In-Between

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Seed: Photo by Noelle

As the night’s cool, even if the days have not, my mind ponders the autumn. A sacredness for transition points has settled into my soul of late. The awareness that one thing is ending and something else has not yet bloomed. I feel that inner toggle switch laying idle in my hand, as there is no clear direction yet to take. One season eases out slowly in the daylight hours, while another is tiptoeing in at night. I find myself embracing, more and more, in-between spaces and allowing the peace it brings to sink deeply into me. Intuitively, I see the power in their lack of direction or action.

There was a time when everything in my life had to have some clear direction. Some plan, clear outcome, a certainty provided on the front end that all would be well. I realize our entire culture has built this need for safeguards and assurances in. We have insurance polices for every possible eventuality. Contracts to ensure everything goes according to plan or someone else will be at fault if it doesn’t. We have schedules and calendars and smartphones that offer alerts so nothing can be forgotten. We are all so afraid of the unknown, the unexpected, the misdirection, which, in the end is never a misdirection. Spiritually speaking, we are always going in the right direction. It can only be the wrong direction by our reaction and resistance to where we are.

I’ve come to understand the weakness in the constant hunger to know where things are going. A hunger that is always driven by fear. Given how little we can predict ahead, I was surprised when it dawned on me how much of my life I’d lived with a low-grade anxiety. Constantly seeking ways to know the future or like some boy scout, be prepared for every possibility. For a woman who would never describe herself as anxious, it was a revelation.

Now I watch the leaves turn as a summer wind lifts the edges of my skirt. I sense myself leaving a number of things, but also feel no clear planting of my feet into something else. An older version of me wants to pull out the notepad and make lists so something can be accomplished to get it all moving to somewhere. I smile and breathe down her fear. She’s worried nothing will get done. She’ll end up wallowing in no man’s land without a life. She’ll miss the boat, she’ll be left behind. Oh, the calamity of no plan!

Today, I’ll just enjoy being nowhere. The sun is up and there are hours left to play. As a destination, nowhere is a grossly underrated place to be. If I possess any doubt about this all I need do is stop and listen. Ah, see, starlings have filled the cattail beds.

Bare Feet

Bare Feet: Photo by Noelle

Bare Feet: Photo by Noelle

I remember Wayne Dyer speaking of walking on grass in bare feet whenever he couldn’t sleep. He traveled so much that he’d learned to do this whenever it was possible and found he slept well, with little jet lag. He believed the body finds rhythm when it touches, intimately, the earth.

Sleep, for this menopausal woman, is an art form I am determined to master. So sandals in hand I stepped onto the grass. The sprinkler system had run earlier and the grounds were all wet. The water was cold, but the air warm enough it wasn’t unpleasant. I began walking the lawn planning on a tour or two before donning my shoes and finishing my walk. I found the cool, soft feeling of the grass so pleasant though, that I lingered.

After a time, I stepped out onto the cement sidewalk, and then the hard-packed dirt and scrub grass of the further path. Each sensation registered in my feet with acute awareness. Seeds stuck to my soles, some hard and older, many soft and fuzzy. I felt the ragged edge of a stone and the cushioned step of a bed of dandelions. A burr in my little toe stopped me short and was remedied just as quickly. Without shoes each step registered clearly in my mind. The weight and length of each stride became a mantra of sorts. Surfaces were rough or soft, warm or cold, hard or permeable and the impression of each experience kept me keenly aware of where I was. Not merely lost in thought, but lost in sensation.

I walked without shoes for almost an hour.

When I was a child I spent all summer free of shoes. My soles would be tough as shoe leather by summer’s end. I traveled woods and lakes, streams and bogs. I loved adventures that involved climbing trees and hopping stones. Huck Finn had nothin’ on this tom boy knee-deep in lake muck looking to catch a painted turtle. As I walked I thought a lot about her, skin tanned, shins scabbed and dirt under every single fingernail.

After a day in front of computers, breathing canned air and pondering life under fluorescent, I find she is a welcome visitor to my mind and my feet. She pushes out a sterility that has settled in on the shirt tail of professional attire, heels and security badges. The walk has turned from an exercise in sleeping to one of being awake.

If anyone’s interested I slept seven hours straight. Thank you, Wayne….

Already Here

Mohegan's Bluff, Block Island: Photo by Noelle

Mohegan’s Bluff, Block Island: Photo by Noelle

Allow yourself to think today as if your life is already what you want it to be. Watch what happens when you do not succumb to your own stories of limitation.

