Wisdom comes with winters.
~ Oscar Wilde
Walking on the land or digging in the fine soil I am intensely aware that time quivers slightly, changes occurring in imperceptible and minute ways, accumulating so subtly that they seem not to exist. Yet the tiny shifts in everything–cell replication, the rain of dust motes, lengthening hair, wind-pushed rocks–press inexorably on and on.
~ Annie Proulx, Bird Cloud
I had a talk with my yoga teacher last week and among the things I brought up were the subjects of transitions and aging. Both are enchanting and fascinating me lately. There is a kind of magic to them even though they are merely different words for change.
When we spoke of aging and the invisibility of old(er) women in particular, my teacher mentioned that she had been talking with an indigenous friend/mentor who said that in her (native) language there is no word for “old woman.” Instead, their word for old(er) woman is, in English, “problem solver.”
Do you think it’s an accident that you were born at a time when the culture that gave you life is failing? I don’t think it is. I think you were born of necessity with your particular abilities, with your particular fears, with your particular heartaches and concerns… I think if we wait to be really compelled by something… something big, well… we’re going to wait an awful long time and I don’t know if the state of our world can tolerate our holding out until we feel utterly compelled by something. I think it’s more like this, that we have to proceed now as if we’re utterly needed given the circumstances. That takes almost something bordering on bravado, it could be mistaken for megalomania easily, though I don’t think it is. It had a certain amount of nerviness in it or boldness for sure, something that’s not highly thought of in the culture I was born into unless you’re a star or something… regular people aren’t supposed to have those qualities. I say they are of course. That’s what we’ve got to bring to the challenges at hand, not waiting to be convinced that we’re needed but proceeding as if we are. Your insignificance has been horribly overstated.
– Stephen Jenkinson
My dreams lately have been about walking. Long pilgrimages. This is not surprising. Those who have been with me for a while know that I often think and write about taking a very long walk someday, that I dare myself with challenges of walking one million steps in one hundred days, and things of that nature.
In one of my recent dreams, I walked my own timeline. I walked from birth to childhood to having a child and getting married at a very young age. I walked along all of the moves to places where I’d never been before, where I knew no one except my own little family of husband and sons. I walked through my twenties, the loss of one child and the birth and beginning of life for another. I walked through my thirties and forties and fifties, my sons growing up, getting married, having children of their own. I walked through all of the jobs I’ve had (and there were a lot!!). I walked through all of the places I’ve been, and encountered all of the people I met along the way. A whole lifetime stretched out in one dream-time. (Isn’t it interesting how time bends and stretches in dreams?)
I walked through gains and losses and so many lessons learned (or still trying to be learned). I walked through the stories, the comedies and dramas, the arts and crafts, the studies and prayers, the words read and the words written. I walked through forests and deserts and along the shores of beaches. I climbed a few mountains and watched many sunrises and sunsets. I danced, sang, played, pretended, dressed up, dressed down, took long drives and short drives, looked down on earth from airplanes, rode bicycles (and rather unsuccessfully tried to ride a unicycle), roller skated, ice skated, skied (downhill and cross-country), trained and competed as a gymnast, performed as a dancer and acrobat, appeared on television, took many, many photographs, traveled, meditated, laughed, cried, argued, fought, and lived. I lost myself, found myself, and learned there really is no pinning down self or Self.
Because everything changes. Always and forever.
And… that IS the pilgrimage, isn’t it? All those transitions and thresholds that make up a life. I am not, of course, the first to discover this. But I wonder if it takes many of us a long time to get to this realization, where we know it (deep down) as truth? Or am I a slow learner? Perhaps. I do tend to take life, especially lately, at turtle speed. The exception to that, however, is when I know there is a change coming. Very often I barrel right in and through, just to get from one point to another.
When I spoke of transitions during my chat with my yoga teacher, I asked about moving gracefully from one pose to another, especially from sitting to standing. Of course I meant more than the transitions I make on the mat during my yoga practice. How do I transition gracefully and mindfully into my role as an elder (or “problem solver”)?
Tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday. Although I am not Christian, or at least don’t consider myself to be Christian, I was brought up as a Catholic and I have a kind of fondness for Lent, a period of 40 (+) days considered to be a time of contemplation and reflection, fasting, and perhaps the giving up of something. I’m going to fall back on tradition, a little, and use this time to slow down, listen, and become more aware of thresholds and transitions. What would happen if I started paying attention when I cross a threshold? Become more present to crossing from one room to another or from one part of the land to another? What would happen if I started paying attention to the transitions and thresholds of the days, the weeks, and the seasons? What would I find in the gaps and the liminal spaces?
I plan to spend the time listening more and speaking less. Not a vow of silence, but a vow to be silent more often and to take my time between thought and speech. Pause, move gracefully between them, cross that threshold mindfully and heartfully.
How about you? Do you observe Lent in any way? Or have any plans to do so, perhaps in a secular way?
Thank you so much for dropping by today and joining me for another meander. I’d invite you to the Point for sunset, but I think it’s supposed to be raining. Sunset is scheduled for 5:42 PM. Let’s see what happens as the time draws closer. If there is some clearing, I’ll meet you out there. Otherwise, it might be best to stay indoors where it’s dry and warm. There is a chilliness to this damp weather that seeps right through all the layers and into the bones.
Please be safe, be well, and be kind. ♥♥♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,731) Nature’s works of art, to be found pretty much anywhere you look. 1,732) Finding the sacred in the ordinariness of life. 1,733) The gift of growing older. Not everyone is given it. 1,734) Talking with friends. Thank goodness for technology and telephones. 1,735) Contemplating what it means to be graceful. (Hmmm… or grace-full.)