I last left these pages in October, writing about Fire. This afternoon we saw one, blazing across the seagrasses toward our view, lapping its orange flames against our boardwalk, encroaching with gusts of wind and black smoke. We moved our car. We called the fire department. We waited. We watched. We smelled the scorched scent and we smiled in wide gratitude at the brown suited men who came with fat red hoses and their shiny red truck to rest the blaze.
Water squelched it all and left damp spots around still greening roots at the base of what had been a dry garden. We are here at the beach reveling in the Supermoon’s size and orange glow upon rising. Allen rises early enough to see it set and the sun emerge at the horizon point where the water and sky meet. I am resting.
Water is the element of winter time, and it mothers and begets wood, the green sprouts of promise. We are in that swing season between water and wood. It is a good time for rest. Rest to absorb the goodness of darkness, the power of the inward journey, and the bath of all that is not yet known. Water is a time of wonder and of not yet knowing. Wood is a season of possibility, vision, potential. Wood is the element that pushes through the dirt and sprouts the new life. Wood will, in its time, nourish fire. But today is not that time. Today is that time between sloshing in the unknown and not yet charted waters and the pressing forth with conviction of one’s intention.
I am right where I am supposed to be. This semester is more detail than narrative in my classroom. This semester I’m invited to memorize 150 chinese herbs and 356 points on the body. I am to learn where they are, how to find them, and what they do. I am making up stories and narratives, but in truth, I know it must slowly seep into my blood, into my knowing.
In the meantime, we are in the wood phase of renovating a home in Asheville. We are all about vision as we work on plans for a deck porch and make changes to access that deck from the house, and to upfit a basement for a treatment room so I can get my massage therapy business a bit off the ground.
We are playing, too. This is a photo from Thanksgiving taken on Brierpatch mountain in Virginia. That is a place of respite where Louie and Karma, our rescue dogs know their jobs (keep the cows away) and can run for days and days.
I am watching these working dogs and considering their need for jobs, for purpose, for clear direction. The Daoist would suggest we are all one, and one is all of us. We are not so very different. Louie is our sentinel, standing watch over our feet at night, over our porches by day.
He is regal and obedient. But not cuddly or cute. He was born to run, running often in his sleep.
Karma is our aesthete. She will not pass a chance for a cuddle and will chase down whatever varmint is in reach no matter the consequence.
Most recently she cornered a skunk and got up close and personal with it. Six baths and 4 weeks later she still carries Eau de Skunque about with her. She is funny and loving and none too bright.
They are teaching me about waiting for purpose and doing what of our work we can. Where we are living in the meantime — our water time — while I study to prepare and we plan and renovate — there is little these dogs can do of their work. There are no cows to deter, no sheep to herd. There are not even small children to gather about or ducks to point. They stand at attention near our front door window and wait for something to alert us about. They travel with us and do what of their jobs they can wherever we go. They roll with us and with ‘it’.
I am thinking about this because I am seeing the power of Chinese medicine as it is taught in my program. We are taught the relationship between forgiveness and disease. We are taught that what we carry in our bodies is what we hold in our souls. There is no distinction. The things we can no shake loose in our minds are held also in the very cells of our bodies. Our emotions are carried in our blood. But there are narratives we keep that live deeper than our blood. Some rest in our joints. Others go to our bones. Our brains can help us let things go, or else hold on. Our bodies keep us honest and tell the truth to us. Aches and pains may well be clues to where and what we are holding on to with a life daring grip.
There may be a difference between getting justice and letting go. As a big fan of law and order kind of shows where justice gets its due, this is a disappointing reality. I think getting justice puts my mind at ease. But it doesn’t let things go from me. That is a different work. It happens on a cellular and an energetic level.
Over Christmas we moved out of our Raleigh home and moved in some renters. This required revisiting much of my past. I had pictures of my travels from my 20s and 30s. Files and files of ministry work and retreats I had written. Books full of political history and the narratives of other nations. Allen and I relocated 27 U haul boxes of books to other homes or stores. I pitched boxes and boxes of mission trip slides, keeping only a few special frames. I found letters I had written friends in my 20s that they had saved for me and given me back years after I wrote them. Much of this I let go. I let go boxes of compact disks. So many things I didn’t want to carry around any more. It felt great to me, like a new beginning. I am still reflecting on the process though. It was larger than I am I think, that process.
It made room for new purpose. I have more clarity about the destination of becoming a doctor of Chinese Medicine than I have about the process. I am surprised by how difficult it is for me to memorize. I have been befuddled by the different ways of thinking required to learn both biochemistry and chinese physiology side by side.
I am, at times, chagrined at the workload and resentful when it seems to horn in on my family time or the freedom I want to have to play. This study requires commitment to the learning process. I want to just know the medicine. But the spirit of this medicine does not work that way. The spirit of this medicine requires commitment, patience, cultivation.
For me it is a cultivation to practice where I am now, regardless of where I have been. it is a cultivation of finding places to create, like over the flame of the gas stove, in the midst of papers and reviews. For me it is a cultivation of patience with those who need attention in the classroom, and with myself when I do not understand something quickly enough. I wish there were needles that could sink into my flesh and fix these things for me.
The heart and the art of this medicine does not work that way. It does not heal, it simply invites healing. It inspires a letting go by balancing the flow of life.
I miss the classes of narrative mythology. They were more entertaining than challenging.
Now the narrative and mythology are meeting their ground with my narrative and my mythology. And I realize if I am to practice this medicine outside of myself, it will only meet merit to the degree I am practicing it inside of myself.
finding balance. Taking responsibility for what I learn and for what I do not learn. Choosing when to play at the stove and create with intention and choosing when to curl up with a book of points on the body and contemplate them, bring them into my blood. I know differently what Jeremiah meant when he said the day would come when the promises would be written on the hearts of people instead of written on temple scrolls. It is to know inside yourself, in your blood. To know in that way requires rest and cultivation. And in my case, a whale of a lot of repetition.
I am learning like the three year old, for whom repetition is the spice of life. My three year old nephew is mimicking most of what he hears. He is like a bright lighted parrot, singing most of what he brings to speech. “Happy Morning!” he will say. And he means it with radiance.
He does not wonder about purpose or worry about the future. He is in his moment, whether wearing his fireman helmet or playing his toy piano, each moment is his to create and to enjoy. As, I suppose, are we all. Each moment.