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  • Maura McCarley Torkildson

When Acceptance Looks Like Grief


I spent the weekend up at Mt Shasta, just being outdoors and enjoying the beauty of nature. I was able to get far away from the sounds of modern day life, to stand amongst the silence of the trees and how it fed my soul. While there, we drove up on the south side of the mountain on logging roads to places where no one else was around. Both my partner and I fell asleep there on the mountain. It was so restful and quiet, with only the rustle of wind in the trees and the occasional call of a bird. It was the best sleep I’ve had in a while.

We only had a few days to stay and we left in the middle of the night. He drove and I fell asleep shortly after we were on the road. When I woke up we were already coming into the Sacramento and Bay Area. As I woke, deep down in my bones I felt heavy. I realized I was experiencing the difference in energy. In the past on trips like this I have been awake on the way home and it was like a gradual shift to come back to urbanity. So it was a bit of a shock to feel the difference in energy so strongly this time. In the mountains, the energy felt lighter. Clean and clear are a great words to describe the sensation. Here it just feels heavy; dirty with too much ego, too much frantic running, too many cars, too much humanity, too much everything…and also not enough, not enough nature. Even though Northern California has done a better job of saving more open space than the south, it’s not enough. To find the silence that is so necessary for my soul is difficult here. It’s hard to say if I would have noticed this before. My clairsentience has been growing stronger and so maybe I was also more aware.

On the commute the day after we returned, my grief was acute. Oh, what we done? I asked myself. Why can’t we accept wild nature? Why do we build against her? Why do we destroy her? These questions hammered me as I sat in traffic. As a species, we have lost our roots. It makes us hungry ghosts. I recalled a movie I saw recently. A scene of a man came to mind, a shaman of the Amazon, standing against an evening sky with butterflies fluttering all around. It was a portrait in sepia, which lent a surreal but natural quality to the film and captured this man’s deep connection to the world around him – the connection we have lost in our endless treadmill of accomplishment and acquisition. All he needed was a few tools, the sky, the earth, the water and his senses. Just this one scene alluded to how he fully used all his senses, including the sixth. That is one we have largely lost. We traded it in somewhere along the lines for stuff, for accomplishment, for progress.

I wanted to run back up to the mountain. I considered selling my house, quitting my job, leaving it all behind. I wanted out! My chest tightened and tears escaped their watery home under my eyes. I recalled my epiphany from the week before, the one that showed me that what I needed more than anything in my life was to give up the struggle, to be in acceptance, to take the magical middle road way, not fighting, not joining, not giving in - simple acceptance. I breathed. Acceptance? What does that look like right now, in this moment, I asked myself? Grief, it looks like grief. You are the one who keeps saying feel your emotions, so feel your grief. Yes, I accept this too. I accept my grief. This grief is the other side of longing. I long for quietude. I long for the simple magic of a stream bubbling over the rocks, for listening to the voices of the waters singing with the rocks, together murmuring secrets I can almost comprehend, for butterflies performing their sky dance and a dragon fly landing on the rock in front of me with a flash of blue, suddenly so still in the sunlight. I long for the charm of moss covered crooked oaks hanging over the stream and the big broad leaved plants swaying in the water. I long for the mountain, for the wild.

Acceptance looks like appreciation too. In the midst of my longing I find gratitude that the magic of that place touched me, took root in my heart. It points me towards wholeness. I am a feeling sentient being and magic still exists and I know it, especially when I am on the mountain. I accept where I am now, but the mountain and the trees speak to me and I know how to listen and this is a gift. So I accept grief, I accept longing as a signal pointing me towards what I need by understanding what I don’t have enough of and what I have too much of.


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