Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


Biding at the center of the circle


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.


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:


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?


The country they call life


Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.

Just keep going. No feeling is final.


Treasured words from Rainer Maria Rilke:

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear: 10854827_878021268895335_1204551440909094264_o

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke


The ink of light

 Shortly after my father died, I found some correspondence we’d exchanged years before. The letters gave me an observer’s view of my life at an age when I’d been blind to a number of things, ones I very much want to understand now. It was a gift to see those letters again.

Then, while cleaning out a drawer, I found the “Secret Friend” letters. Back when our children were small, they’d receive a postcard or letter every few weeks signed only with a small smiley face and the words “Secret Friend.”

Most often, the message offered encouragement, compliments or noted something positive that they’d done or that had happened in their life. Sometimes, if they were facing something difficult or had had a disappointment, it shared sympathy and support about that.

It was quite a few years before our daughter picked up on the fact that the writing on those cards and letters looked a lot like the neat block-printing on her father’s engineering plans. Even then, she was kind enough not to point this out to her younger brother right away.

In addition to their appealing element of mystery, those little pieces of correspondence offered a periodic reminder that someone out there had the recipient’s interest and happiness in mind, and wished the best for them.

They were also a reminder for me that there is something powerfully important in the written word that seems to transcend every other communication experience. Each time I travel, and return to more exchanges via the written word, I appreciate this more deeply.

It’s undoubtedly no coincidence that the founder of every major religion brought a book, each its own kind of letter to humanity. “Write all that We have revealed unto thee with the ink of light upon the tablet of thy spirit,” Bahá’u’lláh encourages humanity, soul-by-soul. “Should this not be in thy power, then make thine ink of the essence of thy heart.”

312q7DGYsbL._SL110_Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details –