After our nail-biting election week here in the U.S. I am taking a bit of time for myself today to breathe, stretch, and feel into the possibilities of the new year that is just around the corner. For the first time in a while my shoulders are a little more relaxed, my belly is a little softer, and my mind is a little more clear. I knew my body was processing a great deal during these complex times but I didn’t fully understand just how much until the election was called and I felt a deep internal settling. Hearing the deeply vulnerable response about the election from news commentator Van Jones addressed what this election meant for so many in this country and abroad.
I hope this letter finds you with your feet on the ground and with your exhale a little more complete this week. I’ve been thinking about those of you who reached out to me after my last letter on grief. I am still feeling gratitude for your vulnerability and willingness to share how grief has been showing up in your life during these last disorienting and emotionally charged months.
While I am still in a grieving process, the waves are beginning to slow. I am beginning to find my sea legs so to speak, feeling slightly more balanced as I make my way through the messiness, heaviness, and vulnerability of this particular season. Solomon, Nic, and I returned to California two weeks ago after staying with my Mom in Atlanta for five weeks because the hazardous smoke from the fire in the Sierra National Forest was blowing right into our bedroom. Nic and I talked about leaving our home for nearly a week when the fire started, but when we looked at the map of our beloved California nearly a million acres of forests were burning across the state and we could not locate a place nearby with smoke-free air.
As you might imagine it wasn’t an easy decision to leave the small town in the foothills of Yosemite that we have come to love so dearly. We moved out here from Oakland a few months prior and were trying to give Solomon as much of a carefree summer as possible in the midst of the pandemic, social justice movement, massive wildfire season, and political uprising. Just writing that brings some big feelings to the surface. What. A. Year.
One morning we heard Solomon coughing from the smoke. Shortly afterwards he asked us to leave the house and I knew in my heart that we had to go. His little lungs couldn’t keep inhaling the smoke and it was time to pivot. We packed the car, arranged for a house sitter, and headed to clearer skies. Exhale.
Arriving back in the South, in my hometown with our child in tow, felt as uncomplicated as it could and I was grateful for that. It was still unclear when Solomon and I would be able to go back to California (Nic traveled back and forth to check on our house and ship medicine out to customers) so I made sure that we spent as much time outside as possible, soaking in the damp air, walking in the woods by my Mom’s house, feeling connected to the geography that shaped my childhood, that offered me solace, and that taught me how to land in my own body.
There are seasons of life just as there are seasons of practice. This season of practice for me is about remembering to feel my feet, reconnecting to my relationship with gravity, and orienting my awareness and attention to the Earth. This is a season for grounding. In the midst of all of the layers of uncertainty, confusion, grief, transition, and overwhelm that somehow touch some aspect of each day, I am brought back to these essential truths that I learned from spending time with myself in those Southern woods: It is safe for me to land. It is safe for me to feel my feet on the ground. It is safe for me to be in my body.
I wish I had the experience of leading with that wisdom the forests instilled in me as I grew up. I wish that the messages I received from the trees were just as loud as the messages that got passed down through my family. I wish that I could have called on the support of the trees and the ground when I desperately needed to be seen, felt, heard, and saved. Yet somehow, despite the painful experiences, despite the repeated traumas, and despite having so few moments of safe connection with others, the forests gifted me with an internal barometer to choose to keep living, to keep evolving, and to keep feeling my feet on the ground, one small step at a time.
The gifts I received from returning home during this wild time are not lost on me. I can say with certainty this was the first time I returned home in my fully adult, present-time self. There are usually so many aspects of my younger selves that are triggered when I am around my family, especially for that length of time (I actually haven’t been home for that long since I headed west nearly 17 years ago) and this trip was remarkably different. I had the capacity to show up for challenging conversations with clarity, ask for what I needed with gentleness, and stay firmly grounded in the boundaries I set for myself and Solomon. I was able to navigate difficult moments of grief and pain with a level of ease and flexibility that for so long felt out of reach. I was also present for the relief and healing that comes from reconciling a few more layers of my past, metabolizing the wounds, feeling integrated in the here and now.
This has been one of the most confronting seasons of my life. I have been asked to stretch and expand much further than I would have chosen to if it were left up to me. At the same time, I have been training and practicing for this season for decades. As much as my young self still longs to be rescued by someone outside of herself, in this unbelievably destabilizing season I am able to take care of her, to assure her, to soothe her. I am able to show up and be the person I needed when I was younger. I am able to rescue myself.
I know in my core that my ability to stay with myself in as many moments as possible is keeping me available for connection, healing, and oriented toward a future that I want for all of our children. I know in my core that my willingness to pause, to feel my feet on the Earth, and inhale the regenerative oils coming off of the pine trees brings me back to center, to right here right now. I know that each time I choose to turn towards practices that anchor me like breathing, grounding, and exploring the land with Nic and Solomon I am making an invaluable investment in myself. I am also continuing to break the cycles of pain and trauma that I do not want to pass on. I know that each time I choose vulnerability over judgement, slowing down over hustling, living the work over sharing a highlight reel, I am growing my capacity to embody the teachings and wisdom that are ever present.
These last few days of being home in the foothills have brought with them a significant loss which I am not ready to share right now but will when the time feels right. They have also brought on so much gratitude for the clear air we are breathing and for the safe, smoke-free home we are taking shelter in while our land and home project continue to be built. We have been welcomed back into the community we are building out here with open, loving arms and I am feeling supported and cared for in ways that are deeply restorative.
May we find a moment to inhale and exhale slowly.
May we set aside time to feel our feet on the earth.
May we develop our capacity to be with what is.
May we overcome difficulties, no matter how long it takes.
May we remember the gifts that we carry with us, that we carry on.