Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

A trick of light

April 28, 2018

a good omen

A post I wrote years ago was about rainbows.  A friend had given me a crystal pieced out from a chandelier, and when the sunlight hit, small rainbows would dance across the surrounding surfaces.  On sunny days, Bandit would tire himself chasing them; on cloudy days, he sit morose, troubled for a reason he couldn’t quite identify.  My post ended with the proclamation, “yes, Bandit, there will be rainbows.”  It’s a phrase I’ve thought of again and again over the many years, cloudy and sunny.

In this beautiful location where I’ve been privileged to nest for almost 7 months, the same crystal, hanging from a east-facing french door, has brought me many rainbows.  That I have struggled with many demons during this time of solitude is an understatement.  Yet each time I see those bouncing dots of refracted light, I think of Bandit’s joy, which for me represents a total commitment of being in the moment that is the gift of incarnation.

George and I will be leaving today.  We will be going to a place that will challenge us both in ways we currently cannot imagine.  I am hoping, for both of our sake’s, that we will find strength in knowing that even during our lowest moments what is best in ourselves and in others is also present.  Last night’s lovely rainbow over the Potomac seems a good harbinger for our new adventures.



beyond miracles

November 13, 2017

Just a few hours since the Venus – Jupiter conjunction in early Scorpio.  Last night I went to bed not long after reading one astrologer’s take.  Although I’m Scorpio Rising, since the conjunction is occurring in my 12th house, I read the Sagittarius one.  Within his brief listings of possible manifestations, the astrologer used the word “miracle,” so I started joking about it with George the cat.

“Do you have a miracle in your back pocket?” I asked.

He started scratching.

“Well, that’s where your back pocket would be if you had one,” I conceded.  “Check and see if there’s a miracle there.  You know I share whatever good fortune I have with you.”

Being the sort of obsessive thinker that I am and knowing this alignment was coming up, I’d been wondering how it would present itself.  Additionally, I’ll admit, I’ve spent too much time gnashing my teeth that whatever good luck might sweeten my life, it wouldn’t be in the form of partnerships or money.  In my 12th house, it could be as quietly hidden as, say, not stabbing myself with scissors while walking with them.  Too often the words of an old song seems to apply: “if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

As I fell into sleep, I thought about what I might point to in my past experience as a miracle.  Yellowstone seemed less like one and more like winning a ticket to a thrilling adventure.  The Indigo Night job, offered 9 months after the interview and 5 days after I’d decided to take in my kitten Bandit?  Yes, that felt like a miracle of sorts at the time.  But more accurately, it was more an answer to my prayers.

Prayers are funny things.  What we’re convinced we need to make us happy – love, money, forgiveness, attention – are what we’ve identified as what’s lacking.  So if we give ourselves love, respect, justice, etc., eventually, in some form, it will manifest.  Can we call that a miracle if like the little red hen we’ve cultivated it ourselves?

So maybe those aren’t miracles.  The miracle was Bandit and my seeing that, my refusal to give him up when it seemed the only logical thing to do since I had no income and my housing was ending.  The miracle was continuing to hope the park service had an adventure in store despite the misery of my first season.  The miracle was holding onto former lovers despite all the ways we’d misunderstood and hurt each other so that now when we need reassurance, we can draw from that deep well of love.  The miracle was allowing my father to help me last winter in spite of a lifetime spent in grief and anger over his cruel neglect.  The miracle is that there are still moments before the sun rises, no matter where I might be, where I believe I have something to offer and that there is a place where I belong.

In my dreams last night, I was absolved of the charges my park supervisor made and reinstated at the park.  As the day begins, it appears more like the kind of joke I was making with my cat.  The miracle is that I’m no longer there, can no longer be bullied or forced into silence.  What happens next will be the answer to my prayers.

sunrise over the Potomac

Reggae donkeys

August 7, 2017

Here’s a story you might appreciate.

Two donkeys browse the field next door.  Here’s a picture of Pancho & Sarah.

They are in the midst of enjoying their morning snack of crabapples.  A tree grows on my side of the fence, but they can’t reach it.  So I fill a bucket and toss them out on their side of the fence.  My initial intention of feeding them apple-by-apple in a picturesque manner was revised the moment I saw the mosquitoes covering the poor asses’ hides.  I managed to toss the apples and make a break for it, barely escaping the swarm.

I’d been feeding them at my leisure, a schedule that didn’t suit them.  Their aggrieved complaints became apparent to me the other day when a series of seesawing “hee haws” drew me to my kitchen window.  The two had come up to the fence line and were letting me know it was high time to be fed more crabapples.

