Tag Archives: awareness

Essential Bits

It’s happened to all of us. In conversation, someone makes a seemingly unimportant comment that suddenly, for us in that moment, becomes essentially important.

This happened to me recently and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The comment came at the tail-end of a session in a writer’s workshop that I was so fortunate to have attended in the south of France. One of the participants, a birder, mentioned her deep desire to travel with again her husband to Southeast Asia, in search of Bowerbirds.

“Bowerbirds?” I asked; having never heard of them.

She explained that there are eight types of Bowerbirds in the world; named for the colorful ‘bachelor pad’ nests – bowers — built by the males, to attract their mates. There is one species in particular, she described, that gathers only blue-colored items to add to its bower-weaving of twigs.

I had lived my life quite well, thank you very much, without ever hearing of or seeing a bowerbird before that day. Yet, something in her comment about the bits of blue stirred the edge of my soul, leaving me with a deep yearning to learn more.

Off we went to write for the afternoon. Trying to clear my head, and find inspiration for our writing assignment, I tried to write a few fledgling sentences, But I just couldn’t get my mind off of bowerbirds. Deciding to stop my self-imposed resistance, I soon found myself in my web browser, devouring myriad photos and articles; each tidbit piquing my interest to learn more. I even came across a link to a PBS Nature program entitled, “Bower Bird Blues.” “For God’s sake,” I thought, “does the whole world know about bowerbirds?” An avid nature program consumer, I wondered how I missed this. And I wondered why, suddenly, it seemed so urgently-essential for me to learn more about this species of bird.

In one particular photo, I marveled at the diversity of blue items had been woven into the nest of a male satin bowerbird. A scrap of fabric. A bottle cap. A blue berry. Even a piece of blue shell. Some items from nature. Others, man-made. Again, my soul stirred.

Still feeling unsettled, I decided to go outside to the terrace of the chateau where we were staying. As I gazed at the blue of the sky and of the sea, like camera lens being moved into focus, I slowly began to understand my need to know more about the blue gatherings of the bowerbird.

When I arrived in France for the workshop, all but one of the women was a complete stranger to me. As our week unfolded, the diversity of our group was apparent. We were eight very different women, with different life experiences, living in different cities, with different life styles. Yet, from each person, in the opening of themselves through our writing exercises and conversation, something essential was shared from their heart with mine that I didn’t realize I needed. Until then.

From one came the inspiration and courage to try new experiences. From another, a witness to the transformative power of a deeply immersive experience. Still another, finding humor in unexpected places. And from yet another, the encouragement to dream, after the age of fifty. And so on.

And there is was, in metaphor of blue fabric, bottle cap, berry and shell – a unique gift from each woman, as essential for my well-being as the blue of the sky and sea before me. Such potent reminders of the power of human connection and of the essential necessity of community.

Now, ten days later, and thousands of miles from that idyllic place, like the bowerbird, I find myself remembering eight special women, and gratefully weaving their essential and unique gifts, so generously shared, into the ever-changing bower that is my own life.

Cyclamen in February

Today’s Lent-practice word is JOY. Finally, an easier word! Snippets of joy from my day included:

  • The extra-creamy smoothness of my morning smoothie
  • Planting cyclamen on a February day
  • The comfort of warm water flowing over my shoulders as I showered
  • The anticipation of sharing a coffee conversation with a friend whom I hadn’t seen in weeks
  • The over-the-top, from-the-toes joy of the coffee shop cashier as he delightedly took our drink orders; so glad that this shift was in a new Tully’s location away from the one he normally works, serving “grumpy” (his words, not mine!) Boeing workers
  • The warmth of the light-lines being off-and-on painted across the right side of my face as the late-afternoon sun danced between passing trees as I drove (nearly the speed limit!) down Interstate 405
  • The clink-clink of my cat’s collar tag as it clanked against his food bowl, as he happily ate after a few weeks of unexplained lack of appetite
  • Amongst the bills and unwanted catalogs, receiving an actual card from someone I love in my mail today
  • Daylight at 5:20 pm!

And being reminded of this lovely quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God”

And you, friend? What brought joy to your soul today?

And a Worm on the Sidewalk

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been walking in the mornings – not at all something unusual. Except that it is Wonderfully Unusual.

