*Photo from Nelson, NH as the sun sets.
It’s only 4:30 pm as I begin writing, and the sun is already setting. Daylight savings seems to steal my sunshine, rather than save it for me, as I am not a farmer, nor do I like early mornings. My best time of day has always been afternoon and evening hours, the time of day when I do my most creative, intellectual work. Sometimes it bothers me that the U.S. work schedule is so often geared toward people who like mornings, and that most businesses in rural towns are only open during the day, or even worse, only in the morning. If I need to shop, my preference is always to go in the evening, when most people have already done their after-work shopping runs, and the stores are quiet and free of traffic. For me, night time is enchanting. I love watching the sun set, listening to the night animals begin to waken in the woods, and enjoy the gentle appearance of stars as the twilight turns to dark. When the moon has yet to rise, I could stand outside for hours gazing at the lattice of the Milky Way stretching its arch across the sky. But then when the moon does rise, I take in the beauty of its waxing and waning, the optical illusion of size when close to the horizon, and the surprising amount of light by which to see without another source. What has been most interesting about living in the woods is the lack of street lights, and how readily my body has responded to the natural ebb and flow of light from nature.
For maybe the first time in my life, the time change has not bothered me quite so much. I am working hard at going with the natural flow of things around me, rather than always feeling at odds with my environment. Most of my life I have suffered the environments of school, work, home, politics, society, and any other culture of life as abrasive, always finding the ways in which I wish they could be different. Much like my desire to have society honor those of us who prefer evenings or nights to early morning work, I often struggled to make peace with the many failings of public schools, colleges, corporations, or government systems in my life. No matter what you want to see in the world, it will be there, and when I was always looking at the failings of the systems in my life, I was always unhappy. Instead, I am changing my habits to see the good and to go with the flow. Though I abhor getting up early, I am working at a school again, and early morning is when I must rise. Thus, instead of fighting it by staying up too late and running on a sleep deficit, I now take better care of myself and go to bed earlier. With more sleep, I rise much more readily and happily, and my day at work goes much better. Sleep in general always helps, but it’s taken me over 40 years to learn this wisdom. The lifestyle of too many in the States revolves around working too many hours, sleeping too little, eating nutritionless food, and getting too little exercise or time outdoors. And then we wonder why we’re sick, depressed, and suffering from auto-immune disorders. It’s not rocket science.
Ending the fight with morning has been an eye-opening experience. I have never liked early morning work, and yet I can function, and I can give myself the means for peacefully accepting this aspect of life for now. During the work week, I eat a strict low-carb diet with lots of vegetables and healthy proteins, both in morning and evening, and avoid any junk until the weekend. Though it may seem like a punishment to some, I actually look at it as a kind self-care to support my body’s needs during the week when I am working hard and must fill my day with so much physical and demanding activity. Sleeping enough and eating well are no longer negotiable for me. Since I’ve been sick for a while, due to the petri dish in which I work, I haven’t been able to put as much energy into exercise, but I did my best. If I keep up on getting out to walk and still lift weights every other day, it keeps my circulation up and my muscles strong enough to avoid injury. When I have to lift toddlers all day long, I need a strong back. Not negotiable. It’s a lot of work to be so diligent, but when my spirit responded so readily to taking good care of my body, I find myself convinced that this is the answer to happiness. Stop fighting the systems and work with them instead.
The day after midterm elections, I think this philosophy is where I need to reside with politics, too. I have no doubt that Democrats are feeling somewhat mollified to have the House back in their court, but probably wish they could have won more. Republicans probably feel frustrated by the loss of the House, and worry that now nothing will get done in Congress. We can see the brokenness of our government, but we can also see the revelation of how much awareness is coming about because of the uprising of new candidates, and newly-charged people in the population who were previously apathetic. If we choose to see this phase of our global shift in politics as a revealing of the darker parts of our human nature, we expose it to the light of day and see it for what it really is: unhealthy, causing suffering, and a fight against the nature of what we need. Rather than fear what is to come, we can see the shift as growing pain which will open up a whole new way to have dialogue, to honor humanity, and to serve and save the planet from our past mistakes. A moment ago, the neighborhood owl awakened and called out to let the hillside know. Recently I took the time to find out what kind of owl it is, and learned it’s a barred owl, a beautifully striped bird with the characteristic white feathers surrounding orb-like eyes. I think about that owl as a sort of friendly neighbor, and I want to make sure we keep the forest healthy and alive so it has a home, right along with all the other animals that live in the woods. If I’m honest, I must recognize I have been fighting the flow of what must be done, rather than seeking a peaceful solution.
