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Archive for February, 2010

Turn, Turn, Turn

February 13, 2010

Mid-February has been a turning point for me most years. I no longer identify with winter, even though conditions may underline the fact that winter, she’s still here. Visions of spring underlie the tasks that fill my day; I’m thinking about the loveliness of awakening to the sounds of birds singing their morning songs. I’m thinking about eating lunch outside and feeling the warm sun on my t-shirted arms. I’m thinking about the color of new green that spring uses to wash over the fields. I’m thinking about open windows and doors and sitting on the deck listening to the river making her way down the mountain. I’m thinking about the playlist I want on my iPod to accompany me as I make my way down the mountain. I’m thinking about late coming later in the evening as the amount of daylight increases, aided by Daylight Savings Time. In short, I’m somewhere else.

This mid-February is kicking my ass. I’m consumed by winter. I’m buried beneath days and weeks of snow. I’m stuck, literally and figuratively. I’m huddled up and hunkered down. I’m tired from shoveling and my arm is sore. I have a tight chest and a cough. Everything in my life feels constricting and constricted by unrelenting cold and white, white, white. Nothing is easy, everything is a struggle. I understand there are people who love it, people who love to work and play in it—it’s their season. You’d think someone born in the middle of winter would feel more at home in it. Not this January child. This one wants it to be over.

I’ve done the requisite gratitude lists; appreciating, for instance, my sustained electrical service, and the fact that I have plenty of food and, more importantly, coffee. And internet, TV, and Netflix. And heating oil. I get it; lots of folks have endured worse conditions for the last few weeks. Somehow, that doesn’t translate into peace for me. It feels like the same rationale I never understood as a kid when I was told to eat everything on my plate because after all, there were children starving in India (China, Biafra, Africa, etc.) Dr. Wayne Dyer makes a good point, I think, about the fact that we can never be poor enough to change the conditions of those in poverty, nor sick enough to heal those in ill health, nor sad enough to make those who are grieving feel joy. My personal suffering won’t alleviate yours. Love doesn’t work that way.

But back to my suffering…I’ve been thinking way too much about all the struggles; all the things I want and don’t have, all the things I want to be different and they’re not, all the things I want to stay the same and they don’t. My mental trips to April just serve to underscore the winter-ness of present conditions, amplifying my longing. These are the obstacles (or, obSTACles, as my friend prefers) to my peace, love, and joy.

When I’m finally ready to stop feeling sorry for myself, I can hear the whispers of wisdom reminding me that “this, too, shall pass” and “to everything there is a season.” I breathe a sigh of relief. I remember “to everything there is a purpose under heaven.” I breathe again, this time with purpose. I close my eyes and inhale as deeply as I can and then slowly exhale til my lungs feel empty. Somewhere in that process, I experience release; a delicious space opens up in me.

Now when I look at the white blanket covering virtually every inch of ground within my sight, I remember there’s dirt and grass under that thar snow, which puts things into that bigger picture of which I’m so fond. Winter is here now and then something else will come along. I begin to notice thoughts of appreciation for those things that belong to winter alone. Yes, snow. Yes, ice. Yes single digit temperatures. Yes, quiet, yes, stillness, yes, curtailed travel. This is the now I have and I can choose to love it.

This requires letting go of all my old ideas about winter being difficult, all my old stories about its discomforts. This calls for the willingness to let go of my assessment that comfort = good and discomfort = bad. It requires letting go of the idea that peace, love, and joy are in any way contingent upon external circumstances, conditions, situations, people, places, or things. (You may be hearing the screams of protest from my ego as they echo through the mountains.)

So, on this cold, snowy, icy mid-February morning, I’ll don my long johns, my wool socks, my insulated boots, my hat, my gloves, my down vest, and venture forth into the world. I’ll throw my shovel in the back of the car, pray for safe travels, and hit the road. Even if I don’t actually get anywhere, I’m free!

The Powerhouse Storm

That’s what The Weather Channel called it, “The Powerhouse Storm”. I called it an inconvenient truth. But I was better prepared in every way than I was for the previous “Storm of the Century” around Christmas of last year. (I found that moniker a little premature, given the Century was only 9 years old.) Here’s my point: I was better prepared.

I live in a remote area, 45 minutes from anything vaguely resembling civilization. When I first heard the prediction of 30 inches, three days out, I bought a snow shovel. When I heard the prediction of 40 inches, two days out, I bought groceries and flashlight batteries. When I heard the prediction of 60 inches, the day before, I just laughed and stopped at the store for ice cream on my way home.

It’s not unusual to lose power at my house—sometimes on a dry, sunny, summer day—so I made some preparations for that, as well. I heat with an oil stove, so I lose the blower if the electric goes out, but still have heat. Fortunately, I live in a house small enough that I won’t get cold. And I can melt snow to make water for whatever. And I have a gas grill so I can heat things up, like soup and pre-brewed coffee. So that’s what I did; made soup and brewed lots of coffee. But the preparation I made that had the best effect was an attitude adjustment.

I’ve spent the last 25 years or so developing a way of being in the world that works for me. And when I say “works” what I mean is I’ve found a way (for the most part) to weave the different aspects of my life into a fairly seamless whole. That process has involved varying amounts of introspection, detachment, diving in, taking action, learning, observing, following directions, following my intuition, fighting, loving, denial, defiance, acceptance, embracing, releasing, prayer, and meditation. The thing that really saved my serenity here was my developing understanding of surrender.

Surrender has gotten a bad rap, what with all the associations of the white flag waved in defeat and whatnot. My new appreciation for surrender comes with my shift in understanding; the innate power in surrender comes from ceasing to resist what is. I’ll tell you straight up, when I finally called up a weather map on my Blackberry Thursday and saw the size of the storm, I had a few moments of the same panic that drove every resident in the counties under the storm warning to clear the shelves of the Wal-Mart. I had a momentary vision of packing up my kitties and, in this case, heading for lower ground. The more I entertained those thoughts of being stuck without power or phone or, or, or…the more I wrapped myself around the axle.

Then I took a breath and surrendered. Short of boarding an airplane and flying away, I was bound to experience the storm. I returned to the present moment, remembered all the preparations I could make and decided to come home and ride it out. Voilà, the return of peace; after all, it’s just another opportunity to walk in faith.