Namaste and Happy Thursday, Noelle

Lakefront Easy

Lakefront at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Lakefront at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Exhausted from almost eleven straight days of work I headed off to Chatfield. The three-day weekend promised at the end of the work run was now upon me, but the vestiges of long days dragged at my heels. The lake seemed the perfect place to begin my unraveling and as hoped, on a Friday after school had started, it was comparatively empty. With the exception of a few people I had the entire lake walk to myself. My gratitude for this would be hard to express.

Lakefront path at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Lakefront path at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Lately, I have found being deeply present with others in my work, almost easier, but then my need for silence and less stimulation when I leave work has grown with it. I needed the trails to myself, which in an urban metropolis isn’t easy to find. I wonder at times if this is what all our country’s rage is about. All the easy frustration, road rage and disconnection. We all need more silence. More peace. Less bells and whistles. Less demands on our time and attention. We are overstimulated to the point of chronic irritation. I slowed my step to sync my mind with meditative awareness.

Flooding throughout the spring has left the trails still disrupted. Some areas remained washed out while others were littered with logs. The start of the hike was hot with little wind and I remained close to the shore. Millions of dead leaves, now mere carcasses of their former selves, covered the sand. Each a curious art form in their rotting down to skeletal state.

Sections of the wood were immersed in sand, clearly demonstrating how high the waters had come off the lake. In some places the beach and wood were now almost one. Huge trees had been ripped from their moorings and now laid humbled upon the beach. My feet sunk down as I walked among the trunks listening to the buzz of cicadas. This is their last hurrah. Fall will nip our heels sooner than the dead heat would ever give away.


As I walk I must weave in and out of the woods or traverse huge mud flats and shallow inlets trying to find the original path or one now made up. Walkways have washed out from all the lake flooding and I slug through in sandals, delighted to be wet. There was a time when I would dress in such tight gear to not be touched by the elements or get too dirty. I laugh just to write this, as the thought of not allowing my feet to get wet seems insane to me now. I walk in hiking sandals that have plenty of holes for water to rush in and I donned them just so. I stand in a stream and let it cleanse me of hours of busyness and demand.
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I see how the small ways in which I blocked myself off have been eroded and washed away like these flooded inlets. I am permeable, I am porous, I am wearing away my former self as the wind bleaches the exposed roots of these lakeside trees.

Lake trail at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Lake trail at Chatfield State Park: Photo by Noelle

Blue Heron

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The day proved long, as Monday’s can often feel. A late afternoon rain had cooled everything down and I left to walk the marsh and smell the clean air. I traveled sans electronics choosing to hear cicadas, starlings, and gossipy red-wings rather than risk a phone call or hear a song I’d heard many times before on the iPod. It’s curious how silence has slipped into me. Over the last year a hunger for quiet has grown up in me more fertile and prosperous than dandelions. I love music and dance often in my home, but the days of ear buds and sounds other than nature along my trails seem more past than present these days.

Movement atop the tall stand of trees to the west caught my eye and reminds me why I came out this evening. I won’t say I regretted my lack of camera as he began his circling decent onto the pond, but my hand reflexively traveled to my pocket looking for something to capture his flight. Without any gear to speak of I was left with nothing but my awareness to capture the moment and that, in the end, was my good fortune. He circled twice before landing on the far side, adjusting his wings briefly before slowly strolling through the reeds to the water’s edge. They are, in every sense, magnificent birds. Large with bold markings and yet they move as Buddhist monks on a walking meditation – slow, deliberate, thoughtful. I slow to share in his mindfulness while watching his head turn slightly to catch the sight of fish below the surface. He sees far more in that water than I and so I bow as I pass, one sort of master to another.

The day’s chaos has already floated off and I am struck by what an extraordinary life I lead. I walk in beauty with funds to meet my needs, food in my belly, good use for my hands and time to ponder what has been given me. As often happens when I give my strain to the twilight air, I have been set right by a heron with the grace of flight and sunset water.

Pirate Booty

State Beach, Block Island, Rhode Island: Photos by Noelle

State Beach, Block Island, Rhode Island: Photos by Noelle

A seagull attempted to land on it as a perch, but the top was too thin so the tough scavenger flew off. It appeared to be a marker, maybe to someone’s pirate booty, or a child’s war ship against the tide the day before. Now it stood lone and bare in the morning light. Treasure Island and Billy Bones floated through my mind, as I came upon it. As a child I loved the N.C. Wyeth paintings from the story and would look at them for hours making up my own pirate adventures.

