Sufficiency and Endlessness

‘Admire the world for never ending on you—as you would admire an opponent, without taking your eyes from him, or walking away.’—Annie Dillard in The Writing Life Sleeping on the earth and wanting for nothing

I had a feeling in the Northwoods that I want to recover. We baked bread in a Dutch oven on hot coals, and woke up more than once at 3am to paddle under the stars. In Lobster Lake, I slipped out of the canoe and swam backstroke behind the convoy, belly-up to a wide sky. I slept on the ground in random places and wanted for nothing. I felt that all I needed was immediately at hand.

After a day on the Northeast Carry, an historic canoe portage between the Penobscot River and Moosehead Lake, our students stopped at a small country store, shared stories with the clerk, and picked out Pringles and Skittles. We bobbed in our canoe, looking towards the shore as our students licked their fingers and loaded their boats. The thrill of eating food that didn’t emanate from a shared plastic bag drifted, though. I, too, felt that my prevailing sense of sufficiency required no snacks or surprises. And I wondered how to continue to create opportunities for students to discover sufficiency in the face of another possibility.

Coupled with this sense of sufficiency was an instinct towards endlessness. At each moment of facilitation, choices are innumerable, and we hope the one most needed rears its head. The project of instructing is an endless one, and we were carving a singular trail. One afternoon on Moosehead, I sat on a slab of driftwood and Eli, barefoot, on an island rock, as our students led their own process. We held a waiting sort of contemplation that flows around times of instructing, the cliffs of Kineo a black silhouette before the evening sun. Our four gear packs were set to load into our canoe, a Winonah with high sides and a forgiving lightness. The waves foamed and crashed, everything was completely wet and completely dry all at once. The endlessness was about us and within us.

An expedition, a group forming, an instructing project takes so many gatherings and dispensings. Then there comes a point where what’s there is there and that’s sufficient. Like plaster slowly molding in your hands, the moment arrives when what is gathered becomes what the experience is-- the food packed, necessities collected, rivers run, moose, wrong turns, laughter, rain, weariness, exaltation, workings-out, yellow skies, moony paddles.