Life Whispers

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As I have in one form or another since I left my corporate executive role last January, I continue to search and experiment for the defining aspects of my “new” life. What does my ideal day look like? How do I want to spend my time? In what ways do I want to be of service? How can I engage, empower and release my creativity? What calls to me, brings me joy, delights and inspires?

The answers to these questions are, surprisingly, as elusive as they were when I felt I had no discretionary time to shape them. As I write my morning pages each day (a daily practice of writing three pages stream-of-consciousness), I recognize how much room I have to have any life I can imagine. My work is in shaping the life I want.

For a brief time in April and May, David and I engaged deeply on the notion of buying God’s Pocket. God’s Pocket Resort is a scuba and kayak resort on a small island in the Queen Charlotte Strait, north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. We have loved visiting there as guests, and in the last few years, as care-takers in the off season, and occasional help during the season. Our friends, the owners Bill and Annie, have decided, for various reasons, to sell. Over those two months, we thought about the enormity of such a decision, the pivot from the life we have here in San Francisco. We looked at numbers and considered the basics of the current business model, as well as what we would want and hope to develop if we were to be co-owners or partners.

Buying a business like God’s Pocket is much more than a business decision, it is a major life decision. For one, David and I would be business partners, not just financial partners as we already are. The purchase would be a stretch financially, but not impossible. And while we didn’t think we needed to live in Canada, we’d need to spend considerable time there. This was a big part of the draw for us: an adventure on so many levels, and the opportunity to live differently than we do today., the magic and beauty of this unique place. We never imagined that we’d run the business day to day – the princess in me didn’t want to be cleaning guest rooms everyday all season – and that put additional burden on figuring out our staffing needs. Our vision was to recruit someone who could captain the dive boat, as well as generally manage the day to day, and who we could put in a position to buy us out in 5 to 7 years. Our plan B was to get David certified to run a commercial 50 ton boat so he could fill in as needed.

While captains could be hired, working God’s Pocket is unique’ you don’t go home at the end of the day, you go to your room on the island. We needed to know that whomever we’d hire had a strong understanding of the place and the role. Our primary candidate, who had run the resort for several years in the past, wasn’t ready to jump in to our vision. Further, we discovered that a prerequisite for certification to drive a commercial 50 ton boat is Canadian citizenship or residency.

In the end, after much consideration, we realized that loving God’s Pocket and having a vision for its potential future were not enough to get us positioned for success as owners. We were sad to let go of this exciting potential picture of the next ten years of our lives, even while knowing that letting it go was right.

And in the lull after the decision to withdraw our offer for God’s Pocket, we have both felt slowly into the gap created by the loss of that focus. David is dancing on the cusp of retirement from his mechanical engineering work in the space industry, and I have been in that liminal space for a year and a half. Now we are letting things “resettle” so we can see what we might have learned from considering God’s Pocket, and what will inform what we do next.

In that space, the gray quiet after letting go of intense focus, I have wanted to have “the answer” come to me, clear and articulated. I want the ‘money idea’ to show-up full-born and ready for me, for us, to move it forward. I realized just yesterday that I was, in a way, waiting for the arrival of the purple unicorn, with a sandwich board for a saddle proclaiming the ‘money idea,’ and with a soundtrack of angels singing “ahhhhhhhhh.” (I know I am not alone in scanning my surroundings and interactions for the big and obvious signs that will surely put me on the ‘right’ path.)

In my experience, the call to next steps doesn’t show up as clearly and boldly as the purple unicorn. The call comes in whispers, and we are lucky to hear them. We have to get quiet and still to hear our own voice, let alone that which floats in the air, waiting for us to notice. Getting still is the last thing we are inclined to do when we are lost, seeking, or recovering from a shift in the foci of our lives, but is what we must to do navigate the path forward. That, and having more adventure and getting out to be in nature!

