This time. This impending darkness. This loss. When the light diminishes out of sight. Grief comes creeping into my bones. I drive up my lane looking for the lush green pastures and singing Aspen trees. But all is quiet, and brown and bare. I fight to hang onto the energy of the summer light. Frolicking through the mountains, laying on the warm earth and this year, roaming through the pastures of the English countryside.
In September I learned about joy, deep joy. Sitting in the belly of Nectar's Glen in England, feeling the energy entering me through the portals of the waterfall, I became fully aware that the place where joy enters is the place where I am deeply wounded and deeply healed. There is a powerful intersection there. I didn't want to lose that experience.
But now, I feel it slipping away and I am left grasping, chasing, clinging to my recent joy-filled days. I resisted the anniversary of the loss of Chloe, refusing to cry and bleed. "I won't do that, I will only feel exuberant life and joy," I told myself over and over. I was determined. The refusal to honor my heart's cry left me physically sick, without appetite and losing weight. Mid October, I woke up on a Saturday morning and felt my heart take over. It said, "enough." This is the season to be with the darkness, to step into death and loss and pain. To let it be. So I allowed the longing and the absence of it all. I cried.
This week I leaned fully into the darkness and saw it as one of life's powerful rhythms. That is how the light returns. It is only in true authenticity, that joy can be present. This time, this darkness is a gift. Activity in the earth slows and prepares to rest. In this darkness, this quiet period, I am also allowed to rest, to sit with the fire, to read, to write to go inside, to rest. Today, sitting in this coffee shop, drinking tea and watching the flames dance in the stone fireplace I am at peace with Winter's gift., leaning into the arms of darkness.
by Herm Weaver
It rained overnight, the morning was cool, the kind that makes you want to stay in bed. Still, we got up and headed for higher ground, the mountains above 12,000’. We were mostly quiet as we drove for the first while. But the higher we climbed the more we woke up. Slowly the chatter began, the views were incredible and our Spirits awoke in the midst of the magical mountain mist. We drove until driving was no longer possible, even with a 4 wheel drive Yukon. And then we got out, and in getting out we were immediately fully awake!
For the first while, we simply walked around the immediate area and sat on the ground to try to take it all in. We could have stayed there all day, there was so much to see and feel. Our cups were full and overflowing as the mountain peaks came and went with the mist. In one moment they were clear as a bell, right in front of us and it seemed we could just reach out and touch them. In the next moment they were gone and we could only see a few feet in any direction. In time we found a couple trails, one went down and around, the other went up. We chose the one that went up, of course.
The air is thin above 12,000’, especially for the two of us inexperienced high country hikers. We stopped often to breathe, stopping to breathe is sometimes the best part of the journey. We stopped for snacks as the mist and the view of the peaks continued to come and go. We stopped to take pictures of the most delicate of high country flowers. Awesome. Eventually we reached what we thought would be the summit, only to see numerous peaks beyond that were even higher. It seems to be the case for a high country hiker, there is always another peak, the journey is never done. Another day. For this day, we simply reveled in the midst of the magical mountain mist at the summit we had reached.
Magical Mountain Mist is at times similar to the way we experience life, sometimes you can see where you’re going and sometimes you can’t. Still the journey continues and putting one foot in front of the other defines the way forward. At times the mist is so thick we can only see a few feet ahead of you, but if we are patient, blue skies and bright sunshine appear and the mountain stands with beauty and strength right in front of us. The principles for hiking are often the same as life principles:
*The Higher you climb, the more you wake up
*In getting out we are most often immediately fully awake
*Sometimes the best part of the journey is stopping to breathe
*There is always another peak
On our way down the steep terrain the Magical Mountain Mist settled in again, the view was gone but we were still together, remembering the beauty and strength of the sacred space we had just experienced. Perhaps someday you will join us on one of our sacred high country hikes.
I've been asking a question this year, one for myself and one that has arisen out of my observations of others. "Is it possible to live a joyful, abundant, magical life in the face of loss and life challenges?" What do we do in this big, scary world where traumatic events happen every second on a small and large scale? How should we react, respond or even live?
