A Wave

Hokusai_-_Eljudo_-_The_Great_Wave_at_Kanagawa.tiff

Hokusai, The Great Wave (Wikicommons)

You may have seen this print before. It is famous. It is called “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” The artist was Katsushika Hokusai, October 31, 1760 – May 10, 1849.

Roger Keyes, art historian and consultant, wrote for an exhibition in 2006: “For Hokusai, transmission was what art was all about. It’s what he got out of art, and it’s what he hoped to accomplish through art. It was about transmitting the conviction of what he knew through his experience to others.”

Transmitting the conviction of what he knew through his experience to others.

With obvious respect and gratitude, Keyes wrote the following poem. For his wife!! I think it is very moving. What do you think?

Hokusai Says

Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says Look Forward to getting old.
He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive –shells, buildings, people, fish,mountains, trees.
Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your verandah
or the shadows of the trees and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you feel.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives through you.
Contentment is Life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.

Check out what I’ve been reading This Week

Rest In The Grace Of The World

                                                                    The Peace Of Wild Things

heron2When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
~Wendell Berry

This is a favorite poem of mine. I come back to often, looking at the written words. Saying them out loud. Bringing them into my heart. It’s all there. All around us. The reminder of what matters. What the foundation is. A path that leads to resting in the grace of the world.

There are some days when I do feel as if I am waiting for the light of the day-blind stars. For me there is comfort in the star light of night. It is in the darkness with what appear as tiny specks reflecting light from an unseen source, that I feel small, not so important….where I experience awe, wonder, amazement in the most profound way. The world becomes quiet. Harshness softens. Reflection and gratitude have their time.

Now, obviously, given the title of the blog, I appreciate the sunrise also….that is when I wake up in awe, and listen to bird song, watch colors that cannot be recreated float across the sky. My mind wakes up and thoughts percolate. I have the feeling of being something very tiny in a world, in universe that is very large. Nature. It is Nature where I experience the sublime. This is what is holy, spiritual for me. Standing outside with the wind giving voice to the leaves, softly brushing my skin, feeling the heat of the sun or the seeing by the light of the moon, I am reminded over and over again


“we all dwell in a house of one room…”

~John Muir

There is grace enough for all of us in this world. Sometimes we have to stop, slow down, stop thinking in order to see it. To feel it. To know it. And sometimes we need to reach out and help others stop, slow down, stop talking to see it. Feel it. Know it.

We have to step out of world of important things. We have to stop the movement, the doing. We have to turn off the noise, the music, the computer, the phone. We have to figure out how to “……..go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.”

Here, resting in the beauty we have a chance to find clarity and balance. These two things are so needed in our world today. When your back is flat against the earth and you have to close your eyes to the brilliance of the sun and your skin feels the heat, all that heals you. The music in your ears, the rythym of the rippling water and the singing birds, is the most beautiful music there is.

Go now, go and lie down. Rest in the peace of the wild things.

“We All Dwell In A House of One Room”

If you have ever read anything by John Muir, it is difficult to imagine what the world would be like had he not come along and fallen in love with Nature and the Earth. Through his legacy we have come to value, honor and respect the miracle of Nature. We cannot fail to delight in the beauty the Earth offers us at every turn. We cannot shirk the responsibility to tend and care for her, always remembering we are the ones who have the power to possibly destroy her.

Picture Rock2

Picture Rock Lakeshore National Park by Kathryn Howlett

I am an IMAX junkie! I love the big screen. I mean the REALLY big screen. Yesterday we saw a beautiful movie on the National Parks of the U.S. Some beauty was so stunning it made me catch my breath. There were moments that brought a tear to my eye and caused me to whisper “wow”.

Afterwards my husband, son and I agreed there is so much Natural, physical, planetary beauty here in this country one could spend years exploring, enjoying and communing with it. I was a little taken aback when the woman holding the door open for us laughed and commented, “That’s not for me!” I hoped she was talking about the ice climbing, rock climbing, biking…..but  found it sad to think perhaps that also meant she might never go to one of these places just to experience the beauty. We don’t have to “do” anything. Just open your eyes to the beauty of Nature.

