There's something that pulls a person toward this journey: Way back, deep inside...
Are there people in your life who have only known you for a short period of time but perhaps know you more deeply than the people that have known -(about)- you for a very long time? What is that? How do you shift out of restrictive, familiar modes - the kind that offer safety, protection from what you fear. What's the cost of all this protection?
A new person in my life recently said "yes" to a day long hike. I think he said yes because of a familiar wrinkle in our background. A context we shared in common. A space of warmth and openness and trust - his on the west coast and mine on the "north coast." On our drive out of the city, he commented on my warmth. I remember hearing this and letting it in - liking the way it felt. I was also aware of the discomfort of reception - of allowance. I believe I said, "thank you."
We spent the day together, walking amongst the towering Ponderosa Pines, engulfed in a back and forth of conversation - an unfolding of the soft corners of our lives that carry emotional meaning - it felt nice to feel the attention of a caring human presence, to move back and forth with my trust - to open and to hold. I imagined him carefully zig-zagging around the edges of his vulnerability too.
I talked about the twitching movements of caterpillars, and he reminded me that they have no frontal lobes - no capacity to be aware of their twitching movements. They twitch for the sake of twitching. We talked for awhile about caterpillars. About metamorphosis. About going from caterpillar to butterfly - about how to become a butterfly. I thought: the caterpillar isn't twitching around thinking, "I'm going to become a butterfly," because as long as she's twitching, being a caterpillar, she can't be a butterfly. It's only when the twitching is replaced with something else and she's done with her caterpillarness that she starts to become a butterfly. You cannot rip away what you are. I think that's quite a paradox (this is how I remember it from Ram Dass, "Be Here Now").
My walking companion said, "You know, the caterpillar must liquify in the cocoon before it can become a butterfly." I thought about this off and on, throughout our walk. I came back to it, feeling its' offering in my life. In the lives of those I have related to and who have afforded me their trust. What is the liquification I defend against? What is the cocoon? What is actually going on here? I try to stay with these questions with feeling. But I'm caught up in the wilderness of my thoughts.
We take a late lunch break, sharing a small section of smoothed timber to sit on. We share food. He examines his blistered foot. I've been watching the south fork of the Payette all day, winding its way, loudly through the granite ravine. I take my shoes and socks off and step gently into its flow. It's colder than anything I've ever touched. It takes my breath away. I balance myself, swaying back and forth, on a thick branch caught up against two large rocks. I fall. It's inevitable, I think. At this point, I have been joined by my friend, also barefoot and we imagine ourselves being brave enough to drink the water from cupped hands.
Portions of the drive home are silent. We stop for energy drinks and sugary snacks. He shares with me a mixed assortment of gummy bears. Liquification. Dissolving into the process of myself that is supposed to happen. Stepping into a cocoon of trust; of relationship; of vulnerability. Falling into the mystery of the beautiful unknown. An unfolding process. Maybe it's got to happen that way.