The Journal as a Journey into Mystery - There are as many ways to keep a nature journal as there are people who keep them. Some fill their journals with sketches, watercolors and diagrams of the ...
Friday, October 29, 2010
For instance, when I brought home Morgan, our 185 pound English mastiff and the dog of a lifetime, I spent at least a week fending off a sinking feeling that I had ruined my life (and this dog's), and that it would never, ever work out! It did--Morgan eventually joined me in my therapy practice, working with me and with my trauma-survivor clients on a daily basis. She was enormous, she slobbered, but she could sense a painful emotion a mile away, and loved nothing better than to rest her head on someone's knee and look up at them with the big, sincere gaze of a mastiff, telling them without words that she would never have treated them that way.
Of course, there is a difference between a dog, a living, breathing animal who can give and receive love, and stuff. I have a long and bitter history around buying stuff--I don't like to.
So ubiquitous has been the experience of buyer's remorse that I have learned to question closely every craving I have, every keen desire for yet another Thing. Shoes, cars, books, computers, houseplants and appliances... whatever the Thing is that I'm contemplating bringing into my world, I stare at the decision for as long as I can, fending off purchases as long as possible.
I ask myself, endlessly, "If you get this nifty new Thing, six months from now, will your life be any better? When the money is spent and the novelty has worn off, will this actually make you any happier?"
For me, at least, when I'm honest with myself the answer almost always turns out to be "no." And then I'm left holding my remorse. (And maybe a big bill.)
We Americans love our cars. And I admit it--I drive mine until they are unreliable hulks, real beaters, and when I get one that I can be pretty sure won't break down and strand me on the side of the road--maybe even one that has AC can actually cools the car--I like it. I like riding around in a new car as much as the next person.
At least, on the day I bring it home.
But six weeks later, stuck in traffic or driving home after working late? My satisfaction in life is no higher with the new car than it was with the old beater. (Though admittedly higher than it would be stuck at the side of the road.)
It's that way with almost everything: new outfits, faster computers, even (though I'm ashamed to admit it) the new book purchases I convince myself I can't live without. Six months later, I might as well have tossed my money in a well for all the satisfaction it has given me. And I'd very much better have saved it, or given it away.
Stuff doesn't make me very happy, at least, not for very long.
I asked myself these same questions when we were looking at buying our house two years ago. I asked myself if it would really make any difference to me, say, on a day when I was home with the flu, or came home late and weary... if on a steamy August afternoon or a frozen November morning, it would actually make the least difference to how I feel to be alive, knowing that there were woods behind the house, or that it was built in the mid 19th century, or had a garden outside.
I worried I might find it did not.
I was wrong.
I love living in the country. I love my commute, past the small town beach where I swim in the summers, under the red pines that stride in even rows back to the chaotic jumble of the real woods. I love hearing geese honking overhead as I pin my laundry onto the clothesline each week. I love my multi-layered view from the dining room window: phosphorescent-green lettuce growing on the windowsill flaming against the deep rose color of an autumn shrub just outside, hemlock tree jutting upwards in the middle distance, and behind it, down the hill, the vehemence of blazing oak and maple leaves catching the last of the afternoon sun.
I love my sloping ceilings; I love the deep blackness of the sky overhead at night, and the stars that are farther and cooler than they seem in the city. I love watching "my" oaks reemerge from the cluttered foreground of swamp maples and poplars as the lesser trees shed their leaves, and I love having the ability to plant and love and care for seedling trees of my own.
Even last winter, when pain from my back would not let me sleep, I loved to pace from room to room, chilled with night, waiting the emerging gray of morning, with the line of pine trees marking out the old boundary to this property. Even as I have worked long and hard hours this fall, with scarce the energy to climb my stairs to bed at night, never mind hike in the woods I love, I have been glad.
It may have taken the economic meltdown of 2008 to make it clear to everyone: a house is not necessarily a good investment. What goes up can indeed go down.
But love lasts. I am in love with my home; I am in love with the sweet autumn hills of New England. And I'm so glad I did not allow thoughts of caution or thrift or a faux-simplicity (for real simplicity is about clearing our lives of clutter in order to grow closer to Spirit, and living here has done that for me) to turn us aside from buying this house.
I am remorselessly grateful to be home.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
I just came back from a walk in our woods, and for the first time, I have seen a bear.
Oh, I've seen cubs before, even before we moved out of downtown. As woods have grown up around the small cities in Western Massachusetts, bears have found places to live that are awkwardly close to humans; about a year ago, for instance, the wildlife police had to remove a mother bear with cubs who had made a den in a drainage culvert in the heart of a thickly settled neighborhood. We even had a treed bear in a sidewalk oak tree just off Main Street a few years back. That took some pretty skillful work to remove the bear cub without killing him.
And it's well known that only a fool leaves a bird feeder in place once the snow starts to melt. Bears love bird feeders. And garbage, so it's a good idea to plan accordingly, especially if you have dogs or small children.
All that is common sense. So, yeah, I've seen bears before, and I've known about bears for years.
But it's not the same.
I was out hiking the trails behind our house, admiring the views just starting to emerge where the leaves are thinning to a scrim of green and gold at the crest of the ridge, and thinking to myself, "I know there are bears in these woods. I wonder why I have never seen one?"
I've seen so many deer that I've almost become blase about it. (Almost. There is something so regal about a deer, particularly with antlers, that I can't imagine ever taking them truly for granted.) I see turkey, wild geese, red-tailed hawks, red squirrels... all kinds of critters. But not--until today--a bear.
I'd reached the place at the top of a steep scramble through dense hemlock trees--I was meditating on the place of hemlocks and chestnuts in New England forests, past and future, and wondering how the few deciduous trees would respond if woolly adelgids remove the hemlocks from slopes like the one I was on--when I turned onto a sunny bit of path, glanced up, and saw the bear. Fully grown, large, alone. A male?
I had been singing, quietly, as I walked. When I saw the bear, I froze for an instant, the hairs on the back of my neck riffling in the breeze... and then raised my voice a bit louder in song.
(It was a nicely appropriate song. One of my own, with very few words, in a minor key but with an upbeat tempo, about turning the Wheel of the Year. Suitable to the occasion of encountering a bear feasting in preparation for winter, I thought.)
The bear, unconcerned, continued on his way upslope, into a beautiful stretch of white pines and oaks behind barbed wire, posted against trespassers. Bears, of course, pay no attention to such signs.
I admired the smoothness of his walk, the beauty of his shape, for just a moment more, then bowed, called out a blessing, and turned back and returned along the same trail I had been following.
I'm not a very theological Pagan. I take my gods and my spirits as I find them, and they do not necessarily have a place in any historical pantheon. There is the Dark Lady of Vernal Pools, for instance, whom I sometimes sense at the bottoms of muddy spring puddles and streams. There is the spirit of deer and forest and time, whom I call by the name Herne, though that is almost certainly not his name. There's Rosie, the Lady who spins at the root of a great tree in a vast cavern of dreams...
And there are the elder brothers and sisters, the deer, the oaks... the bears.
All things, in their right places, are filled with magic, with numen. And today, I got to see my elder brother, the bear, in his home. It was not surprising.
But it was very, very good.