Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Biding at the center of the circle

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

A friend described the rapid, often overnight changes appearing in the garden he and his wife have tended so carefully. Just days ago, there was limitless, burgeoning life in summer’s relentless sun and heat and rainfall.

Then, like a puff of breath on a dandelion gone to seed, it is spent and gone; fading away, or into decay.

In New England especially, these changes arrive as abruptly as the night chill that turns the leaves from green to scarlet.

“Stay at the center of the circle, and let all things take their course,” urges the Tao Te Ching.

Out at the sharp edges of the periphery, our very human selves can feel small and overcome, overwhelmed, in the inevitable enormity of change. The mind, confounded, struggles for purchase it can’t find.

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Photo: Nancy Vincent Zinke

It’s then that a way is opened through which feelings, those unexpected guests left waiting so long in a side room, can emerge.

Autumn, in particular, with its cycles of death and harvest, seems well-suited for inviting forth the grief and pain that so much effort has tried so long to avoid, or contain.

Those seeds of unclaimed treasure found only in a heart broken open.

The center of the circle, that trustworthy core, can hold these, and us, as it holds all, and remind of what Rumi saw with such kind wisdom:

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Photo: Nancy Vincent Zinke

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and scared.

Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do. 
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.

What is the beauty we love?

What are those hundreds of ways?

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The whole sky to fly in

Spring flowers remind us to be happy. It’s as though God treasured this invitation in each one,

then spread them abundantly about the landscape to ensure we wouldn’t miss it.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

Spring and flowers and happiness all dwell together in a snapshot scene from a long-ago Equinox.

As I packed up our Toyota for the Naw-Rúz (New Year, for Baha’is) party that night, I opened the car door to find our small son sitting in the backseat so surrounded by a mass of daffodils that I could barely see him. To ensure that the flowers traveled safely, my husband gave him the task of holding them and it was the first time he’d seen these harbingers of spring.

It’s hard to remember which was bigger, or brighter — that explosion of golden blooms, or his huge grin as he clutched his precious cargo. That smile was about the only part of him I could see.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

This scene had prophecy in it. Today, our son grows hundreds of thousands of plants and sends them out into the wide world.

As I remember that day on this spring morning nearly 30 years later, with the sounds of wild geese flying over the house, I feel a soft sadness brush against me, rather the way a dog or cat might.

Such feelings seem the inevitable outcome of simply living through the decades, a necessary component of the blessing of life, the contrast between happy memories and wistful ones, wintry days and brilliant spring sunshine, dark and light.

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Photo: Kathy Gilman

When we pause to reflect, it’s so often the contrast we come to see and recall. As one character in my recent work says, when confronted with the passage — and wages — of  time:

Didn’t it all turn out differently than we expected?

Didn’t it once seem there would be the whole sky to fly in?”

It did, no doubt for all of us. It’s not what we thought, or perhaps planned or expected.

And yet, like the flowers and other plants that bloom and reappear so faithfully around us each year, there is fresh beauty and possibility in each new day. Even in the cells of the moments that make them up.

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Photo: Saffron Moser

No, it’s never what we thought, because it’s so very much bigger. When we look. And see. It really is the whole sky, and it will come to meet us when we stop hurling ourselves against it.

In their essence, daffodils, like so many spring flowers, remind us to be happy. It’s as though God treasured this special invitation in each one and then spread them abundantly about the landscape to make sure we wouldn’t miss it.

May each new springtime remind us we are truly unlimited  beings, however earthly our journey often seems.


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The eternal circle of the beauty we love

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Photo: Kevin Lane

Young friends described the rapid, often overnight changes appearing in the garden they have tended so carefully. Not long ago, there was limitless, burgeoning life in summer’s relentless sun and heat and rainfall.

Then, like a puff of breath on a dandelion gone to seed, it is spent and gone; fading away, or into decay.

In New England especially, these changes arrive as abruptly as the night chill that turns the leaves from green to scarlet and gold.

