Archive for July, 2010

“Life is never easy for those who dream.”

— Robert James Waller

“Life is never easy for those who dream.”  When I first read these words, I thought, “how true;” and then I realized that I was falling in step with people who like to define “life” and “dream” and “easy” in ways that I would like to avoid.

I tried to figure out just what this statement was supposed to mean.  Is it a caution against dreaming?  It could be that.  “Life is never easy for those who dream,” so stop dreaming and give yourself a break — after all, how much difference can one person make in the midst of the great, wide world?  Just leave your dreams behind, and cut yourself a break.

Is it a statement made by the dreamer who sees himself as a martyr?  “Life is never easy for those who dream.”  Take me, for example; I am a dreamer, and it makes my life so difficult that the rest of you couldn’t possibly understand the pain I suffer in order to go on dreaming and make our world a better place.  Everyone should pity me and pamper me; for, after all, I am sacrificing myself for all of you (since you are too lazy to do the work yourselves).

Is it a statement of grieving for the sense of community that one loses when s/he chooses a singular path?  “Live is never easy for those who dream,” because my dream takes me walking on an unexplored path that my loved ones do not choose to follow.  I become tired while walking alone, and I long for the companionship I left behind when I split off from the group.  I feel like I’ve been forced to choose between my life and my dream; and I wish I could have both.

As I pondered the many meanings that could be expressed in those eight words, my mind composed a new sentence:

“Life without a dream, once one has become a dreamer, is never tolerable.”

I began to think that the original words were spoken by someone who observed the dreamer, and not by the dreamer himself.  A true dreamer of dreams transcends the ordinary plane of our daily existence and lets the dream soar above all the rest of life — not replacing it, but making its meaning more apparent.  “Life is never easy for those who dream.”  I think these are the words of the person who has not yet left fear behind and allowed his dream to take flight.

Where would we be without dreams?  I think of all the things that have changed during my own lifetime — things that felt like they had always been the same and would never be any other way.  I think of segregation and the way that a bunch of dreamers blazed a new trail that led us to a world of tolerance.  I think of all the trails that still need to be explored so that we can look past our differences and find a way to embracing our shared humanity — in spite of the beliefs, the ideologies, and the opinions that divide us.

Imagine a world where dreamers all dreamed, where everyone thought beyond the way things are today.  Imagine a world where people looked at all sides of an issue and then began to dream of a way to bring them all into harmony.  As long as there are human beings, there will be disagreements; but if we learn to dream of tolerance and love, perhaps we can learn to co-exist.  Life may not be easy for those who dream, but it is intolerable for a dreamer to leave her dreams behind.

“How could drops of water know themselves to be a river?  Yet the river flows on.”

— Antoine de Saint Exupery

≈≈≈

Flowing

A tiny drop of water fell

Into a sparkling summer stream

And rode with joy past rock and stone

And sang the song he’d never learned

Yet knew, because it was the song

Of streams eternally cascading

Through the land to meet the sea.

≈≈≈

A stream flowed gently through the heart

Of meadowland and wooded hill

Collecting rivulets of rain

That tumbled down the mountainside

Where bedrock, motionless refused

To yield and offer up a groove

And still they journeyed on their way.

≈≈≈

A river deep took up each stream

And ran with purpose unified

Of drop and rivulet and stream

In depth and beauty, dark and wide

It carried all the hopes and dreams

Of raindrops hanging in the air

Who longed to reach the oceanside.

≈≈≈

With open arms, the waiting sea

Could hear the rushing rivers flow.

She knew each drop of rain that fell,

The melodies of streams and stones,

The symphony of river song,

The beauty of their longing need

To merge with her, and there abide.

≈≈≈

She swept them up in loving arms

And rocked them gently on her tide.

©Pamela Stead Jones 2010

I came in from my walk through the hazy post-rainstorm park this morning and read this status message on Facebook:

Terri St. Cloud is kinda lost in that whole concept of how powerful we are to each other…..how much what we do matters……whew…….”

