Moving meditations

It is strange to think that just a couple of months ago I was living on a few acres in central New York, carpooling with my fellow crew members to a farm just down the street. It was less than a mile really, or, measured in time (as we like to do ‘round here) “about five minutes.”  I often thought how seemingly ridiculous it was to be driving and not walking or biking. We were farmers, after all. Presumably tree huggers, as green in spirit as in thumb. Still, I knew perfectly well that for the lot of us, it made perfect sense. Every second of our breaks was invaluable (read: food; rest). Every ounce of energy saved, much the same.

At present I reside, once again, for this brief moment, in bustling city of Ann Arbor. I can’t walk a dog in five minutes, much less get to work on time. I have my own wheels, but until recently, haven’t had much income and so burning gas seems counterproductive, not to mention contradictory to, what is, my true tree-hugging nature.  What are the alternatives you ask? They are endless. I can walk 5 miles to work (highly unlikely and supremely time consuming, not to mention mildly unpleasant in the winter, even with the climate change), bike to work (also not entirely safe/appealing/and-we-all-know-how-fun-it-is-to-pack-two-meals-AND-a-change-of-clothes-every-morning), carpool (extremely time efficient and generally inconvenient, given I’m not the one with parking pass and flexible faculty work hour), or take advantage of local public transit.

This morning was my second consecutive ride into work on the university commuter bus. To get to this bus, I have to book it on foot for just under a mile. These walks are hurried, but also entirely pleasant and awakening. I find myself enjoying the fresh air, the damp chill, and even the seemingly permanent grayness of the sky. Thanks to the alignment of the stars, luck, or something of the sort, I consistently manage to make it to the bus stop in-the-nick-of-time. I arrive breathily, squeeze into the sardine can that is campus transportation and say a silent thank you to the God of All That is Timely and Good.

It is then that the meditation begins. My fifteen minute walk is nearly a warm up.  I move past memories–flashes of packing into busy trains in other cities, other countries–and observe my surroundings. I am swimming in a sea of college students and I feel like a century-old sea turtle amongst a school of young fish. They look like children and I find myself both fascinated and disturbed. I feel out of place and wonder if they can sense my age (Do I smell older?), or maybe spot one of my many gray hairs. In the end, it doesn’t matter really. I retreat from my people watching and move inward. I chant silently in my head or sometimes just fix my gaze on something innoccuous (How did I become that women covered in dog hair?). I sit down, if and when the opportunity presents itself- typically a whopping two stops from my destination, as students pour out by the dozens, off to their classes. Ready to start their days; start their lives.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I listed off reasons in my head to excuse the purchase of a parking pass, to warrant a daily (independent! Expedient!) commute that would relieve me of this twice daily pilgrimage. By the time I was walking home, I had thrown those excuses out the door. This is a practice of its own. It is an opportunity. It is saved energy and expenses. It is fresh air and exercise and an extra forty minutes (at least) of time well spent. For a woman who just recently transported back into the office from a glorious, wide-open field, it is even, perhaps, a blessing in disguise.

An unfinished thought

It is December 26th and I’m sitting outside on a large porch in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is brilliantly sunny and breezy, but mild. I’m in the best of company (thanks to Mavis, my four-legged friend) and the best of spirits. Somehow even the fact that I’m unemployed can’t get me down right now. I am too fortunate. Too terribly blessed.

It has been a bizarre and incredible year. Had someone told me ten months ago that I would be sitting here, at this moment, looking back on such experiences, I likely would have shaken my head. It was an array of factors that led me to leave this place that I have, for years, called home and it was a whole different set that brought me back here, for this brief moment, to yet again redefine my existence as I wait to take off on yet another adventure (this time with a bit of company).

I have never worked so hard as I did this past year and it’s likely I have never learned so much. I learned about plants and what it takes to feed communities. I learned about healing, distance and love. I learned about friendships and what it truly takes to maintain them. About practice, intention, and limitations. I also learned that The Universe will give and give, but that it also sometimes has to take away.

I struggle with change, even as I bring it upon myself in these necessary periods of transition. I shapeshift, moving from place to place, pick myself up and sometimes slap myself across the face- just a reminder to wake up and notice what is right in front of me. I am a fortunate one and I try to remind myself of that, even though I sometimes find myself failing to find gratitude.

This path that I’m following moves all about. It’s nonsensical in a way, taking me this way and that. I run into barriers, dig myself into holes. I sometimes find myself back in a place that is familiar, only something subtle has shifted. If I’m lucky, I’ll take note. I don’t know why I pursued graduate work in clinical psychology, only to leave the field only to work, well, in a field. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how strange it may seem that I am knowingly, willingly, leaving an exceptional community and a family I adore for an unknown place. I am ready to gamble this. I have to.

An old friend of mine, in Chicago, once reminded me that no matter who I leave or what place I choose to move from, I can always go back. Surely, some of the faces will be different, the landscape will likely change. One cannot leave a place and expect to find it the same upon return, but I know this. Even as it pains me to leave the ones I love and to start again from scratch, it always seems worth it. After all, to never leave is to never know.