Archive for June, 2011

“Light tomorrow with today!”

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Have you ever paid attention to the way the morning sun greets our world?  There are so many things that catch my eye on my early morning walks through town — flowers, birds, clouds, trees — together they provide a daily performance I like to call, “Good Morning, World.”  The cast of characters varies from day to day, week to week, and season to season; but the theme is always the same:  the dark and silent night steps aside and hands the world over to another day filled with promise.

I’ve always loved a good play.  There is something exciting about sitting in the audience and being close enough to become a part of the story being portrayed by the actors.  They draw us in and share parts of themselves that show us not only who they are, but who we are as well.  All of this takes place in a dark theater; and although the actors get the credit at the final curtain call, they would be nothing without the lighting crew. High in the rafters, invisible to the audience, these workers light corners and aim spotlights at just the right moments, using their magic to bring emphasis to parts of the plot as it unfolds.  Without them, we would be straining to hear voices in the darkness and only hearing half of the story.

I thought of this as I walked at sunrise today.  I took my seat in the great theater of my world and watched the sun work his magic.  One golden finger at a time, he reached over the horizon and touched each player in the drama of the new day.  The pine tree turned from gray-green to vibrant yellow-green.  The dewdrops that had waited invisibly began to sparkle.  The muted flowers burst with their true colors as the Midas touch of dawn turned everything to gold.  If you haven’t seen this amazing production, be sure to set your alarm some morning and reserve a seat — it has been held over for eternity due to popular demand.

Light-hearted, I turned toward home; and as I did I thought of the beautiful message in the sunrise spectacular I just had witnessed.  What if each of us carried light with us as we walked each day?  What if we used our own Midas touch to bring light to the dark corners of the world and light them with the colors that hide in the shadows and await the magic of the lighting crew?  In my mind, I become a great eagle.  I soar high above the earth and watch the trails of light wind here and there as each person below blazes a path through the day.  I watch as the world grows lighter and lighter, one golden touch at a time; and my heart soars as well.  There is no excuse for darkness in the world if each of us is willing to shine our own small beacon wherever we go.  We are the lighting crew.  We need no recognition as we illuminate the dark corners.  Touching them with light is reward enough.

“What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”

— Antonie de Saint-Exupery

It isn’t easy to be fifteen.  Do you remember being a teenager?  Do you remember those awkward years when every pimple was a disaster and you were sure that all the other kids would notice how dorky you were?  It was only years later that we realized that while we were worrying about these things, the rest of our classmates were only aware of their own pimples, their own flaws, their own differences.

My sweet granddaughter, Ivy, is fifteen.  As she has moved a notch closer to adulthood this year and left behind some of the things she considers childish, she has been just a tad depressed — partly at moving toward the unknown and partly at leaving the carefree pieces of childhood behind.  Her smiles have been elusive things lately, and she has wandered in a desert, alone and feeling sad.  We know that the desert is not her true home; but there are times when she forgets this.  We know that she will, one day, reach the oasis and celebrate the cool clear water that will wash away the dust and grime of her journey.

What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Yesterday, after dinner, we pulled out the bubble potion and wands our friend, Mary, had sent from the Bubble Fairy.  Within minutes, we saw the well begin to bubble to the surface and send huge orbs of soapy delight soaring through the air.  Before long, my teenage desert-dweller was asking, “Grandma, when this runs out, can we get some more?”

You bet we can, Ivy, and together we will use the bubbles to buoy us up and carry us away to the carefree spirit of childhood that does not need to be left behind.  You will reach the oasis; and when you do, you will discover that an important part of growing up is remembering to hold onto the innocent joy we learned as children — to cultivate the delight in light-hearted fun that lifts us up on joyful bubbles and sends us dancing in the wind.

“Whatever is a reality today, whatever you touch and believe in and that seems real for you today, is going to be — like the reality of yesterday — an illusion tomorrow.”

— Luigi Pirandello

There are millions of possibilities lying all around us each day; and we create our reality by choosing which ones we will notice, pay attention to, and engage.  Suppose that fifty people attend the same picnic.  If someone were to interview them after the party ended, he would likely get fifty different stories about what had happened at the same gathering.  We create our own reality by selecting which of the millions of pieces of life we will make our focus.

Knowing this, we should be very careful not to live vicariously through the experiences of other people.  Certainly, we can grow in understanding by hearing the adventures of others; but if we limit ourselves to only second-hand information, we certainly will miss out on what the experience might have been for us — which parts of it might have drawn us in and captivated us with the excitement of learning about ourselves as we learn about our world.

