Embrace the Whole: Summer, Winter, Present, Future.
On an uneventful morning in early December, it’s easy to let unfocused attention drift through the knee-to-ceiling-length windows in a ground-level apartment: the patch of landscaping and encompassing sky surrounding this hulky three-story building presents in tones of gray, ivy, white, and cream.
Blinding monochrome accosts the eyes with shrill brightness as the drifting onlooker approximating the scene is affronted with the mildly harsh bite of frigid temperatures on just the other side of these glass panes. It’s snowing. Big, fat flakes muddy the air, a cold front plummets the temperature by the hour.
Sound diminishes to nil, as an exodus from the streets thins out the typical milling pedestrians and scatters the hum of traffic: any remaining noise is entirely absorbed by plump mounds of fresh snowfall.
Rather than disconnect from Nature as may be tempting, turning toward hearth, bookshelves, and luxuriant blankets that might be draped over the body, the onlooker leverages the sight as seen through these windows to summon the desire for Her.
A placard sits on an end table amid a display of strewn pine cones, acorns, tiny slabs of basalt, and one singular over-sized feather from the tail of a wild turkey, a slogan or affirmation or catchphrase caught by the thrown mix of natural artifacts.
It reads “Adventure Awaits”, which, though as mass-produced as to be printed on canvas available at the nearest Target, nonetheless activates inspired feeling and, in this context, offers up a broad-spectrum encouragement that opens the closed-in heart to encompass the Adventure of Deep Summer as well as the Adventure of the Unfolding Now.
It’s easy to defer the expectation of big fulfillment and the urge to expansively explore onto the pinhead of the seasonal apex, when Nature is in full, bursting bloom.
It’s just as easy to see things in terms of glorious, magnificent consummations, rather than as they are. As a continuous process, as an interlinked series of moments that orbit as fluctuations, cyclical changes, and transmutations, along what I usually refer to as the “long road.”
The “long road” is my shorthand saying that evokes something similar to what many spiritualists refer to as “the path”, but concerned specifically with that aspect of it which openly acknowledges how processes take many, many revolutions around the sun to be felt out, formed, and to fruit, to be teased out, turned over and over and over again, and to transpire.
The long road is arduous, nonlinear; it manifests tricks, trapdoors, and tangled loop-de-loops. It is organic, that is, it follows the contours of what Alan Watts likes to call this “wiggly” Universe, one that defies the neat, clean lines that we manufacture and carve out of, say, trees that in their natural form have crags, divots, bends, odd branchings, echoes and imprints of their circuitous lines of growth.
Maybe I picked it up from the Beatles, or the Eddie Vedder song that goes by its name. The long road supports and sustains connection to this arc of the Earth’s orbit rather than comfortably fantasize about, say, what I plan to do on the next Summer Solstice. In fact, it demands I stay continuously present in order that I pull it off, and I mean pull it off while being faithful to deep spirituality.
Little nudges and redirections and magnetizing lines of force from some unseen inner compass spontaneously present themselves in the mind.
This, a simple consideration, puts me at ease while simultaneously energizing me, as I keep meditatively pondering the rather tame, snow-packed landscape occupying a suburban module of woodland, rounded river rocks bordered by snow-covered turf whose little, rocky island harbors a grouping of pines dwarfed in their attempt to thrive in their constructed habitat fleetingly visited by a solitary chickadee.
So, I muse, and figure that I better bundle up, put those thick wool socks on, plunge feet into those fleece-lined winter boots, and cover myself with layers and outerwear, with zippers maximally zipped and every button buttoned, to investigate Mother Earth in her winter form.
To connect the dots between here and there, to engage this part of her circuitry, most assuredly if I stop putting her off and denying her my attention, a fussy creature favoring her most conducive segments and flashy appeals. What prod the shafts of penetrating sunlight that ping off cold, harsh, frozen Earth offer me: a stern, in-your-face corrective.
Embrace the total expression, some hidden god with a booming voice asserts.
“Then again,” I counter, playfully debating, “imagination, envisioning the definite forms of an unborn future, augments the aspiration for it.”
This is associated with what Eckhart Tolle names Enthusiasm, the highest frequency within a framework he calls Awakened Doing, a framework that puts forth increasingly refined states of consciousness which he hopes, as a contemporary spiritual leader, we might collectively bring into our activities.
With Enthusiasm, our basis is joy deeply rooted in the present moment, not merely enduring our current reality as a means to an end, and not dividing ourselves from what’s happening with negative appraisals and resistance. From this basis is added what he calls the “structural tension of a goal or a vision” which allows us to channel that uncorrupted energy of joy into a larger plan.
“Most people,” Tolle says, “treat the present moment as if it were an obstacle that they need to overcome. Since the present moment is life itself, this is an insane way to live.”
Tucked away within the tens of thousands of pages contained in a personal library, I rescue this pearl from the otherwise dark oblivion of densely-packed pages: “enthusiasm knows where it is going, but at the same time, it is deeply at one with the present moment, the source of its aliveness, its joy, and its power.”
Ah yes, these two poles, present-centeredness and future-forwardness, integrate, holding the tension of their opposites without added strain. No longer discrete categories they are perceived as they are: already tied together along a spectrum of unfolding, undulating time. The dormant fullness of the present can be expanded and further enriched by magnifications of what the cumulative future holds.
Waiting for Nature to transpire is an understandable but weak alternative to syncing with her transfigurations and undergoing the process with Her. I begin to dimly see into what, when deeply immersed in Her fold, is obvious and manifest: too often have I not abstracted myself from living process to reflect upon it all from a removed, cozy vantage point?
Did I not recently tell myself that the point is to get ourselves deeply entangled, to never renounce embodiment? Did not Sartre tell me that if we try to shut ourselves up inside our own minds “in a nice, warm room with the shutters closed,” we cease to exist?
Apparently, the dusty road he then claims to be the definition of who we are, our rightful, mobile home, the home for the wild hearts and the insanely curious souls amongst us who want to open to the ecstasy and the pain, who want life to expose our vulnerabilities and ensnare us into riveting feeling, is only dusty in the deserts of August.
I choose no longer to overlook the road as road when it turns sodden, frozen stiff, and forgotten, superficially buried under white tufts.
Sarah McKelvey is a free spirit who enjoys introspecting, speculating, and writing about life, love, synchronistic experiences, identity, psyche, self-cultivation, and her various misadventures. She typically writes in the context of traveling, and is informed by Eastern wisdom traditions, depth psychology, and the iconoclastic teachings of Alan Watts. Words are her favorite medium. In her pursuits, she pursues truth, beauty, and goodness, and hopes to, through her endeavors and writing, promote a life-affirming attitude that belongs on the spectrum of love. She lives along the Front Range outside of Denver, and practices psychotherapy professionally.