Now that they keep a close eye on my comings and goings, it’s not just the mosquitoes keeping me inside but Pancho & Sarah who keen when they see me water the garden or hang laundry.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy feeding them but that the supply of crabapples is dwindling.  I still have a week or so left and I don’t want to have to buy some bags of apples at the store to satisfy them (although as I write this, I can see myself doing just that).

Lately I’ve been playing Bob Marley in the morning.  I start my music with “Wait in Vain” and the next song is “Redemption Song.”  Bob sings the refrain plaintively,

Won’t you help to sing these songs of freedom?

‘Cause all I’ve ever had

Redemption songs.

The other morning, walking down the red dirt driveway to satisfy my friends’ demands, I shifted the lyrics, singing out to the morning sky,

Won’t you help to sing these songs of donkeys?

‘Cause I’ve ever had.

Donkey songs.

Finishing it, of course, with a loud “hee haw.”

This morning, watching those persistent two move from the lower pasture where they’d tried and failed to capture my attention, I knew they’d be up at my window very soon.  As I grabbed my bucket and headed out to the crabapple tree, I thought of how they were singing their own version of another great Bob Marley song.

Get up, stand up!  Stand up for your rights!

Get up, stand up! Don’t give up the fight!

I’m going to miss my New Mexico mornings and my reggae donkeys.


springing to life

April 17, 2017

The cottonwoods in the bosque where I walk have leafed.  Their green reflects the sunlight like water.

Down there in the riverbottom, a few old ones appear unable to join this celebration of spring renewing.  They remind me of a dogwood tree I grew to know back in Charlottesville.  Just as with these wild cottonwoods, I had no idea how long this dogwood tree had been planted.  Many of the plants had found their way into this yard only at the gardener’s behest, but dogwoods being native in Virginia, this one might have been preserved from the original woods the owners had fashioned according to their tastes more than 60 years earlier.

When I first grew acquainted with this dogwood, I noticed the scars that told of how often it had been pruned, a sign someone had tended it carefully.  It stood alone, protected beneath the towering shade of a hemlock, some white pines, and tulip poplars, its base uncluttered by groupings of azaleas or rhododendrons or the vinca that had long slipped the gardener’s controlling hand.  That first spring, it bloomed later than the younger specimens, but eventually it offered a respectable number of four-petaled pink flowers to the general riot of color.  The next spring, however, it was looking less capable.  That was the spring my landlady, the wife of the long-deceased gardener, was no longer on the property.  As I anxiously checked its progress, I intertwined its efforts to push itself back to life with my landlady’s disappearance.  Eventually, from the seemingly dead tree, one slender branch produced a few blossoms, and I cheered for it and for Pam, now residing in an assisted nursing facility, both of them still determined to survive another season.  By the summer, however, it was clear that the tree was too weak to survive another year.  Last spring, no buds arose in answer to spring’s siren song; Pam would be gone as summer turned into fall.

Just last week, as the earth warmed and buds began bursting, I understood how that old dogwood and these old cottonwoods felt.  The strength to start again, to meet the resistance life offers every day with my own will, seemed beyond my capacity.  Watching the red willows late to leaf, I thought of what an affront it would be to my sadness to see leaves on those branches.  The place I’d taken to my heart as a refuge because it reflected an austerity that mirrored my own internal landscape was beginning to reflect a vigor and a joy I did not feel.  More than once, I returned home from my walk disoriented and confused, deeply worried about how no answering movement was occurring within me.

Seeing those cottonwoods this morning, I thought of how their energy isn’t gone.  It was never really theirs; they were simply expressing life’s vitality as a cottonwood does.  Now what was once their responsibility will be taken up somewhere else.  They played a part in the fabric of life, just as the dogwood, the gardener and his wife Pam played theirs.  And until the day I grow too exhausted to summon the strength to join the general chorus, I once again find myself able to step into my role of reflecting what has nurtured my spirit, hoping that my efforts are like the cottonwood’s new leaves, able to honor the energy I’m privileged to share at this moment in time with all the other amazing expressions of life on our Mother Earth.

solstice meditations

December 19, 2016

This morning as the dawn began to lighten the sky, I noticed a star bright enough to be noticeable not only in the approaching day’s light but also from inside my warm home. Earlier I’d ventured out to spot the Moon with Jupiter and Spica and knew Arcturus was watching over them too. But I had to guess at what star I was seeing now. I had a suspicion it was Vega, third brightest in our Northern hemisphere, and one of the three stars that comprise the Summer Triangle, that recognizable asterism high in the sky during the short nights of June, July, and August.

