Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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In a full heart there is room

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Wertheim flowerbox photo: Jon Ring

Just like one of the characters in my novel, my mother had a Leap-Year birthday on February 29. As my sister and I remember her this year, I’m grateful to share a guest post from my sister that carries my mother’s voice — unmistakable to my inner ear, across years and the incomprehensible distance between this life and the next — in ways that leave my heart astonished.

It was captured at a time of unbearable loss, and unfathomable mystery, just the sort of atmospheres in which our mother knew how to accompany us.

 

Guest Post

By Tracey Edgerly Meloni

I need my mother.

I’m twelve years too late, but never have I needed her more than at this moment. Her last words to me were, “I’ll always be with you,” though I doubt either of us believed that she was being literal.

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Photo: Karen Olin Darling

This is not what I expected, this waiting for Bob, the last time I will see him in this hospital, the last time I will touch his hand, brush his lips with mine. Sometime between when a tinny voice called me in the middle of the night and when I arrived here, he was spirited away from his sterile ICU cubicle (now stripped and eerily empty) to this unknown room I am waiting to enter. The Visitation Room, they call it. Doctors, nurses, orderlies and general helpers bustle past; no one looks at me.

I am sitting in the Dead Zone, an awkward limbo to hospital personnel: the patient is no longer here, but has not yet left the building.

Don’t worry — you know they are getting him ready. And I will be with you.

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Painting, “Movement” by Diane Kirkup

Mum is here – that deliciously throaty voice, Helen Mirren meets Lauren Bacall, her Arden scent wrapping around me like her slender arms.

Yes, I do know, after years as a doctor’s wife,

I know about  “getting him ready.” Removing the tubes and wires, masking the bruises, the torn skin, the paddle burns; erasing that final image, the moment of knowing alarm, from his features. I’ve been there hundreds of times, but not with my Bob being the one readied. Definitely I am looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

Let’s go away somewhere for now – pick your happiest memory.

There were so many … let’s go with Turks and Caicos, 1987, before the Glitterati discovered it, when only one gas pump, a Club Med and the most glorious scuba diving in the hemisphere defined it. When torrid and wine-drenched afternoons were spent lying naked under the lazy ceiling fan …

thOK, enough … I am your Mum, after all, and you were a long way from married then … pick another memory.

In Venice, on the Grand Canal, in the bridal suite of the Regina-Europa, toasting Mum’s leap-year birthday at a time when no sane person goes to Venice.

Or in Cairo, having dinner at sunset on the Nile …

Or in Djibouti, where “Bombay Bob” gained fame on our 100-passenger explorer vessel for my dubious lyrics, to the tune of the old “Pretty Baby:”

“If you miss the final shuttle

Say GOODBYE, your cruise is scuttled,

In Djibouti today!”

Naked stuff there, too, yes?

483660_10151501579297641_2073824323_nThere, and everywhere.  Soul mates and best friends and … yes.

“Mrs. Meloni? You may come in now – and my condolences.”

Mum says nothing – For this, I must step forward on my own.

The room is ridiculous, chintz and lavender wallpaper and a rocking chair, as if I am welcoming him to the world, not saying goodbye.

He is clean, pink, scrubbed – no sign of the odious central line that became so infected, all evidence of his cracked chest,  ventilator, bedsores and other bodily harm hidden by an Amish quilt. Terrible music – Mantovani Mediocrity, elevator music – plays softly in the background. Tears, the unbidden, unattractive snotty-nosed kind, threaten.

No, no, no! We don’t cry for bad taste and worse music. Get everyone out of here and be alone with him – capture what you need.

I ask everyone to leave. I kiss his forehead, his earlobe, his neck. I slide off his wedding ring, knowing I will wear it on a chain around my neck, maybe forever. I marvel at his peaceful expression, so different from yesterday’s angst. I long to stroke all of him, but know that those days are over.

Never again will we lie naked together, under a lazy ceiling fan.

Some not-quite-a-nurse person hands me a plastic bag: the dead man’s stuff, no longer needed. Glasses and underwear and a book he never read about Cole Porter.

I think of his spider-quote from EB White: “and I … as spiders do, attach one single thread to you, for my returning …”

Mum

Peggy Wilson Edgerly, 29 Feb. 1920 – 4 Nov. 2000.

You’ve forgotten Antonio, she reminds me;  we both love Antonio Porchia, especially  in a full heart there is room for everything and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.”

I cock my head to one side, holding Bob’s hand gently, wondering what she will say, and if she will come back again.

She blows me away:

Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists.

 

 A heart full of thanks to writer Tracey Edgerly Meloni

 

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Toward the territories of spirit

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

The pain of yesterday is the strength of today.

~  Paulo Coelho

In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.

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Photo: David Campbell / http://www.GBCTours.com

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

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Artwork: Judy Wright

~ John O’Donohue

When you resist the flow of life, what you are actually resisting is your own inner nature, for everything that happens to us is a reflection of who we are.

This isn’t a mystical statement; it is part of the apparatus of perception. To perceive is to grasp the meaning of something.

~ Deepak Chopra


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In the same garden

Gleanings found here and there:

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

If we open our hearts, we will also find open hearts – it is always mutual.

~ Abbot Leo von Rudloff

… love is at the core of our being, and yet we search for it everywhere, so often causing our self pain in the process, losing our way, becoming entangled in our desires and all our images of love. Then, one day, something makes us turn away from the outer world to seek this truth within us…..

~ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done — then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.

~ Frances Hodgson Burnett

That’s what causes all the pain on this earth, including the fact that the ecosystem is turned upside down. All of that comes from people not making friends with themselves and never being willing to communicate with the one they consider to be the troublemaker. That’s how we stay caught in this battleground, this war zone.

 ~ Pema Chödrön

We are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another.

~ Ram Dass

 


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Quenching our deepest thirst

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

Imagine we are desert-bound souls desperately seeking water. If we are offered anything but water we will turn away. We might be offered a change of clothes, food, shelter — all good things. But the desperate nature of life-threatening thirst will cause the thirsty one to reject what is offered as if the offering were poison.

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Photo: David Campbell / http://gbctours.com

When we experience intense suffering, our world seems to narrow dramatically and become very small. Imagine the intense pain we feel when we sustain a deep burn–or a deep loss.

Do we really care, at that moment, about any other needs in our life, no matter how legitimate they are? The need that seems most desperate can crowd out of our consciousness all other needs until that need is met, whether it is removing our hand from a heat source, healing from grief, or quenching our thirst with life-giving water. WTOEimage.php

If it is our desperate need to discover our authentic self and purpose, then once we become aware of that true identity and purpose, we’ll understand the most beneficial choices for us to make. As with any thirst, it is a matter of first things first. The tricky challenge is that often, rather like seeking water in sand, our mind seeks purpose and fulfillment in the material realm that, much like sand, offers neither resources to meet our deepest need, nor a viable foundation upon which to build.

Without the awareness and involvement of our spiritual nature — who we truly are — our life is rather like a gift we can never unwrap nor fully receive.

Excerpted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?

More information: http://www.amazon.com/With-Thine-Own-Eyes-Investigate-ebook/dp/B00I1JPC7I/ref=pd_sim_kstore_11?ie=UTF8&refRID=0TQC490J7FVBRTJWM70H

Print version at: http://www.bahairesources.com/with-thine-own-eyes.html


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Each day holds glimpses of heaven

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Photo: Cary Enoch

Many aspects of life these days bring a sharp edge that slices into our vulnerable hearts the way paper cuts snag us as if they’ve been lying in wait. Yet, as one friend points out, they happen because we make contact with something.

“Can’t we just try to be kind, to ease up? Can’t we just let love in?” another friend fairly gasped in despair one day recently when the onslaught of news about utterly savage things seemed too much to bear.

The simplest answer is, absolutely we can. Things can all feel so overwhelming, our small, human selves quite powerless, or overpowered — yet the real power we have has been deposited securely in a place that’s always safe from any sort of harm. And its use is designed to be easy and uncomplicated.

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Photo: Aletta Reimer Weiss

One experience that my friend Ronnie received in his work with brain-injured folks continues to bring this home to me, to really penetrate my heart with the truth of it, as the years go by.

In the day program for the clients with whom he works, activities are held in a large community building shared by several service organizations.

One day, an adult client who had been hit by a car as a child was being fed his lunch by his caregiver in the building’s cafeteria. Food was dripping down his chin onto his bib, and he was in no position to clean his own face, or even ask for it to be cleaned. Other than one arm that seems to have a life of its own, he has little control over his own body.

But he has total control over his own heart, Ronnie says.

He’d become the friend of a group of 3-year-olds who attend a pre-school in the same building. Each day, after they finished their lunch, they’d crowd around their friend’s wheelchair and tell him all about their day. They weren’t the least bit bothered by the fact that he is unable to answer them, or that bits of food fall off his bib onto the floor. After all, they often have the same problem.

11014906_824910567597565_94928212601865149_nOn this particular day, as Ronnie watched this little group, he suddenly spotted one of those glimpses of heaven we get to see, if we’re paying attention. The small, enthusiastic voices were regaling the young man in the wheelchair, and he was sitting quietly, as he has no choice but to do.

And then, in the next unexpected moment, he raised that sometimes wayward arm. There was, no doubt, some concern among the adult onlookers, as he waved it around. Then, it settled softly on a little girl’s shoulder, like a broken-winged bird.

She smiled up at him, and he smiled down at her.

Life is made up of moments, and some of those moments are pure heaven, Ronnie says. But you need to look carefully for them because sometimes they happen in a crowded lunchroom and if you are always looking up, or down, or somewhere else distractedly, you just might miss them.

Fortunately, he adds, life is very generous with the portions of these it dishes out — a veritable feast, no matter what harsh winds blow or dark clouds roll over our heads. These are the gifts waiting for us to exchange, and not a single day will withhold them from us.

coverthumbAdapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details:

http://rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=leaofthetre-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=1931847673″


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Life has not forgotten us

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Photo: D. Kirkup Designs

Gleanings found here and there:

 … remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you? ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

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Image: D. Kirkup Designs

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother. 

~ Kahlil Gibran

Oh, these vast, calm measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.

 ~ John Muir

Suffering is the Mind’s response to sadness or pain. If you suffer while experiencing sadness or pain, you have clearly made a decision that you should not now be experiencing it. It is this decision, not the sadness or pain itself, that is the cause of your suffering. …

Suffering is your announcement that you may not fully understand why it is arising, and how it all fits into the Agenda of the Soul. When you fully comprehend exactly what is taking place in your life, as well as the Process of Life Itself, then your suffering ends, even if the pain continues. Nothing changes, but everything is different.  ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Find more work from artist Diane Kirkup at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/DKirkupDesigns