Last week, Chris and I took a walkabout to Colorado. We got in the car loaded with unlikely gear, a few maps, and no set destination. It was just what we needed – this spontaneous adventure. I am turning 50 next year and sometimes I find myself thinking that there’s perhaps something I can’t or shouldn’t do. Does one do “this” at 50? The pain I’m having in my elbows lately – that’s 50. The graft for gum recession – definitely 50. But sleeping in a tent, hiking all day, eating PB&Js, then staying up late staring at the stars and riding an inner journey – that doesn’t feel so 50.
It’s just a number; it’s actually all about how you feel, right? One of those sayings that is easy to believe when you’re ten years away from it. But here I am, knocking on the half century door and it’s harder to believe from here. I’d hoped that by now death wouldn’t be so scary. Or that I’d have a handle on my kids’ growing up and moving away. By now, I’d be thumbing my nose at age. Not so.
And so last week when I was up in a meadow at 11,500 feet above sea level, I was struck by abundance. If you hang out much in the world of spiritual seekers, this word will pop up – sometimes annoyingly so. My midwestern pragmatist roots have a hard time with “abundance.” Part of me wishes I could embrace this way of thinking – it will all come! – but the granddaughter of a farmer whose father lost his farm in the Depression only to have the son earn it all back and lose it in the farm crisis – I am too often focused on dearth – the money I don’t have, the trip I’m not able to take, the house repair that is just around the bend, the medical procedure that might be necessary. I am definitely grateful, but I manage to hold gratefulness and this profound fear about lack in my palm at the same time. One reigns during the day, the other inhabits my 3AM mind – that mind of clouded thinking when everything seems just almost wrong.
In the meadow – which was vast, stretching in one direction to the Medicine Bow mountain range and in the other to the Snowy Range – I sat and took in the wild flowers. I could identify scarlet Indian paintbrushes, plum lupines – much daintier than the ones I’d seen in meadows in Maine, and then there were small purple daisies, a lemony sunburst of a flower, a white fuzz of a flower. So many! And these were just the ones in bloom. They were interspersed with the carcasses of the recently deceased – a kind of lily that was now but a hard green pod filled with seeds and some kind of long clover that the bees were still trying to suckle despite being a week or two away from its height.
The flowers were a blanket dotted with rocks. An impossible array of shapes, sizes, and hues. Right next to each other were flat gray slabs; ropy, rosy blobs; and sparkling white castles. How could so many different boulders, stones, and pebbles have been pushed up from the earth in one place, as though God were starting a rock shop right here in this meadow?
And the clouds. As much as my attention was on the ground it was also skyward. Fat cumulus clouds took on the shape of a pig’s rear end – an elephant’s profile – a mittened hand. Higher up, cirrus clouds pulled themselves apart like cotton candy.
This meadow, so quiet and yet so overcome with activity, so eternal and yet ever changing, was a reminder to me of my constant becoming. The fears that are now present are relatively accessible because I have faithfully, mindfully worked to clear the internal woods. Once there was so much brush, so many heaps of pebbles, so many tangles of vines and bramble that a particular fear didn’t have a chance of being keenly felt. Or if it was felt it was so confusing as to disrupt the entire system, whereas now there is a much sparer field in which I can relatively easily identify that which terrifies me. Hard as it is – it is better to see the monster clearly than to continue to approach it as a mysterious force hidden from view.
Abundance was one lesson of our walk about, the other was the beauty of one’s own backyard. We searched one day for a suitable place to spend a few hours in meditation only to end up several hundred yards behind where we were camped. That same evening, we got in the car intending to seek a vantage point for watching the sun set, only to drive less than 45 seconds and realize that just around the bend was the perfect spot. Simultaneously, a friend back in Iowa who has been searching for a place to which to move his business found a spot literally around the corner from his old office; this after weeks of heart-wrenching searching.
Right here. Right now. You have enough. You are enough. So simple. I know this and yet I clearly do not know it. It took 11+ hours of driving, high altitude, and some sleepless nights on an air mattress for me to remember again – eternal, infinite, whole.