Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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The foundation of all learning

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

“We need mystery. Creator in her wisdom knew this.

Mystery fills us with awe and wonder. They are the foundations of humility, and humility is the foundation of all learning.

So we do not seek to unravel this. We honour it by letting it be that way forever.”

Quote of a grandmother explaining The Great Mystery of the universe to her grandson.

~ Richard Wagamese, Indian Horse

The unexpected and the incredible belong in this world.

Only then is life whole.

 ~ Carl Jung

 

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.

 ~ G. K. Chesterton 

The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

 ~ William James

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The unknown’s hidden kinship

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

Wise insight from experienced writers like Ursula K. LeGuin helps shift my inner compass toward that grace of the space and time between, so I can discover, yet again, what it holds. Without exception, the mystery of this unknown offers me, like the source of a stream, the place from which creative expression flows.

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Photo: David Campbell / GBC Tours

“I have been a storyteller since the beginning of my life, rearranging facts in order to make them more significant,” John Cheever said. My own earliest play involved arranging miniature objects on the floor of my childhood bedroom to create scenes, often like the ones I saw around me in Germany, then adding the characters and conversations I knew somewhere inside me. I’m told that some of these exchanges were occasionally audible when I was 3, 4, or 5. After that, I probably grew too self-conscious to allow that to happen.

For me, Cheever’s “more significant” would, initially, have meant interesting for me. Today, it has grown to mean significant for my heart, with evidence of a soul’s transcendence over the small side of human being. That’s the only way that story — either others’ or my own — can ever attract me, and is the treasure I’m always searching for. It’s what I believe story, in its highest purpose, has always been for.

This makes the bringing forth of story a sacred thing for me, as well as a search that requires the surrender Le Guin points to, one woven with a willing sense of wonder.

“Wonder makes the unknown interesting, attractive, and miraculous. A sense of wonder helps awaken the hidden affinity and kinship which the unknown has with us,” John O’Donohue describes in Eternal Echoes.

““What we write today slipped into our soul some other day when we were alone and doing nothing,” writer Brenda Ueland has reminded.

Ah, the sweetness of this truth, whose admission price is that space and time between — beyond the insistent, nonstop doing that life — and we — so often try to impose. The experience of writing requires that I seek refuge from that clamor and feel my inner life slow down to presence once more.

In an interview with Karen Bouris of Original Story, novelist Elizabeth Gilbert said:

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Image: EnochVision.com

“I think creativity is entirely a spiritual practice. It has defined my entire life to think of it that way. When I hear the way some people speak about their work, people who are in creative fields who either attack themselves, or attack their work, or treat it as a burden rather than a blessing, or treat it as something that needs to be fought and defeated and beaten. . . . There is a war that people go to with their creative path that is very unfamiliar to me. To me, it feels like a holy calling and one that I am grateful for.

… I was given a contract, and the contract is: ‘We are not going to tell you why, but we gave you this capacity. Your side of the contract is that you must devote yourself to this in the highest possible manner, you must approach it with the greatest respect, and you must give your whole self to this. And then we will work with you on making progress.’ That’s sort of what it feels like for me.”

What good companionship I find here, as she speaks for my own heart.

The entire interview can be seen at http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=413


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In the soul’s secret symmetry

Gleanings found here and there:

Love gives life to the lifeless. Love lights a flame in the heart that is cold. Love brings hope to the hopeless and gladdens the hearts of the sorrowful. In the world of existence there is indeed no greater power than the power of love.

   ~ ’Abdu’l-Bahá

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.

~ Rumi

O God! Prepare for us all those things which are the cause of unity and accord! O God! Descend upon us Heavenly Fragrance and change this gathering into a gathering of Heaven! Grant to us every benefit and every food. Prepare for us the Food of Love! Give us the Food of Knowledge! Bestow on us the Food of Heavenly Illumination!

~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul. May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

~ John O’Donohue


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Wonder wakes the hidden mystery

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“Colorado Moonlight” by Judy Wright

Nature is the kind surface, the intimate face of a great unknown.

It is uncanny to behold how boldly we walk upon the earth as if we are its owners. We strut along, deaf to the silence in the vast night of the unknown that lives below the ground.

Above the slim band of air which forms the sky around our planet is the other endless night.

Wonder makes the unknown interesting, attractive, and miraculous.

A sense of wonder helps awaken the hidden affinity and kinship which the unknown has with us.

 ~ John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes

Rivulet

“Rivulet” by Judy Wright

 

If the people of the world were wise enough
to plant the root of their lives
deep within the Subtle Origin
Then the worldly affairs of life
would coherently follow their natural course
and harmony would abound of its own nature …

Then the peaceful order of the universe prevails
and unity manifests again of its own accord.

~ Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching


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The heart of wonder

GLEANINGS FOUND HERE AND THERE:

EB pix Germany and more 118

Photo: Jon Ring

Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.

Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.

May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.

~ John O’Donohue

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Photo: Saffron Moser

 

I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit.

When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms.

So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.

~ Henry David Thoreau


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Nature’s pathway to the heart

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Ladyslippers by the pair

During the weeks I spent in Europe this spring, I got reacquainted with the power of the natural world to quiet my mind so that my heart will be able to hear anything at all.

For I have found that the voice that guides and assists it is soft and subtle, and drowned out by the din of life and the world. I have to make an effort to turn away from the chaos if I hope to hear this companion.

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

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Turtles, future tense

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

When I sit inside for too long, hunched over a screen of some sort, my view narrows to a piteously small scope that has no room for wonder or miracles, in part because it doesn’t know what they even are.

The mind — the human nature — is here to solve basic problems of practical life. Period. It will always bog down without exercise, both physical and spiritual, and life couldn’t have made this easier to attain. All I have to do is go outside, under the sky.

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Delicate neighbors

“Nature in its essence is the embodiment of My Name, the Maker, the Creator,” Baha’i writings remind, adding that it also offers many signs for souls that wish to discern them.

“Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world. It is a dispensation of Providence ordained by the Ordainer, the All-Wise.”

 

My special thanks to Nelson Ashberger for the use of these photos, some of the signs he encountered on one of his own recent sojourns in the natural world.


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Nourished by the Mystery

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Image: Lauren Chuslo Shur

When the spring equinox arrives, a very special time of year comes to an end, for me.

Over these last 19 days, I’ve been more conscious than usual of the sun’s rising and setting, since between those demarcations of the day, I’m pursuing the fast I make each year at this time.

Fasting from “the appetites of the self” has made me more aware, again, of immortal words of Wordsworth’s: “The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers …”

The hours have also reminded, as author Thomas Moore suggests: “We usually try to explain the mysterious. It would be better to cultivate wonder and reflection.”

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Photo: Nelson Ashberger

It seems easier to feel the truth of this when the day has the added space in it that fasting can provide.

Sometimes, within that space, things can arise that might otherwise stay masked in our busy lives, things that can confuse and baffle.

After several decades of this particular blessing of the Fast, I know what Rumi says is true: “Don’t worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” IMG_3375

The end of the Fast brings Naw Ruz, literally “New Day”, as spring arrives and along with it, a new year in the Baha’i calendar.

At the threshold of that year, 19 blessed days have also reminded me of what ever-inspirational Flora Whittemore pointed out so wisely:

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”