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Ferberizing the Heart

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I have to drive by two clearcuts now, to get to most of the places I want to go.  "I have to drive by two clearcuts." I realize that this is a first world problem. The Internet world being what it is, I'm glad that I get to be the one who's calling myself out on that faintly ridiculous statement, which, when taken in perspective with what my DOD called "real problems," sounds suspiciously like whining.

But as my personal shaman Shila says when I apologize for the occasional prolonged wail of despair directed her way, "Your problems are yours, and they're big and very real to you, and you get to voice them." That's called true friendship. I feel emotionally safe with Shila, and she with me, so when we share our worries and woes, we know the other isn't going to pooh-pooh it all or sweep it away as if it never mattered.

I've figured out by being a parent, and having had to Ferberize my babies to go to sleep by themselves**, that we all teach ourselves self-comforting behaviors. Some of us do this differently than others. Some cling to other people, try to find someone who can make them feel safe when the monsters come around. Some drink or eat more. I figured out years ago that pouring a depressant over one's sadness just makes it worse. Eating, well, yeah. That one is harder to quit doing. Some of us keep an actual written list of places and hikes that fix us, and refer to it frequently when feeling lost, at sea, beset or lonely. Some of us keep a stable of trees that we visit, like some kings once kept horses, which work on this or that emotional knot, and soothe us just by existing.

** The Ferber method, or Ferberization, is a technique invented by Dr. Richard Ferber to solve infant sleep problems. It involves "baby-training" children to self-soothe by allowing the child to cry for a predetermined amount of time before receiving external comfort. (Wikipedia)

Just as I must drive by the two clearcuts to get anywhere, I remind myself that I also must drive by the Three Graces. There is a little gravel lane, ironically enough what we call an "oil road," that leads right up to them, so I can swing the car in and document their beauty in every light and atmospheric condition. Since those change by the minute, not to mention by the hour and day and week and month, I will never be finished documenting their singular beauty. 

The oil road leading to the Graces terminates at a derrick, that pumps a shallow well, and this reminds me that the current occupation by oil and gas men is not the first for my oil-rich area. I'm told it is the eighth, the last one being in the mid 1970's. And each time, there were people, doubtless, who felt as we do about being overrun with people from points unknown, who don't know or apparently care about what was here before they got paid a lot of money to obliterate it. Who gather at long tables in every restaurant and haw-haw louder and drink harder than we locals can afford to. Most drive pickups, the supervisors' trucks being white; the workers' being some other color, and some have stickers that say, 
"Oil Field Trash--And Proud of It!" or "Wife of Oil Field Trash--And Proud of It!" 
It's a thing, and we notice it. Bit of a red flag, at least for me, when people go around referring
 to themselves as "trash." 

 They'll come in, make their money, cut a bunch of forest, drill a mile or more down, then leave, in what will perhaps be an eight-year term of residency, if that. They'll stay until the currently available technology for drilling past a mile into the shale takes all the oil it can, which is more than the prior technology could eke out. This little gravel lane to the Graces is a remnant of the 1970's occupation, the one that built our modest ranch house in a housing boom, and put three shallow wells on what is now our 80-acre property. And amazingly, it survived all that. 

So in some sense, I am here in this house, on these two 40-acre parcels, because of an oil boom. I gaze at the Graces and think these thoughts.

And then I drive on, to the bridge over PawPaw Creek, the place where Liam's fossil was found. 

When I get to Germantown Road, I always forget that I need to go right, not left, to get to one of my big medicine healing spots. 

So I take the wrong turn to the left, and I haven't gone 100 yards before a beautiful redtail stalls in flight and tumbles down like a huge buff and cinnabar leaf to land in the lane right in front of me. Objects look much farther away than they are with phone cameras.

 He stands his ground as I roll slowly forward, looking for any small creature, any reason he might have landed on the pavement. There's nothing. He's just standing there like Horus, at attention.

This is not the way to your healing road, he seems to say. You need to turn around.

I'm right on top of him, and still he stands, gazing at me. I'm smiling hard at this point, as I realize that I'm going the wrong way again, and this hawk, well, he's just staring me down.
A pickup truck approaches, and the driver slows to a crawl as he takes in the tableau of me, grinning like a fool, looking at a hawk who's looking at me. 

He pulls up right alongside the bird before it leaps into the air, clears his roof, and flaps off. "What was that?" he asks, and I suppress my first response: "You're at least as old as me and you don't know a red-tailed hawk when it flies up in your face?"

Instead I say, "Red-tailed hawk. Adult. I stopped because I didn't want him to get hit, and I wanted to see what he was doing."

He smiles at me and I feel compelled to say, "My father sends them to me." 

He looks puzzled, so I hurry on, telling him that my dad died in 1994, but he sends me hawks, routine hawks, or hawks in strange and sometimes outlandish situations like this one, to let me know I'm accompanied. That he's watching, and protecting me as best he can. Maybe even guiding me. Telling me I've made the wrong turn again! Or just saying howdy. Whatever he's doing, I'm down with it. I'm comforted by it. Hawkspotting is another of my adult Ferberization techniques. I don't say all of that, of course, but I almost do. I kind of condense it down, but he gets the gist. And doesn't roll up his window and take off.

Yep, I'm pretty much a raw nerve ending lately, telling little bits of my life story to complete strangers who I swiftly appraise by such traits as "Sensitive enough to slow down for a grounded hawk" and then deem worthy of confiding in. 

What have I got to lose? I've made friends that way. Good friends. If I've learned anything about myself, it's that I am not a fearful person. I am trusting. I start off relationships by trusting people, and they pretty much have to beat that trust out of me before I'll believe anything but good of them. 

