I stopped kayaking this fall. It was too painful. All that beauty felt like a slap in the face. I left my boat in its berth. It rained, it snowed, it might have hailed on my neglected boat. I had a fear/secret hope that the state office that issues the permits would just cut my lock and seize my kayak. It was some passive way of just getting that reminder of my lack-of-happiness out of my life.
Then, in mid-December, I received a call. It was the state office that issues the permits. I was ready to blurt out, “Go ahead! Just take the boat!” I heard him apologizing, instead. Everybody’s boats were supposed to be gone by December 1, but there’d been some mix-up. Could I please retrieve my boat? Okay, righty-o I’d get out there right away, sir, thank you very much. By Christmas, if I could, he suggested. Um, okay. I picked up my son, dropped him off, and pulled into the grocery store. He called again. I thought that now I was really in trouble, but, no, he was just calling to inform me to apologize for the mix-up and…He sounded like Carlton the Doorman from Rhoda. I stopped him and let him know he’d just called. I started to feel sorry for him. And I needed to get that boat.
The day before Christmas Eve, Daughter and I hoisted it off the berth and onto the car. That was the day that I spent hours (and hours) trying to rig up my new cable modem. At the end of the afternoon, on the phone with the cable company once again, I suggested that I just exchange the dud modem for a new one. Their office was closing in minutes. I raced out the door and saw the boat on top of my car. I grabbed the stool, undid the straps, heaved and ho’d and hauled it to its storage rack in the basement. I was relieved it was safe in its rack instead of seized by the state office that issues the permits. It took 2, maybe 3, minutes to get the boat from the car to the rack. I chuckled at how easy it was. Things that used to be so hard aren’t as hard now.
A friend remarked that she’s been driving past my driveway and wonders how I get out of it. It has had a pool of ice at the bottom for weeks now, what with this relentless cold. I told her that I try to fend it off by clearing the storm drain and shoveling the slush and snow off the street, but when that doesn’t work and the pool of ice forms, if I keep to the right of it and stop just before the pool, I can see if any cars are coming down the street. Then I take a quick breath and careen over the ice. Since no cars are coming, I have time for a little zig or zag if I get caught on the ice.
She peered at me. “You were so scared of the driveway last year.” I was. I still am. The driveway is risky, but it’s not impassable. My fear has not gone away. I am just learning how to be steady when the danger is all around me.
This, of course, is what meditation taught me. Bad stuff, good stuff, it’s all swirling all around. Move within it, not despite it or because of it. The meditation class ended, and I haven’t been going to yoga class, but I’ve kept up my practice. I practice it everyday. I’m getting better with the fear and uncertainty and regret and dread and despair. I’m not so good with the nice things, like beauty and joy. I sound like a brat just saying it. But I know what I feel. It’s all hard to face, it’s all so real and I feel so vulnerable to it, to all of it.
A friend of mine (whom I haven’t hidden on Facebook because she rarely posts) updated her profile photo with a picture that I took of her. We were out on the lake in late summer, at the end of the day. It was the “magic hour” of the light, and I saw the light reflecting off her and her boat. I pulled out my phone and captured it. When she posted the photo on FB, she got comments such as “You’re awesome!” but I don’t think she was looking for validation. Maybe she had a yearning for late summer in the midst of winter. I don’t know why she posted it, but I know what I saw. She reflected back to me the beauty that I see. It is just a phone picture, taken hastily and off-balance–she was floating past me as I fumbled to get the phone–but it captures warmth and light and, yes, magic. She showed me that I see this beauty. I can’t bear it, but I see it, and now I sort of get it.
Our everyday life is harder than it has to be, and the simple moments (school plays, parties, Christmas) of ordinary life are heart-wrenching for us. We are deprived of life’s simple pleasures, but I’ve also been privy to extraordinary beauty–of humans, of nature, of wonder. I’m so knocked out of the ordinary world and thrust into this other one, where kayaking isn’t an act of self-validation but a movement through something, a journey I don’t even understand. I’m not learning about myself, I’m learning about all of this around me. The trick is to be still and move through it, to receive it without feeling accosted by it, to accept it.
I’ve been eyeing my kayak a lot this past month. As I search for drill bits, or store the painting supplies in between painting surges, or add to my pile of recyclables (because I don’t want to make the recycling guys have to walk over that ice pool, so I’m storing them until the ice melts), I spot the kayak there on its rack, and I sure do wonder when I can get that boat back in the water again.
I am learning to be steady through horror and fear. Now let’s see if I can do the same with beauty, maybe with joy.