For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a nomad. It started when I was five and ran away from home to spend the night under an avocado tree several blocks away. Thrilled to be there, I was also deathly afraid of what might be waiting in the darkness just beyond my leafy sanctuary.
In the years that followed, I was compelled to travel further and further, until there were thousands of miles between me and the town I’d grown up in. I crossed oceans and continents, spending intervals in Europe, South and Central America. I slept in a hammock, on boats, in a Roman wine cellar and in an 11the century castle
When I first started off I carried a few suitcases. They became trunks that disappeared in the holds of cargo ships and the backs of trucks alongside small mountains of boxes. There were the utensils I couldn’t live without; pots and pans, clothes, linens and paintings. Photos and small bits and pieces were the footprints of my past. Always always there was a collection of books that kept growing.
Eventually, I’ve divested myself of two husbands, a long-term live in lover, and my daughter followed nature’s course and moved to Manhattan. Another few years passed, and suddenly I began to relinquish my possessions, despite the occasional tug or ache that appeared when I handed over something that had served me well. The orange Le Creuset pot that cooked a perfect stewed chicken, and weighed 6 pounds! Having more than one blanket, the heavy royal blue wool was given to a woman I met. It’s hard to fall asleep when you’re freezing, and as a single mother of three she needs to nourish her dreams. Although I haven’t given them all up and never will, a great many of my beloved books have slowly been repurposed, finding their way to libraries and into the hands of people who I felt would enjoy them.
And as things continued to disappear, I began to recognize the elegance of simplicity. The beauty of space. In the forest, it’s the clearing. In the desert, the sky. On the beach, it’s the horizon. In Chinese calligraphy, empty space is named ‘designing the white’ and it enhances the blackness of the letters. In Japanese gardens, the empty space provides balance. It defines the elements that surround it, just as the elements that surround it define the space.
Like the yoga master who teaches that the empty space following the breaths inward and outward is where great movement occurs, modern physics tells us that there is no empty space. What appears to be emptiness is filled with particles, atoms and invisible energy.
Bringing emptiness into various aspects of my life, gave me the freedom and serenity that I’d unknowingly longed for. No more need to carve out chunks of time to polish the furniture and the silver!
My friend R, a devout Buddhist and a healer of children from war zones, once said, I don’t think I’ll reach enlightenment this lifetime, nor am I completely sure I even want to. We both laughed. Be that as it may, I’ve come to believe that the last stage of a woman’s life journey is when she focuses on cultivating her soul, something that’s done moment by moment. Enjoying the peaks and lighting fires in the darkness, life becomes an act of devotion, a joyous commitment to all living beings. Embracing divine madness, moments of insight and the intoxification of Divine Love, the older woman finds grace by surrendering to simplicity.
The journey becomes easier.