Thursday, August 15, 2013

Being Here Now

It was Tuesday afternoon that I finally realized that my attitude had changed. I had relaxed. It had taken me several days to get there, but in one sigh and in an involuntary sinking of my shoulders, it dawned on me, that I was finally really unburdened by nearly everything that I generally carry with me through my days. Leaving far behind the thoughts and worries of what I know still awaits me back home, for the moment, I was simply here.

This place, this lodge built on what many deem as holy ground, a magical place of beauty, grace, and simplicity brings this out in all who come here long enough to settle into its power. “Be here now” is one of my favorite little koans but is in real life, so hard to do. In the day to day of home, work, and life the worries that stretch out in front of us keep us glued and almost addicted to the “what’s next?”, the “why did that happen?”, and “how did I get here and how to do I get off this ride?” that when these nagging thoughts are not given power to be acted upon, they disappear. Poof, they are gone. 

In reality I know that my time here is limited. We will leave tomorrow to return to home, and our life, but since Tuesday afternoon when I was able to shrug it all and go with the flow, it has been a superb vacation. The time spent here has been what a vacation is supposed to do, slow time down. Days have become longer, dinners have been lingered over, and the night sky has provided the entertainment instead of a flat screen. Conversations with strangers, and with old and new friends, have been sincere and unguarded. It has been a long time since we spent hours playing new card games or dominoes, and the time spent doing it here just rolled by with no awareness of its passing.

Who knows the source of the power of this old lodge to take the type “A”s of the world who come here seeking its ability to release them from themselves, but it does. Perhaps     it’s the massive timbers that hold the structure of this building together, which grew on this land and were cut and shaped to define the spaces for those who pass under their load, that are a source of energy. The stones, too, that make up the chimney, the walk ways, the foundation of the building itself, also have an energy that is palpable and strong. 

This lodge, on this site, has a very real life to itself. It is a wise and ancient being, that feels like the best of embraces as soon as you enter the place. If these hallowed walls could speak, ah the stories that they must know but they will never break their code and will not divulge their secrets. This is a sanctuary in the highest form.

And then their are the mountains, the view from this lodge. It is a mesmerizing thing to sit and look out upon their rises and falls from this perch of a bit of heaven. They change like a kaleidoscope as the sun rises from the left and settles to the right. Clouds and passing rain showers give drama that at some times define the shapes of the hills and at others obscure and give mystery. 

How is it that being at this place gives me the permission to sit and stare at the beauty before me, to read with no time restraints, to draw, to chat and listen, to build stone cairns in the chilly waters of a nearby stream, to simply, relax? Perhaps the better question might be, why am I not able to live that way when I am not here? Certainly day to day life is filled with all of the things that must be done, and I do know that this time spent here is isolated from all of those responsibilities, but how can I take just a smidgen of the focus on being in the moment home with me so that I can learn to relax fully even for a few stolen minutes each day? How can I drop the feeling of guilt of not doing the most productive thing possible at every moment? Don’t know, but it does make me so painfully aware of how jacked up life is and maybe, it really doesn’t have to be like that all of the time.

Mark has spent the week teaching a group of wonderful folks, who met by coincidence last year and who took his class. They returned this year all as dear old friends and again, eager students, most  of whom admitted that they had forgotten most of what they had learned last year. They have already rebooked a return for next year’s workshop and most have gone back to their homes with new photos they are excited about having taken here, and an excitement for taking more.

I have read, sketched, walked up and down steep hills and feel reenergized, eaten three fabulous meals each day, and enjoyed the wine. I have spent time chatting, playing games,  and watching the changing scenery. We built cairns in the stream only to have a passing rain knock them down with the rising water it dropped, and will rebuild them perhaps this afternoon. I spent an afternoon photographing a swarm of swallowtail butterflies flitted about and drank together in the moist sands by a beautiful stream.

It has been good. It has been great. It has been a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday week. I have relaxed into a state that, I must remember revisiting more often. 
For a few more hours, I am here, now.   

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Return, again

We have returned to the place where first visited decades ago, back then drawn by a desperate need for a bed and food after wandering around the mountains for days, sleeping in tents and eating freeze dried food. Back then we stumbled upon Snowbird Mountain Lodge by accident after dark, fairly late at night, to find the dining room had closed. The kind inn keeper fed us anyway and gave us the last room available, a tiny closet in the far corner of an outside building away from the lodge, now a utility closet. The next morning our sack lunches were packed and ready for us to pick up to take on our journey for the day. Our stay had been brief but we had felt the strong healing spirit of this place then and it made for the best of brief memories. Decades forward we are here again, a new inn keeper is in charge, the place has changed little, and the spirit that induces rest, is still here. 

