Planning a trip to a familiar part of the world is always a challenge for me. Do I return to places I have seen before, places I have loved for their beauty or their power or their mystery? Or do I seek out new places, new perspectives, new opportunities to fall in love, new experiences to surprise or unsettle or enfold me? As each journey evolves, it usually ends up being a blend of both – some revisits and some totally new vistas or buildings or historic landscapes. But the balance and the specifics are not always intentional. There is always a question about how much we want to plan and how much we want to leave to chance…and some of that depends on which of us is being asked.
I lean toward the ‘pre-planning’ end of the continuum, my husband toward the ‘chance’ end. This can be a perfect blend or a perfect storm depending on how jet-lagged we are, or how tired of living out of suitcases.
Since our sabbaticals always involve house swaps, some of this is determined by the families who want to exchange their homes in wherever for the opportunity to come to Denver. We try to be very open in the early days of the process, allowing the tilt of the universe at the moment to determine some of our direction. As things start to gel, though, it is harder to remain completely in the moment, or to go with the flow. For instance, we were all set to spend a month in Brittany only to have the family withdraw. My dream of seeing the megalithic tombs and monuments to be found in that part of France, and making a long-desired visit to Gavrinis, had to be set aside. The balance of new to familiar shifted out of our control; a ‘never-before’ experience came off the schedule and well-known locales went back on.
So, these first two weeks have become all about revisiting. However, the grace of writing about this journey in a more public forum has nudged me to pay attention to visiting and revisiting with a more focused heart and more intentional mind. Therefore, when we revisited Wells and Glastonbury two days ago – each for a third or fourth time – I awakened to the reality that a revisit can be as fresh an experience as a first visit – if you pay attention to both the internal and the external event.
As we were driving to Glastonbury, I found myself thinking back to my first sight of the Chalice Well. I remember a different anticipation approaching it. I was aware of a different resonance to the energy that permeates that geographic node where ley lines cross and miraculous water emerges from under the Tor. Obviously, my 45-year-old spirit was in a different place than my 60+-year-old spirit; I was in a different stage of life.
The last time I was in Glastonbury (four years ago), my expectations were also different. In 2011, I was eager to re-experience the emotions and energy of my first visit, and I anticipated feeling what I had felt in 1997. I was (unpleasantly) surprised to discover the well had been reconfigured in the intervening decade and a half. It was now beautifully landscaped, and set aside behind a stone wall as a place of reflection rather than the wild and chaotic environment of my first visit. I left that day disappointed and upset. Two days ago, I tried to set aside any preconceived notions of what I might feel; I tried to let go of the expectation that I should be transformed in some noticeable way every time I enter a sacred site…and that I should be able to reflect on that instantly or I am not making the most of the opportunity.
I believe I am discovering that ‘revisiting’ is a little like being married for a long time, or being with a friend who has known you for years. The person you married, the friend you have cherished and celebrated, is not the same from day to day or week to week, or decade to decade. But we often behave as if they should be. The fiercely idealistic partner with whom you exchanged vows may have matured (years ago) into a wiser and more compassionate person, able to see and appreciate shades of grey they could never have admitted existed in their 20s. (Personally, I call that my Joan-of-Arc phase. I was willing to go to the stake for the principle of the thing – whatever the thing was.) Have we noticed? Or do we still respond to them as if they are now as critical or judgmental as they once were?
How open are we to revisiting our beliefs about our family (parents, children, siblings), our friends, our colleagues, our enemies, ourselves?
Do we awaken – maybe not every day, but at least once in awhile – and wonder what surprises may be in store in the most ordinary of days? Or do we project our past so fully onto our present that we cannot have a new experience, only the old ones over and over?
When I stopped expecting the Chalice Well to be frozen like a bee in amber, I was able to rejoice in what I found two days ago and what I felt in that moment. Yes, I still cherish my memories of the whimsical and haphazard Well I first experienced almost 20 years ago, but I also cherish the new place and the new feeling that comes when the present woman I am meets the present geography of the Well. After all, we have both changed. And the layers of life add a rich depth of nuance to the blessing of being here, now.
I invite you to join me this week in paying attention to one familiar person or place or task or experience…and paying attention to the fact that it is a living entity, constantly changing. I invite you to notice and celebrate the change.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2015, 2011 Immram Chara, LLC