Sunday, June 27, 2010

The River Behind the Garden: self examination

There is a place inside too fragile to walk in often. It is the place where dreams go when they have not lived, or will never live or that fell from the sky before nightfall. It is the place where new dreams are planted and nurtured secretly--too fragile to be held in the open where opinions, good will or light hearted banter will break the fragile stems. Always it is a garden. Things are weeded, pruned, uprooted, fertilized, planted. Strangely during all the time of carefully avoiding the walled garden it is obvious that a gardener has been at work. The garden is never abandoned. There are times perhaps when watering has been neglected or when weeds have overgrown, yet work continues. How does the mind do this miraculous work?
Yet there is a river I have not crossed. I enter through this garden and I stand on the banks, though rarely. What is it that I am afraid to do? There is a business that I keep up to avoid something. What is it that I avoid? I evaluate myself:
My heart and mind go through seasons just like the outer world. I have soul cycles of day and night, rain and sun. I have time periods when I ignore the crush of present to run aimlessly into a novel, or a fun day without planning; refusing to be caught in the vise of certainty and ruled out by responsibility. I am reckless and a little frightened at myself and the possibilities of the choices. But escape I must, to be the bridge between the older now of me and the me of yesterday, the stepping stone for teens and small ones that look in on me to gage their estimate of their own growing. There are the early spring times when I settle down calmly and deliberately to the work of sorting and planning: domestic and social. I have summer parent times when when I study, read, research, get serious, find out what I haven't taught, try something new. So I plant and reach out to make a bigger circle. There is a fall season when I have an abundance of gladness and good things and make time for a harvest I can share, interact, broaden the good in the world and touch far places, do the moral work. Then there is the reclusive season, garnering stores, assessing needs, conjuring up the array of wintering over stuffs. Focus on the mortal, the family, the physical abilities, being objective, charting basic needs, arranging and preparing for difficulty. The season for calling out to the Great Creator in thanksgiving. Winter has come, but there is a celebration of newness in the first white, holidays to come where I can trifle away some days in fun. I let myself relax into the schedule of school and homework and co-ordinating the clockwork of family. Yet inner work waits and I become more and more restless and know it will not be put off forever and willing myself to make time for it. When was the last time I searched His word? Fasted for others. Prayed for the long list of needs I know crowd my heart and that of loved ones? Yet finally will come the endless cold and waiting. Asking the big questions, searching for the answers and weighing if there is enough. Calling out for Heavenly rescue to make the final needy weeks of when I have pulled out all I can, stretched myself and rationed thought, energy, will, and there is no more... knowing I am not enough.
So today I wander to the far edge of the garden. I guess I am brave enough to get my feet wet. I dabble my toes in the great river and contemplate. I will allow myself a tiny look at the dreams that lie discarded.
I catch myself looking at the sky to see the airplane out of habit before I determinedly look away, knowing that the chances of ever flying again are next to nothing. Aging, money and focus are against it. It is a flash fire dream, that requires support from others to live and still maintain the life I have chosen. It is only mine, and I can only make it live if I sacrifice something more valuable. I grieve, but it is too deep a grief to spend any time on, to cry over, or to ask for. Losing it twice would kill something else I do not know how to loose: Hope. Flying is not the only dream. Its is the safest one to write about. It has already been in the open and returned.
Yet I frequently ask myself, "How does one gather the courage to live an examined life?" I am afraid to do it. It is this river that I have come to. Can the other side of it be reached? The water of such a river seems too fast and powerful to enter. I dabble my toes, but dare not enter. It is this journey I fear that keeps me busy, calmly focussed on the present. I can try to be patient for forever, and examine books about gardening, bridges and rivers, even help start other gardens, sort over plans and seeds with novices, share ideas with experienced gardeners as I interact with children, family, friends... but I know the river is there. It is the thing that asks me to dare, to see what stuff I am made of.

Parenting has shown me a lot about myself. In fact I have learned more about myself in this field than anywhere else. Things I could never have discovered in books or discussions or art or museums. It is this learning that lets me believe I will one day be brave enough to cross this river. It will take me more than a day. It will take all of my focus. I do not know what part of me will emerge. I do know that whatever comes back out of the water on the other side I must not only accept, but learn to live with. It must be the purest and best part of me. When I enter this river I will do the work of washing from me all that I can no longer use, all that has no meaning or purpose. No bitterness or regret must muddy my feet as I step to the cleanness of the mosses on the far bank. And I know once entered I will not come back to the me that lived in the small walled garden on the other side. So I realize much of my delay is that I wanted those dreams and part of me is afraid to say good by too.