Today's thoughts came to me while running on my favorite trail, at Mahukona. I drove there early this morning to look for my cap. I dropped it last night, and as it's a favorite cap, a hand-me-down from my step-daughter Eve, reversible, cotton, worn in, the special trip felt worth it. And there it was on the pavement of the parking lot. I didn't notice it at first, as it had been ground into the dirt by car tires. I dusted it off, put it on, and jogged up the road to the trail. Mornings are particularly sweet at Mahukona. For one thing, there are few people, just the folks who maintain the grounds of the old sugar cane train depot and the "development," view lots that have never sold. It's a development, that thankfully, has never been developed. The maintenance people cruise the old rail bed trail in golf carts. I actually don't know what they do, what they look for as they trundle along the coast. Often, I see a woman sitting at the wheel of a golf cart at some overlook, just overlooking. Sweet deal, sweet job, if you ask me. Mornings like this one, the air is clear and fresh, the trade winds sweeping any trace of humidity or vog from the Kilauea eruption down toward Kona. A salt smell. The vast Pacific. Humpback blows streaming parallel to the water. The sea surface a ripped-up indigo. And me just a speck on an island in the middle of that vast Pacific. Nothing between me and home except water. As Alaska's been quiet weather-wise, there have been no big swells to murk up the ocean down here, so the water was turquoise today. Down twenty feet and more, you can see shards of brilliant yellow if you stand on the edge of the dock, shards moving around: schools of yellow tang foraging on the coral and on the algae-coated anchor chains and propeller shafts of a shipwreck.
It seems to be a pattern. I'll often end a run at Mahukona by saying to Craig, "I have a great idea!" These ideas are like the great ideas that arise in the Netherland between sleeping and waking. Sometimes half-baked. Sometimes grandiose. Sometimes far-fetched. Sometimes unrealistic. Sometimes worth keeping. Today, I got to thinking (bad meditator that I am) as I was running about the Osho Zen card I drew from the deck I spread across my bed yesterday. I wrote in yesterday's blog about the card I drew with my sister three months ago, the one with the caged bird, because it made such perfect sense. It was as clear as a Billy Collins poem. But to my fraught questions about freedom and purpose and meaning yesterday, the deck answered with a card titled "Going with the Flow." The image: a figure, a body, drifting in a blue-green sea, passively carried by gentle currents. At the end of the reading in the book, it said: "Everything is happening exactly as it should." I pretty much dismissed the card as a dud, actually. Too easy! What, in that soft, formless image, that Chicken-Soup-ish phrase of "going with the flow" could I chew on? I needed muktuk, or shoe leather, not New Age jello.
Well. Running today, sweat rivulets dripping down from under the rim of my cap, pooling in the rim of my sunglasses, I thought of something Douglas said on Sunday, something, actually, about “going with the flow.” (I'll explain Douglas in a minute). He told Craig and me about something called "flow psychology." He brought it up after I told him that I’d been writing this blog. Douglas is a man Craig and I have been visiting for counseling on Sunday mornings. We drive a few miles north past sleepy Kapaau Town to his house, which is down in a gulch. You park up above, along a radical curve in the road, and walk down a steep flight of wooden steps to his front door. And it feels like you're in a jungle house, a tree house. It's shady, with banana trees, and bamboos, and banyans, and vines dangling from tall trees and open screen windows though which bird songs drift. We found Douglas last Sunday tending his orchids, which hang from the front porch from thin wires, in two-tiered baskets. He was harvesting "keikies," as he said, babies, to make more orchids, more beauty.
Douglas is helping Craig and me find our way back to each other and to our life together after this year of upheaval, both of us changed, and for a while, unable to quite comprehend what had happened to our lives. Douglas has been like a jungle guide, and our sessions are not like any counseling I’ve ever experienced. I call it "connected conversation." He takes no notes. We sit in his living room in easy chairs and we converse, and the conversation ranges far and wide, like a philodendron vine, and it circles back to the seed that began it, like the best essay does. Books, art, house-building, food, friendship, stories, everything's threaded in. Everything connects, in the end. We leave those sessions sparkling, inspired, with that after-a-great-read or after-great-sex or after-great-exercise high.
So Douglas asked me if I felt happy when writing my blog, if I lost track of time, got totally immersed, forgot to eat or drink. When I answered yes, he said it was because I was "in the flow." Flow psychology is based, he said, on a study by a man who looked at what makes people happy. Douglas asked us what we thought, are people happier at work? Or happier at home? We both said at work. And we were right. To figure that out, the researcher gave people beepers and paged them at random times through out the day. When paged, they wrote down where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt. And then he studied the people who said they were happy most of the time. Those people were busy, they were engaged in meaningful, challenging work, they were "in the flow." Douglas said, "It sounds like you're in the flow when you’re writing that blog. And so I think you should do that as much as possible."
It came to me when I was running, the memory of that conversation with Douglas, and then I thought, wait a minute. I remembered the image on the card, the figure drifting in the sea. Was the title of that card really something about flow? Could it be connected to what Douglas said? I had to check my journal and see, when I got back to the car. Because if it was, how remarkable is that?
Imagine we are running together and now I'm leading you back to where we started, the parking lot at Mahukona, with a stray cat basking in the morning sun on a rock near my car (a beat-up Subaru), and that maintenance woman, I'll call her Anna, watering the plants in front of the old train station, and a couple of women climbing down the ladder in masks and snorkels to begin their swim. When I open my journal, look over my shoulder, and there it is, the title of the card, I wrote it down: "Going with the Flow."
On the drive back to town, as usual, lost in thought, I composed a whole essay in my head based on that run, about synchronicity. And I invented a new church. The Church of Synchronous Happenstance. When I first drove to Homer, twenty years ago, I passed a little forlorn building in the middle of the nowhere between Ninilchik and Anchor Point called The Church of the Living Stones. I’ll build the Church of Synchronous Happenstance next door. I don't know if these types of things – picking a card from a deck and having it affirm the message you need most to learn – are the doings of goddesses or fairies or angels or invisible powers or blind chance. Does it come from heaven? Or is it just the way it is here on earth … a kind of natural law, amendment to the law Shit Happens …. Synchronicity Happens? It doesn’t really matter. But it’s one of the things I love most about being alive, about being on earth. That it does happen, a lot.
It happens to be not only a spiritual practice, to seek the links between disparate events in the chaos of life, and from those links to construct meaning, to look always for messages and signs, but also a creative practice, the work of a writer. And when I’m writing that way, when I’m living that way, when the connections happen, when looking for a lost hat leads to revelation, leads to this moment, right now, 10 pm, writing in bed, the trade winds moaning through the ironwoods and jangling the chimes, driving clouds across the slim smile of a sickle moon, well then the trade winds are carrying me too. I’m hanging onto an ancestor cloud. I’m flowing. Amen.