Checking In

Even as the temperature continues to linger in the 70’s, change is undeniably underway. The nights are cool and the sunrise packs a punch as wind patterns begin to shift. I love how fall and winter mornings explode with color. With the sun angling itself lower to the earth, there is a scattering of particles in the atmosphere before light reaches us. In winter, the effect is even more vivid as storm clouds present themselves as nature’s perfect canvas. As is true most years, I’m not sorry to see summer go. Late summer is the palate cleanser ahead of my beloved autumn. I hope you’ll indulge me here as I take a minute for a short review as we enter this third season of the year. (It isn’t lost on me that this is likely my own third season too). 

Checking in …

I’ve had a weird year so far. I think this is the first in a long time where my inspiration and enthusiasm were on mute. No new hikes, no epic roadtrips and a return to the restlessness that has become my signature state. I would guess that much of it is about the state of the world. I won’t belabor the point, except to remind people that when hate is encouraged, the world becomes filled with landmines for those of us who don’t fit a certain profile. I know there are some who think it is “just politics” but for those of us serving as targets it is clearly much more. 

As we head into fall I have been reading more. (Well, and listening more). I read a blog post recently from a woman I follow on WordPress who dipped into the awkward topic of loss of longtime friendships. She quoted a few people in her post and their words resonated. I have always known that with age comes a tightening of the circle. For me it has been largely about deepening the friendships I have now and I admit that it never crossed my mind there would be losses of long time friends by choice and not circumstance. Live and learn. This year has taught me that things are not always as they seem and that sometimes we don’t know people as well as we thought. Sigh. Oh, life … you leave me humbled.

One of the people she quoted was Jeff Brown. I ordered one of his books and dug right in. He reminds me a lot of Hugh Prather:  Simple wisdom, deep insight. I am working on writing about my own experience now with a gentle assist from him. It may someday find it’s way onto these pages or it may be a series of entries in a journal that never sees the light of day. Cathartic, either way.

And speaking of journals …

I signed up for a writing workshop that begins this week with Mary Anne Radmacher called Mine Your Writing. It’s an online workshop with the goal of making some sense out of old journals and notebooks. I have thrown together a pile of journals and scraps that I have kept from the age of 12. Reading through some of these pages I can see threads that have endured decades. Are they important or is it time to let them go? Stay tuned. Here is a quote from Jeff Brown that I am mulling over today:

“Sometimes it’s not your nature. Sometimes its your trauma. It’s an important distinction. We don’t want to make the assumption that all of our personality traits are fundamental to who we are. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they were shaped by our traumatic life experiences. Sometimes they developed as adaptations, defenses and disguises to uncomfortable realities. And sometimes they have outlived their usefulness, and are ready to be shed so we can actually align with our true nature. So, next time you self-describe, take a close look at your list of attributes. And ask these simple questions: Is this trait intrinsic to my true nature, or is it a coping strategy birthed in trauma? Is this truly me, or is this just a habitual way of being that no longer serves me?”

And here is my stack as I prepare for the workshop:

My year has held fallow periods where nothing has seemed to happen. I’m trying to be comfortable with that as we head into even quieter months. One of my favorite quotes (attributed to Hemingway) speaks directly to my heart these days: 

“Never mistake motion for action”. 

It’s perfectly okay to leave thoughts unsown as you take time to restore balance. We don’t always have to be “doing” something about everything. I am beginning to see the value in naps and thundering silences. 

As far as practice, I am re-committed to both sitting and walking meditations. While my hikes have been less than epic, my walks have been slowly deepening my awareness. Most often I have my camera, but I am seeing the value of “noticing” things as I do familiar stretches on my walks. Pictures are certainly wonderful and I love sharing, but giving the world my attention without a need to document it is a growing priority. I sit in silence with the heron and watch with wonder as the chickadees flit around branch to branch. I’ve learned to step lightly on the worn wood of the boardwalk so as not to disturb the natural ambience. As a visitor, it is a privilege to blend so seamlessly into this refuge I adore. 

I recently posted my 260th doodle of the year. They live in a Facebook album and have been a meaningful practice that really grounds me creatively. When I began, I wasn’t sure I could continue for a full year, but in time it has become less of an oblgation and more of a discovery. One day at a time. Here are a few of the latest:

The air has a chill and the sun feels sharp as we slip into late September. My allergies have been in high gear and my eyes have been a hot mess. Tears and more tears. My eyelids feel like paper, thin and fragile. In a way I have felt myself scraping bottom and I know from experience that sometimes we need to feel ‘just that uncomfortable’ if we are to find our way back to center. I’ve heard it said that no change can begin until our sleep is disturbed. Well, I’m there. Tired mornings and restless nights. 

