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“You own nothing”

The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

—Margaret Atwood

I continue to be in a space of profound transition. We sold our home last week and moved into a little cottage by the water for two weeks to help me focus on finishing my next manuscript (a book version of my contemplative photography class due late spring 2013). We arrived at our temporary home to find a small nest above the doorway and I take great pleasure in watching the mother bird fly back and forth. I ponder the fragile new dreams being incubated in me. Following this personal writing retreat I go lead a writing and movement retreat for others, and then visit family in California and South Carolina, before we board ship to take us across the Atlantic ocean. We are nomads right now, in motion from one place to another. Our journey east is slow, but it feels like the right pace for such a huge transition.

The amount of the proceeds from our home sale was within a couple hundred dollars of our student loan balance, so we made the choice to pay that off. It feels important for us to eliminate our debt and walk freely into this adventure, encumbered by as little as possible. The other night I had a ritual burning of my journals from these last nine years in Seattle. Too many volumes to carry to Vienna, and again, I am craving the freedom that comes from traveling lightly. I read through many of the entries, honoring all that this time of my life has offered to me. But I felt called to trust that everything I need to know is already within me, to remember that I own nothing, and so the letting go.

There have been so many “last” things – my last time seeing my spiritual director, my last time eating at a favorite restaurant, the last time going on my favorite walk. I have been savoring each one with the intensity that comes from knowing our days are limited. At the end of our last session together my massage therapist anointed my feet, hands, heart, and third eye for the journey ahead. Another dear friend offered me a spontaneous blessing for the thriving of my dreams as they are held in God’s dreams. I feel supported by so many, blessed as I continue walking into the unknown.

What are you being called to release in service of a bigger dream?
What is the blessing you need to give you the courage you need?

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3 Responses

  1. This is so timely. I also am wondering what to let go. I thought last year of getting rid of my journals but a friend persuaded me not to, feeling there could be a book in it. Last week I got them out again and skimmed through. A year’s gone by and I’ve done nothing towards typing up the insights. I know what they are. Do I need to hang on to this stuff? I don’t know. Is it commonsense that stays my hand? Or fear?

  2. Hmmm, that poem is calling to me.

    “Walk freely into this adventure” you say. What a wonderful way to start it. I’m so looking forward to hearing more of this latest turn in your lives.

  3. Dearest Christine,

    I don’t know where to begin to thank you for posting this beautiful poem and reflection today.

    My husband and I also just sold our house after 28 years and are in “transition” as we are renting a small condo . We bought a simple house in Vermont ( after fisiting there for over 30 years). My husband is retiring and we feel called to a quiter life..our house is 5 minutes from a Benedictine Priory!
    In this time of transition we have had to let go of many things…and the most right now is the letting go of or accepting the thought that ” we own nothing” and need to Trust! We are taking a risk leaving the safe and comfortable life we were living and moving in to a time of “unknown” ..but there is a great sense of freedom in that. And in that freedom comes possibility!! Too much on my mind know to phrase all of this properly…I so can relate to what is going on in your life.

    God Bless you on your new and continued journey…..keep us in prayer as we travel on too!
    Let us pray for each other.