Good Weather Inside
On May 18, Joyce turned 50. I turned 50 nine days later, on May 27. Wanting to treat this event as a life passage, a time for us to reflect upon our lives, we decided to pack up our old motor home and head for Yosemite for three nights by ourselves. Our birthday gift to ourselves was time away to renew our relationship as well as our vision for our remaining years (people tease us, “the next 50”).
The last trip we took in our motor home was one and a half months previous. We went skiing with our children. The weather and snow conditions were perfect before we left. The day we left, the clouds started building. By the time we arrived it was snowing. The next morning, we couldn’t go skiing due to blizzard conditions. By afternoon, the conditions were so bad, we left the mountains and came home. Our ski trip was “ruined,” but we had made the most of our time together as a family. The adverse conditions had served to bond us closer together.
Still, for this next trip, Joyce and I looked forward to sunny, warm, spring-like conditions at Yosemite. It hadn’t rained in Central California for one and a half months, that’s right, since our last trip. On the day we left, we noticed clouds were building. The weather forecast was a “chance of rain.” Still we felt hopeful.
We arrived in Yosemite that evening. It started raining during the night, and by morning was raining hard. We donned our raingear (which we were smart enough to bring) and had fun anyway. That evening the storm really picked up, and by 10pm, we noticed more and more people were packing up and driving out. We were feeling pretty cozy and warm in our motor home until, around 11pm, a ranger knocked on our door and said, “Excuse me, folks, but have you looked at the ground lately?”
He pointed his flashlight at the ground and we gasped. We were parked in about a foot of rapidly moving water. The Merced River had overflowed its banks upstream and made the whole campground its new bed. We were evacuated to a parking lot on higher ground. By midnight, three feet of water churned through most of the campgrounds in Yosemite Valley. Everyone got out, but camping gear, tents and even some vehicles had to be left behind. To make matters worse, the road on which we had arrived was flooded and closed.
The next morning it was still raining. Park officials decided to close the park. That afternoon everyone was evacuated by way of a different road over a mountain pass. They were expecting more flooding.
So much for the outer events around our “vacation.” But this was not just a vacation. It was also a vision quest. About half way through our time in Yosemite, we understood why the weather had to be so inclement, why the flooding, the evacuation, the hassle.
Sages have often said that the way to really know a thing is to experience its opposite. The way to know health is by experiencing sickness. We understand happiness through the experience of sadness. The way to know love is by first thoroughly experiencing its opposite, and the opposite of love is fear, not hatred. Our real choice in life is to either live in fear or to live in love.
So too do the natural extremes — floods, tornadoes, volcanoes, droughts — serve a purpose in our lives. In 1989, the very earthquake that destroyed our home also taught us a deeper gratitude and appreciation for life and for each other. The lack of a home also gave us a greater appreciation for having a home, and we believe this drew us more quickly to our present land and home, which we love more each year.
The “bad” weather in Yosemite provided the ideal conditions for Joyce and I to experience the good weather in our lives and relationship. Just like our “ski trip” helped to bond us as a family, this trip bonded us as a couple. Without the lure of the sun to pull us outside the motor home, we spent long and relaxed time meditating and praying, appreciating what we love about each other, talking and revisioning our lives, giving thanks and making love. It was an exquisite time of love and nurturing. We will be drawing upon the power and inspiration of those three days for a long time.
We realize now that every hardship in our life or relationship has provided an opportunity for more soul growth. The low spots in our relationship, the times we didn’t feel love, gave us so much more gratitude for the love that was and is there all the time. Every dark time has allowed us to more deeply appreciate and experience the light that is within us. Every argument, every tense moment, every sad time of disconnection has, by its very contrast, brought renewed appreciation of the times of love, harmony and connection.
If we can only be more patient with and accepting of the difficulties in life, we will more deeply receive the gifts and blessings of life. Only through embracing the darkness can we embrace the fullness of the Light.