October’s vibrant colors seep into my spirit as I take my first steps along the hillside path. The early morning sun is soft and gentle; its rays shine through the sweet blue sky opening wide above me. The weather is changing, the leaves are turning. I sense a shifting in my inner core. Autumn’s chilly fingers reach around me. Shivering, I curl my hands up into the long sleeves of my jacket. I am soaked through with the beauty of the dawning day. Pup, pulling at my side, stops to enjoy the earth’s scent. I pause though I want to move, to run, to feel my heart race as I greet the waiting morning. Pup feels my tug and he looks at me quizzically, his eyebrows arched as if to say, “What’s the big hurry? Isn’t the sniffing and meandering what it’s all about?” A great teacher, that pup. I tug him again.
Strains of one of my favorite tunes float though my head. Again, music is my muse and guide. Lyrics from the archives of the inimitable John Hiatt keep pace with my steps. “It’s been a slow turning, from the inside out, a slow turning, but you come about. A slow learning, but you learn to sway…a slow turning…not fade away…” I’ve listened to his songs since I was barely twenty. I found him through my first love. I listened to his voice and felt his wonder through my marriage, my divorce, and the recreation of my life. I’ve danced like a child to his music, sang wildly at his concerts, and walked with his storytelling songs in my ears. Though I’ve never spoken with the man, I feel as though he’s been my intimate friend through song. He sings of love, he sings of pain, he sings of life. He knows and he feels; he’s not afraid to cry out in song. His words are true. Oh, yes, life is a slow turning.
So here I am on the brink of another stunning day. I cast my eyes skyward in wonder at the turns of life. This experience, this life, is so abundant and full that I want to weep. At times it is so intense that I feel that I cannot possibly appreciate the depth and absolute richness of its moments. What life brings us in the way of opportunity—through its challenges and gifts—is absolutely incomprehensible. What good fortune to be able to walk this path, this life, and learn from it. I lift my head into a sudden, soft breeze. My long hair, still wet from my shower, tumbles over my shoulders. Pup stops again to sniff a mossy rock. A boulder a perch for my leg, I stretch forward and to the side; I feel the gentle give of the muscles against my ribs. Pup is now impatient. Copper fur shining in the warming sunlight, he pulls me to fresh, leaf-covered ground. The changing fall leaves, in their glorious autumn hues of crimson red and burnt gold, seem particularly exquisite in the gentle, early light.
As we move on, the events of the week float through my thoughts. Last night’s dinner with a group of dear friends was a perfect finale to a tempestuous series of days. I arrived a bit late, still clad in my office attire; I was quickly relieved of my precariously balanced plate of appetizers and a dessert of tempting tiramisu. Throughout the evening, I was surrounded by love and the flow of warm conversation. A fire glowed in the hearth as we shared stories and dined on delectable, love-infused fare. I felt, truly felt, the depth of love in the room. The past year had not been easy on the group of us, for–along with other challenges–we had lost a precious friend to cancer. Yet, that loss, had bound us more tightly together. This dinner was proof of that. We talked of life, of death, of journeys, and of the future. We giggled. We laughed. We listened. Our eyes misted in pain, love, and understanding. Hearts opened. Smiles glowed. We had chosen to turn our loss into deeper love. It is another stretch of life, another journey, another slow turning.
Pup and I move up the hill, and I think of how these past few months have been a time of especially profound change for me. I have purposefully and willingly opened myself to further transformation. I have chosen to walk through my challenges. I have not avoided them, but have faced them with a brave and open heart. It seems that my life has always been full of challenges and change, hurdles that both teach me and fuel me. At times an edge of weariness creeps in, but even in those times my pace—albeit slower—remains steady and true. My laughter breaks into the calm morning air at the thought of a life without challenges. It seems that I am not meant for a life of even, stable ground. Pup tugs again, this time to the right; he has more sniffing and searching to do. A red-gold leaf drifts in front of me on its gentle journey to the earth. The chatter of a squirrel in a lofty pine calls my eyes upward in to wide arms of the tree. The pale blue sky peeks at me from between the stretch of branches. It is, indeed, an exquisite day.
