Unbeknownst to him, Rodney’s question to the mentors at the beginning of last month’s teacher-training weekend was prophetic: “What is grounding?” I thought about it a lot right after he posed the question, even emailing him a short answer that same day. For me, grounding is not only the feeling of having one’s feet on the ground, and a connection to earth; it is also knowing, feeling, and discovering your place in the world, and feeling comfortable and strong in that. I even included a cool quote in my short answer to Rodney on that first day. I can be a real nerd sometimes.
And then the ground was swept away. Hurricane Sandy brought floods and surges that devastated so many in our area. Most people lost power. Many had trees down and water somewhere.
Our house was unscathed. I was cooking anything and everything as I prepped for the possibility that I may not have the use of an oven for awhile. As friends were texting and facebook posts were alerting us to power outages in different areas, I was roasting and baking and praying: “Please don’t lose power before my banana bread is done.” Our lights flickered several times and even went out for five seconds, twice, but miraculously came on again. By 4 o’clock we were feeling very lucky, so we told a couple of our friends to come to our house for dinner and to bring an overnight bag and their dog so they could spend the night.
By Tuesday morning, the damage left in Sandy’s wake was sobering. Many homes out here were compromised, some beyond repair. The dunes were obliterated. We have dear friends who were supposed to move into their dream home on the ocean on Friday. Their house was dangling. Literally.
Tuesday afternoon, I sent out smoke signals to all of our friends. “We have power. Bring your phones, your iPads, your laptops, your defrosted meat, your dirty selves, and we will have a charging/shower/dinner party. Four families, eight kids, five dogs and countless Mac gadgets showed up. Lots of cooking and chaos and laughter ensued. Wine flowed. Lots of wine.
When the adults finally sat down to eat, we all raised a glass. We were safe and clean and in the company of friends, enjoying home-cooked food and community. One person said, “It takes a storm to finally bring us all together.” I said that I was so grateful that we were all okay and that we were here for each other during this time. This night, for me, was our Thanksgiving dinner. This is what matters.
Later, when we were cleaning up, I looked over at one point to see that all the dads had one of their own children on their shoulders, and they were doing a chicken-fight version of “Ring Around the Rosey.” It was hysterical. And it was a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
When we grow up, move away, and build our lives away from where we were raised, many or most of us don’t have the luxury of having our extended family nearby. But these people, right here, are my “family.” My friends’ young son calls them “framily.” They are friends, but they are more like family. I love that.
So to answer your question, Rodney—on a technical level, grounding is a connection to earth. Grounding is also a technique that often uses the five senses and is designed to immediately connect you with the here and now. For example, listening to loud music, holding onto a piece of ice, or biting into a lemon all produce sensations that are difficult to ignore, thereby directly and instantaneously connecting you with the present moment. Grounding is often used as a way of coping with traumatic or stressful situations, like, say, a hurricane that sweeps through your town.
Why is it that we see so clearly what matters most, when things fall apart? What do we truly hold precious in this life? For me, it’s the simple sound of my son’s breathing in the middle of the night. The weight of my dog, sleeping across my legs. My husband’s unfailing devotion. This community that I love dearly, coming together in times of celebration as well as tragedy.
As for that cool quote I sent to Rod? It was from the Buddha: “The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.” So even if that ground is unfamiliar, unstable, or temporarily uninhabitable, it is still a source of feedback and a point of reference for our lives. When we know where we stand, we can hold our ground, we can move forward, and we can grow.
I hope you are all enjoying what matters most. Nature is a powerful teacher.