Monday, March 30, 2020

a place of choice...

The Bay

"If I could catch the feeling, I would: the feeling of the singing of the real world, as one is driven by (aloneness) and silence from the habitual world."
                                                                               Olivia Laing

My park is a gated community in the middle of Tucson. I decided to stay there till the first of May -- that sounded safer than Phoenix's Sky Harbor airport which already had stopped two sick Canadians a day or two before, then hours on the plane and taking my chances in New York/Newark. Then the phone rang last Thursday morning -- concern in my daughter's voice. I told her my reasons for staying which were solid. She put forth others. I said no. However, hanging up, one of her points hit me. What if I could not get home till summer or later -- that gets me into border and IRS stuff. I called her back, told her it would take a week and a half to pack up the 5th wheel. She suggested 48 hours. Impossible, a million thing to do -- buy a car cover for the summer sun, get my Mr. Fix-it guy to paint the awnings with sun protection, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc. My other daughter arranged to get my ticket exchanged.

In twenty-seven hours, I was on the plane home and arrived a week ago just under the wire. Now, of course, I am doing my two weeks of isolation along with most everyone I know. Yes, as I read the news, weeks now may turn to months while the virus follows its curve.

Someone observed last week, you must be getting a little wacky out there on the hill by yourself.  Not really, but it's early in the game. Will I be frustrated because I came here straight from the airport with one change of clothes and no files -- yet, potentially small annoyances. I may not see children, grands, or dear friends in the flesh for a time -- a higher price. (Family deliver necessities and there is no burden of worry thanks to them.)

Yet, indeed, these are challenging times and will only be more so, I expect for each of us, in one way or the other. Life was full -- family get-togethers, movies, eating out, favorite activities, and a lot of old ways of doing things -- indeed, a social life being stripped clean.  However, with these new circumstances, this new sparseness, is this not a place of choice, a gift of opportunity and possibly much more? My inner voice says, "Take it." The invitation is out, make an inner-dive.

This is a weird gift of difference in our lives, with its challenge of being physically alone or with one's house-mate or family -- being the extent of our contacts. Yet, it all has its obvious pluses, new adventures, new discoveries, as well as, its dangerous waters to cross. Thus I ask, where do I want to be in two months, what opportunities will be offered, what new land will I take, and what river within myself with its dangers will I cross?

I expect the most dangerous water for me to tread will be my thoughts. What currents will I let run through -- the small ones or the large? And how important to remember we are all larger than our feelings, our circumstances, our self-definitions, our supposed identities, and our roles. This is the creative place of choice.

Every thought is an energy that vibrates, that weighs or lightens my psyche. Thoughts create my reality, the environment, and will be the eyes I see and feel it all through. A simple little thought and where does it lead and what reality will it create?  My inner voice cautions me to be careful as thoughts are real and as solid as this table holding the computer. They have the power to calm me or upset me. They have the power to encourage a light and merry heart or depress me. Treacherous ground.

And then there is the gift of time. Two weeks ago, almost everyone I met, myself included asked, greeting-like, "How are you doing?" "Busy" was generally the reply or "I can't believe how fast the time goes." "Me either." Laing (the author above) observes, "Most of us are (usually) short of time and now we are hanging in it." Maybe these moments and hours in the next months can be considered a gift too. The world need not interfere -- an opportunity to own our time.

The manuscript is finished. This blog may get written. What else will I fruit in these days? A gift of far-seeing and near-seeing? A rare time, a space-time, an alone time. but not surely a lonely time. Am I talking nonsense, maybe?  However, as Virginia Wolfe observes, such times can be "intensely creative" and in them, one can "discover thrilling moments."

Last night the deck called at dusk -- rolling dark clouds folding in on each other, a cold wind, the trees bent, and a sky wrapping the earth with a magenta tinge. I had three hats on -- my toque, my overall hat with fake-fir and flaps, and a wool scarf wrapped around both. I was indeed a sight but I was mesmerized in this half-lit night, this gorgeously, alive sky with its wind tipping me on my toes, and the lights across the Bay were beginning to twinkle. It was like standing on an ancient, sailing ship, drinking in its alone endlessness. I was in love. I knew it.  I was home in a much larger way than I could imagine. And it wasn't the chalet, it wasn't Nova Scotia, as grateful as I am. I had come home to a much larger part of what? I suppose me. I am not sure.

Yet, what I knew was, "If I could catch the feeling, I would..." And there it was, "the feeling of the singing of the real world," driven by its own aloneness and silence.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Thank you has a You in it...


Gratefulness is the great task, the how of our Spiritual work because rightly understood it re-roots us. 
                                                                                 ~ Brother David Steindl-Rast*

Through the years, I began to see a larger, smarter, and more enlightened hand than mine was helping which left me feeling cared for even in the smallest of incidences. Lately, I've taken note of how many times I say a heartfelt thank you to an invisible someone or something for the little things which are no longer dismissed. And the more gratitude I feel, the more the incidences seem to multiply and now are too numerous to be relegated to mere coincidence or a random act. 

