Archive for May, 2011

After the Rain

The whole world

Sparkles;

Colors spill

From Sky to tree

To blossom bright,

Blending, merging,

Sweet delight.

From rainbow heavens

Floating down,

Awakening

The sleeping ground.

My spirit leaps

My heart takes wing,

Sunrise dances,

Dewdrops sing.

© Pamela Stead Jones 2011

“The three great elemental sounds in nature are the sound of rain, the sound of wind in a primeval wood, and the sound of outer ocean on a beach.”

— Henry Beston

It’s raining.  Again.  More accurately, it is still raining.  We missed the launch window a week ago when we could have mowed a dry lawn; and the small window of opportunity to cut it while no rain was falling left a 30 by 50-foot patch out back that resembles a mohawk — clean-shaven on the sides and long in the middle.  I have been out of touch with the great elemental sound of rain since it has been replaced by the desperate whimpering of a housebound puppy who misses his lingering walks through the park.  In quiet moments, I have checked the creases of my elbows and knees to assure that no mold is growing there.  Vague memories of warm, sunny days drift through my mind, but before long they are replaced by the harsh reality that the rain continues to fall.

Unable to be contained by the weather for another minute, I decided to cook dinner on the grill last night.  It is nicely protected by the open porch on the side of our house, so I knew I would be grilling rather than steaming.  Just as I put the food on the grate, there was a downpour of rain.  I closed my eyes and listened to the way it danced on the street, the leaves, the grass, and the roof over my head.  I smelled its fresh, clean aroma as every speck of dust and pollen was washed away from every surface.  Suddenly, as quickly as it had begun, the shower passed and there was a break between clouds that allowed a bit of sunlight to shine on the sparkling, wet world below.  I could almost hear the plants sighing as the moment of warmth drew their leaves upward and let the raindrops spill from their branches to the ground.  The kiwi vine that grows on the side of the house has been sending out new growth in preparation for its flowering season.  As it swayed and sighed in the breeze, something marvelous caught my eye.  There, on the new shoots of the kiwi vine, the rain had created a beautiful string of pearls; and they glistened in the late afternoon light.

In an instant, all the thoughts of mold and confinement and housebound puppies became insignificant.  All I could think of was t he way the blessed water falls on the dry earth until it overflows every spot it touches.  How on earth could I ever feel cranky about rain?

I close my eyes again this morning and listen to the great elemental sound of the rain falling all around.  In the beating of my heart, I hear another great elemental sound — the sound of gratitude, overflowing like the rain, and washing away the dust from every corner of my soul.

“All men dream: but not equally.  Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

— T.E. Lawrence

This morning was a rare one.  Each night, I set an alarm for 5:30 AM.  Most mornings, I awaken to see 5:00 on my clock and turn off the alarm before it ever sounds.  It’s a great thing to be a morning person and be ready to leave my bed behind when the day demands my attention.  Today was one of those that comes along once a year or less.  Today it was the insistent beeping of the alarm that awoke me.  I wanted to turn over and go back to sleep, not because I was still tired, but because I felt the need to finish a dream.

Unfinished dreams can send me into the day feeling half-baked, as though I am forgetting something important.  I shook off the feeling of wanting to linger and forged ahead toward the morning.  Now I have no idea what that unfinished dream was about.  Maybe I will find myself back in its familiarity tonight.  Sometimes my dreams offer chances to work on problems that challenge me during my waking life.  Sometimes, without even remembering that I have dreamed, I awaken with a solution that escaped me in the daylight.

Lawrence calls our dreams vanity.  I think they may be connected to the dangerous dreaming that we pursue when awake.  Perhaps the dreams of our sleep state are dress rehearsals for the sort of dreaming we dare to do when awake.  Lawrence calls daytime dreams “dangerous;” because, unlike the innocuous dreams of night, they have the ability to impact the world we live in.  I prefer “powerful” to dangerous, because I think we have the ability to add intention to our dreams and use them to change our reality.

Pay attention to your dreams — the ones you visit when you sleep.  Look carefully at them and ask yourself whether they take you to places worth going, places you don’t visit when you are awake.  Ask yourself whether your dreams should become a part of your waking life.  When we add intention to the dreams we hold, we have the power to bring change to our world.  Some might call this dangerous, but I call it transformational.  Dream dangerously!

