Searching for Meaning

Do we ever really stop? Do we finally come to a place of deep understanding with a solid feeling of connection that lasts? Do we arrive there after years of turmoil and searching, content that we’ve arrived and never have to ride that train again?

It seems that during the winter season, we are called upon to go inside and sit with our questions. Where I live in the mountains, ready or not, winter comes with a definite icy awareness. I am indoors more. Today we are in the midst of a series of storms. To me, a storm feels somewhat dangerous. Being from the foggy city of San Francisco, regardless of how many winters I’ve experienced in the mountains, I feel insecure. I watch the snow rapidly falling, swirling, landing and sticking to the trees and ground. I wonder if it’s going to overwhelm me.

Although I understand the necessity and the actual blessing of snow, it unnerves me. It’s hard for me to appreciate the absolute beauty of snow although I sit within a warm and cozy cottage. It remains a foreign element to me. This feeling is exacerbated by STORM WARNINGS, AVALANCHE WARNINGS, the dread of power outages and downed lines. It happened one winter since I’ve lived here…we were without power for five days. It had been a heavy wet snow and took down electrical lines. Large tree branches had fallen across the streets making driving impossible and walking dangerous. I was fortunate to have an alternate heat source that didn’t rely on electricity. A few of us gathered and huddled around the little oil stove. When the power finally returned, I was flooded with relief.

Being without electricity for that period, I entered a primal part of myself. A part that is based in survival. And the certain awe that nature holds the final card. We witness it when we experience or hear about hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Our ancestors lived in a pre-technology, pre-electricity era not so long ago. They didn’t have the cushions of safety and security that we’ve come to expect in these times.

Sometimes, there is a quality of merging that takes over. I notice (despite the refrigerator’s occasional loud hum) a feeling of deep quiet. The snow has a way of muffling external noise from the nearby highway. And within that quiet, a calm descends. When I sit on the enclosed back porch and knit while staring out the sliding glass door, this feeling can supersede any fear. I have momentarily accepted winter, the snow and my place in the order of things. That is a place where I’d like to live from more regularly. In that place, there is quiet revelation. I don’t have the need to know more in such moments. The quest for meaning releases and I have an experience of deep peace and connection.

In the New Year, I desire that for myself and I pray that it extends around the world…the experience of deep peace and connection.

Blessings to you in the new year and always.

Panoply

Sometimes I hear a word and I put it in a holding place if I don’t look it up immediately. Panoply was one of those words. I liked the sound of it…how it looks and yet I had no idea what it meant. If I were to conjecture a meaning I might say it’s an abbreviated way of saying piano play perhaps? There are many words that have become archaic…we hardly ever hear them and they go to the ancient graveyard for rarely used words. I had a boyfriend once who used archaic words regularly. He had been an early reader. Both of his parents were deaf. He got his amazing vocabulary from the classics and other books that he encountered at an early age. And, sadly, most people wouldn’t have an understanding for some of what he was saying.

Panoply: pa-ne-plea/noun/Greek panoplia, fr. pan-+hopla arms, armor, pl. of hoplon tool, weapon–more at Hoplite. (1632) 1. a: a full suit of armor b: ceremonial attire 2. something forming a protective covering 3. a: magnificent or impressive array (the full-of a military funeral) b: a display of all appropriate appurtenances (has the – of science fiction…but it is not true science fiction–Isaac Asimov)

Pan…Greek from pan, neut of pant-, pas all, every; akin to Toch B pont-all) 1. all: completely (panchromatic) 2a: Involving all of a specified group b: advocating or involving the union of a specified group 3: whole: general.

Hoplite: A heavily armed infantry soldier of ancient Greece.

Merriam-Webster

How many of us remember, if we were even taught, how to translate a dictionary definition? Reading the above definition, there are parts I can relate to and other parts that I really don’t understand the reference. My father was a wordsmith–he loved looking up words in one of those huge dictionaries that was placed upon a wooden lectern-like stand, accessible and for quick reference…though not as quick as Google. He loved thumbing through the dictionary pages to find the word of choice and then to study the etymology of that word. The definition of etymology being “the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.” He believed that a deep understanding of a word was a clue to a deeper meaning to whatever he was reading. An understanding of a word’s origin could tell him so much more than what the author of the book might have intended. It could also take him on a vicarious journey as to where that word had traveled from originally.

Do we take words for granted? If we are avid readers, and especially women, we shouldn’t take words or literacy for granted. And, if we are women who write, we should have a devout relationship to words. There was a time, not so distant, when women were not allowed to learn how to read or write. A literate woman was an exception. It’s hard for me to comprehend this. If it wasn’t for me being able to read and write, would I find another way to express the feelings and thoughts that well up in me begging to be scripted? My answer to that question would be “yes.” However, what I expressed through art, embroidery, sewing, quilting, tatting and other womanly arts might not be so translatable by the highly lauded logical mind. It wouldn’t be so credited in the male-oriented versions of history.

Honestly, in my life, when I get caught in a circular pattern of words and thoughts, I toss the mighty pen aside and look for another way to express what is inside of me. I look for an escape route from the tyranny of thoughts that go nowhere! There are countless ways to quiet the mind–knitting, quilting, gardening, drawing, painting, etc. Staring out of a window on a snowy day in the mountains, like today–there are no words…

Reinvention

When things aren’t working…when they haven’t been working for awhile…what do you do?  When I get quiet and take an overview of my life, I can sometimes see the patterns.  There are patterns that I am at peace with and then, there are patterns that I am undone by every single time.  Recognizing that, what can I do to change a pattern?

  • One key is recognition:  When I am able to identify a pattern and name it, that is the doorway to changing it.  Sometimes, I write it down in detail, the elements that make up this rerun pattern.  Then I gain a clearer understanding of myself and how and perhaps why I recycle this unhelpful pattern.
  • Recognizing the facets of the pattern, I might be able to see “choice points.”  Within the pattern, there are split seconds when I can decide to do something differently.  That is, catch the pattern at work and detour myself away from it.  No, don’t go that way–again!
  • The doing something differently can be placing my attention elsewhere, i.e. doing jumping jacks, dancing, going for a walk in nature, picking up a book, getting out the paints and painting.  Any number of possibilities.  You choose.
  • Another helpful tool is writing poetry about your dilemma.  Because poetry accesses another part of the brain, it can offer up a solution that you might not have logically considered.
  • If you feel safe enough to share your process with a trustworthy friend, you might ask them for support in your mission.
  • Also, if you believe in a higher power, prayer for assistance as you implement something new can assist you.

They say that it takes twenty-one days to solidify a new pattern or habit. Considering that there is the real possibility of falling into the same old, same old, you can remember that Alcoholics Anonymous slogan “Just for today…” I can do this differently.  Then it feels manageable.

Years ago, I read a quote by Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist.  It goes like this:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

****
I appreciate the wisdom in this quote.