I can hear what I call a patient, measured very thoughtful approach in the responses readers post in their comments to this blog. Patient and measured.
An image comes to mind from several years ago when I was visiting a friend who lives in northern Minnesota. One day we meant to have the leisurely enjoyment of paddling kayaks down a meandering shallow river among sprawling forest and shallow soggy grasslands. While I did not consider our day fun I do look back at myself that day and know that my frustrations were funny.
My guess is that a full third of the beavers in that region knew I was coming. They got together and made plans for my arrival. Then they went to work with that special determination, focus and energy for which beavers are famous.
Perhaps I exaggerate when I say there were 50 beaver dams stretching across that river, all especially constructed to force me to stop at each one in utter ill-humor. Not one of them could be smoothly glided over or around. Oh, no! No beaver fun in that!
Reaching each dam I had to grab onto some broken or skillfully chomped stick of wood poke into (handily) the mass of logs and branches my foes had left behind them so I could extricate myself from my floating coffin. Into the water up to my waist I stepped as I awkwardly scrambled over and over again over dams dragging my vessel with me. Reaching the other side yet again I found a way to get my tipsy-turvy craft balanced again as I inserted myself back into my wayward little boat.
Off I glided peacefully (finally) down the next stretch of river, startling snapping turtles off their sunlit perches into the water among water lilies. By the time I caught up with my friend hours later I was an irritated hissing whining sputtering fool! My assessment, as I clearly communicated it to my friend, was that while kayaking that river might be some people’s idea of fun it sure wasn’t mine.
This memory leads me directly to another one. Several years earlier when I lived in that area myself I had driven my old car along an abandoned logging road into a forest one gloriously warm and sunny spring day. I reached a point where the high dirt of the old trail had once been passable. Not any more. Beavers had built a dam to flood the low land of the forest and I could drive no more.
Now HERE was an opportunity for play! Out of the car. Off with my shoes. Up rolled my jeans. Into the water I stepped as I went to work. I spent half of the afternoon dismantling that dam, yanking and twisting logs and branches out of their places one by one until still water on the high side let loose to race off in a gurgling hurry to who knew where.
Then I had the bright idea that what a furry beaver could do I, as a human being, should be able to do better. I spent the remainder of the day trying to put the dam back together again.
As the tall trees began to take the light of the day away around me I gave up having made not one log stick back into the foundation of that dam. I left the forest feeling a great deal humbler with a much higher respect for the wizardry of beavers. Of course this appreciation did not accompany me on my kayaking adventure several years later.
I think about the upcoming move I will make sometime in the not very distant future (exact time of departure as yet undesignated). Down the stream of my life I have been gliding until last Sunday I rounded a curve to find — change. Damn change. Big change. Demanding change. A foreshadowed future ahead I cannot begin to name with much certainty at all. There are too many unforseen variables to contemplate.
I gaze around my desert garden I have worked so hard to build — alone. I can see around me a warm, sun-filled world surrounded by the morning shadowed sculptures in the distance of silent brown stone mountains. I turn to see the Mexican-American border fence running along the back edge of my yard.
What future awaits the plants in this garden when I turn my back on them and drive away that final time? Each stone I have carefully placed around these flower beds lining my adobe walkways, all washed clean by our frequent winter rains — will another human being appear to notice, appreciate, tend and care about this small place on earth?
Which native plants will thrive here on their own no matter what because they are designed that way?
I cannot build a beaver dam. I am not a beaver. I cannot sink the newest tips of my roots deep into this amended desert soil. I am not a plant. I am a two-legged wander pacing the distance and time in my mind between what I see around me at this Mexican border as I notice how I also feel about my loved ones who live so near the Canadian border so far north from here.
What life is this I lead that yet again I remember that in spite of the 13+ years I have felt comfortably and gratefully settled here I will soon wander again? I choose to trade away my love tied to my southern friends and the natural world here for a life that will soon include shared love between people who are not free to join me here.
I will clamor over and around my own obstacles. If I can’t do that I will tear them down. If I had the money I would find a way to keep this home while I went north to make yet another one. (I have no respect for the popular, often-mouthed idea that “money can’t buy you happiness.”)
I am one soul breathing among billions. Even if it doesn’t seem real in present moments, in retrospect all any of us do is measure our lives as we patiently move forward in time. Once I leave this area I have walked upon with welcome growing familiarity over these years of my life I will carry with me only what is uniquely mine in memory.
What will that be?
I would prefer to blink my eyes as I clicked the heels of mythological ruby slippers so that I could skip this entire “leaving” process entirely. Now here! Now there! Would suit me perfectly. I have moved too many times in my life to enjoy ANYTHING about the process.
Nobody has made this decision for me. My choice is entirely based on love for my daughters and grandsons and my desire to share my life with them as they share their life with me. Yet I make this “safe and secure attachment” decision being completely familiar with the horrors of the Siberian climate I am returning to. Nothing but the deepest love and my longing for its ongoing expression in my and my loved ones’ life could motivate me to make this move. I am not sure that any previous move in my life had to rely on my faith in the essential goodness of life as this one will.
A clear memory just returned to me of one of the moments of purest joy in my life. On the autumnal equinox in September 1974 I stood alone with my feet apart in a wide open northern field at sunset. My arms reached straight out, palms down, as I faced due south. I looked to the east where a rising full moon rested at my left fingertips. I looked to the west where the blazing orb of the setting sun rested at my right fingertips.
I am probably standing in that state of perfect balance right now. I just don’t feel that way. I hope my current trepidation will be replaced with assurance. I deeply feel confusion right now. This move has nothing to do with left brain logic. How scary is THAT?
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