“When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.”

— Chinese Proverb

What do you do with your pennies?  Some people consider them obsolete and say that we should no longer mint coins of such insignificant value.  Many of them lie in gutters and on sidewalks and rattle around in the change trays of our cars.  What do you do with yours?

The Chinese proverb says that when you have only two pennies left in the world, one should be used for food and the other for a lily — one for practical matters, and one for beauty.  Buying a lily is one way of embracing beauty.  Giving to a cause that promotes beauty for someone else is another way.  How much beauty do you suppose we could create if we simply gathered up all the meaningless pennies that clutter our lives and filled the charity collection jars until they overflowed?  How many people whose lives cry out for something beautiful could have their needs met by small acts of kindness that come together and create large miracles?

Our family has seen, first-hand, how the kindness and generosity of strangers can impact the lives of people they never will know.  Ronald McDonald House and Easter Seals have been a part of our family’s life since the birth of our sweet Cheyenne four years ago.  The care and comfort they have brought to her and to her parents has shown us the importance of every single penny that lands in every single collection box — the ones we used to walk past and not even notice.  It has been four years since I have passed people collecting for any group that offers hope without leaving a dollar behind.  I am not a wealthy woman, but I have seen first-hand how the smallest acts accumulate to create miracles — and I would like to be a part of that.

In just two days, Cheyenne and her family will board a plane that will take them to the place where a little girl’s wish will come true.  The Make A Wish organization has arranged to send them on a fantasy vacation to Walt Disney World.  To some of us, such a trip sounds like an often-repeated vacation.  To Cheyenne, this will be a visit to a land inhabited by lifelong friends — the beloved characters from the Disney movies that have entertained her through many hospital stays and recovery periods.  She will put on her Cinderella dress and finally meet the real princesses she knows so well.  Mickey and Minnie will be there, too; and Donald, and Goofy, and a whole world of fun and fantasy that our little one cannot even imagine — and it will be provided without cost.

Already there are some packed suitcases lined up at Chey’s house.  It takes a lot of pink and purple wardrobe to get two little princesses — Chey and her little sister, Harper — through a whole week of travel.  There will be medical supplies to pack as well, and it will require our van to deliver the kids to the airport.  When I wish upon a star tonight, my wish will be that the worry and the extreme parenting and the very scheduled lifestyle that takes so much time and energy will take a backseat to the wonder, the magic, and the delight of a wish fulfilled — just for one week.

When I feel the excitement that is brewing for my son and his family, I am filled with gratitude.  That gratitude belongs to every single person who has ever dropped a penny or a quarter into a collection jar.  It belongs to every person who has donated frequent flyer miles so that families like ours will have transportation to the places where their wishes come true.  It belongs to the restaurants, the fundraising efforts, the corporations, and the wonderful folks at Make a Wish who pull it all together and make dreams come alive.

There is no way I can repay these generous people, but I can pay it forward.  Two weeks ago we were out of town for a basketball tournament with our teenager.  At lunchtime, we popped into a Panera Bread restaurant for a quick bite to eat.  There on the counter was a collection box for Make a Wish.  It just filled me with warm delight to see it there, and I fished in my handbag for the cash I keep for just such occasions.  I’ve seen boxes at Perkins Restaurant, too; and I am struck by the miraculous way these small efforts add up to huge blessings for some kids who need to have a wish come true.

So, here’s the challenge.  Gather up your pennies.  Be sure to buy yourself some food; but don’t forget to buy a lily or two and bring some beauty to the world.  Better yet, when you see that collection box, have water with your meal.  Skip the coffee or soda, and fold a couple of bills to add a little green to the contents.  You will never miss that beverage, and it will make someone’s wish come true.  No lily was ever that beautiful.


“We must laugh before we are happy, for fear we die before we laugh at all.”

— Jean de La Fontaine

Fake it ’til you make it.  There was a time in my life when I thought this meant being phony and denying who I really was.  I thought that people who faked their way through life were dishonest, with themselves and with me.  Why, then, did I find myself advising someone I love to “fake it ’til you make it?”

Have you ever felt really conflicted about what to do when you face uncertainty and change?  When the change involves something that you really love or something that you really aspire to, that’s the time to fake it ’til you make it.

