LATE SUMMER: THE BRAMBLES AND THE GOLD

Golden Rod flaming

Golden Rod flaming

The morning is overcast, with occasional bright bursts of sunlight. Up in the bee garden, late summer is making herself known on the tips of shriveling leaves, cracking flower stalks, and drooping sunflower heads laden with blackening seeds.

A few bright spots remain to sing of summer’s bounty and memories of lush abundance on the hillside of MillHaven. The goldenrod on her tall spikes lights up the yard like golden torches. The little blue and pink stars of borage still call to the bees. Deep purple asters are just beginning to pop like firecrackers…

Elsewhere, the yard is looking more spent and tired with each passing day. But it is a good kind of weariness, as I imagine all the plants giving each other high-fives as they fall over, brush their  leafy hands together and say “Now…we’re all finished up here!”

There are these two kind of weariness, you see: The one that follows a job well done, the weariness pouring down over your shoulders like warm rain, assuring you of a good and well-deserved night’s sleep.

Tired Joe Pye weed (but tired in a good way!)

Tired Joe Pye weed (but tired in a good way!)

Then, there is that other weariness that has an entirely different feel to it: That all-in, spent sort of fatigue that hounds at the end of projects that failed, burned out, dried up, or had an emotional cost that was far too high.

I want to recall for you the incoming energies of autumn, the season fast upon us. Because weariness of both kinds is an autumnal kind of spirit. Fall is the time we take stock of our larder and look back on what we have harvested in life and in spirit these past months of sunny glory. Our race across the warm moons dashes to a finish, and we calm our pounding hearts and begin to cool down, to slow down. Maybe not in outer activity, yet. After all, there are leaves to be raked and kids to prepare for school and snow shovels to be unearthed from the depths of the garage.

But the call is there, beckoning us to stillness. Listen and you can hear it in the voices of the geese flying at night across the moon’s face, and in the breath of a wind that comes gusting in on the front edge of an afternoon squall. In the crackle of leaves beneath your feet comes that whisper: “Come. Come and abide within.” And so we step quietly into our interior kitchen and take a little peek in the pantry.

Summer is always the season of growth, whether we grew good, wholesome life-stuff, or grew a sludge of toxic ick that nearly engulfed us. We always grow something in summer.

I was blessed this summer. Grace seemed to follow my footsteps. It has been one of the best, fullest, most nourishing summers I can remember. All of us have gifts and flaws, and summer is where these energies most wantonly bloom. This past summer, I was able to make use of my most precious, treasured gifts.

Teaching about bees---Oh, happy dance!! (Not on the ladder, you fool!)

Teaching about bees—Oh, happy dance!! (Not on the ladder, you fool!)

I am a teacher, and I taught classes on beekeeping. It made me fairly giddy with delight. I am a writer, and I continued to write. That, too—when I’m in the zone—makes me giddy. I am a caring person (possums, people, bugs, you name it, I care for it) and my meditation practice is making me more patient and compassionate in all my relationships.

In other areas of delight, I came to love my feet this summer. I’ve always felt I have clunky, big, awkward feet, but this summer I showcased them by making the pledge to myself to go barefoot in the yard all season. At first, my feet were cold, tender, and clumsy, but as the summer progressed, I felt the muscles in my soles, arches, and toes strengthen. My balance improve dramatically. The sun had her way with my feet, and turned them a toasty golden brown. I told myself that all of the duck poop, bees, and muck that I stepped on were strengthening my immune system. Exposure to microbes is a good thing, I’ve read. Now, I think my tootsies are sexy. All that just from letting them be naked for a few months.

My flirtatious footsies

My flirtatious footsies

My friendships have deepened, and my childhood friend Debbie and I got to make beautiful memories crafting the big wall mural that now graces the back of my house. That inspired act of creativity has taken hold of me and infected the very ground here with inspiration.

Dinky, my mother’s old cat who has been a satanic demon all his life has morphed this summer into the most curious, affectionate kitty it’s ever been my privilege to share space with. His gift to me has been an experiential knowing that total transformation is possible in this life.

My flaws found me this summer, too, and we conversed. One in particular made itself known to me in the most unassuming way, while I was doing my series of morning squats. I’m not a multi-tasker but for this one thing: Squatting 15 times each morning while my electric toothbrush buzzes in my mouth. So I’m pumping my knees up and down and as I reach about 13, I say to myself quickly, “That’s enough.” And I stop. And all the meditation I’ve been doing kicks in, granting me a fraction of a second of space around that act of stopping. The inner voice I’ve been working so diligently to cultivate (and am now desperately trying to shut up) says, “Curious, that.” I take just a moment to look at that small, insignificant act of stopping two squats short of my goal, and suddenly my entire destiny crashes down around me in my small bathroom.

Because I always stop short. In every endeavor. I stop short and say, “That’s good enough.” That feeling of ceasing before the goal cascaded in front of my minds eye in a thousand different scenarios, from not bothering to wash the last of the pots and pans, to not doing just the final edit that would have made my writing brilliant, to putting away all my clothes but flinging my jacket down on the floor before crashing in a heap into my bed, muttering, “That’s good enough.” In events large and small, that inclination defines me. Jill of Many Trades, but Master of None.