“Stay at the center of the circle, and let all things take their course,” urges the Tao Te Ching.

IMG_1010

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

Out at the sharp edges of the periphery, our very human selves can feel small and overcome, overwhelmed, in the inevitable enormity of change. The mind, confounded, struggles for purchase it can’t find.

It’s then that a way is opened through which feelings, those unexpected guests left waiting so long in a side room, can emerge. Autumn, in particular, with its cycles of death and harvest, seems well-suited for inviting forth the grief and pain that so much effort has tried so long to avoid, or contain.Those seeds of unclaimed treasure found only in a heart broken open.

Norwegian_maple

Photo: Kevin Lane

The center of the circle, that trustworthy core, can hold these, and us, as it holds all, and remind of what Rumi saw with such kind wisdom:

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and scared. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do. 
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the earth.

What is the beauty we love? What are those hundreds of ways?


2 Comments

Following the way to wholeness

Eva_Braun_by_PrinzessinHeinrikeSix years ago today, I experienced an unexpected eruption in my world. I then returned home to discover that a bid I’d made on eBay had won a portrait of an individual whose story I’d wind up following in these subsequent years.

The day brought one of those bittersweet blends of beginnings and endings that life can so often deliver. A relationship was mortally wounded in that eruption, and the portrait, which featured Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, opened the door to what would become The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War.

I’d been writing for about a quarter of a century and had no awareness of the very definite, very surprising path that day’s turn of events was launching. That new stage was about to reveal that, more than being what I do, writing itself is something that acts upon me, strengthening a sense of connection with my own wholeness, and with that of others.

My role — my responsibility — is to listen and watch for these revelations, rather than attempting to impose ideas or plans of my own on what unfolds as a story — or anything else.

Along the way, I’ve been thankful to discover that this is also a kinder and generally more effective approach to living, daily — as in one of them at a time. This has brought a very different relationship with time, one more fluid and expansive.

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“Glacier Falls” by Judy Hughey Wright.

Writers often notice how during generative times in their work, their experience of energy is a flow that can seem almost like dreaming — a soaring over great expanses until suddenly, we’re compelled to stop and rest wings whose strength trails off for a while.

Then a cycle of recharging, refilling, becomes needful. We encounter that juncture of the energetic difference between being inspired to do, until we reach a point of having, and then remembering, often through a kind of fatigue, that within this cycle we need to be “re-sourced” from what it is that reinforces our being.

Writer Penney Peirce offers a helpful model of this inner cycle in her book, The Intuitive Way. She describes how, moving from a centered place of being, and receiving what comes to meet us there, we are inspired toward doing, and this takes shape in action that eventually leads to achieving or having. We may then begin to notice a fading, a weakening of the wings, so to speak, that is the reminder that it’s time to do what our very cells know they must: rest, recharge, and be restored again to a state of being that’s ready for the next cycle. Ready to receive. Cells do not restore themselves after they expend their energy, but are restored by something beyond themselves. Cells seem to know innately the wisdom of returning to their fullest being through the “re-sourcing” of what truly sustains them.

Intuive WaySo often today, the world and its suggestions can make it very easy to get caught in just one segment of this cycle Penney Peirce describes – stuck on a repeating, depleting loop of constantly attempting to do and have. In fact, collective consciousness (which, so often, actually seems more UNconscious)  offers more reinforcement to do this than to comply with the requirements of that cycle of inner wisdom.

However, waiting for me each and every day is a choice point:

I can accommodate the demands and insistence of the world.

Or I can turn toward the more trustworthy and sustaining one — a world without end, referenced so long ago, by Ones who saw it, and invite us toward it.

The fact that writing and creative exploration are so inextricably woven with it — are, in fact, the very path to it — is one of the sweetest graces I’ve yet discovered.


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Resting in the way of winter

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Photos: D. Kirkup Designs / http://www.etsy.com/shop/dkirkupdesigns

Though winter’s not always a season we welcome, it has valuable things to teach about cycles and life. Its revelations can be as subtle and indistinct as the image of this little squirrel through the glass, even though its outer manifestations can be startling and powerful.

