Half-way over that mythic sunny bridge… A little more ocean warmth, some warmer breezes, sun, sun, sun.. salt water baptisms, and lively stirrings of the soul…..
Monday, March 20th at 6:28am on the east coast, was the vernal equinox. Picture the imaginary plane upon which the Earth revolves around the Sun. The Earth is always tilted at an angle of 23.4 degrees. All winter, the southern hemisphere was tilting towards the Sun. This kind of sucks for the northern hemisphere if you don’t snowboard. It even sucks if you have a wetsuit. On the equinox, however, the Earth’s tilt is such that the Sun shines directly on the Equator – the half-way point between the southern and northern hemispheres. “Equinox” – “Equi” meaning “equal”; “ox” meaning not the 53 point Words with Friends move, but the dyslexic Aussie down-under “kiss”. (Their toilets flush backwards too, xo.) More Sun kisses further into the night. Lord knows we all need some more Sun kissing our faces.
Astronomers often mark this equinox as the beginning of a new orbit around the sun. Astrologers start the year with the Sun entering Aries. Since ancient times, it has been known as a time of new beginnings. Think of the great traditions – Easter, Passover, Spring Break, or the bloody human sacrifices of the Mayans at their main pyramid El Castillo at Chichen Itza, Mexico. The main staircase of the pyramid is constructed at such a precise way that, on the day of the equinox, the sun aligns perfectly to create a serpent of sunlight, slithering down the staircase. Ancient Aliens??? Illegal aliens???? No. Stop. Their calendar ended, died, on the winter solstice of 2012. Sometimes people get out of bloody control and too wrapped up in their own customs.
Easter is a nice myth symbolizing rebirth. Kill a savior. Resurrect him. Rebirth. He planted a pretty big seed there. More symbols… Easter eggs. Eggs. Birth, fertility. Someone planted the seed that on the Equinox, you can balance an egg on its end. Well, don’t try this at home. You will die trying. Some myths are out of bloody control. Some are even co-opted by bloody control.
Spring is green. Its not just a fresh coat of paint on new and burned bridges. Green is chlorophyll harnessing the sun and allowing life for billions of years. It ramps up in Spring, rests in Winter. Every year. For billions of years. We are intimately, genetically, directly, connected to this past, its pattern, rhythms, cycles. (And yet, if you want to think esoterically, your mind should die to all past internal and external noise, and be born again with each new moment. This idea, however, gives everyone but the gods, a freaking headache. Which is fine because Spring isn’t a head thing like bloody dogma. Spring imposes its own new prism, new perspective, lessening the need for a good esoteric game.) Go to the beach or walk through town around happy hour on the first sunny 75 degree day of the year. You feel it. You feel the source of Myth. Warmth on your face, ease in your smile, vitality in your core, spring in your step, blood-pumping, aliveness, buzz in the air.
“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” – Marianne Wilson
This is for the those of us who do not enjoy today. Love is by far, the greatest thing. All things comes with a flip side. The flip side of love is not hate; It is loss and hurt and fear. Its disconnection and a feeling of falling into a void without a net. Gut-wrenching, heart-scarring, soul-sucking, insomnia-dulled, angst-fueled, existential ache. If you’ve been through this, (and who hasn’t?), its not easily forgotten, if even subconsciously. You probably put up defensive barriers, maybe even walls of barb-wire. We all do it.
What is this empty void of hurt we feel we fall into? Its just fear. Fears you were born with, fears you learned, fears that are built into our species. But you are still you, you are still there, not in a void. One of the best things you can do is have compassion for yourself. Some of these fears are the cause of…
…a short piece of writing by Dean Potter, ex-Flow king climber/base jumper:
***Cold air from the valley drifts upwards. It’s predawn and I’ve been moving on the north Nose of El Cap through the night, focused on the rock in front of me in the faint light of my headlamp. Suddenly, I think of how tired and exposed I am, alone, ropeless, far past any point of retreat. A surge of panic courses through me. I try to think of the summit but that thought, too, is dangerous.
An image floats into my mind. I’m following my father in the early through a pasture in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He strides towards Moosebrook, his favorite fishing spot. I’m not even half his height, and the frosty grass brushes all the way up to my waist. We reach the river. My Dad skips from rock to rock, downstream to the first hole, and looks back for me. The water is freezing, and the rocks are covered in slime. I’m afraid to follow. I burrow painfully through the thickets of pricker bushes, swamp, and blackflies as my father calls for me. The bugs chase me back to the river’s edge. and I timidly wade in and try to catch up. Tense and anxious, I lose my footing, and fall into the river. I gasp for breath in the icy water, but manage to scramble onto a rock where I bawl until my father comes back. “I don’t like fishing. I want to go home”.
