Tuesday — If I’m only focused on the payoff (destination), I miss the gifts on the journey…
This week we’re talking about the presence of miracles where least expect them; meaning seeing (finding and embracing) the sacred in the very, very ordinary.
We followed Phil Volker’s story of walking the Camino de Santiago, with stage 4 cancer.
I enjoy marveling at stories about people with fortitude or stamina. What my friend Jinks calls, “our place of bright shadow.” So yes, speaking of miracles… those places of beauty, creativity, resilience, imagination, courage and humor. Those places of unrecognized beauty. In every single one of us.
But here’s the deal: As long as I focus on any destination, and not the journey (the pilgrimage), I’ll keep asking “what’s next?” And give myself a healthy dose of grief for being a slacker.
Which is a good way of saying that I’m missing what the ordinary, and my own back yard, is trying to teach me: there’s a wonderful bright shadow to embrace.
I love the way this is framed in the scene from the movie The Way, when Daniel tells his father, “That’s just it Dad. You don’t choose a life, you live one.”
Of course, I think of all the ways we find–whether through life’s chaos or self-doubt or fear–to bury the brightness.
“I don’t know. What’s next?” “But we’re not there yet.”
“I’m afraid.” “I quit.” “I’m done now.”
This is why the bright shadow is extraordinary. Because it makes itself known in places of chaos and fragility, times when our world is rocked, times when we are sure we will break. Times when our ordinary feels anything but miraculous.
I get email blasts daily inviting me to learn a new skill that will kick-start my life. Assuming that my life is missing something right now. Because Lord knows it’s missing something. After all, the emails tell me so.
Often with a hook: If you do this–say, walk the Camino–there’s a payoff.
(I confess to an odd proclivity–okay, addiction back in my travel days–to watch infomercials at 2 or 3 in the morning on sleepless hotel nights, impressed at the fervor with which they hawk their life improvement wares.)
It’s just that when I’m looking for a payoff, I miss the bright shadow in its full glory.
Speaking of not choosing a life, but living one, I learned a new word this week; Coddiwomple: To travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown destination.
Now we’re talking…
And speaking of coddiwomple, I’ll give Garrison Keillor the last word, “A writer doesn’t need literary prizes to be happy, happiness lies in the work itself, sitting down in the niche with the quill pen and adding a few more curlicues. I am ensconced in my work. I don’t want to lose it and that means postponing publication as long as possible. They don’t teach this to MFA students but they should.”
Wednesday — I once asked my analyst why I was in therapy. He told me it would make me a better gardener.
Gardening can be strong medicine—an elixir that nurtures and shapes the soul. For that reason, it is a tonic seldom taken straight with no ice.
Gardening has a way of seeping into your soul, and one day you find yourself, in the words of poet May Sarton in Plant Dreaming Deep, spending the first half hour of the morning “enjoying the air and watching for miracles.”
That’s the way it happened to me. Gardening did my heart good.
And now, almost one year ago, I left my garden and Vashon island. I now live in a condo, in Port Ludlow, WA, and have wondered how, and whether I would garden again. I have been so very grateful for the surrounding acreage of majestic trees, and vivid green, and sacred space. And for a year, my new garden with the benefit of wine barrels and pots. And then today, the lovely body ache after spending a full day creating a new sanctuary garden. A space with native plants and a river rock stream bed. On my.
And this I remembered. It’s not about the end result with gardening. It’s about the joy and restorative balm in creating. Yes. Gardening makes me glad to be alive. So. Tonight, I raise a glass to the gift of today. The gift of enough. Indeed. If I’m only focused on the payoff (destination), I miss the gifts on the journey…
The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe. “Why aren’t you out fishing?” asked the industrialist.
“Because I have caught enough fish for the day,” said the fisherman.
“Why don’t you catch some more?”
“What would I do with them?”
“You could earn more money, industrialist replied. With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats – maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me.”
“What would I do then?” asked the fisherman.
“Then you could really enjoy life.”
“What do you think I am doing right now?”
I’ll give May Sarton the last word, “It is a mellow day, very gentle. The ash has lost its leaves and when I went out to get the mail and stopped to look at it, I rejoiced to think that soon everything here will be honed down to structure. It is all a rich farewell to leaves, to color. I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep.”
Thursday — We too often live life four-year-old children, five minutes out of the driveway on any family trip. “Are we there yet?” “Are we done now?”
It is not easy to give up our destination (closure) mentality. Or to quote my friend Phil Volker, to focus on “the cure” instead of “the healing”.
Some years ago, on a visit to a friend’s house in Paso Robles, hanging on a wall with very remarkable art, I see a hand drawn crayon picture of a dragon (drawn “in the hand” of a young child). The dragon is pink and purple and lavender. I liked the dragon and mentioned it to my host.
“My daughter did that drawing when she was very young,” the friend told me. “And her teacher was not pleased, and told her that she did it all wrong. Everyone knows that dragons are not That Color!”
“It hangs there today,” the mother tells me, “as a reminder to my daughter to be one of a kind.”
It starts early doesn’t it?
Don’t be different. What will people think? What makes you think you have an opinion? Do you really feel that way?
So, yes to Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “We teach children how to measure and how to weigh. We fail to teach them how to revere, how to sense wonder and awe.”
I do know this: it is easy to lose sight of that artist that resides inside of each one of us. Whether we feel lost or buried or stuck or forgotten or dismissed or ignored… or “not there yet”.
Whenever I lead a retreat, Crayolas are mandatory–because it is an unwritten spiritual principle that you cannot learn about life unless you color. It is curious then, how many–otherwise secure adults–will say, “I’m not very good at coloring.” I will say, “Who said anything about being ‘good’ at it?” Our mind has already morphed from play and wonder to mastery and proficiency.
My new garden is not the same size as my previous garden, and it is not close to finished… but My Oh My, my life has never been richer than it is right now. I raise a glass to our very stormy dusk sky.
Quote for your wellbeing…
It is a mellow day, very gentle. The ash has lost its leaves and when I went out to get the mail and stopped to look at it, I rejoiced to think that soon everything here will be honed down to structure. It is all a rich farewell to leaves, to color. I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep. May Sarton
Here’s our Prayer Blessing…
Blessed be the longing that brought you here and that quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to befriend your eternal longing.
May you enjoy the critical and creative companionship of the question “Who am I?” and may it brighten your longing.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and shelter your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the same sureness with which your body belongs to the world.
May the sense of something absent enlarge your life.
May your soul be as free as the ever-new waves of the sea.
May you succumb to the danger of growth.
May you live in the neighborhood of wonder.
May you belong to love with the wildness of Dance.
May you know that you are ever embraced in the kind circle of the holy.