Friday, January 7, 2011

Stingy geodes and broken soles

Lesson for today:
Don't attempt to dislodge a geode from where it's probably been embedded for centuries.

Or you'll rip the top layer off your boot sole and it'll flap all the way home in a mocking rhythm of "leave me alone" or "told you so," negating your intention of a silent walk.

And I had thought the rock was just there waiting for me to choose it and pry it free. Silly human! Guess it desires to keep its secret contents just that.

I had not given much thought to geodes since I was a kid until I met and heard Quaker singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer at a fall writing colloquium in – where else? – Richmond, Indiana. She has a unique way of looking at the world, distilling it into song and pulling the listener in immediately:

"Some say geodes are made from pockets of tears,
Trapped away in small places for years upon years.
Pressed down and transformed, "til the true self is born.
And the whole world moved on like the last notes of a song,
A love letter sent without return address ..." [link to Carrie below]

That stubborn old rock is a wonderful metaphor and just imagine what it has experienced in all of that time.

Not only experienced, but absorbed and observed as it sat in silent detachment. I need that silent detachment periodically and it's the reason I am spending a week away, by myself, holed up in a beautiful condo in the woods, by a lake with more amenities than I need thanks to a very generous F/friend.

I did not even open the front door for the first 40 hours, just immersed myself in the silence and returning to edit and refine the book I desire to publish. Such a luxury: to only look after myself; leave all of my notes, journals and papers strewn about; work my derriere off; take a break whenever I wish; and return at any hour of the day or night. OK, so it's really only my second full day and I may be climbing the walls in another 24 hours or so.

But, I don't think so. I want to remember and emulate the lesson of the rock. I desire to be the detached observer, finding my natural body rhythms warped by the holiday push and return to my work on my terms and not in rushed snippets of time.

I was ready to explore the outside natural world this morning and find winter hikes exhilerating as the world seems more dense when quieter, hibernating and less cluttered with people. The morning's colors were striking as I walked along the lake: geodes and sedimentary layers in rusts and russets, bumped up against bleached branches resembling animal skulls like a Salvador Dali painting. And a steeling blue-green-gray lake etched with powder. The styrofoam debris and discarded, corroded pipes marred the serene canvas, yet are part of the package and a reminder the lake is man-made for flood control.

Control? Man in control. That's what I am trying to lose while I am here. I wish to be guided by the Divine and not my worldly urges and motivations.

Perhaps that's another lesson of the stingy geode: I could not possess it.

• When was the last time I picked up a rock and noticed?
• What did I experience?
• If I think about it, what lessons do rocks have for me as an adult? 
• When I was a child?
• How can I become the detached observer?

Past the garages
down the stairs

along the worn path,
littered with a limp lawn chair

and finally to the lake

with a narrow passageway 
around its perimeter

suspended in ice
dusted with sugar

uprooted trees provide
fairy haunts

a surprised bird brushes its wings

and I call an apology
for upsetting this
natural balance and silence

but I see I am not the first
nor will I be the last

yet I am grateful for
this taste, this escape

even now sitting
at my monitor

To hear Carrie:

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