Friday, September 5, 2014

Emerging into Grace and Beauty

On Tuesday, I worked late up on the mountain and then grabbed a bite to eat. As I left the Ugly Dog pub and picked up a chocolate bar at the market, the sun was just setting. There is a place up in Highlands I’ve heard folks call “sunset rock,” and I thought to myself, if I head on up there, even if the sun has already just set, it will be beautiful because we’ve been having the best clouds ever this summer and tonight is no exception. So I followed the road that goes to “sunset rock” or so I thought. Instead, I was on a wild goose chase that ended me at a locked gate and so I turned back, trying to remember what turns I had taken. I made my way back down into town and passed on through to head on down the Dillard road toward home. Now it was just starting to fall darker dusk. As I wound down the mountain through Scaly I could see the bright half moon high in the sky which was still a bit blue. And when I arrived at the overlook to Blue Valley, night was falling and in the distance was a puffy long cloud, sparking with lightning. I pulled in, took a breath of awe at the sight of electrical energy lighting up the cloud like a flashing lightbulb and thought, “boy it’d be nice to sit and watch this with someone.” It didn’t take a moment for me to correct myself. I am a perfectly good someone to sit with and how many times in how many places have I had my breath taken away by the humbling beauty of nature? More than I can count.

I remember when I drove across the country and around it some to look at schools for Acupuncture - back in 2001 after I was laid off from my last magazine job in New York. There were times I was driving west when the setting sun seemed to be falling past an ocean, but I was only halfway across the country and this was just the illusion from being high in the mountains looking down on flatlands with a dust-filled cadmium sunset. There were so many times like this when tears of gratitude just fell right out of my eyes as my heart opened up wide. And it opened just like this to the cloud full of lightning. I was reminded of how this life is a journey into beauty for me. Much of it has been solitary - not by design, but more by chance, I think. And that’s perfectly ok. There will be a time I am sharing these experiences of transcendent beauty with another, and it will be all the richer (or it won’t and that’s ok). We live in the midst of so many myths - about love, success, what’s important, what is of value, what we’re supposed to do, what we’re not supposed to do, and so on. One of the hardest ones for many of us, I think, is the one that says that we have to be paired up to enjoy life.

It is at times when I am immersed in the achingly perfect beauty of nature that the myth is shattered. At these times, I feel myself melt into this all that is-ness. It is here that the lightning filled cloud is also my heart full with joy, and the fading charcoal-blue light is my breath. There is no wish to capture it on film and no desire unmet to share the experience because the experience fills me more completely than any other I’ve met so far. It fills me to the edges of the universe (if there were edges).

And so it is that over the last decades of my life I have become more and more permeable to nature, to beauty, to all that is. There are times I feel breathed by a boulder, drunken in by the river, made steam by the sun and spread thin by the wind.

On another recent Tuesday after work up the mountain - about a month back - I was in the place where I received the inspiration for the “Blessing” post. Down the Glen Falls trail at the bottom, where the big salamander watches over the lower creek, the air was different. I found myself whispering almost silently there, and more of a speaking in breath than a whisper. More sacred than a whisper, my breath was a softening into a thick world of magnetic space. My words felt as though thick vapor merging with slow liquid, just hovering in the air. I noticed this as something profound. Where normally I go about talking to myself aloud with no compunction, here in this place it was as if the atmosphere let itself be known to me with a gentle force of presence, all encompassing. This was the place where the boulder I had rested upon had breathed me, and now I felt the place - this particular stretch of woods where water that pours vigorously over Glenn Falls slows into a gently laughing creek before cascading once again - was now also breathing me, and I could feel it in my hands, my mouth, my bare feet. I could feel it in my heart - in my whole essence of being, where I rest in God. And of course this is what it is to rest in God, as we do.

So as I was sharing with a friend about the cloud full of lightning the other day, and how I spent half an hour just watching in awe, I found myself saying that this, of course, is what it’s all about, for me anyway. I am here to, as deeply and profoundly as I can, engage the unfathomable beauty here on this gentle planet. And as it happens, this friend and I for as long as we have been alive have loved this place and its beauty and it has made us in large part what we are. We live in a place where every day we hear ourselves say out loud, “it just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Having said this, as luck or chance or Grace would have it, I have been able to say this whether I am here or just about anywhere else. In Florida for massage school I was in such a place, by the amazing Payne’s Prairie, and even the pasture where I lived behind a horse farm, and so many points in between.

After a while of engaging the beauty - I’ve been doing it consciously for more than a decade (and probably way longer) - it grows easier and easier to see.

Now, I find my self at the edge of the Mystery, diving back into her void as I embark in a month or so on the next leg of my journey to points unimagined. And to mark this time for me, this morning on my pond a great dragonfly emerged from her naiad shell, dangled a while with her fine glass wings still glued together, gave a flutter and took flight after an hour or so - right out into the big wild world. Such grace and poise - solitarily finding balance, breathing new air, testing out wings only dreamed of and never yet unfolded. Feeling her way up through gravity and into the air, into the light of morning in this little hollow where she was an egg not so long ago.

I felt so in awe of her transformation - one I cannot even begin to fathom. And, perhaps like dragonfly, my dreams have been guiding me so clearly that I, too, will know the flight path, the lay of the land that has been calling me across time and dreams. It’s such a big beautiful bright wild world out there - so much more beauty to be engaged and reflected - so much beauty to be transmitted through the unique lens that I am. There is much to do, and I am ready to test the air.

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