Saturday, March 5, 2016

It's All Middle

Regrets about the past and uncertainties about the future keep us from being right here, in the only time we really have. Sometimes its called the Now.  I call it Middle

There is no beginning
There is no ending
There is only middle
And everything is the middle...
The waves have no start
They have no stop
They only go from swells to ripples
In and through the middle...
All is a continual reflection of endless connectedness
Endless beingness
A steady but gentle affirmation
From there to here...
Then to now...
Above to beneath...
Occasionally, a few unexpected reminders of present existence
Perch themselves on the pilings of our understanding and
Suggest that ages before, there was a pier--a pre-existence,
A place where the coming of human form was celebrated. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Remembering Childhood

I have six sisters. Six! (And two brothers!) Needless to say, my mother was a remarkable woman. She allowed us to explore, create, dream, build, imagine, play, dance, and twirl on tire swings until we were dizzy with laughter. In the middle of the laughter, we developed bonds that still hold us together, get us through heartache, and connect us in ways only sisters understand.

Sisters are connected at the hip
By the ever twirling seat of imagination,
Gripping to what some call chains of naivete
But they call kindred links of love.
They spin effortlessly in
Complete and pure joy,
True and deserved freedom;
Not caring what passes them by--and trusting nothing will--as
Their giddy laughter
Harmonizes perfectly
With the wind blowing
In and through and all around them,
Creating a magical space only sisters

Sisters are connected at the heart
By the ever whirling chair of resilience,
Holding to what some call chains of reality
But they call gentle bonds of true friendship.
The ride courageously in
Solid and sure peace,
Strong and determined focus;
Not acquiescing to disappointments--and knowing such will pass--as
Their childhood laughter
Harmonizes precisely
With the changing winds
Often gathering all around them,
Blowing a sacred space only sisters

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Like a Piece of Driftwood

I took a diversion on the beach today to observe a large piece of driftwood.  I was reminded of the photograph of a similar piece of wood I saw some time ago, and which inspired me to write a poem:

My skin is wrinkled, weathered and worn;
Parts of me have been ripped to shreds
By tremendous tossing and turning in the giant waves.
There are deep crevices, pockets, and scars
From termites and maggots and other unwanted intruders.
But I am no longer troubled by these external imperfections;
I like this place I am now.
Here I sit naked and majestic
For all to see and study--if they will--and consider their own
     line-creased foreheads
     furrowed brows
    crinkled crows feet
     age-spotted limbs!
I am not rotting away with indifference, apathy, fear, or bitterness;
I am still and steadfast on this spot,
Reciting the chapters of my life for ears that will hear and listen to its beauty,
Grateful to rest on this beach of acceptance.
And when my bark drops to the sand, one cell then another,
The tide graciously covers my extremities
And I am washed away to another place,
There I will be gathered back up,
To tell my stories again.

Monday, February 8, 2016

A Universal Spell

There are over 6,500 languages spoken throughout the world. I speak English fluently, and know only a few words in Spanish, German, French, and Latin.  Yet, there are some things in our world that intrinsically transcend all language barriers and have the remarkable ability to weave common threads of understanding among all people. Things like the warmth of a smile, an embrace, the magic and mystery of music, a sunset, an act of kindness, a star-filled sky, a sculpture or a painting.  And! 

There are over 400,000 species of flowers, which is nearly half as many words as there are in the English language!  Flowers are used in nearly every culture and for practically countless occasions: to honor birth, commemorate holidays, celebrate weddings, remember anniversaries, praise accomplishments, just-because, as a message of encouragement or condolences, to decorate and beautify, to extract oils and essence, express love and affection, and to memorialize death.  These magnificent treasures of nature have the remarkable ability to reflect countless sentiments and emotions, in every language, simply by their existence. 

What is this universal, magical spell that flowers have upon humans, to affect not only our five senses but even imprint our hearts?  What is this remarkable ability to speak every language simultaneously? And to radiate unadulterated bliss!  Maybe it's because flowers are like an intoxicating olfactory potion that relaxes and rejuvenates body, mind and soul, or restores health as we breathe in sweet, spicy, woodsy, or delicate fragrances.  Perhaps it's the visual beauty of flowers that resonates in our souls, reminding us of our own stunning glory and uniqueness and immeasurable value.  And our innate power as a one-of-a-kind in our own species.  Whatever it is, there is unmistakably a connection between most people and their relationship with flowers.

