A Process of Becoming...
A PROCESS OF BECOMING
Edition 55. August 2023
“Nothing is ever lost. Nothing is ever created. Everything is transformed.”
You just cannot imagine how hot it was here in Croara this morning! I was up an hour before the break of dawn going through my morning routine... prayers, meditation, starting my chores. I was trying to beat the heat and humidity of Italy this time of the summer...
But alas...they both eventually found me.
Once the animals (and Diana) were fed, I decided that I wanted to take a walk. I don’t do much walking in these days...not without my cane anyway. I tried to goad Meg into coming along with me, but she refused to leave the cool tile floor of the taverna. And of course, when I asked Diana, she rolled her eyes at me...
“Are you crazy?” is all she said.
So, I found my cane and my sunglasses. I packed my man bag, grabbed my camera and out I went...alone. As I was walking across the giardino, at the last moment I decided I would try to hike up into the castagneto...
what people who don’t live in Italy would call the chestnut grove.
I followed the narrow path up through a rolling meadow above the barn. When I reached the vineyard, I glanced at my watch. By my quick calculations I determined the sun had yet to rise high enough to drive the shadows out of the grove, what with the dense canopy of leaves. And, if I hurried, the coolness would be there for me for at least another hour.
Slowly and carefully, I plodded across the open pasture. Soon I found myself wading into an undulating sea of green, where flowers of so many colors rose up between the tall neon-gold shafts of wild wheat. What I saw instantly took my breath away...
Hundreds and hundreds of gentle, delicate, floating, flitting, hovering white butterflies!
The meadow had been overtaken by a swarm of them. They descended seemingly out of nowhere. I felt as if I was in the middle of a snowstorm...
in the middle of July!
I continued walking and soon found myself in the middle of these beautiful and delicate creatures. As I waded deeper into ballet of whiteness, I imagined that I could hear the soft fluttering music of their tiny wings. But they seemed to ignore my presence altogether!
I closed my eyes! I ran my fingertips across the smooth, velvety tassels of the grasses.
Eyes wide open again, I looked up. The sky above me was bright blue. Far off to the west, over the Appennini, the tallest and whitest billowing clouds rose up into the heavens. I stopped for a moment, turning my face toward the sun. I reveled in the feel of the warm glow of summer on my cheeks.
I had a strange thought before continuing on...
How strange it is!
The nature of life is change...yet all my life I’ve tried to resist it.
How ironic it is!
How much I’ve feared the difficult times...believing they would destroy me.
How incredible it is!
They did not...they helped me blossom into what I was meant to be.
The next moment, the softest, most fragrant breeze began to swirl around me...filling my head with the myriad scents of this incredible countryside. At the very moment that I was thinking just how fortunate and blessed I am, two birds, hidden somewhere back in the thickets, agreed with me...
“Yes, you are!” they said in unison. “Yes, you are!”
I smiled in their general direction and thanked them for their concurrence, continuing my walk. In another few meters I found myself standing beneath the spreading arms of one of the two betula trees that stand as quiet sentinels to the vineyard. This time of the year their branches are heavy with millions of tiny blossoms that will, in the days to come, fill the air with the most incredible perfume. Their fragrance will linger for days. And if the wind is just right, it drifts down toward the house and fills our rooms with their heavenly scent.
“Stop!” I suddenly heard. “Who goes there?”
I looked around quickly to see who it might be. But I saw no one...
“Stop I say!” I heard again. “Who goes there?”
I realized that one of those two sentinels was demanding to know my intentions...
“Io,” I answered in Italian.“Giacomino! Io sono qui.”
It is me. Giacomino. I am here.
“Oh yes. We know who you are,” the voice continued. “State your intentions!”
“I am requesting permission to pass,” I answered. “I am headed into the castagneto.”
“Permission granted,” they responded respectfully. ”Do no harm!”
Both of the giant trees seemed to nod at me as I passed beneath them, although I will admit it may have been the breeze. In a few minutes I was across the vineyard and entering into the castagneto. And just as I’d hoped...
the deeper I went in, the cooler it became.
A few years back, when I was a much healthier and so much stronger man, I had hauled an old stone bench up there...no small undertaking when you consider how steep the terrain is in most places on the farm. But I digress. For the purpose of this story, you need to know that there is where I was headed.
Beneath my arm I held the book I am currently reading...
“Life is a process. A process of becoming.
A combination of states we have no choice but to go through.
Where we fail is that we attempt to elect a state and remain in it.
This is a kind of death.”
Anais Nin wrote that. The book entitled, D.H. Lawrence, An Unprofessional Study, was her first published book. She has always been one of my favorite writers. I have learned a great deal from reading her work.
She was a most prolific writer, struggling through poverty and enduring the harshest of critics. She self-published literally dozens of books...really good books. But she did not become notable or famous until she chose to publish a series of diaries that she’d begun keeping at age eleven. It was in 1914 when she first put pen to paper in the first of what would grow to be nearly 200 volumes!