This is not the first statement on the subject of connectedness that I have heard recently from my online circle of friends.  We talk frequently about our connection to other people, to the natural world, to the universe — and how important each individual is in keeping strong the connections that form the web of life.  It is an ongoing conversation, and I think we use it as a way of encouraging one another — and ourselves — to live consciously in each tiny moment, even when we feel very separate and insignificant.

I loved finding this piece of the conversation this morning, because I had walked in a haze that was not so foggy that it obscured my view, but was subtly present in a way that made me think I should clean my glasses so that I could see more clearly.  But it wasn’t the glasses this time.  It was the indecisive water droplets that could not commit to either evaporation or precipitation.  Now there is a metaphor for life — walking through indecision and cleaning my glasses so I can see clearly which way to go.  I know that feeling all too well.

As always is the case when I walk through the park, the crows stationed in various treetops began to spread the word that the intruder approached.  “Caw!  Caw!  Caw!”  Their threefold warning goes ahead of me and is echoed by the next bird.  The next one then repeats the call and is answered by another crow whose roost is farther down the path.  By the time I have made my circular loop, it is the first crow who finishes the message; and I hear him behind me as I turn the corner toward home.  “Caw!  Caw! Caw! I answer him, and I take great pleasure in feeling like a part of their community.

I think of those crows in their various treetops, and I think of the circle of friends who call out to one another and send the message that connects us and uplifts us as each of us walks, separated by distance, along different paths with a similar theme.  We are all connected, and we do bring powerful support to one another as we walk through the haze of indecision and suddenly stumble on a bit of encouragement —  a gift from someone who matters very much, because they remind us again that we matter, too.  The crows  are silent most of the time.  They nest in their own trees and care for their broods.  They hunt for food and do the things that crows do in order to live their lives.  But when it’s time to sound the call, their connectedness becomes visible once again; and each vital member of the circle chimes in to strengthen the whole.

I think of the circle of women who are committed to strengthening the bonds that bind humanity together.*  I think of the way that we learn that we matter when we take the time to recognize another as a vital part of the circle of life.  I picture us, perched at the top of our great tall trees and watching humanity pass through our lives.   “Love!  Love! Love!” we call out as each person enters our own part of the great, wide world.  “Peace!  Peace!  Peace!”  we wish, as we work toward understanding the walls that separate people.  “Light!  Light!  Light!” we cry into the darkness, and the power of our connection sends darkness away.  If you find yourself walking through the haze today, and if cleaning your glasses doesn’t seem to help, remember the call that is most important at such times — “You Matter!  You Matter!  You Matter!”

* Many of the women who make up this circle are listed in my Blogroll.  Our circle is ever-growing, and we’re always happy to welcome another voice.  Please stop by!  Because you matter.

“Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land, seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again.”

— Beatrix Potter

Each special moment is a gift.

Each fond memory is a treasure, pressed between the pages of our hearts.

I was fortunate enough to be born into a mult-generational household.  Several years before my birth, my mother’s aunt had traveled from her home in Illinois to Pennsylvania to celebrate the arrival of my older brother.  Essie had raised my mom; and on that side of the family, she was the closest thing to a grandma that we knew.  Heart problems that developed during her visit drove the decision for her to be a permanent resident in our family, and her presence in my childhood was one that shaped me in many ways that I hold dear.  Essie taught me kindness.  She taught me faith.  She taught me grace under pressure, as she lived her days in a place far removed from the one she had called home for the first sixty-one years of her life.

I learned many things through living with Essie.  I learned that my mother once had been a little girl who couldn’t say her own name; and instead of Ruthie Matthews, she became known around town as “Woosie Mashews.”  I heard about the time, after mom had read in Heidi about toasted cheese sandwiches, that she put cheese in the toaster, with predictable results.  I heard about Mom’s accomplishments, seen through the eyes of the woman who carried the pride in all her achievements pressed between the pages of her heart.