We bade each other goodbye and I turned around to go the way I was supposed to in the first place, before the hawk tumbled down.

Soon we were there.

It is no accident that the clouds were just superb. I go to this road when the clouds are just superb, because I have a panoramic view from the ridge. There are other places I go when the clouds are not superb. Chet Baker is looking and sniffing and thinking how nice it will be to get into that habitat. I'm feeling thankful to have him along for the adventure, and thankful that I can choose such places for solace, and take this good friend along every time.  Don't miss his reflection in the mirror while you're ogling those mare's tails.

A faithful reader messaged me after my last, admittedly disconsolate post to ask if Chet was still with us. Oh my goodness yes. And good for a 5 mile trot any time I suggest it.

We got out of the car, and I squinted over to the next ridge. Right where the trees get thin, that's where we were going to go. Thin trees mean a great view. But we wouldn't go straight across the valley. We'd take the long way around.

Through the richly colored hallways of autumn

and its softly glowing rooms

we would descend into the beech-laced hollow

which a shaft of sun would light, and my heart would lift, because it had to. I have to keep walking. My dang heels hurt too much to run lately, but walking works, too.

All is not lost, the trees would tell me. You have this day, this road, these trees, your legs and your aching heels, and this little black dog to lead the way. Use them.

As I'm writing, it's another day, just such a perfect day, and I will have to go back out again for some more leaves and sky and miles. First I must do some work, work other than this kind of writing, which isn't so much work as it is Ferberizing, working on the hard, scarry knots in my heart.

We climbed the road toward Buddy's house, beautiful relic that it is, monument and museum to all that once was.

Thank God for these dirt roads, and shameless antic shagbarks that throw off their yellowing clothes at the first hint of chill. Some like it cold! The great oak looks on and chuckles. She's keeping her coat on until at least January.

All is not lost. So much beauty remains. It's up to me to seek it out, do my tiny part to appreciate and protect it and drive by the clearcuts as fast and straight as I can, keeping my wits about me enough to watch for the messengers along the way.



Oh my, for those who cried at the previous post, this one will surely have them sobbing in parts! (and sobbing is not necessarily a bad thing).
You bring to every bit of nature you write about (be it a hawk, the 3 Graces, a field, a forest...) a sense and reminder of the innate love, intention, purpose, and inner knowledge they are imbued with… and from which we are increasingly disengaged from.
May your DOD keep sending you those hawks...

Oh, my, my. The glories and the wonders and the losses and the gifts. We got 'em all. Thank you.
Beautiful. You, your words and photos. And Chet Baker. All love, all the time. Xom

Posted by Anonymous October 30, 2016 at 5:34 AM

Love this, Julie. In between all the beauty around you, you give a good reminder of trusting people and continuing to show yourself when it might be scary. Thank you. Love!

When you love the earth, seeing destruction of habitat is painful. I also find comfort in special places that speak to my soul. It is hard sometimes to be this sensitive, but on the other hand I am grateful for my ability to feel such a strong connection to the earth and it's creatures around me. Thanks for your writing Julie!

That's why we all love you so much. .. because you open up so beautifully and readily accompanied by photos and a spunky little dog. I'm also the kind of person who will confide in a toll booth collector or coffee shop employee as if it were the most obvious and expected thing. Connectedness is what you teach and we feel you.

Posted by Lauren V. October 30, 2016 at 6:07 AM

Hey Julie, might I suggest Mary Oliver's new book of essays called Upstream. It is soothing me in these trying times.

Julie, words aren't adequate either for how appalled I am at your local fracking situation, or for how much I admire your approach to coping with it. Keep on Ferberizing, keep on seeing hawks, and--above all--keep on posting to this blog. Your public needs you.

"the richly colored hallways of autumn", what a wonderful phrase. I will think of it as I walk the trails in the park.

Love this story, this drive, this wrong that was the right way, the hawk, the clouds, the trees, and you and Chet. Thank you for writing it down, photographing it, opening your heart to it, and sharing it with us.

Just wonderful, in every way.
A gift1 Thank you.

Thank-you for saying, more eloquently, the equivalent of "stop sniveling, pull up your big-girl panties, and count your blessings" – just the kind of message my grandma and mom (and all the strong women in my lineage before them) have told me, and it's true. Thank-you.

The Three Graces: thank God for them.

That's the thing, isn't it? Deciding what we see, and what we will blissfully ignore. We do have a choice, to focus on the bad or to focus on the good. Sometimes the bad is so overwhelming that we can't find the good, the beauty, but it's always there, waiting patiently for us to remember, and seek it out. All is not lost.

Julie, this is beautiful. And I have to admit, I was another one who wondered about Chet after your last post. I actually went back to see if I'd missed something. Thank goodness he's alright!

"Some of us keep an actual written list of places and hikes that fix us, and refer to it frequently when feeling lost, at sea, beset or lonely." Yes, I do this as well -- it's in my hiking & birding notebook. And I have special trees too. I've been out touching trees today, as a matter of fact. I passed one large oak and figured it would take three adults to wrap their arms all the way around it. What a stunner.

You have enriched my life in many ways...through your paintings, your wonderful stories, and your talent for communicating your loving spirit, complete with righteous indignation and hope.

I have recently lost my husband and am struggling to find my way through this loneliness.

He stays with me as your Father stays with you..and he sends me things to help me find my way...such as this lovely blog....

Good to share this beautiful world with you. Yes! The trees, and country lanes, and well overgrown yard, full of birds.

I hope that you also read Diane Ackerman's books..(I am sure that you do.)

Thank you for enriching this day.


Posted by Phyllis McConahay November 2, 2016 at 6:56 AM
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