What do you do when flattened? When you find yourself in the face of forces far more powerful than you? How do you respond? What do you learn about yourself?
Recently Rob and Alder and I were on a backcountry ski hut adventure, when crossing a ridge on our way back we encountered the fiercest wind I’ve ever experienced. Our mild hike turned into a moment of condensed eternity, as we found ourselves caught on the ridgeline in gale-force winds that knocked us over and pinned us to the ground. Rob managed to get back down the hill with Alder on his back, but for a short time I found myself completely incapacitated, tangled in my skis, my heavy backpack wrenched haphazardly around my arms, trying as hard as I could to get up, to no avail. My hat had already blown off, and I hunkered down to try to get my skis off, as I was whipped to the ground by this ferocious, magnificent force. I found myself experiencing a strange mixture of confidence, acceptance, fear, anger, mothering-need-to-get-to-my-baby-at-all-costs, helplessness, and exhilaration. Soon there were enough mini-pauses in the wind that I was able to get out of my skis, right my backpack, and crawl inchingly down the way we’d come, to rejoin Rob and Alder. We did our best to comfort our son, then traversed a ways before making another bolt across the ridge into the protective comfort of the trees below.
As an aside, and follow-up to the Righting the Rocking Chair incident described in my last post, when we got back to the car Alder immediately found three stuffed animals and hugged them close. Usually he only needs ñun-ñun, his trusty bunny rabbit, but this time he insisted on having Moo (cow) and Sheepie (Kyrgyz felted turquoise mountain sheep) as well, all bundled in his arms, the little sheep nestled between the bigger cow and rabbit….gathering his healing in the wake of having his three-dom world disrupted.
I mention this story because of what we experienced in the days following—a renewed sense of aliveness, vitality, gratitude, and awakeness to the world. In Movimiento’s work with young people, we are always trying to combine the comfort and reassurance of the familiar with the challenge, disorientation, and learning-leap of the new. Adolescence is a time when we humans crave risk, initiation, and real situations within which to prove and learn ourselves. For our Movi youth, traveling to another country, going camping or backpacking, hiking over rocks at the river, trying a new food, learning a new dance move, making a basket or clay bowl, or visiting Oakland for the first time can all carry the same tinge of awe-fear-excitement-focus that emerged for me in the wind last week. Sometimes we need to yell or sob in the midst of it, and then the tender new shoots of understanding, gentleness, and connection emerge afterward. These experiences become memories we use as touch-stones for our shape-forming, our identities, or our unhooking-from-identity, depending on our stage of life and intent.
What adventure is your heart guiding you on today? What quiet or wild walk, what call?