My prescription for us is a trip to Scotland. We will be there for almost three weeks, with time in Edinburgh and a few days in County Sutherland, where my father’s people come from 4-5 generations back. We have booked a self-guided walking tour, and we’ll walk from the East coast to the West coast along the Mary Queen of Scots trail over 10 days, ending in St. Andrews. (Our lodging is arranged, as is the daily transport of our luggage to the next inn.)

To my surprise, I am intrigued to realize – doh! — that my heritage comes together in Scotland. My father’s family comes from there, as noted. And many years later, from 1965 to 1967, my grandfather on my mother’s side, Alfredo Trinchieri, served as the Italian Consul General to Edinburgh. I remember, probably at age 5 or 6, being in his apartment. But it is a distant and snapshot-type memory, and we may not discover where he lived so as to walk by. Thinking about exploring and experiencing these family threads coming together in the weeks ahead is compelling and exciting. As is being in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by dramatic and subtle beauty and nature.

The way to shape one’s life are always found in doing the next right thing, adjusting if it doesn’t turn out to be what one wanted, and then doing the next right thing. What is next for me is Scotland. Stories and pictures to follow.

Love,
Susan

Home Again

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I am surprised that I haven’t posted in so long, although I know it to be true. I imagined that I had posted just before we left God’s Pocket in mid-March; the truth is my last post was in late February when David’s father died.

As the kids say: “OMG!”

This post will, therefore, be an “all in” update since life has been full since my last post.

We left God’s Pocket on March 12, drove down island and ferried across to Vancouver, and then headed to Whistler for a few days of Spring skiing with Richard and Jana, our good friends from Seattle. I had never been to Whistler – I know so little of mainland British Columbia – and was excited to be there. Driving from the ferry terminal at Horseshoe Bay to Whistler on the Sea to Sky highway was its own thrill. It is the Canadian version of California’s Highway 1: a spectacularly beautiful coastal drive.

We had a lovely time, but our friends didn’t fare as well: Jana fell and twisted her knee on the afternoon of the first day, resulting a fracture (discovered in the x-ray “after” she skied down the mountain!). Perhaps in sympathy, Richard fell a few times two days later (and our last day there) and his knees became swollen and black and blue. David and I were generally unharmed.

We drove to Seattle on Friday, and spent the weekend with our friend Elizabeth who lives in West Seattle, enjoying her company, the city and dinner one evening with David’s sister-in-law and partner. Truth: I always feel a little guilty not reaching out to my other Seattle area friends and former colleagues when we are there. I miss them (you know who you are!) and I’m not good (apparently) at balancing family and an extended group of friends.

We got back to San Francisco on March 22, delighted to see our cat, Ethel, who has become a gregarious love bug now that she is the only cat. We were also happy to sleep in our own bed after almost three months. It’s the little things that let you know you are home…

My coach training through the Martha Beck Institute is going well. As with any learning process, I’ve had a few frustrating and confused moments, but mostly the skills and guidance we are getting is wonderful and helpful. And I’m so taken with a program that honors intuition, the ‘magic of the universe’ and other slightly “woo woo” concepts while providing structured content, brain science and practical tools. Lately we’ve been concentrating on skills to help with “dissolving limiting thoughts” – and we start with ourselves and practice on each other. No shortage of material for most of us!

All this time, I’ve been working towards officially launching my coaching practice: Clear-Eyed Coaching & Consulting. That sentence was so easy to write, and oh my, have I come a long way for that to be true.  My “ideal” clients, which may evolve as I get more time in, are executives and leaders wanting to up their game at work, and individuals who just “know” it’s time for a change in their lives (maybe around work, maybe around other things). My consulting work, which includes coaching, expands the focus from the client to include his/her work environment, systems, staff, etc. I’ve also developed an interest in working with “solopreneurs” – small business owners who need and want some guidance in establishing, changing or growing their businesses.

It is at once nerve wracking and disconcerting to realize that I am my brand and my service, both inseparable. Unlike having a corporate gig, there’s no hiding behind my title or the bureaucracy if things don’t go according to plan. And that’s exactly why it is exciting and fulfilling to be on this path. I can’t wait for my website to go live, which – fingers crossed – should be in the next few weeks.  I’ve received great and supportive feedback so far, which helps fuel me when the doubts show up to play.

