Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Joy Diet :: An Introduction and a bit of Nothing.

I've been meaning to write my introduction to Jamie Ridler's new book group, The Joy Diet by Martha Beck, for over a week now. I'm just going to go with the "better-late-than-never" motto and leave it at that. Anyway, today is just as good a day as any to start since I just came back from experiencing a blissful (massively blissful) moment of Nothing.

You see, I recently relocated to the edge of the Universe. We moved from the middle of a big city to a vineyard in the middle of nowhere. We traded in the bungalow we were living in for an earth home nestled in the middle of 50 acres. We call it our "hobbit castle" and, like hobbits, we have found ourselves to be very happy here. There is a big willow tree that graces the yard in front of our house and, beyond that, a pond visited by egrets and blue herons, wild geese, frogs and turtles, coyotes and bobcats, too. Beyond the pond are hardwood forests and a pasture inhabited by two brown horses and one white. I am most fascinated by the white horse and have really begun to love mornings, when our world is filled with so much mist that I can just barely make out those beautiful creatures beyond. At night, the sky is filled with stars.

This morning I got up early to turn off the windmill. It was windy last night. And that's another thing I've grown to love out here: the wind. You see, our water is generated by an old school windmill and then gravity fed from the vineyard to the house. We have to turn the windmill on every few days to fill up the well...and turn it off a day or two later so that it doesn't over-fill. Needless to say, living here is causing us to become very connected to the weather and our use of water. The second half of summer was still and windless. Running out of water is a horrible pain in the arse and so wind-sounds cause me to feel over-joyed, even with the subtlest of breezes.

I got up today in the early half-light of morning. I was starting to clench my teeth with worry over everything I need to accomplish in the next week and a half and decided that it would be best if I just got up and enjoyed my day instead of getting myself tangled up in my brain while laying in bed. It was too early for Vinny and the dogs to get up and so I had the quiet beginning of the day all to myself. I put on my husband's thick, fleecy sweatshirt and hiked up the path to the vineyard to turn off the windmill and, in the process, decided that I would treat myself to a nice big dose of Nothing.

Oh, Nothing. Sweet Nothing.

Why is Nothing such a complicated little nugget of goodness? Rather, Nothing is quite simple. It's just the getting there that is sometimes complicated.

If you've been a reader of my blog for any length of time, you probably already know pretty well what I'm like. I'm not very good at Nothing and I AM very good at overwhelming, overextending and overbooking myself. I am the Goddess of High Pressure. Or something like that.

In moving to this magical little oasis at the edge of the Universe, I decided that I wanted to change that about myself. Then I got sick. I got really sick and wasn't able to work for almost an entire month. That was frustrating and good for me all at once. You would think that this would have been a good lesson in The Art of Nothing--and it was--but then the other half of life and all its demands came crashing in on the other side of it with deadlines that cannot be moved and expectations that involve a lot of other people. I found myself with only a few weeks to create an entire art show--which is the activity that I am smack dab in the midst of right now. Among other things. being overwhelmed and too busy is the story of my past. BUT what if I don't want that to be my story any more? Well, then I need to start telling myself a new story.

And so here it matter what's going on, I need to start reminding myself that I DO have time for Nothingness. To prove this to my slow learning self, I am hereby committing myself to at least 15 minutes of Nothingness every day for the course of this book group. Thank you very much, Martha Beck.

This morning Nothingness looked like this:
A sleepy girl with tousled and disheveled bed head walking up a path lined with crimson sumac and wild plums. She gets to the top of the hill and notices an overflowing well. Water! She is happy. She is also alone. No dogs, no chatter, no phone, no nothing. It is just herself and the morning. She feels a bit nauseous from hunger because she didn't eat enough the day before and asks herself: what does my body need right now? She appreciates the way Nothingness causes her to ask herself this question because, in her bones, she feels it is a good question.