Dinky: Writer's assistant and bodyguard (well...bed guard,  at least)

Dinky: Writer’s assistant and bodyguard (well…bed guard, at least)

This summer, I had that humiliating agony of seeing myself be the Master of None in the garden, in my house, in my relationships. Mastery requires we go the distance. The entire distance. I rarely do, rarely have. And my life larder is less because of all those times I have abandoned things in the final instance, turned aside, dusted off my hands, and said, “That’s fine. It’s enough.” BUT—I saw it, I saw myself in action, and that is a blessing of a kind. A good kind of humiliation, if such a thing exists.

I know this summer has not been so kind to many others. Too many, like Earth herself are tumbling, tumbling and whirling toward what seems like a bottomless trench. But I wonder about the crazy tumbling of this Earth— and the terror of these times that fills me with fear: Perhaps Earth is not tumbling downward into some rank abyss, but spinning, spinning, spinning the briars of thoughtlessness, aggression, and injustice into filaments of gold.

Because there is always that: The alchemical, unseen processes afoot that can turn the lead of life and cosmos into something very precious.

That late summer weariness is upon my shoulders now, the good weariness that brings peace to my dreams— and the bone-tired slump that comes from facing demons that just don’t want to give it a rest. So I raise a toast to myself and to summer, and what we have achieved together. I applaud all the blessings and the abundance.  And I forgive myself, and am tender with myself around the parts of my heart that are not brave enough to go the final steps into mastery.

Late summer at MillHaven

Late summer at MillHaven

I raise my glass to you, too. To all you have done and been this summer, and to all you have been through. May the brambles in your heart be spun quietly, unnoticeably into sweet filaments of gold that will weave themselves into a fabric of beauty and wonder in a spring not so very far away at all.

As autumn begins her process of clearing off the year’s canvas, may we each celebrate what we are, and what we are becoming. May we celebrate all of life: The brambles and the gold, and the wisdom all of it holds.

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10 Responses to LATE SUMMER: THE BRAMBLES AND THE GOLD

  1. Pam Templeton says:

    Dear Susan, Just yesterday I was missing the feelings your writing brings to me and planning to dive into one of your wonderful books again to sustain me. Very happy to read your musings here this morning.
    To be reminded of all the weaknesses and strengths we all share as embodied souls coupled with the despair, continual hope and beauty this life on the earth school brings to us is very uplifting to me.
    Please don’t ever cease sharing your soul through your beautiful words. I for one, am a very grateful benefactor.. ?. Love, Pam

  2. Nancy Stinson says:

    So much I could say to you from reading this one post…would fill a book. This is exquisite writing with a perfect message. This is writing from a depth so few reach. If you had achieved the pinnacle of your goals, as you see them, this post would not be your offering to the world. It would not be your perfect offering to me this morning. What would your message be, then, if you always went that extra step you think you continually miss? The world doesn’t need another, “I did it all just right, do it like me, messenger.” The world needs healing messages of truth. Your words are healing, they are inviting, they are truth on a page.”

    Your example of two kinds of weariness is spot on. The first a gift; the second a theft, whether self-imposed or inflicted by outside sources. For going on seven years now my husband and I have felt the weariness of theft of the latter. Now, we strive to take our experience and help others. If we succeed, to only 10% of the harm brought to us, the result could be enormous on the side for good.

    Along these long years, lifelines have been clung too. It was (still is) necessary to hold on to things that make sense while being surrounded by a situation that makes none. You, Susan, have been, continue to be, such a lifeline. This post in particular, feels, for me, like a message from God and his angels.

    Please keep being your imperfect, perfect, self. The world needs, I need, your message.

    In gratefulness, Nancy

    • susanknilans@gmail.com says:

      Nancy, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Messages like yours are the only reason I write. You’ve brought joy and peace to my heart today.

  3. Donna Saue says:

    Hi Susan, Thanks for another wonderful “musings” from your heart. Just wanted you to know that at 74 yrs of age, I have found that many things don’t get completed…..and it is really OK. There is so much to experience in these precious days and I have so little gult in not accomplishing all I thought I should set out to do. It is much more fun in my old age just being in the moment and changing my mind and what I am doing to suit myself. I find freedom and much joy in that.
    Mitakuye oyasin, Donna
    PS. Next summer is going to be MY “go barefoot” time too.

    • susanknilans@gmail.com says:

      Donna, I feel the wisdom in your words. Yes, living in the moment is the greatest treasure. That, and going barefoot!

  4. D.B. says:

    In 2005 I first heard of you and began with the purchase of All My Relations and then of course your blog, in fact I just pulled it off my bookshelf to read again, look at the journey you are on!

    I even made a few friends along the way thanks to your blog.

    Best to you and the new moments that are waiting for you. By-the-way one of my vocations is body work especially feet; they hold a spot for each part of the rest of your body…keep loving them. 🙂

    Hugs,
    D.B.

    • susanknilans@gmail.com says:

      Denise, you’ve been appearing in these comments for years, and I just love seeing and hearing from you!

  5. Bett Weston says:

    Dear Susan, Yesterday I realized that I had not seen your blog or writings for quite some time. Today I found you again. Thinking of things stopped before fruition is apparently common – I am so afflicted. Mothers is always too much to do or be distracted by. However, last week I noticed the windflowers in their autumn phase, and trees coming into color, and the bright yellow of goldenrod.
    So happy to fine you again!
    Bett in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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