Tag Archives: Nature

Life Rehab Resource: Nature

liferehabresourcesI’ve learned a lot from teachers, from practice and study, but the one place that continually amazes me with its wisdom: nature. I’ve often said that for me, going hiking or on a long walk, climbing up a mountain or standing on the beach, or even just sitting in my backyard is like church, especially if there’s a dog or two with me. There’s just something about the ground, the sky, the trees and rocks and dirt and blooms and bird song, that makes it easy to understand what otherwise is confusing, complex. There’s a quiet, a spaciousness that allows contemplation and insight, fosters contentment.

magicforestI can’t be in a place like this and be distracted. I am grounded in my own body, my own breath, present for each step. It’s a particular kind of magic, medicine.

When I realized Kelly was actually going to die, nature comforted me. She’d been sent home from the hospital, hospice was there, her body failing her, but somehow I still hoped for a miracle, my faith equaling how much I wanted her to live. But when her husband posted on Facebook that she’d slipped into a coma, there was nothing left to hold onto, no plans for “when she got better.” Rather than “the thing with feathers,” hope was the thing that had flown away. I felt utterly hopeless, helpless. I was in Colorado and Kelly was in Kentucky. There was nothing I could do, no phone call or visit to make. There was only waiting for the final word, the news that she was gone.

My front flowerbed had been neglected for months. With the latest update, hope’s departure, I went out and got on my knees in the dirt, pulling weeds, trimming and clearing. It was as close to praying as I could get, reminded me that even as things die, life continues, things turn green and bloom.

This morning when we were walking, Eric said “look at how much greener it is where it burnt.” A whole area had been cleared by fire and was growing back, a riot of green next to water still black with ash. Whether on purpose or accident it doesn’t really matter, space was made, new growth happened. We get so upset, often rightly so, when we lose something we love, but sometimes the worst thing that could ever happen is also a catalyst for growth.

It reminds me of that haiku by the Japanese poet Masahide, “Barn’s burnt down — now I can see the moon.” Losing Obi and Kelly, and then Dexter, were some of the worst things that ever happened to me, and yet that the depth of suffering, the weight of that sadness, caused a shift — woke me up. I am stronger, more content, have more to offer now.

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift. ~Mary Oliver

Nature constantly brings me back to these truths. That nothing is ever really lost, even amidst the ongoing and sometimes catastrophic change. That the waves will keep coming, that they will knock you down, but you must keep getting back up or drown, that if you keep going it might get easier. That there is a season for everything. That death is real, happens to all of us, all of it. That after the longest, coldest, darkest winter, the blooms and fruit return. That even though there are tigers above and tigers below, we can taste the sweetness of a strawberry in this moment.

And, basic goodness is real, it exists and is fundamental. When we saw the above patch of grass, Eric said “each blade has a drop on it,” and it made me think about how each one of us has the same basic nature. Both yogic philosophy and Buddhism talk about this essential goodness, this natural state of vast openness. Certainly we get confused about it, act as if it’s not true, generate so much suffering, but that doesn’t change the fact that “each blade has a drop on it.” You can call it love or compassion or divinity or wisdom, but it’s there — in all of us, in every thing.

Nature is the place I see this the most clearly. I think about how an apple tree doesn’t question what it has to offer, but rather rests in its genuine and natural wholeness. It stands as it is, takes on the nourishment available to it and produces fruit. It never asks “is this apple good enough” or “maybe I should make peaches instead,” it just is. And when it’s time to let go of its fruit, and later its leaves, it lets them go. There’s no clinging or attachment or fear, there is simply surrender.

Nature provides both space and wisdom. If I show up and pay attention, there is so much to learn, such sanity and intelligence, so much support and comfort. In that connection, that relationship, I can slow down, find clarity, breathe.

Day of Rest

*sigh*

This picture is the last one I took at Lee Martinez Park, the place we walk almost every day, sometimes twice. On that morning, that walk, I had no idea that the next day would be the day Dexter died. I knew it was coming, we’d known for a year it was on its way, but on that particular morning it still felt unknown, uncertain, undetermined.

We haven’t been back to Lee Martinez since Thursday morning, the last time we walked there with Dexter, the walk we took knowing it would be our last. We’ve been to City Park, Big South Trail, and this morning we walked at Colorado State University, but we haven’t been back to “our park.” It still feels too hard, too sad.

We’ve managed other grief hurdles. Eric cleaned the living room floor yesterday. The raw wood in that room was covered with tiny spots where Dexter’s nose had dripped, (because of his cancer, he basically had a constant runny nose). I washed some of the blankets from his bed, along with his Little D baby, (I’d originally planned to have him cremated with Big D but in the end I couldn’t stand to lose them both). Eric brought home his ashes, and I put those on top of his mostly empty crate, along with his collar and a clay paw print.

memorialWhen I’m able to, I’ll open the ashes and put some in the urns I have that contain Obi’s ashes (one is on my writing desk and another on my meditation shrine) — I left room for Dexter so they’d be together again, they loved each other so much.

pawprints

I still haven’t been able to put clean sheets on our bed (the ones that are there were slept on by Dexter) and his toothbrush is still on the counter, and I’m still putting a tiny offering of food in his bowl every time I feed Sam. I know it’s silly, but I was devastated yesterday when I went out to do poop patrol in the backyard and couldn’t find any of Dexter’s. I was so sad that I’d never get to pick up anymore of his poop — that’s a crazy kind of love.