My niece Natalia, on the cusp of graduating from high school (and whom I’ve been helping with her college process) came out for Spring break. With her cousin Jason living in the guest room since September (while looking for his own place in San Francisco), we set her up on the Aero Bed in the dining room. Chaos all around, but fun to have the next generation hanging with us. (Natalia is my brother’s eldest daughter; Jason is my sister’s son.) We did a few ‘family of four’ things, including one spoken word with dance performance that had us all scratching our heads.

The two highlights of her visit were:

  • Shopping at the Nordstrom Rack for potential prom dresses: we found two beautiful gowns (and one ‘pretty good’ one) for a total of $164! We timed the Red Tag sale perfectly.
  • Driving down to see UC Santa Cruz again, this time through the eyes of someone who could go there if she wanted (she was pleased to have been accepted). We wandered the campus more fully than last summer, and we chatted with a few students on a beautiful day.

And then she went back to Maryland, where I’ll be over Memorial Weekend to see her graduate and enjoy an opportunity to gather with the family and celebrate.

And in the meantime, David is ramping down his NASA project, leaving him wondering what’s next. He has ideas, lots of ideas: his updated personal business card says “Rocket Science… always launching something new.” And some of those ideas may call him to a new level of engagement. He is thoughtful about what is next, as am I, and we both are likely to keep working in some form or fashion for the rest of our lives. We both like the stimulation and engagement; nice to have income as well.

There are other things afoot, but it’s too early to share, or too mundane to write about. Which leads me to this blog. I have decided I want to continue to post, but not on any predictable schedule (which I’m sure you noticed already!). I would prefer not to go two months between posts, so will endeavor to be more conscientious. With luck, I still have some followers who enjoy seeing Dancing On the Way Home in their email boxes.

Love,
Susan

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Splitting Wood and Other Second Chances

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I successfully split two fat logs into stove-size firewood this afternoon. This is no small accomplishment for me. Last year, when I recognized the daily “nut” of firewood that the wood stove required of us in order to keep the house (and us) warm, I gave it a try so David, my husband, wouldn’t have to do it all. However, first, I was afraid of the axe. I had been warned to watch my swing so that the axe didn’t miss the log and hit my shin instead. Second, I didn’t leverage my body in the swing because see Number One. Third, the log didn’t break into pieces with one of my whacks like it does in the movies, so I assumed that I must be doing it wrong. Two whacks and I was done.

Today, with the possibility that David might go off island for family health reasons, we both decided it was time to give it another go. What I learned was that firewood doesn’t magically split, especially if the wood is wet or damp, and if the log is fat. Splitting wood is about dropping the axe with momentum – which is where the power comes from – on the wood until it cracks. That can require any number of swings, creating tiny fissures in the wood. Eventually, the log will have several cracks, and a whack or two later, it will split like it does in show business.

So many lovely lessons in this afternoon’s work. And maybe life gives you a “do over” now and again when you’ve been a doofus. Or more kindly put: when you weren’t yet ready for the experience in front of you.

We’ve hiked more in our few weeks here this year than we did the entire time last year. And I’ve allowed myself to be more adventurous, stepping in to my qualms and realizing they make excellent company when you bring them along rather than arguing with them. We attempted a hike the other day to the highest point on the island, Meeson Cone, which requires scrambling up and back down several steep hills, over and under fallen trees and including a few spots with rope assists. It was mostly fine, if a little sketchy in a few spots, and I realized how much I was enjoying the experience. It’s like I was remembering that I love to move and I love adventure. I felt more right about being out than I had before we left the house, qualms gently placed in the backpack along with the water and emergency radio.

