Peace: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. ~ Anonymous
This from a refrigerator magnet. Honestly, you just can’t tell where wisdom will rear its head. But I’ve needed to hear these words. After a month spent on the mainland US visiting loved ones, the chaos of city after city and traffic jam upon traffic jam has set my teeth on edge and lodged a scathing parchedness into my chest and lungs. Sandwiched in between asphalt and metal and glass materialize cool islands of serenity – greens and blues; pines, firs and roiling rivers – interstices of tranquility that punctuate the insane speed of civilization.
I live on a small speck of earth in the midst of the Pacific Ocean. And though it might be the perfect place for my husband and me, it doesn’t provide enough stimulation for most people, which is a good thing or we’d be overrun. Not a good look for a destination visitors retreat to, abundant as it is with moist, temperate air, clear warm seas, natural air conditioning in the form of tradewinds and a juxtaposition of rugged and soft, flowing natural beauty echoed poignantly in the hula.
But the question teases; irritates, even. While it’s easy to feel peace and contentment while nestled in the bosom of Mother Nature, to what degree can these qualities be discovered in the midst of bustle and mayhem? And is it necessary to gauge the measure of my personal progress by immersing myself in the thrall of commotion every so often?
If so, I’m afraid I’ve failed, once again. I retreat, hugging ribs racked with spasmodic coughing. My skin is drawn and dry, and grief lodges like a stone in my heart. Tears well up behind tired eyes and my voice echoes hollow, unsteady. Physical separation from my daughters who have chosen mainland living is a wound that has once again been both salved as well as scratched open (a Promethean dilemma if ever there was one). At this point in life, I observe people aging rapidly when confronted with inevitable losses and sadness. How can I continue committing to happiness while balancing this painful separation? I know the answer lies in detachment on many levels, but those who preach this most ardently likely have not given birth to human offspring. Or perhaps without realizing it, they have been forcing themselves away from their children in one form or another since those children were small.
As with all of life’s transitions, I trust there is purpose in the pain – that something new is awaiting birth within me. And so I strive for contentment without becoming addicted to distractions. I commune with nature, maintain a lovely home, cook, love my husband and dogs and ponder the imponderables of existence. And write. I write.