meditations on the sea

It is vast against the horizon. So much so…it IS the horizon. It shifts the sand beneath my cold toes, and still further dizzies my eyes with its periphery-dancing. Yet the sea does not dread the distances, calculating arrivals and departures, lost in the abyss of so-whats and then-whats.

It is buoyant despite emotional spasms. At one rock outcropping–battered knuckles of stone rising against the blue–there is anger. Foam churns, one million crashes in a busy liquid intersection. It is violent, destructive. Just five rock-knuckles down, small children and grown men laugh in the surf, their bodies caressed by the gentle tide. Here, there is joy: a playground for the young at heart. Yet, the sea does not worry about its vacillating waves of ups and downs, giggles and groans.

It is storied. An infinite amount of narratives are surrounded by its borders. There is no place on earth not footnoted by its boundaries. Beneath its surface another language exists: tall tales of ferocious hunters and tiny fables of minuscule plants. Yet, the sea is at peace in its own identity, authentic and brave and beautiful.

It is inconstant. The only thing that stays the same is that it changes. Fluid, flexible and fluctuating because nothing is in its control; it bows to the moods of the moon and the pollution of the people. Always unsure of who it was or who it will be, the sea just is.

It is frightening. Dangers lurk beneath it and above it and beside it. Fear multiplies like grains of sand: storms and tsunamis and sharks and stings and sunburn; currents and cancer and career changes and crashes. Yet, though drowning in a million anxieties, the sea is not anxious.


 

 

building a prayer

It has been a rough couple of months in the Davenport household. In January, news from Dave’s work of impending “changes” resulted in insecurity. In February, I made the heartbreaking decision to resign from the school that has formed me for the last five years. So many questions plagued us: will we have jobs? will we take pay cuts? will we have to sell a car? will we have to move? will our lifestyle have to change? These weights, compiled with other disappointments, had me in daily meltdowns for nearly a month.

But, alas, things have worked out for us. As they always do.

As they always do.

And I find myself now overwhelmed–not by stress–but by gratitude. At another time, I will share the decision I made to change my perspective…and how that created light where there was none. But for now, I want to share how we honored the many blessings in our lives as of late.

In the shadow of an ancient volcano eruption–looming walls bloodied by fire–we constructed a cairn. In the cool shade of a giant ponderous–branches tangled and blossoming–we partook in a sacred ceremony of craft. Stone by stone, we declared our blessings. We built a prayer.

 

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eroding into beauty

With the death of my Mom, my anxiety found new life. Like any parasite from a host, it crept into my veins and fed off my sanity, growing in strength while I grew in weakness.

Memories from this time flash all too slowly, too stubbornly, before my eyes. I remember the endless car ride back to her hospital in Chicago, racing against the clock of her pulse. Trapped in the suffocating space of my own mobile powerlessness, I physically felt death in my own body: heart racing, shortness of breath, uncontrollable fits of weeping, tremors that rocked my very foundation. I remember my terrorized eyes, next to my Mom’s closed eyes, near my sister’s side, looking up at my Mom’s kind doctor, asking for drugs to calm me down; anxiety now made me her only living patient in that room. I remember the feel of the bed that night, of the fuzzy blankets that to this day envelope me in the presence of my Mom, and the numb release those drugs brought me for a few hours of sleep…of denial. I remember months later, talking about these moments of anxiety along with the endless trail of ugly ducklings that ensue, my therapist’s words:

What if you imagined your body, your life, as an object, which like any other object, will inherently decay with time?

His question was designed to assuage the irrational fears that ate away at my sanity: I have cancer. I am riddled with tumors. I’m having a stroke. I have an aneurysm. I am dying.

I thought about the power of erosion as I lingered on the edge of the vast and majestic and overwhelming and wondrous and complex and gorgeous Grand Canyon. Layers of ocher shade into ebonies blur into grays cut against the hazy blue dome above. Horizontal lines on some ridges play tic tac toe with vertical striations on other towers. Ivory artery paths cut across plateaus and dip diagonally down canyon sides. And then the origin of this glory, the Colorado River: a mud-green snake, wide as a football field and a mile beneath, slithered in and out of sight, arching its back in white caps and bending around all red-rock obstacles.

Here is beauty. Here is destruction. There cannot be one without the other.

I cannot see this glory were there not the horror. I cannot be this wonder were there not the eroding.