Anytime I leave the farm, the animals, and all of the daily responsibilities that tie me to the place and my way of daily life, it is hard. As the deadline to leave gets closer I feel my stress levels rising in anticipation of all of the possible things that can go wrong while I am away and spend my time trying to find ways to divert their happening, or if they do, I leave numbers and instructions on how to deal with the situation. It is a pointless waste of my energy but it can’t be helped. I can not stop that which might happen despite my wishes and best efforts to counteract them. At some point I have to realize that the only thing left to do is to pack my things, and leave. On Saturday, we did.

We drove north, by north east, stopping by a water fall in north Alabama on the Little River. This not so tiny river flowed through a deep canyon which had been carving out the rocky sides for centuries. Now a National Reserve it has been made more access able to those who aren’t so adventurous to climb down slippery trails to get to see the beauty of the place. Above the falls on the flat slow moving water with scattered deeper pools families were enjoying the cool water, children splashed, and adults basked on the rocks.

They were sitting on an uplifted geological story book. The hard rock that I stood on had obviously been many things in the time since it began to be. Layer by layer it had been formed and in each layer the story of its incarnation was revealed. The lower levels of this sedimentary book showed primitive shells of varying types and shapes of a time when this ground was under ocean water. A strata above that showed evidence of fallen trees and acorns or some type of round nuts imbedded into what was then perhaps a marshy forrested place. Each layer was different and laden with different clues as to what changes this ground had seen. Now it was a massive rock formation which defined a fall line and was the precipice for the water fall that we had come to see. The air rising off the falling water was cool and refreshing in stark comparison to the feeling in the parking lot which was thick, hot, and damp. We got in the air conditioned car and drove on.

Mark was scheduled to teach a workshop at Snowbird Lodge for the week ahead. Our check in was Sunday night, and so we headed towards the cooler mountains, and the place we were revisiting, again. It was my birthday, again, and having this destination as the place to be spending and celebrating the occasion at, made the day’s driving a gift in it self.

Over the course of the day I had occasionally checked my phone to see if all was well back at the farm, and was amazed at the kind good wishes for a happy birthday on my FaceBook thing. It really was a bit humbling to find so many had even noticed, and had responded to the FB alert and so many had sent a plethora of sweet messages. Most of my days are spent in semi hermit like reclusion, not because I don’t care to be around folks, its just that maintaining the farm, riding the horses, and such take a lot of time and we live a good ways from town. There are many days where I feel a bit alone and friendless, so to find such an overwhelming bunch of happy birthday wishes was wonderful and a very nice gift to have received from all. Top that off with a week ahead at Snowbird, it was the icing and the candle complete.

There is always a magical feeling when we drive into the narrow drive at the bottom of the hill on which the lodge is sited. The open road gives way to deep shade and then suddenly bright green colors appear in a vivid and shocking glow from the trees above and the bright mosses on the ground below. A tiny stream meanders from the right, under the road, and disappears around the curve of the hill. There is small house shaped box to the left which looks all the while like a troll might peek from behind it and demand a toll, but hasn’t yet. With a turn to the left the car strains to rise up the steep drive, and once out of the car at the top the gravel crunches softly under my feet as I walk to take in the mountain view. My shoulders always drop with a big sigh, and for here and now, life is good.

In the pattern of the Neal Simon play where Alan Alda and the actress, whose name I can’t remember just now, met at a lodge each year for a weekend together, each time being a scene of their lives together at this place, we caught up with our friends that we had met here many years ago and again, renewed our friendships over wine and dinner.  Afterwards I was brought a hunk of chocolate yumminess with a single candle on it and I blew it out, but forgot to make a wish. A good night cap and a game of dominoes and we called it a night and fell into a deep sleep. It was an excellent birthday and great start to a week ahead.

Mark is teaching his workshop now while I take the luxury of time to write and enjoy the lack of responsibility of doing absolutely anything. It is a tough job, but somebody has got to do it. I am just glad it is me. Life will have its say when I get home as it always does, but for now, older and questionably wiser, I am relaxing.