Friends on the path

On my desk, a shaft of early autumnal sunlight indirectly and gently picks out the details of the pine cone and feather I brought home yesterday morning. I have been walking again, I didn’t really stop, I mean long walks, up to the top of the lane walks. An hour or so in the morning and again in the evening.

The lane is a magical place. I have come to know it with a kind of intimacy I would never have known possible years ago. Years ago I only revelled in the theatrical kinds of beauty, storm waves pounding a wild and dangerous drum dance on this north western coast, soaring cliffs standing sentinel to sprawling vistas. Annie Dillard describes this wonderfully, ‘After the one extravagant gesture of creation in the first place, the universe has continued to deal exclusively in extravagances, flinging intricacies and colossi down aeons of emptiness… The whole show has been on fire from the word go”. I love these dramatic flourishes very much, but now I love the little, simple, plain things as much, if not more.

At the beginning of my walk on the lane this morning I knelt down, touched one hand to the cool, moss and grass-laced tarmac of the road beneath me and positioned myself in the morning sunlight. I had a simple intention for this walk, I just wanted to walk in the beauty, in full consciousness and presence for all that was arising within and around me. I always do, I always try to walk consciously, this started quite a few years ago now, greatly aided by my love of photography which has helped me to see deeply ‘the miraculous under my nose’. But this morning was a little different and I feel like a thirst has been quenched. My heart had softened enough to be with it all with more ease and to be quite honest, I love autumn and she spoke to me this morning, bright, fresh with that little cool edge and alive with transformation. All around me spilled a bouquet of rusts and dark greens, heathery faded purples, thistle, clover, soft and deep magenta hues, some spiky and defined, others soft-petalled and floral, others cloud-like, pink froth of dew and ephemeral geometries.

My heart was full of a corner turned. Of possibilities. I have been trapped in a painful story and sought help this week from my friends and they met me with such love and grace that my eyes are filling writing this. The communities we make around us are a miracle. The smell of meadowsweet dew evaporating in morning sunlight is a miracle. The fact that I am here and able to write from the heart like this on this morning is a miracle. The fact that you are here and hear me is a miracle.

The painful story was an old friend of mine – ‘not enough time’. I am writing a piece of academic work and have become exhausted. Unwittingly and despite my best efforts at self-care, (something I am grateful to be able to say I have learned a lot about and practice diligently), my mind had become my own sergeant major, fear and tiredness had coalesced into a dry concrete run, blinkers, strict routine, every day the deepening feeling of not being quite good enough and less confident. I hit the wall last week and realised I needed to call on my supports.

Speaking with a deeply wise and loving friend during the week I realised that this is a time of great change for me. His grounded and stable perspective helped me zoom out. The reality I had weaved is transforming, work is changing, the community and the beautiful space that we created together I have to leave behind and with a great deal of uncertainty as to what comes next. My beautiful dog friend is dying, a new relationship has blossomed, the program of study I have applied myself to for three years is coming to an end and the professional direction I had begun to dream has been cast in a new light, perhaps mercifully.

I don’t have answers to many things at the moment. I probably never do really, just think I do. But it is an interesting time and this morning I had rested enough for my heart to have softened and my mind to have settled enough to just be. To breathe with one of the many fear stories and actually hold it with a real feeling of compassion, not just bear it. And out of that softening, standing watching the fog lifting over the lake in that golden light, berries and birdsong, horses and cows grazing and a bright, cloud streaked sky holding us all in it’s Claddagh like embrace… I let the pain be and I asked, what new thing is trying to speak to me. And sure enough within a few minutes, the memory of a dream that I told Patrick about yesterday evening came back. I have had a strange recurring dream throughout my life about cycling to Dublin and when I told him he said, well sure we can do that. I loved the spontaneity of his offering. Feelings of possibility, excitement, anticipation welled up, sparkling into being and full of playful potential. Under the blanket of fear that I was too tired to lift, out of the shell of the flower that has bloomed and is returning to the earth for autumn, these new little seeds showed themselves. Possibility, I can cycle. I can cycle today, just a little bit and start to get fit again. Excitement of doing that with P, sharing something he loves. Openness, allowing, the taste of freedom.

The lane that I walk on is a great teacher and a great healer. I only have to go and breathe deeply, open my eyes, feel my feet upon the earth and I always feel healed, to whatever extent it is possible for me to allow it. My friends are great teachers and healers, I only have to ask for their help and they shower me with love and wisdom and presence, they help me to see when I am caught up in the fog of my own stories, help me to gently open my heart when it has contracted. I include as my friends those teachers living and dead that help me to stay connected to my heart and to my truest self, Tara Brach, John O’Donoghue, Jack Kornfield, Thich Nhat Hahn – there have been and are so many more. I am so grateful to those people who write, who share their wisdom and their hearts and their joy and pain and love and appreciation for beauty.

That is why I am writing this now. I was standing under the pine in my back garden with Ollie, after the walk, smiling at the text I had just read from John O’Donoghue and that phrase ringing in my ears – the call to beauty. The truth of it, the centrality of it to my own encounter with this life, the possibility for healing within it. Another spark of possibility lit in my heart. I want to give back, I have been nourished and lifted up by all those wise hearts that have travelled with me, before me, I want to be one of those voices that reassures and offers solace and points to the beauty too. It is time to join my voice with the vast, intricate, beautiful network of hearts that are offering love and support while we navigate this beautiful and difficult life together. And just as all the tiny wild flowers and grasses and ferns are so perfectly balanced and deeply interconnected I know that my voice will find its place, my heart will serve its purpose and the hearts to whom I speak will find what they need in our sharing of truth through these words.

With much love and looking forward to the journey,

Lou x