ISSUE #16: Waking Up Amidst Nature
How will it be for long-time city dwellers, who are also novices at retreats to wake up surrounded by nature for twelve days straight?
We had the great fortune to indulge in our mentor’s generous offer to stay at her vacation home that’s quietly tucked in the woods over the last fortnight. It was a self-declared retreat for ourselves before Daryl begins his semester, and we wanted to experience what daily life would be like living amidst nature. Ambitiously, we packed our books and prepared to head there to read and write.
This issue, we’re excited to share with you reflections of our experiences, along with some (blurry) pictures of the friends we made.
Poem // Eden
Poem // Innocent
Article // When Life Happened // by Daryl
Article // WILD // by Rosslyn
There’s no “Food for Thought” section in this issue, but an invitation to you to soak in nature with us. Wherever you are, if you could pause for a few minutes to allow your attention to land on a tree or a bird, and let it impress itself upon you. What might it say to you? What might it awake in you?
We truly hope you’ll enjoy what we bring you this week.
Rosslyn & Daryl
POETRY // by Rosslyn
Love arrives—a small mass
plumped with spunk, black
on white and walnut, landing lightly
on a branch—and departs—
buffeted by the winds, it spreads
its wings, fans its tail, and leaps.
Too soon, but love has left
my garden full.
Coal cruces circling—is death
looming?—is there an animal
dying?—all they are doing:
sunning their wings.
—the turkey vultures
ARTICLE // by Daryl
When Life Happened
Where were you when the blood orange hue was just a sliver running parallel to the horizon, moments marking Nyx’s gentle retreat while Chronos awaits, in patient abeyance, to herald Helios riding his chariot, a brilliant pearl rising to its zenith in the firmament?
Where were you when the imperious swans swooped in, honking their intent to enjoy the bay as though it were their sovereign right? And, as if in recognition of that right, the deferent geese vacated the space in a frantic flurry of wings.
Where were you when the eagle, atop its perch, surveyed its fiefdom with steely eyes, disinterested in its subjects’ childish pretense to royalty? Where were you when it spread its wings in full magnificence as it prepared to soar, demonstrating what kingly stature truly is?
Finally, where were you when the turkey vultures, nature’s servants, prioritized and tended to themselves first by stretching out to receive Helios’ blessing, and, so doing, displayed the gorgeous ivory feathers that stood in sharp relief to their ebony coats?
Where were you when Life happened?
I was there, standing on the balcony, savouring the wintry chill as it washed over my skin and into my lungs. Life rushed through my entire being, rejuvenating a body enervated from city living.
I was there, sitting behind my wife as she tinkered on the piano once more. I strove to be as present as I possibly could to sear into my memory the moment when Life revivified her heart, wearied from constant fear, so she could muster the courage once again to indulge in music—her first love—with wild abandon.
I was also there, sitting across her at the table while she put pen to paper to craft the most poetic verses of the surrounding Life, which inspired her creative expression to the greatest degree.
And as she leaned in to free expression, I was there, when Life also enabled me to fully open my heart so I could feel into the love I had for her ever more completely and unreservedly, to realize my heart was bursting with joy at the sight of Rosslyn being in her element. I thought I was going to die because I almost could not contain all that joy.
Finally, I was there, when Nyx glided back, bringing with her the cosmic theater of the heavenly bodies. While contemplating the Life of the world, I closed my eyes and listened to the echoing heartbeat of the universe: even though I’m insignificant in the cosmic scheme of things, the universe is alive in this very moment because of me.
Ad astra, ad me.
ARTICLE // by Rosslyn
EMOTIONAL REPORT (Jan 28, 2021)
Organ examined: Heart
Symptoms: Sadness, heaviness, longing, choking
Potential cause: Loss
Diagnosis: Her organ has been burdened with grief.
Patient reports waking up in a concrete jungle this morning, the place she lived in for the past year seemed foreign to her. The things in her room remain intact. Other than the thin layer of dust that has settled on them, nothing has changed; her mind, still lucid and sane.
It’s a chilly day, very, for her delicate constitution. The heater’s running, the sun’s out, stretching his rays towards her windows, yet they could only warm her skin, not her flesh nor bones, much less her heart.
Patient complains of a desire to cry but with no tears forthcoming, she claims her heart was aching and weeping.
Nothing’s changed, not without, at least, but within. My heart, after having been coddled by the warmth from wonder, misses my friends at the house that nestles in the secluded woods by the bay. I did not wake up today dreading life; I woke up, missing life, the life I’ve been acquainted with in the past two weeks. I thought I’ll be ready, well-rested, raring to go, after bidding my farewells yesterday. Still a stranger to my soul, I guess, not fully grasping the impact of the retreat.
Hailing from a city of skyscrapers, I had thought nature would be my passing fancy. How lovely and lucky to be proven wrong. I imagined going away to flee from the world, instead, reality showed up—I went to be with a world, the world I have long been pining for but wasn’t aware of.
The stars weren’t merely stars; I met Sirius, the brightest. The sun wasn’t the sun; the sun was Sol. The tall, lean trees; sycamore. The waterfowl; surf scoters, buffleheads, and mute swans. The little birds; eastern bluebirds, cardinals, and sparrows. There were bald eagles and turkey vultures too. I distinguished them and learned their names, I opened my heart and they impressed themselves upon my soul. Together, we were a teeming cosmos of life held within Heaven and Earth, whole.
I experienced my wholeness and belonging in ways I believed but had not known I could. Open and energised, soft and tender, I was glowing, apparent from my cheeks and through my writings. I awoke to my nature and my love for life and wonder. I came alive in a place filled with natural, not societal, life. I think of Mary Oliver, Rilke, Wordsworth, and Thoreau, their solitary lives surrounded by nature, and insolently ask to join their ranks.
Some days, I rose with Sol as it emerged from the horizon, parting the eastern sky and sea; others, I rose to the birds’ chorus or the swans’ honking. And finally, I rose in my own body.
So, how was I waking up with, to, and in nature?
I was wild*.
Alive in my natural state, not needing or trying to be anyone or anything, just being. As the scoters paddled, dove, fed, and rested; I sat, wrote, ate, and slept. Minimal doing, I did what was essential to my living. And in being, I accomplished more. My contemplations were deeper than usual, given my felt space and time were more expansive. Dwelling in nature calmed and regulated my nervous system, allowing me to come into a resting state of being, thus getting more in touch with myself.
I heeded my body, listened to my heart, and my mind began to quiet. I experienced my presence, my love, and my fecundity in relating and writing. Untamed, I didn’t struggle to get in line. Internally, I was aligned.
*Wild (adj.): living in a state of nature and not ordinarily tame or domesticated
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