A Refreshing View

Waking up at the lake is a radically different experience from waking at my home in the Bay Area. Why you might ask? I think it has something to do with perception, a deep listening, the kind of listening that is so absorbing, it’s as if your life has become a living concerto. You know what I mean? A musical composition if you will, one solo instrument, accompanied by an entire damn orchestra. It’s magnificent.

I stagger out of bed with the rising sun, my husband is already up, the space he recently occupied still warm, dented, rumpled. I glance in the mirror on the way to the loo and smile. The truth is my hair always looks good at the lake. It’s true. No one has bothered to study this phenomenon but I have a suspicion it has something to do with that radically seized perception I was just speaking of. I actually see it differently.

My silhouette is narrower, like a block of cheese lightly grated, I’m fully aware this has to do with a warped mirror, but that’s beside the point, and admittedly it plays into the deployment of my mood.

Walking into the living room (love the name), I give Larry a good morning kiss, and make a bee line for the coffee pot. With a steaming cup of coffee in hand, I linger in the dining room, which in my opinion has the best view of the lake, framed by these enormous sliding glass doors, I consider it a work of art. I stand there with my nose a centimeter from the glass consuming the view with my ears, eyes, nose.

When you have an intense contact of love with nature or another human being, like a spark, then you understand that there is no time and that everything is eternal. Paulo Coelho

I’m acutely aware of the way my pajamas caress my skin, the crispness of the morning air, the cool tiles beneath my feet, the density of the warm mug in my hand, the aroma of french roast. My eyes scan the scene spread out before me, as if butter on warm toast, melting into the landscape. January is stark, naked, and brazenly alive. The dormancy of the trees is striking against the lush foliage, a hibernation of sorts, in that everything slows down, goes into a prolonged fast, primitive, emptying, quiet. I’m drawn into the alchemy of this primal world as if it were deeply imbedded in my soul.

The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” Eckhart Tolle

The ripples on the water boldly reflect the rays of the sun, smiling, winking, laughing as if a child at play. I notice the way the fog tantalizes the tit of the mountain, erotic, raw, unapologetic. The gentle movement of the clouds migrating ever so slowly across the sky forces me to concede as to the uniqueness of each and every day. I allow my eyes to hitchhike with a flock of pelicans moving west, scanning the irreverent flow of the water below, and then gliding ever so gracefully onto the surface, as if a fleet of small seaplanes. 

Gratitude is the understanding that…the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege. David Whyte

I hear Larry say, “bring me a cup?” I literally have to rip my eyes away from the sumptuous view, as if removing the wax seal from a personal note, the trance is irrevocably broken. I move slowly back into the kitchen, reaching for his favorite mug, filling the vessel with a generous pour of fragrant dark roast.

[This is as far as I got with my post, the weekend at the lake slipped away, we drove back to the Bay Area in silence, back to our jobs, responsibilities, old wounds. I attempt to continue the tale but the mojo is broken, try as I may, I can’t recapture the essence, so I allow it to flow in a new direction.]

I love the line from the movie The Way, “you don’t choose a life, you live it.” The film is about pilgrimage, transformation, and spirituality, not necessarily religious, but rooted in the heart. We’re currently viewing it in one of my classes. It illustrates the idea of letting go of what we think should happen, including our illusion of control, and living in the present moment, the only place in which we can actually emerge from the colossal womb of life. Osho says intelligence is the capacity to be reborn again and again, to die to the past, and live in the present. 

If you are depressed, your are living in the past, if your are anxious, you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present. Lao Tzu

Most people would agree compassion, prudence, kindness, perseverance, courage, wisdom, generosity, discipline, even humor are all important virtues. How we employ these virtues becomes our unique contribution to the world. If we knew just how powerfully our thoughts, words, and actions affected the hearts of those around us, we’d reach out and join hands again, and again says Tara Brach.

Sometimes I live as if I have a personal cannon, set in stone, and that which lies outside my limited comprehension is simply rejected. Jane Leavy warns trauma fractures comprehension as a pebble shatters a windshield. The wound at the site of impact spreads across the field of vision, obscuring reality and challenging belief. It seems to be the human condition. Birth is suffering, growth is suffering, the seed suffers the earth, the root suffers the rain, the bud suffers its flowering claims Hermann Hesse. Oh the injustice of judging others by our own warped compass?

It’s mid-January, I might be succumbing to the darkness, frigidity, and barrenness of my surroundings, but sometimes I grow weary of the daily grind. I think that’s why waking up at the lake is so incredibly illuminating. Eckhart Tolle reminds us, “unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” For some reason I’m most present when I’m at the lake. 

Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

I hand Larry his cup of coffee, in a different room, another home, a divergent environment. Moving towards the window overlooking my beloved patio, I return to my messianic view of life, to the sheer bliss of being part of this present, fragile, transient moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land, there is no other land, there is no other life, but this one says Henry David Thoreau. It’s more than I deserve, more than I can fathom, more than I am able to properly explain. The best we can do is savor the momentous living concerto playing out before us, our only response, a loud and exuberant Bravo!



I’m Living in the Gap, sort of drowning without Facebook, dependent on my readers to keep me afloat. Please share on your social media accounts if you are so inspired. Looking forward to your comments below.

