For the Beauty of the Earth


Austrian poet, Ranier Maria Rilke, put it this way:

“Spring has returned.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”

Olympic runner, Doug Larson said:

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”

The first robin, harbinger of Spring, appeared in my yard the last day of winter.

At 2:35AM EST, Spring sprang officially onto our calendars.  I lay awake from 2:00 until almost 3:00 this morning, probably because I knew the moment was coming; and part of me wanted to know what it felt like.  I like to think about the balance that occurs at the equinoxes, when night and day share equally in the 24 hours, when the earth’s axis sits straight and there might just be a momentary pause when our world is harmonious, even, and true.  As I lay in the darkness of 2:35AM, I imagined myself suspended on an invisible hammock, its four corners being held up by the four directions of the compass.  I took a deep breath and lay there completely still, completely balanced, on a totally level and invisible plane of energy — only for a moment.  It was as though I had landed there with the last snow of winter and paused between seasons for only as long as I could hold my breath.  As I exhaled, the plane tilted ever so slightly and sent me tumbling into Spring.  It’s like that with the cycles and seasons of life.  One second we’re ascending the hillside that leads from darkness into light, and the next second we find ourselves at a resting point that marks our next ascent from Spring into Summer.  The moment of breathing one season in and exhaling another is dear to me, because it offers the chance to say goodbye to the past in the same instant we greet the new present and move on toward our future.  As we mark the equinox, I will cherish the time to hold all three in my awareness at the same instant — the past, the present, and the life that lies ahead.

“Natural beauty is essentially temporary and sad; hence the impression of obscene mockery which artificial flowers give us.”

— John Updike

I have no real distaste for artificial flowers; in fact, if I glance toward my top shelf, I see the ones that lay across our wedding cake, looking exactly the same as they did on the day we were married.  Their mauve color fits nicely in the antique carnival glass vase that belonged to Mark’s grandmother.  I love to look at them, because they remind me of the day we committed to each other and they remind me of Grandma, whose spirit lives on in our memories.

I suppose that’s how I feel about artificial flowers — they are memories of frozen moments in time that still look exactly the same after so many years.  They are nice to have when they’re tucked in a special place on my shelf and in my heart.  Without the memory attached, my artificial flowers would have no lasting appeal.

Now I turn my thoughts to real flowers, the kind that grow for a season, fill us with their beauty, and then decay and die.  Updike was right when he says they are both temporary and sad.  They teach us the value of the moment.  As I walked through the park this morning, I saw buds everywhere I looked.  Spring is such an exciting time, because the world changes from day to day, from hour to hour, even from minute to minute.  I love the buds because they remind me of potential — of something special and new that excites me as I anticipate the day they will open and reveal their full splendor.  I will love the flowers that burst from the buds, because they will fill my day with color and fragrance that bring joy to the world.  I will love the spent flowers as they relinquish their moment so that the plants can use their energy for growth and renewal that will bring us more flowers in coming years.

Maybe when Updike called artificial flowers an “obscene mockery,” he was touching on the way that being stuck in one moment can deprive us of living fully.  If there is something blocking our path so that we miss the new moments that lie ahead, any beauty it might hold could be seen as a mockery compared to being fully alive.

Then I thought about letting go.  Suppose I love the buds of today so much that I want to hold them forever.  Suppose that when nature moves on to the blooming flower, my heart is still full of buds and allows no room for the momentary beauty that soon will be gone.  I thought about the way that we clutter our hearts with past experiences that keep us frozen in a moment that should exist only in memory.  I pictured myself walking through life and gathering each armload of flowers that came my way, but never feeling free to lay them down and return them to the Earth when their time was done.  My arms would soon grow tired and full; and there would be no room left for the beauty of the coming moment.

