Life has so much to give us and teach us. If we could only stop for a moment to realize that everything we want (or need) to learn is either right in front of our noses, or where we least expect it, we might save ourselves a whole bushel of hassle.
Yes, a bushel.
I’ve been spending some time out in the countryside this Summer, and though I am a self-professed lover of travel and exploring places that are more than just a short car ride away, I have been learning a lot from the wide open spaces (and the people who inhabit them) that surround the city I call home. Born and raised in an urban landscape, and though very much appreciative of the creature comforts and variety of city life, I have felt a strong sense of what I call “Country Lust” come over me as of late.
I can’t seem to get enough of the prairies, or anywhere that isn’t constantly a-hum with the vibration of cars, fully-wired homes and people, condensed into an [insert large city measurement here] space. The timing on this particular desire is incredibly convenient, as it would seem, since my husband has had the opportunity to team up with some talented musician friends of ours and play music in rural areas throughout the Summer months. If the schedule says YES, I drop everything and go along for the adventure.
Back in 2011, when I felt a strong call to spend time in Bali and didn’t know exactly why, each day of purely BEING there and taking in my surroundings provided so many of the answers to my most burning questions at the time. The Balinese taught me so much about being at home, in every sense of the word — in our place of origin, in who we are, in what we do, in who we are with… This Summer, I’ve saved a ton on airfare (ha!) and have found copious opportunities to delve into the current chapter of my ‘Life Textbook’ by being either at (or very close to) my own home base, learning from those who call the same province as me ‘Home.’
On Saturday, during our jaunt out to the hamlet of Rosebud, I spent some time at the top of a hill, looking out over the prairies and rolling fields that extend far out to the horizon. Each time we visit Rosebud, I make a point of walking up to the top of this hill to get a visual reminder of how important Perspective is in our detailed, action-packed lives. I also thoroughly appreciate the fact that I can be very alone up there (until the dogs down the hill see me and come up to visit); I can feel my ‘Compensating Introvert’ self (as our family affectionately calls us) recharge a little. Being that I am in the process of making some shifts to a more fulfilling, purpose-filled career path, I figured my time on the hill would be best utilized in thought, clarifying my vision and answering life’s most pressing questions.
No sooner had I tried to fire up the thought mill, the intoxicating sounds of the birds, wind, and wide open space reminded me that thinking has a time and place, and this was not it.
This wasn’t a ‘doing’ moment. This was a time for Being.
So I sat on the hill, attempting to have no agenda (and feel no guilt whatsoever about not doing anything, except sitting, in that moment).
I turned off my phone.
I committed to just sitting, listening and noticing, for as long as my bum could handle the slightly prickly grass poking through my shorts.
I took turns noticing the sounds: Birds. Cicadas. Wind. River… Wind. Birds. Cicadas… Tractor chugging along the highway in the distance. Dog barking. Birds… Wind. River.
Then I noticed my body: Head. Face. Shoulders. Heart. Arms. Hands. Heart. Torso. Pelvis. Seat. Legs. Feet.
Birds. Wind. River. Body….
Then breath. If I focused enough on it, it would grow deeper.
Breath… Birds…. Wind… River… Body…
How often we resist where we are, who we are, what we are. How challenging it is to just let it all be. To let ourselves be.
I was then struck with what seemed like that moment’s only truth:
I am a 31 year old woman, sitting on a small hill in the Canadian prairies. The prairies are just being the prairies. And I am just me.
I am just…me.
C’est tout. [That’s it.]
I didn’t have to explain to the sky why I was sitting there, who I was on the surface, or who I am underneath it all. I didn’t have to apologize to the grass for sitting on it. The birds and the cicadas had their own plans. So did the river. The clouds passed on by and I didn’t have to justify to them why I had been there the length of time I had. I didn’t have to clarify for myself (or anyone) what form or shape my intentions took, if they were directed at anyone or any thing…
They just were.
I just was.
The world just was.
That was all.
Why are we so desperate to be anything other than what we are?
Can we believe, instead, that who we are, in this moment, is enough to be loved and accepted, no matter what? Just as we are? All in?
Sunday afternoon found us out exploring another small rural community. This time, we were treated to lunch at the home of our friend’s grandparents, Alice & Roger. Having lost both of my grandmothers before I could recognize what a privilege it is to be able to ask them questions about life and love, I always appreciate the times I can ‘adopt’ a Grandma for a day and hear how they have ended up where they are. I am also a sucker for a good love story, so bonus points if the question “How did you two meet?” arises in conversation. It was easy to see very quickly that Roger & Alice have the kind of marriage that has many miles in the tank, and experiences to boot, with quick wits & delightful tandem story-telling abilities to entertain for days.
Alice ducked inside to prepare dessert. We were sitting outside on the back deck with Roger under a canopy of trees when “the question” arose.
“How did you two meet?”
From the way Roger told the story, it seemed clear from the get-go that there was no one else he would rather be with. Being of a more mature age when they met, their courtship was very short, as far as we could glean from Roger’s recollection of the timeline between when they met, got engaged and got married.
Then, the bonus question:
“What was it that you liked about Alice when you met her?”
Roger looked thoughtful, but only briefly. He didn’t need to think — he knew his answer, and the answer was simple.
“She was just… herself. She was just Alice.”
There was a silence in which I’m pretty sure all of our hearts skipped a beat in recognition of what Roger had said. This man got it.
I took a breath, and let his words sink in to the depth of myself that knows that THIS is what it is all about. Of course he would love her because she was just who she is. No poetry, no waxing eloquence about her beauty, wit, brains, talent or skills, though I am sure she has many…
What made her lovable then, and through the decades that followed, was her just being who she was, and who, I have no doubt, she still very much Is.
He didn’t have to explain, and no one asked. We knew what he meant, just as much as he did, even if three of us had only met her a couple of hours prior.
Just us, around that table in the country in the Summer.
Just us, just as we are. All in.
C’est tout. [That’s it.]