In her Divining the Muse newsletter, writer Paula Chaffee Scardamalia suggests that “The Snow Queen” of winter offers us “an awareness of time and impermanence, of struggle and endurance, of ingenuity and insight.” We can benefit, she notes, by appreciating the invitation that winter sends us “to enter the stillness and silence of creative potential”. IMG_4768

Author Linda Leonard writes, “A major obstacle to creativity is wanting to be in the peak season of growth and generation at all times … but if we see the soul’s journey as cyclical, like the seasons … then we can accept the reality that periods of despair or fallowness are like winter – resting time that offers us a period of creative hibernation, purification, and regeneration that prepares us for the births of spring.”

Writer Penney Peirce has shared an interesting perspective on inner cycles in her book, The Intuitive Way, where she describes a three-part process in which we first become centered in our own being, which then enables us to be inspired by forces greater than ourselves toward taking action and doing, which eventually leads us to achieving or having.IMG_4816

Once that tri-part process reaches its final stage in the cycle, we notice a lessening or fading of our energy, which she calls the signal and reminder that it’s time to do what our very cells know they must do: return to that centering in our being again. That’s when it’s time to rest, recharge, and be restored again to a state of being that’s ready for the next cycle of doing. That’s when it’s time to rest, and receive. 

Cells do not restore their own energy after they’ve expended themselves in their task. They are restored by something beyond themselves. Cells seem to know innately the wisdom of returning to their fullest being through the “re-sourcing” of what it is that truly sustains them.

Doesn’t it seem, outwardly and inwardly, that this is what winter is inviting us to? To discover that, as Rumi said, “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.”


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Can we be as smart as our cells?

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Photo: Saffron Moser

When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. Or wonder who, after all, you are. ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

These ponderings of Le Guin’s prodded my own: What if experience only reflects “life” when we’re as completely present to the moment as possible? And what if that can only happen if we’ve had adequate periods of rest and reflection?

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Photo: Vanessa Jette

In her book, Cellular Wisdom: Decoding the Body’s Secret Language, neuroscientist Joan C. King came to the conclusion that what she’d been studying under a microscope over two decades of research at Tufts University had significance beyond simple anatomy and physiology. Her up-close observation of cells led to the discovery that the keys to balance and well-being are written right into them, and modeled for us in the ways that both cells and our various body systems act and interact.

She proposes that just as each cell functions from a nucleus or center, so our human design intends that we live from some sort of core or center in order to be healthy and whole. Cells need to be connected with their center, and the same seems to hold true for us.

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

The rhythm of cell life is cyclical. They routinely go “on” and “off.” They experience periods of significant output or expenditure of energy, then immediately shift over into a “refractory” period during which they rest and gradually accumulate energy and resources in preparation for their next expenditure. Cells have no choice but to rest. Their innate wisdom abides by this requirement of healthy function.

Humans often skip this part of the cycle, though it’s as much a part of our design as it is that of our cells, says King. Genuine rest and re-creation (to break the word down to its intended roots) are what help us have the capacity to access our core, our greatest source of strength. Without a rest cycle, we have little opportunity make use of this, or of that other power tool, learning from our experience by reflecting upon it. It’s the “resting” phase of our design cycle that gives us the time and space to reflect.

King’s discoveries about cellular activity point out a lot of other instructive patterns within cellular behavior. Beyond the individual level, cells only fulfill their highest potential when they connect with other cells. We, too, tend to achieve our highest purposes when functioning in relationship with others.

In its evolution, the human body, at the cellular level, has also adopted principles of moderation, diversity, and even compassion to help maintain its survival. How willing are we to learn from it with humility, apply its wisdom, and do the same? 312q7DGYsbL._PJlook-inside-v2-small,TopRight,1,0_SH20_

Adapted from:

Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details –

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1385482351