Safe from the bears of life

A supreme challenge awaits me.

Question: How do I wrap up the glorious threads of one adventure before continuing a new one? And how do I do that in an hour before my next flight.

Whoever you are, you beautiful person taking time out of your day to read my blog, you may know me as the boy who is living in a remote mountain village in northern New Mexico and working at an experimental, organic farm. Well, a revision is in order because life develops and I try my best to follow along.

So I have held off of blogging because so much was changing so quickly that honestly the only thing I would have been able to post would’ve been a muddle of delightfully frightful ambiguity. That, in and of itself, would have been instructive because I have found that often I suffer from the malady called “wow-why-do-I-suck-at-life” in which I think everyone around me has it all together and I am the only one who doesn’t know what the heck is going on. WHAT A LIE. In humility, I am learning that it takes courage and meekness to admit, “Hey, I feel like a neat little mess right now, and furthermore, that’s quite alright.” Learning is sometimes a messy contact sport.

In part of recent history, my emotions have felt more akin to a bowl of scrambled eggs than a sturdy, elegant desk-sized replica of the Eiffel Tower. A few weeks ago I was offered a new job. I almost knew right off that bat that I should take it. Did I want to, however? HELL NO. I had become so adoringly comfortable with my rural farm-life situation. Up at 5:30. Work outside all day. Eat great food. Work with incredible, strong individuals. Get home. Run on empty, abandoned mountain trails, inhabited by the likes of critters such as coyotes, elk, and deer. Make dinner with my two dear friends. Then drop into bed, an exhausted, smiling lump– around 9:30. Repeat. 

I didn’t think about what to wear. I lost interest in how I looked. I rose before the sun and set only a few hours after it did. It was a deliciously natural rhythm in which I often found myself thinking, “This just makes sense.” We ate seasonally (and vegan). My hands turned cracked and dry from daily ablutions in fresh compost. My face browned. I forgot to shave. I was experiencing a very de-materialized existence. Everyday was one gentle revelation from nature after the next.

And I admit, I romanticize the experience. Or rather, I really do dwell on all the utterly beautiful bits, of which there were many. However it was not all fun and games, and with retrospect, I also wouldn’t take any of it back.

I was the only one my age I ever interacted with and for the first time I expressed a profound (and sometimes desperately obsessed) gratitude for the wonders of social networking. Thank you, Facebook, for keeping me connected. Could I have done without it? I’m sure. But I will say that, now judge me if you want, that my ability to stalk my friends and experience their college things were a lifeline to what felt like a life that felt very far away. The life I was living was so far from what college held. It was, shall we say, real life. I had a job. I had expenses, responsibilities, and no one was telling me what to do. I can speak from experience that freedom includes having a buttload of responsibility. But I am learning that this doesn’t have to be a hideous, fearful burden.

Not saying that it didn’t feel that way sometimes. Like I said, I took this new job in heading up corporate sponsorship and partnership with an amazing, dynamic company building and promoting democracy in the workplace worldwide. I knew it was the right thing, but I was afraid of what might change. I felt very resistant to letting life unfold.

Soon it became clear that in order to do this new job well, I would need to move. Again. Not gonna lie, I cried. More than once. It’s hard to finally settle into a situation that feels like it so fully supports your growth and soul and then realize that that exact configuration is not meant to be forever. It was kind of like being dumped. “But I thought we were in love!!” I was upset. And scared about how to figure out the next step.

I had a less than $3,000 in my bank account and needed to move to a more urban area in order to be available to build relationships with other companies. How the HECK was I supposed to move and live somewhere else with the limited funds I had? BAHHH! I prayed a lot, listened a lot. What else could I do?  Slowly, it dawned on me that though the scene of life changes–people come and go, environments flicker into focus and then vanish, you get a new haircut, you enter a relationship, you leave one– the essentials are unchangeable. Was my worth going to vanish? Was my ability to be good and to do good going to evaporate? Was I going to be any less of me because my surroundings changed? No, but it was hard to see. I tied my happiness so tightly around the package it came in that I forgot that life inherently includes everything good, and therefore it was available to be had wherever I went. Ok, feeling a little calmer.

Then Cebastien mentioned Craigslist. Not gonna lie, sketched me out for a moment. She mentioned I list skills that I have that I can use in exchange for rent. Hmm. It did click. I felt it was a lead. The next day I went on Craigslist wondering how, oh, how I was going to write this ad for a work-living barter exchange. But Cebastien had done it once as a nanny so I thought, well if she could do it, so can I.

So I looked at nannies in the Bay Area (it was ideal to move back to the Bay because there were a lot of companies there who fit the bill of what we look for in sponsors and partners) just to compare and contrast. Who were these people anyway? Most of them, lord above, spoke three languages and had 20 years of experience. Hmmm. Not me! Crap. I was getting frustrated. Then I looked at the last listing on the page.

It was asking for–oh my, could it be?–childcare in afternoons and some evenings in exchange for living space in a private studio. And it was in San Francisco. Ummmm, what? I did a double take. And to make things more convincing, the last line included that the ideal someone would be a French speaker. Check: just studied there last spring. A little internal voice whispered in my ear: “This is it.” Yes it was. I was confident in that.

To speed things up, at the end of November I am moving into my new digs in San Francisco with a very, very sweet family with two amazing, bright, fun little ones (6 & 10). I got the Skype them the other night and it was awesome. 

