November is one of those months with that hazy time between afternoon and evening where the light is low and dull. Other months have it too. November’s expression of it comes as a particular shock with memories of lush full leaves and bright days still wafting through my consciousness. I don’t have the completeness of white winter rounding out the experience. I have still-warm two o’clock sun letting me stay outside for a bit in my short-sleeves, and then I have the need to turn on a reading light by four. November is indistinct like that.
This November contrasts the last two Novembers passed. It has the same low sun but this time I can see it etching its way across the sky with slow resolve. It isn’t encumbered by the low and tedious heaviness of Kootenay Autumn clouds; here it is framed by spacious wisps as it glares down on me. Me in my reflective orange vest, distinguishing myself from the deer that are currently targets of what I’ve come to understand as the equivalent of Grizzly Bears with guns. It helps me understand my current environment better than attempting to wrap my head around the fact that people can legally hunt in such populated areas. Ok, so I need to make noise and alert the woods of my presence. Just like in the mountains. Yes, I can do that.
I walk, making my way through the abandoned apple orchard that must be well over a hundred years old. Being on land that has been so altered by human hands is rather surreal. I know that settlers cleared this land of all trees hundreds of years ago. The stone piles in long, long lines must have marked agricultural land that has once again been taken over by aged trees. I ruminate on history; Ruby and Gracie pull ahead. My four-footed roommates usually make their way through the bramble with greater ease than I do. Except this time Ruby’s brought one of her giant stuffed toys. Clamping the brown furry mass and lifting her head high to keep it from dragging slows her down slightly. We eventually make it to the open, bare blueberry fields where I don’t have to wonder as much how a dog can go on a walk without stopping and sniffing every trace of anything they smell under logs and crevasses.
The stubble of once-thick berry bushes meets each foot-fall taking me back, again, to a November long ago. A November with just-burned corn fields leaving poking masses to contend with as I shepherded sheep that knew more Greek than I did. Rolling hills and again, that unusually warm sun.
What about this year? This year I am not in rural Greece, nor interior BC. This year I am here in the backwoods of Maine. I realized last week that I don’t live at the Ashram anymore. Yeah, I know, waking up and having to prepare my own breakfast kind of clued me in to this fact over seven months ago. This, however, was on a level of understanding that the energy I spend in the day does not go solely to Yasodhara activities right now. I’m not contributing to this broad, sweeping definition of “something higher” in the tangible way that I did for over three years. So what exactly is it that I am doing?
It was kind of jarring. I think it jarred me into looking with more clarity at my life at the moment. It revealed this unconscious thought-stream that told me I had been part of something bigger and that everything is going fine. Sure, those things are true – I will always be a part of the Ashram and the Ashram will always be a part of me – but I’m now unencumbered by the notion that my energy is still going there. I’m finding the distance that I need in order to stretch and arrange my life.
I’ve heard that people, departing after extended stays, sometimes feel the ever-watchful eye of the Ashram, comparing themselves to the practices and the schedule kept up there and projecting judgement onto themselves for not measuring up to that exact model. Well, I knew I didn’t have to worry about that. Because the practices and schedule of the Ashram were simply embedded into me – of course I would keep them up exactly upon leaving. Oh, so I began to see my hatha practice slipping away. Well, my intention was to get right back to my mat regularly. Oh, I’ll start up again soon, I surely will. And then everything will become righted again, right? Ok, so daily reflection is seeming impossible, I simply don’t have time for it right now. Oh, but I will again soon, because that’s what I simply should be doing. Because that’s what makes sense for me. It made sense for me at the Ashram and gosh-darn it, it’ll make sense for me now. Because that’s simply the way my life is. Oh, I’ll catch-up soon. Then everything will be ok.
Wait a minute. These judgemental thoughts are exactly what I said I wouldn’t fall into. Oh….so that’s what everyone was talking about. These unconscious comparisons aren’t helpful. They pull me down and away from attention to what is happening in my life. Truly there are some awesome victories. A hatha-less week doesn’t take them away from me.
I’m learning. I’m learning that November will come in different ways and still will come. November; this reflective month of in-between time. Not quite winter and not still fall. I am seeing things come to an end in ways I couldn’t in the hopeful Spring when I physically left the Ashram. The hazy month is offering me gifts and gold that I can mine. My winter plans are evolving and emerging in ways I didn’t expect a few short weeks ago. Acknowledging the completion of some things on broader and broader levels allows space for new these experiences to enter into my life.