Tuesday, January 04, 2011

To Years Old and New

What shall I say about this past year, about all the water already under the bridge and now somewhere else entirely? Spring arrived right on schedule, and the world was green again; summer was golden, and autumn was fiery red. All three seasons were glorious but brief, as they always are here in the north. Now we stand at the gate of another year, and in the depths of winter.

Early last year, I lost a dear friend to cancer - she battled the disease to the end like the gracious and noble spirit and true warrior she was, and she lost her struggle after several years of courageous and no-holds-barred resistance. We often went pottering together, and now there is one less blithe companion to go walking through this world with. My friend's passing leaves a void, but I am grateful for having known and loved her and hopeful that, in the words of Rita Mae Brown, "gratitude will finally conquer the loss".

The journey as a freelance photographer, designer and occasional wordsmith continues. It winds gently along through wondrous, unknown and ever changing territory, albeit in an occasionally uncertain (re skills, creativity and age) frame of mind, but this is nothing new. I am learning that uncertain realms are good dwelling places, and there are fine old lessons to be learned in them. Hugging the shores of one's life is just fine, but the Great Mystery makes its home further out. Once in a while we have to paddle our canoes out into deeper waters to meet it.

Faced with an uncertain future (isn't the future always uncertain?), one simply pledges herself to embrace that future and whatever it holds with radical acceptance and a blithe spirit of adventure, then she potters onward. The face in the mirror looks a little more weathered every day, and at times it seems as furrowed as a newly turned field in springtime, but I am rather fond of this elder me. As I grow older, I am becoming quieter and more radical - as the late Florida Scott-Maxwell phrased it so beautifully in her memoir, "fierce with reality". Having been freckled and rather easy going all my life (and about as intimidating as the Easter bunny), I secretly aspire to become a commanding presence in my elder years, someone wise, compelling and a little scary. Being grand would be lovely, but it is not going to happen.

Intentions for 2011 are simple. I shall spend more time reacquainting myself with the treasures in my library and more time rambling in the woods with Himself and Spencer, a camera slung around my neck and notebook in hand. I shall spend more time watching sunrises and moonrises, more time listening than talking, more time just sitting and breathing, in and out, in and out. In other words, I shall continue to work on the same stuff I worked on last year: on finding a measure of authenticity, on cultivating decency, tolerance and compassion, on loving this earth and just plain old being kind. All are qualities which seem fragile and imperiled in our times, and I have a very long way to go.

Roshi John Tarrant, one of my favorite Zen thinkers and teachers, gives us a list of things to remember at any time of the year. His words are chock full of wisdom, and I return to them over and over again.

At this turning of the year, I offer up thanks to deities great and small for Himself and Spencer, for community, hearth and sangha, for good friends and traveling companions far and wide, for mountains, rivers and trees, radiant moons and starry starry nights. I give thanks for the wild wisdom and enlightenment of which I have yet to partake, but which I trust are waiting for me somewhere up the trail. Emaho!

10 comments:

LauraX said...

This intention resonates with my soul as well"...quieter and more radical 'fierce with reality'"

beautiful, I will allow this to caress me as a mantra today:)

Angie said...

And I shall travel alongside you on these trails, adopting these as my true aspirations for the coming year of 2011. Thank you for putting my tangled thoughts into words for me. :)

Tabor said...

This also resonates with my spirit. I would love to be the elder that you describe, but without any biting bitterness that I sometimes carry and the impatience that I often feel. You seem to have always been a wise elder. I am so sorry for your loss.

Cindy said...

I could never have gotten to this point of contentment in my life had I not gone through this last year with all it's pain, fear and yes, anger. Every bit of it has burned itself up and into a new creature, and for this I am infinitely grateful and humbled. Your blog was a balm to my spirit, still is. Thank you....

liliannattel said...

I have copied parts of this post into my light journal. You are already wise and wildly wonderful in my book, Cate.

the spirit that moves me said...

Beautiful entry. Thank you for sharing your journey.

the wild magnolia said...

Oh dearest, what a wonderful rendering of the old and new, a few backward glances and forward focus, of yearnings sweet.

Thank you!

One Woman's Journey said...

Cate, beautiful and as always - touches my heart..
I wish so that I could be one you describe - you are so much further ahead on this journey

Rowan said...

Your list of intentions sounds excellent and well worth emulating. It is so sad to lose friends, it leaves a large gap in ones life. My childhood friend of over 50 years is also battling cancer and will have an operation within the next couple of weeks. For her the prognosis is good for which I'm thankful but it will be a difficult road to travel just the same.

effortisoffering said...

I wish I could write like you =)