From the Department of Repose
I am not good at answering the question: What is your favorite _________?
It’s just really hard for me to just pick one thing.
I am an Enneagram 7 for one thing, which means I love novelty and experience and trying everything. I don’t have a favorite ice cream, or I’d like to taste them all.*[*Except for coffee: Phils’s small Ether with cream. 100%}
Yet for the last thirty years or so whenever somebody has asked me what is my favorite book, I pretty much always say Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner.
It’s a story of a relationship, and the west, and it’s beautiful and wrenching and exquisitely written.
The title is a mining term, and it means “the steepest angle at which a sloping surface formed of a particular loose material is stable.”
From a personal standpoint, imagine you are climbing a steep sand dune. For every step up you lose ground as well. The dune is getting steeper and steeper, but you find a spot where you are stable not sliding. Not moving up or down, in repose. The slant of the hill is the angle of repose.
After a week of adrenaline, and a week of messy, I am finding this week a new stability and calm. I am delicately feeling my way into the angle of repose of this pandemic.
Some days I still slip down a few feet, and in that moment when the ground gives it is terrifying, and then I find my footing again and my balance and I stick to the hill, like an ant.
Or maybe cling is a fairer word.
This is what made me think of the book’s title walking the hill the other day. Repose has always meant rest or tranquility to me, but in this term, and in the book, it has much more tension.
There is no rest on the side of the slope, whether it is the slope of sand, or the slope of relationship, or the slope of parenting. it’s a constant effort, an intense concentration to keep it all together, and always feeling like it’s about to give way.
I’m worried because I can feel myself getting tired. And I fear the angle is going to get a lot steeper soon.
My practice and my gut both tell me the best thing to do is to relax and breathe and soften and open and become as light as I can.
I know there will be a lurching slip again, and in turn there will be an adjustment, a conversation with the slope, a renegotiation with reality, and in turn, a new angle of repose will appear.
Someday, soon I hope, there will be some rest in the repose as well.
Blessings to you all,
King Bee, Fire-Tender