(On facing down the abyss)
About six months before he died, my stepdad’s best friend sat me down and said ‘Your life is nothing but a series of choices: the most important thing you can do is to make good decisions. And don’t think that not making a decision is an option— that’s still a decision, and its a bad one.’
I thought about it a bit, and then he died, and then I thought about it a lot. Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed by all the choices that it seems easier not to choose. To click again. To refresh the page. To look at how Kim Kardashian did her hair this week*, because it saves us from having to act.
Southern Californian summers smell of sage and the sea. I know this because I have spent a lot of time recently up mountains overlooking the Pacific, gathering sage for the Sage + Clarity surprise box. On a cliff’s edge, my backpack full of white and black sage, I sit and stare out to Catalina island, getting lost in thought about the wisdom of sage. After a while of sitting and thinking and munching on crackers and cheese, topped with freshly gathered sage leaves (my current favourite hiking snack), I determine that sage’s lesson is one of clarity: it helps to clear thought that is confused, it clears a sick room of microbes, it clears stagnation from digestion. It elevates, enlightens, broadens perspective. Content with my conclusion, I brush the crumbs off my legs, gather up my belongings and begin the hike back to my car. It was only this afternoon, when I was processing another batch of dried white sage, that I started to think more deeply about clarity itself.
Most of us think of clarity as a preferable state to be in: something to strive for, and cling to; whereas the opposite state: the lack of confidence we experience when we don’t know, is one that leaves us in despair. We avoid that confusion as much as possible, and when it happens become desperate to escape and get back to that state where everything (ourselves included) has a place. This extends into the other feelings that we avoid– sadness, anger, pain– in place of the easy ones: love and joy and lightness. Of course, love and light is not the entirety of existence (and I’d argue that anybody who says so is deluded), much like periods of confidence and knowing are not always an indicator that we’re doing life right. Continue reading
We used to do a design project in art class: starting with a theme, we’d gather information, then start expanding that information— pick a piece of an image here, a colour scheme there, a word or two, and start working through variations of them. From a small amount of information or images, you could expand what you had to a hundred things. And then you’d start the process of piecing these things together: this goes with this, but not with that; these two go with these but not with those. And at the end of it you’d have little groups of things that fit. From there, you’d decide which of these groupings work best with the theme. It’s a process of expansion– of exploring all the possibilities– and then of refinement.
When it comes to surprise boxes, I approach them the same way: from a nugget of a thought, which, in the case of this month was simply ‘the sea’, I started expanding and refining ‘the sea’ until I had the essence of what it is I wanted to capture.