There is a very good reason for this kind of faking it.  When we feel stressed over something that we know makes us happy, if we choose happy behavior in the midst of the stress, we can rekindle the energy of happiness that we associate with the activity we love.  It is far too easy, when life becomes overwhelming, to allow stress to spill over into areas that should feed our souls.  When this happens, we can find ourselves stumbling through life and feeling defeated.  Even the things that have brought us joy in the past seem to rob us of our energy, and we begin to see them as stress-producing rather than enjoyable.

Fake it ’til you make it can be a great asset in these situations.  If we look around us at the other people who are enjoying what they do, if we make the effort to be a part — not only physically, but also emotionally — we soon discover that our behavior is not fake at all.  When we invest in the energy of enjoying life, that same sort of energy comes back to us.  Before long, we are feeling energized again, and the depleted feeling is gone.

Fake it ’til you make it.  Good advice.  Truly, we must laugh before we are happy.  Happiness is a choice.  We are the ones who make it happen.  It is no accident.  Fake it ’til you make it happen.

“The most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children.”

— Jim Henson

I do believe that it is fitting that Jim Henson should share his birthday with Terri St. Cloud.  I think his inner child would have loved to meet hers at the playground and find a spot under the slide where they could talk about their dreams.  Dreaming is one of the things ter does best; and what makes her truly special is the way she shares those dreams with others and awakens the dreamers in them as well.

I was trying to remember when it was that I first met terri; and then I found myself laughing right out loud, because I realized that I never have met her.  That is, I haven’t met her in person — face-to-face — but we have been friends — heart-to-heart — for about a year and a half.  (Really?  Only 18 months?  That seems impossible!)  I was introduced to terri by her children.  No, I don’t mean her three sons, who also seem like old friends.  I am talking about the children she gives birth to with brush and pen — her Bone Sighs.

I had gone to visit my brother in Shepherdstown, WV, and we were exploring the lovely little shops that line German Street.  We strolled into one called On The Wings of Dreams; and as I meandered toward the book section, I heard it.  “Psst!  Over here!”  It was the color that first caught my eye, but it was the words that touched my soul.  I had no cash with me to make a purchase, so I pulled a scrap of paper out of my pocket and scribbled the web address so I could have another look when I got home.  I signed up for terri’s daily bone sigh email and began enjoying the anticipation of their arrival each morning.  On September 8, 2009, I awoke to this one:

they plowed down her trees and she wept.
they forgot to take the sky tho.
the clouds became her refuge.

~terri st. cloud

That’s it, I thought.  It’s one thing to be an inspiration, but it’s another thing entirely to go peeking in people’s windows.  I simply had to respond; and so began the conversation that continues to this day.  Isn’t it funny how people we touch with our hands are not always the people who touch our truth?  For eighteen months I have had the pleasure of watching this sister of mine overflow with the love, the compassion, the creativity, the playfulness, and the deep and soul-searing connections that she forges with her world.  We have laughed, we have cried, we have held each other close when a hug was needed.

Today we celebrate!  We celebrate life — terri’s life — and honor the 50 years she has walked the planet. I welcome my younger sister to the second half of her life — the one where dreams grow even stronger, where they mellow and ripen with age, where they become more and more sweet.  I celebrate the sort of friendship that is marked by 18 months on a calendar but transcends the limitations of time and space.  Only fifty years?  Gee, ter…it seems like I’ve known you forever.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR TERRI!!!

it called to me

a splash of color

some well-chosen words.

it touched my soul

and opened my heart

and called me to play,

grabbing my threads

and weaving them in.

a marvelous thing

was woven that day.

friendship.


“A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.”

— Donna Roberts

What a blessing it is to have friends.   There is something about a friend that sets her apart from the many other people we meet or know or rub elbows with as we live each day. Although we may enjoy the company of many people, and although it is a great adventure to meet all the different sorts of folks who are part of our world, there is something startling and familiar about meeting a true friend that sets our heart dancing and kindles the flame in our soul.

If I had to define the word, “friend,” I would say that a friend is someone whose love touches us so gently that we feel free to open our hearts in such a way that the song there sings sweetly, knowing that it will be heard and understood and respected and treasured.  It is a joyful thing to meet a true friend.  When hearts connect in friendship, we not only get to play our own music, but we get to hear the heart song of another.  When hearts sing freely, the melodious connection is a beautiful thing to hear.