I find such sorrow in all the hurt mankind has inflicted on Earth. And I find hope in knowing the Earth has great healing power to mend the wounds we have inflicted upon her…if we give her the chance.

“If you know wilderness in the way that you know love,
you would be unwilling to let it go. …
This is the story of our past and it will be the story of our future.”
Terry Tempest Williams

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Redwood National Park by Kathryn Howlett

John Muir was a man who was at home in the wilderness and saw and understood the power, beauty and fragility of our Earth. Thanks in part to his efforts and to Teddy Roosevelt who found great personal healing in the wilderness, we have these tremendous National Parks.

“Wilderness is a necessity…They will see what I meant in time.
There must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls.
Food and drink is not all. There is the spiritual.
In some it is only a germ, of course, but the germ will grow.”

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul.”

“How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious,
starry firmament for a roof.
In such places, standing alone on the mountain top,
it is easy to realize whatever special nests we make-leaves and moss
like the marmots and the birds,
or tents or piled stone-we all dwell in a house of one room-
the world with the firmament for its roof-
and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving track.”

“The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers,
of glaciers, of fertile soil.
The great poets, philosophers, prophets,
able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world,
have come down from the mountains-
mountain-dwellers who have grown strong there with the forests trees
in Nature’s workshops.”

~~Above quotes by John Muir

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Crater Lake National Park by Kathryn Howlett

I love the part about all of us sharing the same night sky. We are all, together, under the same sky. This is a previous post: Nestled Under A Blanket of Stars There is so much we can learn from Nature. There so much healing we can receive from Nature. All we have to do is go outside, see the beauty. Find the stillness. Close your eyes. Listen.  Feel. Breathe. This is where we gain understanding. This is where healing happens. This is where love and life are honored.

This is where we see, understand and accept that “we all dwell in a house of one room.”

Please read. Don’t let this happen: House and Senate Republicans and the National Park System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaning Into

When I was in college I read books by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Hesse, DH Lawrence, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, EM Forster, Ruth Benedict, Paulo Freire, Philip Kapleau, Lao Tzu, Huston Smith, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell…….on and on. Many were on self discovery. Many on psychology and education. Others on travel and anthropology. I loved them all. Each helped me learn and grow. All of them made me think and wonder.

At that time, Clarissa Pinkola Estes was one author who made me think deeply. Made me challenge myself. She is a psychologist and powerful writer who challenges women (and men) to reach, stretch, become. She says that writing should leave a bruise on the writer, and on the reader.

I am adding a link to a story here because this story is important in writing this post. Story by Clarissa Pinkola Estes  Clarissa was raised Catholic and is a Jungian psychologist. I feel she has been able to transcend some of the theological garbage we get caught up in. It divides people. No one, or one group of people owns God or the word God, for that matter. I do not believe in the God who floats high in the Sistine Chapel. I believe in the God Pinkola Estes writes about where the Earth and all that lives upon her are but ” The Painted Face of God ”

I struggle with the use of the word God, because I do not feel comfortable with the connotation many people attach to the word. When I came across this quote by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, it spoke of the God I know.

“Rather than chairs and tables,
I preferred the ground, trees, and caves,
for in those places I felt I could lean against the cheek of God.”

In Nature, in the lap of Mother Earth….the cool, scented soil, under ancient trees providing oxygen and beauty, in the waters of rivers, oceans and lakes, sleeping under stars and galaxies, on mountain tops, in the caves deep in the bowels of earth, dark and silent, these are places where I am held in an embrace of pure being and love, where I can let go and lean against the cheek of the God I believe in.

waterlily

Not in churches or books, not through hymns or prayers, but cradled in the embrace of this world, with the overwhelming variety of life, the cycles and inter-dependence of all of it all. Here in this universe. Here on this earth where the coming into life is a marvelous wonder and the returning to the earth in death continues the incontrovertible miracle of the connection between all in this world.