The biggest “second chance” so far has been our trip into Port Hardy. Last year we had wanted to take the hour long boat ride to town, David for adventure and me for a few supplies (okay, the truth is that we were out of bourbon and chocolate). But we never made it as the weather didn’t cooperate and water looked too lumpy. Oh, and I was afraid and very resistant. Last Tuesday, we braved the very cold, clear air and flat waters, and took the skiff into Port Hardy without incident. We saw a pod of dolphin in the distance about halfway there, but it was otherwise uneventful.

Once in Port Hardy, we enjoyed lattes at the little upscale coffee shop-book store near the Canadian Coast Guard pier where we tied up. I bought Liz Gilbert’s “Big Magic – Creative Living without Fear” which I’d been wanting to read. We ran some errands for our hosts, Bill and Annie, and then shopped at the Save-On for groceries. A few hours later, we loaded up the skiff, and headed back to God’s Pocket. As we neared the islands, we saw a large otter, which dove under as we neared, and a seal pup with large eyes which didn’t, clearly inexperienced with motor boats.

Last year, when we saw wolves on the shore of Harlequin Bay (on the backside of our island) and I hopped online to do wolf research, I found PacificWild and fell in love with the organization’s work and website. I became an admirer of the Executive Director, Ian McAllister, for his leadership and work trying to protect the habitat and wildlife of the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, for his photography and his books. Several weeks later, our hosts returned to God’s Pocket to begin preparations for the 2016 season, bringing with them two dive scouts and the cook. Overwhelmed by the sudden influx of people after five weeks of quiet with David, I snuck out to our room after dinner.  What I missed that night, a year ago, was a visit by Ian McAllister of PacificWild with the catamaran Habitat, along with a friend Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer.

Apparently, I got a do over here, too. Yesterday afternoon, we had a lovely and rare visit. The Habitat docked at God’s Pocket and Ian McAllister and his team of three came up for a visit. He was in the area diving and filming underwater for his Imax film; one of his crew, Tim, was the caretaker here at God’s Pocket after the season ended last year until Christmas. We offered tea and chatted for a while before they went out, with David, for a dive just outside the Bay.

I got to tell Ian that I needed a “fan freak” moment about his work, his books and photography (I have one of his wolf pictures hanging in our guest bedroom/my office in our condo). (Click here for the gallery of gorgeous wildlife photos, videos, and documentaries.) He blushed a few times, but once I got that out of the way, I told him I was “done fussing” and we resumed our more relaxed chat. They came back up after their dive and dinner, and he gifted me a book of poems and photos, “The Wild In You,” that he collaborated on with a Canadian poet, Linda Crozier.  And as he left, he invited David and me to visit them on Denny Island, where he and his family make their home, and where PacificWild has its organizational base in the Great Bear Rainforest. We had made a new friend: in my book, that’s not a do over, that’s a do better!

For the last few days, we’ve had snow on the ground, and intermittent snow fall. Big floofy flakes have been swirling over the water and the deck, and resting gently to welcome more. Our coterie of birds and animals leave tracks in the snow and carry on with their routine not seeming to mind. I am filled with wonder, and gratitude.

Love,
Susan

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Under Observation

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We arrived on Sunday at God’s Pocket for our week of scuba diving. After a glorious week of sun and fishing at the Cluxewe near Port Hardy on Vancouver Island North, we arrived to learn of a very low water supply on the island.  Surrounded by water and not a drop to drink! The universe has since provided: it has rained every day this week, sometimes torrentially.

The diving goes on in all weather, gale force winds or 3 meter seas excepted. I chose not to dive this week, but planned to go out on most of the trips.  Humpback whales have been common sightings, and I yearned to see more otter, seals, and especially, wolves, all possible from the boat.

On Monday, as the divers suited up on the deck, I felt myself tense in empathy: diving is an equipment intensive sport, and diving in cold water require layers of clothing – thick neoprene wetsuit or, more likely up here, sealed canvas or crushed neoprene dry suit with fleece body suit underneath – which is then layered with a hood, buoyancy vest, mask, etc. Getting ready to “get wet” can take up to 15 minutes, and by the time one is ready, the boat may not be. It gets hot and claustrophobic waiting for the signal to jump in the water. And then I relaxed with the realization of how relieved I was not to be on deck, suiting up.

