by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.
Years ago while traveling in Tibet, I was amazed by the dryness of the climate. Though the mountains were covered with snow, and the rivers were raging torrents, the ground was largely a dusty wasteland. There were sporadic fields, where the people grew barley, but much of the land reminded me of stories I had heard about the great dustbowl from the 1930’s. Growing up in the Midwest, I was a stranger to dry air. The humidity was so dense that it seems to saturate the skin and soak the spaces inside your bones. There was a general heaviness in the summer air that felt oppressive at times.
When life dries out, things begin to harden. Leaves and stems become brittle; the ground mimics concrete. In my 17 years in southern Oregon, I have begun to grow accustomed to the cyclical drying out of the land in summer. What winter and spring have given, summer takes away. Things grow in the summer, but there is a sense that everything is living on borrowed time. As the season progresses, the ground loses its give and hardens into a protective shell. This has a way of locking in the moisture that the ground still holds, but it comes at a cost. Not only does the hardness in the soil keep some of the water in, it also prevents water from soaking into the ground when a big rain comes. If you look at the ground when the first big storm comes in the late summer or early fall, you are likely to see a lot of the water running off into the creeks and rivers, instead of down into the earth. It usually takes a bit of consistent precipitation to loosen up the ground so it can receive the water.
With the ongoing drought in the west, I have noticed that the ground doesn’t just harden in the summer anymore, it has increasingly begun to crack. It more closely resembles a desert than the forest floor that I am used to in western Oregon. There is a sadness that I notice when I think of how much things are drying out, but I am also reminded of one of life’s truths: When things are pushed to a breaking point, new opportunities arise. The cracks in the soil allow the healing waters to more easily enter the soil, so not as much runs to the streams. I witnessed this during the rain we had last week. The soil had become so dry that it had broken open….it was ready to receive.
It reminds me of how the past couple of years have broken most of us open. We keep bending, withstanding, until we tend to harden up to minimize any further pain. Yet, life has continued to push us even farther. Most of us feel that we have been pushed beyond our limits. The hardness of our shells has begun to crack, just as the dry ground beneath our feet has opened. This splitting apart has created more space to receive life’s grace.
“The wound is where the light enters you.”
The poet Rumi knew this truth. That often we must completely crack open to heal. We must truly fall apart to know authentic wholeness. As I continue to do my healing work in the community, I am struck by the immensity of the suffering that have all endured the past couple of years. I am also in awe of how that suffering can lead to profound change and acceptance. People are still struggling, but new shoots of growth and understanding are sprouting. We are coming back to find what is really important, what truly matters. All we have to do is be willing to let life continue to crack us open and to have the faith that it is leading us somewhere better than we can imagine. Then the light will enter our lives and illuminate our souls; the rain will nourish and soften our weary bodies.