Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gray thoughts on gray days

Our neighbors have a friend visiting, a woman from Florida who's thinking of moving out here, so I brought her to a coffee date this morning with a friend who I thought might have some employment ideas for her.

But after a long and lovely Indian Summer, today is definitely a typical Northwest November day, cold and rainy, and the conversation over coffee was not all that encouraging.

It can be hard -- and many of us who live here know this first hand -- to transition to the weather here, and those who hate it will gladly tell you -- and your friend from Florida or California -- that a wet day at 40 degrees is considerably more uncomfortable than a dry snowy day at 10 degrees. It's true: that wet cold definitely bites, and we all know people who've tried to move here and left after a year or two because they can't stand the gray.

But one of the things I've noticed about these gray days is that my own foibles, troubles and challenges seem highlighted in contrast -- like splashes of color on a dark background. Perhaps it is because our world gets so much smaller when the great outdoors is so unpleasant, but I do find that days like this have a way of bringing to light unpleasant truths about ourselves and our behaviors -- -- and, sadly, today was no exception.

Suffice it to say that for a variety of reasons I am very aware today of how much of the time I spend in a sort of forward-leaning posture, impatient for whatever is to come next instead of being consciously attuned to what is happening right now. Whether it's driving a car, or waiting for the cat to finish breakfast so I can put him outside and meditate; whether I'm playing bridge -- even for the first time after a 20-year hiatus -- or engaging in conversation, some part of me often seems to be off and running to the next event.

It's good to get these insights about ourselves, of course, but also a bit painful and embarrassing -- especially if, like me, you're always talking about how important it is to be fully present. I suppose it's just a reminder that we are none of us perfect, and those old adages about teaching what we most need to learn all hold true. Luckily some other part of me can step back and see the larger picture; can smile and say "It's okay; it's good you noticed -- you can't fix it if you don't realize it's broken" and then pat me on the back encouragingly.

Yup. These gray days do give us ample opportunity to check in with our own inconsistencies; it may be why some folks find them so hard to take. But if I can just sit with that level of awareness, it's not too long before that inner divine wells up with a sort of indulgent chuckle and a sense of peace rolls over me like the waves on our beach. My job is not to be perfect; my job is just to keep working towards being a more thoughtful and compassionate being. Some days that's harder than others, and other days I have to face how far I fall short of my own ideals. And some days -- especially these gray ones -- I just have to start by being thoughtful and compassionate with myself.

3 comments:

karen gerstenberger said...

I love this photo, and I have a friend who you might have been describing. But it's interesting how this place can grow on a person, gray or not. How was the transition for you?

Maureen said...

Another online group with which I'm involved is reading and commenting on Gerald May's "The Wisdom of the Wilderness". One of the chapters works through what May dubs "the power of the slowing". We all wrote on that, the need to slow down to be present. I find it interesting how many times in various thoughtful blogs and commentaries this topic comes up. So many seem to be struggling with just being.

Your reading, your camera, your meditation: they all can "slow" you--to think, to see, to contemplate, just in different ways than you might think define presence.

I like that you give yourself room to be, as you say, "compassionate with myself." Even or especially on gray days.

drw@bainbridge.net said...

For some reason I loved the Pacific Northwest the minute I set foot in it, and I've never minded the winters AT ALL. My husband is another story; it took him far longer to adjust, but he no longer seems interested in leaving. Yay!