Being Humbled


Of late,  I am left dumbfounded by how the daysandmoments have begun to hurry on. It is humbling and somewhat eerie to think back on all that has passed; to calculate – to reckon – thus to find it has been years. Thereby to feel a dizziness akin to a subtly tilted Earth.

Yet still, there is no moment but this. To this I try to bring my keenest awareness that I may be consciously, deeply grateful; for if I were to inhabit any other, odds would be very good indeed that I might feel very bad indeed.

In the moments I still spend in shade, I can look back with greater poise at the dappled nature of the path trodden to this largely light-filled place. I know that being able to navigate through the darkest reaches prepared me all the more to dwell in grace and gratitude that my life is no longer such.

And I feel the falling of all that I have known to be true, reeling away into the infinite. I seek the smaller and simpler truths that are born in each moment I inhabit; that my understanding be made new along with each tick of the clock. To recall that the unknown has held every encounter with joy and awe, even as it flashes past my brimful eyes; dances with fleet and tender feet across my open heart.

 

 

I take my part, too and ask to be forgiven in turn.

Whether such grace is forthcoming from without, it is an act of contrition that affords me the reconciliation to my own truest self that I have so ardently desired.

  [dis-uh-nuh ns]  

noun

1.  Disagreement or incongruity of expectation and result.
2.  Inharmonious or harsh sound; discord; cacophony.
3.  A simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion.
 
 
 
Oh, and how each facet asserts itself in this moment…
 
Human relationships are complicated. We encounter each other on this plane and try to understand one another; our own experiences and trajectory inevitably influence our perceptions and expectations of others. And there are times when we simply cannot reconcile our understanding with reality as we are forced to accept it. 
 
And this is very hard.
 
For expectation is a powerful drug. Akin to hope; rather its brazen demanding cousin laded with the weight of hubris. The more readily we accept the anchor of its reassuring weight, the more likely we are to drown tangled in its clasp.
 
The failure of such expectation sets us all a-tilt and puts our ability to trust our own judgement into question. Some are able to encounter this experience with more grace than others, but it is a struggle we must all face and when we observe others in it, we must remember our own disappointment; to try and offer a compassionate response. 
 
When together we strike a dissonant chord; what had once been sweetest harmony suddenly feels diminished and all unround. And it creates an ache of nostalgia and regret, sometimes so powerful it is all out of keeping with the moment it recollects.
 
Mounting, the desire for rapprochement becomes nigh on irresistible. In defiance of all attempts at patience and grace, it presses, demanding convergence and resolve; a return to tuneful sweetness.
 
 

But, I fear there is no such thing. At least not in any instance where meaning is present. To tell the truth with as much grace and kindness as can be mustered may still be insufficient.

And I miss you… I miss you every single day

I went out yesterday to play what will almost certainly be my last round of golf before Spring. it was a beautiful day, and I was thrilled to be going out.

My enthusiasm did not, it turns out, cure me of my notorious klutziness. I got out of the car, collected my borrowed set of clubs, and started for the pro shop. in addition to the golf bag, I had my hands full; wallet, keys, sunglasses, and my inhaler which I managed to drop.

with the bag slung over my shoulder I knew that bending down was a suckers bet. I would lean forward, and all the clubs would tumble out onto the pavement. So, thinking I was very clever, I decided to squat down to retrieve it. Clearly, my conviction that physics are made up has lead me to believe they don’t apply to me: this turns out to be false. As I attempted to stand back up, the weight of the golf bag slung over my shoulder caused me to overbalance and fall. On my ass. On the pavement. And on top of some poor fellow who have committed no offense other than to be loading his clubs into the back of his car at just the wrong time and place.

He was very surprised, and gracious about me landing on him. At the time it felt like all I had bruised was my pride, but predictably this morning, my butt hurts. Ass usual.

image

I shot a fairly terrible round. But it was still a good day. Here’s to more practice, and less falling down in the future.

image

Freedom is instantaneous the moment we accept things as they are. ~Karen Maezen Miller

Perspectives can change with either glacial slowness or lightning speed. It is a constant surprise what can be revealed in the course of a day and how radically new information, new events, can cause the status quo to rumble, turn, and move in an entirely unexpected direction.
It is altogether easy to become complacent. To think all has been decided and settled when no such thing is true. The illusion of control we afford ourselves as a means of comfort is simply that; an illusion. To be reminded of this is both terrifying and liberating at once.
To accept this with grace and joy is one of the deepest lessons I aim to learn each day. I am grateful to be afforded such chances I have to be moved to such extent and brought to conscious awareness of such truth. It is often a gift to be wrong; to be offered a chance to see anew the light in each moment, cast from a different angle.

