Archives for posts with tag: Nature

Lately, I am finding it easy to tip my toe into waters of despair. There have always been heartbreaking world problems but in this country, there are heartbreaking problems being purposefully created. Purposeful assault against vulnerable people and against our fragile Mother Earth. Oh yes, there is also the continued assault against our republic. The first anniversary of my dad’s death is coming up on July 5th. I have been feeling that, along with other personal losses, my scary past illnesses, parenting worries, for the last month.

Even for a mostly extremely lucky person like me, life is hard. Fortunately, I am able to take my toe out of the water of despair. Then I see a sliver of hope. It is a sliver but it is there. It is meaningful. It is an opportunity, fragile as it is. I would like to be more hopeful but I’m not.

Most of the day and most days, I feel energetic and happy. And then I feel the restlessness of wanting to get away. The sadness doesn’t last long, sometimes 30 seconds, other times, an hour or so. When I feel despair, it is perhaps for a few seconds. However, the restlessness stays with me. It makes it hard to do seated meditation. It makes it hard to write, which is why it has been so long since I have posted.

What I find easy, these days, is to hike. The forest is lush and green. The mountains are abundant with wildflowers. My body is gaining strength to handle steepness that I was not able to do when I was younger. Steepness gives way to vistas of nearly unimaginable beauty. The promise of a hike is enough to motivate me to put in long days of work and to get my chores done at home. I am able to free up time and space to get away.

And it’s not that I don’t think of the big problems when I am hiking because I do. But I do it while also being surrounded by a larger context of beauty and nature’s reminder of the vastness of time, space, and the ongoing life cycle. These things are bigger than me. They are bigger than our species. My mindfulness teacher talks about “residing in a larger container of awareness”. She is talking about something I don’t yet fully understand but I think I am getting gaining understanding.

I am grateful for the life circumstances that allow me to protect my hope and to protect my love of life and being. This hope motivates positive action. Thinking about problems is not the same as constructive action. It is merely grieving in place. I am learning and re-learning that I can grieve and move at the same time.

Peace to you, friends.

 

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Today, John and I went hiking on the Nisqually Delta, where the Nisqually River runs into the Puget Sound. This is a hike that my parents have taken and I recall my dad telling me about it.

It is muddy. The water is brackish. It is winter in Western Washington. The ground and the plants are dark. The sky is changeable from grays to white to peeks of blue.

This is a popular area. We see many people, mostly families with kids and gray-haired married couples. The trail is flat and wide. There are short and medium length trails. It is perfect for the young and the old. I see my past as a child learning to hike, as a mother teaching her daughter to hike, and hopefully, my future, continuing to hike with my beloved husband for many years to come.

It seems like an in-between world, between solid and liquid, earth and sky, salt and freshwater, youth and old age. I see death, in the silver tree snags that stick out from the mud. These trees will never get leaves again. I see dormancy in the live but leafless trees on the shore and in the brown bushes in and around the water.

I also, of course, notice a lot of life, when I get quiet and still. There are so many birds. Honking geese, so many kinds of ducks, gulls, waders, and those little bitty beach birds that scurry along the shore like mice when they are not flying in tight formation just over the water’s surface. Every once in awhile, I hear a frog, sounding like a cross between an animal and a one-stringed musical instrument.

Every life is in-between. It is in some moments that we are fully aware of this. Today, I see it. I hear it. I feel it. It is poignant, hopeful, sad, and sweet.

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I am struggling with our world, especially my own country. The Republic National Convention just finished yesterday. Last night, reality television star and real estate mogul, who spews obvious lies and naked hatefulness, accepted the nomination for President of the United States. Every day since his campaign was announced, it has been like waking up in a world with rules and structures that I can’t understand. And then there are the terrorist acts abroad as well as the acts inflicted on our own citizens due to institutionalized racism.

