Connection. Disconnection. Re-connection. I was blessed to have a workshop included as one of the eleven events that were part of artist Erin Leichty’s (http://www.elmodernart.com/) Re-Connection exhibition at the Waterstone Gallery (http://www.waterstonegallery.com/) that closed April 30th. The offerings were as varied as the artists, storytellers, poets, writers and healers who presented. I was the last event and as I attended each that preceded me, discovered a new way to reflect on what it means to be “re-connected.” Going into the month I “thought” I knew what I my event would look like, but as the month unfolded and I reflected on the wisdom I heard, I felt a shift, and though the focus would still be on Re-connecting with Joy and Beauty After Loss (the title for my event,) for much of my work centers on grief and loss, how I would approach it changed. So what I am sharing in this post is a reflection I wrote when I spent time at the beach a few days before my workshop and then shared as part of my event.
Beach Reflection 2017
To say “yes” and not “no” (my usual first response) when offered time away at the beach by a dear friend. Solitude. Dropping down through the curtains of rain, down through the coast range to that sweet point when suddenly (and yes it always seems to take me by surprise) the ocean comes into view. Shoulders drop and my lips taste the salt even with the car windows closed. The sky feels more blue than gray and I turn the wipers off. Instead of driving straight through to Manzanita, I pull over and take photos knowing I can’t capture the magic, but at least I might be able to pixelate the moment into a memory potion one day.
This is time set aside to flesh out an upcoming workshop. Ideas are strung like paper lanterns. I think I know what will unfold—finalize my intro, select poems, write prompts, create a few other handouts, my wrap-up. Then I take a walk on the beach. The beach: one of my wise teachers. There are no gulls, children, dogs, nary another soul this late afternoon. A blue sky claims space among an assortment of charcoal, slate, and pewter clouds. The sun reflects off the sand and waves are calm one moment, leaping and clashing the next. At times they even seem to spout upward in a joyful arc. This, too, I try to capture with my camera, knowing the lighting “isn’t right,” but wanting again a visual reminder of what is stirring.
What is stirring? Joy and beauty, grief and loss. So intricately woven together. One moment I notice the contrast of blue in the sky palate. It beckons for my attention. Hope. I know that come summer it will dominate the sky-scape and only wisps of gauze will interrupt the blueness. But now moisture soaked clouds seep into the blue, also vying for attention. Still full of ocean depths waiting to be brought to shore, they offer their own beauty, reminding me of a litter of newborn kittens, soft, not threatening at all. I want to reach up and stroke the clouds.
Without the caw of gulls, squeals of children or barks of dogs, the ocean offers an aria, rising and falling around my ears. She wants to share her wisdom. I just need to listen. It is all true what I have learned in my work, education and experience. And there is more. When I am brave (and anytime you say “yes” to moving forward you are brave,) I embark again on my journey through grief and loss. Along the way, waves will knock me down, I’ll feel sucked out to sea. I’ll catch the reflection of the sun on the sand, see a starfish, a whale spout. I’ll get drenched in downpours, be surprised by sun, have the wind bowl me over, experience deep calm. I’ll laugh at gull antics, weep when I notice a broken crab shell or a lost child’s shoe half buried under sand. I’ll think I am finally done with “it,” standing on the beach appreciating that glorious blue sky when a sudden squall appears from nowhere, stinging my eyes. And just a quickly, it passes, and I hear the lullaby of waves.
Walking back up the beach I noticed dog tracks wandering across the sand, imprints of a haphazard dance that will be washed away soon. Circling, back and forth, meandering. Perhaps this dog had been chasing a stick or running up ahead then back again to their person. Maybe I should entertain grief like a dog encounters the beach—understanding there will be days I run in circles, meander, going back and forth with no apparent place to be except to feel the pleasure of placing my foot upon the sand. Maybe it is okay be be playful even in the midst of sadness. Another way to connect with my whole body to losses in my life so I can flourish.
Today I wake after a restless night. I dreamed my hands were covered in bugs. I would wash them, peeling the bugs off like gloves. There were no bites or stings. The bugs would flow down the drain. They were mainly black bugs with hard shells, small and pebble like. An occasional aphid was in the mix. I was not scared or grossed out. More annoyed I had to keep washing my hands. My son is in the dream, too. His hands were also gloved in bugs. We share the washing ritual. I wake curious and, yes, perplexed. Something about grief maybe? Most likely, yes.