Millions of years, billions of raindrop-tears rolling down the sides of the River’s face. Tons of rocks, sons and daughters of crumbling grief racing into the Abyss. Echoes of raging winds, let-gos and let-downs dancing into Destruction. Gravity carving without levity, cravings eroding into the Center.

Here is beauty. Here is destruction. There cannot be one without the other.

What if you imagined your body, your life, as an object, which like any other object, will inherently decay with time?

My Mom’s hands were like the Grand Canyon. Speckled russet from the sun. Gorged from the work ethic of West Virginia hills. Gnarled from the pain of so many Midwestern storms. Weathered from the weight of so many unmet norms. Twisted on themselves from the giver’s turning. Rooted in so many defeats and repeats and remembers and benders and whatevers and winners. One gold band, a circled audience, standing witness.

I miss those hands.

What if you imagined your body, your life, as an object, which like any other object, will inherently decay with time?

Here is beauty. Here is destruction. There cannot be one without the other.

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photo essay: joy from this weekend

When you look for joy, you will find joy. When you find joy, you will look for joy.

This morning I practiced yoga with over 3000 other yogis in the beautiful Denver Sunken Garden Park at Yoga Rocks the Park. And under the warm embrace of the sun, atop the prickly green of the earth, I could not help but thinking:

I am blessed.

Here are some pictures of today’s joys…

A glorious day for outdoor yoga!

A glorious day for outdoor yoga!

Colleagues and friends.

Colleagues and friends.

We love Fabletics!

We love Fabletics!

Rooted in friendship.

Rooted in friendship.

Rooted in friendship.

Rooted in friendship.

The collective breaths of over 3000.

The collective breaths of over 3000.

Upside down.

Upside down.

Upside down.

Upside down.

Sunshine selfie.

Sunshine selfie.

Twist.

Twist.

The joy continues at home. As I sit on my beautiful back porch, looking at the lush green woods, I see my husband and my best friend napping…

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The epitome of peace.

Though I was inside yesterday, I also experienced joy. My bestest friend in the whole wide world is moving here, into our place, in less than one week. The lives that we have lived from a distance will now be woven together in the most common of daily activities. It was joy to prepare a space for her…

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Welcome.

My weekend joy began with horse therapy as I spent some time riding Bruno. Just he and I, alone, working and breathing and sweating in the quiet of an indoor arena, while rain anointed the barn roof. Heavenly joy…

An earlier picture of Bruno and I.

An earlier picture of Bruno and I.

And all these are what occurred within the last 72 hours. It’s not even counting the joy of Thursday night happy hour with my husband, good-bye hugs for seniors at our luncheon, and our amazing trip to Portland.

I am blessed.

When you look for joy, you will find joy. When you find joy, you will look for joy.

Campsite: A Morning Benediction

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Rise, you steam from pottery-mug of dark roast,

curl your other-world whispers up and away.

 

Shine, you golden-fingers of sunlight,

forge your fractured path through the labyrinth-forest

and dew-drop-mirrors.

 

Dance, you moths or flies or nymphs,

whatever your magic is,

sprinkle joy in in the morning-air like cloud-confetti.

 

Play on, you liquid-symphony-stream,

raise your rushing flurry of applause, confident and

ceaseless.

 

Tease on, you fuzzy acrobat-squirrels,

cluck and chirp and rattle us in your mockery of ducks and birds and snakes,

safe in the playground of secret-branches.

 

Testify, you living-mosaic of God,

blanketing me under a glory-quilt,

breathing into all my senses,

reminding me of your indisputable Presence.

 

 

a guided sanctuary tour: collapsing the boundaries between the sacred and the secular

And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. –Exodus 25

This Scripture has crawled into my heart and taken a seat for the last week. For much of my life, I have made clear distinctions between the sacred and secular. When I wanted to meet with the Divine, it most likely entailed quiet times and church meetings. But the more I’ve lived life, the deeper my conviction has become to collapse the boundary between the sacred and secular. If God is ALL, then He, by nature, is encompassed in both those extremes…as well as in all the subtle shades sandwiched between.

These leads me to ponder what sanctuaries I build, seek out, and/or honor… in other words, where do I meet with God? Where does my heart encounter the Divine?