She walks the length of the vineyard, row after row of grapes hanging thick and heavy on the vines. She stops occasionally to taste them and is reminded of childhood Sweet Tart flavors--except these flavors are better. They contain something of both the earth and sky. She turns down a particularly inviting row and, once she gets to the middle, flanked on both sides by grape vines, she lays down in the dewy grass and--for the first time in several days--she breathes.

Deep blue sky-filled breaths.

She breathes and notices the feel of grass on her hands and neck and in her hair. She notices the way the grapevines and solidago plants look from underneath. She notices the color of the sky. She notices the change in temperature and that she has a body. She notices that it has been a long time since the last time she visited Nothingness. She decides that Nothingness is good medicine and is glad that she decided to get up early and that the windmill needed to be turned off and that it led her to that moment of lying in the grass in the middle of the vineyard in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the sky in the middle of everything.

When she gets up again her eyes see the world around her with a bit more vibrant colors. She feels the wind in her hair and it feels good. She notices that the landscape rolls in layers of dips and peaks, a patchwork of incredible colors: gold, orange, green, red, yellow. She notices the shells of recently hatched turtles and wonders if they are from the same tiny baby black turtles she found outside her studio door a few days ago.

She decides that Nothingness feels good. She remembers that she has the power to change her story if she really, really wants to because, mostly, it is just a matter of perspective anyway.

She comes down the trail from the vineyard and, at the bottom is met by her dogs with wildly wagging tails. They are beside themselves with happiness. And so is she.

Welcome to Nothingness.

I am looking forward to the journey that lies ahead of us.



sherry ♥ lee said...

Oh so lovely. Your new life. The word picture you have painted. The photographs.

What I loved most about this post is that you decided and you chose -- that you want a new story. YES!!!

Wishing you much happiness and joy as you create your new story and I look forward to moving through our truth this week with you!

Melita said...

oh my, your new life sounds lovely. i sometimes wish i were a hobbit :) i am now addicted to nothing :) once i got the hang of it, it became a lot easier and now i need that time. looking forward to sharing the truth with you :)

Tanaya said...

Do you know that what sounds like "nothing",is in fact "everything"?

Sweet, beauty, nothingness.

Barbara said...

"A paradox/nothing teeming with possibility" ... All that 'nothing' time is everything to me and I am SO GLAD you've found it, too! Those luscious, beautiful grapes are mouthwatering. I smile to see that photo because, in part, those grapes look much like those in a pastel my oldest son did years ago in his high school art class - a piece I had matted and framed and pass every time I head into my office. Soooo happy for you!

gemma said...

Your visit to nothing sounds so earthy and pure in the morning light!Love it!

Sharon said...

What a gift you have with words!!! I can see, feel, hear, and smell your journey to the windmill... awesome!
We've been living in the woods for over 30 years now. A welcome respite from being a Navy wife (although I did enjoy much of that life). Now we watch deer in our yard, revel in the variety of birds that come to our feeders, scold the squirrels who steel the seeds...
Enjoy, Jess, you deserve it!!!

Beth Dargis said...

Thanks for sharing your noticing, your new story and your new home.

Deirdre said...

It sounds absolutely lovely.

I bet those plums make great jam. Yum.

Deirdre said...

BTW, the word verification on my last comment was "nests". Perfect, huh?

On this one it's "hydrala" - a new word for your trek to the well.

Leah said...

Oh, this is so lovely. You're such a fabulous writer, woman!

Karen D said...

What a beautiful picture of nothingness you paint. I love the description of your new home, it sound magical, I always wanted to live in a hobbit house.
Thanks for sharing and good luck with your show.

Rowena said...


Lisa said...

What a beautiful and captivating story about your journey into nothingness... :) I look so forward to hearing about your adventures in truth!

Pink Heels said...

What a beautiful approach to nothing.

I don't know about you but all of this discussion about nothing would be incredibly applicable to a Seinfeld episode. LOL

Samosas for One said...

This was beautiful.