A friend does not only listen.  She feels the music of the soul that lies beneath the song of your heart.  She revels in its beauty and remembers the notes.  Without words, on days when you feel out of tune, she sings back your own melody and reminds you of who you are.  How many heartsongs have you learned in your lifetime?  If you know the song of even one other heart, you are truly blessed.  If you are able to play your own song in its entirety to even one other person, then you know the joy of friendship.  Hold it gently.  Cup your hands around it and don’t hold tight.  There is no need to contain the joy of friendship.  It dances lightly and kisses the palms of your hands.  It tickles the tips of your fingers as it plays its song.  It touches your heart as it sings its beauty.  It leaves behind its melody, and whenever you find yourself humming it, you can’t help but smile.  A true friend is a treasure.  She knows the song in your heart, and she knows how to sing it back to you at just the right moment.

“A drop of rain maketh a hole in the stone, not by violence, but by oft falling.”

— Hugh Latimer

Last evening my sweetheart and I spent some time at our son’s house, helping to set up canopies and umbrellas in the backyard.  Our granddaughter’s fourth birthday party is today, and showers are in the forecast.  We fervently hope that placing protective devices all around will chase the raindrops away; but however the weather turns out, we will be prepared to stay dry and have some fun.  During our work time, three little girlies pilfered tools, tried to help, and generally ran through the  yard, fueled by the sort of excitement generated by all the signs of the coming party.  Their other grandma was in charge of the girls while both their mothers worked, and the oldest cousin kept asking her grandmother for things that simply could not happen during such a busy time.  “Can we get wet in the puddle?”  “No, not now.”  “Please….”  “No.”  “PLEASE!!!”  “No.”  “PLEEEAAASSSSEEEE!” I am sure that any parent in the group recognizes this scenario.  How many of us have invested tons of energy in teaching our young children that whining will get them nowhere, that “no means no,” that it is not polite to keep asking again and again?

Now I pause for a moment and try to think of this scenario from the child’s point of view.  I ask myself how long it has been since the idea of splashing in a puddle was exciting enough that I would risk getting into trouble for asking a sixth or seventh time.  It is good to learn that the loudest and whiniest voice does not necessarily win the argument, but I am not so sure that we want to destroy the passion behind it.  Rather, we might want to grow this sort of persistence and teach an appropriate way to express it to others.  “Can we get wet in the puddle?”  “No, not now.”  “Please…”  “I can see that you really love the idea of splashing in a puddle!”  “Yes, I do.”  “Well, now is not a good time for splashing.  We are working here.”  “Please!!!”  “You really do want to get wet, don’t you? I can’t say yes today, but will you ask me again when the party is over?”  “Yes.  Will you say yes later?”  “Maybe.”

It is a good thing to learn how to be the drop of water landing on the stone.  It is a good thing to learn that the drop does not need to be shot from a pressure hose at an alarming rate of speed in order to do its job.  Puddle jumping can be fun — just ask any six-year-old — but it is important to develop a sense of timing when negotiating with others.  It is important to cultivate patience when we are asking others to come around to our way of thinking.  If we express ourselves in quiet and non-violent ways, even the hardest stone can soon be transformed by our persistent effort.  Suppose we brought the same passion and enthusiasm to being love and to expressing kindness that we once felt on a warm evening when we really wanted to jump in a puddle?  If we use our persistence in bringing important things to everyone we meet, we can bring transformation to our world.  Even the toughest stone soon gives way to the persistent and gentle touch of a drop of rain — if it falls often enough.

“I dare you, who think life is humdrum, to become involved.  I dare you who are weak to become strong; you who are dull to be sparkling; you who are slaves to be kings.”

— William Danforth

The older I get, the more I truly believe that life is what we choose to make it.  We can choose to take advantage of each new day, or we can become bored with the sameness of life.  If our lives seem routine, maybe we need to look at what we bring to the day we have been given.  In the midst of the most repetitive routines, we can always find something different and exciting if we take the time to look.  It is not the routine that needs to change.  It is the attitude we bring which defines how we view our life.  It is a choice.

