The promise of spring

It is a time of transition. I can feel it. Today is the vernal equinox, and my entire being can sense that spring is here. I put a strap on my guitar and stood outside on my porch and sang with the siskins, juncos, crossbills, and chickadees, pausing periodically to toss a tennis ball for my fetch-obsessed Labrador,  turn my face to the sky, and feel the warmth of the sun on my cheeks.

Light has returned to southeast Alaska. My home fills with sunshine and warmth, my cats bask in the heat, my Labrador hides in the coolest corners he can find, and I can feel my weary spirit beginning to lift. Would that I were a bird and could be lifted by the thermals in the sky on cloudless days such as today.

This winter was bumpier than I anticipated, and I can still feel the weight of the darkness, the inner emotional roller coaster I set upon, my inner self critic nagging and finger wagging at me to give in to sorrow. Yet, I am still here. I can choose to embrace the dark with the light, to understand the imbalance of these elements in order to find balance once again. It is time to set my inner critic aside for a time-out, to at least find a way to temporarily discard the shadow and find pause for a respite from the rocking waves and storm clouds overhead.

I went for a walk on the road beyond the airstrip, in search of birds but mainly seeking a break from the non-stop chattering of my mind. This spring, I am continuing an effort to learn mindfulness and incorporate daily meditation into my life. It is a challenge for me, and I am realizing just how impatient I am, as well as how overly active my mind is. My word, that organ is noisy!

I am comforted by the following lines from a book I have been studying Mindfulness in plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, which inform me that I am far from alone in the struggle to quiet my “monkey mind”.

“Somewhere in this process you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering, madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and helpless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way, and you just never noticed.” (p. 75)

The solution is to begin by focusing on each inhalation and exhalation of breath, the sensation of the air on your nostrils. Each time my monkey madhouse mind moves in, I return to each individual breath…again, and again, and again. In this way, I am learning to embrace a behavior my ex called “changing the tape”. I am changing my self – my sense of self worth, the musings of my inner critic, and so on.

So while on my walk, when I noticed what I imagined were simply autumn leaves dangling from the branch of a tree as I turned to retrace my steps through the snow but upon closer inspection materialized into a skeleton of a raptor, I felt as though the earth were speaking to me on this day of transition. I gingerly lifted the feathery bones, strapped them with infinite care onto the outside of my backpack, and began walking along the road. Each time I noticed the shape of a talon as part of my shadow on the snow, I envisioned myself floating above the road. Each time my monkey mind insisted on barging in, I spoke of myself the bird, taking flight, leaving the earth behind.

I paused briefly, took a deep breath, and let out a primordial scream at the top of my lungs. Walking once more, I continued with lighter step until I reached my car, where I left one world for another, bird bones the only tangible reminder of life and change and the promise of spring.

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