Going Out is Going In

I had forgotten what a usual January in the Bay Area is like: massive rain and wind, and strong, wild storms. Certainly the weather has been more than unsettled this month: it’s been turbulent and somewhat frightening.
When I was working full time and commuting, the weather was a nuisance, a factor that made it difficult to travel, walk and run errands. And it made my interior life a challenge as the grey sky and lack of sun was a depression resonator. Even when I lived out in the country surrounded by greenery and sleeping oak trees I rarely realized that the long rainy season was a blanket of solitude and rest that soaked the dry hills and nurtured the earth for eventual blossoming in Spring. Instead I just felt classically “bummed out” most of the time.
Rain and Leaves on My Street
That seems like a long time ago. So far this year I have been awakening early from long sleep and listening to the falling water and the wind moving through the trees. And even though my home is just a mile or so from a main highway and my neighbors sleep and live within a few yards of my own bedroom I feel as if there is a great distance between me and the world that humans have built in a country that worships money and that seems to now live in a constant state of anxiety.
We humans are always busy with the details of our lives and making sure that we are warm and dry in winter and cool and wet in summer. And yet it seems to me that we spend less time making sure that our minds and inner world are also protected from the metaphorical weather that sometimes comes into our hearts like a winter storm. When the rain is falling it’s easy to stay in the house and crank up the heater or the fireplace, make some dinner in the kitchen and have a hearty meal. (More difficult if the power is out I suppose, but I’m trying not to stretch the allegory to a breaking point.)
But where do you go for protection when the storm is inside your soul? What spiritual tools are there that take the place of raincoats and umbrellas? Contemplation and meditation are important. But it’s difficult to quiet the mind when the inner storms are raging. That takes practice, perhaps even a lifetime to master the craft. But I do think that the obvious answer to this is the same that I have writing about recently: cultivating Joy and Love and rediscovering what made you happy in the first place.
So how do we do that? Especially right now when the news is filled with the crass and cynical lies coming out of Washington that are dominating all of us?
Simple: go out and walk in the rain. Revel in it. Let it soak you. We are made of water. We are made of storms.
Looking for a bush
Today it’s not raining, and the sun is appearing now and then while huge clouds roll over my house. I can see them in motion as I write this. I just got back from a walk with Finn, my greyhound companion, and when I started moving I felt, yes, “bummed out.” But as soon as the sun hit my face and began to be absorbed by the black fabric of my winter jacket my whole attitude changed slowly, like a big ship making a sweeping turn out to sea while leaving port. I did some mindful breathing and the negativity fell away quickly. I looked at Finn and he had a big doggie smile on his face. It was as if he was saying: “Smell all those great smells? There’s nothing to worry about. Let’s go pee on a plant.”
John Muir’s Office
I am certainly not advising that you go outside an urinate on something (though in the current political climate there are those that deserve it). But I am saying that sometimes simply just getting out of the house (where we are comfortable) and looking at the natural world will put a smile on your face and allow you to recapture that joy that is the heart and soul of all things. John Muir said in his unpublished journals, “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” He was right.
I have a friend who loves to go out in the rain and has a disabled daughter who requires full time care on the part of her mother. My friend retains an adventurous spirit despite that challenge. When the rain was coming down in buckets a couple of weeks ago she drove to Napa to see the new flood gates. I, however, chose to stay in my home and bounce off the walls. I should have put on the Australian outback duster my wife gave me the Christmas before she passed and let the rain wash my psyche. Up to now I have never been able to bring myself to wear it. My friend is a very brave and cheerful person. She sent me pictures and texts as she moved about through the weather that day. She was valiant. I was a wuss.
There’s probably more heavy rain coming. Next time, I’ll be out there wearing that duster. Finn won’t come out with me then. He hates the rain. But I will tell him about the smells. In detail.
“You walk. I’m sleeping now.”

 

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