A friend recently invited me to join her in her new practice of intentional, silent, contemplative walking. Together. While this seemed to be a practice more suited for solitude, I was intrigued, and agreed to join her.

At first, it felt strange to walk silently next to someone with whom I actually wanted to be better acquainted. I have questions I want to ask her. I want to engage in one-one-one dialogue; of listening and sharing. Yet, in the thud-thud rhythm of our feet on the sidewalk and synchronized swish-swish of our rain-jacketed arms, I’ve noticed something completely unexpected. As we walk in silence I am keenly aware of a deep-calling-to-deep connection — a sacred journey of sorts — smack-dab in the middle of a suburban neighborhood. How profoundly powerful, to walk side-by-side with another person who, for those moments, has the same intention of being fully present.

As a spiritual seeker, I’ve developed a level of observation that often allows me to see the sacred, not only in nature, but in ordinary and often man-made things. Yet, I’ve noticed an accelerated deepening of my senses as I journey with my silent companion. Somehow, in this joint activity, I become more fully myself, with a heightened sense of awareness and ability to notice things that seem to be wanting to show themselves to me:

  • A plethora of well-chewed gum, stuck to a sign post at a neighborhood bus stop – a youthful statement of rebellion, as well as a desire to be noticed.
  • A bright red rocking chair in a garden clearing near the sidewalk – a sign of welcome and of radical hospitality.
  • A broken sidewalk – a powerful testament to the man-made concrete conceding to the God-made roots beneath it.
  • Three cherry trees, planted in a row, at the same time, in the same soil and light conditions. One of them in nearly-full bloom, another beginning to bud and the third still deep in its winter dormancy – each a reflection of the perfect balance of the wisdom found in diverse reactions to the same situation.
  • A child’s pedal-powered, 1950’s-era red metal car now parked in a garden and reimagined as a planter – embodying the passing of time and the sometimes-unwanted truth of the consistent presence of change in our lives.
  • And, a worm on the sidewalk – a tender reminder of the very moment I fell in love with my husband over 20 years ago when he rescued such a humble creature from a hot sidewalk and placed it carefully in someone’s garden.

Would I have noticed these things, had I been walking alone? I have no way of knowing. Perhaps so, yet I am quite sure that their message to me would have been more muddled, more abstract, less substantial.

And so we journey on. In this contemplative, companionable just-short-of-power-walking pace, the miracle of our need for each other plays itself out. Like the glorious frog-concert that was part of our recent walk past a neighborhood pond, we each sing in our silence a song of harmony and oneness.

Shhhhhh — listen – can you hear it?

The Gift of the Morning Moon

Yesterday morning was a bright, sparkly blue-skied gift. As I showered, I was filled with anticipation for my drive to Cannon Beach, Oregon and for a few days at the beach. And, while most of my anticipation held the feeling of excitement, I also knew that this trip was also a time to be in a healing place as I marked the day two years ago when my husband passed. Like so many things in life, there was a mixture of feelings– a blending of happiness and difficulty; the yin and the yang. I have learned that things in life are rarely one thing or another. They are almost always one thing and another, at the same time.

Back to my shower. Rinsing my hair, I looked up through the skylight in my bathroom and saw the moon; still visible even in the bright morning light. In that moment, I became aware of the gift of the morning moon. It reminded me of the night that was, as well as the night that would come again – and of the presence of light, even in darkness.

Two years ago, almost at this very moment, I kissed my husband good-morning. How could I have known that it would have been the last kiss? As I re-visit that day today, I sense the gift of the morning moon. I have come through the night. And while the night of that loss will always be with me, it can be a reminder to me of the light I experienced that day in the shining-moon presence of God as expressed through the family and friends who surrounded me. Healing has come, yet sometimes the wound is as raw and gaping as that first day. Those days are becoming fewer.

When the barista handed me my morning coffee today, there, in the foam was a lovely heart. Randy is here with me. That last kiss — seen at the top of my cup. Here in this heaven-on-earth spot where surf meets rock and sand, I experience the morning-moon gifts of presence, love and light.

A dear friend reminded me today of this Grief blessing, by John O’Donohue:

“Gradually, you will learn acquaintance

With the invisible form of your departed,

And when the grief work is done,

The wound of your loss will heal

And you will have learned

To wean your eyes

From the gap in the air

And to enter the hearth

In your soul where your loved one

Has awaited your return

All the time.”

Morning moon, indeed.