Holding On and Letting Go: life lessons from Finland


dog sledding in the Arctic, 2019 captured by Grace DeRidder

One instruction. Maybe two: hold on at all times. Bear down with your body weight on the brake if you need to slow down. But most importantly Hold On At All Times. That was the instruction from the alpha-ette dog sledder. Physically, we were not to let go. But there was a lot of another kind of letting go going on. Like letting go of all feeling of face and feet. Like letting go of the comfort of feeling of control, letting go of any hopes of steering the sled as it moved swiftly over the snow-caked terrain.


Look Mom, no hands — I let go of all the above but held on for dear life to the sled attached to those creatures, those excited dogs doing the very thing they were born to do. Holding on while letting go was all we did for an impossibly cold hour and a half as our hair and eyelashes froze in extreme subzero temperatures. I let go because to enjoy any of it, letting go is what’s required.


Later that night we wandered out onto the frozen lake, stumbling through the darkness and deep white dry snow, guided by moonlight and mystery. The moon cast long shadows of stillness in the shape of trees. The blue-red fiery glow of a planet hovered over the horizon, flickered in the distance. We marvelled at and admired the abundant beauty. It was beyond splendid, it was otherworldly. Yet we wanted more. In the form of streaming green curtains of light, please.


The moon lit up our asking faces. We want Northern Lights!


Was this stark stillness not enough? Was the radiant moon itself and how it glistened on the snow insufficient? All the ingredients together constituted a dreamscape, a memory I will question in the far future of my life: was it real? Did I dream I went to Finland? After awhile we stopped searching the sky and laughed. We said, “Okay, we’ll try and catch you when you’re doing as you please" and we retreated inside, sheepishly, apologetically, acknowledging our unreasonable requests as we warmed ourselves by the fire.


How human we are. Always wanting more. If we ask this of Mother Nature, surely we act in this same way with others, our partners; ourselves. But Mother Nature, ever the diva, does not delight on demand. She’s not on ours or anyone’s schedule. She doesn’t care that we bought tickets, no guarantees, no refunds here.


Nevertheless, Mother Nature did not disappoint. She showed up in her own sweet time. Just after I had gone to bed. I had just closed my eyes, I had just surrendered. I had just let go whenI heard a holler -- "The lights! Come quick!" I bundled up as fast as I could and ran out into the night. There they were, big green blazes of glory.


I’ll let this be the lesson: Let go but show up. Let go and hold on for the ride of your dear life.



Aurora borealis captured on Hanna's iPhone

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