Oh happy day, all! The sun is shining for the first time in a week, and I am so grateful for it. It has been gray, cold, raining, icy, and raw-feeling here for a full week. The ground is soggy and the creek is bubbling along at a break-neck pace! Since my last January post about the sky, life has taken a decidedly twisted turn. While I had intended to continue writing about optimism during February, life, it seems, had other plans for me.
Today, my bigger-than-life, fun-loving big brother is in a hospital ICU bed, attached to a ventilator with COVID-19. He has been sick for 17 days, in the hospital for 13 days, on a ventilator for 7 of them. All we can do from home is hope, pray, and send positive vibes his way. Needless to say, this turn of events for our family has unleashed a torrent of emotions – from fear and sadness to anger and anxiety, from hope to resignation and back again. The stress of not knowing how this will turn out takes a toll.
At first it felt like a roller-coaster ride, with each day’s updates buoying our hopes or sending them plummeting. Then it felt more like I was a fish getting hooked, jerked around, and then thrown back in, just to have it happen over and over again. Now, the emotional roller coaster/fish-hook existence has evolved into a slow-motion movie with multiple invisible villains. The doctors say his case is going to be “a marathon, not a sprint”. You just never know what to expect or from where – an infection, a blood clot, an organ failure, a drop in O2 levels, an increase in O2 levels, a better day, or not. The dreary weather seemed to match my mood for the past week.
One coping strategy I’ve learned for times of stress is called “Taking in the Good”. It’s from a book by Rick Hanson called Just One Thing. He cites some science that shows our human brains have a built-in negativity bias – i.e. we hold onto negative feelings surrounding an experience far longer and more intensely than we hold on to positive feelings from an experience. So, we need to train ourselves to “tilt toward the good” so that we can access positive feelings in times of stress. To do that, he says, we should practice taking in good experiences, letting ourselves feel them deep inside, and holding our awareness of them for a time.
So, this morning dawned a new day. The rains abated, and Mr. Endlessseeker in all his wisdom suggested we get out and take a hike to get some exercise and lift our moods. He understands how much I need my time in the woods to heal and stay sane and be whole! Today was going to be an opportunity to consciously and deliberately take in the good! We headed down to White Pines Nature Preserve, even though we suspected the trail might be flooded along the river. It did not disappoint. The River trail was under water by at least a foot or two.
But the soggy trails and absolute solitude of the space gave us room to breathe in the magic of the wet woods, to listen to the birds, and to find tiny treasures all along the way. One of the most intriguing finds early on was this fungus called Collared Calostoma – a puffball relative.
The flooded river trail gave us the opportunity to hike up hill along the bluff trail, which we had not done before, and as we crested the bluff we discovered our first-of-the-season trout lilies just beginning to emerge.
The confluence of the Deep and Rocky Rivers was rocking with flood waters, carrying huge logs downstream at a fast clip. The river’s banks breached, now the flood waters had spread way into the woodlands and it was a stunning sight.
There was no way to access the canoe launch area with the water so high, but no one in their right mind would try to canoe the river today anyway.
As we headed up toward the Rocky Bluff Trail, the chorus frogs were calling so loudly you could barely hear your own thoughts.
The moss was so wet and so green, it seemed to be lit up from the inside!
Each encounter was a chance to soak in the calm of the day, the joy of discovering the plants and animals, the magic of just being together, here, right now. A chance to take in the good and revel in the positive feelings for a time.
On our way back to the parking area, we heard blue jays calling. Then just as one called and took off from a branch, a Cooper’s hawk swooped in and caught it, landing on the ground with the blue jay pinned under its talons. The jay kept screaming, but the hawk held tight and then feathers flew as he plucked and began his mid-morning meal. Not the calmest of experiences, but fascinating nonetheless.
And as we headed home the sun began to come out and warm our heads and hearts and souls. In that moment, life was good.
Later in the day we got another update on my brother…it was the first update to include the words “doing well”. He still has a long and unpredictable road ahead, but today at least we will take in the good in every way we can, and that update was as positive as we’ve heard in a long time. I’ll take it.
In what way did you manifest positive feelings and take in the good today?
P. S. – Y’all stay healthy, please – mask up, follow safety protocols, and take care of yourself and each other. I don’t want you to get covid or go through what my family is going through by having a loved one suffer the ravages of this disease.