photo snapped at a roofless abandoned stone house along the potomac river, headed to the Red Thread Retreat last week
last wednesday, i was spending the entire day rushing around, as usual, doing last minute errands and packing my suitcase and tool bag for an 8.5 hour drive northeast to a place where two major rivers join as one. i was nervous, more than ever. i felt a little trepidatious about the long drive, didn't know anyone other than the instructors - good friends i've known from teaching all these twelve or thirteen years, lesley riley and claudine hellmuth - and feeling as i've felt for the past few weeks and months, i was hoping i'd be able to rise to the occasion, to enjoy the company, the teaching, the camaraderie. of course, i was anxious about leaving home, anxious about leaving walter, anxious about teaching, anxious about being "on" for a number of days. i was an hour later leaving home than i had anticipated, and sad to drop walter off at the kennel; but the day was lovely, with blue, deep blue october skies, a lot of color still left in these mountain trees. before leaving home, i took the time to pack myself a lovely little picnic lunch as a gentle treat for myself somewhere halfway between here and there, in the shenandoah valley, virginia. it had been my intention to find a lovely rest stop area under trees, where i could spread out a cloth and my lunch, and spend a leisurely hour reading a little, maybe writing a little, and preparing myself to be back amongst a larger crowd (18 women, including myself) for over three days in one house. a late departure shortened that time to a few minutes, but still i spread the cloth, and savored the moment as a shower of white pine needles covered the cloth, nestled into my hair, found their way into the picnic basket and my drink. it was alright. they were dry, and the trees were greeting me in their quiet way.
thankfully, i had purchased a navigation system back in the summer, which allowed for a much more relaxed drive. just as the sun began to sink behind soft rolling mountains, i drove up the road to red thread. it felt like riding a bike, getting out of that car to greet familiar friends' faces. the house was lovely, tucked under autumn trees. we had one day of intermittant sun peeking out from a sky that quickly grew grey. a storm approached. every one of us would be affected by travel. the only way out took us down a narrow road right next to a massive river. but the time that we had there was magical, and nurturing. i opened. i knew when, in late evenings, to retreat and tuck into bed. i was kind to myself, and others embraced me with love and support. it was a wonderful thing.
by saturday afternoon, it was evident that my departure for home needed to be scheduled a day earlier than originally planned; i'd be driving into the part of a storm that was rushing in from the west, with snow and ice and rain. another part of the storm was rushing in from the east, promising to swell the river and flood the area, to knock out power and exit roads. leaving was tough - but new friendships had been formed, old friendships were acknowledged and honored, i taught with ease, i shared with everyone the anxiety and sadness i've been experiencing of late.
laughter was common, stories were open, the red thread was a common connecting factor that pulled us all together. i was not judged. i was lifted up by these warm women, and appreciated, and when i left, i was strengthened by all of these things. pulling out of the driveway and heading down sunday morning's long grey road was no longer a frightening thing. i spent eight and a half hours driving, driving, driving, watching dozens and dozens of electric truck convoys - hundreds of white trucks - barreling down the highway in the opposite direction, towards the east coast. rest areas were overflowing with recreational trailers towing cars, with families piling out of vehicles for a quick break. i ate behind the wheel. rain fell. it fell, and it fell, and by the time i reached the tennessee line, the road was cushioned in a shroud of thick fog. i was grateful for the change in schedule; i was grateful to be safely heading back home, even more grateful to be at the kennel before closing time, to pick up an elated walter and carry him back to firefly road.
on monday, the snow began to fall, first thing. it fell, in fits and starts, mixing in with freezing rain. by yesterday morning, the world as i know it here was an entirely transformed place: all trees were laced in white, and the vision beyond at times was nothing but a thick curtain of pale grey. when the curtain parted, velvet mountains were on display. we waited for the power to fail; i cooked black beans and rice, cornbread and curried chick peas. i brewed hot spicy tea. i rested. i remembered. i loved the taste of winter that surrounded me. i worried about the rest of the east coast, and prayed for everyone's safety. i read. i sat. i rested some more.
this morning the sun is back out, and the blue sky is a welcome sight. i'm still in a fog, but a little of the sadness has lifted. things are always put squarely in perspective, in the days after a natural disaster of such breadth and scope. i'm safe, i'm dry, i do have this roof over my head. it has been two weeks since i began the new medication, and i am finding myself a tiny bit more able to cope with the changes that life throws in my path. i do what i know to be best. i continue to worry and dwell on things that tend to confuse and frustrate me, but the sadness is not all encompassing. anxiety is not overwhelming, at least. the nipping fears are kept at bay, and i have hope. i've learned that much, about myself, this week. pumpkin by my artist friend, julie whitmore.
this poem was a gift from a new friend, patti edmon, in this morning's email. i met patti at the red thread retreat, and we both felt that we didn't have quite enough time to talk and share as much as we wanted. there will be time for that, i know there will. friends make time. they do. xo
The Seven Of Pentacles
Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.
~ Marge Piercy ~