I suppose I learned to listen by spending time with Essie.  There is something captivating about hearing someone talk about the old times, especially when you see the memories sparkle like love as she watches them happen all over again with her “seeing eye.”  The great oral traditions of remembering history must have begun with the elders, telling and retelling the significant stories of their people — perhaps forgetting that they had told them only an hour earlier — as the younger folks listened and respected each telling.  I think of Potter’s words about walking in her memory to the places her legs no longer can take her, and I think of my daily walks to the very spot where the sun rises.  How will I see that walk when I need to rely on the seeing eye?  Is it possible that the seeing eye can capture all at once the totality of hundreds of days with thousands of nuances of light and color and seasons and beauty and see them all in one trip?

I think of my father, now 88, and the joy that he finds in telling the stories of the days when he stood tall and met life head-on, all pressed and dressed and handsomely attired and ready to take on the world.  I hear him tell about meeting my mother, and knowing in an instant that she was the one.  His eyes dance with the love that filled the moment and has ripened to maturity through so many years.  The stories intrigue me, but what really is captivating is the way that the telling takes him right back to those days long ago.  As his eyes twinkle, I can close my own and see my parents — young, beautiful, and carefree — dancing a fine jitterbug at the U.S.O. party.

We must not miss a day of filling our hearts with the beauty that someday will sparkle in love as we use our seeing eyes — the eyes of our hearts — and relive it again and again as we tell our own tales.

“Of course there is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”

“To be alive, to be able to see, to walk, to have houses, music, paintings – it’s all a miracle. I have adopted the technique of living life miracle to miracle.”

— Arthur Rubinstein

My brother plays classical piano.  I have great admiration for anyone who could study and practice long enough to make music on a piano.  Although I play a mean “Chopsticks” and both parts of “Heart & Soul,” I simply didn’t have the ability to delay gratification through enough scales and exercises to hone any skill on this instrument.  I certainly know far too little about classical pieces or technique to evaluate anyone’s playing; but my brother has a more educated ear.  I remember hearing him talk about a concert where Rubinstein — age 90 at the time — played with a passion that brought delight to my brother’s critical ear.  He marveled that the man had reached such an advanced age and still could do justice to the music, his ability still sharp and his performance moving.

I loved finding the above quotations from Rubinstein, and I love his formula for success.  “An unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.”  What a sense of adventure!  Today is Day 4 of my week alone.  One thing that the gift of solitude has brought me is an awareness of how dependent we become on routines — how much we are ruled by schedules and the clock.  Not being tied to the framework of time and routine has shown me that there is a lot more going on in my small town than I notice when I am encapsulated in my own comfortable and repetitive ways.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.  The shampoo bottle describes the way we tend to live our days.  I think of the comfort my parents — now in their late 80’s — find in the reliable routines that structure their days.  It is likely that my own life will find a comfortable rut as I age; but today I want to celebrate the vitality, the mobility, and the flexibility to accept whatever life brings.

Acceptance is not the only key, though.  Rubinstein goes on to say that he lived life “miracle to miracle.”  His gratitude for all that made up his life just dances in his words!  For being able to see; for being able to walk; to have ownership of beautiful things that bring him joy — gratitude that recognizes each amazing thing life brings as a miracle that will be followed by another and another and another.

I know that the life I have chosen and love will draw me back into my routine again at the end of the week.  For now, I will enjoy the surprises that come my way when there are no deadlines and no schedules.  I will hope that my return will open my eyes to the succession of miracles that make up each day of my life.  I will hope to see each one, however familiar, as a reason for gratitude.  I will leave “lather, rinse, repeat” in the shower where it belongs, and be thankful for the abundant blessings that can escape our notice, but deserve our attention.

“Look at the stars!  Look, look up at the skies!/ O look at all the fire-folk sitting in the air!/ The bright boroughs, the circle-citadels there!”