These are not the only problems in the world or in my personal world but they weigh very heavily on me. This morning, I woke up after a series of nightmares. I could feel my heart beat racing. It was tangible. I could not only feel it from within, but it was vibrating my fingers, held over my chest.

I did not want to get out of bed today. I felt unmotivated, scared, and sad. I am not depressed or suffering from an anxiety disorder but I have the sense of light fog and quivery-ness that are cues for me to engage in self-care. So I got up, got dressed, and walked outside.

It had rained all night. The air was heavy but cool. It was cloudy, but I could see lightness behind the clouds, the kind of lightness that suggests a sunny afternoon to come. I remembered to bring my camera. The light was not that great, but I took my photos, anyway. It is hard not to appreciate summer flowers, close up. The dahlias are in bloom. The sunflowers are at their peak.

I often let my mind wander and try to stay in connection with my senses when I walk. I find that instead of feeling, thinking, or sensing less, I feel, think, and sense more. I have a wide variety of experience on my walks and this is very grounding to me even though some of the thoughts and feelings I experience are troubled. Mindfulness is not about blocking out. I continue to learn that it is about being open and to experience life in a way that is real but does not produce suffering.

As I was walking along the sidewalk in my neighborhood, there was a tree branch within reach. It was one of our wonderful evergreen trees, the branch of a hemlock. They have downward pointing boughs that are soft and flexible. I reached my hand up and softly grabbed it. It was still wet from the rain. In touching it, the newness, life, and health were tangible. It filled me with calm.

With just a moment of full engagement, I felt reconnected with what is beautiful.

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As a young girl, I remember my teacher telling us about solar eclipses. I was eager to learn more. We were going to have one. I had never seen one before or previously known what it was. This is also one of many times as a child, I was cautioned of the dangers of looking directly at the sun. We made pin-hole camera type contraptions that would allow us to view the event indirectly.

I have been applying my mindfulness practices to examining my deep irrational fears of being a bad wife. This is a fear at my very center and it hurts my heart. Looking at it has been like looking into the sun, scary with the potential for great power and insight. Looking into the sun causes damage. Looking into the center of oneself can also unearth damage but instead of being permanent, it can also open the way to healing, resilience, and strength.

Right now I am at the unearthing damage part. It’s pretty hard. It’s a bit disorienting. I need more time than ever for quiet contemplation. I did not think of this when I went on vacation recently, what it would be like to be with my family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I found myself very anxious, feeling simultaneously vulnerable and aware of my own destructive powers to lash out and hurt others. Don’t get me wrong, parts of vacation were wonderful. But I had some difficult times. I found that I did better when I took breaks from my family to write my blog on the public library computers. I think my family appreciated the space from my anxious emissions of unpredictable solar flares.

I felt considerably less anxious after I returned home but as is typically true, John and I are working to re-connect with each other. We are both empathetic and sensitive people. Just as our moments of happiness are highly contagious, so is our anxiety, anger, and sadness. Our daughter is the same way. Fortunately, we all love and like each other and will rally to get things back on track.

I have been disappointed in myself. But today I remind myself that it is difficult to look into the sun, even if only looking at the edges as are visible during an eclipse. I have found that in the past, as I’ve examined my thoughts and feelings about other issues, time and time again, through mindfulness, I get an objective distance while still feeling connected to myself.

Many years ago, John and I camped in Shenandoah National Park. We happened to be there during major meteor showers. I had never and have never before seen anything like it.  We laid down side by side both looking up at the sky, full of stars, moving stars, cascading stars, tumbling stars, one after another. Many of those stars were as powerful as our sun. Many were likely more powerful than our sun. But the distance allowed us to look right at them, fully engaged with the wonder, the power, and the beauty of the sky.

That is the image on which I will meditate. Perhaps some day, looking at myself will be like gazing at the heavens, looking up with wonder, the appreciation that not all can be understood in this life, and that this is the way it should be.

 

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I was walking through the woods and I noticed her out of the corner of my eye. I snapped some photos using my phone and I memorized her location.

