Creatively processing our experiences

Connecting through videos, blogs, music, etc. during our international time of sheltering in place has nurtured our souls. We plan to add some content to this rich array of material in the next few weeks, with the hope that it can contribute toward your health as you stay home. Our hearts are with all who are suffering, and we first want to share this prayer from the Center for Action and Contemplation:

God, we ask that all who are affected by this virus be held in your loving care. In this time of uncertainty, help us to know what is ours to do. We know you did not cause this suffering but that you are with us in it and through it. Help us to recognize your presence in acts of kindness, in moments of silence, and in the beauty of the created world. Grant peace and protection to all of humanity for their well-being and for the benefit of the earth.

We are privileged to live in a place where we can access woods coming alive in springtime, make maple syrup, build things, start seeds, make music, and creatively process the trauma our world is in. We can also write, and find that writing is such a great way to get out what’s lurking within us. Here’s a reflection from our Supervisor for Building Trades Rock Castor, whose side job in winter is skiing:

This past February I experienced the privilege of 14 days skiing in the wonder and majesty of the Canadian Rockies. As you might imagine, it was an expansive time, taking me to those places that are far beyond words. These thoughts are an attempt to integrate that gift of solitude, motion and beauty into the everyday life here at home (no longer so “everyday” now with the specter of the coronavirus floating around our lives). Memory is a link given to us to carry the experience of yesterday into this moment and enable us to approach tomorrow with new eyes.

Our ski buddies, with a gorgeous range behind us (photo courtesy of John Lennhoff).

The last seven days of the trip, I spent much of the ski day alone. My dear friend and skiing partner had experienced a tragic event earlier in the season, finding a skier dead in a tree well while skiing in Colorado. This trauma naturally affected the energy with which he would now ski and explore some of the most challenging terrain in North America. Understandably, he leaned toward caution, skiing more familiar, safer zones. I love to explore all the wild nooks and crannies of these massive western mountains, and so we would often part ways during our day.

Initially I found myself a bit frustrated and hesitant to head out alone to some of the more isolated, unforgiving, and downright scary parts of the mountain (with names like Terminator Peak and Brown Shorts Couloir). Many of these shots required a hike of 20-30 minutes to get to the run.

As I hiked solo, I found my spirit moving from a place of acceptance (yeah, you’re going to do this alone and it’s pretty understandable) to embracing the gift of solitude. Hiking became an experience of deep immersion into breath, into beauty, into danger, into the Biggest Of Places. It was an intimate encounter with a beauty so rugged, so majestic—the soaring Canadian peaks draped in their winter glory, diffused in golden rays of light creating an ethereal glow. I carried my skis through a surreal world of wind and sculpted snow waves, cornices, and exposed granite cliffs. I became acutely aware of my own tinyness, my own fragility.

The landscape echoed a wild indifference to my wee little presence. It cared not; it just was. It was there before my little adventure; it would be there long after. In finding my place, a mysterious sense of trust and peace moved in. 

The landscape echoed a wild indifference to my wee little presence.

Above our fireplace reads a sign that says, “You are created in love by a loving creator.” This was true of little ol’ me and all the wild beauty surrounding me. Each of us has been brought forth in the love, in the beauty and wonder of this world and in this we are so connected. 

I could feel a shift in my spirit as I hiked towards the challenging chute I would soon be dropping into. The sense of foreboding and danger moved into a profound trust. Trust in the deep goodness permeating this beauty, trust in my own significance and the love in which we are all held. As I approached the rock-lined chute, I felt this trust seeping into my entire being. The adrenaline charged fear that I often feel clicking into my skis had been replaced by a calm confidence. “You’ve done this for 55 years, Rocky Boy—I’ve given you everything you need. This is yours. Trust and enjoy.”

From the first turn, I knew I was onto something special. I settled forward over my skis and moved into that effortless place of pure flow. Skiing steep, deep powder is as close as a human being can come to flying—and I was soaring, keenly present to every turn.

Gradually the pitch mellowed until I came to the long ski-out back to the lift. The incredible gift of what I had received came flooding in, the chorus of, “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads reverberating through my spirit.

I grew up in a family that was struck by Batten’s Disease. A rare genetic illness which took first the eyesight, then the strength, then the minds, and finally the lives of three of my siblings. I find myself at times overwhelmed with the gift of vision, of strength, of life—simply astounded that I am alive and able to experience something like skiing in the Canadian Rockies. I hear Van Morrison singing “Carrying a Torch.”

But this song no longer conjures up survival guilt for me.  Instead, a deep sense of joy and the privilege of being fully alive wash over. That day, as I skied through snow covered pines back to the lift, I felt the spirit of my siblings rejoicing with me. I couldn’t hold back the tears—kinda thankful for my goggles!

And so, dear friends, you might be asking how does Rocky’s wild and joyous adventure remotely connect to these rather unjoyous and dark times?

Those who know me well mostly accept that this joy is probably gonna squish out no matter what! Certainly “a good measure” has been given to me, “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6). I do wonder, however, if the threat of sickness and death presented in the form of the coronavirus, or Batten’s disease, or cancer, may make us see the wonder of our lives through a new lens. Has anybody noticed how jarring it is to see images of people touching and hugging each other, aware of the new world of social distancing we live in? Maybe we will no longer take for granted the wonderful gift of slobbering all over each other in a tearful embrace.

Our lives have been involuntarily simplified. What gifts may await us if we choose to enter in? What an opportunity to fan the flames of creativity. What woodworking project, watercolor painting, poem, or new song is calling your name? Personally, I have been longing to process this ski experience, and this morning in front of a crackling fire I’m getting it all out, grateful for the time to write and ponder. 

Our dear friend Petra reminds us regularly of the wonder and life potential in a simple seed. The time for planting and preparing the soil is here. How much life and good medicine might be found in our own backyard?

I’ll end this with a quote from Julian of Norwich, a mystic of deep vision who lived during the Black Plague, certainly one of the darker times of history. Somehow she was able to see beyond the death and darkness surrounding her to that BIG LOVE which holds us all when we are deeply shaken by life on life’s terms:

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Love and hope and light to all,

Rock

Downtown Banff, Alberta, Canada (Author is in yellow coat getting into car)

2 thoughts on “Creatively processing our experiences

  1. Rocky so well describes the indifferent beauty of nature; I find that comforting. The coronovirus reminds us about how self-absorbed we are and how small and vulnerable and why we ought to work together for each other. He faces the elemental forces on his ski run and the bric-a-brac of our typical days disappears. It’s a great moment in our lives to re-think what is important. Thank you, Rock.

    1. lagomlanding_o2ae4s April 5, 2020 — 9:19 pm

      Thank YOU, Mel, for taking the time to read and thoughtfully reply! Best wishes to you and all your loved ones for health and safety and all the good learning this time has to teach us!

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