 

The Driftboat at Hendricks

I’m scared of fish; terrified, in fact. I know that this is a source of skeptical amusement for lots of people, and also that dating a fishing guide requires me to confront this issue to some extent.  Karl is a passionate defender  of the wild trout species native to the McKenzie river, and though the prospect of handing a live critter of the Piscean breed sends me over in shudders, I know him to be a conscientious and intelligent person. His opinions make sense to me in pretty much every other situation, so it seemed reasonable that maybe I could gain some perspective on this issue by virtue of his well-informed and considered view.  I saw it as an opportunity; maybe if I was exposed to fishes, I could gain some kind of appreciation for them, learn to conquer my irrational fears, and failing that, he was probably  well-equipped to protect me should one of the buggers prove all my worst suspicions true and move in for the kill.

We went out on Karl’s drift boat on the Lower McKenzie. We put in at Hendricks Landing at about 1pm on a day of high overcast and temperatures that wavered somewhere between “brisk” and “it’s MAY, goddammit.” Karl chose this section of the river because it is part of a study being conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife in cooperation with the McKenzie River Fly Fishers and Trout Unlimited. The objective is to try and track the native trout in the portion of the river set aside for their habitat and help determine a course of management for the waters that best serve the future of the McKenzie and the communities it touches.

Our aim was to capture, tag, and document the statistics of any native trout, known as the McKenzie Redside, that we encountered. Though he had put a rod in my incredulous but willing hands once before, and I’d practiced casting in the front yard to his encouraging refrain “You’re pretty good for a first-timer,” I was extremely skeptical that I would catch any actual fish. This was, I admit, skepticism with a tinge of hope… but I digress.

I sat in front casting into whatever waters Karl pointed me toward, marveling at the way one needs to read a river in order to be both safe and successful out on the water. There are eddies, jams, backflows, rocks, and still calm pools, all with their own kind of beauty and danger. I got to enjoy the course we set, while he had to be constantly vigilant not only for what might trip the boat, or catch my flies on a snag, but also for where the fish might be lying in wait.

He was busy making sure I caught something

After about an hour we anchored in a bend near a gravel bar that looked likely and I took up a dry fly casting rig. I’d been using a nymph and bobber, but it was a somewhat heavier setup and I was getting a little tired casting constantly. K kept pointing to “fish” in the water, but I could never quite see what he was trying to convey. As soon as he wasn’t busy with oars, he cast out himself. Almost at once he had a fish on. Once I saw the motion that indicated the presence of a fish, I couldn’t unsee it. He hauled in a smolt which he plucked off the line, plopped back in the river, and had recast with barely a pause.

His next hit was much harder. His pole bent at a far more dramatic pitch and he worked the fish far longer before getting it close enough to the boat to net it up. He hauled a large and lustrous native out of the river and held it out for my inspection. The fish was undeniably beautiful, but it was also thrashing in a desperate bid for freedom that sent me reeling a few inches back (there wasn’t really anywhere else for me to go in the limited confines of the driftboat) torn between honest admiration and utter terror. We tagged (#721) and measured the trout at 436mm (about 17.5 inches)  before we put him back in the water to scamper(?) off along his merry way.

#721

I did briefly reach into the cooler where we had him confined to touch the fish while Karl took his notes and recorded his stats. I realized that it wasn’t the slime on the fish that bothered me, so much as the unadulterated muscularity of the beast. These are creatures made entirely of motive force. They are remarkably strong for their size, and this is what I find so intimidating; they are much smaller than I am, but would totally give me a run for my money in an arm wrestling match. If they had arms. Or could breathe out of water. I mean, that would be a tough match to set up. The fish in a tank… me in some kind of articulated sleeve. A fish with arms…

Wait, what was I talking about?

After that catch, I had a clearer sense of what to look for in the river if I wanted to lay the fly down in a place where the fish might see it. I took to spooling the line out further and making an arc wider around the boat just past the rim of the shallows where we were anchored and into the deeps just beyond. After about 3 minutes of riding the arc, pulling the lure, and recasting the fly, I had a hard hit on the end of my line.

“I think you got a good one!”

I started pulling back on the rod to set the hook and was stunned at just how much force the fish was exerting against my tugging. Karl told me to let him run a bit, but my line was jammed and wouldn’t spool out so I just hauled on him with all my strength. In retrospect, it seems clear it was something of a miracle I didn’t lose him with my clumsy angling, but I did in fact reel him in close enough to the boat for Karl to scoop him into the net and bring him aboard.

“That, is a nice trout.”

His deadpan delivery was probably more convincing than any more effusive display would have been. We tagged and measured my fishy opponent and good old #723 came in shy of Karl’s redside, but not by a whole lot. He measured 428mm and was declared a nicer fish than most people land after years of trying, let alone their first go round fly-fishing. I credit the skill of my guide, wholly, for this outcome. I decided after some consideration, that I needed to record this victory, both over the trout and my own terror, by grasping the fish for the customary grinning-fish-gripping photo opportunity. This of course meant, I would have to touch the fish.

