Today is Thanksgiving. I am deeply grateful for the air I breathe and the freedom it affords me to keep gliding through life's currents.
This year I learned about traveling sand from an ancient ocean floor —now the Sahara Desert— that makes its way from Africa to far away places via air currents. Wind carries the sand eastward from the Sahara across Europe, across the Atlantic Ocean, all the way to Austin, Texas.
Tiny minerals from the desert touch down in Texas Hill Country and settle in to the local scrub brush. Sand hovering in the air causes a plume of dust, creating magical sunsets for a few weeks.
When I read about this, the thought of the tiny bits of Africa in Austin warmed my heart. Everything really is interconnected, I thought.
Freedom to Fly
I was reminded again of the magic of air currents a few months ago, when I was riding my bike along the Anacostia River trail. This is one of my favorite things to do, as riding a bike often makes me feel as if I can fly (more on this to come).
I was headed north along the trail and had just crossed over the bridge that hovers above Watt’s Branch stream. Maybe it was the blue of the sky or the missing clouds that day… but as I approached the wide open marshy field ahead of me, I looked up.
Above me, gliding ever so effortlessly, was a bald eagle. Once almost extinct, these magnificently large birds can now frequently be seen along the river. I stopped riding, pulled over along the edge of the field, and watched her fly for a bit.
Finding Connection Through Breath
This year, COVID 19 has made me very much aware of the air I breathe, the oxygen I need to keep my body alive, and the shared space that air claims. Air is everywhere at once, all around us, within us, and between us. It permeates everything. And it is a necessity for life.
I have been blessed with two perfectly well functioning lungs. When I took yoga classes many years ago, I was stunned to discover that my breathing was rather shallow. Yoga taught me how to breath. I learned how to deeply inhale and exhale, and to take my time. I also discovered that my body felt more relaxed and my mind more alert when I did this.
If I find myself anxious, a few deep breaths can bring me back to the present moment. And if I continue this, the breathing moves me towards something greater than myself. To a mystery that can not be explained, but can be seen as tiny bits of sand from Africa tucking themselves into the terrain of Texas.
Many of this year lost people, jobs, routines, or sometimes just our sanity. I am so very grateful that the winds of change shifted for me and created space and time for me. The opening has allowed me to breath even more deeply. And to imagine what would happen if we all stopped for just a few moments to watch eagles soar, to slow our breathing down, to feel the wind blowing, and the clouds passing by.
In early September, a flash flood ran through my little slice of the world. Forecasters called for heavy rain and possible flash flooding. I wasn’t worried.
Thirteen years ago, I invested in a lot of money to install a sump pump and French drain system in my basement. A necessity for my house, at the bottom of a hill… in a neighborhood built on reclaimed swamp land.
A narrow band of rain barreled down on my town. I went to check on my basement. Sump pump working.
As long as that pump was pumping, I was in the clear, I thought.
My thought was wrong.
A river formed between my house and my next door neighbor Mario's house. My backyard was flooding. The end of the block filled up with enough water to fill a neighbor's car with water up to her seats. The new levee being built on the other side of the town (in anticipation of more storms due to global warming) was at capacity.
After oggling for a a few minutes at the sheer volume of rain that was barreling down, I went to check on my basement. My kitten’s litter box was floating on top of ten inches of water. My furnace, my hot water heater, washer and dryer were all sitting in almost a foot of water. My heart sank. I went back upstairs, with a long, heavy sigh.
This was one of those moments when home ownership felt like the worst idea in the world.
A few days later, after the clean-up, mopping, and dry out was complete, I called my friend Kirsten. It was time to try and start each piece of machinery that was in the basement to see if it was still working.
I needed some good juju. We sent positive energy to the water heater before I tried to start it.
“Hot water is what separates us from the animals,” my brother texted, when I told him I was waiting for my basement to dry out before turning on the water heater. Good to know.
I turned the gas back on and tried igniting the pilot. Success! After four days of drying out, I was back in business for hot water.
My dryer started right back up. My furnace kicked back on. I was feeling very, very lucky and contemplating moving to the desert. The last thing that needed to be tested was the washing machine. I was hopeful. This thing is built for water, I thought. I put a load of clothes in and turned her on.
She refused to fill with water. She was dry as a bone. How ironic.
I called Kirsten again. We got centered. We sent good energy to the washing machine. We read her energy. … to see what she might need. “She feels like a happy machine, with a possible hiccup,” said Kirsten. “Check the machine where the hoses come into it.”
I did as she suggested and there, in the back of the machine was a secret panel. I could see a piece of folded up paper sitting behind the panel. Instructions? I was beginning to feel like Sherlock Holmes. I got my socket wrench out and took off the back panel. I unfolded the piece of paper.
It had very specific instructions for resetting the machine. “Position cycle selector at 9 o’clock. Depress start button while rotating cycle selector knob 180 degrees. Release start buttons and all LEDS will light. This is position zero.”
Who comes up with this stuff? Should I also hop on one leg while doing it? I tried five times before I gave up.
I looked at the instruction sheet again. It had a schematic of the machine and realized I could open the front of the machine. I did this and noticed that below the tub that holds all the clothes, on the bottom of the machine, were about 50 wires. I placed a box fan by the wires for a few days. Maybe they just needed to dry out.
I tried the ridiculous instructions again. Nothing.
I caved and called a repair man (a mortal sin in my father’s house, as he fixed everything himself).
The repair guy came fully loaded with a COVID mask and face shield. He spent less than five minutes waving some sort of electric meter around the wires before he declared, “Your motor is spent.”
