Monday, February 8, 2010
This picture was taken on the last day of my Ph.D. seminar up in northern Cali.
There's a bit of a story behind it, if you can't already tell.
So, here's what happened.
I was a bit drained after non-stop classes and interactions and demands on my attention. I'm discovering that I'm quite accustomed to the comparatively large quantities of quiet time and alone time that I enjoy on a daily basis. When I'm surrounded by people and teachers and things I must be doing and places I must be going, I don't mind it in the moment, but eventually I get overloaded.
Such was this particular day.
The time was about 1:00pm, and I arrived in the large assembly room early. Our presenter was already there, and I helped her to arrange chairs and set out art supplies - this particular class was going to be on creativity and expression through body movement and art work. On a good day, this means amazing things that I can take into my coaching practice. On a bad day, it means we have to dance around the room like goons and draw pictures.
(this was a bad day, needless to say)
So I eventually sat down, close to the door, as people started filing in. A couple of my friends had skipped this talk, telling me about how, last seminar, this woman yelled at people who stood on the edges, refusing to dance. Usually things like this are only participatory. Yikes. I'd missed it last time because of a nasty flu (yuck), but I wanted, at least, to see what all the fuss was about.
So I opened my journal to kill time and waited for things to begin.
More people came in and found chairs and the instructor passed me for a final run to the ladies room before the hours-long presentation.
Go, I heard.
Now, it's not like I heard a voice speaking in my head, schizophrenic-style (although that does occasionally occur in a really good meditation or something like that).
In this case, I just had this overpowering feeling flit through me to get the heck away.
So, I figured that this was my lazy or naysayer pieces, and I decided to treat them as a threshold guardian (a piece of the hero's journey that tests your commitment to your path of growth/learning/experience/whatever your path is), trusting that if I waited for awhile I'd have a great time.
And before I knew what was happening, I was out the door and halfway across the Presentation Center grounds, towards my cabin.
(so much for beating the threshold guardian...)
So, I entered my cabin and flopped my books down, unsure of what to do now, but sure that I was in a funk!
I decided to go on a walk down the nature trail that hugged the side of the mountain. Enormous, serene trees, soft bird calls, new bright green spring growth, perfect.
So I passed the sign, warning travelers of snakes and coyotes and bears and wild pigs and poison ivy and such, glancing at it but not really concerned because I've hiked this trail loads of times, when I heard it.
A very strange sounding animal call.
Heavy, growly breathing.
I couldn't see ahead - the lovely new spring growth was impossible to look through...
All I could think was wild pigs.
So I turned around and trotted back up the hill, away from the nature path.
(was a wild pig there? We'll never know. But that sure wasn't a squirrel, that I'm positive of...)
And now in an even greater funk, feeling thwarted at every angle, I said a little prayer asking for guidance and direction as to what I ought to spend the next couple of hours doing.
Just at that moment, I was passing the Presentation Center's greenhouse. In it, I could see a tall woman with white hair working. It was probably one of the nuns who keep the grounds (a small convent keeps the Presentation Center up and running).
Before I had time to second-guess myself (much), I was at the door of the greenhouse, saying hello and asking if she needed any help with anything.
Sister Paula and I spent the next hour and a half digging up a venerable decade old spider plant that had completely taken up one of the greenhouse table beds. The real tools were in a basement across the grounds, so we used two old spoons, a repurposed meat cleaver (AWESOME), and every now and then, a huge shovel, holding it close to the bottom, careful to not break the ceiling with the long handle.
The spider plant would not come out without a fight, and I swung that meat cleaver with the force of all my overstimulated aggression behind it. We rolled up the root mass, bit by bit, which covered the entire bottom layer of the bed, and chopped and shook and squeezed until the soil was all free, and tangles upon tangles of spider plant lay in a heap outside the door.
I haven't had that much dirt under my fingernails in at LEAST a decade, maybe two.
It was amaaaaaaaaaazing.
So, in closing, keep you mind open and follow your gut. You may just be like me and decide to take up gardening out of it! We'll have some home grown basil this year, that's for sure!
(I like to start small.)
We lay there and looked up at the night sky and she told me about stars called blue squares and red swirls and I told her I'd never heard of them. Of course not, she said, the really important stuff they never tell you. You have to imagine it on your own.
— Brian Andreas