As I settled down to meditate, the thought that this could be Vega rising remained. Here I had almost made it to the darkest day of the year. Changes too numerous to recount have occurred over the past 12 months which offer both the opportunity for congratulation as well as for anxiety. Where will all this momentum deliver me? After all my efforts this year and with a deep knowledge of how difficult and draining this work can be, will I rise to those occasions that will be set before me next year and beyond?

My thoughts returned me to earlier in the year when I witnessed another set of familiar stars rising before dawn. As I stood in the cool August mornings awaiting sunrise, I would observe Orion climbing into the sky over Yellowstone and wonder: where would I be when the Earth made a few more revolutions and Orion was no longer haunting the dawn but traveling across the winter nights’ skies?

Now when I go out to hunt for answers in the New Mexico dawn, Orion is slipping low to the west as if exhausted by his long night’s trek. By the end of next April, he won’t linger long before he follows the sun’s setting, but in early August, he’ll return to the dawn’s skies no matter where I might be standing.

So Vega’s promise of summer is a whisper I can hear and feel deep in my bones. It reminds me that time doesn’t only run straight; it also runs in cycles. It reminds me that there are things I do know – the stars; how to recognize beauty and love; how to be patient with myself in order to allow every thing to unfold as it needs to. What wonderful gifts the night skies offer, especially on these long dark nights. They are shining affirmations of how we are connected to the universe, to our human cycles of ritual and tradition, and to those memories of ourselves that lie deep within.



November 3, 2016

On my morning walk, a wild aster caught my eye. Its insouciant yellow eye, its unapologetic purple reminded me of the year I first fell deeply in love with gardening. I was supposed to be writing my dissertation but instead grabbed a shovel and broke earth.

It was a dangerous time: I was physically restless, gardening catalogues were crowding my mailbox, and flowers were much more beautiful, and quicker to bloom, than a dissertation on Henry James. I had just enough money to keep persistently purchasing plants, and after each nursery trip, when I realized I had too many for my initial plot, I simply worked on expanding it.

That’s what stuck in mind this morning: the memory of the years when I’d gone over the top with my plant purchases, how I’d scramble to find or create new spots for the newest additions. Because I was renting, I knew one day my personal Eden would end, but until then, I told myself, I needed the therapy of digging in the earth and communing with the plants, the “other kingdom.” Ever since, the memory of that frenzied time, and of our sad parting, has kept my gardening lust within healthy bounds.  I’m more likely now to replant a flower that has sowed itself somewhere without the proper design sense than to purchase a new one, more willing to appreciate flowering weeds than to act on the impulse to tend my own plot. The world holds enough blooms without my assistance.

When I lived in Ivy, Virginia, I enjoyed 18 acres that had been lovingly landscaped by a gentleman who’d died long before I arrived. The grounds were so extensive, the plants’ needs so demanding, that much of it was no longer tended. However, its continuing beauty spoke to me of the man who’d loved it.  I could sense how he too had combed through gardening magazines in late summer and how he had haunted nurseries. I could feel the burst of his enthusiasm for spring-blooming crab apples, ornamental cherries, magnolias, and dogwoods, and experience his thrill at discovering the wide variety of fall- blooming camellias and osmanthus.

Until I moved to this property in October 2013, I’d never smelled a fragrance so heavenly as that released by an osmanthus.  In central Virginia, too often the flowers’ bloom is destroyed by autumn rain. This is what happened the second year I was there, and I  walked around the rain-dampened tree sadly, wondering if I’d have another year to enjoy its scent.

A few weeks later, I smelled another, similarly-entrancing fragrance, so distinctive when leaves are falling and days are shortening.  For a few days the scent kept teasing me and doggedly I searched, hacking through the areas where the original plantings were now tangled with obstinate bittersweet, wild grape, honeysuckle, and wisteria. When I found the scent’s source, I laughed out loud. “Oh Alexander,” I said to this long-deceased gardener. “What gifts you’ve left!”  This osmanthus was a different species than the one I’d adored, but apparently hardier, having reseeded itself.  Now growing in patches closer to the road, the bushes liberally shared their sweetness with anyone who took the time to stop and sniff the fall air.

Upon my recommendation, a friend is reading Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire.  This morning as I walked away from that self-planted aster, I recalled what was to me Pollan’s most persuasive argument:  that plants use people as much as we use plants.  Through their usefulness or their beauty, they have succeeded in convincing us to domesticate them, into transporting them from continent to continent.  I thought of what we sow  whenever we decide to plant, whether we nurture the soil, lend a book, behave with kindness, or share a smile.  If we do it right, what blooms outlasts our first efforts and blesses those we will never meet.