The rain has returned like a duvet covering the landscape. There are no blue skies. I stay inside, refusing to change out of my pajamas (a rarity for me.) Tea, cereal, a book, writing, chocolate, a nap. Simple pleasures. Finally at 6, I decide to dress and go out for dinner. I don’t mind dining alone. The restaurant is quiet, the waitress attentive enough, but not bothersome. Fish and chips done without too much batter. I leave her a good tip.
I drive to the end of Laneda Avenue, where the sand and pavement meet. Yesterday the sunset was greeted by fans, each taking in the refracted colors echoing off the clouds. Reverence mixed with laughter. A collective joy that this exceptionally rainy season as abated for now. This evening there is no evidence of yesterday’s colors. Only layer upon layer of gray. It is less than half an hour before the sun will set. No one is on the beach. I wander out on the sand, soaked in minutes. There is a charred remnant of a tree trunk not far from the small berm pretending it will protect homes from fierce waves. Was it there yesterday or did it wash up in the night? What is its story? With less focus on the horizon and more on what is right before me, I can see this stump, too has something to share. I snap a photo hoping the story will appear when I download the image. I take a couple photos of the distant waves, though they are barely perceptible in the fading light. Maybe my dreams will offer insight.
I suppose I slept, though I don’t remember. Perhaps I shouldn't be reading The Book Of Joan by Lida Yukanvitch right before I go to sleep. Her vivid images flash under my closed lids as well as ones of my own making. It is raining fierce, the wind slamming each drop hard against the skylight. I open a window to hear the symphony. I don’t miss much about the home I lived in for 29 years. It had become too much. But I the sound of rain against the master bedroom skylight, the early spring daffodils and the late spring assortment of columbine—there is still a longing to witness those moments. Sometimes loss is as dainty as those columbine.
No dreams of bugs tonight. I linger under the covers long after the sun rises, dozing, waking, wondering. What is connection, disconnection, re-connection? I have five more days before my leave of absence from work is over. I have been disconnected from that space for 26 days. Though thoughts of work have taken place, I have been successful in reminding them that this is not their time and have placed them back on a shelf. Still, as the time of this ending approaches, it is becoming more difficult to be present to this moment and set aside Monday.
The relationship with my mom is all about redefining connection these days. As her Alzheimer’s captures short term memories almost a quickly as they form has now found that an unsatisfying meal and started burrowing into her long term memory. In each visit we redefine our connection as mother and daughter: questioner-responder, bewildered mother-calming daughter, cared for-caregiver, frustrated (both of us,) unspoken griever-active griever. I long to ask those questions I never knew I had and she no longer has answers. I don’t know if she ever did, for her way in the world was to keep moving forward…”the past is the past.” Spoken like a survivor from a War Zone (London, WWII.) Still, her remembrances tell me she has unspoken stories, and though her facts may be skewed, her truth is still in her and deserves a voice. And so I listen with deep intention trying to hear the story under the story. It is painful. Some days I feel so lonely sitting with her, wanting to share what I am discovering on my own journey, but she can no longer receive my words.
I drew a card from my Soul Women deck when I arrived Monday: My Creative Power: As I invest in my own creative potential, I experience my female genius. At the start of my leave of absence, my well was almost dry—I was disconnected from my creative self. I had desire to create, but lacked the energy or ability to set aside the time. These last two days as I have been in solitude, close to the ocean, I feel refreshed and a fire re-lit. I feel reconnected to my spiritual self, the Holy that guides me, my desire. The sun is even coming out again as I prepare to leave.
Connection, Disconnection, Re-Connection. Perhaps this is another part of the life journey, like loss and grief, beauty and joy that makes life full and rich if we are willing to embrace it with open arms and hearts.**
I know I will continue to reflect on this trio of words: Connection, Disconnection, Re-Connection in the weeks ahead. The simple idea that one must be connected to disconnect in order to reconnect. So much to ponder. My mother turns 90 this Sunday. A milestone birthday. Family and a few friends will gather to celebrate her. Some she will readily connect with, others may be more of a struggle, but through it all, she will be held in a web of love. Now that is connection.
As you consider your own journey, think about meaningful connections, both internal and external. Is there a person/place where you are yearning for reconnection? Just something to sit with as the spring continues to unfold.
I have two workshops coming up this summer. Don't miss out. Sat, June 10th and Sun, August 20th. Go to my workshop page for more information (http://nurtureyourjourney.net/workshops/.)