Ok, can we back up please? Remember the part I wrote about feeling like a bowl of scrambled eggs? Look at how things turned out just around the bend. Was there honestly a reason to feel so freaked out? It sure seemed like it while the unknown still held a morbid fascination. I have learned so much about the simple principles of life. Here is one: do what is in front of you, whatever it is, the very, very best you can. Be grateful, gracious, pleasant, true. Listen to your intuition, even if the direction that comes to you is not intuitive (like taking a job that asks you to move again even when you think you have no idea how to pay for something like that). Clearly, everything was fine. More than fine, really. It was perfect. I LOVE San Francisco. And kids!! Be obedient to that little internal voice; we all have it. Trust, and follow. You. Will. Be. Fine. Utterly cared for. I was and am.

So about the title of this post (I promise it fits in with everything). It goes back to an experience I had a few weeks ago. It begins with a gristly murder scene.

It’s night and I am over at Cebastien’s parent’s house. We get a call; we are needed down the road at Cebastien’s sister’s place. One of the chickens, Chocolate, has been eaten.

It’s–of course–a dark and blustery night. We don hoodies and flashlights. We drive down the dirt road with not a streetlamp around for miles in every direction. We get to the scene of the crime, park the car, and flash on our brights so we can examine the situation.

The chicken coop has been invaded. Chocolate’s parts are scattered haphazardly over the surface of the straw, and her head is intact, eyes wide, blank, and yellow. She had been the mother and had sacrificed herself for the sake of her children when the bear reached into the coop, blindly snatching for something, anything, to eat. We tell ourselves it was a valiant struggle in order to justify the carnage that occurred in our own backyard. There was nothing we could do, but Chocolate did go down swinging.

After moments of deliberation, we decided we needed to move the chickens; the bear hadn’t fully devoured Chocolate because the dog had barked it off. Half a chicken is not enough to satiate a young bear preparing to hibernate so he’d be back. We decided to move the chickens into the work shop.

Cebastien’s sister went into the chicken house and shut the door. We lined up quietly, waiting to be handed a chicken. The wind blew and bits of straw swirled in the bleak light of our van’s mighty brights. The door opened and Cebastien was handed a sleepy chicken, who clucked quietly, in mild concern. She walked off in the direction of the workshop and into the night. I could hear her softly singing hymns to the chicken.

It was my turn. The door of the coop opened and I was handed a chicken. With one hand firmly clamping  her wings down and the other holding her feet together, I cradled her and walked off into the night. She was very warm and light. In the dim light I could see her looking around and making sweet little chicken noises. I whispered that everything was fine; we were just going to live in a new place for a little while. It would be an adventure, and everything would be fine. She was safe.

We repeated the process for the whole coop full of chickens, one by one, holding each one and soothing it with promises of peace. Soon, each chicken had been transferred to his or her new milieu. We spread some straw on the floor and in no time they were already shuffling through it, searching for wayward bugs and grain remnants. All was well. We went to work thinking about where to house them next. But for tonight, every chicken would be safe.

It occurred to me, as I thought about this experience, that we are like chickens, too. Despite how we think we may be interpreting a situation, is it more true that we are being held firmly, securely, and moved in safety to a new experience? Though the chickens may have been confused, scared, and flustered, we knew they were fine and eventually they knew it too– though they may not have known how it happened. Regardless, they were safe and sound. 

How often are we painlessly delivered through an experience we think has the potential to ruin or harm us? And then do we realize the danger’s over? How often do we think we are running into bears when we are actually being held and whispered promises of sanctuary to? I would say that this has the potential to sound like fluffy, feel-good BS if I didn’t have the empirical experience that tells me that unerring guidance outside of ourselves has proved itself to be true again and again for me. This is one of the biggest lessons I bring with me into this next phase of life.

I am learning, slowly, sometimes very timidly and in worried tears, that again though the scene changes, we are safe. Our status as chickens in life’s safe hands does not change, even if we need to move, follow a new job, find ourselves in a new relationship or watch one slip way. I take this evidence of impeccable guidance with me, knowing that though my “job description” is changing and that I will no longer be landscaping to control erosion and restore natural habitat, harvesting winter squash, or sweeping virus inoculated straw into garbage bags, I will still continue to be placed, safely, where I can grow, learn, receive, and give. A lot. So in a calm way, I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I know exactly what’s going to happen. I however want to be more awake to the guidance that moves me through these things we have labeled transitions. Or aren’t they rather more like newly discovered chords in the most ancient, harmonious, eternal round there ever was and will be? We have opportunities daily to test this and see for ourselves.

So, in conclusion I can confidently say that I think that we are indeed safe from the bears of life, at and during every stage of our experience. I am learning that I am not in the driver’s seat in my life, and moreover, I am also seeing that I also don’t really want to be. It’s much more enlightening, inspiring, nourishing, to be carried, though the humility it takes for me to see and trust this sometimes feels as if it will break me. But damnit, I keep coming back for more. Life’s a lesson in yielding, as much as I am tempted everyday to ambitiously strive for something– often because everyone else seems to be doing it.

Additionally, I failed; I am finishing this post in Missouri, though the first half came into being in Texas. But hey, there’s a right time for everything. Though this is not rugged northern New Mexico anymore, the current scene has a beauty of it’s own. At the very least, it’s the promise that there’s infinite amount more of good to be had.

And I’m ready for it.

 

 

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