Eric has been dealing with his grief, in part, by cooking. Yesterday, he made three pies. We did a pie drive by to our friends’ house last night because even as much as I love pie, we couldn’t eat it all ourselves.

griefpie

Jamie Ridler’s mom, who also had cancer, passed the day after Dexter. Jamie invited me a few weeks ago to do a guest post in honor of her mom, the prompt being something her mom had recently said, “It’s not about being tough, it’s about being tender.” I have so much to say about that, will be finishing up my post and sending it to sweet Jamie later today. These losses (something we all face as we live and love), this prompt, has me thinking about how important it is that we have confidence in our basic goodness, the essential wisdom and compassion and power that rests in each of us, that we practice self-compassion and keep our hearts open, knowing that life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible.

In this audio recording, Pema Chödrön talks about basic goodness. She tells a story about burnt cookies and a fox that is such a great metaphor for how we can approach difficulty — we can allow ourselves to become hard, closed off, or we can stay open to reality, to be present for whatever might arise. Yes this means we will be vulnerable, we’ll get hurt, but we will also be amazed, healed.

My heart is broken right now. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last. But there is so much worth showing up for. Such as:

A chance to get away. We hadn’t wanted to do this when Dexter was still here, were worried about being too far away from a vet if something happened. But now, sometime soon, the three of us are going to rent a cabin in the mountains and spend some time together in the green and the quiet.

Pie. Especially the ones made by my person, who is as sad as me, who knows just how I feel, just what I’m missing, who will talk all day about what we’ve lost and never get tired of it, who wants to do whatever he can to make me feel better.

peachpie

Friends, near and far, sending us love and light. So many have reached out to me, offering such kindness, making this heavy thing so much easier to hold.

The sweet animal bodies that are still here, that long for love and need care. It’s Sam’s turn to become my favorite, and when we are all ready, there will be another dog.

sam

Laughter. Last night, on the way to our friends’ house to deliver the pie, Eric suggested that they expected this happy gift of pie, so it would be funny if when they opened the door, we gave them a pie in the face instead. It was such a ridiculous and awful idea we laughed the rest of the way to their house. It felt good.

Brilliant nature — blooms and fruit and animals and trees and landscapes and sky and deep water and weather.

Practice. Yoga, meditation, writing, and dog — this regular attention, showing up and being open to whatever arises, moving in ways old and new, creativity and discovery, is medicine.

Music. I heard this song for the first time yesterday, and am totally in love.

because nothing lasts forever
some things aren’t meant to be
but you’ll never find the answers
until you set your old heart free

I’m so sad, kind and gentle reader, but at the same time I am so in love with my little life, my heart so full of every last wonderful thing that sometimes it feels like it will explode.

Gratitude Friday

1. Rain. We’ve had a good amount of rain this spring, rain but not hail or big thunderstorms, and my garden and yard, the park and the river are all really happy about it.

2. Crowdfunding. In the past year or so, I have helped musicians get records made, writers publish books, documentaries get made, people without it get clean water, kids that might go without receive Christmas presents, and even cancer patients pay for their treatment. I love crowdfunding so much. I love us and our big hearts, our kindness and good intentions, our willingness to help. Here are two projects just recently completed, with rewards on their way to me, an album and a book.

3. Collaboration. I have a project I’m going to officially announce tomorrow in a post that will introduce it in more detail, Self-Compassion Saturday. There are an amazing group of wise and compassionate teachers, writers, healers, and artists who are going to help me consider some important questions I have about self-compassion. It is the most beautiful thing, and I can’t wait to share it with you. I am humbled by the ways these women are gracing me with their wisdom and kindness, their willingness to share, beginning with the simple act of saying yes.

4. Peonies. I planted three this year, but I am already thinking I’m going to need more. N e e d.

People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us. ~Iris Murdoch

springpeonies

5. Nature. How green everything is right now, how full and fast the river and blue the sky. How at an English Department retreat on Wednesday, we were visited first by a deer, then a pair of wild turkeys, and finally a baby deer — and when I say baby, I mean JUST born, still wobbling around on its shaky legs attempting to learn to walk. And there was a moment of sadness, that tender sadness present in everything, when we spooked his mom and she ran, but he was too unsteady to catch up to her, and I imagined his desperation, “Mom, wait!” *sob*

one of the turkeys in question

one of the turkeys in question

Bonus Joy: Another week with Dexter. An extra special bonus was that he slept in bed with us two full nights in a row. He’d slept with us every night for seven years, but when we got Sam, Dexter “got his own apartment” and started sleeping in various other locations throughout the house. Sam has recently made some similar shift into adulthood, and begins each night by sleeping for a few hours in his crate, which is in another room. I’m thinking something about this makes Dexter feel more comfortable getting in with us. I don’t care why, I’ll take what I can get.

Big D, Little D, and Dexter’s tomato plant

August Break: Day 26

This is not my picture, but I wanted to share it with you.

This is a piece by San Francisco-area landscape artist Andreas Amador. His work is brilliant, amazing, beautiful, and completely temporary. On his website, he talks about the impermanence of his work, saying that:

The only constant in this existence is impermanence. In the end our lives are about the experiences we’ve had, not the things we have held on to. And in the face of certain erasure, in the face of our own personal, inevitable demise, the act of rallying forces on behalf of creation and beauty is a declaration of one’s existence in the face of a seemingly indifferent ocean of reality. I really like that metaphor–it encourages and propels me.

In the face of certain erasure, we are compelled to create something beautiful with our lives. Love or art, we long to leave a mark, no matter how temporary it might be, and we can find joy in that, peace even.