  • The Outdoors. This has always been true in my life, and it is what has led Dave and I to Colorado. I know the immense of amount of suffering and injustice in the world is enough at times to make me question the existence of God, but often, all it takes for me to surrender in worship is: sitting on the swing in my backyard, listening to the wind’s conversation with the earth as interpreted through wind chimes; or hiking a local trail with Spooner frolicking off leash; or taking a moment to look up at the multitude of stars over my head like a glittering roof; or the moment I crest Genessee on I70 and see the Divide; or the sunrise creeping over the ridge across the street; or the angelic songs of birds; or the sacred bow of a horse to someone he loves; or the way the light filters through a canopy of trees overhead; or the golden ribbon of autumn’s aspens on a mountainside; or…
  • My Mat. Yoga literally translates to union. And long before it was the popular workout to get dressed up for, it was an attempt to unite with the Divine–unnameable and unspeakable, yet undeniably bigger than the self. On my mat, I send my energy to others; I intercede. On my mat, I thank God for all my body is capable of; I praise. On my mat, I pause and remember my strengths and weaknesses; I reflect. On my mat, I give up what I cannot control… and perhaps what I can; I surrender. On my mat, I feel victory and joy; I worship. On my mat, I breath with others; I connect. On my mat, I am kind; I extend and accept grace.
  • My Classroom. I am one of those blessed people who feels my calling and my career line up. God made me to be a teacher, and when I teach–with heart, with skill, with passion, with gratitude, with social justice, with humility, with joy, with rigor, with conviction–I am 100% aligned with God’s heart for me. That is a moment of worship like none other… and I can do it daily!

These are a few of my sanctuaries…I’d love to know some of yours!

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an ocean poem

“beach glass: or what I found on the beach”

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the sea is a turquoise heart

pulsating with life

ever filtering, ever glittering

with each wave, pumping lifeblood

into a million liquid heartbeat

stories of salt.

I, too, am heart.

 

the sea is a pillowey breath

inhaling and exhaling

from our collective lungs

sometimes deep crashing

sometimes tranquil bobbing

a rhythmic circle of

give & take, claim & release

liquid surrender

to the storied sands of time.

I, too, am breath.

 

God, The Anchor

My dear friend Pam, who is inspiring me with her courageous adventure of sailing the seas with her family, was kind enough to guest blog with me, a landlocked friend with no sea legs or sense, about anchors. (The bold font is my own emphasis.)

What is the purpose of an anchor?

The purpose of an anchor is to hold a boat/floating vehicle in a general area. It is used so that the boat does not float with the tidal or current motion of the water it is in.

How does an anchor work?

An anchor works by digging the pointy ends (flukes) into the sea floor. The flukes of a well set anchor should be barely visible- mostly buried in the sand. To achieve this, most small boats (I have no idea how commercial boats do this) drop an anchor off the bow (front) of the boat and let out enough anchor chain or rope (rode) so that the anchor flips slightly on the sea floor and catches. As the flukes catch and dig into the sea floor, more chain or rope is let out. Generally, a last pull on the anchor by putting the boat in full reverse is usually necessary- which digs the flukes deeply into the sand. In the Bahamas, yachtsman can “dive” their anchor after it has been set- meaning- they get in the water, dive down and have a chat with the anchor to make sure it is set correctly.

How does knowing you have an anchor aboard change your state of mind when sailing?

Having an anchor is a given when you are sailing. Without one, you have to tie up to a dock- which means you always have to get to a dock (and pay to dock). At first, we were very nervous about having an anchor. We stayed up all night wondering if the anchor would come out of the sea floor and we would float away (this only happened once- and not at night.). We had a special alarm that we set at night that would tell us if the boat was drifting. Eventually, however, we stopped using the alarm- and slept well at anchor. I would say that the anchor really means that you can go almost anywhere. You don’t need civilization with an anchor- just the right depth and protection from the wind.

How does using the anchor change your mind when you are… anchored?

“Anchoring” is an art in itself. It is the source of tension for many boating couples…Generally, one person is on the bow of the boat controlling the anchor and one person is at the helm (steering wheel), controlling the boat. Arguments arise about where to anchor, which direction to anchor, whether you are anchored too close to another boat, what signals the person on the bow is giving to the person at the helm and vice versa.

Anything else about an anchor a land-woman should know?

I remember not being able to sleep one night, thinking about anchoring. I thought- we are just floating here on this relatively small piece of metal (our 10,000 lb boat required a 35 lb anchor) and it’s all just a game we’re playing with nature. I felt better about anchoring, the more we sailed, however. In fact, being tied to a dock in a marina became strange vs. anchoring in a bay.