Leaning against the cheek of this God I understand I am not separate from anything. Not the soil or trees, not the caves, not the animals, not any human or sparkle of star-dust. Certainly not separate from this God. As I look into  Pinkola Este’s vision of the painted face of God and lean in to rest against that living cheek, I understand no one can own the word God. Like the woman in the blue, rose-covered scarf and the clerk behind the counter, we all belong to one another as a child to a parent, as the mountains to the earth, as the droplet to the sea. We are all the mountains, the droplets, star dust, each other. There is no separation.

“This painted face of god
That teaches us through the seasons of flowers and pines on mountains
And creatures and red hearts beating
In flurries all over the world
In all that moves with purpose on earth
In all else
How can anyone believe that here on earth is not god
Right here on earth”
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, ‘The Painted Face of God’

 

 

 

Sitting In Stillness. Listening To Silence.

“Be the silent watcher of your thoughts and behavior. You are beneath the thinker. You are the stillness beneath the mental noise. You are the love and joy beneath the pain.” Eckhart Tolle

I have come to the practice of stillness and silence after many decades. I obviously had to come to it on my own terms. And it is fairly obvious that as much as I may have needed it decades ago, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t understand it…..was pretty sure there was no time or place to practice it.

Luckily for me, some things come and knock really loudly and all you can say is “OKAY! Okay, I’ll come.” And you’re never the same.

I will be at Springwater for five days, including Easter. There will be not blog next week because there will be no internet.

For five days I will sit in stillness and listen to silence. Oh yes, there will be walking the trails of 200 acres of hills and forests in the Genesee Valley. There will be the sound of streams and creeks, trees creaking, the wind, the hum of lights and the sound of footsteps, the daily chores of cleaning, cooking, maintaining the center. But not much else. No computer, internet, cells phones, music, TV.  Certainly there is movement and action, but it is gentle and caresses life. It does not bulldoze through it.

“Wisdom comes with the ability to be still. Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

Springwater is a center for meditative inquiry. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but one of my favorites.

There is a healing that happens to me during the hours and days I spend there. While it may seem like a kind of running away and letting life and the world fall away and seemingly not really matter anymore, it is not that. It is sitting with one’s self and becoming reacquainted with what matters.

path spwater

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, not knowing what is next and not concerned with what was or what may be next, a new mind is operating that is not connected with the conditioned past and yet perceives and understands the whole mechanism of conditioning. It is the unmasking of the self that is nothing but masks – images, memories of past experiences, fears, hopes, and the ceaseless demand to be something or become somebody.” Toni Packer

“Things” happen in this kind of space, in this kind of stillness and quiet. Something that is often held behind the closed doors of “too much” of all most everything, finds an opening to tentatively step out into the light to be seen, heard and felt.

“The emergence and blossoming of understanding, love, and intelligence has nothing to do with any tradition, no matter how ancient or impressive-it has nothing to do with time. It happens on its own when a human being questions, wonders, inquires, listens, and looks without getting stuck in fear, pleasure, and pain. When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.” Toni Packer

Through the practice of quiet and stillness I have learned it is not the losing of anything, like the routine of our daily life filled with important “things”, but the gaining of an understanding that gets so lost in the life we lead. There is something to found that exists without the busy, frenetic, kinetic, noisy life.

“There is something that matters more than any of those things and that is finding the essence of who you are beyond that short-lived entity, that short-lived personalized sense of self. You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”  Eckhart Tolle

I see and experience life and the world differently as I get older.

“In truth we are not separate from each other or from the world, from the whole earth, the sun or moon or billions of stars, not separate from the entire universe. Listening silently in quiet wonderment, without knowing anything, there is just one mysteriously palpitating aliveness.” Toni Packer

When self-concern is quiet, in abeyance, heaven and earth are open.”

Have a peaceful day. I’ll be back in two weeks.

* Toni Packer was the founder of Springwater.
*Eckhart Tolle is himself
* photo by me of a Springwater trail in the fall

 

 

Letting The Light In

Tomorrow the Winter Solstice arrives and Earth (in the Northern Hemisphere) will have reached the point of the shortest day. Nature in all its mystery and wonder now prepares for the return of light.

