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Entries in Cheryl Strayed (1)


Seeking the Void

I forgot how to read when I weaned Ezra.  One of the joys of that first year, as I remember it now, was the perching of novels on the arm of the chair just beyond the Boppy and devouring them one by one during marathon nursing sessions.  An unintended consequence of reclaiming my bodily autonomy was that my reading space shrunk down to so miniscule a spot that nothing longer than a blog post would fit there.  That, plus taking on my 365 photography project and starting this blog of my own, resulted in a couple of years now where I've essentially read nothing longer than three paragraphs.  There's only so much space in a life, after all.

But I am not fully nourished when I don't ingest well-constructed words, or when I spend too much time in my own and not enough time swimming around in others'.  My friend Marjorie recommended Cheryl Strayed's Wild a few weeks ago and I immediately went out and bought myself a copy.  Strayed tells the story of her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in a time when she was broken and lost and needed to find herself.  A hiker she meets on the trail gives her a long black feather which she tucks into her pack.  She later encounters a woman who identifies it as a corvid feather, a "symbol of the void."  It sounds scary, but she describes it as "the place where things are born, where they begin."

The same day I encountered Mark Nepo's description of the void, the empty space of stillness, darkness, where perception is heightened and things are born: "Both the Buddhist and Zen traditions speak of an unbreakable emptiness at the heart of all seeing from which all things emerge.  The Hindu Upanishads tell us that in the center of the seed of the great nyagrodha tree there is nothing, and out of that nothing the great tree grows."

I am reminded of my long bad mood last winter and the feeling of claustrophobia so strong I couldn't breathe.  I am reminded of my efforts to hold just a little bit of space for myself, the place where a small sprout of hope took root.  I find myself drawn to the idea, not scared at all, of accessing that dark, quiet, protected place, observing it, and watching to see what grows.