Some people like to live in the past, retelling stories of wonderful days gone by; but even these treasured experiences become clouded over time, and the details we remember might not be the reality we actually experienced in the moment.  Some people like to live in the future, dreaming of what might happen and spending their days wishing for an ideal tomorrow.  It is good to dream, because dreaming opens our minds to new possibilities and new directions that might encourage us to step out of the ordinary and to grow; but we must not live in our dreams.  Life is to be lived in the present moment; and we must not squander our opportunity to create each moment.

Memories are wonderful.  They remind us of where we have been.  Dreams are essential.  They carry us toward adventure and expand our thinking.  But life is here and now; and we must live each new day with the knowledge we have gained from the past and the vision that pulls us toward tomorrow.  It is in that magical present that past and future collide and creation takes place again and again.  Tomorrow it will be a dim memory, so let’s remember to be alive today.

“One should never count the years — one should instead count one’s interests.  I have kept young trying never to lose my childhood sense of wonderment.  I’m glad I still have a vivid curiosity about the world I live in.”

— Helen Keller

Are you feeling old?  Bored?  Tired?  Stuck in a rut?  Maybe what you need is a good dose of curiosity.  Maybe it’s time to cultivate a new interest and see where it leads.

I remember carefree summer days when I was a child — days filled with exploration and discovery and delight in simple things that were made exciting by the fact that I was doing them for the first time.  The first time I turned over a river rock and discovered a crayfish hiding there, I had to hurry all the way home and back again with a container where I could carry it to show my mother what I had found.  As time passed, it no longer seemed worth the walk to snag a crayfish, and I knew my mom would make me take it back to its watery home; so I began to look for more exciting things.  There were so many other childhood delights — fistfuls of dandelions and wild violets, quarts of tiny wild strawberries — the tart-sweet kind no bigger than the tip of your finger, butterflies and chipmunks and tadpoles and daisies.  There was the day when I discovered how to make a blade of grass whistle by holding it flat between my thumbs and blowing at just the right angle.  There were the lazy, hot days when all the entertainment I needed was to dangle my feet over the edge of a flat stone in the center of the river and let the cool water bathe my toes.

None of these things holds the same excitement it did when I first discovered its existence; but the memory of my delight at discovering new and wonderful things keeps me curious about what might be exciting around the next corner, or even right at my feet.  Sometimes I touch new ideas or read the words of someone who knows how to assemble them in a way that paints a picture so vivid that it opens my eyes to a new way of seeing things.  Sometimes I discover a new taste as I sample food that I’ve not tried before.  Sometimes I am transported to a new feeling as I listen to music or am drawn into a piece of artwork.  I have discovered that the same sense of wonder and newness still is available, so long as I don’t decide that life is humdrum and boring and always the same.

Now when I walk on a summer day, I bring my camera.  Once again, I find myself at the river, trying to capture the creatures that live there and the flowers that bloom; not in a jar or held tight in my fist, but in photos that allow me to bring them home and take a longer look.

We make a mistake when we decide that growing up means leaving the wonder behind.  There is a part of us that we can enjoy, if only we decide to, that will continue to take us to new and exciting places in a universe of infinite possibilities.  Cultivate it today!  Use your sense of wonder and see where it might lead you.  But remember, the crayfish are not happy in jars — they want you to visit them and then let them go home.

“The truth is always exciting.  Speak it, then.  Life is dull without it.”

— Pearl S. Buck

Do you speak your truth?  It is easy to fall into a pattern of remaining silent and keeping the truth to ourselves.  It is easy to become bored with our own voices when the occasion arises to speak from our heart — from our conviction — and be sure that the truth is given a chance to be heard.  Do you remember the moment when you first connected with something you know now to be true?  It is truth that directs our lives; and in order for us to arrive at what is true, we often need to hear many ideas expressed by many people.

Think about the time you first were awakened to a truth.  Think about the excitement you felt as you were filled with conviction and perhaps a change of direction in the way you live your life.  Now imagine that your voice could carry the truth that might awaken another person and excite them and help them to find their way.

We must remember that re-telling the truth is an important thing.  The truths we speak touch that place in others that resonates with the truth we are born to know.  It is our responsibility to speak truth, if only to remind ourselves that it matters; for in the end, it is truth, like love, that binds us to our fellow travelers and reminds us we are not alone.

“The only work that will ultimately bring any good to any of us is the work of contributing to the healing of the world.”

— Marianne Williamson

Today will be an exciting day.  Today, in addition to spending some weekend time on projects and with my family, I will go for a couple of hours to meet with a special circle of friends — healers — to share our stories, our energies, and our commitment.  We all come from different places.  We have different occupations, different lifestyles, different religious views.  What brings us together is that we also have made a commitment to be a part of healing the world.

