The Screened in Porch

I travel to this space— a retreat space about an hour from Duluth, MN. A place, I heard Cheryl Strayed wrote a part of her book, Wild. It used to be run by nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the founders of my alma mater. Then, they’d prepare simple meals and leave them in your kitchenette prior to your arrival. Now, with the new owners, it is BYOF. Now, it’s less “we are here to acknowledge and support your retreat” to more “you’re on your own, but here’s the same space.”

There are seven cabins to choose from. Over the years I’ve stayed in three— the smaller ones because I always visit alone. Traveling here began as an escape— to run away from kids, my marriage and suburban life. This is the first time I am not here to escape anything (well maybe the instability of our world right now). Since the world events, my fantasy of a cabin in the woods has increased.

I am in an empty nest now and my marriage is more neutralized and maybe not having anything to escape from is why this visit feels different. This time, I chose The Woodlands, a small cabin that is more secluded within the forest. Immediately out of my car, when I arrived, I was swarmed by insects, and after a short hike I picked off at least 10 ticks. This is disappointing because one reason I came here was to hike the several miles of wooded trails. So far they’ve all been short lived and cause more stress than rejuvenation.

This brings me to where I’ve spent the majority of time so far— the screened in porch. It is modest, rustic and cobwebby. It supplies one small round table and a camping chair. But I don’t seem to mind. I listen to the wind through the trees, watch the sunlight sparkle and fade on their leaves and feel relieved when I hear the loud buzzing bugs have no way in. While I sit, I wonder why I am here if I am not escaping something. I don’t quite know but I sense I need to be, even if I don’t venture far beyond the screened porch.

I brought a lot of notebooks, along with my project calendar and my computer with the intent to write and schedule my summer writing projects. But, so far I’ve only opened my computer to buy a book and to watch Netflix. I just finished J Lo’s documentary. Now there is a woman who knows what she wants and go gets it. I finished it feeling slightly depressed. I went back to the warm porch. I’ll journal, I thought. Maybe draw and certainly finish the book I am reading. Then, I got on Twitter….

I’m sure you did what you could, now do what you actually want.

@_moimichelle

Instead of bad news, I saw the quote above and it interrupted my amnesia (the whole who am I and why am I here thought pattern) and I burst into tears. This “tweet” is a two-sentence summary of where I find myself— a crossroad I have been on for quite some time, since the kids left the nest. I said: I still don’t know what I actually want. Seemed legit, but there’s more, another truth emerged both silently and loudly: yes you do. That is true. I do know what I want. But I’m playing like I don’t.

There is a comfort in the longing for what I actually want, but not actually doing it. But imagine if J Lo was only longing. I’ve longed long enough, haven’t I….?

If I actually want what I want, it is time to surrender the longing and relax into the doing, being and expressing. And I suppose, also risking and trusting.

It has been a long road of doing what I could, and it was exhausting. Hence, the retreats. But, now, like me in this one room cabin, there is just me now and the naked truth of what I actually want to do and the opportunity to do it.

The transition from what I could do, and did to what I actually want to do has left me wondering who am I? Where am I? There has been enough life, now that I’m 50, where scrambling to figure that out, making lots of missteps and mistakes along the way, is not necessary. Now I can be still enough to let it all settle— what was, what is and what I might actually still want.

This is why I am here at the Woodlands in June, in the heat with the insects— to settle.

I met a woman here, briefly, that was alone, staying in one of my earlier cabins. She stopped me on one of my short walks. I noticed her when I checked in. She told the owner there may be another person joining her, but when pressed she could give no details to when, or even if. Not long after her check in, she was packing up her car and that is when she stopped me.

“Have you been here before?” I gave her my stay history. She chocked up a little and said someone she knows is in the hospital and she might have to leave. “I’m a frontline worker and this is the first break I’ve had.” When asked if it was family, she said it was a co-worker and she’d have to leave to cover their shift. Seemed believable, but I sensed something more: fear.

It is not easy to go on retreat alone, in a cabin with no TV, where at night it is so dark you can’t see your hand in front of you. In my younger days I came with luggage full of anxiety, along with all of my OCD traits acting up, organizing my retreat and worrying about what was happening at home. Before I spoke with the woman, I watched her start down a walking path by my cabin. She stood there looking down the path, then turned around and walked away from it. I too have impulses to turn around and instead go where it is safe and known. But, more often than not, I listen to the part in me that understands in order to expand I have to keep walking the path, even when there are insects that might give me Lyme Disease. I understand I have to give myself space to stay in a place that is dark and unfamiliar. I need to be here, even if I am not writing or scheduling the writing. Even if I am not escaping anything.

I’m still not sure exactly why I am here, but what I do know is, this time I did not bring as much baggage. I’m unconcerned about what the husband is doing at home. I took a nap at 2 pm without writing one word. I have not OCD’d my retreat, and the anxiety that was once an intrusive roar is now a dull pant.

I’m okay and I am going to be okay. Also, if what I actually want is to create my fantasy cabin in the woods life, there MUST be a screened in porch. 🛖🌲🕷

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Re Post: White Spaces~ A Mother’s Reckoning

Original post from August, 2019

The parade in our town today clarified what I have done as a white woman with bi-racial children…

To all the times I brought my children to white spaces, moved to white neighborhoods, enrolled them in white schools- I am sorry and deeply ashamed of my ignorance.