I am an observer this week, not least in the context of diving, and I’ve mostly been fine with that.

David surfaced on the first dive of the week, the check-out dive, with air leaks in his buoyancy vest. Then his computer malfunctioned too. In assessing potential solutions for his diving, we both realized that he could use my vest and my computer. The universe provided: we had one vest and one computer between the two of us, only a good scenario if one of us wasn’t diving.

I have come to God’s Pocket for scuba diving six times over the last 12 years, and I remember the experience of many of the dive sites in this unique environment. As the divers surfaced, I could again empathize, this time with their descriptions of their experiences, their joy in an interesting, good dive. I have had brief moments of envy, of wishing I had chosen to dive this week, remembering the fun of being under the surface, reveling in the remarkable experience of breathing underwater.

This week has also been more people intensive: our charter consists of 12 vacationing people, many of them with large personalities.  The owners and crew add five people, so meals are talkative and loud, and the clubhouse is frequently full of people chatting, trying to be heard over each other. I have enjoyed skimming the surface of these gatherings, and escaping to the quiet of my room with a book.

My yearning for peace and quiet, so strong that I wrote about this vacation as a “misery” a month or so ago, is still palpable. I so want to be home, with the cats, not worrying about restoration and workers and dust, returning to a bit of routine, exercising with my bootcamp peeps, eating clean and eschewing the daily cocktails and wine, and, well, just being home. I have enjoyed our two weeks in British Columbia, but also know this week, with all these people in close quarters, has again pushed against my introversion and need for quiet and calm.

Today is the first of September, not technically fall, but still the path to shorter and colder days is well established as the rain on the roof now affirms.  My gap year is nearly three-quarters done… mostly not at all what I planned, and certainly not what I had envisioned. Still, I have an abundance of observations and insights to guide me and to inform these next four months.

Love,
Susan

I usually post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes later…  Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Here and Now

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It’s hard for me to believe that my most recent post was on July 30th. I’d decided, when I started to blog, that I’d be intentional about it, keep a schedule and inform you of my plans if my schedule were to change. Somehow, it has been nearly a month since I’ve posted, and all without a word of explanation. Intention can slip away from action while still being held in the heart.

That’s because the explanations, like so many things in life, are only clear in retrospect. At the time, and over the time since, well, I have experienced a fair amount of overwhelm: getting back to San Francisco after a five weeks in Canada and trying to get organized and regulated; work on the condo ongoing (the famous “impressive hole” in our slab was only filled with fresh concrete the Friday before we returned!) including the installation of new wood flooring and then painting, and a bath cabinet and plumbing that didn’t work as expected after (say it with me now) MORE THAN SIX MONTHS OF WORK AND DELAYS; and house guests and a sick pet and getting ready to leave town again…

I was grappling with a sense of overwhelm when I last posted, and it only intensified in the weeks following.  Now, however, I’m now on Vancouver Island North, with my spouse and our good friend Richard. In my last post, I described vacation as one of my “other miseries” and yet I am reminded, again, that the worst vacation is better than almost anything else.  And this has been a wonderful vacation so far.

The weather has been spectacular. This part of the world is known for rain – we have been here when it rained every day for a week — and we have been lucky to have clear skies and calm seas. We’ve had great fly fishing for ‘pink’ salmon at the Keogh River, had a few somewhat close calls with bears there just to spice things up a bit, and been smoking the fruits of our labor most of the week. (The picture above is of me and my first salmon, a respectable but not overly large fish. I caught three that day – the limit is four – and the last was the largest.)

I took my standup paddleboard out on the very calm waves on Tuesday for the first time, which was both easy and exhilarating. We’ve also had time to hike and hunt for mushrooms.  Yesterday we found a cache of hedgehog mushrooms, garnish for our grilled chicken dinner, just off the trail to a beach where we found bear prints, those of a mother and cub, in the sand. I am in awe of the bounty and beauty of this place, tripping from one find to another delight. In all of this, there has been peace and ease.

