Sunday, April 23, 2017

Life In Fast Forward


I am a huge fan of award-winning cinematographer and producer Louie Schwartzberg. He calls his work "Moving Art," and art it certainly is. I have never been so moved by the videos of flowers in bloom, clouds passing in the sky, or watching an entire 24 hour day go by in one place in a matter of minutes. Time lapse photography has been around for many years. I can remember watching a Walt Disney special on TV when I was young about life in the desert. That was the first time I got to see a cactus bloom before my eyes, and a sand turtle baby hatching. Schwartzberg has taken it to a whole other level. He captures the moments that take our breath away.

I have often wondered if I would like to go back and see my life in time lapse like Louie's flowers. I suppose it would be fun to see my birth, childhood Christmases and birthdays that were special (like the year I got the Shirley Temple doll I asked for and cried for hours in joy), my favorite vacations and such. Would I want to see all my least favorite moments as well? Not so much, which begs the question: "Would I want to see what is ahead of me as well?" It's all very nice to watch a mushroom grow in front of our eyes, or watch a storm rolling in over the prairie, but would I want to see my grandchildren all grown, my daughters with grey hair, and my death? Would I want to see my life in fast forward?

Watching nature come to life before our eyes is a lovely experience, but watching our own lives is a moment by present moment experience. The goal is not to know how it ends. That is like knowing the end of a good book before you get there; you already know who did it, so why bother to read on? By the same thinking, why go after your dreams and experience all that life has to offer if you already know what will happen? Life is about the journey itself, not the end of it. I want to be surprised, just like I was when I got the Shirley Temple doll! I want to cry with joy, jump up and down in excitement, and screech with delight, at the moments that come into my life unexpectedly. That means I also have to be willing to accept the other not-so-happy moments that may come as well. It's called Life's Journey, not Life's Movie.

I'm still going to continue to enjoy Moving Art. It enables me to see things I may never get the chance to see in person. I can experience both the beauty and the fury of Mother Nature in all her glory. I'm also going to do my best to continue to enjoy my own Moving Life, in all of its glory and in all of its fury, except in this case, I get to see it all in person. That beats a movie any time.

And so it is.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Call to Bloom

Image result for free image of plant pushing through soil

Spring comes slowly to the Northeast. It struggles through days of sunshine and warmth as well as cold, snow and chilling rain. Sooner or later, though, the need to push through the soil, or burst out onto the branch, becomes so strong that nothing can hold it back any longer.
“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.”
Anais Nin
There is something that happens to us when we hear the songs of birds calling for their mates on a soft, breezy spring morning. There is hope in that breeze, and promise in that birdsong. There is a strong urge to answer an inner calling from our soul. We are being called to bloom as well.
We all get that inner urge to break out of that tight bud we have lived in for so long and spread our wings. Winter can feel as if it will last forever, and sometimes the winter of our souls feel the same way. Then one day we find that staying tight in that darkness, even if we think we are protecting ourselves from the cold, cruel world, hurts more than taking a chance in the bright light of spring. We know we must answer the call to bloom. That is when we have to trust that, just like the birds and the trees, spring will come again. We just let go, surrender to the timeless rhythms of life.
Yes, there will be ups and downs. Yes, some things will bloom perfectly and some won’t. Yes, some dreams will get off the ground and some won’t. Yet what a shame to never know all we can be. Don’t fight that call to bloom. Answer it. Who knows? You might do more than bloom. You might fly!
And so it is.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Mending Fences

Image result for free images of broken fences

With the return of Spring, finally, I am enjoying getting back out there for my daily walks. I especially like to stroll through the neighborhood on the weekends so I can watch folks getting their yards ready for the season. Yesterday I saw one man tending to some damage from last month's late season snow storm. He was mending a fence that had broken under the weight of the snow and some fallen tree branches. Fence mending is an important aspect of gardening. It keeps the critters out and provides something for climbing plants to cling to. It also supports larger bushes and shrubs as they grow. Yep, fence mending is a very important job.

Watching that man reminded me of something I'd seen online last week. It was a video of a little girl about 5 years old who was explaining why it was important to be nice to people. She said that if you're mean to people you might: "break their feelings." I found that phrase to be very profound coming from one so young. I'm sure she'd heard grown-ups talking about not "hurting" some one's feelings, but "breaking" some one's feelings puts a different twist on it, because it follows that if you break something you need to fix it as well.

More often than not most of us do not set out to hurt some one's feelings. We may blurt something out without thinking, or react to our own hurt without considering all the innocent bystanders. Especially in these days of social media, it is easier to put something out there that is intended to inform or explain, but ends up being hurtful to someone who doesn't know your story and can't see your face or hear your tone when you say it. When we realize that we've "broken some one's feelings," we need to dig into our spiritual tool box and do some fence mending.

So what do you have in your tool box? Honesty, apology, love, understanding, consideration, putting yourself in the other's shoes, compassion, empathy? So many tools are at our disposal if we just take the time to admit our mistake, take responsibility for it, and mend those fences. If a well-mended fence can help support the plants in the garden, how much stronger can this garden that we call life grow?