— Gerard Manley Hopkins

Last night the Buck Moon — the full moon of July — made her way through the cloud cover and showed her face for all to see.  She crept above the horizon in the southeast just as the sky began to lose its daytime color, sharing her world for a while with the setting sun.  Rolling black clouds were silhouetted in the southwest against a sky the color of dying embers as the day burned long.  As the sun’s final light disappeared in the night, the Buck moon rose to capture his rays and send them, reflected, into the world where dreams are born.

She draws me into her world, just as she invited Hopkins to join her on a night in centuries past.  I watch the Mother Moon shine in the world of her children, the stars, bringing peaceful light to the world below as she holds her mirror and reflects the Light into a land shrouded in darkness.  I bid her goodnight and call out to the stars that lie hidden by clouds in the moonlit sky.  “Even when I don’t see you, I know you are there,” I tell them, and I carry that reassurance with me as I close my eyes and let my dreams take me to the land of the stars.  Good night, Moon.  I will see you in my dreams.

There is a circle forming abound the Blog World, and it is being created through the embracing and then sharing of the Blog With Substance Award.

I am proud to display the one passed to me this morning!

Here’s how it works:

When you receive the award, you perform the following tasks:

-thank the blogger who awarded it to you.
-sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience
using five (5) words. example: WRITE HEART PEOPLE LIVE HAPPY
-then, pass it on to other blogs which you feel have real
substance.
I am honored that terri chose to speak my name in this context, and it is now my task to choose five words to express my reason for blogging.  For those of you who read me, I’m sure you know how challenging it will be to choose only five.  Here they are:  TRUTH, HEART, SPIRIT, UNITY, GRATITUDE.  Let’s see…that’s A, E, I, O, U…and sometimes Y would be ABUNDANCE.  Told you it would be a challenge!

There are so many blog friends I could nominate, but I will resist being greedy and name only one — that way, she will have some folks left when it is her turn to choose.  Queen Dani, I nominate you for your words of love and wisdom that convey the hearts of mothers, daughters, and sisters in a deep and meaningful way that touches all of the above.  I will link to one of my favorites HERE.  I hope you’ll all enjoy it!

Thank you, Dani, for your sisterhood and insight that flows from your heart to ours.

Thank you, Terri, for including me in this circle of honor.  I couldn’t ask for a better Blogger of Substance to nominate me!

“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.  Who looks outside, dreams.  Who looks inside, awakens.”

— Carl Gustav Jung

There is a special kind of silence that exists when we move into a space inhabited only by ourselves.  Now that my children are grown, I spend many hours each day alone.  I love the peaceful feeling of my own home when the noise of electronics is silenced and the only sounds that intrude are those of the birds and the wind.  I love my quiet days and the opportunity they offer to hear my own thoughts and listen to the music of my soul.

Although I enjoy this feeling under normal conditions, having the opportunity to spend a week without the daily rhythm of family life has taken this experience to a new depth.  My mind is not cluttered with what to cook for dinner, or what time we need to be at a basketball game, or what appointments are on the calendar, or what reminders I need to deliver to the people I love.  They are on vacation, and there are no calendar entries to track.  I can eat when I’m hungry and not worry about producing a meal at a prescribed time.  In short, I have no excuses to be distracted from being in touch with my own heart and learning its passions, separate from the influence of the outside world.

We become so busy just keeping pace with the interactions and responsibilities of life in a family — life in a community — that our heart songs get lost in the noise and the clutter that are part of being human.  I like what Jung says about dreaming — that it is what we do when we look outside.  Dreams are such valuable tools for deciphering the world and untangling the dilemmas we face; and usually our dreams point us back to our hearts and turn up the volume on the music that lives at the center of our being.  It would be wonderful if that music always could be the first thing we hear as we walk through the world; but, try as we might, we become distracted, and sometimes the tangles are hard to undo.  We find ourselves walking to the beat of a tune that in no way resembles the song of our heart; and only in our dreams do we hear its faint melody as we untie the knots we have made of our lives.