Heaving a deep breath, and steeling myself as best I was able, I took hold of the trout and hoisted him out of the cooler. He promptly thrashed with such force that he slipped my grasp and crashed to the floor of the boat. Chagrined, and not wanting him to hurt himself, I scooped him up again and took a firmer grip. Doing so, I managed to hold on, but it also more effectively communicated the strength I had found so shocking in competition with my flyrod; this was a strong fish.

This is happiness. Combined with terror. The kind that makes you think you might poop yourself.

Karl snapped a few photos, and we slipped him back into the river, tagged and ready for fishy action. We had a few more bites, but nothing else quite so dramatic. As we neared the pull-out, Karl let me row the boat for a bit, and I found that my capacity to do so with some facility pleased me almost as much as landing the trout had. And touching the oars was lots less distressing.

It was really a fine and wonderful day on the river. I expected to enjoy myself in the company of the boy I like, but there was something more fundamentally gratifying about the experience. I was cold and surprisingly tired after we were finished. Not least of all, I was slightly sore from having done battle with my first Redside. Doing so, I learned something about the water, and about myself. I pushed past the borders of my assumptions and saw something that was  indeed powerful, and intimidating in it’s way, but also beautiful, and singular to this place we live in. It made me care profoundly about protecting something that nonetheless scares me.

Some of the proponents of the continuing presence of hatchery trout in the McKenzie river watershed make the claim that inexperienced fisherfolk, (read here: tourists) can’t land a native. That they are too elusive, strong, and wily to be caught by anything other than a relative expert fisherman. That without these planters, who are slow, weak, easy to catch, and who compromise the habitat for other wild species, the tourist fishing industry on the McKenzie will collapse. I submit the following rebuttal: if a person who is utterly inexperienced, generally uncoordinated, and nervous about fish such that she is not even entirely sure she wants to catch one lest it be in the same boat as she, can catch a native, and on her first time out, anyone can.

This is not actually a rose

This is the fourth Sunday of Lent, and as it happens, the sole moment in this somber season where we are encouraged to contemplate joy and hope. This is sometimes represented by a golden rose, and though I couldn’t find one of those, these little blossoms were just as eloquent.

I don’t speak much about my faith, or my religious beliefs. Indeed I suspect it would shock more than a few people to realize I have them at all. I do. They haven’t remained static over the years, and I have spent long days wandering in the darkness, but I have never lost the persistent sense that I am the beloved (if often wayward) child of a benevolent creator. I haven’t always known how to interpret, let alone communicate what that means for me, but I have decided to try.

On January 2nd of the year 2000, I was driving home from Seattle with my then husband and our 7 month old daughter. We had spent the new year with his family, and were headed home on an utterly typical rainy Sunday. As we passed through Kelso, I encountered some ruts in the freeway that had filled with rainwater. My speed was probably close to 60mph and I was in the fast lane when the tires lost contact with the pavement and we began to hydroplane. I lost control of the car completely. No amount of pulling the wheel this way or that had any effect on the motion of the vehicle. What began was an interminable moment of complete silence as the car spun to the right and rotated 360 degrees across all three southbound lanes until we collided with the retaining wall on the far right shoulder. It was a substantial bump, and though the car was disabled, none of us were injured.

While I was initially just relieved that we were all unharmed, it soon began to sink in what had really happened. We sat there by the side of the freeway for another hour, waiting for the tow truck to arrive, for the police officer that came to help us to agree that we were allowed to leave the scene. All that time I sat watching the highway, transfixed, as semi-trucks, triple trailer long haul vehicles, passenger cars, minivans, all thundered by. At no point during that long hour was there ever a break in traffic like the one present as we spun across Interstate 5. At no other point was there a moment when we would not have been killed by the circumstances we skidded into.

My reaction to this was one of profound panic. I had almost killed us. It was my fault; I had been driving, I was to blame. Nervermind that it was clearly a combination of the weather, the condition of the road, and a not-as-straight-as-it-could-be frame on the reconstructed Subaru we’d just bought; no, unquestionably, it was my fault.

As I contemplated all of the implications of my having Almost Killed Us All, I arrived at some strange conclusions. I decided I ought not continue to nurse my infant daughter, since I was unreliable enough to almost cause her death, I did not want to be her sole source of sustenance anymore. I decided I shouldn’t drive anymore, even though my husband readily acknowledged I was the safer, more cautious, and less accident prone of the two of us. I was utterly in misery, and I did not know how I could live with myself for having Almost Killed Us All, no matter what anyone said to reassure me.