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A humming bird sitting on her nest! I was thrilled! I ordered a real camera to take better nature photos. And the next day, I found this.

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An egg! The tiniest egg you could ever imagine. A tiny little package of life.

This was the only view I got of the egg. Here’s a little video of the time she was kind of peeved with me for getting too close to her.

After a couple of days she seemed to get used to me. And she sat on that little egg, day after day. I was thrilled to have a chance to see the miracle of life in the nearby woods. Hummingbirds are small and feisty. And this mama, despite the fact that she has the brain the size of a pea, had the instinct to protect her baby. She knew how to fly around to make herself look larger and to make lots of noise. And she also knew when it was time to quell her own instinct to flee and to stay sitting on that egg.

This is a photo I took on a very rainy day. She sat there with the rain dripping on her head from the little twig above her. I thought it was a good metaphor for a mama’s love.

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Every day or two, I visited the nest. I had done a little research on hummingbirds and learned that the gestation time would be 16-18 days for the egg to hatch. So, not knowing how recently she had laid her egg when I first found her, I expected to see a chick within a couple of weeks. I kept visiting and started feeling a little impatient because day after day, there was no chick.

Then I went to New Orleans for a few days. John and I walked back into the woods the day after our return.

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Still no sign of the chick! It is possible that there was a chick under mama but it had been far longer than 16-18  days! Rip off! Where’s my miracle? Isn’t this a zoo?

Then it happened! A chick, a chick, a chick!!!!!!

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I visited the chick a couple of times. I was planning to keep taking photos of the chick’s growth, the increase in feathers, and how little bird get loud and demanding as they await food from mamas who are scurrying around to get food for a baby who grows to her size.

Today, John and I set out for the woods. It was a breathtakingly beautiful Seattle spring day.

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Nothing. Empty. That chick was still small and homely two days ago. Sometimes nests are empty because a chick has gotten strong and fledged. But other times, they are eaten by a predator or fall from the nest. This chick, whom I’d affectionately called my “grand baby” and who my Facebook friends had fussed over, is dead.

I had been saving my photos for a post on this blog. This is not the post I had in mind. But life is still a miracle and this Mama did her best, as we all do with our children to help them be strong enough to leave us.

Mothers’ Day is typically a very happy day for me. I have a close relationship with my mother, who is a healthy woman. I have a wonderful daughter. But I know that it is a day of loss for many. For those of you who have lost your mothers, who have lost your children, or who wished for children who were never to be, Mothers’ Day has a much different meaning. And then there are those of us who are mothers who understand that we can’t take our own health for granted. We pray that we will be there for our children as long as we can, especially while they are still chicks in the nest.

Life is full of mixed feelings. I hope that at least one of the feelings you experience tomorrow is serenity. If you are a mom who has lost a child, I know you worked to love and protect your children. If you are a daughter who has lost a mother, I know you brought moments of great joy into your mother’s life just by being her child. If you wanted children but it was not meant to be, think of all of the children to whom you have mattered by being a nurturing presence.

I know that a lot of you have experienced great hardship this winter. Some of you have lost loved ones, some of you are sick or have been sick. And then there are the terrifying weather events that are getting increasingly common, most recently the impact of the polar vortex on a substantial portion of North America.

I made all of you a little film of a portion of my walk today along with some of the thoughts I have when I am in the woods. I am hoping this is an encouraging experience and if not, you get to see some very pretty trees and hear some crows having quite a conversation in the woods.

It’s funny to me because although I am surrounded by earth forms and plants so much larger than me when I am in the woods, It’s okay to be small. We don’t need to be big. We can just be.

I’ve had a couple of difficult days. We all have them. It’s just part of life. Something throws you on your butt, you rally, you still feel kind of bad, maybe another thing knocks you back on your butt, you rally again, and keep inching your way along until you re-right yourself.

