The existential GPS

I came across this charming gypsy wagon, hiding in an apple orchard, while driving on Orcas Island.  What is it that's so inviting about this?  Is it the lush curve of the magenta grillwork on the back, or the delicate flowers painted so painstakingly on the side, the dancing butterflies in the field of yellow, the colors?

Or could it be the sense of freedom and invitation inherent in its very definition -- a mobile life, staying when and where it suits you and moving on when you're ready to leave; the curious mix of adventure and safety -- wherever you are, you'll have your own things around you; you've created a life for yourself that is uniquely your own and yet still flexible...

I've been reading Parker Palmer's classic, A Hidden Wholeness, and this morning he's been describing what happens when a group of people explore a poem together.  The poem operates as a sort of Rorschach test, or a deck of Tarot cards: we project onto it the things we most need to explore or understand in our own lives.

And, as I noted yesterday, photographs can work the same way: it can actually be very rewarding to sit with a photo -- even better if you can do it with a friend or two -- and allow yourself to respond to it, to ask it questions, see what speaks to you, and explore the layers of meaning the photo and your responses have to offer.  Which, if you think about it, has really always been the way this blog works: the picture leaps onto the page, and then I listen for what it has to say to me -- or through me -- that morning.

So -- about this photo.  One of the responses it holds for me is a sense of longing for summer to begin.  I mean -- here we are, at the Solstice already, and still the sky and sea outside my window are gray.  Earlier in Hidden Wholeness, Palmer talks about framing the explorations of a circle of trust within the seasons.  Spring, he says, "is the season of surprise when we realize once again that despite our perennial doubts, winter's darkness yields to light, and winter's deaths give rise to new life.  So one metaphor for spring is "the flowering of paradox."  As spring's wonders arise from winter's hardships, we are invited to reflect on the many "both-ands" we must hold to live life fully and well -- and to become more confident that as creatures embedded in nature, we know in our bones how to hold them.

"The deeper our faith," he goes on to say, "the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings.  If we refuse to hold them in hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope and love.  But in the spring we are reminded that human nature, like nature herself, can hold opposites together as paradoxes, resulting in a more capacious and generous life."

And yes -- I get that, that if we cut off feeling our lows, we inevitably cut off our ability to feel the highs as well.  But even though Summer is almost here, some part of me is still waiting for Spring.  Like the gypsy wagon, that sense of promise and possibility is beckoning, but it's also hidden, stagnant, grounded; stuck, going nowhere.  There's no strong light source, and barely any shadows.  I don't seem to see any windows, and  I'm not altogether sure it's big enough to hold either my height or my weight.  Something in me is feeling dark, cramped, and crowded; longing to break free...

So now I almost wish I hadn't asked!  But we just have to trust our existential GPS: it's all good.  Like this image, which my dear friend Teresa posted on facebook earlier this week --


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