****** The Secret Ingredient by PJ Paulson ******
In 2002, “it hit the fan,” as they say. I lost my job while a quirky medical condition progressed. My romance was on its last legs. I lived in town while pioneering my middle-of-nowhere ranchland – there was lots of driving back and forth. Outbuildings were burglarized. There was a severe drought. People in my life were behaving badly.
I couldn’t afford a move to Tuscany. A Spiritual Journey to Tibet was out of the question. Where could I go to awaken my True Soul…find a relief from pain (mental and physical)…make sense of the chaos…find the good in people…and just get by from day-to-day?
I needed to figure out why my life was falling apart, how to heal, and how to eventually get back in the game. I needed a sanctuary in which to look closely at life – both physically and mentally – and to heal.
I made the unconventional choice to forego my city apartment and embrace a simple, stripped-down, country life absent amenities such as plumbing, electricity, and central heat. I drew serenity and strength from Mother Nature to savor life off the grid. During my retreat, I contemplated my life philosophies and direction, eventually transforming a bleak outlook in the face of what appeared to have been a world gone mad.
Living in eastern Colorado is like having your soul lightly sandblasted. In a high wind it may be literal, but life here is just harsh enough to keep your spirit a little raw. While the subtle discomfort may be disregarded, you feel your environment more intensely. It’s inspirational, like nowhere else I’ve lived. The ever-present irritant of sand in the oyster creates the pearl.
My pearl was the inspiration to write. And one day, to understand what I loved so much about that summer here. Then to realize, too, that by practicing the little things that I appreciated so much, other people might learn how to heal in place, too.
Summer of the Phoenix is my story about that summer, how I coped, and how I turned my life around. Come along with me, and we’ll taste a sample….
The light changes as sunset approaches; the breeze stills. Shades of green in the field are touched with gold, then with salmon, before becoming dusky. The horizon far to the east turns from blue to blended watercolored bands of violet, salmon, and rose, fading upward to white, and reaching further upward to pale sky blue.
The waving fields of knee-high blue grama going to seed become still.
A Says Phoebe, quiet at this season of year, perches on a young Gravenstein apple tree, or on a leaning Autumn Blaze sapling now dead. Moths flit here and there. The phoebe darts out for a meal, and returns to its perch to dine before moving out of sight to another perch. He (or she) has been roosting, I think, in the little thicket of Rugosa roses outside the family room window.
It’s a soothing view, and I breathe deeply a few times and consciously relax.
As an exercise, I make a mental composite of the best bits of places I’ve lived, to imagine a place I might consider ideal.
The remoteness, the peace and quiet, the acreage of this place.
The love I felt for the home in which I was sheltered for the first thirteen years of my life. Surrounded by fields, woods, and a creek through which to roam and play, and by good friends and family, I had felt secure.
The creek, pond, and woods of the small farm where we lived when I was first married. Its little bird sanctuary along the pond outlet. There, trees overhung the little cliff east of the mound of shale and clay that had been dug and heaped up, many years before, to make the spring-fed pond.
The beauty, lushness, and fecundity of the farm on which we had lived in the hills of Pennsylvania. The dogwoods in spring bloom. The sandy beach at the swimming hole. Fresh trout. Raspberries. Wildlife and singing birds in abundance. Forest through which to wander and explore, and fields in which to grow gardens, crops, and fruit trees.
Put it all together, and set it on the shore of a small lake where I could have a little boat. A little wooden boat with a sail and a set of oars. The little boat would be moored at a wooden dock, patiently awaiting a still dawn, when I would take it out, beyond the majestic sheltering trees of the yard, to fish for breakfast trout.
I looked for a long time at my fields and trees, watching the light and colors change. I thought of times I’d spent among those trees and fields. I thought of that summer of 2002 when I had spent hour after hour, day after day in July watering those young trees. And it came to me that what I was doing now, in this moment, was what I had done all that summer: Savouring.
I was savouring my land and the trees I had planted and nurtured. I savoured the fields and the sky. The birds, the singing insects. I savoured Nature. I savoured Life. And I savoured Myself.
Then it struck me that that – the Savouring of Self, of Soul, of Nature, of Life, and of Spirit – was what made that year of 2002 so special. I had slowed down, taken a deep breath, and Savoured it all.
The sun has gone to bed, and a meadowlark sings to me his song, “Goodnight!”
Summer of the Phoenix is available on Amazon in Kindle eBook (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KP927P4), black and white paperback (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0976323532 ), and color paperback (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0976323524 ).
PJ Paulson lives on a small ranch in rural Colorado with cats, dogs, and cattle. She has been described as a benign non-conformist who lives life on her own terms, and is not overly concerned with how humankind at large may judge that life path. This assessment is certainly borne out as she turns around her life in Summer of the Phoenix!