Anecdotes: 
  • Charlotte Perkins Gilman says we all need one another, much and often. 
  • “Truths. Life is not easy, the sun doesn’t shine everyday, a broken heart takes time to mend, you will not succeed in everything, friends will come and go, you can not please everyone, God is with you through it all.” Jackie Griffin
  • I, no event, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it. Groucho Marx























3 Comments

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  1. Serenity vs. Living in the moment.Love your description of the vibe when you wake up at Clear Lake. You touch on how things appear better when viewed through the lake house lens. You attribute it to a deep listening, a way you draw yourself into your own world there, to the exclusion of all else. An ability of heightened appreciation. We have similar sensation at our farm cabin. It is about 18 minutes from home (16 if Gail is driving,) but it is a different world. Yesterday morning we left the cabin and as we headed to the barn there was a large rafter of Turkey scratching through a snow covered, harvested bean field. The peace, the life, the beauty as the birds were contrasted with the snow was stunning. Adding to it a covey of Quail seemed to be following, getting the tiny seeds that the turkeys overturned but missed. I was compelled to slow down to avoid spooking them into flight. At the cabin it is peace, stillness, sounds of nature, life and death. No time pressure, no crowds, no anxiety, just serenity. We think about ditching the house in town (big savings!) but then we would no longer appreciate the contrast. It would no longer be our get-away place. It would become commonplace, maybe even mundane. We would have to pay the bills there, answer the phone, etc. Not quite as special.

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  2. However, the part of this blog entry that kept making me think was the bit about living in the moment.You quote “If you are depressed, you are living in the past, if you are anxious, you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present. Lao Tzu”Part of me thinks this is a bit of a cop out though holistically true. If you don’t make the car payment, it is ok not to be bummed out about missing the payment, or anxious about the repo man coming to call, but that is likely not what Lao is intending. Rather it is about not focusing on things gone by (tends not to help) or worry about the future when you can be at peace now. Sort of “a coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave person dies but one” sort of thing. W. Shakespeare.Anyway, living in the moment has a lot of meaning to me. I think about things in my life that are / were affected by that phrase. The first trauma surgery years gone by, when you are suddenly looking at an abdomen filling up rapidly with blood. Can’t dwell on the past (why did I sign up for this 2 am sh*t!) Can’t worry about the future (this person had better live!) Just have to do the right thing fast. No time to fret. About to take a golf shot, just focus on the moment. As you complete the swing, if you don’t stay in the moment and you look up to see where the ball is heading before completing your follow through, you quickly shank the shot. I have a military / law enforcement friend with whom I like to train. I cannot count how many times he stresses to stay in the moment. Don’t lose focus. You haven’t won when the bad guy is done. He will likely have a friend coming up behind you or from around the corner. Don’t worry about what happened at work yesterday. Focus! Focus! Focus! You will blow off your finger or put a hole in your foot.Hunting. As the darkness approaches, and the forest starts to come alive, a really nice buck appears in the mist at about 175 yards. A charge flows through your body as you realize that it is the monster that has been seen sporadically on the game cameras (devastating your garden too!) Slow down that rapid breathing. Relax. Check distance. Stay in the moment. A loud click is heard, having failed to take the safety off, as the buck grunts and struts off into the woods. Great moments in sports history. You mentioned an historical sports event in a prior blog entry known as “the Catch.” Not you snagging Larry or vice-versa, but Montana to Clark. Epic moment. Montana was as cool as it gets (all the pressure in the world, but not feeling it.) Throws it where only Clark could maybe get it. Clark, leaping as high as he possibly can, miraculously brings it in. Not sweating anything. Just getting it done.But looking to the future has its pluses. Anticipation can be a tremendous joy. It can be a powerful motivator (as can fear for that matter.) A vision that no one else has can be a marvelous thing (think Disney World.) I guess the key in my eyes is to limit the impact of past failures and the fear of future untoward events on your mind and ability to live in happiness. The ability to block things out is paramount in a tough world. If one did not have a sense of guilt or conscience, life might be easier, though not as rich.Anyway, thanks for writing. I do enjoy it. Please forgive me for crashing your blog so to speak.Oh, as for the song, in keeping with the spirit of your entry, I like:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNTQ2DuJKtU

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  3. I enjoyed your two part reflection on my two part blog. The division was perfect. I remember that moment at the window viewing the lake, it was just a week ago. It was as if this tiny moment completely seized me and I had to get it down on paper. I sat down and wrote but that was the last quiet moment I had at my disposal as prearranged commitments fell in place. There is this odd atmosphere that settles over us at the lake. It is our happy place, much like your farm oasis, calm, and peaceful. I walked right into your description of the turkeys and quail, the light snow, the cold, a moment frozen in your mind. Thank you for sharing, you allow the reader to join you, to maybe feel the same emotions as you. It's the best we can hope for. I agree we can't always live in the moment. There are trips, meals, lessons that need planning in advance. And the past becomes a great resource especially if you've survived a half a dozen decades. It somehow all comes together.Now the second part of your reflection tackles living in the moment. The examples you offer of surgery, golf, hunting and sports are perfect sequences of staying focused, blocking out the trivial, achieving the goal. Often I strive to stay focused and calm in the heat of the moment especially when teaching, ignoring the small group talking in the back, the student chewing gum loudly, and stay with the student asking the questions, diving into the topic, when we witness actual learning it's miraculous. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Mike, it is greatly appreciated and enjoyed! Love the song, listening to it as I write, \”may the wind take your troubles away, both feet on the floor, hands on the wheel, may the wind take your troubles away…\”

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