When I was a kid, I stood at the doorway of my bedroom, took a deep breath, flicked the light switch and leapt to my bed. To avoid the bed monster’s snatching claws, right? I lay still as the dead, listening to my own breathing, the pounding of my heart, not daring to move.
I don’t know how long it took for sleep to take over, sometimes I lay there for hours, staring at the patterns in the wood of my bed’s headboard, or the shifting shadows on the ceiling. I lay there watching the shadows morph into devil horns, twisted trees, and hunched backs of the undead until I finally gave in to sleep.
In my defense, we owned three cats who chased my feet from under the bed, embedding those tiny claws in whatever flesh they could snag. Some monsters are real.
I don’t leap from my doorway anymore, but I sleep curled on my side, my face to the door. Habit. I don’t analyze it, I just fall asleep that way.
I take my dog for a walk around my neighborhood in the dark early morning. Holiday lights twinkle from many houses, framing buildings in pink, red, green, blue. I love those little twinkly lights, little stars we put on strings and trundle out, winding around our homes when the skies get darker and colder. Reminding us that the light is returning, as it does. That darkness isn’t permanent.
My heart pounds a bit as we walk into the small wooded area between homes, the young me takes a big breath with the older/wiser me as we walk confidently into the dark. Some monsters are real, so I wouldn’t take this walk without a noisy barker on the leash. And I am careful, these woods are framed with porch lights, and neighbors. Also, furry Emma would defend me to the death. Or we would both run away, more likely.
Confidence grows with perspective, wisdom, experience, and generally I am able to breath with fear, feel it in my body, allow it to make it’s journey through me unfettered. Mostly. When I can’t release the grip of fear, I breathe, and breathe and watch the sky.
A friend said the other day, “Have you noticed the skies are darker now? I mean, than ever?” I nodded. A collective darkness of worry, fear and anxiety about our future on this planet colors our perspective, infecting the air with fear. So much more insidious than a virus.
So, yes, the skies are darker now. What do I do? I breathe. I feel my feet on the solid ground. Allow my own earthiness to meld with the strength and surety of muscle, bone, dirt. Just in this moment, I am ok. I remember things I love. My dog. Walking. Morning coffee. And if I am not convinced, I tap my forehead, my chest, my arms, my legs— sending a rhythm of movement through me like the morning winds.
Even on a morning when the clouds are thick grey blankets squashing the light, if I really focus, I see them move. There is no solid. Not in the sky, not in me. I know there is always blue above the grey, and this perspective helps fear to move. Remembering that all weather arises, abides for a time, and dissolves is freeing. I don’t have to attach to any of it.
The dog is eating now, I am drinking tea, looking up every few moments to see the progress of the sky’s light show. In these few moments, the space out my window has changed and changed and changed again. Those first slits of grey light widened into whitish lines slicing the clouds to pieces that drift away on the winds. A flock of dark birds, backlit, flit across the horizon in a messy V. The blush of sunrise lifts, coloring the spaces a baby pink. The masses of heavy whale clouds have lumbered on, the earth warms with the light, and now the flush of morning inks the wide horizon and the blue grows intense, as if the world was blinking, stretching, sun tapping on sky’s shoulder, “Wake up.”
I sip my tea, Emma circles the rug, sniffing, and settles into a small ball to snooze. Now the pink, orange and white light dances, showing off in a saucy firework show. There is still a stubborn grey fog settled around the land, we live in a wet place, and fog is persistent, only lifting when the earth is warmer. I busy myself with syntax and editing, a few minutes to refill my cup.
I look up, now a dark blanket is spread across the sky, skinny edges closest to the horizon silvery white. Another cloud of birds wing across my vision. Arise, abide, dissolve. Arise again. Clouds, seasons, days, lives, moments.
Emma has moved to the couch, resting her head on a cushion. In her vision, she can keep a watchful eye on me as I sit at the counter, typing. A longer walk is most likely in her future, so keeping an eye on my movements is paramount. She knows, I will stretch, move, get up, and put on my shoes. We will walk into the shifting light, maybe with rain boots, (me, not the dog) maybe not.
And tonight, when the darkness settles, the outside lights will blink on, Emma will settle back to rug, a candle will be lit— a little bit of sun in the night— and a sigh will form as we breathe with it’s glow.