When we assume that life is something that just happens to us, it is easy to feel swept away by the neverending demands on our minds, our bodies, and our spirits.  We grow weak and tired and listless as we are swept along in the current of a river that just washes us downstream and drops us where it will.  There is no need to be swept away by life.  We can choose, instead, to look with wonder at the energy of the river and join our own energy with its current.  Then, as we join forces with its raging flow, we find ourselves strong enough to direct where we are headed.  We can use the power of the river to propel us toward places we long to go.

When we join forces with the energy, we find that our dull and listless demeanor begins to take on a radiance.  We can sparkle if we dare to.  It is a choice.  And once we truly make choices about our own existence, we find that we are no longer slaves to a dull and demanding life.  Instead we become sovereign rulers of our own domain — kings and queens who rule our lives with dignity and love.  When we dare to choose this abundant sort of life, it is only natural that it will spill over on everyone we meet.  It is the choosing — the inner knowing that the life we live each day will bring us not only sustenance, but abundance — that teaches us to dare, again and again, to make our own dreams come true.

“I dare you, whoever you are, to share with others the fruits of your daring.  Catch a passion for helping others, and a richer life will come back to you.”

— William Danforth

Choose today to live the abundant life that lies all around you and just begs to be seen — begs to be lived.  I dare you.

“The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you the world is transformed.”

— Jiddu Krishnamurti

I am feeling a little out of breath as I sit down to write today.  My morning walk still lies ahead, so it is not from that exertion.  A little while ago I was in my kitchen, performing my  morning routine of packing lunches and preparing for the day, when a bit of color in the sky caught my eye.  What I saw when i looked outside was a marvelous cloud formation moving across the rising sun and creating a breathtaking start to the day.  I hurried through my morning tasks and ran across the backyard with camera in hand to capture the loveliness of the dawning of a brand new day.  It has been nearly six years since I made a decisive choice to be happy — to be love for the world wherever I walked — and after all that time, I am still a sucker for a sunrise.

For so many years, I stumbled through life feeling as though I had nothing to give, no power to change all the sadness and darkness that seemed to cover the earth.  I can’t put my finger on the moment when it all changed; but I can say that simply by acknowledging the love and light that had been in my heart all the time, and by allowing it to shine as I made my way through life, I opened my eyes each morning to a world that was transformed from a place of darkness to one of beauty and light.

I wish I could tell you that this change was easy.  I wish I could tell you that it happened in an instant.  The truth is that un-burying the love after years of collecting the debris that kept it hidden was a slow and sometimes painful process.  I had covered the love and light in my heart with many accumulated beliefs about my inadequacy and ineffectiveness.  In order to liberate the love, I needed to clean house.  I’m not sure why, but I discovered that it was not an easy thing to let go of the familiar assumptions that dragged me down and to trust that what remained would be something better.  I think at this moment of the TV programs about extreme hoarders.  Just like the people they feature, we are buried in piles of things we have collected, with all good intentions, until one day we awake to the realization that we no longer can find ourselves under the debris.  We are creatures of habit; and it is not easy to change the things that keep us from being who we truly can be.  Cleaning house and changing our old ways requires more than a small effort — it requires true transformation.

Another thing I began doing during my own time of transformation was taking pictures of all the beauty in the natural world.  What I saw again and again was that in order for beauty to be born, something that already existed had to die.  Over time, and through many repetitions, I saw that the love in the universe was reliable and that leaving something behind was more than just a loss — it was an opportunity to let something new in that brought a different sort of beauty to replace what was lost.  What we forget is the part where we set something down, with love, and free our arms to embrace the newness that comes our way.

Some of my favorite photographic subjects are butterflies.  Maybe I love them so much because I spent so many years as a caterpillar.  I was a great caterpillar.  I embraced my crawl through the world and loved the way my hundred feet moved in coordination to get me where I needed to go.  I was an efficient caterpillar and led a perfectly stellar caterpillar life; but caterpillars are not meant to remain caterpillars — they are destined to become butterflies.  It was a sad and solemn day when I left my hundred legs behind and crawled into my contemplative cocoon, not knowing who I would be when I emerged — if I emerged at all.  It was there, deep inside my own cocoon with only my own heart beating, that I rediscovered the love.  Now, when I awake each morning, I shake the dust of night off of my colorful wings and let them shine with all the light of all the love in my fluttering heart.  With great excitement, I accept the gift of another day waiting for love, and take flight.  I am still a sucker for a sunrise.