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Solitude & Laundry

I wrote this in late September at Ravenrock:

Autumn Comes
I walk onto the deck in twilight that feels as if it is hurried along, as if the wind dashes over the crest snapping a whip, urging the light, which gathers birds and butterflies in its graying arms, away from this summer haunt to other regions south of the equator. Yes, it is no longer summer.

I put my empty dinner bowl on the wash table, sluice water into it from the blue pitcher, scrub it, rinse it, casting the water over the deck edge onto stones below. They had no scent; now they release the delicious smell of cool, wet rock. I glance at the canyon view, barely grazing this vista with my eyes, and feel a giddy rush at not having to stop and absorb its grandeur because it is my home. I can sip the view. I’m no more accustomed to it than I was two years ago when I first saw it, but I belong more now. Back then, my inner capacity was cramped, crumpled; I felt too small to be here and the vastness worried me. It has taken time to disentangle my folded interior components—my identity, my habit of self. I am still small but I am part of the mesa. I toss my peach pits and banana peels into the bushes around the cabin. The ravens and birds and bunnies and other creatures, which I rarely see but sense they are around, know that this is my nest. They know my smells, my noises. They keep an eye on me. I have begun to fit in here.

Nature Nourishment
The mesa trains me in how to live. As I wash dishes, or my laundry, the scene moves like wind in me, blowing September light into me. I pretend this is normal, and it is, yet it isn’t. The word ‘normal’ connotes ordinariness. My ‘normal’ is not ordinary. It is vibrant and shifting and quietly astonishing, wildly alive. Every day, every hour, nature never stays still, never repeats. She continually arranges her palette in uniquely beautiful combinations. I often think that what I am seeing just now is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, then another extraordinary vision supplants it. Morning sun on my back and cool wind on my face feel just right; later, I walk along the rim in the heat of the day, and a sharp blast off the rock face, blowing my raven friends high into the blue sky, cools me just when I am beginning to sweat. These meetings of temperature, and scent, and light, and creature migration fill the tick of time with entertainment and energy. I feel alive. Each airy touch wakes me further, and I am glad to sleep at night to digest it. And sometimes, when I wash the dishes, I only glance because I am already fully nourished.

That is the frisson of giddiness I felt.



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    1. Fiona #

      I’ve been thinking a lot about this post–this and the “alone but not lonely” one, in relation to my students (who, for these purposes, represent American sociological trends in general).

      I teach at such a small school that one of the delights is how well everyone knows one another, and yet I’ve been noticing more and more that even though students may come in to the classroom 10 or even 15 minutes before class, just to sit there and hang out, they don’t talk to one another.

      No, they each automatically pull out their phones. If they want to chat, it is with me, not with one another, and even so, oftentimes my efforts to engage them meet or to have a conversation that involves more than just a dyad, meet with only momentary success before everyone is back to staring at their own crotches. Literally.

      I so wonder about the loss of attention span that this alluring technology encourages, and the insatiable hunger for distraction that it engenders. And I’m not above it; the more I turn to Netflix or Hulu as my default leisure-time “activity” (a misnomer, if there ever was one), the more I simply forget to read, to write, to walk, to meditate.

      There were some interesting articles in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, about how much families enjoyed being forced to unplug, to slow down, to connect over old-fashioned board games and card games (that is, after the initial shock of withdrawal). In reading this, I felt rather superior in my eye-rolling incredulity that people simply didn’t make the choice to do so anyway (and set some limits on their children).

      Ahem. Ever heard the one about the speck in your neighbor’s eye and the log in your own?

      So, I’m trying consciously to limit my internet time, and trying to work my way through the always-formidable pile of accumulated “New Yorkers”, to turn off anything with a screen by late evening, etc.

      Your accounts of how life on the Mesa, and how rich the experience of slowing down and being acutely aware can be, have inspired these admittedly small steps in me, and I’m grateful.

      November 25, 2012
    2. Fiona, I have been looking forward to a quiet moment to savor responding to your wonderful post.

      One thing that jumps up is the introvert/extrovert conversation and that we live in a culture that currently favors extroversion. (Usually extroversion is over valued and over praised.) Of late I have been viewing the constant consumption of media not only as distraction, as you put it, but as a debilitating interruption of contact with an indivividual’s rich inner world, the latter being a territory which is native to introverts and less so extroverts. Coercing introverts to behave like extroverts is like making a math person write poetry, or a spindly person lift weights — not playing to their strengths, and also not prizing their gifts. Apparently there are as many introverts as extroverts in this world, but you’d never know it seeing people endlessly network, share unformed thoughts, and have low tolerance for the process of intellectual and emotional gestation which requires time and non-expression.

      But you bring up another really crucial point, which is the substituting of in-person interaction for cyber interaction. (That’s an assumption there. I don’t know what kids are doing on their devices. It could be gaming, etc.) They are, at any rate not staring, bored, out the window (a very important thing) or talking with whoever is around, just being in and with what is. Yes, this is very ominous.

      A bit sad really…

      It is very difficult to disconnect. The mesa helps me do it. Helps me find who I am again. And I love it. I am reading accounts of various women explorers right now, and those who spend time beyond the press of their centers of culture are afraid at first, then come to love it. Good to know.

      November 28, 2012

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