Reinventing ourselves

Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.

— Bob Dylan, My Back Pages

I’m a different person than I was a year ago. In outward appearance, more or less the same…but something has definitely changed inside. It’s no longer business as usual. I try to go about my daily life as if nothing has changed…one day after another…but something’s just not computing the way it did before.

Sometimes…maybe…good will come out of bad. A shock to our system that forces us to look at things in new ways. Out of complacency…of taking things for granted…of losing sight of what’s really important in life. And sometimes, it may force us to reinvent ourselves…to see ourselves in a new light…to reconnect with that field of potentiality that mystics have spoken of down through the ages.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other

doesn’t make any sense.

— Rumi

So…who am I now? What am I in the process of becoming? Only time will tell. But…I’m slowly coming to a realization that…as we live…and endure…through the changes that life brings our way, and as we grow older and embrace these changes…in some mysterious ways we grow younger…and see the world afresh through new eyes.

Yesterday…mid-way in my drive home…I turned off the radio and again entered into silence. The sun…low in the western sky…flashing between the trees, whose long shadows lay across the highway ahead of me. Feeling the transition between the two very different worlds that I live in during the week. Later, at home, when the sun had set below the horizon, I walked out back of the house, where there’s a security light, atop a telephone pole, that comes on when it gets dark. I managed to find the right switch on the circuit breaker panel…and switched it off.

Last night was very dark…with a crescent moon hanging in the sky…still bright enough to cast shadows on the ground. And…thousands of stars overhead. I don’t think I need the nightlight any longer…

Secret of life

…and with a holy host of others standing around me,

still I’m on the dark side of the moon,

and it looks like it goes on like this forever,

you must forgive me…

— James Taylor

the sky's on fire

It’s been a year today since Sharon died…and I have to say that there’s still a void that I can’t comprehend at times. I’m learning to process it better…and see the present a little more clearly now…not so fogbound as I’ve felt most of this past year. These days…I find myself  just simply trying to enjoy the passage of time

Rock of ages

Yesterday…driving down the road on which I live, about two tenths of a mile from the house, I made a totally unexpected discovery. Something caught my eye off to the right of the roadside. A rock. A BIG rock. How had I not seen that huge boulder sitting there, as I’ve driven past it everyday for the last two and a half years? A little later in the day, when it warmed up a bit, I grabbed my walking stick and set out on foot to investigate. Up close, it was a massive boulder…over ten feet high and about twenty or more feet long. While it was readily apparent from the road this time of year when the leaves have fallen, and the scrubby vegetation has died back, it was covered with mosses and lichens, giving it a greenish hue. That may help to camouflage it during the summer months, especially when the surrounding vegetation was full and green.  Upon closer inspection, the rock was clearly some kind of granite. The rock was exfoliating in spots, with tiny ferns taking advantage of the cracks and crevices. At the very top, there were even some small trees that had taken root in the leaf litter. I was left wondering…how on earth did it get here?

Granite boulder

After I returned home, I wrote an email to a geologist at the local campus of the University of South Carolina, here in Lancaster, asking if he had any ideas. He drove by the rock later in the day to take a look (I guess geologists can’t resist a good rock sighting). In his reply, he said that large boulders like this are usually the result of erosion caused by streams. This one was located in a ravine through which a very small stream now flowed. He also mentioned that this area, the Piedmont, is underlain mostly by granite.  Coming from the Midwest, which was scoured out by glaciers in the past, I’m more accustomed to seeing sedimentary bedrock like limestone, with some occasional boulders…called glacial erratics…composed of granite, carried in and deposited far from their northern origins by glacial action. Evidently, this was too far south to be of glacial origin.

How long has this sentinel from the past been here? And what kind of forces were involved in unearthing it…and eroding it over the many years that it’s been exposed to the rain, and to the alternating hot and cold shocks of the changing seasons? Born of seething magma…solidifying into the crystalline structure of granite…and now being decomposed by water and tiny living organisms…all things must pass. Something to think about on a cold winter day. But it also sets me to pondering…what else have I missed as I absent-mindedly go about my daily life?

In a different light

Our fair state is being invaded over the next ten days. Men…some ruthlessly…jockeying for position in a race…seeking the approval of people…a lot of whom are just struggling to make a living. All of this seemed so important at one time. It probably still is…and I’ll be casting my vote when the time comes.

But tonight…standing outside in the cold night air…clear after heavy rain showers passed through all dreary day long. Looking up into the pitch black dome above…studded with stars. There’s Orion…dominating the sky. The fuzzy patch of the Pleides, the seven sisters…directly overhead. And there’s brilliant Jupiter…shining bright.

Two years ago, Sharon gave me a telescope for Christmas. She said she couldn’t think of a better gift than the universe. Just before Christmas, a year ago, I took it out on the front porch and found Jupiter…and called her out and showed her the two tiny specks of light, one on either side of the planet. Two of the moons of Jupiter.  We stared in disbelief and were amazed…a first for us both.

Tonight…when I look up into the vast reaches of space…at the myriad stars and planets overhead…almost feeling their awesome presence, though so far away…the subtle rush of the wind passing through the pines…the lonely bark of a dog far off in the distance…everything else is put in proper perspective. The stillness…the peacefulness…overwhelms it all…and I see things in a different light now.

In the gloaming

It was quite a performance. Belle and I were sitting on the porch in the gloaming…that in-between time between daylight and darkness. The sun had just set…the western sky, with scattered clouds a fiery orange-reddish hue, shading upward into a deep indigo blue. To the east, rising above some pines, was the silvery full moon…coming in and out of view behind diaphanous clouds slowly drifting to the southeast. When I looked back to the west, Venus had appeared…a brilliant point against the dark blue background…then slightly dimming behind a thin, moving veil of mist. I kept looking from right to left…left to right…like watching some celestial tennis match.

Then the sounds…in fits and starts…of nature bedding down for the night. Faint murmuring chirps of songbirds, singing one another to sleep…the forlorn crowing of a rooster, calling it a day. The night shift then making its presence known with the far off hoots of a barred owl. The sights and sounds of a very beautiful day coming to a close, and the approaching darkness and quiet of a cool night.

This morning, I took the dogs to get a groom. After I dropped them off, I stopped at the nearby library to do a little browsing for a couple of hours. Thumbing randomly through some books, I read a couple of quotes that got me thinking about the whole process of  aging…getting old…and the prospect of what’s left. We tend to think of life as a linear process…as if we’re locked into a particular path. And if something happens to disturb that trajectory of our lives, we just have to continue along that same path with few other options.

The first quote I happened upon was from E.M. Forster, in Joan Chittister’s The Gift of Years – Growing Older Gracefully… 

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

The other quote was from Thomas Merton’s A Book of Hours (edited by Kathleen Deignan)…

There must be a time of day when the man who

makes plans forgets his plans,

and acts as if he had no plans at all.

The prospect of getting older can be depressing at times, if we only think of it as the beginning of the end. Paired with the loss of a loved one, it can be doubly unsettling, as the proverbial rug is suddenly and unexpectedly pulled out from under you, dramatically altering your perspective on the future. But maybe…it can be a time for rethinking what it means to grow old…and for realizing that it may offer a time for new beginnings…of looking at the world, and life itself,  in a completely different way…of letting go of everything we’ve planned…so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Early morning apparition

It was very, very cold this morning when I took the dogs out…before heading off to work. Standing in the silent…still darkness…alone…I looked up into the sky overhead…a shooting star passed before my eyes. Ahhhh…Thank You.