Great Expectations

These last few weeks I have cusped a little prayer in my heart whenver I’m outside, in this new place called “home”.

What is it you would like me to understand? What would you like me to say? Help me to get to know you.

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For all the words I have written here over the years about relationship to place, finding a sense of place, getting to know place, I have been feeling a bizarre sense of disorientation. As I write this I am also laughing to realize that I think this shouldn’t be happening…because I should know how to do this right? If I’m feeling lost or confused, it can’t be because I just moved and have left an intimate engagement of 18 years. After all, so the ingrained premise goes…I am a rock, I am an island. All that interelatedness business is fine and good, but the true hallmark of mental health is to be impermeable…to be able to put oneself in any situation and maintain a sense of true north. This internal compass also needs to be self-contained, unrelated to anything outside of your individual sphere.

And with that, I have just articulated the problem with western psychology (or with our western idealization of the maverick), the one that ecopsychology seeks to address.

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The metaphor of uprooting for our recent move is apt in the most literal way. Whenever I repot a plant, especially if it was root bound, it can take anywhere from three months to a year before it begins to thrive. Everything above ground can go very still, even die back, while deep in the soil the roots untangle themselves, find their way through the dark earth and begin to take up nutrients.

Transplant is another good descriptive. Foliage, flower and fruit is in constant interplay with its surroundings. To be suddenly removed and relocated means a brand new dynamic of weather, sun pattern, pollinators, pests. Even if the new spot is more ideal, there is always a period of adjustment.

If you’ve ever picked up a turtle, say from the middle of a country road, and put it in a safer location, you were probably bemused to watch how, even after you walked away, it remained tucked within its shell, hunkered down, waiting for some internal signal to continue on.

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The idea of right timing for our move was a rogue factor (as it is with most important things…birth, death, getting fired, getting pregnant), unless you factor in that the right time was four years ago. I had all these balls in the air, stuff I was working on, projects I was finishing, Big Important Things I was going to accomplish.

Not only am I finding it hard to get back into the swing of those things, but due to my sense of disorientation, I literally can no longer remember what some of them were. I was startled out of my juggling by having a three week deadline to pack up an entire house, and consequently all the balls dropped to the ground…I’m pretty sure more than a few of them rolled under a couch located in a forgotten corner of my psyche.

So when I tune in and I ask the land What do you want me to understand, what would you like me to say, at first all I hear is static. All I feel are the words caught in my throat.

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Currently it’s early morning and I am sitting behind our house while the eastern sun peeks over the Santa Rosa hills, almost exactly over where I think Crane Creek (our new favorite go-to spot) is. The swallows nesting in our attic swoop over me in arcs of white, grey and blue, the red flash at their throats a surprise every time. The crow family has already made their morning rounds around the compost pile and are now harassing the red shouldered hawk that lives in the oak tree across the pasture. Sierra, the newest, and tiniest, addition to the ranch is nickering for her breakfast and trots over for a scratch. The rising sun makes her impossibly pretty.

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I am a mini-shetland marshmallow.

The etymology of the word Disorient comes from the french desorienter, to turn from the east. Multiple religious dogmas, from Buddhism to New Age, consider the direction of the east and the rising sun to be the place of new beginnings. In following the path of the hero’s journey, this is where the footsteps begin.

After years of internship, new motherhood, and new relationship, I am loathe to relinquish any ground I think I’ve established. I don’t want to be in a place of new beginnings. I want to launch. I’ve been spending a lot of time on this here rocket of mine. I don’t want to go back to the drawing board.

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As I stand facing east in the early morning light, I know. I must surrender, and I know it. But, whispers the land, in a voice new to my ears, you are building upon, not starting over. You can hear me if you are willing to Not Know what I am going to say. Come to me with open eyes, I’m going to show you something new. Oh, and try to be a little patient.

Beginners mind, stepping into the unknown, a fresh start…more apt metaphors.

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I watched the almost-full moon rise last night and remembered a dream from the night before. I found myself unknowingly pregnant. I looked at myself in the mirror, turning this way and that, looking at my six month silhouette. Oh, that’s not so bad, I thought, with a joyful, and growing, expectation in my heart.

Something wonderful is on its way.