Whenever I receive a bouquet of flowers or a live plant as a gift, I'm instantly aware of a feeling of euphoria that comes over me.  It's an inner space that opens up and allows me to feel greater happiness, gratitude, and delight.  Even if the flowers are given during a time of bereavement or ill health, my spirits are lifted, and they instantly provide a measure of comfort and peace.  

Yet, there are also times when I've received flowers that I hear myself say, "What did I do to deserve such an expression of love? Why would he or she send flowers to me?"  I'm taken back by the person's thoughtfulness and the fact that someone was thinking about me. I look at the flowers very closely.  I touch the soft petals, stroking them gently.  I study their shape, texture and variety.  I breath in deeply.  Then, ever so quietly, it's as if the perfection from which the flowers were created whispers in unison with the one who gave the gift, and replies, "Because you are so very special to me."  Next time you receive flowers from someone, or walk in a meadow of wildflowers on a mountain hike, or simply observe a single flower in your garden, just stop and listen for a few minutes.  Perhaps you'll hear something, too. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Can You Hear the Whos in Whoville?

I recently underwent surgery to replace three small bones behind my eardrum which are necessary for conducting sound. I'm still recovering and my ear is not back to its normal size yet.  It feels floppy and huge.  I confess that I look a bit like Horton!  But I'm endeared to Horton, so I don't mind the temporary likeness.  And thanks to medical technology, soon my hearing will be restored to the normal range for a human my age.  It could be a bizarre side effect from the pain meds but all this attention on my ear makes me wonder about Horton's keen ability to hear sounds that others don't. Admittedly, elephants can hear at frequencies twenty times lower than humans, but this does not address the level of hearing required to identify communication from a Who in Whoville.  Does Horton have extraordinary eardrums?  Is he simply hypersensitive to the slightest noise, even for an elephant?  Do large elephant ears provide greater hearing capacity?  

These questions are irrelevant. Horton likely has the same capacity to hear as does any other elephant or kangaroo or monkey in the world of Dr. Suess.  However, Horton has an uncommon gift which allows him to hear a noise coming from a mere speck.  This rare gift doesn't involve his ears at all.  He simply uses his heart to truly listen.  Imagine what we could hear if we listened to others like Horton does!  

We could hear the cry of a person who feels lonely, insignificant, useless, or forgotten, and we'd fly to their aide.  We could hear the laughter lost in a boisterous sea of another's everyday burdens, and then we'd carry a little merriment across their heavy harbor until they have reason to laugh again.  Or perhaps we'd hear the magical melody of hope, and play it's tune for a friend in despair, or who suffers from depression.  And maybe we'd hear the wind whistle a whimsical tune to calm a frightened child, or to an adult who feels like a frightened child.  

It's important to recognize that before Horton could truly hear the Whos in Whoville, he first learned to listen to his own heart.  He ignored the nasty naysayers and pesky pessimistic peeps (who were not really his friends at all), and he did what he knew he must.  He was courageous!  Bold!  Valiant!  Compassionate!  These are the qualities necessary to listen with your heart to any Who in any Ville.  Of course a little faith helps, too.  Faith in the goodness found in people everywhere. "Because, after all, a person's a person, no matter how small."

Monday, January 25, 2016

Window to the Soul

I live in a rural town west of Seattle and when I need to go into the city, which I don't very often, I take the ferry. The weather today was sunny and mostly blue-sky, therefore, an unseasonably perfect Pacific Northwest day for a brisk three-mile walk to my appointment. Skirting around a seemingly endless construction project with multitudes of ginormous pieces of equipment blocking all reasonable efforts to stop for a cup of chowder at Ivar's Acres of Clams, I decided to head straight up the hill away from the water. My only other option was to pretend I was a character in The Maze Runner and risk being attacked by something with razor-sharp metal claws, and never find my way back to the ferry! 

