Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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A season of renewal and hope

Wassily Kandinsky, Murnau: Top of the Johannisstrasse, 1908

Author and friend Reiner Lomb once shared a story about how surprising – and kind – the human heart can be.

Toward the end of World War 2, on Good Friday, some of his ancestors were expecting their tiny village to be overrun at any moment by U.S. soldiers. The German troops were retreating, and my friend’s family members, six adults and two children, were trying to decide whether they should stay put or hide in hills above the village.

In a previous war, their village had been wiped out in a similar situation, with every single person killed, so they were quite fearful.

They also had a family member who was a prisoner of war overseas, one with whom they would later be reunited, and who would become my friend’s father.

All they wanted to do was to be able to live their simple life in terrible times, during a war they’d just as soon had never happened.

They decided to stay in their home, and within hours, several vehicles pulled into their farmyard and U.S. soldiers climbed out and ordered them upstairs while the soldiers took over the lower floor of the house.

Photo: Nelson Ashberger

What my friend’s aunt, who was among those present, most remembers is how young these soldiers looked to her at the time. As she and her sister peeked down from upstairs, she saw that the soldiers were having trouble figuring out how to light the cook stove, and so, to her family’s horror, she bounded down to help them. (Her sister would later tease her that the only reason she’d done this was because those soldiers were so handsome.)

That weekend, they all eventually feasted together on the farm’s fresh eggs and the soldiers’ rations in a shared meal around that kitchen table. On Easter Sunday morning, the family came downstairs to find the soldiers gone, along with a basket of hard-boiled eggs that the family had colored earlier that week. In the basket’s place was a huge stash of chocolate.

“My family hadn’t seen chocolate for years,” my friend says, “and this, combined with how carefully the soldiers had left everything in its place when my family had expected them to ransack the house, gave everyone great heart, and the possibility of believing that maybe things would be all right after all.”

The miracle of his father’s return a short while later was the very best evidence of that, of course, and soon spring bulbs were blooming in the yard and, despite the ravages of the war, his family knew that they’d see green fields again.

It’s no coincidence that the essence of Easter – resurrection — is about restoration and renewal.

Whatever our faith, or lack of it, spring brings that glorious reminder that, no matter what has happened, no matter how long our personal winters may have been, the spiritual pulse of springtime always offers us a new beginning.

 

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

https://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-Details-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0

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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.

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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.

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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?


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Renewal is the order of the day

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Photo: Diane Kirkup

As the Winter Solstice arrives, I’m reminded of words of Pearl Buck’s:

“It is good to know our universe. What is new is only new to us.”

The newness of the season arriving now can be a quiet kind, and an invitation to quiet, and stillness. To waiting, and listening, in order to hear.

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“Make Hay While the Moon Shines”, image by Lauren Chuslo-Shur.

Here in the northern hemisphere, the Solstice brings with it such a distinct meeting place of light and dark.

And yet, as with the sun’s gradually returning light, we can be warmed by the understanding that the forces at work in human life are drawing us away from a dark, centuries-old preoccupation with survival and “fighting evil” toward our highest destiny: a creative, collaborative and potentially limitless building of the good.

That is a prospect in which every one has a part to play and every culture unique contributions to make.

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“Sunburst” image by Lauren Chuslo-Shur

Frederick Buechner expressed this reality beautifully: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

“Renewal is the order of the day,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declared when he visited North America in 1912. “And all this newness hath its source in the fresh outpourings of wondrous grace and favor from the Lord of the Kingdom, which have renewed the world.

“The people, therefore, must be set completely free from their old patterns of thought, that all their attention may be focused upon these new principles, for these are the light of this time and the very spirit of this age.”

 


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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?

September 2007 114

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