My father shakes his head at me, and his eyes sparkle. “Dean, put everything else aside. There’s nothing to be afraid of, except a little cold water. Just focus on the next step you are taking. I feel so happy running down the river, the sun reflecting off the water, my body naturally going where it’s supposed to. I almost don’t think at all. I just respond to what’s in front of me.” He stops talking and heads downstream again. We slowly pick our way across the rocks, catching rainbows and brook trout. The day passes quickly and my confidence rises. Soon, I’m playing and racing down the rapids with eyes wide and senses alert, not knowing I’ve just received my first lesson in Zen.
The air drifts over my body. I grasp the immediate. I reach for the next hold.****
This story struck a chord in me. I vividly remember being about 6 or 7 years old, visiting my Grandma in upstate NY. There was a gully with a stream rushing through it, complete with rocks at all angles, slippery moss, and icy water. I used to love hiking in that stream as a kid. It was beautiful, serene. Fairly quickly, I learned the art of sprinting from rock to rock, without any distractions. As you pushed off with your right foot, your body already knew where your left foot was going to land, and the precise angle you should land on to prevent slipping, while sending you in the direction of the next “pre-selected” rock. And it was all so effortless. It exhilarated and calmed me at the same time. I guess my addiction to the state of “Flow” started here. In one way or another, I’ve been pursuing this state ever since.
In the moment, harmony, complete concentration without effort, zoned in. When you experience this deeply, there is joy, a smile on your face for days. You have tapped into a great state of consciousness that is not always easy to do.
OK, enough rambling… Go back and read the article again. Instead of reading about climbing and rock-hopping, read it as a metaphor for life. Life as it should be, not the whirlwind of stress it often becomes. Life can be a rock hop if you allow it.
During the Carboniferous Period, 290 million years ago, the Earth’s churning mantle and other forces of nature forced a large mass of igneous molten rock into the more ancient metamorphic rock already in existence. The result was the granite bedrock underlying much of the lakes region of south-western Maine. As the molten rock cooled, crystals of quartz and feldspar and slivers of reflective dark and light mica formed, giving the granite its colors of whites, light pinks, light tans. Varying fluid pressures allowed for variable grain size of the crystalline structure. Higher pressure and slower cooling time allowed the individual crystals to develop larger in size. There are also dark colored rocks, the result of Mesozoic Era (225 to 65 million tears ago) intrusions of a new and different composition of igneous molten rock. These dikes can be seen as the narrow bands of basaltic black, cutting through the light granite. Some of these rocks and formations are quite beautiful, but they are only foundation upon which the glacial ice sheets carved their art.
The last ice sheet retreated in melt over 13,000 years ago. Glaciers are immensely powerful rivers of ice. They flow downwards at an exceedingly slow pace, but the weight and pressures created by the flow over the landscape is enough to carve out and pulverize the existing granite bedrock. This was this process that carved out an area that is today, roughly 47.5 square miles wide, reaching down to a depth of around 325 feet.
Sebago Lake is large enough to now serve as the public water supply for the city of Portland and surrounding areas. It also serves as Vacation Land, due to its beauty. Surrounded by the evergreens of the Maine woods, the shoreline of the lake consists of coarse sandy beaches, granite outcrops, boulders, cliffs, and marshlands. The fresh air smells of pine, and the water of the lake is possessed by magical properties of which you can drink. In summer, surface temperatures are pleasant for swimming. Dive to 100ft and you will feel yourself pass through five to seven distinct thermoclines. Your bubbles will sound oddly crystalline. It is cold. The clarity of the water and the geological artwork allow you to endure shivering.
Down there is this boulder, the size of a huge house. It is cracked open in the middle – a split of three to four feet. Within this split opening are lodged many smaller boulders that didn’t quite make it to the bottom. Fun swim-throughs. But what most people miss, hidden in the deep bottom shadows – is the Cave. Its at the base of this split rock. You enter a small dark chamber which leads to a small opening. You’ll need to take your tank off and feed it through, then follow. Your flashlight now reveals another small chamber that has a small drop-off ledge on the far side. Be very careful not to stir up any silt. A dive partner can place his arm into the opening to remain in contact with your fins. However, if you wish to explore a little more, you must break contact. You go alone. Proceed to the small drop-off ledge on the far side of the chamber. With full arm extension, you can almost reach the bottom of the drop-off. Breath. Reach. Move slowly. Feel around. There you will find a pillowcase. Breath. Be gentle. The contents of the pillowcase were hermetically sealed in a long fire-side night’s worth of candle wax, almost ten years ago. I have forgotten the brands and vintages, but I recommend the White with a Maine seafood dinner. The Red will work, chilled on a cool fireside night under the planetarium of stars. But don’t wait too much time after the dive to celebrate with shots of some good, smooth, aged, tequila. You won’t need any rocks.