What the Wind Told Me (2010)
It was one of those days when, like me, the wind didn't know which way it was blowing. Directionless, wandering, meandering here and there, not settling anywhere, not feeling grounded, not knowing where to go next. In these moments of uncertainty, I have learned to abide by a rule a dear friend once told me, and which has been strangely useful many times since then: When you don't know what to do, do nothing. The spirit of this sentiment is that instead of acting on emotion or on impulse, doing nothing in a period of uncertainty simply allows one to be, to ponder, to reflect, to think. From that process of slowing down, an answer that resonates usually emerges. "Doing nothing" is a euphemism for 'listening deeply" which can look like doing nothing, but can mean everything.
So I simply stopped and watched the wind. I have always loved that you can't actually see the wind itself because it is invisible, yet it is so present and real because we can feel it and see what it does to the world around us. That notion seems true of many things; that we become aware of intangible things only because of that thing's palpable influence on something else. On these directionless days, the wind shifts this way, then that way, and the trees look like they are dancing. In my mind, therefore, I danced with the trees. What the wind told me this beautiful, blustery day, is that it takes mindfulness to notice such things. And once noticed, an intention is needed to align it with my present frame of mind and direction, and in doing so, move with more purpose through the world.
I realized today that I have been carrying a load that, though invisible, is weighing me down. I've been carrying a blanket of sorrow wrapped around me, and it colors everything I see. I keep trying to shed it, and it is so damn stubborn. For nearly 3 years now, I have been on my own. Strange, that. Seamlessly from home to college to roommates to grad school to over a decade of marriage, I have never lived alone as an adult. Until now. Add to living on my own a young child, for whom I feel an enormous sense of love and protectiveness, and the result is a feeling of great responsibility and immense vulnerability.
I looked at Jonah the other day, really looked at him, and felt deeply the fleeting nature of time because (gasp) he is about to be two. Two! When did that happen? While coping through legal battles and the newness of motherhood, single-motherhood, then motherhood as a full-time educator, the days became a continuous succession of things-to-do, with the next day leading to the next, and an urgency to the days that left little time for pondering the future much. I have learned that this is not a bad thing; out of necessity almost, I have lived the present fully--it is impossible not to do that with a young child around, discovering everything for the first time.
Today I looked around me, and while for months I only saw Jonah--his spirit, his toys, his books, his joyfulness--in this moment, my vision shifted. The wind today blew the immediacy of Jonah away, momentarily, and other things came into focus: peeling paint, empty garden, absent violets, sagging gutters. I saw these things not as signs of neglect, but rather, as a reminder that I am one person in this world, focusing on, thinking about, and pouring energy into different things than I once did. What happened to the multiple books left face-down on the last page read? The art supplies in mid-use? The concurrent journals? My once blooming crowd of African violets, propagated over so many years from single leaves of endless varieties, now just a memory, though I like the idea that they still live on in the homes of special people. The absence of things that were once such an integral part of my daily life makes me wonder who I am now. I look at myself now and see: a mother, a joyful one. And within 'mother' I am looking for myself, not the person I used to be, but the person I am becoming.
The wind and our ability to know its existence only through how it changes, affects, and moves the things it interacts with seem an apt metaphor for individuals and how we are, all, products of the human interactions that make up our daily living. We begin to know our own existence and purpose through engaging with the collective. Wind does not exist in a vacuum; neither do we. As I age, things and the nurturing or acquiring of things become less and less important, and people, more and more precious. The wind today therefore reminded me to take notice of how and why I have arrived where I am today. I felt ever more aware of the palpable existence of invisible forces, arising from the collective energy of good people--like the wind, powerful.
So here is my humble effort to express an intention I am setting forth:â€¨When I look at all that has transpired in the past three years, I feel more than ever, that I (and Jonah) are products of the people we surround ourselves with. I wish to express my gratitude to the people who have given of themselves in ways they might not even realize. Both Jonah and I have been sustained and buoyed up by a network of people who have, unlike the directionless wind blowing today, given guidance during what felt like an enormously directionless time. During the past few years, therefore, while mothering and teaching, I have also been creating my next body of work, all currently in my head. A combination of gesture, elemental marks, and text, this work will be a continuation of my most recent series, "Doorways and Openings". I have long thought that I want to more fully express my thankfulness to those around me. And that to do so, with authenticity and invested time, will be a way to truly open a door to a new beginning.
In my mind, I have been writing letters of gratitude to you.