I have continued tuning in to my heart chakra, and it seems there is no ugly orange slimy faceless moonsnail inside that shell I discovered when I first ventured in. Rather, it's a young girl who has been taking shelter in there, with long long legs and pink short shorts and a sort of 50's-looking white blouse with short rolled-up sleeves.
She's a little sleepy, and a little hunch-backed from being curled up in such a tiny spot for so long, but she basically has the trusting, welcoming benevolent curiosity of this goat. Which must be why I was drawn to this picture this morning; there's something in the facial expression that makes me want to stay connected with the goat, to keep looking.
I love his fuzziness: we tend to forget that old goats were once young and soft. I love too the way that fuzziness is echoed in the curls of chicken wire on the right: they look sort of fuzzy, too, though I know they aren't. I also love the Mona Lisa half-smile, and the little white tufts of hair below it that set it off. The brown patches on his knees look like he's been kneeling in the dirt -- working? praying? gardening? -- but he seems to have set that aside to welcome me.
There is also a sense of expectation in his face, as if I have brought him a present, or a question, or some important news. I am unexpected, I think, but no less welcome for that. He seems completely present, and focused on me, but at the same time it's clear the situation -- whatever it may be -- is about to change; that once I deliver whatever it is he's waiting for, some threshold will have been crossed, and I will either leave, leaving him to return to whatever he's breaking from, or we will go into his yard together. I get the sense that however present he may be, he is eager to get back to whatever he was doing before I arrived.
My husband and I have been discussing (should I say arguing about?) all week the challenge of how best to celebrate our upcoming anniversary, and we are no closer to a resolution today than we were a month ago. Part of the problem is that we want to honor these milestones in our lives (our 25th anniversary and my 60th birthday) but we don't want to break the bank to do it. But a bigger part of the problem -- one that's always been a challenging aspect to our relationship -- is that I am a bit of a stick-in-the-mud about travel: I want to know where I'm going, I want to know there will be a comfortable clean bed and a warm shower when I get there, and I need to eat regularly. Ideally, for me, a vacation would also include a fair amount of downtime, lots of photographic opportunities, and a wireless connection so I can keep blogging.
He, on the other hand, is more of a free spirit, and thinks we should just take off in the car, stop when and where we feel like it, and be sure there are sleeping bags and a tent in case we can't find a hotel when we're tired. His idea of the perfect vacation is one that is so stressful you're grateful to get back to work when you're done, while I prefer to relax and be pampered. And because we (I now realize FOOLISHLY) married only 2 days before my birthday (note to self: if you ever marry again, do it in, like NOVEMBER or something), somehow both our needs need to get met on this vacation, because, although it is MY birthday, it's OUR anniversary. So the discussions are complicated by my longing for a great birthday and the guilt I feel for not wanting what he wants.
Of the two of us, I suspect I am the one who is more like this goat. I'm open to interruptions, but there's a big part of me that's impatient to get back to what I was doing. I'm curious, I'm friendly, I'm open, and I'm busy. He would probably be one of the other goats in the yard, off on his own trying to figure out how to climb the tree or break out of the fence -- while I'm saying "be careful!"
But my reading in Notes from the Song of Life this morning (I confess, I can't seem to stick to just one of these little chapters a day) echoes something my husband has been saying for years: "You are either growing or you are decaying. There is no middle ground." -- and that's one of the things I love about the man: he's always been willing to change, to try new ways of being. But McCarroll goes on to say this:
"In order to live you must grow. How? By gently unfolding your potential through practicing the art of living. Each day you must stretch a little into the uncomfortable... But (he adds) you must begin by being yourself, no matter what that means."
Does this feel like a bit of a conundrum to you? It does to me -- especially in this context. I need to accept and honor that I am the sort of person who longs to be pampered, and at the same time I need to push my edges a bit, challenge myself to try new things. I need, I think, to be like this goat: confident, self-assured, centered, and yet open to what life may bring into my yard. Why is that such a hard balance to strike?
Maybe I'll join that long-legged girl and sit with her on the edge of the shell, dangling my own legs over the abyss below. Perhaps, like this goat, she has something to tell me -- or perhaps she will just be happy to listen while I whine.