Control and Self Surrender

I recently spent a wonderful week co-leading a retreat in Taos, New Mexico. Late January is a lovely time to be in the mountains of northern New Mexico although the dry, thin air can be challenging for those of us who live near sea level. The cold sky can be crystalline and clear but it can also be dark and dangerous. We had both that week, but on one particularly stormy night, it actually felt threatening and dangerous. Only a few minutes after tucking myself into bed I heard something fall and break. It sounded as if there had been an accident in the room next to mine or maybe in the kitchen which was one floor below. The violent wind gusts were battering the old adobe structure and something kept banging. I was concerned that a window may have come unlatched or a screen door had blown open and I was going to have to listen to its noisy dance with the wind all night. I finally got up to see if I could locate the clatter but all I could detect was an odd wind rattling the door to my room and then rushing past me down the stairway when I opened it to check the hallway. Something wasn't right. I finally turned in the opposite direction to the far side of my large room and discovered that a window had blown out. I stood there dumbly looking at the flapping curtains and the snow blowing through the perfectly square opening in the bedroom wall. I had no idea what had happened and little idea about what to do. I looked more closely and discovered that the glass had not blown into the room nor had anything hit the window to cause it to break. I could see the entire pane shattered in the snow on the roof of the kitchen below. No pieces of the glass remained in the sill. Apparently the entire pane had released itself and flown away from the frame out into the storm. What was this mysterious force that had caused the pane to jump cleanly off the frame out into the storm?

More important than solving this mystery was closing the opening. It was very near zero-degrees outside and the wind was quickly chilling the room. I contacted the on-call maintenance person and we managed to secure the rupture with cardboard and tape, shoving a large armoire over the patched space to add some measure of protection. It was 50-degrees in the room by the time I got back in bed around midnight. By morning the storm had passed, the sun was shining brightly and the world was white and soft. A new pane was cut and glazed into place. Through it all I was reminded of how weak I feel in the face of nature's impersonal chaos. And the very next day I ran across a post in BrainPickings, a wonderful online source for amazing reflections on life, spirituality, literature, art and how to live a good life. I might not have even looked at this one except a friend had mentioned the author and the exotic (and out of print) Scandinavian children's book from which this post was taken. It caught my eye and then took me deeper as I discovered the beautiful little story of the Moomintroll and his night this a raging snow storm. You can read the excerpt here. I also used it for Inquiry the following week at Appamada and that recording is posted on the blog site and available for listening.

Inquiry recording:

Mabel Dodge