Contrasts

Written 27th September 2019.

It feels so impossible to grasp the capacity we may have in our lifetimes to impact the world positively and uniquely, and to keep conscious of our choices, our contributions, and the moments of happiness that remain endlessly within our grasp when we shift our expectations and perspectives. I know I am not alone in what often feels like it should somehow be less complicated in trying to find my own path, healing and happiness in the midst of multiple needs and wants, both my own and others, often in direct competition for time, energy and emotion.

I’m flying into Heathrow for a work conference after six years away from the United Kingdom. As on so many of my travels before, I find such pleasure in finding at least one new song, taking one evocative photograph, and writing a few words that capture some of my current emotions, thoughts or experiences as I fly, feeling suspended and protected in a way that very few other spaces in my life provide.

Only three days ago I was in the wilderness of the Bo-Kouga in South Africa, and lay for hours under the clouds, which melted miraculously away to reveal a sky studded with an array of stars that, miles from any form of man-made light, were truly spectacular. I shared the magical experience with my beloved life partner, in an open-air bath we kept re-filling with hot water from the simple old clay-encased boiler kept heated by freshly stacked logs on the fire, feeling more relaxed and connected than we have for some time. Those moments we share make me feel deeply and completely connected to the real meaning of my life, and the absolute capacity for joy I have at my fingertips each and every day.

Bath under the stars

The following day we were walking through some of the overgrown valleys and wide-open hilltops of the Bo-Kouga, scratched, tired and utterly satisfied, discussing how limited (yet still important) our contributions to counteract the larger impact of humanity on our beautiful planet are, yet our capacity nonetheless to choose to be happy. What, after all, is the point of living of we fail to make this choice, since we consume resources each and every day, whether we are miserable or joyful?

While I am often still torn by my many demons, pains, confusions, passions and the highs and lows of my energy, health and emotions, these moments remind me that my life is full of love, fulfillment, satisfaction, and simple pleasures. It is utterly complete in and of itself when I’m connected to those I love, those I am with, each footfall, each scratch of thorn or branch, each moment of thirst and hunger not detracting in any way from this joy, but rather making me feel increasingly present in my body. 

Standing towards the end of the adventure by the now burnt yet still majestic trunk of the aloe where we scattered the last of my mother’s ashes, fingering the smooth rune stones that had sat on a bag next to her bed while she was alive, adding a few rocks to the circle and placing down some young aloes to be planted to replace those that had died in the fire, I left calm and purposeful. It is only now as I write that the tears and sorrow arrive once again, not heavy and overwhelming but with a deep sense of relief.


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