I arrive at the forest on my bike out-of-breath and apprehensive because I didn’t come here just to admire nature today. I came here to find wisdom.
Several months ago I sat here on a log by the creek after a break-up. The water trickled over rusty colored rocks while I followed my hurt feelings to their deepest roots so I could heal my attraction to the sorts of unavailable men I’d been dating.
There in the company of Song Sparrows, robins, Western Wood Pewees and squirrels I sank down into an unusual heart-break from my twenties. I had no idea how to make my own decisions then, and fell into the company of a spiritual guru who was happy to make them for me.
It was comforting at the time to imagine that I had found an infallible truth to live from and that all my failings were actually the signs of a highly evolved person being called to give up passions and worldly endeavors for a state of pure egoless bliss.
In hindsight, I gave up on myself for an entire decade just because I had an unsightly ego.
Grief makes no sense, It’s something to wade into with nothing but Kleenex, a journal maybe, and faith. It touches the raw corners of an empty space that feels like it can’t be filled. It shows us the ways we failed to love someone enough and sometimes how we failed to love ourselves at all.
Who would I be if I felt like it was OK to fail or be unevolved? How would I live? These are the questions I amble through the gold of old maple leaves stuck in brambles along the creek with.
I stop and sketch an odd growth of mossy branches on the forest floor then several tangled and brushy scenes. It starts sprinkling rain so I walk south and notice how much more of the neighborhood is visible from the trail now that the leaves are down. I take a new route that brings me onto the road so I can loop around to the trail on the other side of the creek. Ideas come to me about new bodies of art-work. I try to flush out all the details and notice I’m getting really uptight. I let it go and listen for wisdom as I came here to do.
It’s ok to have goals, but you are always in such a hurry to meet them you often neglect your other needs. Think of goals as paddles instead of a compass.
It’s good advice. It occurs to me death is the one place we will end up for sure regardless of what beliefs or goals we live with; it’s our most reliable compass point. It feels eerie to align to death as a North Star but strangely comforting. She is like a mythic empress who gives me permission to arrive at her dark question mark having worn out every nook and cranny of life guided only by a desire to love every inch of the way there.
I head back to my bike with sketches and painting ideas, less weight on my shoulders and a sense of how to begin.