Sometimes I side-eye my neighbors with envy when I work on my yard. One neighbor’s yard is mostly concrete and structures, no trees. The other yard is mostly grass, just one tree interfering with the flow of the mower. My yard is a tangle of spaces, the pond by the patio, the tattered greenhouse and giant philodendron in the middle, the fire pit, palm trees, the picnic table, pines, gardenia bushes, vegetable and flower beds, fig trees, the hill in one back corner, and the decrepit shed in the other. There are no straight paths for to flow the mow.
I’ve never taken straight paths and sometimes I side-eye those who do with a little envy. The straight path seems much easier when I’m in the thick of a bush yanking at Virginia creepers that have climbed twenty feet (Virginia, please come collect your creepers and take them home).
I don’t hate my crooked paths. Most days, I love them. They’re organic, mysterious, and, in unexpected moments, healing.
My crooked paths are complicated by my disinclination to domestic tasks. I delay the exhausting, thankless tasks like trimming the edges of the lawn or chasing the dust that collects on the surfaces of my home. Why bother when a week later the edges are ragged and the dust has collected again? Some might judge me for it, but, even as an adolescent, I am happiest sitting in my sacred space, exploring, dreaming, delighting in the words, in the markers and colors, in the creative opportunities before me.
The neighbors’ yards are disciplined, controlled. Easier to maintain. The space might seem beautiful and peaceful on days when I drag my mower around impossible edges and swear as I yank weeds from the fence, but they don’t feel sacred to me. Where’s the whimsy, the fun, the flow? I hope the neighbors have more fun than their beautifully kept yards feel.
Disciplined control versus organic flow
My life is a testimony to going with the flow. I could spin my story many different ways.
- She didn’t have any backbone, so she just stumbled from one thing to the next.
- She let the flow of life lead her through beautiful years of education, relationships, and careers.
- She could never make up her mind.
- She is good at taking care of what is before her and dealing with chaos.
- She never planned for the future.
- She lived in the present.
- She’s lazy.
- She’s creative.
- She’s undisciplined.
- She’s free.
It’s all true.
If “flow” conjures for you images of water, you’re not alone. Imagine all the waters. The slow, mighty river; the babbling brook; the ocean’s gentle swells; the crashing waves; the dark, quiet lake; the puddles of rain; the deafening falls. All of the water metaphors, even the ones that contradict each other, are correct. There is truth in all of them.
The two metaphors that speak most strongly to me lately are going with the flow (everything I desire is downstream) and standing in the stream as the waters of time, of life, wash over my feet (always water, yet always different). But when do I let go and just float with the flow and when should I stand? Or maybe I just allow the flow to take me, oars up, dropping my hand in the waters from time to time to test the waters, guide the flow? Yes and yes. It’s everything. All the metaphors. All the things.
In the flow of 2020
After flowing between worlds for a year and a half, moving back into our home when Steven returned from Puerto Rico in January, I stopped, stood in the stream, to take inventory. Then came the pandemic, for which we all stopped to asses our situation.
This year, as we shelter in place, I stand in the stream and know my experience is privileged and comfortable. In March, I dove into programs that nourished me. I showed up for myself every morning, to write, to explore, to dream, just like that young girl I remember. In my reduced Covid19 world, I took care of things in front of me: the pond I started three years ago, the garden beds that were unkempt for two years, the novel I started twenty-five years ago, the Tweet-story launch I conceived three years ago. I took a crooked, organic, undisciplined path to tackle my projects, but I finished them. All of them.
I’m here for the flow.
What’s next? I’m not sure. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s deal with what is right before you. But mostly, to trust my intuition. I’ll know when it’s time to stand and time to float. That divine gift of intuition will guide my hand to the waters when it’s time.
What’s next is whatever else 2020 drops along my crooked path. And when I face it, I’ll know what to do.
Some days, this might look like bouncing from this to that. If it’s dusting or mowing, that’ll be true. But most days, I’ll be mindful as I commit my energy to a new project, to my circles, to work, to social justice, and to lifting up. I’ll find my place in the flow of this dissonant year. I’ll find my voice in the lessons of this turbulent flow. My path will be organic but, with the luxury of youth behind me, mindful, disciplined even. I stand mindfully in the rough bed of 2020, unsure when and how to show up, but ready. As I surrender to the stream, I dip my hands into the water to guide my path downstream, going with the flow but no longer drifting.
La Fête Nat (Fireworks in France for me?)
Bigger, harder things may be ahead, but what’s before me today? My birthday! And I’m here for it.
I showed up for my quiet time this morning. What’s before me now? The maddening backyard, which I mowed in my flip flops and a sundress because it’s my birthday and I can. Covered in clippings and sweat by 8 am, I asked, What’s before me now? This will be my mantra. What’s before me now?
I’m going into this new trip around the sun mindful, flowing, and grateful for all of the waters, all of the experiences that have flowed through and enriched my life.
Thank you for all the wishes I know I’ll receive from phone calls, cards, emails, texts, and on social media. Please accept this heartfelt wish in return:
I hope on this day you feel the flow, whether you’re standing in it as it cools your heels or whether you float and flow with it, downstream. May this flow fill you with joy and delight.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020
Happy late birthday! My biggest babies turned 16 yesterday.
I try to be a “go with the flow” type of person but find it hard. I need to know what is happening…
So beautifully written. I have always been a go with the flow kind of person and have often wondered if I was going with the flow or just being lazy. Maybe both I guess.
It’s all the things. We’re all the things.
Sweet lady, we must be 2 kindered s0irits in this world. Your description of yourself is as though you are describing me! I have a better description though: She didn’t get bogged down with the details of life. She lived and lived as she could and embraced her nature”
I love it. 🙂 I don’t normally center on myself as much as I did in this post, but oddly, it resonated with so many.
Wishing you a very happy birthday!
Beautiful! This so resonates with me!
I hope you had the happiest of birthdays, Pennie!
A birthday is such a good day for ‘taking stock’.
Today, I will picture you in a little boat, calmly going with the flow, but head up and searching eagerly forward.
Thanks! I like that image.
Happy birthday, Pennie!
Happy birthday! May God bless you with many more!
Your mastery of words remind me of one of my favorites:
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
by the moments that take our breath away!
May you enjoy many breathtaking moments!
You have me dreaming of some cooling flow in this hellish, summer heat!
Happiest of Bithdays!
Now go enjoy your cut lawn!
Happy birthday, Pennie!
Such beautiful writing—enjoy the flow, my friend.