The Earth teaches us how to live our lives, about cycles and seasons and holding tight and letting go.  May I come to each new moment unencumbered and with my arms wide open.  May I embrace each moment and revel in its beauty.  May I have the wisdom to let go and the faith to know that the ever-changing experience of living will bring another beautiful armload of life as soon as I am willing to accept it.

Today marks the birthday of Albert Einstein, a man whose intellect is legendary and whose contributions to science have shaped the ways we think about our world.  March 14 (3.14) also is Pi Day, a day to celebrate the mathematical constant that helps us define a circle.  It was first celebrated in San Francisco in 1988 when people walked in a circle and then consumed fruit pie.  I know what you’re thinking — any excuse for eating pie has to be a good thing!  So celebrate today — Einstein and Pi.  How appropriate that they should share the day.

If Einstein were alive today, he would be 131 years old.  Can we even begin to imagine how differently we might view our world if he had continued to bring his curiosity, intellect, and passion to us for another fifty-five years?  When he wasn’t  doing science, or maybe it was while he was doing science, Albert Einstein gave a great deal of thought to the limitless potential of life and of the world around him.  He valued imagination, vision, compassion, and giving.  The mind of the man was only a tiny part of the enormity of his persona.  Einstein once said:

“We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us.”

Wow.  If this remarkable man with the unbelievable intellect thinks that his experience is only one thousandth of one percent, can we even begin to fathom the limitless universe we live in?  In honor of Einstein’s birthday, and of Pi — which allows us to understand something as beautiful as a circle, I say let’s tear down a wall or two and see what lies beyond the limits we accept as true.  And don’t forget the pie — make mine pizza!

Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with Beauty?

After my last post on exactly that subject, I had the delight of participating in a drum circle with some wise women — and the topic was just that, Beauty.  To be honest, it was the upcoming event that directed my thoughts to the subject, and for that I am thankful.  It has been a nice place — a beautiful one — to spend a couple of days.  We drummed our unity, our harmony, and our femininity.  We heard words about beauty and added our own.  We spoke of the beauty in nature and the intrinsic beauty in our own souls.

When I read Einstein’s words — one thousandth of one percent — and I thought of what he said as it related to beauty, I was overwhelmed with the realization that if we all are connected at soul level to all of creation, and if each of us carries the essence of Truth that called us into being, that we carry immeasurable beauty in each one of us; and it is our delight and our duty to reflect that beauty for all the universe to see.  I challenged you yesterday to think about what beauty you would bring to the world each day.  If you are a woman, I would like to share with you a unique opportunity we have that was brought to light by one of the beautiful women at yesterday’s circle.  It is about mothers; but it really is about any woman who feels the passion for the beauty in her world and lets it overflow as a legacy for the next generation.

Beauty’s Legacy

It began

The first time

My Mother

Said, “Look!”

It’s pretty;

And Pretty

Embedded itself

Inside my own soul

In the spot

I call Beauty.

· · · · · · ·

And the door

Once flung wide

Stands ajar

As my senses

See color

Hear laughter

Feel breezes

Taste snowflakes

Take in the aromas

Of Spring.

· · · · · · ·

I pick up my thread;

Weave a color

a sound

a sensation

That spreads

my soul’s tapestry,

Sparkling

And fragrant.

Depicting the dance

Of my Truth.

· · · · · · ·

I turn to

My daughter

Say, “Look!”

It’s pretty;

And, sharing

my threads,

Watch her, too,

Begin weaving.

The Truth that lies

Deep in her soul

· · · · · · ·

Her door,

Once flung wide,

Stands ajar

And it beckons

And calls her

To Beauty.

She nestles in close,

And our hearts beat as one

As we rock

In the arms of the sea.

©Pamela Stead Jones 2o10

As we think of our daughters and think of our mothers and our grandmothers and their grandmothers, let us ask ourselves again, what beauty will we weave in our world today?

What a dreary morning!  We awoke today to one of those mornings where the temperature outside is just a hair above freezing and the drizzle that falls can’t decide whether to create an icy sidewalk or melt the lingering snow.  ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I certainly won’t be hurrying out to take any pictures that might preserve this moment.’

