I was fortunate to have spent two years in relative solitude at a lakeside cottage nestled into a wooded hill. I had plenty of time to contemplate my navel and all sorts of things from the minute to the cosmic. Those Thoreau years were blessed with many opportunities to “Know Thyself” more intimately. One day the word “forgiveness” wafted through my thoughts. I let the thought pass, but it left me agitated. I had already forgiven my parents for “ruining” my childhood. What more did I need to forgive? In those days I didn’t yet realize that agitation was a harbinger of an “aha” moment.
During my stay at the cottage, I developed a close relationship with my soul, a tender and compassionate being called Domini. We had frequent dialogues from which I learned to trust Domini’s guidance. I also discovered that Domini is quite a rascal, a trickster, and a hard task-master. Domini relentlessly poked and prodded me to expand beyond my conditioned perceptions about myself and the world. When I got lazy or resisted opportunities to expand, Domini delivered blessings disguised in grubby packages.
One day in late August, when the mornings in the mountains can get quite cool, I was contemplating my need for wood to heat the cottage in winter. I am proud of my ability to think ahead and develop strategies to achieve my objectives. Brilliance struck! “I’ll trim the dead branches from the trees surrounding my cottage. That’ll save me from having to buy so much firewood.” I retrieved my trusty chainsaw from the shed, checked the spark plug and starter rope, tightened and oiled the droopy chain and fired the sucker up. It worked perfectly. I planned to begin cutting and storing the wood the next day so it could dry out before temps and snows fell.
The next day all went well until late afternoon. I was feeling tired and drenched in sweat that glued wood chips to my skin. I was ready to quit for the day, take a swim in the lake and have a cold beer. Then I spotted a dead 20-foot-long limb. It was perfect: four inches thick, and when cut into sixteen-inch lengths, it would fit neatly into my wood stove. When I positioned myself on the sloping ground, I found that even on my tiptoes, I was a few inches shy of being able to cut the limb. I retrieved a ladder and placed it against the tree trunk. I climbed the ladder and balanced awkwardly on the top step. The chainsaw quickly ripped through the limb. But when it finally broke free from the tree trunk, it kicked back, knocking me off the ladder. The chainsaw flew out of my hand. The next thing I knew, I was lying on my back on the ground gasping for air. The limb had landed across my chest, pinning me to the ground. My first thought was, “Well that was really DUMB. I could have been killed!”
Somehow I lifted that limb off my chest. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my earlier dismissal of forgiveness had provided me with this experience to learn to forgive myself for doing really dumb things. Oh well, I guess l just learn some things the hard way.
From this event and the lingering pain in my ribs, I learned to pay attention to seemingly insignificant thoughts and to honor my body. When I don’t, I can push my limits and get careless, even reckless, and do dumb things. The dialogue with Domini continues. I think I’m getting wiser about the use of my thoughts and feelings because I’m having to forgive myself less frequently.