The shoreline wind gushed over me, dancing over my body and twirling my hair across my face in golden-hued shadows so that my vision of the indigo ocean was blurred into the blues of the sky.
I felt my chest swell. My throat tightened.
I felt her fingers crawling over my brain, intent on capturing my thoughts in her grip.
This is your resilience test.
I was roadweary and standing on a cliff near Cannon Beach. The rugged Oregon coastline spread in front of my eyes, presenting itself as the perfect visual metaphor of the current state of my spirit...the dance of terror and beauty, of anxiety and resilience.
"Halfway." The realization hit me and I willed myself to keep my thoughts at peace knowing that I had come so far and still had so far to go.
The sun was beginning to set, casting a soft purple glow over the salty haze that was beginning to hover over the sand. I left my spot on the cliff and walked down to the water to feel the icy kiss of the sea, to feel her reassurance that all was well.
Just a few hours earlier I had driven from the Califonia Redwoods into Oregon farmlands in search of the host that I had planned to stay with for a couple of days. From the moment I left the coastline to drive inland, I felt something in my gut turn over, something was whispering inside, telling me to not leave the coast, to stay where I could hear the sea call my name and taste saltwater on my lips.
I ignored the whispers, telling myself I was just tired and was probably going a little nuts from being in solitude for over a week.
Pressing onward, I drove two hours into the country, navigating without cell phone service and using a few notes my host sent over on a hand-drawn map...
And finally I found the farm. I slowly pulled my car into the turn and stared down a long gravel road that lead up to a house tucked into thick woods near a river. By all looks of the place it was quaint and seemed as if it would be a great place to rest...if I had someone else with me...
...the thought flashed into the front of my mind. "Yes, duh if you had someone with you! You don't want to go in there alone do you? Something is not right...." I paused and continued to stare down the long road, my were hands beginning to sweat on the steering wheel. "This is so stupid. Just go and meet your host and then figure out if you want to stay..." I stopped. "Turn this f***ing car around right now and drive straight back to the sea!"
And so I left.
I drove in a numb panic. I had no place to stay, sunset was in about three hours, and I didn't have any cell phone service.
"What in the world are you thinking? Turn around and just crash there for the night! What could actually go wrong? No, just go back to the coast, jump in the ocean. The water will clear your head and then you can figure out what to do next."
After two hours of this inward dialogue, I was scouring the coast for an open walk-in campsite. All were full, it was the peak of tourist season, and the sun was beginning to droop toward the ocean. I ended up pulling into a tourist-y town near Cannon Beach, where I miraculously found a hotel with one room left for the night.
I settled in and was automatically uncomfortable. After over a week of sleeping under the stars and living in the woods, the hotel room felt like a prison. That's when I decided to walk over to the cliff near the water and reflect on this day.
My thoughts jerked back to the present moment as my icy toes struck something in the wet sand. I stopped to pick it up. It was small pebble, smooth and tumbled so that its deep colors glowed bright. It's years of being tossed in the waves and scuffled in the sand had turned it into something beautiful, something that I would want to wear as a piece of jewelry. "It has resilience built into its broken beauty", I thought. I tucked it into my pocket and turned my steps toward my hotel.
I walked with intention, feeling the earth with each step on my bare feet. Peace filled my chest. "I choose resilience over anxiety." I smiled, proud that I had listened to my intuition and that it had brought me to this shore to learn this lesson.
The next morning I woke up early with the first sparkles of dawn. I felt empowered, surging with energy, ready for another day of adventuring into the unknown.
Sometimes life presents you with a landscape to metaphorically enact a spiritual journey. This is exactly what happened in the Oregon Dunes.
"Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety –
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light –
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness." - Why I wake Early by Mary Oliver
Warmth, beauty, light, and strength met me in the sands and led me out to a small trail to the sea. Once again, nature had performed her miracle of rewilding in my spirit. She put a new word in my mouth me to chew on, "resilience".
Life is one big resilience test, and while it's tempting to turn over and play the role of the victim, ultimately growth springs forth from assuming the inward stance of the divine warrior and outward stance of the kind lover. You are infinite. You are invited in this daily dance with the Divine.