Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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A useful kind of going astray

During the weeks I spent in Europe last spring, I got reacquainted with the power of the natural world to quiet my mind in order that my heart will be able to hear at all. For the voices that assist and guide it are soft and subtle, and are drowned out by the din of life and the world.

Because of the wide-open nature of so many European settings, the sky is a constantly-changing panorama I found myself stopping to watch like a movie, and there was always something on the horizon that I would set out on a long walk simply to see up close.

A Well Groomed and Tidy Land 86

Photo: Kathy Gilman

Ironically, more often than not I never made it there because I was waylaid by something magnificent along the way.

It could be the slant of the light on a field; the shape of a lone tree in the midst of hectares of rolling hills; one small, stunning blossom on a branch that brushed me as I walked past, like a woods creature trying to get my attention.

Diedenbergen_signs“To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience,” wrote Saint Teresa of Avila

Astray from what? I wonder.

My preconceived notions? Insistent, certain ideas or opinions?

When I leave room for wonder or miracles, it leads me back to something Pema Chödrön has summarized beautifully in her book,

Practicing Peace in Times of War:

“If we want there to be peace in the world, we have to be brave enough to soften what is rigid in our hearts, to find the soft spot and stay with it.

We have to have that kind of courage and take that kind of responsibility.

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

That’s the true practice of peace.”

And Pema has also captured the very fulcrum of living:

“Compassionate action starts with seeing yourself when you start to make yourself right and when you start to make yourself wrong. At that point you could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where you could live.”


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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.”