I suppose it's simple and complex, but I experienced some of that magic through my own collapse on the path to Heart Lake. It was our anniversary weekend and this seemed like the perfect destination to celebrate. I woke up in the morning and began preparing for the hike, feeling a random kind of weakness surging through my body, but I pressed on expecting it to pass. We arrived at the trailhead and I robotically moved myself forward. We stepped onto a wooden-plank bridge and I looked to my left. I saw an old aboandoned, building and my attention was drawn to a picture of Chloe exploring it, something she loved to do. Her absence overcame me and the tears started welling up in my heart. Like a fragile crystal tea cup, I felt myself starting to shatter. I pulled off the trail, close to the river and Herm followed me and sat beside me. I resisted revealing my inner landscape, but I knew I couldn't hide it, and I proceeded to collapse, the tears rolling down my face. He sat with me as we have learned to do, being with each other just as the moment is. Finally, I said, "I can't go on." I waited for his response, expecting him to agree that we didn't need to hike that day and we could just return to the camper and sleep for the rest of the day. That's what I wanted him to say, but instead he said, "let's just go a few steps, we don't have to go to Heart Lake. We'll just go until we need to stop." That seemed manageable to me, a few steps. I agreed and we stepped back on the trail, moving at a snail's pace. My legs felt like cement pillars, my body feeble. But a few steps I could do, and then a few more. Those steps connected together until I had gone a mile, and then another. Along the way, I started to be fed. Nourished by the vibrant colors of the wild flowers, the mountain vistas and the flowing stream. I was doing nothing but putting one foot in front of another and they were breathing life into me. The magic was beginning.
When we finally reached Roger's Lake my heart was dancing. I felt I had accomplished the impossible. Transformation was unfolding. Magic was dancing around me and joy and inspiration were flooding my body at a rapid pace.
And yet, we had not yet reached Heart Lake. I looked up. There it was, the steep incline concealing our destination. There was no way I was going to reach Heart Lake without ascending to the top. I said, "I'm good here. I'm fine staying at Roger's Lake. Herm said, "c'mon, it's not far." Sigh, one foot and then the other. I knew we were close to the destination and I had a new confidence in my ability so I packed up my bag faced the mountain. Soon we were at the top, looking across the meadow to the beautiful heart-shaped lake. I made it. I was done. My own heart was wide open, expanding, welcoming, my senses absorbing the entire moment. We made our way to a clearing and I laid my body down on the earth and felt its energy rise up into me, its strong, permanence supporting me. I was no longer weak and floating, but strong and supported. I felt the magic all around me and sent out whispers of gratitude.
By the time we got back down the mountain, I had hiked 10 miles that day, the most I had every done. But more importantly I learned that magic can exist in my most challenging moments. If I would have turned and gone home, I never would have experienced that power. I didn't have to take leaps or use my mind to figure out how to get it, I just had to take a few steps and then a few more. I had to want the magic and trust that it would come to me. My cognitive skills had little to do with my abundance on this day. It was about the intention of getting there, and then, just moving.
Later that day, I was off the mountain, and found myself reflecting on what had just happened and how it helped me gain more information for my question about living in abundance and magic in the face of challenge. I learned that when life, or even a moment, crashes into my day there are actions I can take:
I decided to walk down to the lake today, just a short walk, but some ducks caught my eye and I sat down to watch them and stayed for awhile . The sun was casting a perfectly sparkling sheen across the water and the ducks were happily bathing. My mind was tugging at my heart, telling it all the things I had to get done today, but really, it was an imaginary list. There was something simple, and yet, profound happening here. I was captivated by the common duck taking a bath. A thought began streaming through my head, "they require so little, and I, so much." The ducks made me reflect on my life and my possessions asking myself what I could release from my life in order to carry a lighter load. They live in the wild and I envied them. A gust of wind slapped me back into the reality of being human and I knew I had a different path, not the simple life of a duck. But still, there was a lesson here, to lighten my load. Nature is my teacher and my healer, but I often rush away, trying to find something more worthy to accomplish. The words of Wendell Berry began whispering in my ear, "I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.