Walking on, my thoughts return to pondering life. I remain stymied by the meanings and the “whys” of two unexpected events that shifted my world this week. I sift through the thoughts and emotions as they arise. In part, I think I am still reeling from the suddenness and depth of the changes. They are good shifts; I know that. They are the result of slow, complex turnings. Still, I find that even the good changes take their toll. In my mind, I envision myself as a giant wooden ship that is slowly changing course. My sails are stretching and pulling from new winds, yet my stern is shifting ever so slowly. I imagine that I hear and feel the moaning, creaking, and shuddering of the wooden hull. It is a slow process, this shifting and changing. It will take its time and have its own pace. I must be patient as the new waters open before me. Patience is not my strong suite. I pull gently at Pup. He has stopped again to sniff the base of a giant boulder. I wait–somewhat impatiently.
I realize that this past week, this walk, this morning, is about letting go. I shake my head as I think of my clients. I find myself working with them so often on the skill of letting go. I am a gentle teacher in the art of how to free oneself from old thoughts, behaviors, and patterns that impede life and love. I am often a guide in the process of “letting go of that which no longer serves you and those you love.” Now, this morning, I am my own student once again. A thought hits me like a blast of self-evident lightening: This wooden-hulled ship can shift to warmer waters more readily by simply letting go. I breathe into the morning, I send off my hurts into the sky. I breathe out deeply. I cast off the illusions that have crumbled. They were in my mind. I can let them go. Bits of old fragile dreams and hopes remain, but they are lifeless despite my having breathed into them too long. It is time that I set them free. I do, and I can feel a gentle turning. I’ve other dreams to follow. As I let go, there are tears in my heart; it aches, yet I smile. Life is good. I feel myself turning from the inside out. Oh, it is hard. It is good. It is, indeed, a slow turning.
A new friend joins me on my walk. He often runs past me at an ultra-fast pace, yet today he stops to walk with me and Pup. Pup likes meeting new people, and he sniffs out their scents within seconds. Pup is a wise soul, and once satisfied he is ready to move on. We walk at an invigorating pace. We talk of life. I notice that his eyes are kind, and I smile. I discover that he works with hearts. I find it funny that today, of all days, I am walking with someone who works to help hearts in his own way. He does heart-work. It is lovely to have a break from my thoughts, to have unexpected company. The leaves rustle as we walk through them. Pup moves to the outside of the path. Pup is a bossy soul. We part ways at the end of my path, and I make the turn toward home. I savor the moment as I breathe in the sweetness of the air. I am warmed from the inside out.
The downhill curve takes me closer to my home. My thoughts return again to last night, to the gentle ending of my day. It dawns on me that I fell asleep to the breath of love. I was exhausted as my head hit the pillow, yet my brain was stumbling on old thoughts and mantras. Fear’s nimble fingers tried to creep in. I pushed them way as my thoughts touched on a dear man I’ve known since my late teens. A beautiful person, he is a gentleman in the truest and finest sense of the word. At the base of each one of his e-mails is the simple sentiment, “The answer is love.” I’ve often lingered on that phrase in his e-mails, for I believe its wisdom and truth. So, last night, as my thoughts tried to race round my head, I captured them gently. I whispered love into them, and they melted away. One particular thought returned time and again. It was a thought that brought pain and threads of anger. Again and again, I whispered to it, “Love. I wish only to send and spread love. Love.” I smile, feeling blessed to have recalled the magical, peaceful ending to last night. One could not hope for more but to fall asleep to the sound and breathe of love. It’s a slow turning that has brought me here, and I feel sure there are many turns to come. I am fortunate to have known every joyful and challenging step thus far. Life has taught me, indeed, that—particularly during the times of challenge, change, and turning–“The answer is love.”