I feel it now, more than ever- these words: “white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water. “ Guante

I get a small taste of the terror and discomfort, the trauma of being a brown body in this water. I am angry, which is a privilege of white skin, at the levels of energy it takes to accommodate and appease this white nonsense- to play nice in white work places- and can only imagine their exhaustion.

I feel this whiteness in a way I never have and I’m horrified. As though I’ve fully awakened from a spell that made me live as if this water was made for everyone. It’s not.

This awakening was and is a process that I want ALL white people to be responsible for. To believe in white superiority, to attach to whiteness is one of the biggest lies ever believed. It will crush those who don’t realize this. And so be it because the water is changing.

To my children, I wish I had understood sooner. It was thoughtlessly out of touch of me to be blind to this part of you. I fell in love with a black man. I wanted a family. I believe in the divine within us and most of your upbringing I ignored your experience as also a human being in brown skin, barely swimming in this water, but mostly isolated and struggling not to drown in it.

No apology can erase the impact of this. And I’m not here to give false hopes and promises in a nation still deeply young and divided, struggling to know itself. But I do see you and hold the space for all of you and all of your experiences more than I ever have, and it is my deepest desire that this water nourishes, supports and allows for splashing, deep dives and takes you to wherever you want to go.

~Mom

The Soul Reporter

June Soul Report: Stay Attuned to Subtlety

For some, this month may make us feel we are in a strange time. This strangeness is not new, however. It’s just becoming more visible.

Strange is defined as “unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand.” This is why the best guidance for this strange time is for us to be acutely attuned, present and aware as much as we possibly can. Further, not so much about what’s going on outside (we know that’s strange), but what is going on inside.

There are many subtle and not so subtle happenings occurring during this time. June holds the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The season is in full bloom, awakening from its winter sleep. We use our primary senses to notice this: trees are green, the sun is hot, the smell of flowers and fresh cut grass, the sound of birds and insects and children playing. These are the obvious signs a change of season has occurred. But what about the the less obvious signs that brought this change?

For example, the other day, after pulling some pretty intense weeds, I took a rest on my lawn chair under a tree. Ready to rest, read my book and soak in the sun, swarms of gnats from all directions came at my forehead, lips, hair, and glasses. They were relentless, and it was irritating. It was all too easy to get caught up in it all and just complain, which I did by sending my husband a text about it. But, there was another, deeper occurrence within me— I wondered why. I knew it was unusual to have so many gnats. I’d never noticed it quite like this before. There must be a reason. I thought about the winter, all the snow and all the months of it. Then the spring and all the flooding. I thought about how the river, which is near where I live, is still flooded. I googled “increase in gnats” and found some clues. And finally, I just opened my book and let the gnats do what they do.

There are reasons why things occur. We have a choice to pay attention or not. If we do not like the changes, we can choose to complain or dig deeper. We can choose to be a victim or be curious. And, we can always open to acceptance of what is.

Humanity is having a growth spurt, and it’s intense. When children have growth spurts, the rapid changes in their physical body can make them clumsy and awkward. If it’s a hormonal growth spurt, like puberty, then things can get really interesting. Shall we say, strange…..?

When humanity is having a growth spurt, life can look much like it has: chaotic, scary, and often shocking—having many of us shaking our damn heads or constantly rolling our eyes. Many of us are also complaining about what’s happening, and choosing to be victims and feeling hopeless, even apathetic. During this time we are also noticing constructive and creative happenings that make us say wow, bring a tear to our eye and give us hope. This is a time where it is all too easy to keep our primary senses engaged in the chaos and the construction. But, from what I am gathering, June needs to be a time to bring our attention within, on ourselves. To be engaged within, to be curious and dig deeper.

So much has happened “out there” lately. But what is happening “in here”, in us. How are we doing? How are we feeling? What have we gathered over these past few intense months, and maybe years, that needs to processed and metabolized. What of all of this can be used for growth and healing and what can be let go? Beyond this process, what is occurring right now, in the present moment, that needs our attention? Essentially, why are we where we are? And the answers are often subtle.

There are forces that create everything. We are a force and so I am asking us to get clear about what we are creating.

You see we cannot continue to get caught up in the outer chaos because we are at risk of losing our way in it and then find ourselves somewhere we really do not want to be, and strangely, if this occurred, ask ourselves what the hell happened— how’d we get here? LET US NOT GET TO THIS POINT. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT.

Instead, let us use this opportunity of June to slow it all down, stretch it all out and use our curiosity to check in with our selves, our souls, our bodies. Let us wonder: how did we get here….what are the subtle and often unconscious forces that brought us here….and what are the subtle forces bringing us forward….? Let our inner wisdom provide us with guidance. Because we cannot afford to live unconsciously right now.

As June moves on and I open to more subtleties of the energy of this time, I will share them. But for now, stay attuned, awake and aware to what is just below the chaotic surface of our existence. This is where we can fully sense what is occurring and not only be a part of the shift, but create our own for the betterment of humanity and our planet.

Stay in touch and reach out to me anytime. Contact me here.

~The Soul Reporter

The Summer So Far~

A few things I’ve done this summer….

 

Thank you dinner at Louis Ristorante~

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Up North with my girls~

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The Gemini Birthdays~

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More Birthday Fun~

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A Day at the Zoo~

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Butterfly Garden~

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Sunset Walks~

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And building a house… Stay tuned for pictures and documentation of putting our home together.

The Soul Reporter