When I was very small I had three close friends: my Irish Wolfhound Marigold, blueberries, and a squirrel who didn’t have a name, just a feeling.
I lived in the forest outside of Fairbanks, Alaska with my parents. There were a few cabins connected by trails out there, a sort of neighborhood of people in rather unusual phases of their lives.
There were Ruth and Scott, who had goats and a baby, and there were Mark and Joanne who had Jessica who was a baby, and another man who was very big, tall, and hairy whose name I don’t remember. I also had an aunt and uncle and five cousins down the road in town. They had chickens and goats.
And the little forest.
I spent most of my non-winter days outside in various states of recombinantcy amid the low-bush blueberries. I sometimes tried to go visit our neighbors, only to be body blocked by Marigold the Irish Wolfhound at my mother’s direction, so again I would settle amid the vegetation like a little troll.
From this vantage point, I had an excellent view of the very small to minuscule plant life that lives in the space from ground level to about six inches up. And let me tell you, it is splendid. There are an astounding array of shades of green, gold, pearly grays verging on blue, and browns of all description. The shapes range from quite sturdy to ethereal. I have a very keen eye and deep love for color as an adult, and I suspect that this early study is when I learned it.
Let me tell you a bit more about the squirrel with no name (no relation to the horse that crossed the dessert). It lived in a stump behind our cabin, and if I sat about eight feet away from it’s home, facing away from it, and got very still inside while ever-so-gently casting my attention in its direction, it would come out to see what I was doing. If I got too excited or moved much, it was gone. That squirrel taught me how to be still but very aware. I use that skill today on humans who are confused or upset. That squirrel taught me how to hold space.
Marigold the Irish Wolfhound was a very large and very gentle beast. She taught me patience and the value of simple companionship. To this day I enjoy having another alive being in the room with me even if we are not interacting. As I write this, there is a napping dog about ten feet away, and my heart feels glad for it.
There is a harmony to the silent world, an unheard rhythm of feeling-tone that we all pick up on, even if we don’t register it in our conscious minds. Have you ever walked into a space and felt better? Or for that matter felt worse, even if things looked fine on the surface? The way we inhabit the rooms of our homes, the tone of voice and intent we bring to our everyday conversations, the softness-or-not of the clothes we wear, all of these things shape our internal harmony. And our internal harmony (or lack of) radiates out of us and fills the space around us. Have you ever visited an old church or ancient temple and felt all the love and devotion that people poured out of their hearts decade after decade? Just like the worn down stone steps and polished benches hold evidence of those who came before, so does the very space echo their inner states.
It took a long time of growing up for me to notice that it was this internal harmony of the deep forest that I was missing. I used to think that maybe I should live there again. The problem was, as an adult I have come to really enjoy where I live, and want to stay. I was fairly conflicted for a few years, but then I realized: the little forest was part of me. I find it in my canine companions, my herb garden, and my quiet creative time. I married a man who also likes to do his own projects, and we are quite comfortable giving each other space in that way. When I rest in my heart, I feel it.
Many people I meet don’t seem to care about, or even be aware of, their inner landscape. They don’t realize that their state of being is communicating to those around them and affecting the spaces they hang out in. My hypothesis is that they have never had the chance to be quiet enough to notice it. When I work with clients around their relationship with food and themselves, I eventually come around to talking to them about this. I use words like ‘the small voice that knows what is true’, or ‘your inner compass’. Honestly, it is more than that. It is an upwelling of connection to the vast simplicity of life. It is both brilliant and reassuring. It moves with every breath. Feel it and rest.