When I look closely at my small life I get caught up in the details of its constrictions. I see pitfalls and turn little disturbances into high drama. When I look around at the people and places I see every day, it can feel closed in and predictive. But if I look up at the expansive blueness of the sky above me, or out upon the grandeur of a cityscape I fine myself breathing more deeply. The dirt of a trail and a green canopy above invert the smallness of my life into an expansiveness that is freeing. If I draw my eye away from the close aspects and out to the wider view I don’t feel smaller. I feel I have grown bigger and become more connected to what is vast and beautiful. What is eternal dissipates my constrictions and my fear of sameness. A few moments of a night breeze through the bedroom window shows me my life is not small. Only my perspective is.
For my fortieth birthday my colleagues at work gave me a party with black balloons and a wheelchair. I’m normally a person with a sense of humor, but I had watched this parade with colleagues before me. I work with mostly women. We have a habit of telling each other stories of how our time is past as we age. The best years behind us. We’re used up and lost our sex appeal. Men don’t do this to us and they don’t do it to each other. We do it to ourselves. I smiled and thanked everyone, but I knew in that moment, that I would live differently. That I would not see aging as a cross to bear, but an immense opportunity.
I look at this leaf dead, fragile, used up and am filled with its beauty and grace. Even dead, passed its season and it’s still showing the world what it can do. What it has to give. Aging isn’t about years, it’s about perspective. It’s seeing beauty where no one else would think to look. That isn’t weakness, that’s power. In that power is the possibility to transform. To embrace death when it comes and know you are about to pull out your best work yet.
In the coming of night I feel the day slip away. In the last rays that crest the hill, I forget what disturbed my midday and nagged my afternoon. No monk am I, but there is a vesper in my heart at this hour. As if the monastery bell had rung and in the reeds of the lake I knelt. Swallows catch the last flies, before the chill descends with the night. I ache to follow the rays across the horizon, yet, there is peace in this twilight I fear to miss. The passing of my day, its light and its dark, not to be walked again.
My heart thunders
Hooves of mustangs
An exquisite joy
At the simplest
Whether positive or negative both images have their own beauty. Such is true of us, as well. If we let go of the concepts of good and bad, and embrace whether the moment we are in has something to offer us, in terms of growth, we would know true freedom. Look closely. Inside your darkest moments, worst behaviors, and sickening fears is a treasure of such beauty it could change your life forever.
“Spirituality is… the awareness that survival is the savage fight between you and yourself.” -Anonymous
Did you know that when you take a photograph you can be in no other moment than ‘Now’. I learned this from my friend Juan. Our conversation began in a very dark time of grief. I could not find a haven from my sorrow and anger and I certainly could not stop my mind racing in an endless search for answers. He suggested I take pictures with my cell phone as I hiked the foothills near the Rockies. That it would help settle my heart and mind, if only for a moment. I did not own a camera, had not taken a photo in more than twenty years and had, in fact, jettisoned most of my personal photos in the previous year. But I had no where else to go. My rage was so great I couldn’t engage in much of the art that had filled my spirit until then.
So I began to take photos of grass and summer flowers. Most of it not very good. He’d coach me and give me ideas and my work grew. Yesterday, as I looked at these two pictures on my iPad and saw the moment caught so perfectly in this “Now”, I thought of my friend. Stay in the now and you will heal, he said. And I did.
Those drops floating in mid air, Juan, are you.
“God give me strength to face a fact though it slay me.”
Thomas H. Huxley
I thought I was at center. I felt as balanced as a ballerina in Swan Lake. At the place of nirvana where cherry blossoms float down and the world smells of nag champa. Where you aren’t wrestling snakes in the evangelic’s circus tent, but sipping honey from lily cups. One of those cool Zen-catching moments that Ram Dass and Kornfield talk about as casually as the goodness of roasted potatoes at Sunday supper. You know when the sky opens as to Moses and you’re blessed with eternal peace. Then the horns blared and I looked at the dashboard clock. Funny how certain we can be about things, until we’re not.
Time. The time to get from here to there. It haunts me like a wolf. If I can let the time go then I’m catching Phoenix feathers and dropping into downward facing dog, a hawk swooping Earth. Hourglass snatches me up, though, and she is a mean old, nanny demanding I learn my lessons. Feels like someone should have mentioned that time is a whip cracking in your head that’ll be your undoing if you aren’t careful. Instead we are offered lovely chimes to mark it.
I thought enlightenment was a place, like Intercourse, Pennsylvania where it was always funny to touch that spot on a map. That with the right amount of effort and time I’d be there, properly dressed and ready for congratulations. The fattest, blissed out cat, in full lotus that ever walked through the doors of the Ritz Carlton of the Tao Te Ching.
Oh, all of the thoughts you have thunk, little grasshopper.
A work in progress from The Writer’s Church in Boulder, CO. Hosted by Marj Hahne. Inspired by “Elegance” by Fleda Brown.