Washington State boasts miles of coastline, much of it decorated with tangles of driftwood. One of my favorite memories from childhood days at the beach is seeing how far along the beach I could walk, balancing only on driftwood, without my feet touching sand.
In the 7 weeks since we left “home” in Thailand, we’ve slept in 8 beds. This is just the beginning of what will be a year of transition. While many would find a year like this unsettling (and I have – already – felt that unsettledness), I am finding it also an expedition of discovery, learning how to make this (current) place, my place; knowing that I must embrace the gifts today offers, not cling to the past, nor long for the future, but… focus on and appreciate today.
As we step from one home to another to another throughout this year of transition, there are some lessons to be learned from walking driftwood, as I did recently during some days near Ebey’s Landing, on Whidbey Island.
Sometimes a log seems very narrow and I wonder, “Can I really walk the narrowness of this place, this piece of driftwood?” Arms naturally swing wide to assist in the driftwood dance, inching one foot forward, then another.
On the narrow edge of transition, we need to exercise other parts of ourselves in new ways in order to gain our balance. We employ some less used parts of our bodies, but also our brains, souls, and spirits, which assist us in gaining balance and learning the way forward. We use some “soul muscles” we may not have used in quite some time, or… perhaps, ever! Some of this begins to feel quite natural, but… at the close of most days, there will be an ache that reminds us of the efforts of the day.
It’s pretty natural to look ahead, in transition… and, certainly, looking ahead is necessary when walking driftwood. There are some logs that hold promise, but which are simply too short; they don’t take us the length of where we want to go. There are others that have length, but maybe don’t have stability, so there is some trial and error to find our best path through the driftwood, our best path through transition.
There’s a lot of testing involved when walking driftwood. Sometimes you step on a log and you think it will fully support your weight and it doesn’t. Regaining balance (or landing softly and getting up to walk again) must be done over and over and over. You learn a way of walking that suits the driftwood – putting a foot in place, but delicately; not putting your full weight forward, but testing it to see if the next log will hold your weight. Being ready for the expected, but unexpected, shift of log beneath you can be exhilarating at first, but as muscles stretch and tense, you become aware of a creeping fatigue, as you are constantly on alert. No two steps are the same in walking driftwood, nor in walking transition.
Often, straddling a couple of logs is necessary to find support between boards, between here and there. Transition is also about straddling, one foot in each of two places, gaining balance, then shifting weight from one place to another.
Sometimes, the best option is not our ideal. There’s such a jumble of small logs that you can’t really find your purchase, can’t really find your balance. Toes slip, bodies tip, arms flip, and we find ourselves on the ground, breathless, wondering how we got there. Arising, brushing sand from our bums, we become aware of scrapes and bruises, with no memory of how they came to be. Welcome to transition, where there is also quite a bit of bum brushing, nursing our wounds, getting up and putting ourselves back together to march onward.
Every once in awhile there’s some retreating, retracing of your steps in order to go a different way. You feel defeated and discouraged, thinking that forward movement is hindered. Did the logs get the best of you? Still, the backward walk is a necessary endeavor in the forward movement, as a different log holds more promise to move you in the direction you want to go.
We can be so focused on navigating the maze of driftwood, that we don’t notice the beauty of the driftwood along the way, the swirls of wood, the shades of tan, brown and gray. Fragile flowers grow between the boards and are easily missed, if we don’t occasionally pause to sit, rest and appreciate this place, this space. We’ll miss the beauty springing up and growing in between the logs; we’ll miss the beauty springing up in us, in between the there and here, in between our then and not yet.
There’s a delight and discovery in walking driftwood, but also a dull pain, a longing for rest. One finds that the place of rest on driftwood is a short-lived relief; pausing suits, lingering doesn’t. As the board becomes harder and harder beneath us, we are prompted to get up and walk, once again, because remaining does not provide true rest. True rest will only come at evening, at home in one’s own bed. So, too, with transition… there are momentary pauses, small moments of rest along the way, but… we are all searching for, longing for, anticipating an arrival home.
The awareness that all of life is transition knocks me off my board at the moment and gives me pause. As I sit and ponder, I realize that my experience of being between here and there… is everyman’s experience. We are all between here and there. Between this country and that. Between this job and that. Between this grade and that. Between college and career. Between the single life and married life. Between raising families and empty nest. Between work and retirement. We live our lives in between places, spaces, walking from one place to the next, moving forward as if on a delicate driftwood dance.
Summer is vacation season. Vacations offer times of discovery, opportunities to see the world from new vantage points. But the very definition of vacation means there is an end, a home awaiting after the exploration ends.
This year of transition is not a vacation for us, although it is certainly an opportunity to experience new vistas, to gain new perspectives on this lovely wide world in which we live. There is not a home (yet) awaiting us, but… there is a home sought. We have plans in place to “land” at the end of our driftwood dance, to find and make a home in a new neck of the woods. Yet, we are more aware than ever that we are temporary citizens of this current space, that country up ahead, this planet. Our ultimate home is elsewhere. Yet still, we long for “home,” for a place to “call our own.” It’s up ahead somewhere… another home where we’ll find shelter and so much more. We will belong, find ourselves in relationship with those we love and long for, find beauty in daily rhythms, delight in walking familiar paths.
But for today? We’re dancing driftwood, finding our balance between the logs, experiencing the joy – and ache – of daily discovery, and… brushing our bums off a bit from time to time!