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The word solstice comes from Latin origins, “sol” (sun) and “sistere” (to stand still). For thousands of years this time has been a call to restore our connection to all other living things. To stand in awe of Nature and be reminded of not only the power of the sun, but the life force that it is. It is time to metaphorically turn from dark to light. A time to reflect inwardly and then because of that, be ready once again to open to light and walk in light with a pure heart that has released the old to make way for the new or renewed.

“Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. 
It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. 
It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.”
~Michael Strassfeld

As the sun and heavens “stand still” we have a wonderful opportunity to be still also. To stand in awe of the power of Nature, the sun, Life, Light. Of the possibility of seeing and being open our own Light.

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way.
It is our privilege and our adventure
to discover our own special light.” 
~Evelyn Dunbar

A time to understand the brilliant potential in each one of us. Our own Light. Our own gifts. We see them daily in a smile, a kind action. There, in a loving embrace or in the wiping of the tear. We see others glitter and shine in lightness of heart. This does not mean that times of darkness cannot also magnify sight through different light. Sometimes we need the muting darkness to let our eyes adjust to this other Light…

People are like stained-glass windows. 
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed
only if there is light from within. 
~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

When we allow this inner Light to shine, and adjust our eyes to see it, there too we may find what is called the ‘boundless heart’ that is in each one of us. Infinite. Vast. Unlimited. Inexhaustible. No strings attached. And in this standing still, in this waiting for Light to return, and preparing to let it in, we can also allow an opening in our heart as it too is warmed and lit from the Light that is within us all.

“Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.”
-Sutta Nipata

This boundless heart. The one I am just beginning to let myself be open to. The only one that will change the world. This is what I believe will let Light shine unfiltered. This is what I believe will happen when Light is allowed in. This is what I believe can happen beginning with the Winter Solstice.  If we stand still, and then turn to face the returning Light with an open heart. Our open heart will become a boundless heart.

Nestled Under a Blanket of Stars

In the early hours of this morning I peeked out the window. A sliver of alabaster moon hung, tilted, like the one in a child’s book, cradling a drowsy child, draped and peaceful. The stars filled the cold steel sky. Orion, on his side was still slumbering. Shadows of trees fell across the ground. It was still. And quiet. And frosty.

This week I stumbled across this quote on the Center for Courage and Renewal’s site:

“There’s something magical about a night sky in December.
The stars seem somehow closer and crisper, as if they’re noticing me.
And if I pause long enough to notice them back, they’ll tell me their story.

It’s the story of how, in spite of the oceans and borders that seem to divide us,
all 7 billion humans sleep beneath the same night sky.
And we always have.
That’s a beautiful truth, don’t you think?”
–Terry Chadsey

I love this. We all, each one of us, with all our similarities and differences, sleep under the same night sky. We are all tucked in under the same primordial blanket. As we gaze upwards, billions of us search for the star formations that tell the stories we remember from childhood. There is the Greek tale of Orion boasting of his hunting skills, ready to kill all the animals when Gaia stopped him and raised his defeated body to the heavens. Hindus look up and recall the Mahabharata’s story of The Seven Rishis…. what we call The Big Dipper. In this Hindu tale it is not about our familiar bear, it is about the seven sages who make the sun rise and shine. In Africa the Nyae Nyae !Kung Bushmen see the sky and stars as the dwelling place of all the divine beings and spirits of the dead. Also from Africa  is the watching of Canopus, “one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It is widely known in southern Africa as Naka, “The Horn Star”. In Sotho tradition, a careful watch was kept for Naka about the end of May. Sotho chiefs awarded a cow for Naka’s earliest sighting. The day of the sighting the chief would call his medicine-men together. Throwing their bone dice, the doctors would judge whether the new season would be good or bad. The appearance of Naka also heralds coming of winter and browning of the veld. When Naka appeared before sunrise, the Tswana knew it was time to start breeding their sheep. In Venda tradition, the first person to see Nanga in the morning sky (in May, heralding winter) would climb a hill and blow the phalaphala (black sable antelope horn) and he would receive a cow as a prize. The Zulu knew Canopus as is Andulela, a messenger appearing at the end of Autumn, the harvest time, and also as in Khwenkwezi, “The Brilliant Star”. The Xam Bushmen believed that Canopus could influence the availability of ants’ eggs, a rich source of nourishment, and they called it “The Ant Egg Star”.” (Psychohistorian.com)

night sky

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Rfkphoto

From the stars we did come.  We are not only, each one of us, called to sleep as the stars shine, but are made from them.

