This river that is mine now
This morning it was yours
And by afternoon it will have nearly reached
In this way
Don’t we always learn the most
By letting go of what is right in front of us?
~ Meg Hutchinson
This is a fragment of a poem singer/songwriter/poet Meg Hutchinson wrote recently. I believe the genesis was from a place of grieving over the loss of her dog, but it has been resonating with me on so many levels the last couple of weeks.
Feelings of loss, yes, definitely – both on a personal note and as part of humanity. Boston; West, Texas; Bangladesh… Strangely, Meg wrote this just before the horrific events of last week and yet the first few lines capture so well the sense of common bonds and empathy, and the shared, collective wave of grief passed hand to hand like a tragic baton, across the country and around the world.
In addition to the anger, sadness and frustration over these specific tragedies, there is the feeling of helplessness over the scale of the world’s societal, political and environmental ills. Work has been very stressful lately. I deal with endangered species and ecosystem recovery and the problems continue to grow as the budgets to fix them shrink. Just today I read a depressing study on the state of the world’s groundwater system in terms of over-utilization and pollution. And then there are the small, personal things that pale in comparison but still cause anxiety – health concerns and gnawing practical details like will I find a place to park my tiny house once it is built, which state will I end up in, what will I do next with my life and how will I afford it. There’s a disquieting amount of change and uncertainty looming around most people I know these days.
Last week I had such tight knots in my neck and shoulders I was having weird little vertigo moments – a sure sign that some letting go was in order. It’s a continual practice recognizing how we take in our experiences and store them within ourselves, letting the mind be still and the body relax. It took a lot of concentrated effort, but reminders like the poem helped. There may be something to accepting the things you cannot change, but letting go is far better – way less internalization and tense muscles…
The poem’s image of a purifying, flowing river of shared experience and letting go has other relevance to our lives as well. Questioning and releasing old, outdated perceptions of ourselves that we stubbornly cling to and letting them wash away. Or the idea of setting those close to us free with no expectations, no obligations, no cages, only love and support for their journey.
Also embodied in the poem is the notion of the passing of genes and experience and knowledge from parent to child, and the hard requirement of letting them go, to let them venture on beyond – exploring, hopeful beacons for the future, maybe teaching us a new trick or two about joy in return.
And then there’s the really mundane interpretation, the letting go of stuff. For some reason I’ve broken three glasses this last month, but in my move toward downsizing, I realized it just meant less decisions to make. I took a load to Goodwill and felt that much lighter. In a recent rainstorm, I pulled out my already bent umbrella and it gave up the ghost – neither expanding nor closing. Walking by a garbage can I tipped it in and splashed on through the rain. Gleefully, I decided I didn’t really care and turned my face to the sky.
In honor of April being poetry month, we have a long tradition at work of sending around poems we like. When I sent this poem fragment out to my co-workers a couple weeks ago, I included a note about how it struck a chord since I was in the process of designing and building a tiny house on wheels and downsizing my life. You can imagine my surprise when one of my co-workers replied that she has a good friend who has built a tiny house and was living in the Bay Area. Even more surprising is that her friend turns out to be Colin, whose post I had loved on the Tiny House Blog and that I had recently forwarded to some other friends interested in building a tiny house!
I’m leaving in an hour to meet Colin and see his home. He’s been extremely kind, offering to help answer questions and share his experiences. Coincidently, the same day I was emailing with Colin, Tammy and Logan (RowdyKittens and Smalltopia) invited me up to Shasta to visit their little house. They also have been really helpful answering my many queries and I’m looking forward to seeing them on Sunday.
It’s a tiny world after all…
A tiny world in which we are all connected, in what seems like far less than six degrees of separation. One in which the small things, the small gestures of kindness matter. One in which you paradoxically gain by letting go. Perhaps it’s karma. The trick is learning to let go and trust it…
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
~ Joseph Campbell