No matter what we do to the planet, nature will find a way to deal with us. The earth has survived lots of catastrophic events over the millennia of its existence, and we may become yet another catastrophe for the planet to survive. People who consider themselves environmentalists often argue that we must save the planet, but what we’re really doing is saving ourselves. Humanity is at risk of dying out if we don’t take action soon to preserve our lives, but rest assured that even if we turn this planet into a raging oceanic waterworld of bacteria and viruses, the planet will survive and will figure out how to re-boot life as we know it. After all, the dinosaurs died out, but mammals took their place. If we die out, something else will take our place. It will be up to the humans to decide how much we want to live, but it won’t happen by fighting. We’ll have to find solutions which work with what we have, and fast. Meanwhile, we are getting an action-packed lesson in how to unite and take care of each other because we realize it’s the only answer to hate. Nature provides us the opportunity to change if we pay attention.
Michael and I took a walk on our lovely hill today, enjoying the warm sun as we climbed up to where we could see the view of the rolling hills. All the trees in the woods suddenly turned from a golden green to dead brown after the recent colder weather in Southern New Hampshire. We had storms which poured massive amounts of rain on the region, and for the first time since I have lived here I saw waterfalls in the woods where previously no water ran at all. The whole hillside became a series of small creeks which joined the stream that runs through Granite Gorge on Route 9. It’s a beautiful stream full of boulders, and is one of my favorite parts of the commute to town or work every day. Now the stream is barreling over the boulders after all the rain, and places which used to be fields look more like marshes. The sun today probably burned off some of the water, but it looks like more rain is in the forecast soon. Over the summer, the Northeast experienced a lot of rainy days, too much humidity, and less sun, which is going to become even more common as the planet changes in response to the warming. When the sun shines, I find myself dashing outdoors as quickly as possible. Our walk today served to remind me that I need to get out much more often, and for longer, as I struggled to climb the hill. Illness has taken its toll, but I will gently nudge myself back into health.
The light is gone completely now. My body aches for rest in the darker hours, and wants sleep earlier. After I lift weights and eat dinner, perhaps that is exactly what I should give myself. Worry not, darlings, about the future. Enjoy this moment. Breathe. Rest. Listen. Be at ease. If the future looks dim, remind yourself you do not live there now. You are here in this moment. Embrace what you are doing, rather than fighting it. Find what is working in the here and now, what is helping make your life work. What are you doing to make it worse, and how can you stop the struggle? If you hate, find what you love instead—seek it out and pay attention to it. We are often like children, even as adults, in the way we allow negative thoughts to be our focus. Children will accept any kind of attention, positive or negative, but they are happier when we praise them for what they do right, instead of pointing out all the ways they’re wrong. Do that for yourself by finding the ways you already are doing the right things, the good, rather than all the ways you might be wrong. I am willing to bet most of your day is actually going right most of the time, but you focus too much on what went wrong, even if it was only a few small things. Most of the moments of your day are not negative if you live in a safe place with food and a bed. Be thankful for your food and your bed and your house. Not everyone has those. If you woke in a bed, and it was warm, that is good. It’s a positive start to your day. Some people rise from a cardboard box or a tent in a parking lot. You can take any moment of your day and play this like a game: how can I be thankful right now? I am sitting in a comfortable chair in a warm room with a beautiful lamp on my table. The lamp is the one thing left from my grandparents’ estate, and is one of the most memorable articles of furniture from my childhood. I remember staring at this lamp as a child and admiring it my whole life. Now it is my lamp, a gorgeous knock-off of a Tiffany, and I treasure it. This light glows against the darkness now pressing against the windows of my room while I wait for the moon to rise or the stars to glimmer. Find the light, follow it, and let your body tell you what it needs. Feed your spirit, and the rest will follow.