Risking Connections

kasilof-river-lupin-alaska-by-pegge-erkeneff

I’d been living too fast, again.
Busyness threatened my health and well-being.
Putting my home up for sale, a demanding work life in communications and public affairs for a school district with unpredictable events requiring immediate reaction, and too many volunteer commitments were desensitizing and destabilizing my foundation. Increased global violence, polarizing political rhetoric, and a multitude of social platforms with which to “connect” all threatened chaos for me.

My smartphone was becoming a curse.

I know it is vital to cultivate kindness and calm in times like these. A contemplative practice—be it mindfulness, meditation, prayer, or simply a pause—becomes crucial. I recognized my inner well was empty, and even my daily focus on being thankful wasn’t enough. My best self was floundering. I wasn’t very present, to anyone or anything. My spiritual director had asked, How can you take care of yourself? What familiar practices do you need to go back to, and put into place in times like these?

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Crossroads
My crossroads was a holiday weekend. My niece was visiting, staying with my parents who live nearby. We played on Sunday, fishing for halibut in Cook Inlet, Alaska, USA. Amid nonstop laughter, we landed several fish, then stayed up into the wee hours of the night talking. We were invited to a barbeque on Monday by a couple with three boys who we consider family. We would gather at their new cabin on the river a few miles from my home, and my parents would take my niece to the airport from there.

I pulled up, fatigued, my focus on the little boys who I hadn’t seen in far too long, and the last precious hours with my niece. The oldest, a soon-to-be third grader, ran to my car to greet me, offering to help carry the bag of snacks I brought. I’d expected only our families, but a bearded man stood near a truck, offered a hello, shook my hand, and introduced himself. I flashed a smile, said, “Hello, I’m Pegge,” and then turned my attention back to the eager young boy standing beside me. I had no capacity for anyone unknown.

At the river, there were more people than I expected. An hour passed, then my niece and parents left for the airport while everyone else headed to the cabin for moose burgers and fresh salmon. I lingered at the river spot a few more minutes, breathing in sunlight and stillness, aqua glacier water flow, and an eagle circling overhead.

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On the deck, I joined conversation with several strangers. I asked the bearded man I’d met on arrival what brought him to Alaska. “I’m researching and writing a screenplay,” he replied. “I’ll be here several months, camping out, getting to know the people, experiencing the land.” As he spoke, his entire presence radiated conviction and passion about a story encompassing World War II, the Aleutian Islands, wilderness, survival, leadership, forgiveness, and friendship. I tuned in, listening intently—body, mind, heart, and soul—and a portal opened. A great spirit of aliveness greeted me, welcoming me home to myself (I would realize this later).

I drove home, mysteriously enlivened in a way I’d not experienced in years. And, I’d almost missed it—fatigue and busyness taking precedence over the connections being made available, facing me, offering invitation, from the river, family, and a bearded stranger.

pollard-lake-kasilof-alaska-memorial-day-2016-pegge-erkeneff

Pause & reflect…

  • What place or outer landscape provides you a sense of belonging and perspective?
  • Are there practices you return too, or practice daily, to be fully present to life, here and now?
  • Who are your go-to peeps when life becomes too much?
  • Would you like to learn new skills to become personally, passionately present, no matter the beauty or chaos in your day?
  • Do you value laughter and play?

–Pegge Erkeneff
Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, October 2016, 10.4

Reprinted from Listen: A Seeker’s Resource for Spiritual Direction, October 2016, Vol. 10, Issue 4 (Spiritual Directors International © 2016). Reprinted with permission of Spiritual Directors International. To order copies or a free subscription of Listen, call 1-425-455-4506 or go to www.sdiworld.org

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