Today, I had paperwork to do but did not have to go to the office to see patients. I had been knocked on my butt a couple of days ago and still felt knocked down this morning. I meditated for a long time and thought about my life. My past, my present, and my future. I gained some clarity. I had some really wonderful thoughts about perfectionism, which I had planned to share on my blog, but promptly forgot as soon as I got out of bed. (Darn!)

The sky was blue today. I went out for my walk. The sky was not only blue but the mountains were visible. I walked to Bird on a Wire, my neighborhood coffee shop, which is quite excellent. It was as if the universe knew that I needed to be cheered up. Maddie said, “Oh, Elizabeth I’m glad you came at this time. (It was a slower part of the day.) We hate it when people we like come at busy times and we don’t get to talk to them.” Then Adrian noticed that a gluten-filled biscuit was being prepared for me instead of a gluten-free one. She saved me from some major eczema. Adrian keeps an extra eye on this, I’ve noticed and I very much appreciate it. And finally, Angel told me that I was one of his favorite people. The people who work at the coffee shop are always friendly but this was much more than usual. I told them that they were awesome but I did not let on that I was having a hard day and they have no idea how much their kindness meant to me. I also experienced the incredible kindness of a friend in the past couple of days who knew that I was having a hard time, who has checked in on me periodically over the past couple of days.

I continued, with coffee and gluten-free biscuit in hand on my walk. It was WAY too nice not to go to the beach. I didn’t have enough time to walk there so I walked a half mile back to my house, jumped into my car, and drove to Lincoln Park, which is on the Puget Sound. There was new snow on the Olympic Mountains. The sun was bright and the sky was a brilliant blue. The wind was strong and it was cold. But it was amazing! The water, the islands, the Olympic Peninsula, and the mountains were glorious. I saw osprey flying over the water and then suddenly drop to the water to fish. I saw cormorants and a few species of duck. At one point, I saw black figures as the waves broke. They were two harbor seals about 20 yards off of the coast. They were swimming along and coming up every several yards. I was able to walk along the beach fast enough to continue to observe them for several minutes. I have seen seals at this beach, but only 2 or 3 times in the past 10 years. The Pacific Madrone, one of my favorite trees, which only grow near salt water, were beautiful. The orange trunks with their peeling bark were beautiful against the blue sky. The towering Douglas fir were majestic.

I’ve had a stressful life for the past many years. The reasons for this are many, most of which I have written about here. One of the ways I deal with the stress as well as to help prevent recurrence of depression is to get a full body massage every three weeks. I have gotten them from the same lovely person, Jann Coons, for the past 13 years. The first massage from Jann was a gift from my husband for my 35th birthday. I got the first one and have never stopped going. I’ve had massages from three or four other people and no one holds a candle to Jann!

Jann surprised me today. She told me that she had a Christmas present for me in her car and noted that she couldn’t keep it in her office. She walked me out to her car and I could see that she was getting ready to open the trunk of her car. I said, “Oh, well I am guessing that you are not giving me a puppy!” She pulled an amazing variety of home grown vegetables, artfully arranged in a basket, from the cool depths of her trunk. The basket contained red chard, two kinds of kale, delicata and other squashes, red and yellow onions, mizuna (a type of green), and beautiful red beets. I’m sure Jann could tell that I was moved by her generosity. I gave her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I still can’t believe it. I almost cried.

I am not a traditionally religious person but I believe my faith in the spiritual beliefs I do have is very deep. Today, I experienced an overwhelmingly beautiful display of nature’s bounty. The bounty from the sky, the water, the mountains, dirt, and from other human beings, who are also part of the natural world. And I know this is only a fraction of the bounty that I enjoy. I have so many wonderful people in my life, friends and family. There are so many wonders of the Earth.

I know that Thanksgiving is not for another eight days but today I feel very thankful, very blessed, and so loved. My heart is bursting.20131120_121619

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Jann's Christmas present to me. A basket of health that she grew with her own hands.

Jann’s Christmas present to me. A basket of health that she grew with her own hands.

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