Ocean View: October 23, 2009


Ocean View
October 23, 2009
By Jude Rittenhouse

Trusting whatever life presents, I begin here, now, with the greens going to gold-orange-crimson outside my office window. I begin with life’s splendor: blazing, even as sap drains, prepares to go quiet and rest against winter’s bones. Beyond these colors, today’s gray sea curls her back against the pale batting of sky. Ocean, my wise-woman neighbor, made of the same salty tears that flow through our veins, provides the water we need to survive. She holds ancient songs of nearly extinct whales alongside man’s oil spills, shipwrecks, invincible plastics. She remains forever in relationship with all that is: responding to wind, changing her colors along with sky, readjusting earth as she reshapes her shores.

Today’s trees and sea both remind me that relationship, with all its fluidity and fluctuation, is the foundation of life here on earth. This ground can feel terrifying as ever-shifting scents, shades, sands and winds remind us to let go of each moment – each known – so that we might open and flow into the next unknown. Many of us, in this fall of 2009, find ourselves faced with more flux, more unknowns than feel comfortable.

Now there’s an interesting word. Comfort: that warm, soft place where all needs are met. Yet, when I’m comfortable, I’m inclined to wrap myself in a protective blanket of unreality, stasis: a soft blue hope that things will always be easy, unchanging. Discomfort can feel like a mean teacher, pushing me beyond my limits.

During the past four months, my own journey shoved me close to death. I smelled his breath, felt his sharp teeth when, last June, after contracting three tick-borne diseases, I found myself immersed in the waterless sea at death’s threshold. There I saw the divine sadness of wise whales and elephants, their eyes filled with anguish at humanity’s inability to awaken and become true stewards of earth. Not long after that, while my still-compromised body vividly reminded me of human vulnerability – I watched a family member’s stroke prepare her for, then carry her on the journey across Styx, into that greatest of unknowns. This lesson about endings, transformation and new beginnings keeps coming, cycling ever deeper, reminding me of a villanelle I wrote many years ago after my father’s death:

In Extremis

All things are good which are according to nature, and what
is there more natural to all men than death?

—Lucrezia Gonzaga (1522-1551)

Extreme conditions force transformation:
a bitter cold exposes the dance of
rising mist turned to smoke over ocean.

While Winter entombs Earth’s creation,
teeming wombs wait for Spring’s certain ransom.
Extreme conditions force transformation.

Strict Winter gives way to Spring’s elation
and Summer’s warm breezes hide that dancing
mist which, in Winter, spins white over ocean.

Remember: sex, its inebriation,
turns into a child’s tears and laughter.
Extreme conditions force transformation.

Just so, death, with implacable patience
waits to take your blood, all your answers
rising silent as mist over patient ocean.

Your soul knows this waltz, its revelations
in figure-eight patterns: infinite chances
for harsh conditions to force transformation.
Rise now, like mist turned to smoke over ocean.

If only it were easy to rise. Easy or not, here we all are, where we always are, whether or not we curl into our favorite security blankets, whether or not we have the money for next week’s groceries, next month’s rent or mortgage payment. Each of us faces the unknown. Which is just another way of saying: we daily face the metamorphosis that life requires of us. We do this in relationship to each other and to all that is: together, whether or not we cherish our interconnection.

Look at those trees letting go, pouring everything they have been into a final glorious fire, even as ocean and sky move on, having already released summer’s heat. Look at you and me. Are we clinging, or are we laughing, weeping, singing, sitting, dancing, sleeping? Being whatever this moment calls us to be. Being like trees, like sea. Swaying together. Bowing our acknowledgement on this divine journey.

Jude Rittenhouse has received a Writer’s Grant from the Vermont Studio Center, a first place short story award, and various poetry awards. In addition to her holistic practice, Integrated Healing Services, Jude teaches at conferences, retreats, schools, hospitals, alternative health centers, and domestic violence shelters. She is also an inspirational speaker and presenter for literary audiences, cancer survivors, spiritual gatherings, high school and college students, and other groups. In all of her endeavors, she strives to empower others as they explore their unique journeys toward wholeness.

To learn more about her holistic practice or to inquire about her poetry chapbook, Living In Skin, contact: Jude@JudeRittenhouse.com or call (401) 348-8079.

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