This developing feeling of gratitude is different. It has a life and aliveness to it. I cannot personally relate to a coincidence or consider some mishap as being saved by a bell. Often pulling into a full parking lot I put up a little request for a space near the store. And like magic, there it is. I might be mildly thankful for my good luck but that is not the gratitude Steindl-Rast is referring to. 

In addition, too often in the past, I have also dismissed wisdom, instinct, and insight as these too remained more object than subject and thus, none personal. I wouldn't say thank you to an instinct even if it helped me avoid an accident. Yet, I know these three concepts are larger than mere human logic. 

So what is missing? The answer -- Relationship. Thank you has a You to it -- an acknowledgment of a relating life force behind everything which has a larger intelligence than the human brain possesses. Yet, this You is personal and is caring in an, "I love you kind of way." A dear friend of mine was telling me the other day that she was standing up on a step ladder in her entrance, lost her balance, fell, and somehow landed perfectly seat-down in a chair a couple of feet away --  that had only been put there the day before for her to catch some sunlight while reading. 

Yes, she could have dismissed it as a coincidence or concluded she had been saved by the bell/chair. However, she didn't. I also knew if she had landed on the hardwood floor it could have been serious as bones break easily. I don't know what she would call it but when she was telling me about it excitedly, her eyes were alight, and her thankfulness was catching. She knew she was saved by a larger hand than hers and exuded gratitude with its sweetness, caring, and its presence. This is the thank you with a You, felt to the bone and beyond.

 This is the gratitude that Steindl-Rast refers to as "the how of our Spiritual work" rightly understood does re-root us. It comes out of our eyes, our fingertips, causing us to bow our heads and raise our hands to the sky. The other night I was watching TV. It was desert-night cold and I was warm and cozy on the sofa. The last thing I wanted to do was go out and stand in the darkness. Yet, gear up I did. The night sky was a crystal, star-glittering magnificence. No painting ever sold at Sotheby's for millions could match its beauty and there standing, looking up, it was mine or better said, I was its. With chest swelling and eyes singing, I shouted quietly, "Thank You." 

To what? Some call the You, God, Jesus, or Mohammed.  For others, it may be Spirit, mother earth, Gaia, or the universe. Herein lie relationship and Presence -- what we personally feel and are loved by. Without a You, without the larger than human self, I miss out on reality and a relating beyond my comprehension -- where everything waits for us to look out, look within, and walk in this awareness. 

"What does gratitude mean to you?" I asked a wise woman last week who also exudes thankfulness for the rainbow she can see in a drop of water, glistening in the sun. She paused, then whispered, "Gratitude is like breathing in and breathing out. It is very large. I feel its loveliness,  Ah, it is quiet. Yes, all is done. The universe is smiling back. Now, everything is beautiful." 

* Brother David Steindl-Rast is a benedictine monk, author, and lecturer. Some years ago I was privileged to spend an afternoon with him and six or seven others which created a wonderful opportunity for personal interaction. I will never forget him.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

err in the direction of kindness...

My grandmother came for a visit several times a year when I was a child. She lived three hours away. My strongest memories were always the day she left. Sitting out on the front steps, watching the back of the car driving away, I remember feeling very inside-sad and inside-lost. Then, I probably went off to play.

However, crawling into bed those same evenings, there on my pillow, wrapped in a little tissue was enough change to buy some one-cent candy for a couple of days. I felt special and very cared for. Yet, the odd thing was that every time she came, I never remembered she might leave me something, so the discovery always held excitement and surprise. A simple act of kindness remembered decades and decades later still lights and warms me as I write.

Yesterday I happened to look down in my Tucson garden. And there was this little rock that smiled up at me with a dog, flowers, and inviting me to "Be Happy." Caring and delight washed through me. Then the question, who left this little gift next to the ceramic iguana. Later in the day, one of my neighbors had an impish little grin and twinkle.

Last week my cousins visited and more little acts of kindnesses, like tightening my shower hose (it just needed strong fingers), the flat tire of the bike was fixed quietly without a word, and from a neighbor this a.m, cooked shrimp and sauce arrived at my door. Oh, I also have a new hummingbird feeder on my deck put up this morning. This has all happened in the past week which reminds me of a quote a reader kindly sent me this past year.

"Do all the other things, the ambitious things - travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild, jungle rivers... but as you do, do to the extent you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality - your soul if you will is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare's, bright as Gandhi's, bright as Mother Teresa's... Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, and share its fruits tirelessly." George Sanders

My cousins, my neighbors, my grandmother all incline me toward the big things -- simple, little acts of luminosity. It is a new year and a new decade. I would like to err in the direction of kindness, leave little surprises of delight and caring along the way that will warm hearts decades later. I want to "clear away everything that keeps me separate from this secret luminous place," this part of myself "that exists beyond personality" which hopefully will leave such trails of luminosity.