All this anchor contemplation came up last weekend, while swinging on my chipping-green-painted swing in the backyard, warmed by the setting sun streaming through the forest canopy. Then and there, I read “Santa Teresa’s Book-Mark.” 10261981_10152442385612813_4765116571285244382_n

I am grateful that many pieces of my life are falling into place right now. I am healthy, we are happy, my job both brings me fulfillment and results in success, and financially, thanks to my Mom, we are more than secure. But of course, the insidious toxicity in my mind does not allow me to be content here; rather, I am perpetually, fearfully, waiting for the shoe to drop, for crisis to hit, for cancer’s diagnosis, for epic failure to humble me, for change, etc…

But I realized, after reading this poem, I am dropping the wrong “anchor.” If my anchor is my situations and context and blessings, then of course I am going to be insecure–they do not last. “All things are passing.”

So this blog post is my way of “diving my anchor”–heading down to the depths and having a chat with my Anchor.

Such a chat reminds me:

  • Life is traveling at sea. The wind is always moving, even when still. The water beneath is full of life and death and change. The journey is just as important…if not more important…than the destination. As my yoga instructors say: “The transitions themselves are as important as the postures” and “It’s all about the moving in, and the moving out.” Knowing I have The Anchor aboard my vessel allows me to tip my neck towards the sun’s watchful eye and lose myself in the magical silver reflections on the water’s surface…and just be there, then.
  • With The Anchor aboard my vessel, I don’t need the structure of civilization or the permanence of a dock. In other words, I don’t need security. Rather, Security is a constant companion aboard, in the midst of the insecurity. I–we–can go anywhere.
  • Anchoring is an art. This means attention, practice, conversation, reflection. I would imaging were Pam and Ty to ignore the anchor, their would be detrimental effects (Pam, correct me if I’m wrong). My soul Anchor needs attention, practice, conversation, reflection. And not legalistic “quiet times,” but authentic moments of connection that fosters trust, so that the more I dive my anchor, the more I can sleep soundly. No matter how busy I am sailing, I cannot neglect the anchor. No matter how busy I am living, I cannot neglect The Anchor.

I am grateful that in good times, in bad times; in health and in sickness; in constancy and in change; in the posture and in the transition; in stormy waters or on still liquid glass; in wealthy and in poverty; and in all the subtle moments in between these extremes, He is there–The Anchor.

Picture Props to Virden Fam

Picture Props to the Virden Family

seasons of nature. seasons of grief.

Spring is in the air, and with it all the glorious resurrections of the grass, the trees, the flowers. The apparent death of winter is losing its grip on the earth as new life emerges in laughing light. This revolving pattern of transitions is one of my favorite things about Creation.

Through the seasons, I am reminded that though today is blanketed in blistering, smothering heat, there will come a day when the gentle breeze will caress the golden strands of aspens. Though today the earth is cold and silent, buried beneath polluted ice, there will come a day when the white buds gather around a branch like a holy circle of angels’ wings, enfolding upon and guarding their own secrets.

This week would have been my Mom’s 74th birthday. It was a spring day, but the winter air gathered outside my door, ominous of that night’s impending snow. And so like a caterpillar, inherently knowledgeable of some sort of transition, some sort of breakthrough, I tucked myself into a cocoon of sorrowful remembering. I watched videos of her, I lingered on pictures, I looked back through her comments on Facebook as if they were droppings on a trail that led to a treasure; X marks the spot where she was but will never be again, but yet where she will always be found. And at the end of the day, I emerged from my encasing, tears tearing and blooming into the wings of butterflies.

In my cocoon of grief, all seasons merged and overlapped. I was with my Mom in the summer of joy, barbecues on her back-porch and lawn chairs positioned in the driveway, watching the local fireworks. I was with my Mom in the winter of quiet, long pensive conversations together about life and death–both to arrive too quickly. I was with my Mom in the spring, driving in the darkness to and from the casino, celebrating her birthday with the hopes of luck’s companionship. I was with my Mom in the fall, meandering through mountain roads, following the gilded ribbon of changing aspens on the sparkling slopes.

Grief is the bleeding harmony of all four seasons, moving in and out of each other, unbound by calendar dates or nature’s biology. Sometimes there is sunflower joy, which smiles across the face in a private moment. Sometimes there is blizzard pain, so raw it takes the breath away. Sometimes, the breath is stolen from that very moment in which the smile triumphs.

