Thoughts on Life

#082322: Anchors set down, anchors aweigh

A meditation
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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This morning I dropped my kids off at their farm school then came home and tried to write. I wrote something yesterday that felt like release and I thought by today I’d mostly just edit but last night with some space I started to get the sense that it wasn’t ready. I’d uncovered some sleepy truths but those truths were still kind of floating through space. I myself don’t quite yet understand them.

The release, I think, was the uncovering, which many times in the past I’ve mistaken for ready. So I came back to it this morning and mostly just started to rewrite and rethink but me and the truths that had been uncovered felt a bit like we were floating together, so I came downstairs and smeared some aioli into a slice of bread and then tucked in some tomatoes.

And I sat at the long table with my computer and looked up at the row of lemon trees across me.

Just last Friday, I noticed for the first time, almost two weeks to the day since I’ve been here, that these tree barks are covered in snails. My daughter has taken to visiting them every morning before she goes to the farm.

At first, at the table where I sat down to write, I tried to dig my feet into my interior world, into the big topics that feel like walls shattering, not closing in on me at all but disappearing away from the rooms they’ve created, making space for the grand loft of resolve.

But I am still too far off the ground to root so I took a bite of the bread and could not believe how delicious it was — the tomatoes are sweeter than candy.

And then I had another bite and moved on to the couch and lay down over there and looked up at the sky and I started to breathe, two breaths in then one out and could not believe how blue the sky is and the architecture of so many of the homes that are here made sense, it’s all blunt and white and contrasts with the sky which is deep and blue and dry and bright and the angularity is enough to inspire closed eyes but it’s better when they are open.

And then I came back and I started to notice that when I sit down with the goal to write — any time this hankering to let something out starts to possess me from some well deep inside, that is when I start to feel untethered. Like dust that was settled is rising again so I go through the exercise of trying to find the ground that is always beneath me and it helps to describe what I see out ahead — the trees and the snails and the house with the sky, and it reminds me of the best time of day, when the sun is beginning to set and the trees look like these blunt silhouettes and you can breathe in the stillness of the day and what comes out is sometimes the message when I’m lucky and at worst? It’s a pleasant, full breath.

I used to think there was a rebelliousness about this process — the way I’d sit down to do something then have to get up and move. The way I’d want to say X, but have to describe Y and some call this procrastination, but for me it’s par for the course, I think. The delicate dance between anchors set down and aweigh, a sort of flow through the freedom of flying and the freedom that comes from rooting, essential to the process of making.

You know it’s funny, this thing about anchors set down and aweigh is the thing of what it’s been like to be here. We got to Spain on a Sunday afternoon and the next morning, my kids were starting at a farm school down the road from the house that we’re renting. And I don’t know why I have struggled so much to admit to myself I was nervous for that first day at farm school in this foreign country with all those kids from here and around the world and my own, as American as they come.

I knew I had been feeling unsettled because on Monday morning when we got up and I started to help them get dressed and then ushered them into the yard where they’d have breakfast — when I was making their bowls of yogurt and muesli and cutting bananas to place on toast dressed in butter, I started to feel a little safer. Like the familiarity of this ritual — of taking care of my kids and getting them ready helped me to find ground in the unsettled shakes that I wouldn’t let myself feel, which of course is the opposite of what you’re supposed to do when a feeling — good or bad — comes up to the surface.

It is usually as simple as letting it (the feeling) out, not acting on it, but letting it out, to dispel what could become its reign over you.

What stops me from letting it out?

Anchors set down, anchors aweigh, I think. Like I don’t want to let the anchor come up, as if I don’t trust I could set it back down. Yes, I think that’s the thing of it. But of course when I say it, even more, when I think it I realize that the anchors in me. That I’m the boat and to move, it has to come up.

So I found peace that morning by helping my kids, setting down anchor in ritual, and when we got to the school and all the shakes I had been through began to possess them — when they saw the farm and the kids and the teachers and did not recognize a single face and they started to cry and did not want to stay and could feel their own anchors unmooring, I did not try to give them my anchor or make it like there was no anchor at stake at all.

I just hugged them and hugged them and said yes it is scary, and I left when I had to and came back when I had to and for three days they did not want to go. But now, three weeks later, at the end of our trip, they say they don’t want to go home either.

What they mean, I think really, is that they found anchor. Anchors set down, anchors aweigh.