Have you ever had one of those mornings where it seems like a good idea to pull the covers close, hide your face in the pillow and will the day away?  I’ve heard of people who are able to do that; but, as my mother can tell you — Hi, Mom! — I’ve always had trouble sleeping past the crack of dawn.  My only choice was to get out of bed and face the dismal day.

As I pulled on my sneakers, my toe reminded me that I’d stubbed it yesterday; and I played around with my sock and shoe until I could walk without too much discomfort.  I headed to the kitchen to pack lunches and get ready for breakfast, and was greeted by the pans I’d left in the sink last night in favor of watching the Olympics.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, but washing dishes is not high on my list of favorite ways to start my day.  I rolled up my sleeves and walked across the cold kitchen to face my choice of the previous day.  As I started to run a dishpan full of hot water, it struck me that I was developing and even fine-tuning an attitude that was quickly making me feel singled out for misery.

I looked at the dirty dishes and remembered the delicious meal we enjoyed only twelve hours ago.  I felt the warm water on my hands and realized what a blessing it is just to have running water available at the twist of a faucet; and mine came already heated.  I thought of the way I would soon be moving the food — fresh and leftover — around the refrigerator shelves as I gathered what I needed to create meals for my family.  I took a minute to think about the almost-frozen rain and how cold it was outside.  Then I looked up and saw the roof over my head and the house all around me, keeping me dry and warm and protecting me from the wet world outside.  As I finished washing the last pan, I walked to the back door, opened it, and stuck my arm out into the rain.  I thought of how this gentle rain was soaking into the thawing earth and building the supply of water that later would flow from our pipes and into our home; and I thought of how I’d wanted to wish it away.

It was then that I decided to trade in my Attitude and focus on Gratitude.  When you look at the world through grateful eyes, all you can see is abundance — everywhere you look.  My toe hurts a little; but knowing that my nerves are working is reassuring to me as I work daily at balancing my blood sugar.  There are dishes to be washed because we suffer from an abundance of food.  Every bit of life can be seen as a curse or as a blessing — the choice is ours.  Life is such an amazing gift!  Today I will choose Gratitude over Attitude and enjoy the abundance.

Gratitude

Gratitude lay simmering

Beneath the surface of my day.

My eyes awoke to dismal skies

And wished the chilly rain away.

Where is the sun? Would it be too much

To ask for a balmy summer day?

For light and warmth to call me forth

To love the breaking of the day?

Cold as the rain, I hardened my heart

And crawled inside my own despair,

Pulled my head inside my shell

And locked the door that kept me there.

Once inside, I heard the sound,

Faint at first, but ever growing,

Bubbling up until it boiled;

And gratitude came overflowing.

I saw the roof above my head

And heard the music of the rain.

I loved the cozy warmth of home

And heart-fire eased my chill again.

Try as I might to curl up tight,

I ventured out to greet the day;

And, filled with warmth of gratitude,

I saw things in a different way.

The rain-soaked roads had been washed clean.

The trees were glowing grateful green.

I reached beyond my windowpane

And touched, with thanks, the gentle rain.

© Pamela Stead Jones 2010

It appears that the groundhog may have been right — winter has returned to remind us that it’s only February! With more than seven inches of snow on the ground and the wind blowing and drifting what has fallen, it would seem that Spring is only a distant dream. At least that is how I was feeling until I looked out at my garden plot. Last Fall, when the leaves were tumbling from the trees, we gathered as many as we could find and piled them inside the garden fence where they would blanket the soil and decompose during the winter months. I looked at my garden, now piled high with snow, and thought of the miraculous way that the weight of the snow was compressing the leaves that soon would decay and nourish the soil. This new storm is providing water that will seep into the Spring soil when the earth thaws and comes back to life. Without winter, how would we enjoy Spring?

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