Empty Houses, New Frontiers: Moving On

I should be used to this routine by now. The uprootedness of sorting, packing, cleaning, and empty houses, that is. As a wandering gypsy, I’m essentially an expert in relocating and starting over.

The past week witnessed my farewell to the slopes of Haleakalā and my departure from dear Maui, my arrival on the heavily populated island of O’ahu, and a somewhat rough landing in a rented house with a couple of dog kennels and a suitcase (while hand carrying a special little orchid) and my partner’s juvenile cousin in tow.

Surroundings and climate have changed dramatically from the funky little cottage in photoupcountry Olinda, but once again I am camped in an empty house along with our two lovely Whippets… though now reunited with my mate (the primary reason I moved here). The doglets seem fine, content with the abundance of space and lack of furniture in the house; they’ve seldom had so much room to run and play and chase tennis balls (never mind that the bare tile floors are a bit problematic for traction). And our new neighborhood has an abundance of mailboxes and fire hydrants to pee on (them, not me). Nothing like a dog to remind you that life is good.

In this empty house, I still feel a bit unsettled. I am a new arrival here. The cool floors do not yet know my footsteps, the walls do not recognize the sounds of my laughter or sighs, nor the whispers of my dreams. My roots remain drawn up and are suffering a bit of transplant shock. And though my senses are open to my new surroundings, I’m not fully ensconced in my deeply feeling, creative artist self. My psyche feels threaded with shades of blue, and I’m missing my quiet mornings on the mountain, a viable connection to earth and my barefoot walks in semi-wild nature.

To reopen the closed shutters of my heart, I need to go wriggle my feet in golden sand and swim in the cool waves of Mother Ocean (that’s as close to wild nature as I’ll find here).  Movement for bodysoul is essential… and healing.

Experience teaches me that moving house always involves about a month of disruption to one’s normal schedule (and that’s when goods are trucked from one dwelling to another). Due to delays in shipping between islands and delivery, it will be at least another nine days before our household good arrive, which adds up to three weeks without ’stuff’… so this transition looks to be a bit more extended than previous ones. Camping in an empty house makes one appreciate the daily comforts, accessories and accoutrements of a settled life; couch, chairs, or dining table, for instance (thankfully we have a bed).

Both in materials and design this modern subdivision house feels sterile and soulless to me but I will turn it into a welcoming sanctuary as I always do.  The empty, lifeless rooms are a blank canvas that awaits my brush, my energy and songs. I appreciate the sense of openness on the main (upper) floor, where the west wall is framed with windows that gaze out onto a rugged, steep ridge and catch the breezes coming up the valley from the sea. It feels light, bright and open, and I foresee that this space is where I will spend most of my time. My body feels expansive here (albeit a bit ungrounded). Even with the noises of neighbors and dogs, I also hear the voices of wind in the rustling palm trees just outside the windows.

On the hillside below the house, partially shaded by the dark green parasols of a couple of mango trees (heavy with ripening fruit), three neglected terraces choked with tall grass and weeds silently cry out to become a tiered garden. To which I say, Yes, I hear you, my lovesoon. I promise.

Hanging over the deck that leads to the front door, wild honeybees work busily on long spikes of pinhead sized, creamy palm flowers, a buzzing welcome that offers me great comfort and solace. I wonder, what will I create in this new house? What undiscovered nectar will I gather here to transform into honey for the soul? How will I nourish myself and others?

Certainly, this move to a ‘bedroom community’ of Honolulu is a massive adjustment for me. As the happy hermit at the end of a country road, it’s been years since I resided in an established, suburban neighborhood with houses side by side, wide paved streets, manicured lawns, commuters, children, and garbage trucks rumbling by in the morning. Yet along with these odd phenomena there is the convenience of a weekly farmer’s market, a nice natural foods store, and a selection of restaurants five minutes away at the marina. Curbside recycling, too. Imagine that.

The languid, quietly flowing rhythms of my familiar (former) life are out of synch with my new environment, and my nervous system is still adapting to the level of increased, manmade stimuli. Honestly, I find myself at the threshold of my comfort level. Stretched and pushed to the edge. Like living in an empty house, it’s less than comfortable.

The edge is where we grow.

Whether we’re talking about microscopic bacteria and amoebas, multicellular organisms or ‘higher’ life forms, or even human culture, evolution happens at the fringes. It never occurs in the solid center; the status quo is not where novelty emerges. The creativity of the Universe—and Grace—manifests in unexpected ways. And as we evolve, further unpredicted and creative qualities also appear. Such is the arc and spiral of evolution, whether individual or collective.

Thus I have faith that this curious relocation from a tranquil mountainside in Maui to a suburban neighborhood on O’ahu is an evolutionary leap in its own right. Forged from unforeseen factors, yet strangely right and timely. Necessary, even.

I recall the words of my birthmother whom I met in my mid-thirties, a complex and challenging woman but also a mystic in her own way. During one of the final times that I spent time with her, she said to me, “The dilemma of the mystic is that he or she wants only to draw closer to the Source, but his real work is being in the world… the very place he seeks to retreat from.”

I could easily and contentedly spend my days on the mountain, serenely tucked away in my contemplative, quiet life: communing with semi-wild nature and deepening into conscious relationship with place; listening and writing; learning the forgotten languages of trees, water, wind, and stars. Arguably, such pursuits are not what I need to fully expand and grow at this time; or rather, there are other parts of me that now require developing and strengthening for wholeness and balance. Soulful words from a guy on a mountainside can seem a bit detached from the crush and humdrum of daily urban life, as opposed to the words of one who is living alongside his neighbors and mowing the lawn on Saturday.

In the metered domesticity of modern life, the challenge is to stay expansive, open, and connected to soul (and its unique work in the world). This is the way of the Soul Artist. I sense that part of my opportunity in this transition revolves around bringing essential Soul Skills into the daily life that most of us face… to be in the modern world and not retreat from it, even in service to soul.

In yoga, for every physical pose or asana there exists a counter-pose; a balance and opposite. My new life on O’ahu offers the counter-pose to my quiet, countryside life these past several years. Surrendering to the breath, descending fully into the body and opening through my senses, I will sink into this new ‘pose’ and environment. I will become ever more flexible as I navigate this new passage. Lithe and supple as a soul dancer… even on a crowded dance floor.

As a dear friend of mine says, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” Amen, sister.

Gentle reader, here’s hoping that you can follow the tides of breath through your own phases of transition, and remember that your edge is where you grow… even if it feels like you’re sailing off the map of the known world. Who knows, you may discover that you have just toppled into the mythic and imaginal, waiting patiently for you in your own tailored backyard or overgrown garden. I’ll meet you there, friend, and we’ll share our stories of strange grace in a feast of gratitude… and mangoes.

Until then—breathing deeply and senses cast wide open—what will you create in your house and life to nourish your soul?

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