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth,
the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies
were made in the interiors of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

The world is in such turmoil now. All the making of our advanced brains. The actual physical being of our planet is in pain. On fire. Drowning. Melting. Humans around the world are in pain from wars, famine, drought, flooding, persecution, violence, fear.

Yet, we are all made from the same star stuff that began longer ago than we can fathom. We all breathe the same air and rest under the same sky. We dream the same dreams under night fall and star shine. In our dreams we face our fears, find our true love, become champions and sometimes catch a glimpse of the future. We share with our children the constellation myths using whispered and strong voices, invoking the wonder and magic of the star animals and gods. With our sleep we offer a bit of time for our bodies, hearts and minds to be still, heal and recharge.

“When it  is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

It has to be dark enough to see the stars at night. Perhaps we can hope it also means that as this man made darkness falls around the world we may see individuals here and there who shine like guiding stars to help us remember while there is seemingly much that separates us, there is the also something greater that binds and bonds us together. This is a shared reverence we must find again and hold on to. Look up to the stars and know we are all made from them. We all share them and experience awe and wonder in their sparkle. How do we heal oursleves? How do we bridge the gaps created by ideaology, religion, power, dogma, fear, want, need? How do we learn again to care about “Others”? How does each one of us find the courage to let our own light shine, our voices rise up, our actions find conviction, so that we can find ways to embrace one another and find comfort and beauty nestled together under the blanket of stars?

Washing

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…
and break clear away, once in awhile,
and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.”
John Muir

I love being outside, yet sometimes I resist that love and stay inside. After all, I have things to do. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, work related things, doing nothing in particular, letting the cat sleep on me, drawing, reading, tidying up, catching up on TV shows, being at work, writing for this blog. The list is endless and mostly trivial. Yet, some days I still resist going outside.

When I break away and out, and feel the wind on my face, smell the fresh air, feel the heat or cold, get wet from rain, feel hidden in the fog, receive a kiss from the sun, hear a bird sing or watch a chipmunk play, I am transformed. I often feel I am healed. Perspective returns. Priorities become clear.

“Give away the things you don’t need
Let it all go and you’ll soon see
And you’ll wash your spirit clean
Wash your spirit clean
Go and pray upon a mountain
Go and pray beside the ocean
And you’ll wash your spirit clean
Wash Your spirit clean
Be grateful for the struggle
Be thankful for the lessons
And you’ll wash your spirit clean”

Lyrics ‘Wash Your Spirit Clean’, Walela

forest home waterfall

Give away the things you don’t need. That probably includes the computer and TV!! But more subtly and I think, more importantly, it means to give away resentment, fear, desire, want, worry, doubt, anger, regret, some of the stories we tell ourselves over and over.

I “pray”, but I do not pray as in a petition to God. I pray as in sending “energy” into the world. My foundation and inspiration is the Metta Prayer. With many variations it says, ” May all beings be safe. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be loved. May all beings be filled with Loving Kindness.” I pray that I may be responsible for acting in ways that will make these things happen. I pray to be aware and mindful. I pray that I will be kind and compassionate. I pray that I will be quiet so I can hear. Still so I can observe. I pray that I may understand that the struggles and the lessons in life are things to be thankful for. They are how I learn, change, grow.

In Nature my spirit is washed clean. I am soaked, scrubbed, restored and hung out to air dry. I can feel the weight of all those stories I make up about myself and others, all the resentments, fears, desires, wants, worries, doubts, anger, regrets… all of them being washed and rinsed out of the fabric of my being. Sometimes I find I was not even aware of how dingy, stained and faded my thoughts, being, spirit had become.

