We’ve considered the element of air as we have drawn in our breath. We’ve considered our fire, and tended our lights. Now, perhaps, it’s time to consider the element of water, as we travel deeper into this winter labyrinth.
Perhaps today’s passage opens onto an underground river, and we can settle ourselves into little boats for this part of our spiral toward the center. Or swim–walk right in and let the water carry you gently in its arms. Today, I want to think about the flow of my life.
So often, here in this dark and inward time of year, when my inward voices tell me to slow down, rest more, begin taking note of the dreams and the silences, the rest of the world turns up the pace to a frantic pitch, with parties and shopping, raucous frenzy and noise. For some of us, the response to the darkness is to push it back with activity and color and sound. I am grateful to have the festival atmosphere to dip into. The Big Party of this season is how many of us cope with the gathering darkness, and I have no quarrel with other people’s festivities. But I need to take great care in this season how I spend my energy.
One of the more common things I hear people express in these days is their exhaustion, how the constant round of parties and gatherings and things to do and prepare for completely wipes them out. In many families, this work still seems to fall to the women. I’m grateful to be part of a family where much of the pressure of holiday preparations is taken on by my partner, or else we do them jointly, together. I’m not sure I could cope with the added stress of the approaching end of semester along with a full load of holiday prep.
One way that we deal with the challenges to the easy flow of our lives in the frenzied season is simply to do less. We buy fewer presents. We have one afternoon in which we all decorate, and only a little. We focus our festivities on the kids’ school events and family gatherings.
Still, my flow in this season is choppy, blocked in places, and racing beyond my capacity to stay afloat in others. I know that my stacks of grading, and my avoidance tactics are the things that clog the passages and keep me from flowing gracefully. Somehow, I need to come to terms with the dailiness of the workload, to steadily chip away at the challenges that hinder my smooth progress. The thing is, the clogged places force the stream in other places to race along at an unmanageable pace.
If your life is a river flowing through a tunnel, what are the things that clog and impede the flow of your stream, causing the water to flow frantically and wildly in other parts of the passage? What do you need to do to shift and clear the blockages? Wendell Berry points out that “the impeded stream is the one that sings.” So perhaps it isn’t necessary to clear all blockages completely, just shift the impediments enough so that we can hear the song rather than the roar. Today, I commit myself to doing several hours of steady, unclogging work. I can already hear the echoes shifting in the tunnel. I can almost hear the song behind the roar.
1. Enough. Enough work to keep me occupied. Enough time to do what needs to be done (I do not feel this one deeply, but I am trying to live it).
2. Live choral music
3. How stories interact in my own personal narrative, shifting my interpretation and experience of my own unfolding tale.
4. Christmas cookies, especially those peppermint ones a student brought to school on Friday.
5. The flight of birds, high-flying flocks, and the furtive dashes of little birds seeking seeds in the chill. Be warm and filled, little ones!
May your day have warmth and light.