Being away from home, in spite of my resistance to packing up and leaving, has been restorative. We are in comfortable cabins here, right at the beach and surrounded by trees and eagles and ocean waves. I have wanted to find an eagle feather for several years now, and in the last few days have found more than a dozen. Our friend Richard says: “Now they are winking at you where ever you go!”

My main challenge has been to let go of doing, and allow myself to do nothing, or something, as the moment calls. I think of it as being here and now. I’ve had good sleep (and yet still want more!), good exercise and fresh air, and a fair amount of just sitting and listening to the waves. Something about vacation makes it “okay” to do little, or to follow whim; I’d like to be in this place of just being more readily and without the ‘cover’ of vacation. Wherever I am, I want to be here and now.

We pack out of the Cluxewe Resort on Sunday morning, and meet the Hurst Isle in Port Hardy on Sunday afternoon for our trip to God’s Pocket. While others scuba dive this coming week, I will have more time to practice laying low, following my mood and wants, enjoying the beauty of British Columbia. It is my intention to post next Wednesday, and to reflect on what my ‘here and now’ is then.

Love,
Susan

I usually post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes, like today, on Fridays… I’m coming off a month of quiet and hope to post regularly again. Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

Violence, Paralysis, and Hope

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It has been two weeks since I last posted, and I have struggled to identify what to write. My guiding principle is always to write what is on my mind, that way I can always be authentic and try to find a way to put words to even my most confusing times.  Here is what has been on my mind, and what I have wanted to write about… but haven’t.

July 5 – the killing by police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge Louisiana
July 7 – the killing by police of Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota
July 7 – the killing of policemen Lorne Aherns, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa by a sniper in Dallas, Texas
July 13 – the sight of a pod of 10 orca swimming north through Christie Pass, in front of God’s Pocket, completing sightings of the “big seven” over the month (bald eagle, humpback whale, otter, seal, sea lion, wolf and orca). Later that morning, on our way to check the crab pots, we saw a gray whale swim right near our skiff, passing with a different pace and breath than humpbacks do
July 14 – leaving God’s Pocket after a month for our return to the US, and a few days with our friend Elizabeth in West Seattle
July 14 – the killing of 84 people in Nice, France on Bastille Day by a terrorist in a truck  July 15 – news that the 30 inch hole in the concrete slab in our condo had finally been filled with fresh concrete, after 3 ¼ months
July 17 – the long drive from Seattle to San Francisco: we made it in 12 hours 59 minutes  July 18 – the ambush of police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, resulting in three dead: Montrell Jackman, Matthew Gerald, Brad Garafola
July 18-21 – the Republican National Convention, and Trump’s official nomination for the presidency
July 18-22 – the chaos of getting home, our condo still a construction zone, and the intensity of city life on the senses after the quiet and peace of God’s Pocket
July 20 – inconclusive blood test results for our cat Lucy who has lost yet another 1.5 lbs since May, and is down to 7.2 lbs. We had hoped for hyperthyroidism, since there’s treatment for that
July 21 – Lucy gets an ultra sound and has an enlarged spleen. She may have mast cell growth or maybe lymphoma. If the former, there are treatments, including a spleen-ectomy; if the latter, we will love her until she dies
July 22 – Opening 25 boxes of ‘refugee stuff’ from our condo from before the 2nd floor restoration (May 23rd with the expectation that we’d have it back out of storage within 3 weeks) looking for a printer cable from David’s office and the charger for my camera batteries. Needle in a haystack but we found them, and were able to move a lot of 2nd floor things back to the condo. My instinct is to put everything in the dumpster.
July 22 – the killing of 9 people in Munich, Germany by a (terrorist) gunman

I list the names of the dead in the police incidents because I want them to be real for me, to know that all were someone’s child, all loved and were loved by others. I want to honor their lives in this small way, knowing that their deaths would be felt acutely by many.