We cannot always live in a state of retreat — there are people we love; there is work to be done — but I think it is valuable to find time to look into our own hearts and to hear and embrace what truly is our own.  I sit in the silence that welcomes awakening and let my own melody play without impediment.  I hear its notes and embrace its beauty, and I promise myself that I still will hear it when the noise of my full and abundant life intrudes once again.  I will open my heart and let my music flow into the world as I walk through it each day; and I will learn to weave my song harmoniously with the songs of others whose dreams exist in the waking hours and are not silenced by the noise that comes from outside.  Perhaps this is how we learn to dance.


“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.  The soul that knows it not, knows no release from little things; knows not the livid loneliness of fear.”

–Amelia Earhart

When I discovered that today was Amelia Earhart’s birthday, I just knew that she would have something to say that I would want to hear.  To say that she was a woman who lived ahead of her time would be an understatement.  At a time when most women wore cute little frocks and high heels as they cooked their way to recognition — pearls optional — Amelia Earhart chose trousers, a helmet, goggles, scarf, and a life of adventure.  Her name is a familiar one to me, because many of my ancestors also were fliers; and they traveled in the same circle with Ms. Earhart.  None of them gained the notoriety of Amelia Earhart.  Her courage and love of adventure separated her from the other intrepid aviators of her time.

I suppose that when Amelia spoke of courage, she was talking about her famous solo flights — feats considered remarkable, especially for a woman — that led to her reputation for courage and ultimately became the source of her end.  I would like to think that she met her end, staring Death straight in the eye and saying, “bring it on.”

Today is the first day of my own solo flight.  Mine takes place in the quiet of my own home.  No goggles or scarves will be harmed in the making of this flight, and my uniform of the day will be denim capris and a pink t-shirt.  Last night, just after a quick round of hot dogs and tater tots, my sweetie and our granddaughter climbed into a car with our son and his daughter and left on an adventure.  They should be waking up soon in a hotel at their halfway point of Richmond, Virginia and preparing for the second leg of their trip to the beach in South Carolina.  For eight days, I will be flying solo — for the first time in more than forty years — and my excitement at the adventure is mixed with moments of wondering whether I know how to be just me after all the time I’ve spent as part of the organism we call family.

I will call upon courage and enjoy the opportunity to fly solo to a spot of heightened self-awareness.  I will choose to be alone rather than place myself at the mercy of  “the livid loneliness of fear.”  When I first read that word, “livid,” I thought of “angry.”  How could loneliness be furiously angry?  Then I remembered that the other definition of “livid” is “pale and ashen.”  I think this must be how Amelia Earhart saw fear — as pale and weak and vulnerable.  I would rather choose the path of courage and leave fear out of my adventure.  Without the backdrop of the people I love, without responsibility for the daily care and feeding of anyone but myself, I think I will learn some things about who I am.  This may be the only chance I have to fly solo for quite a long time; so I will pack my courage and seize the opportunity.  Destination:  Awareness.

God-Sky

I lay in my bed

On the bridge to awakening,

Shades drawn tight

To block the light,

Restless.

I tossed, trying not

To move forward,

But God-Sky was

Calling me

Out of the night.

*

I ran for the door

Stepping into the dew-grass

Spirit, inquisitive,

Walking on air,

Planted

My roots in the

Heart of the Mother,

Lifted my

Eyes to the

Beckoning Light

*

I stood in the presence

Of  God-Sky at morning

Heart open wide

Filled with joy and delight

Transfigured

And still; trying not

To disrupt it,

For God-Sky was

Lifting me

Into the Light

*

I stood on the bridge

In timeless connection.

Turning my back,

Saw my shadow stretch forward,

Beckoning

Urging my feet

To keep walking

As, Backlit by

God-Sky

I went on my way.

©Pamela Stead Jones 2010