Above and Below

Stand at the foot of the hill.

Gaze at the crest as it looms above,

Silhouetted against the night sky,

Suddenly light in comparison.

A streak of cloud, the rounded edges of treetops.

To feel small in the furrows between the tall corn stalks

To feel broad and expansive in the dampened dark of night

Contemplative Meandering

It is 8:52 AM and I am alone in my house.  I rush in with the usual sense of urgency, keys jangling, purse pulling on my arm, slouching the jacket off my shoulders and – what?

The light in the living room still has that early morning hush, shadows mixed with brilliant swathes of light.  But it’s not just the light that’s hushed.  The house is actually quiet.  No talk radio emanating from the alarm clock radio my husband usually leaves on.  No little voice accompanied by the thud of rubber-soled shoes in the middle of the floor.

The silence is deafening.

For the first time in, I don’t know, forever, I have two hours and 57 minutes to myself.

I could hand wash those clothes I’ve left languishing.  I could peel the shower curtain liner from its moldy seal on the bathtub and scrub it.  I could transfer summer to fall in my daughter’s clothes drawers without interruption.

Yes, those would all be worthy endeavors.  Useful.  Productive.  Jobs easier done without little people becking and calling.

But for the first time I am alone in my house for longer than five minutes, is that what I should do with my time?  It might be what I want to do, or feel I should do from some deep-seated guilt (Where does that come from anyway?  Heloise’s shadow people?), but I know it’s not what I need to do.  I need to decompress, to learn how to shut off these urgings when I actually do have time to myself.  It’s such a foreign concept, my mind and soul freeze up at the suggestion.

And while I do write even on days my lovelies are around, it’s always with one ear to the ground.  And one hand in the snack bin doling out goodies.  And half my attention elsewhere.  Either that, or I’m writing in such a small window that it is with a laser-like focus, barring out the kind of contemplative meanderings that we all need to do now and again.

So I’m contemplatively meandering.

That is a damn good goal in and of itself.  That could sum up an entire bucket list in two succinct words.

But aside from writing, I do not know how to do that.  I can feel the needle and thread pulling my hands.  I hear the chipmunk squeaking in the woodpile.  Even the mold growing and multiplying.

I may not achieve the ultimate level of transcendence today, but there is the desire.  That is worth something, right?


The mosquitoes actually held off long enough the other night for me to do some weeding in our vegetable garden.  In that time shortly before the gloaming, when the heat of the day was finally fading as the sun dipped between the trees and the wind rose up to fill its space, I loosened the earth all around my feet, gently extricating snap pea tendrils from crab grass claws.  There were weeds with plump, red stalks that looked like they would ooze moisture if I snapped them.  There were delicate rounded leaves with lacy white flowers.  They were under and around and throughout – an integral part of my garden – perhaps more numerous than the plants that were supposed to be there.

At times, I had to stand back and survey the leafy patch below me.  Bent over in the worst possible posture for my back, it was hard to distinguish the plants from the weeds.  At eye level, all the leaves blended into one range of green.  It was hard to tell where the clover ended and the pea leaves began.  The heart-shaped leaves of the green beans melded with tall stalks of pointed leaves.  There were even imposter marigolds with tiny yellow buds.

It almost scares me, the uncanny ability of nature to so closely mimic ‘actual’ plants with its weeds and then to germinate them right next to the others so they have the best possible chance at survival by blending.  Think about it, the first weeds a gardener pulls – even if it’s in the five-second walk to her driveway – is the tall spindly one sticking out like a sore thumb.  These others are stealth, imposters of the best kind – or most insidious depending on whose side one takes.

It’s no wonder, then, that I have a hard time distinguishing my bad habits from productive practices; destructive behaviors from healthy ways of being.  The roots of the less desirable plants of my life are invasive, wrapping themselves around my more likeable attributes and behaviors, making themselves almost impossible to extricate – or at least harder to distinguish or even notice.  Without stepping back to take stock, my life is one solid plane of green, weeds and all; the different shades and shapes indistinguishable.

Making the rounds at our local farmers’ market, I stopped to talk with a woman who had woven some beautiful baskets (who also happens to know a thing or two about gardening; she harvests worms for composting).  One skinny, oblong one with a graceful arch of a handle caught my daughter’s eye.  The woman directed my attention to a small ceramic plaque stitched to its front.  ‘Weeds’, it said.  She told me of the Native American tradition of placing their worries in a basket such as this to put them away; make them go away.  I joked how you could also take weeds as a literal worry as a gardener.

But as the day went on, I marveled at how symbolic that little basket and the word etched on its front were.  If I don’t take the time to stuff those weeds into a receptacle of some sort, they will crowd out the good in my life.  The weeds of worry, perfectionism, over-catastrophizing, unrealistic expectations, not prioritizing, not slowing down enough to come to a gentle stop rather than a screeching halt.  I need to cultivate my garden in such a slow, gentle way that I see the weeds as they pop up and handle them one by one, rather than waiting to turn the earth over and start over because they’ve taken over.

I think I need a bigger basket . . .

I think I need a bigger basket . . .

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