Okay, so that's a bit dramatic. The truth is that something dramatic happens to me whenever I walk in downtown Seattle, or any city for that matter. I subconsciously and immediately shift into I-wonder-what-their-story-is mode. It's a curse. Most people walk passed me so quickly that my brain barely has time to imagine anything about their personal story. But I try anyway. Sadly, my imagination is thwarted by the brutal evidences of homelessness, addictions, filth, and moral decay. I'm reminded that although it's usually unwise to make assumptions, I can certainly determine that every person I pass by is probably dealing with something very difficult in their own life. Something heart-wrenching or grueling. Something utterly overwhelming. Something out of their control. Or something terrible and tragic that just happened and they don't even know it yet. Whatever it is, they're still there, walking in the middle of the city, in the middle of life, in the middle of bustling to get wherever they're going. Or still holding a cardboard sign and sleeping in the alley. 

Then I get this insatiable desire to step out from behind the bubble of my own personal space, the hazy window of my own perspective, and somehow try to read each persons' remarkable story. Since I'm not a psychic, I figure the least I can do is try an experiment. So I stand up taller, pick up my pace, and purposefully focus on the person coming my way. With only a half-smile on my face, so as not to appear bubbly or annoying, I think kind and compassionate thoughts about that person, sending them wishes for something good to appear in their life. But most people are in too much of a hurry or too preoccupied to notice that I'm trying to make eye contact with them. 

After I'd walked for thirty minutes and passed hundreds of people, I counted only a handful of those who bothered to look directly at me. Amazingly, in the brief moments when our eyes met, there was an undeniable connection between two strangers. I felt something almost magical pass through me. Perhaps it was merely a hope that a smile was just what that person needed. And what I needed. But I'm convinced it was more. It was as if the window to our souls opened briefly, and we acknowledged that we share the same cool, salty air. It was a breeze of understanding between us...a realization that everyone's story is difficult, but a smile can make it more worthwhile. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Childhood Song Can Be a Daily Mantra that Changes Your Life

When I was very young, probably three or four years old, I learned a little song which I've remembered for more decades than, at that time, I thought a person could actually live. Today on my morning run the song popped into my head unexpectedly, as I ran along a stream. I run for many reasons. Because I want to be physically fit and healthy...I love surrounding myself in nature...I enjoy the challenge of setting and achieving workout goals...I crave the creative space it provides! Sometimes, like this morning, I need the freedom to allow the tears of life to flow steadily down my naked face and vulnerable soul, like a meandering stream that trusts the direction it flows but has no idea how far, or how long, it must go before it arrives at the open sea. Or if it ever will. To the stream, arrival doesn't exist. The purpose of the stream is to carry melted snow and ice in the form of clear water to...somewhere. Make no mistake, this is not a careless or naive stream. It's very wise because it's been flowing over large boulders and small rocks, trickled around bends, through canals, across meadows, and under bridges for a very long while, often carrying with it sticks, debris, leaves and small pebbles that add character and strength to the stream. And all the while, the stream continuously bubbles with a secret to happiness, found in the lyrics to the song of my childhood:
Give, said the little stream
Give, oh, give!
Give, oh, give!
Give, said the little stream
As it hurried down the hill.
I'm small, I know,
But wherever I go
The grass grows greener still.
Singing, singing all the way
Give, oh, give oh give away!
Singing, singing all the way!
Give, oh, give away!

What do we know about the stream? It's small, not a mighty, rushing river. But the little stream never compares itself, so it's confident being little. The stream is headed downhill. In other words, it comes from a higher place, so it steadily flows in the direction best suited for water. It hurries along like a child skipping contentedly. It does not aimlessly wander with fear, anxiety, doubt or discouragement like disenchanted adults often do. The stream has a clear perspective and purpose. No matter where it goes, it trusts the continuous flow of life and the rewards and blessings that come from forward motion. A melody accompanies the stream along its way. Similarly, there's a song that travels inside each of us, regardless of whether or not we can carry a tune. With that melody is a simple secret to pure happiness in life. 

The secret is that we must give! We each have something of intrinsic value to give another person every day, no matter what our circumstances may be. It's usually the little things we give that make the biggest difference: our time, energy, talents and expertise. Or perhaps it's a listening ear, open arms, a forgiving heart, a warm hug, a genuine smile, a gentle reply, a compliment, a careful consideration, a thoughtful gesture, an act of kindness, or simple laughter that lightens someone's heavy load. 

Whatever we choose to give, we can each do something today to pay it forward. In doing so, we nourish our family and friends, our neighbors and co-workers, our communities and our world. When we make it a habit to give a little bit of ourselves to another, as we flow along the streams of life, we not only help to make the grass greener for others, we make our own meadow more lush.