Last night I dreamed of heron and their lethal hooks that pass for claws. I could feel the vibration as the claw sank into the branch we shared. I was holding on for dear life. It seems I dream often of holding on and falling apart. And just as often, I dream of heron.

As I move into the idle, dormant seasons something is rumbling. I feel change. I mean, I really feel it in my bones. A soft pianissimo building to crescendo. I may lie lower as the cold sets in but in that quiet, my spirit is learning the song and this is a chorus that will not be silent. 

19 Comments on “Checking In

  1. Love your doodles! I agree with you about summer. I’m always glad to see it behind me.

    • Thanks for the encouragement! As a fellow autumnophile I want to say that seeing leaves fall and walking through mist in the grass gave me a little heart-skip today. Love!

  2. I appreciate your checking in honestly. When you bare yourself to us, it helps me to bare myself – if not to others, at least to myself. I’m often very good at honesty, but I am never perfect at it and I always seek help for improvement. Thank you for your grounding, your positivity, your creative outlets, your spirituality, your ideas – all of it is good stuff. Thank you for that gorgeous photo of grasses in front of mist. It is perfectly framed. <3

    • Thanks so much for writing. I wonder sometimes about putting myself out there knowing not everyone is comfortable with revelation. But then I remember I am one of billions of people and it seems odd to me that there are those that want their lives kept behind the veil. I believe in connection over all other things. As Mary Oliver said: Joy is not made to be a crumb” 🩷

  3. Predawn Monday morning. You open my heart and turn it to mush–a softening like rain on hardened dirt. And that is the beauty of you–in honesty, words, photos, deeds. Thank you.

  4. Beautiful array of thoughts and, of course, photos! A deep dive into the transition and feeling of the onset of fall. Blessings on your writing class. Your curiosity, humility, and open hearted approach to things is inspiring.

    • Thank you for joining me here, Ann. The post I read and referenced was from someone I discovered through you and Christina. Katherine gave me much food for thought and I continue to marvel at all the ways this world connects us*

  5. This is so wonderful. All of it. There are so many kinds of adventures, and committing to Doodle a Day is one. And take a writing course is another. And yes, caring for family is another. Some are definitely more fun than others. And really and truly getting to know a beloved place is another. A couple of these photos are really unique angles. I know exactly where they were taken from, but you are seeing with new eyes. And the reflecting estuary boardwalk is always my favorite.

    I always look forward to winter, but I think I am even more than usual this year. I’m ready to dive into some new things and let go of much of what I’ve been doing the past year. It’s been good . . . and exhausting.

    If I can choose a favorite sentence, it is this one: “Pictures are certainly wonderful and I love sharing, but giving the world my attention without a need to document it is a growing priority.” More and more, I feel like I overshare at the loss of giving attention simply for attention. I’m not sure I can stop, but I want to seek some sort of balance. (And, as I reread what I just wrote, am I seeking attention, rather than giving it?)

    • Thank you so much for all of this. You’re right: adventure can take many forms and I apprecite you seeing and saying that. I know you get it, though. Summer seemed to be so fragmented for me that somewhere along the way I lost my usual enthusiasm. While it it is definitely worth noting, I’m hopeful it’s just a blip. I really like what you said about attentiveness. It’s a balance I seek too. The camera has taught me many things, and one of those things is that it’s okay to keep some experiences for myself. I don’t happen to think you “overshare” and I’m so grateful for your musings. Cheers to winter and naps and new things*

  6. Wonderful piece, Bonnie. I was reminded of one of my bosses that would remind me that I should not confuse activity and progress, and I was usually defensive in response, but at the same time knowing he was correct. Difficult.

    • Something about that quote really resonates. Just as there are differences in “motion and action” and “activity and progress” so, too, is there a difference between “affecting change and the effect of it”. Semantics are everything. Thanks for “getting it”.

  7. Wow. Thank you for this check in. As you wrote at first at feeling the muteness, I thought, what about 260 days worth of “doodles” (which I think might be more than that), but you got there. I so look forward to hearing the process to come. Here’s to naps and thundering silences! Amen.

    • Thank you for being here, Nancy. I don’t mean to imply I haven’t done anything this year. As you know, I went to PLAYA in May … roadtrip to somewhere new! I think what I’m really getting at is the fact that I have rarely left my comfort zone this year and it’s a red flag for me. Thanks, too, for the daily support of my doodles. It’s been an important exercise. The “mining” of journals should be important too. Stay tuned!

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