I think I'll take another walk around the block and see how that man is making out. Maybe he can use some help.

And so it is.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Letting The Beauty In







I found this quote in a book the other day:
“As we age the beauty steals inward.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

What a lovely thought that is. I’ve heard of things getting better with age, like fine wine, but beautiful? Now where have I come across this idea before? Of course, where else? In the garden!
I’ve watched a new young sapling struggling to stay upright to become a canopy of luscious greens in spring and summer, and brilliant reds and golds in autumn – but only after years and years of earning its beauty through harsh winter storms. I’ve seen daffodils push through the early spring soil and give us our first colors of the season year after year, but only after they have paid their winter dues as well. As I write this, my eyes look out of the window and fixate on the huge pine tree that sits on the other side of the house next door. I cannot even begin to guess at its height … 50, 60 feet? More? How old must that tree be? Yet it is the first thing I look at when I wake up and hear the neighborhood birds singing in a new day in its branches, and watch Gus, the squirrel, scampering up its trunk for breakfast. It’s also the last thing I see as the sun sets in a blaze of glory behind it, casting it in a huge, magnificent shadow. It was cute when it was little, but it is beautiful in its old age.
So here is another lesson for all of us from the garden: we all get more beautiful as we age. We become more real, more of who we really are. Our beauty is honed from the trials and tribulations of life, and polished to perfection by experience and wisdom. It shines out from our spirits, through our eyes, and our smiles, and our gestures of love. The more winters we learn to survive, the more springs we bloom with gratitude, and gratitude is a beautiful thing, wouldn’t you agree?
And so it is.





I found this quote in a book the other day:

As we age the beauty steals inward.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
 

What a lovely thought that is. I’ve heard of things getting better with age, like fine wine, but beautiful? Now where have I come across this idea before? Of course, where else? In the garden!

I’ve watched a new young sapling struggling to stay upright become a canopy of lucious greens in spring and summer, and brilliant reds and golds in autumn – but only after years and years of earning its beauty through harsh winter storms. I’ve seen daffodils push through the early spring soil and give us our first colors of the season year after year, but only after they have paid their winter dues as well. As I write this, my eyes look out of the window and fixate on the huge, huge pine tree that sits on the other side of the house next door. I cannot even begin to guess at its height … 50, 60 feet? More? How old must that tree be? Yet it is the first thing I look at when I wake up and hear the neighborhood birds singing in a new day in its branches, and watch Gus, the squirrel, scampering up its trunk for breakfast. It’s also the last thing I see as the sun sets in a blaze of glory behind it, casting it in a huge, magnificent shadow. It was cute when it was little, but it is beautiful in its old age.

So here is another lesson for all of us from the garden: we all get more beautiful as we age. We become more real, more of who we really are. Our beauty is honed from the trials and tribulations of life, and polished to perfection by experience and wisdom. It shines out from our spirits, through our eyes, and our smiles, and our gestures of love. The more winters we learn to survive, the more springs we bloom with gratitude, and gratitude is a beautiful thing, wouldn’t you agree?

And so it is.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Just My Cup of Tea

Tea, Tea Pot, Teapot, Drink, Cup, Beverage, Hot

I was so excited the other day when I came across an article about growing your own indoor tea garden. Growing tea indoors? How cool is that? I love tea, all different flavors and herbal concoctions, but I have always loved a simple Earl Grey in the afternoon to help me to slow down and practice some mindfulness before the day gets away from me. Having had to learn to grow just about everything in pots and containers as an apartment dweller, I was sure that if I could pull off lettuce and tomatoes indoors, I could pull this off as well.

Further reading led me to the discovery that all teas - black, white and green tea - all come from the same species of plant. Their differences in color and taste come from how the leaves are processed. Excellent! As I kept on reading the instructions as to seeds vs cuttings, correct soil, pots, exposure to sunlight, watering, and feeding, I became even more excited. I was sure I could do this ... until I came to the last sentence: "After three years, when your plant is mature, you can harvest and process your own tea." Three years? I would actually have to nurse and nurture these plants for three years before I could harvest the leaves? That's a awfully long time to wait for a cup of tea! The real question is not can I do it? Of course, I can do it. I am, after all, the Queen of Indoor Gardening. No, the real questions is, am I willing to put in the time, money and effort - and patience - to have to wait three years for results?

I thought back to a time when I was about 12 years old. I had seen a pair of dress shoes that I just had to have. They were shiny black patent leather with a bow on the toe and 2 1/2" wine glass shaped heels, all the rage at the time. When I told my mother, she absolutely refused to buy them for me. First, she explained, they were just too expensive. Second, they were too old for me. I was not ready for 2 1/2" heels ... "You'll break your neck," she said. Disappointed, I decided that I was willing to do anything to have those shoes, so I started saving up all of my allowance for the next two months. I even offered to do the dishes when it was my sister's turn in exchange for some extra cash. The day finally came after two long and very hard months of waiting when I proudly took myself to the local shoe store and bought the shoes. They were beautiful. What happened? Well, yes, I almost broke my neck in them, although practicing in my room helped after a while. Actually, once I got the hang of it, I discovered that heels that high, and soles that flimsy would actually end up killing your feet after a few hours. None of that mattered, however. Here was something I had done on my own, with my own money, sacrificing everything to achieve my goal. When you're 12, two months is a life time. So what's three years to brew a cup of tea I can proudly tell people: "I grew this myself!"

