Waiting As Practice

We’re home, which is a good thing when you’re trying to absorb more life lessons than anyone can really assimilate over what seems like eternity but has really only been a bit over six weeks. Last Friday, Richard was in the operating room and then the ICU, today he’s in our living room. (That’s my beloved Frankenstein below–Doesn’t he look like a thoughtful and elegant version of Mary Shelley’s monster?) The journey home over three mountain passes, all over 10,000 feet in elevation was hard on his head and his energy. But being home is definitely good for his spirit, and today, he’s feeling stronger.

And we’re waiting for news on his tumor. We still haven’t heard the pathology results, which of course, we hope will be summed up in one simple and powerful word: benign. Waiting is hard, especially for something like this. There’s also a grace to it. Waiting forces a sort of suspension of time and of the oh-so-determined purposefulness we often think life requires. It’s a pause in our drive and busyness, a hush in our chatter, a time in which we can listen within to the softer, quieter voice that often speaks for our true self, the self unencumbered by shoulds and woulds and what-ifs. When we engage in the waiting mindfully and don’t push it aside, waiting allows us the opportunity to just be. To breathe, literally and metaphorically. To practice life pared to the basics. To perceive what we hear and feel and are, without filters.

I’m also practicing another kind of waiting, along with all of the other lives inhabiting this unique sentient planet: We’re collectively waiting, whether we realize it or not, for the changes global climate change is bringing. I like to think of this as active waiting, a time when after stilling ourselves and honoring our fears and our feelings of being overwhelmed by a global trend of such magnitude and gravity, we take responsibility for our contribution to the problem. And then we do what we can to change the way we live. 

So in honor of Blog Action Day, where thousands of bloggers around the world are writing about global climate change, I offer this list in no particular order of the things Richard and I are doing to reduce our carbon footprint and to more generously share this beautiful blue planet with all of our fellow travelers in all sizes, shapes, colors, and species:

  • Walking more, driving less.
  • Washing our laundry in cold water and hanging it outside on a clothesline to dry (the bonus is that beautiful fresh smell).
  • Installing a solar power plant (photovoltaic modules) on our roof to generate electricity. (Does anyone have a “solar-powered blog” tag? I’m writing this post with solar power.)
  • Eating locally and organically as much as possible, including growing much of our food in our own kitchen garden. (That’s some of our garden produce above, harvested last week.) 
  • Darning the holes in our socks instead of throwing the socks “away,” as part of our aim to reuse as much as possible and recycle the rest.
  • Composting our garden waste (which then renews the soil that grows our food).
  • Heating our house primarily with the sun, supplementing with local wood burned in our woodstove.
  • Saving water: In some parts of the perennially water-starved American West, moving water from rivers and reservoirs to faucets (and treating and cleaning it after use) consumes as much as 40 percent of the electricity used in a particular area.
  • Restoring habitat for wild life in our own yard, in an effort to re-weave the frayed bonds forming the natural communities where we live. (Richard reminds me that we’ve seen unusual numbers of crows and grackles over the past few days–the grackles have been eating grasshoppers from the garden. I like that!)

Patience has never been one of my virtues. But as I practice waiting and listening and living a sustainable life, I’m amused to see that for some things, the things that matter, I can actually be patient. For a while, at least. Right now though, I’m going to do some active waiting and make lunch from the garden.