When Nature has cleansed my spirit, my prayer becomes a continuous prayer. It becomes a living prayer.

Nature allows my senses to come alive. I can fall down in the snow and let the cold make me shiver.  I can feel the wind and the rain on my skin . I can hear the waves break along the shore and the birds sing. I can hear the tree branches creaking and leaves crunching under foot. Looking up there is the insane pairing of colors at sunset and the humbling expanse of the Milky Way. I swat at a mosquito and watch a butterfly. The smell of roses and lilacs require me to close my eyes, overcome by sheer pleasure. I allow myself to be immersed in Nature and my spirit is washed clean.

And then, the dirty dishes just are. The laundry just is. The crying child is only that. A long day is over. Being tired is nothing more than that. Good/bad disappear. Dreams of a new sports car, a bigger house, a new pair of shoes don’t seem to matter so much. Grandma never remembering my name, someone saying something mean, a person not living up to my expectations, me not living up to someones else’s expectations don’t really matter any more. Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated at work melts away. Desire to be in control, to be in charge, to be right, to look and act strong and determined don’t seem so important. The stories repeated of how smart, clever, kind, important, creative I am just seem silly. Memories can become that…things in the past that do not have to impact this moment. I can just be in this moment.

When I go out into Nature perspective is restored. My spirit is soaked, washed and rinsed….the weight of worry, disappointment, desire are all swept away as my spirit is washed clean. I am lighter, softer, more flexible….I flow and swirl.

Do I get all this right all the time? Nope. Do I falter and stumble? Yup. Will I stop/give up? No. Do I keep trying? Sure do.

Wash your spirit clean. Over and over again.

After thought: many of you tell me via email, Facebook, in person how much you enjoy reading these posts. Some of you even go as far as to say they help you look at things differently, or think about things differently. I sincerely wish you  would consider sharing your thoughts in the comment section of the blog post itself. I feel so strongly we have to have dialog to help each other maneuver through tough times. I learn a lot from all of you…even, and especially if you have differing thoughts and opinions. There is more to be gained in sharing what we think with one another in a respectful manner than in being silent. Regardless, thank you for your kind words and support.

“Dwell on the Beauty of Life, Watch the Stars”

“Dwell on the beauty of life.
Watch the stars,
and see yourself running with them.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

hubble2

(credit: NASA ans ESA)

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth,
the iron in our blood,
the carbon in our apple pies were made in
the interiors of collapsing stars.
We are made of starstuff.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos

It can be hard to find a place at night, free from light and clouds, where you can look up and understand the magnificent wonder of the Milky Way, other galaxies, and the universe.

It can be difficult to wrap your brain around the size of the universe. Of the numbers of stars, galaxies, planets, black holes, comets, asteroids, quasars…..out there. Or, that we are made of starstuff.

It can be humbling, in a good way, to think about our planet, our galaxy and the universe. To help us pause as we go through life caught up in all kinds of things. Feeling all kinds of emotions. And believing the stories we make up and tell ourselves about all kinds of things.

This post is kind of interactive. I hope you’ll take the time to listen and watch all the links.

“Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven
and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human.
Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe.”
~Douglas Adams

Yo Yo Ma plays Bach’s “Sarabande”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1QzMNM94-s

or, Voices of Music playing Bach’s “Air”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzlw6fUux4o

Now that you’re in the mood, pictures of the Universe from Hubble, “Spectacular Cosmos”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=St57hBxH_Fw

(If you’re up for it, you can open one of the music videos and also the Cosmos video in different tabs, should happen automatically, and mute the Spectacular Cosmos soundtrack and just listen to Bach to  understand what Douglas Adams meant in his quote.)

These celestial entities are no longer there. They died out millions of years ago but we can still see their light. The infinite vastness of the universe is difficult to understand. It helps us understand that our little Earth is just a pale blue dot. And while it gives us the perspective that life on Earth is a unique miracle, it reminds us it is also one of many millions, billions of miracles out there. We will never know the extent of those miracles.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c3xuYs75IU

So,  while you “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” also contemplate this:

“You are a function of what the whole universe is doing
in the same way that a wave
is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.” 

