My apologies for the broken link in my last blog mailing. There was an error in copying the URL.
Six days ago, I set out from Denver by car to visit my daughter in St Paul. Our schedules have been such that we have not seen one another in person for several months and some daughter-mother time was imperative. Driving alone for long distances is restorative for me; the silence is deep and renewing. Sometimes it can be just what I need to allow a conundrum to unfold at its own pace, shaping and reshaping itself until, suddenly, a fruitful perspective emerges. Sometimes I have the opportunity to face into nameless fears until I am gifted with the knowledge of what it haunting me, and can make peace with it. Driving long miles by myself is a form of mini-silent-retreat…and I love it.
The second day on the road, about 10 miles out of Omaha, the clouds began to gather rapidly and within another 5 miles I was driving in a wet-out. This was not mist, it was not light rain, not even heavy rain — this was drenching, pouring, sheeting rain. The windshield wipers could not keep up. Every driver on the I-80 at 6:35 am put on their brakes, slowed to less than 50 mph, and turned on their lights — trucks, passenger cars, small business vans — everyone realized we needed to be careful. After another 5 miles of this, I arrived at an exit and pulled off the highway into a gas station-convenience store. I bolted in and asked if anyone knew about the weather. A young woman looked at me, looked out the window and (I’m guessing) wondered if she should call for help since any sane human could see that it was pouring — what more did I need to know? I smiled and dripped on her floor and said, “I’m just trying to figure out whether I should wait this out. Is this storm moving through soon?”
“Nope,” she said. “This is it all day: rain, thunderstorms, more rain.”
I bolted back to the car…and sat there getting the seat wet, watching the rain pour over the car like the gods had upended a universe-sized bucket. Choice: do I give up a whole day with my daughter, drive to some hotel (which meant getting on the road at least as far as the next exit because this one had only the gas station and convenience store), spend the night, and be safe? Or do I push through, knowing the road wasn’t safe, the weather wasn’t safe to be driving in, that even if I and every other driver remained vigilant, accidents happen? It wasn’t even close to a toss-up: I rebuckled my seat-belt and headed for St Paul. Ninety white-knuckle miles later — which meant almost two hours at the reduced speeds required (and one plunge out of the car into a rest stop to stretch and breathe) — I finally drove out of the worst of it into normal rain and then (eventually) into sun shortly after the Minnesota border.
Once I could concentrate on something other than driving safely on slick, high-speed roads, I began to ponder the storm and the choice about safety vs. imperative as a metaphor for the spiritual life. How many times have I wisely chosen to wait out the rain, putting my head down, distracting myself with a good book, refusing to get wet, until eventually it receded? And how many times have I had the courage and wisdom (or foolhardiness, depending on the circumstance and your perspective) to realize that this time I needed to keep going? That waiting it out wasn’t really a choice? [My father has a magnet on his refrigerator that has been there since shortly after my mother died from ovarian cancer. It says, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” Sometimes keeping on keeping on is the only real option.]
And how do we know which storms are which? How do we discern which wisdom is the wisdom we need to tap into?
I don’t know about you, but my own experience is that I don’t know. Not for sure. Sometimes I feel clearer and more certain than other times, but I have plenty of memories of staggering through gale-force wind, rain, blizzard, drought, or internal earthquake before I finally caught on that this one could have been sat through some place warm and dry and, in fact, if I am willing to stop struggling and do that, it will pass. And other memories of waiting comfortable and well-nourished for months before the urgency finally got strong enough: Get your boots on and gird your loins, woman! This one is going to test your stamina, but waiting isn’t an option.
I invite you to spend some time this week, sorting through some of your own memories, and the patterns that are productive and those that are not, and your preferential tilt toward action or inaction, and how you find the center necessary to go against your preferred mode when that is what is needed.
* What is the feeling of the wisdom that finally alerts you that waiting out an internal shift is the wisest course? What are the physical sensations attached to that wisdom? How does it taste, smell, sound? What is its texture and weight?
* What is the flavor of the stamina you need to wait through the desire to do something, anything?
* Are you someone who waits comfortably? Someone who would prefer to wait (even when waiting is not the best choice)?
* How do you feel when you choose to push through an internal storm? What is the energy you need for that? Where does that energy arise internally? Are there external sources (people, physical preparations, books) that you turn to for support?
* Are you someone who tends to prefer action to waiting? Do you err on the side of staggering around in a blizzard unable to see your hand in front of your face, to the anxiety of sitting still?
Not every storm is the same. Some require hunkering down (however urgent the desire to ‘get it over with’) and others require going through (however reluctant we are to step into them.) Part of the growing, evolving wisdom of Lughnasadh is becoming more confident about which is which and having the steadiness of character to do what we need to, rather than what our personal preference might be.
I offer this prayer in the Gaelic tradition that came to me as I drove through my recent (external) storm. Perhaps it will speak to you in this moment, or in a time to come when you are facing a storm.
Be around me cloak of presence.
Be within me spirit of stamina.
Be before me pillar of light and darkness.
Be behind me breath of momentum.
Be beneath me stability of earth.
Be above me vision of hope.
Be heart of wisdom in my heart.
Be soul of power in my soul.
Be mind of balance in my mind.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2011, Immram Chara, LLC
NOTE: Both photos are available this season as cards or prints from my Etsy Shop.