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8 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. oh girlfriend.
    last night i was watching the moon rise, all wounds painfully, yet in a nurturing manner, being attended to.

    i am the old man walking his maltese in the moon flooded night, with a flashlight.
    i am the sacred water flowing, aborted, down the gray concrete sidewalk, running over the coddled lawns.
    i am the weary young mother walking barefooted around the block, the tvs’ flickering glow from the windows begging attention from the moon-

    may the honeyed sweet jasmine air and the bright moon beams heal me, i pray.

    i remember running down those sidewalks one hot summer’s day with wild tears streaming down my face. no one was in sight, i was alone in a harsh world. it felt as though everyone had been abducted, and all that was left was the surrounding buzz of thousands of ac units from the closed off stucco houses. i continued to run in panicked desperation, wondering how people could live that way.

    and last night, i was in the same place again, getting my medicine.
    good jasmine and moon beam medicine.

    xoxo

    1. i felt so much in your comment, both the tears and the running and also the peace and the jasmine. you know, i recently tried to leave a comment on your blog, but (and this seems to have happened the last 3 or 4 times) it wouldn’t let me post. but it was something about you bringing your magic to the place that has brought up your wounding but also needs your healing…the suburban streets. permaculture fuck yeah! xo

  2. Hello dear girl, I made some time today to read your words and to understand them. Lately, my life is a constant stream of doing things that have to be done. My world is full again, of surprises each day in the classroom, learning, teaching and then the boring busy sh*t of everyday life – getting to places, picking up from, and you know the rest. It leaves me so little time to stop and think and to listen to friends; including my bloggy ones. Your post is eloquent, I loved it because of so many reasons, the feeling of the warm Spring sun, the birds overhead, and the nickery sounds of your new foal resident. I stopped to think of the sun in the East, and how that looks in the morning. A new day, new chances. I like that you are taking time to adjust, and realising that it takes time. I am in awe when people figure stuff out, y’know? I’m like, “wow, I’m so glad that you realise this and are thinking about it, how great that must feel to have some idea”

    Only recently a thought came upon me that perhaps it wasn’t the Magnesium and B6 I’m taking that is making it easier to have my dad working downstairs and popping in and out of my daily existence and peace (I was permanently grumpy with him for about 5 months)….maybe it was an adjustment period I had to get through, and I just hadn’t realised that I needed to give myself a chance to adapt to this new person hanging about my house. Things could have been so much easier if I had only processed this earlier.

    I am learning so much being a teacher helper. And I am never sad or resentful to have to go to school to be with those kids, I just feel….positive about it. Optimism and eagerness hang on to the bottom of my coat as I slam the car door shut and run up the school path to class.

    xo

    1. teeny, the image of you running to class with eagerness on your coat tails filled me for days, and made me miss you for weeks. so so good to receive so many words from you. didn’t realize your dad has been around! and mag and b6…i’m taking notes.

  3. Mary, you first made me jump when you stated, like something obvious, “the true hallmark of mental health is to be impermeable…to be able to put oneself in any situation and maintain a sense of true north. This internal compass also needs to be self-contained, unrelated to anything outside of your individual sphere.” I though – what???

    And then I realized that, of course, you were actually demonstrating that the opposite is true. Yes, keeping one’s balance is good, but it means that we are balancing between contradictory pulls – or at least, they are contradicting each other until we can let them find their true unity within us (or so it appears to me). Easier said than done, I know! Maybe if we stop trying so much?

    When I first started to work at the yoga centre this autumn, even though it was really where I wanted to work, I kept holding my breath (literally) while I was doing my tasks, in case I forgot something or did a mistake. But since January, I really started to relax and to trust the fact that I *belonged* there already (which I knew from the very start) – therefore I could only do good.

    I do think you are already speaking with this new land, Mary. The roots are silently growing inside and deep. The disoriented part is more like the foliage getting accustomed to receiving the wind from a new direction, with a new strength (or, in this case, softness). This is really nice, when you think of it – for a plant to be able to be uprooted in a new environment, and then thrive out of joy and trust.

    xo

  4. As always your words are lovely and the speak to a deep inner truth- of course mental health is not to be impermeable- though i think until you said it out loud I hadn’t realized I’d been holding that ridiculous assumption to some degree.

    I’m reminded of the process of ‘hardening off’ plants- which I’m not sure you’d worry about in California- up here in the great white north- when spring comes the plants that we’ve been keeping safe inside have to be acclimatized to the outdoors before they can withstand transplanting. The odd thing is even if the temperature is roughly the same inside and out the plants still need to be hardened off- which you do by putting them outside for longer and longer times- returning to safety indoors at night. It’s as if they need to get used the new air outside slowly. I don’t know if it’s the fact that the wind is slightly different from the fan you’ve been blowing on them, or the sky is higher above them, or the space is wider around them, but I suspect it’s just that they need some time to get used to the idea of being in a new space, and no wonder really.

    1. this is brilliant angela! i love how you took the metaphor and ran with it. and the process of hardening off has been finding little places where it fits since i first read your comment. thank you.

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