This sounds like a big job, I know; and I am not here today to tell you that I will be wrapping up this work between the hours of 1:00 and 3:oo PM.  Still, I will go, with the intention of healing and of being healed.  There is a great deal of pain and suffering and discord in the world, and it will take a great deal of comfort and healing and peace-making to turn it all around.  We can heal the world; but it is going to take the work and the desire of every individual on Earth to, first, be healed and second, to share that healing with another.

You don’t need particular tools to join our circle of healers.  Every time you take a position that aligns your energy with the energies of love, not hate; peace, not discord; light, not darkness, you become a part of the universal energy that creates rather than destroys.  Each bridge we build, each word of hope we speak, each comforting touch of our healing hands on another’s pain, brings our world closer to reconciliation.  It seems like an insurmountable task, I know; but I think it is like eating an elephant.   Do you know how to eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  No task is insurmountable if we just keep doing the small things that ultimately lead to its completion.

Whatever it is that you do, whoever it is that you are, give it a try.  Become someone who does whatever you do in ways that bring healing to the world.  Together, we can eat the elephant.

“Nothing is more powerful than an individual acting out of his conscience, thus helping to bring the collective conscience to life.”

— Norman Cousins

As you navigate the river of life, do you float along and go with the flow, or are there times when you turn with purpose and swim upstream?  There is nothing wrong with being a part of the harmonious flow of life.  It is good to get along with others and share the trip with our fellow swimmers.  It is good to float and let the river carry us along; but there are times when our conscience intervenes ; and we find ourselves turning to face the current and alter the direction we will go.

You know the times I’m talking about — times when the majority rules at the expense of another person’s dignity.  Times when an innocent victim is bullied by those who outnumber him as they disagree with what he believes or who he is.  These situations present themselves all the time.  What do we do when we feel the tug of conscience in a moment where turning to swim upstream may mean that we also become members of the minority and risk taking on their suffering?

As social animals, we don’t like to make waves.  We have a desire to fit in with the group and be accepted.  It takes courage to stand on our convictions and call into question the collective belief of the majority.  I realize as I write today that the opportunities we have to act out of conscience are powerful.  They must be, because I remember these occasions vividly — the ones when I stood in opposition to wrong, and the ones when I pushed aside my conscience and remained silent, thus joining the group that caused pain to someone else.  The times when my silence became tacit approval haunt me, because I truly do know better and truly do wish for a world where we love and care for one another rather than victimizing those who disagree with us.  The times when I found the courage to alter my course are vivid memories, because we hold dear the memories of times when we allow Truth to rise in triumph over our insecurity and need to be accepted.

The courage of conviction, the turning in opposition to the flow of the majority, is a powerful act.  We must remember that human beings are social beings; and we all desire the feeling of fitting in with others.  We also must remember that each of us has a conscience.  Sometimes all it takes is one person to speak the conscience of many who cannot find the heart to take the first step.  When an act of Truth and conviction stands in contrast to the wrongs that are being done, it can awaken the sleeping conscience of others.  Soon, with arms linked for support and strength, a new group can stretch across the river and slow the current.  When Truth pours out, the flow of even the wildest current can be diverted.  It is then that humanity shines at our best.  It is then that our collective conscience carries us in the direction we truly want to travel.

“Bad things are not the worst things that can happen to us.  ‘Nothing’ is the worst thing that can happen to us.”

— Richard Bach

We can learn a lot from happy times.  We can discover in them many things that make our hearts sing the song that we, alone, were born to sing.  Happy is fun.  Happy is easy.  We all like it when things go smoothly and challenges are few.  It is easy to forget, when times are more difficult, that there are worse things than challenges.

Can you imagine how boring life would be if we lived in protective bubbles that kept us separate from any parts of life that might stretch us beyond things that are easy and fun?  How would we grow to become more than we believe we are?  In each of our lives there are periods of smooth sailing and periods of rough seas.  When we are tossed by the waves, it is not uncommon to find that we’re feeling just a bit seasick; but as we adjust to the rolling of the ocean, we find that we become able to stand, in spite of the different motion.  We learn to plant our feet and roll with the waves; and in discovering our ability to navigate through problems, we find that there are other songs we were born to sing — songs of triumph and strength and overcoming obstacles.  As these new melodies merge their  harmonies with our songs of smooth sailing, they add depth and beauty to the symphony that lies inside each of us and waits to be liberated as we become who we are.

We should be thankful for all the wonderful things that remind us to be alive — the happy ones and the sad ones; the easy ones and the difficult ones.  Without them, we would be empty.  With them, we have the potential to become complete.