And even then, I try to remind my sad heart, this revolving pattern of transitions is one of my favorite things about Creation.

 

and so it goes in life

march 2014 047We spent the past weekend camping in the desert of Utah, tucked into a sandstone labyrinth, beneath the watchful gaze of crimson-colored, ancient, rock-people. After arriving and setting up camp, we sat and listened to the buzzing echo in the near distance of our own ears. It was that. quiet. That buzz reflected the pervasive noise of our busy lives and the challenge of transitioning into the foreign land of stillness.

And so it goes in life. The constant chatter of social media, demanding schedules, endless tasks, and false relaxation haunts our hearing… until it doesn’t. But the transition takes time, patience, endurance. But the reward is a glorious quiet, a quiet glory.

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Friday night around the fire brought moments of comfortable silence and sincere comments. But it wasn’t long until our eyes traveled upward to the delightful night sky. We left the glow of the fire and walked out to the vacant desert floor. We snuggled into each other. We debated constellations. After leaving the intrusive light of the fire, it was amazing how the little lights came out in droves, surprising us around every black-blanket crease.

And so it goes in life. Sometimes the darkness is so scary and falsely perceived to be the lack of light. Insecure and fighting for control, we struggle to stay in the happy and comfortable light. But if we never look away, if we never embrace the night sky, if we never give time for our eye’s transition to the deceptive void, we will miss the breath-taking, liquid beauty of a night sky blanketed in so many stars it is more bright than it is dark.

Of course, all this wonder didn’t come without tension. Our first campsite was near the road and beneath the giggly gaze of climbing, high, young, loud neighbors who were there not to settle into stillness, but to perpetuate a petty party. Something in me sunk. Dave, annoyingly, noticed. Both in my heart and out of my mouth I reflected: “I think I need to plan ahead next time where we stay, so that I’m not disappointed.” Dave’s eye roll replied: “Just enjoy the adventure.”march 2014 071

And so it goes in life. There should be an order that avoids chaos, a structure which reduces messiness, a mask which hides the ugliness (shouldn’t there be?!). When that is not the case, we futilely dwell not in the present, but in the past (shoulda’s and coulda’s) and in the future (what if’s). And in doing so, we miss this moment, in all its ugly, chaotic, messy didn’t-happen-before-will-never-happen-again uniqueness.

march 2014 060Saturday morning, we climbed and sat in the laps of rocks nearby. We gazed westward and watched the shifting light dance on the rusted walls of the horizon. We were just a bit chilled with the night crispiness still in the air. But as the sun crested behind our backs, bursting up from behind the barriers, we warmed. We reveled in the firey fingers of the dawn sun. We took mental pictures and Iphone snapshots of our shadow. I was grateful; the sun, forever faithful, appeared for a new day. march 2014 137

And so it goes in life. Sometimes the sun is hidden–in the canyons of catastrophe, the storms of sorrow, the nights of soul-neglect or regret, the haze of heartbreak–but always it is there, always it rises.  Secret, but steady. Eclipsed, but eternal. Concealed, but constant.

march 2014 115Saturday we hiked Little Wild Horse and Bell Canyon, slot canyons carved by the erstwhile eroding hands of water and wind. Sometimes we had to turn to the side to make it through a narrow crevice, sometimes we had to use hands and feet and each other to hop up or down dry waterfalls of rocks taller than us, sometimes we had to skip across slippery rocks in puddles of stagnant, muddy-brown water, sometimes we tripped because we were too consumed looking up and down and all around. But onward we journeyed.

Our dog was off-leash and on-life, running unabashedly this way and that, greeting other groups of hikers, photobombing every one. And many times, he could not make it by himself from point A to point B. And so Dave or I, or Dave and I, carried him in our arms, from height to depth, always to safety and tail-wagging, trust-building freedom.

march 2014 157And so it goes in life. We want to journey forward, but darn it, that barrier-monster, standing stubbornly in the middle of our path, arms folded and eyes glaring. And let’s face it, it’s been there longer, stronger, grounded. But always, there are friends, carrying us down it, or up it, or around it, or through it. And just like Spooner, it’s easier to be carried when we relax in the arms of our rescuer. And just like Dave and I, sometimes we do the carrying, passing the helped from him to me to them…to you.

 

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