She had died. And there was nothing more to be done.
There are times in life when a flood of emotions overruns you and it’s hard to keep yourself together. And then there are times in life when an actual flood overwhelms you and it’s hard to keep yourself together.
And then there are times where it’s hard to distinguish between the flood of water and the flood of emotions.
This is one of those times.
Meet Pickles! Modified to Captain Pickles after I realized she could sail around the room, jumping four feet from bookcase to dining room table without twitching a whisker.
I did not want a cat. I wanted a dog. COVID house arrest had me applying to various shelters and rescue groups. I had a dog for 13 years. Petie was my constant companion. I know the joys and comforts of owning a dog. They are loyal, they are forever by your side... forever able to take in whatever kind of day you are having. Perfect for my grumpiness over being stuck at home!
I applied to three different shelters. I got the same answer from all: There is a waitlist. Apparently, everyone else had the same great idea that I had. Evidence was popping up all around me. On my daily walks, I noticed WAY more hound dogs in the neighborhood. Apparently, the hound dog rescue group has been busy.
I put the dog search on the back burner. A week later, a friend I hadn't heard from in a while texted me and said a woman she knew had a cat she was trying to rehome.. and was I interested?
Hmmm.. a cat? In my mind, they are second class citizens to dogs. Aloof, independent, only cuddly when they want to be... What would I do with a cat, I thought?
But I contacted the woman anyway. She sent me a photo of the cat: black, with a white tipped tail. She called him Tippy. I contemplated. I mused. I tuned in to my intuition. I passed. I just wasn't sure about the cat thing. I knew dogs were THE BEST COMPANIONS EVER. And a cat... well...
A few more months passed. Each time I went for a walk, I longingly looked at the dogs and their human companions.
My neighbor Mario found a dog left at the local dog park and brought it home. I offered to take the dog until the owner could be found. For two hours, I doted over this dog. I made plans with this dog. Then, the owner showed up. I was slightly crushed.
Where was my animal companion?
A few weeks later on my local community listserv a neighbor announced: A friend of mine found two kittens in the woods. She'd like to find a home for them. Contact me, if interested.
Something nudged me. I talked to the woman who had found them. She had one kitten remaining. She sent me a photo. Something about THIS cat made me say yes, immediately. I just knew I had to take this one and it would be o.k.
She delivered the kitten to my door, complete with a makeshift litter box from a shoe box.
The first day, the kitten sniffed my toes and then retreated to her corner. But over the next few weeks, she started coming out of her shell.
And as she did, I was glad I followed my intuition to take THIS cat.
Captain Pickles has been nothing but a constant surprise to me.
She's more like a dog... following me around the house from room to room, hanging out in the kitchen with me while I am cooking (not even my dog did that!). She's cuddly, constantly purring and mewing and seeking attention and touch.
She likes her belly rubbed.
She greets me every morning when I wake up. She runs down the stairs ahead of me as I slowly stumble down to get my coffee.
She talks to me a lot. I talk back. She causes chaos. My house now looks like a kitten playground. There are toys everywhere.
I'm in kitten love. And I’m glad I said yes, to THIS cat.
Intuition is a skill. Its sort of like being an animal tracker... following the trail of an animal that you can't physically see... but you know was in the space you now occupy. You can see the tracks they left behind... sometimes you see a few hairs or maybe some fur if you are lucky.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling very frustrated with the disjointed national response to the current pandemic. Before I became an artist, before I became a coach, and before I learned to hone my intuitive skills... I worked as a writer in public health.
"Where is the national public health campaign," I wondered? "Simple, consistent public health messaging could go a long way in curbing this outbreak," I thought to myself as my heart was breaking over rising case numbers.
My curiosity peaked. There was something here for me, I could feel it. So I started to follow the trail.
I did some internet sleuthing and searched for "successful public health campaigns." I found a few references to mass media campaigns.
And I remembered that egg in the frying pan from about 1986. Oooh, how that image seared into my brain. Needless to say, I didn't do drugs.
I stumbled upon an article by a small company. I read the article and I was totally hooked by plain, easy to understand writing. The tracks were interesting, so I sleuthed some more.
I poked around the company website. I liked their vibe. And then...there, right on the trail in front of me... they outlined their company values: we are empowered, curious, kind, and fun.
My heart skipped a beat. Oooooh. I like those values. I identify with those values.
I immediately submitted an application.
What was happening? I was excited about public health again? This had not occurred for over 10 years. It felt effortless to submit my application. Their vibe matched my vibe.
When I received an email from their VP of Talent a week later, I was over the top excited.
Even more excited as I signed a contract this week to be on their roster for freelance work.
And bonus, their company name reminds me of an image I had of myself several years ago when I started this adventure in intuition. I kept seeing myself as this gawky teenage girl, with a red cape and goggles on... flying her bike around the DC metro area.
Some of this is true. I do ride my bike around the DC metro area... but I do not wear a cape in real life. Though sometimes I like to pretend I have one on when I ride. The point is, the image of me on a bike with a cape and goggles on resonates with the feeling of the company. Another indicator that I'm on the right track.
Following my intuition is a skill that I have honed. I had to learn how to listen for, feel into, and be on the lookout for the clues on the trail. And, it's damn near fun, every time I do it. No matter what the outcome.
Looking at the world from above the fray. Houkje writes about following her intuition, observerations on the magic of the natural world, and navigating creativity and chaos in an uncertain world.