What has been on my mind is a mix of the quotidian and the basics of my life, and the bigger issues that demand my attention, demand our response as citizens. What to think about the violence that has taken over our national and international experience and narrative? More importantly, what to do?

I found these two recent blog posts, by writers I follow, to be useful to me, so I share them in that spirit:

For my part, I have felt a bit paralyzed, and not just about what to post. I have been deeply troubled by the national and international news, and I keep hoping for a few days of quiet and peace on that front. Personally, I’ve felt stuck: I’ve hardly exercised – except for moving heavy boxes – and have slept poorly. I know that self-care matters even it if doesn’t change the world.  I’ve also had flashes of joy – like Lucy stretched out with her arms over her head between me and David at night in bed in “the valley of love” – and been in awe of nature.  I have experienced quiet moments of peace, and recognize the grace in that; not everyone can say that.

None of those good things came from the Republican Convention. Although I have generally felt it would be wise to stay away from politics in my blog, I find I can’t.  I find Trump appalling, even as I understand the anger and disruption in the lives of some people who have become his supporters. I just don’t believe the narrative and the tone is helpful to progress, or to national unity, or frankly, to a just and civil society.

I was reminded the other day of a moment years ago, stunning in the shame response it created in me, when I expressed my disdain for the reality show “Survivor.” I commented that I thought the show brought out the worst in people, both on the show and in viewers. The husband of a friend of mine, someone I didn’t know well but had respected for his position in academia, said “oh, poor baby – you can’t handle it!” As if “handling it” was better than wishing human nature – human behavior, in any event – weren’t so bald or crude. I chose to hope that we can all be better than our baser instincts.

I’m off to the Russian River tomorrow for a long weekend with my women’s group: stand-up paddle boarding, walks and wine, and generally hanging out and being together. I’m looking forward to it, even it means being away from home (again!). I know we’ll talk about how we each want to navigate our lives internally and in the world in this moment. And we’ll share laughter, wisdom and hope.

Love,
Susan

I post about once a week, usually on Wednesday or Thursday, but sometimes, like today, on Fridays… Get regular updates via email from DancingOnTheWayHome by clicking the “follow” button (on your tablet or pc screen – the mobile screens somehow don’t show it!). And thanks for reading!

Follow me on Instagram (dancingonthewayhome), where I post whatever catches my eye. Leave a comment or send me an email at DancingOnTheWayHome AT gmail dot com; I’d love to hear from you.

Melancholy and Magic

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I had stepped away to our cabin after dinner for a few minutes of quiet. The guests, a charter of kayakers mostly from the United Kingdom, started to convene around the fire pit where David had staged the logs for a burn. I could hear them laughing, telling stories, and eventually, singing. As I listened, I felt my sadness growing, punctuated by the sounds of people, strangers to one another just days earlier, creating friendships. I knew I would be welcome if I went down to join them but I couldn’t imagine how to get there from where I sat. I just felt so sad. And alone.

David came to check on me, and gave me hugs. He wanted to know what I was feeling. This place I sometimes go is very difficult to explain, and it’s not at all intuitive for an extrovert. For my part, I’m still surprised when my melancholy sneaks in and takes over, even though it has been a familiar visitor over the years. I know that when I am tired, over-extended interpersonally, and haven’t had quite enough quiet, meditative time, my balance is disrupted. In spite of my outgoing personality, I am an introvert, and my reserves get depleted occasionally without me noticing.  I told him, in that moment, that I sometimes felt I didn’t know how to find the on-ramp to joy.

“Don’t believe everything you think” is a saying I associate with the lessons of a meditation practice. It makes me laugh because it is so true: we really shouldn’t believe everything we think! When you notice and allow all the wild and chaotic thoughts that your mind in “monkey” mode can have, you also notice that all your thoughts aren’t created equal. They don’t all deserve your attention, and they shouldn’t all be followed. I can know this, and recognize the melancholy-dipped lies my mind is telling me. I can know all this and still not easily shift to a different mood.