~Alan Watts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_6oRZsYPm0

Flowers in the Garden

Here in central New York state, Memorial Day is when I can seriously get to work in the garden. In theory, it is a time that will be free from frost. But, I can never really be sure!! Hopeful, always.

I also have to come to terms, every spring, that I cannot have one of those House Beautiful gardens. My soil is poor. The wildlife seems to depend on my flowers and plants for general sustenance. Over the years I spend the early spring just watching my garden while reviewing notes from the previous year. What survived? What did the animals ignore? What seemed to be able to suck enough nutrients from the soil? Which plants tolerated whatever rainfall Nature provided? I go from there.

I have a beautiful swath of ferns. Graceful, lacy leaves are happily settled in front of a slightly unstable stone wall we built from the rocks we excavated from the foundation holes for our house. Many people who visit wonder why I have let them take hold in my garden. Because they grow….nothing eats them. They don’t get disease. The thrive on whatever Nature provides them.

The next patch is Comfrey. Large, floppy, invasive. I do have to keep it is check. The small purple flowers are tall and graceful, so the plant remains. Then comes Cranesbill, True Geranium. Low and delicate. Soft and romantic. They spread freely, but are easy to contain.

Intermittently there are patches of Tansy, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Yarrow, Day Lily, Four O’Clocks, Autumn Sedum, Coreopsis, Hosta, and….even Golden Rod. There’s a sad peony that offers one or two glorious blossoms, but no more. In the corner is a huge Wegelia that blooms in a riot of red that seems too risque for the rest of the garden. There’s a bit of Lavender and some soft Lamb’s Ears. In a smaller garden there is a patch of Bachelor Buttons, Solomon’s Seal, and Ajuga. Under a lilac tree there is a small patch of Hepatica that I never planted…I don’t know how it got there. That’s what grows in my garden.

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photo by me of my garden

I have learned through a stubbornly slow process that I can plant a few annuals, but not many. A few Geraniums and Petunias.

Yesterday was a picture book perfect day in May. Sunny, almost warm, cool enough to work pleasantly in the garden. A slight breeze tickled my skin. As I weeded, dug, divided, replanted, planted I began to think about people. People in my life are not unlike plants in my garden. Some people I am given, like my family. Some just show up and make themselves at home. Some people I choose. And some people come and go. They provide me with comfort, beauty, serenity. Also the occasional bout of frustration and confusion. I am there for both the people and the plants: when they need some weeding done, or some extra care during a drought or other extreme circumstances, or to marvel at their blossoming. But, sometimes I support and nurture both in waves rather than on a regular basis. Perhaps not the best way to be a gardener or friend….. Somehow, for some reason, they both mostly stick around. They do both bring gifts into my life that I am grateful for.

There are some flowers that just appeared out of no where in particular. Others have been around from the very beginning, hanging in there with me and always giving and never giving up. Some flowers I have to divide….I have to portion them out, move them. It is hard to admit, but I need them in doses here and there and not as an over zealous clump pushing others out of the way. Some I have to just remove altogether. Then there are the stalwart perennials…tenacious and dependable. Some are like my Solomon’s Seal…strong and vibrant one year, thinned and struggling other years. Others, like my Bachelor Buttons all but disappear one year, only to return the following year in vigorous glory. And, there are the tentative annuals, unsure and fleeting. It’s the same with my friends.

I sit and dig, and weed and plant. I think of friends and flowers. I think of flowers that offer up so much beauty and bring life to the senses. I dig some more and plant a new flower, wondering if it will grow. I can offer some encouragement and care, but I cannot control the weather or the animals. I think of friends. One far away that I don’t get to see often, but the love between us grows and grows. Those here, who I share laughter and hugs with. A few from long ago that I don’t tend to enough. Family that I always try to meet the needs of.

Here’s to spring. And, to the flowers, friends and family that brighten and bring joy to my life. Thanks for sticking with me.