One night, as I sat awake ruminating and feeling as awful as I have ever felt, a small quiet tendril of a thought began to awaken in me. That rather than this being some evidence that I was irresponsible, or that I had done something careless, that this was something else entirely; this was the hand of God having intervened directly to enact a miracle.

And as soon as this thought crossed my weary and troubled mind, I knew it for Truth, and my life has never been the same since.

This is not to say, that I have not forgotten that this happened, or what it awoke in me. I was talking to someone about my relationship with God just recently, and when he asked me about when I have felt close to, or touched by the Presence in my life, I told him an entirely different (though no less True) story. It wasn’t until I was sitting in mass this morning, looking up at the dome in St Patrick’s that I remembered this revelation, this miracle.

And there have been other moments, quieter things, that have confirmed the existence of a loving and beneficent God. But they too are hard to express, complicated to articulate and imbue with the proper sense of Truth. To explain how they have changed me.

What I do know, is that when I am still, and open myself as wholly as I can, I am always able to feel the presence of God. The sense of his hand in my life is palpable whenever I can pause and choose to see it and to feel it.

And so I have been pausing, and practicing the sacred work of opening myself to that awareness. That is the core of my faith; that all the love, grace, and peace that can seem so hard to find has always been there, waiting for me to receive it.

So hope and joy indeed, blossom there.

(ō’vÉ™r-kÉ™-rÄ•kt’)

v.tr.
To correct beyond what is needed, appropriate, or usual, especially when resulting in a mistake.

American Heritage Dictionary

Also, meaningful;

An over-compensation of a mechanical fault during the performance of a motor skill.

Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine

I am full of myself. Vain. Arrogant. I have unwarranted self-confidence and an insufferable tendency to boast. Even the very exercise I am now engaged in, all too closely mimics mental masturbation, eh?

Ah, me.

But it is unquestionably the case that this is the result of a swerve, wild and desperate, that I have not yet gotten a handle upon. Meant to avoid remaining bedraggled and bruised, pitiable and pathetic, lost in self-loathing. It was a coping mechanism, not so unusual, to try and repair damage untold, as dealt by indifferent parenting and unenviable circumstance. But like most things meant to help us cope, if we rely on them too heavily, they create a host of new problems which must then be confronted; mastered.

I believe my braggodocio springs in no small part from an odd quirk of mine that developed as a result of my “mechanical fault.” While quite small I was functionally blind. I could see shapes and light and color, but nothing was in focus, and there was two of everything. It made it nearly impossible for me to navigate in the world. I wasn’t totally sightless, so I didn’t rely as heavily on my other senses as I could have. I was constantly running into things, falling down, tripping, and generally hurting myself repeatedly through my stubborn determination to get where I was going, under my own steam and at top speed.

My older sister, and mother, took to shouting warnings at me when I was about to run into trouble. Brandy particularly took it upon herself to follow me around and warn me when I was about to bump into something, when there was danger I might fall, or if there was something I could trip over in my path. As noble as her efforts were, I have noticed that it has instilled in me a need to hear something, before I can truly absorb it. I do not trust the evidence of my other senses quite so thoroughly. Additionally, it has created a tendency to rely on the assertions of other people altogether too much when evaluating my self-worth, circumstances, or correct course of action.

So, I say what I want to believe, that I can hear it and thus accept it as true. I say it to other people in hopes they will agree with me and give the declaration greater credence. My assertions are almost always uncertainty waiting to become assurance.

And I will not claim to have ever even tried humility on for size. I think I bridled at the notion of it, seeing it as somehow in conflict with my favorite virtue Truth. To fail to pronounce my strengths, as well as my many, sundry faults, would be to deny the truth of who and how I am. When I encountered the trait in people I admired, I always found it baffling:

“But, you’re awesome!! Why aren’t you telling everyone in earshot??”

Because it turns out, most people don’t require this kind of mechanism to believe good things about themselves. They just sort of do. They prefer to demonstrate their worth by their deeds, quietly and with grace.

Someone recently mentioned to me that their approach to life was to underpromise and overdeliver. I saw firsthand evidence of how lovely it could be to be on the other side of that course. The surprise and sense of discovery were profoundly satisfying. And it dawned on me that I have denied anyone who has ever met me the pleasure of that sort of revelation. I am so quick to tell them all there is to know about me, they have no chance to see and decide for themselves. This is especially important when I am forced to admit that not everything I “know” about myself is true for everyone else.

And I am tempted, for the first time, to try this humility thing after all. To pull the wheel slowly towards center, and proceed…

From Wikipedia

traditionally meant the condition of having sensation (including the feeling of pain) blocked or temporarily taken away.

Current recipie: podcasts, shopping, sleep. It has not been entirely effective.

I am aggrieved it feels so necessary.

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