Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Light Touch

We've ushered in a year doomed to feel anti-climatic after the constant besiegement of 2020. The clock struck midnight and many of us found it difficult not to project Cinderella-esque dreams onto a new year and fresh start. That blazing, irrational hope for a lightning strike moment where life ends and begins anew in tandem.

Instead, the Groundhogs Day continues in many ways. Same problems, same joys. Same institutional discord. Same roller coaster ride I can't seem to dismount when it comes to maternal conflict. Money comes in! and so do constant expenses. I make a plan! The plans are hijacked by Covid. Life is life is life. 

I've been thinking a great deal about how to move through the grit without being worn down to a smaller version of who I once was. How the geology of my being is at times beaten brittle and barren by the gusts of external forces and cyclical weathering. 

Many of the challenges and losses we experience leave us feeling robbed of a part of ourselves. As if we begin whole and are slowly stripped down over time. This just doesn't seem right, though. In many ways we are born and exist more as a container, where parts aren't added and subtracted as we trudge forth but instead exist simultaneously, infinitely.

 “To feel the pain of now and not look away. To act not with the hope of moving forward, always forward, but to see the wisdom of stepping sideways." 

-Terry Tempest Williams

While ruminating on staying soft in hard times, I've thought about the wisdom of earthquake proofing in modern architecture. Buildings are retrofitted with shock absorbers and joints are reinforced to tolerate being bent and swayed by cataclysmic disaster. The taller a structure, the more flexible. Perhaps you've seen videos of earthen ground rolling like waves or Tokyo skyscrapers swaying during an earthquake. Thoughtfully constructed buildings are built in preparation for the worst; ready to withstand as much seismic activity as possible. 

What lessons, overly literal or not, can be drawn from this insight? Flexibility seems to be a key ingredient. Standing tall allows for less energy to be spent in prevention of collapse, since the force is dispersed across a larger area. Rolling with and through a threat secures a better outcome than a stiff and unbending defense. This idea seems reinforced by the popular advice that you're better off in a car accident you don't see coming than one you do, since bracing for impact can cause more tension and injury than not. 

I have found great comfort in the adoption of a new mantra in this quote by St. Francis of Assisi: "Wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.” I encourage you to really think about this line. We often make the subconscious choice to cling to the baggage we carry, or even the weight of the world, as a badge of honor or an excuse. Though we are weathered by the things that happen to us, how we wear and withstand that pain is ultimately a choice. We can experience anger and frustration authentically by sitting with them, but if we hold that heaviness too long in our hearts it becomes embedded in our identity. 

Wear the world like a loose garment, never constricting into a smaller version of your sacred self. Don't hold your breath or squeeze your way into something that doesn't fit. Allow life to hang loosely and delicately rather than acting as a porous sponge, soaking up the water weight of every inconvenient and unfair experience. Aim to embody a light touch rather than a firm grip. Dig into any ease and comfort you find and be there wholly, completely while you can. 

 

Above all, I want to be soft. To grow more supple with time, not hard shelled. I want to flow, not contract. To grow spacious, rather than constricted. Allowing the sadness of an imperfect world and life to exist more as silk against my skin than wool.

"We're on a planet that somehow knows how to rotate on its axis and follow a defined path while it hurtles through space! Our hearts beat! We can see!...We live in a limitless Universe overflowing with miracles! The fact that we aren't stumbling around in an inconsolable state of sobbing awe is appalling." 

-Jen Sincero

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Photos from a three day adventure to the Oregon Coast just before New Years. I read about the Tahkenitch Dunes trail in Backpacker magazine and had to check it out. An absolutely incomparable trail, both for its peculiar mixture of forest, dunes, and coastline, and for the excitement of spotting black bear tracks in the sand.

Tahkenitch Dunes

From Siuslaw Forest to zero coverage. A balmy 52 degree December day in Oregon

Where the dunes meet the forest

So many Sitka Spruce

Black bears love coastal views