascinating and enlightening discoveries about not only the “self,” but the self as a part of the whole.

The “I” easily forgets the “we,” as exhibited by the pervasive self-obsessed behavior that predominates our world at this time in history. We’re living a time that is artificially sped up and controlled by the false screen of the outer. With the tap of a screen a photo is taken of the “self” and then altered by another tap or two, to be artificially enhanced so that the “self” can appear more outwardly attractive than the “self” really is. Then the self awaits, mere seconds it can take, for the “likes” of the self to pile up. With a few short taps, the self’s words can be tweeted around the world and read by millions of followers. What a heady power trip that can be! Making the “self” feel all-important.

Then there is the flip side of this. The self that arrives at the self-realization that his or her individual self is not good enough. Will never be pretty enough, when compared to the false images of beauty held in front of it, or thin enough, successful enough, etc. And, so the self decides that its life is not worth living.

There is a desperate need in my own self to try, in whatever way my self can, to bring true mindfulness back to a world that appears to me so desperately in need of it. Behind the ego’s need for self dominance is fear. Fear of the self’s discovery of its own imperfections, and the often even greater fear that those imperfections will be seen by others. In the striving for the perfect self, the self fails to realize that perfection of the self will never, and can never be achieved, because the perfect “self” is, in actuality, the no-self.

When we realize we are beautifully imperfect, here to learn and to grow ever closer to love until the self becomes only love, life becomes filled with purpose and infused with the beautiful existence that is Life. We realize that each piece of life, our life, in fact, is a part of an intricate whole. No more than, or less than another, but unique in its conglomeration of parts and experiences. Our essence, in fact, realized,  as equally important as our neighbor’s whether that neighbor is a fellow human, an animal, insect, stone, or plant. When a stone is removed from the earth, a hole remains. We are each, individually, part of a vast and intricate web of life beyond the comprehension of our individual minds. Each of us with a role to play, a life to live, that is infinitely more enriching for the self, and the whole, when lived mindfully with an awareness of cause and effect.

 

 

 

Chocorua Part 4: Meeting the Chief in the Clouds

As my husband and I continued our journey up the quiet mountain, I stopped now and then to place my offering of tobacco leaves in the nooks of trees and rocks. Noting, as I did, how sometimes others had made their own offerings. Small and large stones nestled into crevices of wood and stone, along with the more permanent and not so mindful markings of names carved into the skin of trees. I saw the carvings as a sad reflection of the ego’s need for permanence, forgetting that the mark that lingers is a mere shadow of the true self that never dies. How we yearn for something that is false, so often forgetting the harmony that beats around us. I found the buzz of the mosquitos oddly comforting, in its reminder of the cycles of life. The sacred spring below having given birth to the insects that followed my footsteps along a path older than the trees surrounding me.

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There are several large and impressive boulders near the summit of Mt. Chocorua, but they hold their stories in a quiet, watchful manner.

The mountain remained, to me, quiet and reserved. Welcoming, yet not offering too much. Not yet. This was my first visit, after all, and as the miles slowly rose, I realized that I would likely return someday. Perhaps not to the same trail. Perhaps not with the same companion. I didn’t yet know, and that was okay.

Life cycles as it will, and it behooves us to allow it to play its rhythm without resistance. When we push, we are often met with a counter-push. A simple law of physics. Perhaps this is why the snake appeared. Not once, but twice, as we hiked the long, winding trail, slowly losing the mosquitos as we gained elevation.

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One of two snake messengers we encountered during our journey. This one reared its head toward me as though reading for an attack as I ventured near to photograph it.

I have found the snake to be a frequent messenger that appears at points in the cycle of life that call for a surrendering. A letting go of the old “skin” I choose to wear to make way for the new, lighter sheath. They remind one of the wheel, ever-turning. Endings moving into beginnings, endlessly repeating.

I had thought that the mountain might harbor hurt. A long held wound from the legend of the chief who fell from its summit. Cursing, as he met death, the white man who had poisoned his son. As I walked the first half of the mountain, I found that I was also, in essence, curing the “white man” who had felled all the trees, and placed the wall of stone beside the path of the sacred waters. Yet, as the snake reminded me (twice), time moves on, whether we allow it to or not, without judgement. The cycle weaves its circle of life and death, over and over again, and we can be a part of it, or we can use defiance to try to resist its flow.

I could not forget that I had breathed acceptance into my body before I had left my hometown that morning. There are no true accidents to life. I realized, as I walked, that it mattered little, if at all, that I was not seeing the faces of the long passed in the rocks, or feeling the pull of the familiar through my cells. Instead, there was that quiet harmony of belonging. Of being present with my beloved in human form, and the sacred landscape around us.

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A guardian along the path

There was no denying the many gifts that had been offered. The crow who had welcomed us, the “ghosts” beside the stream, the white feather in the path before the call of my feathered seer, the snakes of renewal, and even the mosquitos buzzing life. There were also berries, full and ripened to the deepest blue of truth as we approached the final mile. Tempering greed, we reached, now and then, to pick small handfuls of the fruit and felt the renewal of life in each magnificent bite. Agreeing that there was never a better blueberry than those grown on the nearly soilless top of this mountain. A grateful gift that was even more welcomed when we discovered how little water we had left and how warm it had become during our journey, as well as how unsatisfying the apples were that we had brought. Mealy and soft, whereas our mouths hungered for a cool, crisp bite. I thanked the land for the blueberries as I offered it more tobacco in return.

As we sat on the granite ledges and took in the views of the landscape around us, my husband and I noted the time and how far we had come. We felt the ache of the climb in our bodies and the hunger in our bellies. Ahead of us was the head of Chocorua, perhaps another half mile away, we could not be sure. Its side looked steep and a bit dangerous as we realized we would either have to make our way around it to find a more gentle side, or allow ourselves to finish our journey below its peak. I was surprised that I did not feel disappointment. That there was no resentment bubbling up inside at the possibility of not “completing” our journey. Instead, I felt acceptance. It was enough, all of it.

We did not turn around then, though, but decided to walk a little further. I was grateful, as we continued on for this small final leg of our journey forward, for the soft presence of the land and it’s hallowed feel. For the berries that continued along our way, and for the knowing that we had just enough daylight ahead of us to get back down, and just enough water to quench our thirst if we needed it. I thought of that sacred stream and the yearning of my body to feel its cool release. And, as I turned my gaze one last time to follow the path of a vulture around the neck of the mountain, the mighty bird moved toward a cloud that hovered beside the rock face. Perhaps it was my imagination, but to me it looked like the head of a chief in profile. Its face pointing away from the summit that would need to wait for another day.

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Where we stopped to rest with the cloud formation of the legendary chief in profile. It was a bit more clear in person.