The antidote for this sort of cloud cover is to get out, shift my body, and so my perspective. Last night, I felt so stuck that I knew my only other remedy was to turn off the light and sleep. A good night of rest and the dawn of a new day would help lift the darkness.

What is wonderful about the transition from one day to the next are the possibilities born in the new day:  grace, redemption, joy, and sometimes, what can only be described as magic. This day can stand in stark contrast to yesterday, and moments of transcendence can emerge and be held.

This morning, I woke up late, and David let me know that the guests were all going on a morning boat ride to look for whales and otter. We both decided to go along, and had an extraordinary time. The guests are delightful and adventurous – several of them stayed out on deck in the rain for the three hours we were out.  We saw numerous humpback whales on our way to a sea-lion haul out, a small island covered in sea lions.

And then magic happened. Just on the other side of the haul out, we stopped the boat because a humpback whale was right in front of us in the narrow channel. As she surfaced near the shore, we saw she had her calf alongside her. They surfaced with a slight delay to one another, one blow half the height of the other. Rather than the more concerted surface-dive motion that adults make, the mother and baby seemed to float up and down between breaths. They were so close to us, and to the shore. They rounded the point of the island, and made their way into the wider pass where we eventually lost sight of them.

We then headed over to a small cluster of islands where Bill had heard that otter had recently been seen. As we neared, we saw over a dozen otter, most of them mothers with little ones on their chests. They scattered a bit as the boat slowly approached, but stayed nearby, giving us a chance to observe them swimming with their young. They observed us back. On a large rocky outcrop just past the otter group, we noticed seals draped on the rocks, well camouflaged by the match between their fur color and the shore. As the boat navigated around the rock past the otter in the water and the seals on the rock, we saw several seal mothers with their pups.

Within just a few minutes, we had the extraordinary experience of seeing three species of mammals with their young in their natural habitat.

Bill, the captain, decided to take us home through Browning Passage, one of the most spectacular channels in the world for diving. The Pass is a quiet place, especially today with the steady rain and low cloud cover. The channel is deep, and although there is shore on the east side of the Pass, the west side has a rocky, vertical drop into the water to depth. Both sides are lined with trees and dense forest. The boat progressed slowly down the passage and all our eyes were trained far ahead on the eastern shore, looking for wolves before the boat noise might spook them. Suddenly, we saw two wolves trotting in our direction along the high-tide line. They stopped as we neared, and then trotted up into the trees, out of view. Everyone saw both animals. It was exhilarating, and we laughed and chatted giddily.

The boat continued through the passage, headed for a spot near the end of the channel where hooded nudibranchs are often found. Known locally as ‘hoodie nudies,’ these members of the slug family have a translucent appearance, like jelly fish, and when out of the water are known to smell like watermelon jolly rogers.  Nature can be so unusual sometimes… When we came around the point, instead of hoodie nudies we saw two more wolves. These animals were harder to see than the ones we’d seen at the high tide line on the other side of the pass, as their colors matched more closely the stones and beach sand. They were also much less concerned with our approach: one of the two stood for a few minutes looking at us before turning and walking toward the tree line.

We came back to God’s Pocket that morning having seen six of what I call “The Big Seven” animals available to us in this area: humpback whales, bald eagles, sea lions, otter, seals, wolves, and the missing seventh, orca. The eighth animal is bear, rarely seen in this neighborhood. We were all a bit wet and cold, and yet our energy was high, excited about what we had seen.

Seeing so many of these animals and their young in the wild waters and on the islands of British Columbia anchored a special day of fellowship and shared experience on the boat. For me, it was a reminder that I am both small in the universe, and yet still an important part of my ecosystem. My melancholy may visit, but my world is full of magic and miracles if I can let myself see through the mist. And when I can’t, I can let today go and trust in a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow will bring new possibilities, including grace and magic.

Love,
Susan

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