Just Below the Surface

Sihns of SpringThis week, disquieting changes in the natural world seemed to percolate just below the surface of many therapeutic conversations.

Here in northern Vermont, the maples are budding and the lilacs threaten to leaf out. The Juncos at the feeder, not yet quite ready to move to their summer range in the mountains, are mating. I hear the frogs and salamanders are migrating across area roads. 

Today is a lovely April sort of day, cool and showery. Next week, temperatures might make it into the eighties. Not much of a winter. Not much maple syrup production. If the weather turns cold late in the month, as forecast, life will be difficult for all those migrating bird and animal peoples who were tricked into coming north, or out of hibernation, a month early.

Maybe that’s why, this week, events in the natural world, especially climate change, seemed just below the surface of many therapeutic conversations. Folks were happy to feel warm; the return of warmth and light is welcome here in norther Vermont. At the same time, there was talk about a lingering, nagging discomfort. After all, the week’s temperatures in the mid-sixties were much too warm for March, and even more warmth seemed on the way. The pleasant days were both a comfort and discomforting.

The weather formed a background to more personal concerns, as did other difficult news of the week. The challenges of everyday life predominated our conversions. Concerns about children, spouses, work, and lovers rose to the surface, along with those of illness and joy. I sat with folks as they explored their lives, seeking traces of the joy, courage, and resourcefulness hidden in the deep woods of suffering. We moved aside long fallen leaves and deep vegetation, and occasionally, discovered springs of sweet, renewing water. Yet, always the weather and the fragile world whispered, in the background, their nearness.

The natural world, of which we are each and all a part, sings us into being, and welcomes us home at the end of our journey. Mother Earth holds us, feeding our bodies and spirits, recycling our suffering and waste into new growth, so that nothing is wasted. She comes to us in dreams and visions, reminding us we are connected, mortal, and transcendent. She will continue long after we and our species have gone. Is it any surprise we hear her quiet voice reminding us we are part of a larger life, a longer history? Should we be surprised when She whispers through the trees and buildings that we have forgotten the way, and there are consequences?

So I sat with folks. A few times we spoke directly about climate change and the climate of hatred in the country at large. Mostly, those issues were present simply as resonances, suggesting other hurts and concerns. Often the need for courage, curiosity and playfulness entered our conversations, an antidote to some demand we each carry the burdens of our families and the planet on our own fragile shoulders. We were reminded that, often, simply rejecting that crushing burden is an act of courage, resistance, and healing. We were also reminded the world and the Self are larger, and more interconnected than we know, or perhaps can know. In noticing that, even in passing, we found comfort and concern.

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4 thoughts on “Just Below the Surface

  1. Beautiful post Michael – it sings to my soul.

    Here, we have had a whole Spring and Summer of low temperatures (more like Autumn) and extraordinary rain. The whole eastern side of Australia has experienced flooding to varying degrees. After a long long drought, the torrential rain is like a huge outpouring of grief.

    I find it interesting that very few people are complaining. We have come to expect the unexpected.

    I am wondering what Autumn and Winter will bring.

    • I cannot imagine a better compliment, thank you!

      We are in much the same place. Yesterday our high temp was 14 degree above that of the previous record. We will likely have record highs today, and at least through Thursday. This is unprecedented. Last year we had record spring, summer, and fall flooding, after near record snowfall! So we wait, wondering what the next season will bring.

      I thought I was “following” your blog, but I seem to no longer be receiving updates. I visited this morning and discovered I was not subscribed, so repaired that. Your blog is truly outstanding!

  2. What a beautiful post! It is really interesting that you wrote about these things, because I have been thinking about them too (I suppose many people are right now). The weather has been a wonderful blessing in many ways, but in others, it is the opposite. It affects farmers, and it brings extra bugs, etc. The looming threat of global warming dampens the fun of 70-degree weather because it may represent more than just a warm week.

    Also, the climate of hatred continues to be on my mind. When I see films or read stories about racism, the Nazis, etc, I am shocked, and then I see that these “isms” (sexism, racism, agism) are still present in the richest country in the world, and it is disgusting and sad.

    • Thanks, Sienna,

      I imagine the isms have always been with us in one form or another. Although I’m not sure that helps us deal with them any better. I have no clue how to go about loving the warmth (following a the chill of winter) and know the implications of that warmth. What a conundrum! I can understand why folks desire someone to give us clear, concrete answers to our moral quandaries. I also get that moral action is seldom comfortable or convenient. Nor do we truly know the long term implications of our actions.

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