Unmaking a Life, a Winter Musing
The art of unmaking a life is not readily spoken of in this culture. The image of a continuous ladder aimed into the abyss above calls us to expand and grow, accumulate and add. Poets however speak of this unmaking, and certainly midlife writers, speak to what can be one of the most creative endeavors of our lives!
David Whyte, poet and author paraphrases Dante at this time in his own life when “one day I stopped telling myself all the things I’d been telling myself and I stopped needing to know all the things I’d been needing to know.”
Here’s where it can get daunting. When the present calls, coming from deep inside us, no longer meet the needs and meaning making of the past, the ladder begins to shake and quiver in this place of not knowing. We feel the call to pause, reflect, feel the weight of our bodies resting on the rung of the ladder we have found ourselves on, and turn our heads towards our hearts.
Here, we may begin to notice the ladder is actually leaning on and into the Great Mystery itself, and the “spiritual force of belonging” is calling our name. Gravity, a gift of earthly life, calls us in every moment to tend the ground of being in the here and now. The simple and direct experience of tending the sensations of contact with the earth through whatever we stand on, lean into or rest upon, delivers an immediate felt sense of where we are, and access to the greater field of support to which we belong. From here we have a solid place to take the next ordinary step into the unknown. Like the Fool card in the Tarot this place is associated with the state of consciousness just after death and prior to rebirth.
Here is where poet Mary Oliver, in The Journey, says you become “determined to do the only thing you could do – determined to save the only life you could save.” I like to think of it as determined to “savor” the only life we can savor. Perhaps if we spent more time savoring this blessed Earth, we might not need to save it!
Friends may think we’ve “lost it”, however paradoxically there is a rich “finding” that is occurring deep inside us. It can appear that we are opting out of life, however at the same time we are opting into something fresh, true and authentic. Nature and her cycle of change, through seed, blossom, fruit, harvest and dissolve offers the perfect mirror for us to trust in the dance of this life change.
Landing in the deep well of belonging allows what is ripe to fall away with ease. Even the ladder can fall and we find ourselves firmly and fluidly held in the great hands of Mother Earth. Unmaking we realize, is occurring. We need not work at it, but rather simply trust what is ripe. This is a work of art as worthy as the making. To trust what is ripe and let it go. And like harvesting the apples from the tree in autumn, we eat some immediately, share some with neighbors and friends, process some for later nourishment, leave a little for the bears, and a few to compost back into the trees roots for future generations.
As I write a stillness lays over the land in a sprinkle of snow. The magnolia trees have a hint of spring at their tips and a sense of anticipation hangs in the crisp winter air. There is a moment before the blossom arrives where everything seems to stand still and nothing appears to be happening. Even the ladder rests behind the barn as I sit, sorting papers and munching the potent dried pears and apples of the harvest.
As winter has its way with me and my unmade life, I know one thing for sure – the fruit is tasty!!