This afternoon I sit in an old and well past- it’s- day bamboo chair; once deep green and comfy, now weakened and faded from years of rain. I remember this chair when we first brought it home, back at the household we lovingly (and sometimes, not so lovingly) referred to as The Swamp; back in the days before I had Internet, and thought people who did were weirdos with no life. (Famous last words). I remember how many years I spent outside, often in a tent to shield me from the surreal swarms of insects (it really was a house sitting by a swamp) reading Peterson Field Guides and studying my Tarot and astrology texts…taking for granted that my chair would always be there, and my time away from “the world” a gift and a burden to both revel in and bear.
Today I think I may have sat in that chair for one of the last times. Clearly, it is not going to hold up much longer. Like an overused muscle, it’s grown stretched and weak and fragile, and it will likely not last the summer. I sat in it anyway, occasionally conscious of the risk, it would not be a comfortable thing to fall through – no, not a nice experience at all.
I read through a list of Things to Do, sitting in that chair, Danny on a blanket by my side. Classes to catch up on – papers to mark, potions to make. DUSTING. Making dogfood. Visit Dakota. I write “find replacement for chair” on the list. Some part of me does not want to let it go.
I watched a Red Admiral butterfly flit around Daniel, land on his side and explore his warm, sun-kissed fur without him so much as waking up.
Watched a trio of ravens sort out some sort of dispute – way waay up in the skies above. It ended with them all heading off in different directions. It felt significant.
Jotted some stuff about the Birch family and notes for my journal…read through Chapter Two of the Earth Path, for my forums discussion. I could live like this forever – reading, gardening, making lists, watching birds.
It crosses my mind, I am not engaged as I should be. It crosses my mind, I’m really in my own Isle of Apples here, blogging and working … watching butterflies…
It further crosses my mind that it might be I am hiding out, avoiding the world; still, there is much that can be done right here, in this shimmering plot of beauty and peace in a busy, crazy, hurting world.
Is my distancing from the world turning me into a faded version of my former self, like my sturdy old chair reduced to a shadow of its former self?
I don’t think so, although some aspects I can spend more time on. I’ve been working very hard, and so disillusioned with humanity I am happier here in my crystal isle. But, still without blowing my own horn I think I’ve developed in many ways, too. The still small voice can only be heard in silence…I don’t know that I would ever have been able to address deep personal issues if surrounded by the distractions of citylife. I might just have run from it all as it happened – the deaths, changes, disappointments and outright disillusionments that characterize pretty much everyone’s life, mine no exception. Instead, I’ve engaged it all – as it happened, and in some cases, ongoing. The process of some pain is lengthy, the changes will be beneficial or not according to how you handle it. I deeply believe that my solitary life enabled me to engage with pain, loss, even evil in such a way as to stand stronger now in my fifties than ever before. And, I might well have been crushed with the weight of some of it. But, here I sit, in authentic gratitude but still prickly with longing and burning for knowledge. That’s a good place to be in midlife. I am not interested in a lot of change to the way I live.
Engagement is always a hot topic…should we, seekers and contemplatives and Greenmen and Wisewomen all – embrace the cloistered life, live and learn and heal -building in ourselves the mediating power to bring from Above (or within, or wherever you feel Heaven to be) all that we can to help relieve the suffering of this world? Or should we be actively, socially engaged – daily out there, facing and challenging and working with the bloody mess that it is, to bring change, comfort, and hope?
I think there’s room for both, and sometimes, creatures like myself who do better when alone, might well have our capacity to contribute destroyed by a forced engagement with “the world” ..similarly, those who thrive on contact might go a little crazy if left to an endless cycle of seasons and forests and long, quiet nights. We do what we can. …we do as we must.
I watched the butterfly float away… to my amazement a black squirrel popped his head over a patch of nettle not four feet away, winked at me, and disappeared again. Daniel stayed sleeping. The world went on.
I have decided, though – one thing for certain. However slowly, I do need to re-engage a little bit. I’m planning some Herb Walks this summer, local and free (except for donations to the cat rescue, I will always accept that). Maybe followed by potluck and conversation, maybe a regular group that meets to share discussion, wildcrafting, potions. I also intend to start even one day a month, a free clinic in Wakefield or Ottawa, for those who need help with their animal companions but cannot pay. It will mean I spend a day or two every month in the company of people other than Alex. It will mean I have to dust myself off at least a little bit, go into town, the village, step away from this desk, garden and forest. I admit to some trepidation, but excitement as well. Seeing people and dogs “in real life” is a long awaited privilege for me. I think a couple of trips to the National Gallery this summer are in order, too. Maybe some wine.
And while I’m at it – I’ll buy a new chair.