listening time: 7:13 minutes
When Asha and I arrive at the frozen beaver pond, I hesitate at the edge, then walk out onto the snow-covered ice.
Asha runs ahead and rolls in the snow. I walk towards the middle, feeling bolder with each step. I lie down feeling the support of the solid ice and squint up at the clear blue February sky.
I’m surprised by how right it feels to be lying here on a frozen pond under a late-winter sun. The ice, the lying down, the middle. The risk, the trust, the shift in perspective.
I’ve admired thin bands of ice with scalloped edges along stream banks and wondered how ice forms, what causes the different textures and opacities. I’ve thrown pebbles and listened to them ping and skitter. I’ve been startled by loud cracks of pond ice expanding or contracting. I’ve slipped and fallen and I’ve deliberately sat my snow-pant-clad butt down and slid along a sloping corridor of ice.
But walking onto a frozen pond is a different matter.
I don’t know how to tell if the ice is strong and thick enough to support me, and I have no desire to fall into and then scramble out of cold water of unknown depth.
But I’ve felt a pull, a longing, as I watched teenagers skate here and noticed bicycle and ski tracks on other ponds.
So I asked two men collecting small bait for ice fishing how they know whether the ice is safe. After joking that they let others venture onto the ice first, they mentioned a tool for checking the thickness. I started wondering who I could ask to walk across a frozen pond elsewhere in the woods with Asha and me or stand at one edge watching that we make it safely to the other side. Several days later we were walking with our friends Deb, Cayte and Melia and, to my delight, they agreed to cross the pond with us.
Emboldened by this experience, sub-freezing temperatures and sightings of skaters, here I am, taking a risk of walking out into the middle of a frozen beaver pond, trusting the ice to hold Asha and me.
When the cold seeps through my snow pants, I reluctantly stand up. I turn a few slow circles, grateful for this winter opportunity to shift my perspective – to be in the middle looking back at the edges where I have stood many, many times in all seasons.
As Asha and I walk back to the trail, I see our tracks in the snow and realize this is bigger than this particular moment. I can see life decisions that brought me here.
Decisions that feel like stepping from solid ground onto the ice.
From the familiar and known into the unfamiliar and unknown.
And lately I’ve been thinking a lot about one such decision in my life.
When my fortieth birthday approached, I struggled with whether or not to renew my teaching contract. I’d been in education almost my entire life. I was a good student and a good teacher. I’d moved across the country for this job ten months earlier and both the director and I expected I’d stay at least three years.
But, from somewhere inside me, I heard, “Enough. It’s time to live your life. To do more of what you want and less of what you think is expected.”
Which put me in the scary and unfamiliar place of listening for what I wanted.
At a young age, afraid of eternal damnation and desperately wanting to be welcomed into heaven, I became a good girl. My world was ordered in good-bad, right-wrong, with good and right leading to heaven, bad and wrong to hell. Afraid that I’d make bad or wrong decisions, I looked outside myself for answers, assuming others knew the good or right answers.
This decision was about more than a job, or even a career path. It was about choosing a different way of being in the world. It was about moving away from good-girl-ness and the good-bad binary. It was about looking within for answers and listening deeply.
When I changed the question from “What’s the right choice?” to “What do I want?” I heard my love of handwork calling.
I left my job and moved near my sister. First I focused on knitting. Then I took a weaving class and felt I’d come home to myself.
The design calculations, the repetitive steps, the slowness, the hands-on-ness, even the solitariness all suited me. But when I decided to start a business, Whimsy & Tea, I didn’t know that I wasn’t simply weaving kitchen towels and napkins. I was tending my soul.
Immersed in the meditative rhythms of treadle-throw-beat for hours at a time, weaving became a way to listen to myself, to be in conversation with myself. Seeing the choices I made about color combinations, stripe sequences and patterns turn into beautiful cloth, taught me to trust my business decisions about craft fairs and email content, online stores and product descriptions … and and and.
Listening to myself and trusting decisions spilled into my life so that when I started walking in the woods with Asha and heard a trail say, “Turn here,” I turned.
And when I heard something say it was time to give stories about our walks their own space, I created this storysite, Walks with Asha.
And when I heard a longing to be on a frozen pond, I honored that too.
Maybe the rightness of lying in the middle of a frozen pond isn’t so surprising after all.