Before this week, nineteen years had passed since my last job interview. It’s an odd feeling to rebuild a life. My first attempt was to try something completely different in a new place, but after a few weeks it was clear that was not my fate. So, I returned to Philadelphia for a tear down of the old in the hopes that I could craft something suitable on the old foundation. Many bags of trash put out on the curb later, my house is feeling open and airy, my mind not so much.
My new job is to find a full-time job. At this point, I’m simply looking for a place to land where I can be productive and part of a community. Oh, and health insurance should be on the list, too. My emotions swing back and forth. Looking over the listings, in all of their specificity makes me feel a touch inadequate even though I know my life has been rich in experience and hard-won skills. How to package oneself as a desirable commodity is the daily question.
Sorting through the old papers that document the contours of my pre-digital dust life, I found a list of qualities that must have been written down by colleagues as part of a 360 degree review process at work years ago. I’m grateful to have it, though I’m not sure whose handwriting it is. I don’t grow cucumbers anymore, but that line brings back bittersweet memories of my community gardening days. At first, I chafed against the perceived confinement of the job boards. Then I tried playfulness. Could I reimagine writing cover letters as a personal quest? That made me feel less exposed and worked for about a week. The more you crank out, the less painful it is. I’ve had a few inquiries and sampled some of the next-generation HR apps, including one-way video screening where you talk to the camera and upload your hopefully perky self into a hiring portal.
The first few weeks of my search around the inter-webs for opportunities that would be a good fit for a Philadelphia researcher with a flair for foresight and database management were productive. But in the past week or so, those postings seem to have dried up. I’ve been off of social media for a couple of years, but this job search has dragged me back into the digital dopamine rush, though admittedly at a slower pace. How many times a day can you check the job boards anyway?
Today, my gut told me to go outside and look for guidance in nature. We’ve been blessed with very moderate weather this August, though a bit rainy. I took myself over to Bartram’s to see what messages might be there for me. I walked down to the water’s edge and the tide was out with wide mud flats exposed, decorated with tufts of spatterdock. Where I normally do my mud larking, broad drifts of wood debris filled the coves. A large tree had toppled over, eroded from the bank. I haven’t seen that happen before, but my colleague says the intense rains are making the river run stronger, if not higher. I felt for the tree, still clinging to its green leaves. A towering presence that had suddenly lost its footing in what once seemed solid ground.
I picked my way across the flat gathering up a few pieces of broken crockery, one piece had delicate brown bands. Then a glint caught my eye. It was the sunlight on a translucent bit of stone embedded in the silt. I’m not good with geology, but the tight grain and solid heft makes me think it might be quartzite, mostly a smooth cream tone with a streak of grainy black through the center. It took a few minutes to free it from the moist clay that embraced it. It wanted to go home with me. Later, after I rinsed it off and turned it over in my hand, I got the sense it may have been a hand tool, a hammerstone or ground stone perhaps. There were indentations where a thumb and fingers could grasp it while using the pointy end to strike a blow, maybe on a piece of flint.
It’s quite lovely, actually, and I’m glad for its company in this quiet house. I relocated most of my nature gatherings to Valley Forge before I left for Seattle. A friend and I arranged a lovely spiral next to Valley Creek between Mount Joy and Mount Misery, which seemed entirely appropriate. She checks on it for me. In the weeks that followed, the shells, pebbles, and feathers made their way into the creek and perhaps on to a more distant watershed journey.
This stone with its bold streak through a sparkly translucent central band is such a stark contrast to the ceramic shards. How does geologic time compare to human time? When I get impatient, I have to remember that we don’t really understand time. I think about Momo and the men in grey at the time bank and the lotus of consciousness, each blossom more beautiful than the last, and the pressure to sacrifice those petals to the bankers who smoke them in order to maintain their feeble presence in this world. I have to remember that when interview questions are posed about how will you do too many tasks at once with no guidance. I think we should be able to shape a world where that isn’t necessary; where people have the time that they need to be thoughtful and act with care.
Next to the cider press I saw a tangle of passionflower with its squiggly flying-saucer-like petals. Later I looked up its medicinal properties, and the leaves, steeped as a tea help with anxiety. The universe provides what is needed – a blessing.
I ambled down the trail towards the farm and along the way paid a visit to my favorite walnut tree. The nuts were already dropping, to show how nature progresses, gradually. There were nuts encased in a solid green hull. There were black squishy balls and nuts protruding from others. A few freed walnuts could be found in the grass. There’s a process. You can’t necessarily make it go faster than it’s going to go. You can’t expect a green hull to offer its treasure without some amount of muss and fuss. There will be decay. It will take time. But the nut will be there at the end of the process. I hope I’ve moved beyond the green hull phase. I have no idea what kind of timeline is involved. It’s been so long since I played this game, and the rules seem decidedly different.
I saw a few old colleagues, and we exchanged warm hugs appreciating the gloriously tall sunflowers growing at the farm. We see things in much the same way. We reminisced about the days not so long ago when people opposed GMOs. Another friend was tending her twilight garden of silvers and purples with a salvia of the most intense purple I’ve seen in a while. She pointed out two Franklinias that had finally taken off. Franklinia are notoriously picky. You often need to plant four or five to get one of them to survive. But this summer, two of those trees with their delicate white and gold blossoms were putting on a magnificent show under their companion trees the white pine. It’s a reminder, even when the odds are not in your favor, success may be just over the horizon. When I headed back to my car, I saw I’d parked next to a cedar full of bluish-sage berries and picked a sprig to take home. Maybe for my next read aloud I’ll try, Celia’s Song by the late Lee Maracle. It’s about indigenous culture of the Pacific Northwest and they use cedar on a hot iron skillet to cleanse a space. Cedar is a protective healing plant with anti-inflammatory properties.
A friend reminded me today, remember that when we are feeling isolated or disconnected to visualize that we are each woven into the glorious tapestry of creation. I can’t promise that I’ve fully banished all the worries prowling around the edges of my consciousness. But I know to listen to my gut, which may be a more reliable advisor than my brain when facing so much uncertainty. Today, my gut was right. Nature and God showed up for me with offerings to calm my anxiety, purify my space, and reset my clock, so that I have more realistic expectations. It’s a wild game we are in. The one thing we can control is how we feel when we are faced with the spectacle. For me, right now, staying grounded is important.
Thank you stone consciousness.
Thank you passion flower consciousness.
Thank you cedar consciousness.
I am grateful for all of the gifts bestowed upon me and the beauty of the world around me.