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.”

— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I’ve had many conversations recently with people who are unhappy with their lives.  Being unhappy is serious business, and it consumes a lot of energy.  Often these conversations become confrontational as I am both asked and accused at the same time, ‘how can you be so happy?”  This is a very good question; because there are things that happen each day in my life, just as they do in yours, that make me angry, sad, afraid, and discouraged.  I have been answering that I have decided to be happy — that it is a choice, just as it is a choice to focus on being miserable.  When I made the choice to be happy, I knew it would take commitment, considering all the twists and turns of life that might make me want to sink into despair.

What surprised me was discovering that it took no more energy to work at happiness than it had to hold onto misery.  What seemed like a difficult choice turned out to be just as easy as wallowing in my gloom and self-pity; but if someone had tried to tell me that before I decided to alter my perspective, I would have laughed my most cynical laugh and told them they were crazy.  I would have said the same things to them that people say to me when they become annoyed by my optimism.

After reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s words, I think I may change my description of choosing to be happy.  I think that she hits the nail on the head when she differentiates between happiness and joy; and I realize that the decision I made had far more to do with recognizing my own joy than with being happy.  Happiness, the feeling, truly is dependent upon the circumstances of life.  It comes and it goes along with a whole array of emotions that are part of our human condition.  Joy, however, is also a part of who we are created to be.  It dwells deep within us in the place called “soul;” and when we are in touch with the part of us that life cannot bruise, we can let our joy bubble to the surface and touch the circumstances of life.  When this happens, transformation can occur — transformation that alters our perspective and allows us to meet sadness with comfort, anger with reconciliation, darkness with Light.

Thanks to Anne Morrow Lindbergh, I will now carry with me the image of a tiny flower springing from a craggy cliff deep in my soul.  I will remember that a tiny piece of joy can change my whole view of the rocky cliff and transform it into a thing of beauty.

“Whatever is dreamed on this night will come to pass.”

— William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

For weeks, I have been looking forward to the start of Summer.  The school year had lost its luster, and I could tell that my teenager had reached her melting point.  The rains of Spring had given way to the musky smell of rich soil and the ever-growing green of lawn and garden.  It was too hot and humid to stay indoors and too damp and moldy to be outside.  Spring, like the school year, had gone on past its prime.  It was time for Mother Nature to commit to Summer.

Maybe it was the last half-day of school yesterday that pushed me over the edge.  I was restless all day, my schedule disrupted by departures and arrivals that seemed to leave no time in between to feel accomplished at anything.  Perhaps it was knowing that today I could reclaim my early-morning walks and return to the pre-sun world that I love so dearly.  I realized last Fall, as school was about to begin, that the earlier departure of the high school bus would change the rhythm of my mornings.  I would be waking my granddaughter and spending some breakfast-time with her before her day began.

It has been good to see the world at a slightly later time; but the reason it has been good is that I know more certainly than ever just how much I love my sunrise walks.  Last night I snuggled into bed, knowing that the morning would once again be my own.  I slept a sleep filled with wonderful dreams of my favorite morning spots, knowing that when I popped out of bed this morning I would be free to lace up my sneakers and head out to the quiet, magical world before morning commutes and noisy folks — the time when only the birds and I sing the sun into waking.

At last my dreams gave way to morning.  I slipped silently into my jeans and sneakers, not wanting to disturb my sleeping family, grabbed a t-shirt, and headed for the door.  What would my walk bring today?  Would all my midsummer night’s dreams come true?  A solitary car came rolling by, and I heard it — the unmistakable whoosh of tires on water.  Rain?  This was not in my plan.  I don’t recall any rain in my dreams of renewal and restoration; yet it was undeniably true —  my whole world was wet.  I began to close the door, resigned to waiting one more day for new beginnings.  I would spend the longest day of the year doing other things.

Just as the latch began to fall, I reversed my motion and pulled the door wide open.  With a deep breath and a great deal of determination, I stepped off the porch into the gentle morning rain and felt the squish, squish of my sneakers on the sidewalk beneath my feet.  My glasses began to turn spotty, and I laughed out loud as I turned my face toward the sky and let the rain have its way.  ‘Go ahead,’ I thought, ‘give it your best shot,’ and the first sweet rain of summer washed away all the waiting, all the longing, all the mold and pollen of Spring.  As I danced through the raindrops, I heard a familiar sound — it was my own heart, drumming out the song of Summer at the start of the longest day of the year.  If this is the beginning, I can only imagine that by the time night falls, all my solstice dreams will have come true.