N.C. Wyeth illustrations from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

N.C. Wyeth illustrations from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

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Like my fantasies of childhood I found the beach full of little mysteries as dawn came upon it. Crabs battling in tide pools, shell paintings and this monstrous sand castle still erect and undisturbed by the night’s tide. A stalwart stronghold made with little more than hands and buckets. Having recently started dabbling with sculpting SopI marvel at this structure. Created in an afternoon, with little more impetus than a laugh and no more concern for it’s perfection or durability than the time it takes to be distracted onto a boogie board. Yet in my own creative process I can ponder and obsess over the next steps in plaster as if I were working with TNT or finding the cure for cancer. I dig my feet into the sand and commit myself to remember the care-free force of a child.

 

Sand castle. state Beach; Photo by Noelle

Sand castle, State Beach; Photo by Noelle

 

Small pathways discovered through the shrub-covered embankments, now dotted in pink flowers, enticed me into small sand dells and new routes home. I picked one of the morning blooms and placed it in my hair embracing all the beach bum I could pull into my lungs.

State Beach, Block Island, Rhode Island: Photos by Noelle

State Beach, Block Island, Rhode Island: Photos by Noelle

I sit daily in meditation, but few things calm and bring me into full alignment with my best self so completely, as a walk on a deserted beach. So to you my dear friends I offer this call to adventure and discovery that it not die upon my own lips.

“Avast, me hearties! There be treasure here.”

State Beach, Block Island: Photo by Noelle

State Beach, Block Island: Photo by Noelle

 

Seaside

block Island High Speed Ferry to New London: Photo by Noelle

block Island High Speed Ferry to New London: Photo by Noelle

Someone’s Coke had exploded on the window; no telling how long ago, but it looked old and crusted. The waves fill in the scene between the running, brown spots telling a tale of holidays and luggage, children eating crushed sandwiches with chips and foamy soda. My nieces are giggling in the booth behind me and I pretend to read my book. In truth, the ocean moving beneath my window is far more intriguing. The girls launch off to the outer deck leaving the Coke and me and the dark green sea. Such a vast ocean full of life and dancing seagulls that laugh at soda and women longing for their vacation not to end.

I breathe deep and feel the sand still embedded in my sandals rubbing against my heal. The vacation may be over but my morning walks are alive within me as I sail for home.

State Beach Block Island, Rhode Island: Photo by Noelle

State Beach Block Island, Rhode Island: Photo by Noelle

Some mornings the temptation to lie in bed would be great, but the island is a haven for bird migrations. The dawn is full of winged song and chattering old maids. Plus, I knew few walked the beaches in the morning leaving it mostly to myself. By nine o’clock people would be staking out their spots for the day, especially close to the water, but at the crack of dawn it’s a random dog walker and one or two folks likely fallen asleep on the beach from too much drink the night before.

State Beach Block Island, Rhode Island: Photo by Noelle

State Beach Block Island, Rhode Island: Photo by Noelle

State Beach Block Island, Rhode Island: Photo by Noelle

State Beach Block Island, Rhode Island: Photo by Noelle

As I walk the surf rolls over my feet, a tempting lover, but hard to get. It’s in the way she pulls at my ankles then drifts back into the sea as if she could careless at my response. I chase her, as any sun-drenched lover would and she covers my legs with love. She could beguile the hardest soul winking delicately in the new dawn and makes positive beggars out of crabs whose claws outstretch demanding she return them home.

I collect stones and fill my pockets, smooth and black or mica-covered quartz the favorites. I walk, rubbing them, committing to a seaside rosary of sorts as I speak to spirits that pull my hair into the wind. Salt graces my lips and I lick it off for breakfast, smiling at the seagull who hovers wondering what I dine on. “The same as you, my friend. The same as you.”

Mohegan's Bluff, Block Island: Photo by Noelle

Mohegan’s Bluff, Block Island: Photo by Noelle

I came upon a stingray, likely dead, but his eyes were still open and partially covered by a pool of water. I pulled him back into the seaweed thick surf and he quickly disappeared under the rolling garden. I could not tell if he lived or merely vanished in a tangle of kelp, but for some reason I felt very satisfied. After a time walking the beach I wondered at my need to deliver him from his death. We all must leave this plane at some point. The sight of death rarely disturbs me and I am at peace with the beautiful eco-system that has a purpose for even the decaying body. I sat on the sun-warmed sand and watched the surf for a long while. Clearly that day, I did not want either him or myself to be anywhere else but with the sea.

State Beach Block Island, Rhode Island: Photo by Noelle

State Beach Block Island, Rhode Island: Photo by Noelle