Awareness, Change, College, Coping, Earth cycles, Enjoyment, Fog, Hiking, Music recital, National forest, Northern California, Rain, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Senior year, Stress, Sunday, Surrender, Vienna, Winter
It’s raining right now. It’s not a heavy rain like I grew up with…no thunder or lightening or floods. Rather, it’s a heavy foggy rain…low clouds and mist that accumulates on anything with a pointy end for dripping. As I’ve cozied up with tea this weekend, the rain has reminded me of a very particular time in my past.
My family returned to live in the United States the summer between my high school graduation and the beginning of college. Because our return was a sudden event, it took a while to figure out where we would live and what our lives would be. We eventually settled in Northern California where my father was hired to teach at the college I attended. It was a small, liberal arts school quite a ways from any large city…which had its perks and drawbacks.
One of the drawbacks, while not directly related to its city access, was that there were definitive seasons. While I had been exposed to seasons during a few of our trips to visit family in the U.S., I had not enjoyed them. One of these trips happened during the Christmas season. Vienna, while stunning and breathtaking, easily earning a favorite spot with me, quickly revealed an unknown fear. I honestly felt that because the sun didn’t come up until after 8:00 am that the world was ending and I was dying along with it. Those long winter nights created such anxiety within me that I couldn’t breathe easily until I was back “home” to E. Africa and perpetual 12+ hours of light each day.
Living in Northern California brought all that anxiety back. These seasons, while not often included snow, involved a lot of fog and rain and drizzle…for months on end. I often felt by April that I was a walking lump of mold…never fully dried out or warm. And though I hated those winters, the summers always seemed to make up for it…which was fortunate, because one of my favorite perks was spending time in nature.
The school not only owns a substantial amount of land, but is also situated near a National Forest. Trails through the forest were abundant, and I loved to wander and explore them by myself in the summer. Even now, some of my fondest memories are of those experiences in the woods.
This particular memory took place during my senior year of college. This year proved to be rather stressful due to a heavy load of classes, a job, and a senior music recital to prepare for…all of which presented their own issues and challenges as the year progressed. Most significantly, a series of events resulted in changing flute teachers and all my music six weeks prior to my recital. This, in addition to a particularly dark and foggy winter, sent my body into shut-down mode…it refused to function properly, reducing digestion to only a few raw vegetables. I realized that I had to change something.
So, one Sunday morning, ready to crawl out of my skin and my brain unable to focus on anything, I found a pair of old boots, a rain poncho, gloves, and long underwear. I was tired of fighting against the damp gloominess that threatened to engulf me so I bundled up, ready to submit. Then, I set off into my favorite woods and my cherished paths…in the fog and the rain…for the next six weeks.
Each week I dreaded the hike. I hated being so cold and wet and I hated not seeing the sun. And yet, each week I always discovered some new treasure or some new development…a new bird’s nest…a spring creating a gorgeous lake…moss…wildflowers…deer…buds on the trees. The anticipation of this discovery kept me going. I loved how despite all the stress I was facing, the earth continued to live and change. It hadn’t given up hope for spring and was doing what it had been doing for thousands of years…the same cycle, the same routines. Somehow, amidst all my chaos, that was comforting and relaxing. My stresses, although very real, seemed a bit silly in comparison to this ancient cycle and these weekly hikes helped me gain some perspective about what was really important.
Those six weeks are still some of the most stressful weeks of my life. And yet, they also remain in my memory as some of the most alive, beautiful, and magical times of my existence. My schedule and responsibilities didn’t change at all. In fact they intensified as I got closer to my recital…so much so that the day after my recital felt like a rebirth to life. But, despite all the stress and overwhelm, I had learned to stop resisting it and find a way to enjoy it…every single bit and drop of rain. In doing so, the stresses became not only manageable, but, surprisingly, rather enjoyable as well.
So, if your life is anything like mine is right now, it too is filled with massive changes and stresses. I often find myself starting down the road of worry and anxiety around the uncertainty that accompanies change, creating a place of resistance to it…resulting in more fog and gloom and rain. And, this resistance is fine if that’s what you need to experience. I don’t though. I’m tired of it. I’ve been there. I know what that experience is all about. I’ve mastered that process. I’d really like to move on to something new and much more fun. So, I’m giving up. I’m giving in to the experience that is now and choosing to enjoy it…all of it…every single moment, every single breath, every single tear, every single giggle…every single drop of rain.
And so it is.
- Photographer Captures Rain Using Only Photo Paper and Light (petapixel.com)