It's not the time, or the money, or the energy that we put out in order to achieve something. It's the feeling that the important things in life, the things that give us a sense of fulfillment, are worth waiting for, and worth working for. Why? Because we're worth it. We're worth the finest cup of tea we can grow, or the shiniest pair of shoes we can buy. We're worth living our lives on our terms, doing what makes us happy, and at whatever pace we choose. After all, happiness, like money, doesn't grow on trees ... for me, it grows on little bushes in pots!

And so it is.



Monday, March 20, 2017

Growing Wisdom


Perennial - Lasting for an indefinitely long time; persistent; enduring; regularly repeated or renewed

I discovered a passion for gardening late in life, in my late 40s and early 50s. I had always loved being outside in nature, communing with the birds and squirrels, helping my mother pick roses and lilacs from the yard and arranging them in vases, and marveling at how no matter what happened during the course of the year, from frigid winters to baking summers, these beautiful flowers always came back.

The best piece of gardening advice that I ever received was to make perennials the backbone of the garden, adding annuals, shrubs and foliage for variety and change. Perennials, I was told, were enduring, just like their advice. Gardening wisdom comes from years and years of trial and error, along with back-breaking and sometimes heart-breaking work. It isn't something that you can grow over night. You have to plant the seeds and see what comes back and what doesn't. You have to be persistent if you want to be renewed.

Wisdom is also something that has to grow over the years through trial and error, sunshine as well a storms, and lots and lots of experience. Remember when we heard our parents say things like: "Wait until you grow up and then you'll understand," or, "wait until you have children of your own and then you'll know what I'm talking about." And wait we did, often not patiently, but in the end that was the only way to see what worked and what didn't, what was true for us and what wasn't, and what endured. With persistence and the ability to tear out what wasn't growing and replace it with those things that would endure, we grew in wisdom and, just like the garden, we were regularly renewed.

One piece of wisdom that has recently blossomed in my wisdom garden is that there are things I have come to understand about my life that I could not possibility have understood or accepted until I had moved into my Third Age, my wisdom years. I had to keep walking up and down the paths, planting and pulling weeds, until the pattern of my life emerged and I saw the Big Picture. Do I wish I had known what I know now when I was younger? Sure. Would I have understood it the way that I do now? Not likely. I had to live it, and live it I did.

As our 3 feet of snow starts to melt, I say a little prayer each morning to those beautiful perennials that lay sleeping underneath it all, asking them to hold on just a little longer and rely on their inner wisdom to tell them when to push through to the top. That's how they endure, by knowing when it's time to be who they are meant to be. I think that's true for all of us, don't you?

And so it is.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Blanket, A Pot of Soup, and Clear Water

Image result for free image of a pot of soup on the stove

I give up! I am throwing up my hands and giving up! I would wave a white flag of surrender, but it would probably blow away!

After a week of wind storms with downed trees, power lines and flying trash cans, followed by record-breaking, bitter cold in the single digits with below zero wind chills, the icing on the cake (or on us, as it were) is coming tonight and for the next 48 hours in the form of a real nor'easter, promising at least a foot of snow and 40 mph wind gusts. Oh, joy! So I surrender, and I am here to tell you that despite what you may have been taught, surrender is not always a bad thing.

Surrender does not always mean that you lose and the other guy wins. It doesn't mean that you are weak, or a failure, or not enough. Sometimes surrender means accepting the present moment for what it is, understanding that we do not control everything in life, let alone the whole world, and that there are times when it is wiser and more courageous to wait until, as Lao Tzu tells us: "...your mud settles and the water is clear?" I don't have any control over the weather. It is March in the Northeast section of the country which means anything from 70 degrees and sunny to minus 4 temperatures and snow storms. It is what it is. Instead of wailing about it and wishing for spring, it better serves me and my well being to let my mud settle until my water is clear. In other words, spring will get here when it gets here.

The same holds true of surrendering to other things we have no control over, like the actions of another person. Ranting and raving, and pointing fingers, does nothing to change that person, and it does not allow us to see things clearly. By surrendering to what is and giving ourselves the room to let our water clear, we can see the bigger picture and make our plans for new and better times ahead. All we need to do is be willing to let go.

So today I will fight the crowds at the store to pick up some milk and other items "just in case," and then retire to my old rocking chair with a warm blanket, a pot of soup on the stove, and the big, fat novel I picked up at the library book sale last week. Let the winds blow, the snow come down and winter, hopefully, finally, blow itself out. When my mud settles and my water clears, I'll get back out there again!

And so it is.