Had I not surrendered to each and every moment being exactly what it was, I would have had a miserable summer solstice.

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I was already anxious about the day because I had to get up at 5am to take my daughter and her friend to the airport in Vancouver. Because we live on Vancouver Island, I prefer Air North, and and I wanted to save money, this meant that we would be making a fairly long journey – driving to catch the ferry, then a city bus and then the train in order to get to the airport.

I’m not a morning person, and have a hard time waking up, so I was already fearful I’d sleep through the alarm, thereby missing the ferry and plane.

After waking up and rushing the girls out the door, already worried we’d miss the ferry because I was cutting it close and they were moving so slowly, we accelerated into a groove on the highway, settling in for the 45 minute drive to the ferry. I had a moment to reflect on my attitude so far – foul – snappy and stressed, and to consider the very long day ahead of me. I was already worried we’d be late, miss the ferry, miss the plane, that I’d feel motionsick, etcetera etcetera.

What would it look like to approach my day with a little more equanimity? As it turns out, much more pleasant.

Here’s how I spent my summer solstice, as I worked on embracing the beauty of the moments.

Panic!!! Oh shit, I forgot to fill the gas tank. I wonder if we’ll make it. I know I’ve driven on empty for 40 km before, and the ferry is about 35 km away but what if we run out of gas on the highway? Feeling into my racing heart, clenched jaw, and short breath. Breathing, and dropping it. We’ll make it.

We made it.

Fatigue. Droopy eyed, head spinning fatigue. Ok. Ok. I’ll rest on the ferry. The girls are capable. They can roam around and get their breakfast without me.

And it was fine.

Stress and worry. How much is the bus? Where is our stop? Will I recognize it? Will I get motion sick? Oh no, how long will it take to recover if I do? Again, I felt into my tension, my lips pressed together, my head spinning. Then I asked the bus driver how much it would cost.

He was grumpy. That’s ok.

I started to feel nausea. I closed my eyes and breathed into it. I stopped resisting feeling sick, and because of that, it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be. I asked the woman next to me if she knew where we needed to catch the train. She didn’t. But I started to recognize the route and we got off at the right stop.

Delight. Watching the girls on the train burn off their excited energy by standing and twirling from the handholds.

Panic!!! At Air North’s check-in counter I filled out the unaccompanied minor forms and pulled out my phone to look up my mom’s phone number only to discover my phone had died and wouldn’t charge up again. Oh my good golly! I realized that in this age of smartphones and call display, I didn’t know my mom’s, my brothers’ or any of my friends’ phone numbers. They used to be in my head, but now they are all stored in my smartphone, which was dead. Would the girls be allowed on the plane? We needed my mom’s number! It took some creative researching and phone calls, but yes, 5 minutes later, we got through, I got the number, and all was good. My goodness.

What could I do but laugh? Really.

Calm. Feeling the fatigue returning after the stress. Walking down the hallways with the girls to their departure gate, I got five minutes of movement to work out the stress of the previous moments. The girls were so excited about the moving sidewalk. They wanted to play on everything. ‘Oh just let them’ my heart said, even as my head said ‘behave’.

I let them play.

Delight. I played my usual game at the gate of the airline going up to my small hometown. Will I know anyone? How many people will I recognize? It used to be 80%. Now, it’s only one or two people. I saw an old school friend and her new baby and caught up with her. Grabbed a kiss from my daughter before she dashed on to the plane, so excited to be going to her Gramma’s.

More calm. I had to wait till the plane took off, so I read for a while.

Pause. I got back on the train. But not before I took a moment to caress an amazing Northwest Coast style carving of an owl flying over vertical waves, hewn from a cedar tree. The tactile sensation of feeling the grooves under my palm, of looking at the colours and images, I love it. It’s a tradition for me, to touch that carving before getting on the train, and I’d almost forgotten.

Truth. I would have forgotten if I weren’t making an effort to notice and just be.

Feeling rushed and a little anxious. Exploring those sensations – where did they live in my body? My mouth, my head, my jaw, my shoulders, my belly. Why? Because I wanted to get home – go right through Vancouver, get back on the ferry and zoom home, four hours of travel ahead of me. But wait, I’d decided to just let things flow. So when I got off the train and started looking for the bus, I saw the art gallery signs and felt curious. What shows were on? It couldn’t hurt to look right…

I walked over to the Vancouver Art Gallery and saw that two artists I had never seen but had heard about had an entire floor dedicated to them. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s Lost in the Memory Palace.

I went in.

Memorable: a table covered in speakers, lit from above, all the sides dark. Shadows triggered sound from the speakers. In order to hear the art, you had to move, to lean in, to walk away, to walk around, and play. It was so beautiful, sublime and glorious. I couldn’t stop smiling. It felt like the a precious joke.

I spent 90 minutes being enchanted by the spaces and stories the artists created. Blessed to have opened myself up to the possibilities inherent in that Saturday afternoon, on my journey home. Lost in the moments, leaning in to hear stories, moving around to trigger sound, sitting still and watching, smiling always with delight.

I left the gallery into many smell and taste sensations. Food trucks everywhere. Wood-fired pizza (yes, the food truck had a woodstove!) Wings. BBQ. Grilled cheese and fries. Kebabs. Gourmet tacos (that’s what I finally chose). Sounds, smells, sights. It was lovely!

More moments. I felt them and let them be. The nausea from being on the bus again. The rush of loneliness as I walked around killing time before the ferry arrived. Amusement as I watched birds and people. Pleasure as I felt other languages that I didn’t really understand wash over me – Farsi, Russian, Chinese, Japanese.

More delight! And camaraderie. I got on the ferry and went straight to the sun deck; it was so beautiful outside. Stepping onto the deck, I was greeted by a blast of music. There was a party at the marina below. I smiled and turned around looking for someone to share the moment with. A woman behind cracked some joke about needing the party onboard, sat down, offered me a cider, and started sharing her story.

Sensuous body sensations. The sun beating down, lighting up in shades of red through my closed eyelids. Wind brushing my skin and lifting my hair, causing me to pull my sweater tighter. Eyes closed, tuning in to half-heard conversations around me.

A dreamy buzz from the pleasures of the moment.

Knowing. Had I carried on in the stressful state I awoke in, none of these experiences would have happened. The opening, the blooming into the moment, I would have shut it all down.

Finally, the drive home – a stop for gas. Alone in the house. After receiving an e-mail from my mom with a picture – a glorious example of my 11 year old daughter who is most definitely able to bloom into each and every moment that arises.

Tired. My body asks for sleep. And I listen.

As always, I’m curious about your experiences.

Until next time,

Janelle

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