Years late she received a letter from the American novelist Henry Miller after he’d read a few. In that letter he wrote this...
“When you surrender, the problem ceases to exist.
Try to solve it, or conquer it, and you only set up more resistance.”
I found his advice to Anais admirable. But if there is one thing life has taught me, surrendering is so much easier said than done.
You see, we humans are tribal by nature.
We are a controlling species...a conquering species. No amount of forced diversity will change this about our nature. We have a hard time with this notion of surrender.
We are a conflicted species. We spend our lives resisting it...yet craving its liberations.
When I first began reading her diaries, I will admit, they depressed me...terribly so! They read as a chronology of all her failures, shortcomings and disappointments. But it did not take long before I could see something else in them as well. Masterfully woven between her laments were the lessons she’d learned.
And this brings me to what I wanted to write about this month.
Back in 2018 I lost a very sweet, very dear friend. He and his wife had become our best friends when we first moved onto Terra d’Amore. They were much older than Diana and me, but age did not seem to matter. We became exceptionally close.
When I began having all my health problems back then, they were there for me. In those two most incredible people I had the opportunity to see what true grace and true human compassion looked like.
More times than I will ever admit to anyone, I was at the point of giving up. For weeks the news from the doctors just kept getting worse. That, and the way I was feeling, was dragging me down...quickly.
I was losing the will to continue!
But thankfully, when I was at my worst and lowest moments, my Diana and those two dear friends would appear at the foot of my bed. They would raise me up. They gave me hope. They brought me back to the world of the living. He told me this...
“It takes strength to hold on my friend when all you want to do is give up!”
And that is what made losing him all the more difficult for me to accept. I never got the chance to really say thank you or to repay him for what he had done for me.
It is never easy to be apart from the ones we love. But it is even worse when the finality of death becomes the cause of that separation. Coping with the loss of such a dear friend, I found, was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. I just wasn’t ready.
He was not a young man...late 70’s when he died. As a matter of fact, I just remembered that yesterday would have been his 83rd birthday. His life was taken from him by a medical condition that none of knew he had. He’d told no one about it...not even his wife. And it happened so quickly that we who were left behind to deal with it were left in shock for months afterwards.
I went up into the woods today to think about him. At first, my mind was occupied with the saddest, most negative thoughts. At times I even drifted into anger. But I’ve found the further I distance myself from negativity, the happier and more peaceful my life becomes.
I kept thinking about all the things we used to do together...things that will never happen again. I found myself asking questions out loud. They sounded more like demands...
Why did this happen?
How did this happen?
After five long years, still no answers came. And without answers I have a difficult time finding peace. So, to distract myself, I opened my book. I began to read. Incredibly, the first words I read leapt from the page. They startled me...
“Happiness is a moment-by-moment quest, a choice really.
Sometimes, from the pain and torment of losing those we love, we fail to choose it. Sometimes, we are just too weary.
Sometimes we want to let go of trying to be strong and instead we choose tears.”
“Wow!” I thought to myself. “Been there! Done that!”
I found myself on the verge of the tears she’d just warned me about. But I read through them...
“Life is constant change.
Sometimes it is severe...like the loss of someone we love.
Sometimes it is wanted...like a new home.
And sometimes it is surprising...like moving to another country and discovering new people and places we love just as much as home.
Our loved ones change.
Our lives change.
We change too.”
My goodness! There it was! There were all the answers I needed! All this time they had been waiting for me, right here...
On the pages of this particular book
Sitting on this old stone bench
Soaking in the coolness of these dark woods
In an instant, I realized something...
my friend is not gone!
He has simply changed. He is right here with me...
Right there on this bench
In the air I am breathing
In the breeze that rustles the trees above me
In the sunshine that continues to warm my skin
He is right here in my heart. I finally realized that what I am trying to cope with is not a loss at all. No, it is not a loss...
It is but a change!
Just like Anais said, we tend to resist change as strongly as we can. We foolishly try to stay in our current state of comfort and security. It is our nature. Change is hard...
But nothing is actually lost, is it?
Everything is energy and energy is never lost. It can neither be created nor destroyed...only transformed. My friend might not be a part of this physical world any longer...he might not be a person in the sense that he was, but he is still a part of the world. I am not intelligent enough or adequately experienced to know how, all I know is...
I know my friend is still here because inside my being I can still hear his voice telling me how to do something or where to look for something I can’t find.
Knowing that he’s not gone, but rather having changed into something I don’t quite understand, makes it easier for me to accept the gravity of my loss. It gives me peace of mind. I am finally able to accept that he’s simply moved on...and I need to do the same.
When we lose someone that we love, everything changes.
Nothing can bring them back.
Nothing can “undo” anything that happens in life.
We can only move past it...moving forward.
Without accepting the change, we make it so much harder to do that. We will never find peace because...
We feel that something is broken.
We think someone is missing.
We fear things just are not right.
But the truth is nothing is broken! No one is missing! Everything is perfectly as it should be...
It is just different!