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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present. thankful.

bc90113e29ef351de769933bf5fbbb79Early in the lonely darkness, I wake this morning with a heavy heart; how can the absence of Something, Someone weigh so much? As in yoga, I will not fight this pain’s strain; I will lean into it. I will stay present in the sorrow, to the grief. And even in this, I will give thanks. Yes because it’s a holiday, but also because it’s a holy way.

  1. Though I don’t understand it fully nor embrace it completely, grace is more powerful than condemnation, compassion truer than judgment. The Divine, at the deepest core and at the wildest edges, is Love. For this, I thank God.
  2.  I live in a cozy house in the mountains, on a wildlife corridor–a glory this suburban flat-lander only imagined in daydreams. This house, once another’s outdated debt, has been made our beautiful home by my husband’s raw talent. For this, I thank God.
  3. I live and laugh with my best friend, a man of generosity, grace, strength, humility, adventure, athleticism, authenticity, wildness, industrialism, honor, spirituality, intelligence…love. For this, I thank God.
  4. I had a special relationship with my Dad. From playgrounds to cardinals to Frank Sinatra and Yanni to walks to movies, our spirits were woven together. Yesterday in the car, just like him, I whistled along and sang off-tune to a Christmas song. In his absence, he was with me in that car, in that moment. For this, I thank God.
  5. I had a special connection with my Mom. Our stories were written from the same words. When those stories are told now, in her absence, it is not only me–it is my husband. As we threw out bacon grease this week, we looked at each other knowingly, remembering and resurrecting Mom’s conniption fit at such a waste. His relationship with my Mom was a rare and precious gift, now a majestic river bird hovering above and between our love. For this, I thank God.
  6. Though my parents are gone, the utterance of “Mom” and “Dad” still floats up from my heart to glide across my lips. Dave’s parents hold a special place in my life–far greater than the empty label of in-laws. For this, I thank God.
  7. I go to work every day alongside people who fight for social justice. I teach students who teach me. I gift the power of words through stories that matter. My job is a ministry of empowerment for which I am equipped. For this, I thank God.
  8. My sister gets me. We are cut from the same cloth. Reunited by grief, our friendship’s foundation has solidified. For this, I thank God.
  9. I have friends of the soul variety. Tammy, who has been beside me and inside my spirit since I was 14. Laina, who when I am with, listening to her stories, makes me feel like I’m with my Mom. Libbi, who gifts me with the call to presence. These are but one small glint of a massive web of glittering connections spun around me. For this, I thank God.
  10. My body is strong and capable. My legs can take me to the hidden heights of the Rocky Mountains; my spine can bend and bow into peaceful poses of meditation; my lungs can fuel me through 13.1 miserably momentous miles. For this, I thank God.

Like beads on a Mala, I count my blessings. There are far more than this list; there are far more than I recognize with my eyes or name with my voice. For this, for the unseen and the unnamed, I thank God.

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.

 

tonight’s “just get out the door” rewards

It has been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks. Parent teacher conferences, TCAP state testing, time change, interview committee for new hires, sinus infection with a major dose of drugs…and oh yeah, we run our 1/2 marathon this weekend in Moab.

Deep. Breath. As one of my colleagues so brilliantly said, I’ve already ran the marathon.

So as I was driving home today, my motivation to get that one last light run in, waxing and waning as the sun dipped behind the horizon, I thought this:

Just get out the door.

I didn’t need a grand run. A fast run. A long run. An only run. Even if I just got out for a walk, it would be something to put my mind and my legs in a better state.

Just get out the door.

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And I did. And I was rewarded.

Two cuddling deer.

A herd of elk.

A warm cup of soup from the local soup shop for dinner.

And this gorgeous neighborhood scenery, which still catches in my breath; how blessed I am to be living my dream.

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With the snow, ice, and illness hovering around these parts, we have not been able to run as much as we’d like/should. Especially considering that this is our base-building time and next week we up the mileage. Ugh oh. Needless to say, today’s run was rough.

So what’d we do about that? Well…we played.

We stopped to enjoy the scenery of this gorgeous and mild winter day.

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We stopped to hear the bubble of a brook beneath its frozen topcoat.

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And we delighted in the childlike delight of our dog, frolicking freely.

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