Beauty

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All I need is beauty to keep my heart alive and all beauty needs is my attention.
Joyce Rupp

I have come to see beauty as one of my deepest spiritual practices. When I pay attention and see the beauty that surrounds me I am fully present to this amazing Universe. It took me a long time to recognize beauty as essential to my life. I was too busy working, doing, proving to stop and see what was right in front of me. Below are quotes from some of my favorite authors regarding beauty.redwoods 1unnamed.jpeg

Beauty awakens what is sleeping in our spirit. It relieves the reins of tiredness and stirs up what lays dormant in our over-emphasis on activity.   Joyce Rupp

The Earth is full of thresholds where beauty awaits the wonder of our gaze.    John O’Donohue

When we embrace beauty we come home to that part of our self that cries out for nurturance and renewal.  Joyce RuppIMG_0386.jpeg

Beauty is a central source of connection with the sacred.  Joyce RuppIMG_1075.jpeg

 

To cherish what is left of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope for survival.     Wendell Berry

 

 

I have learned after many years of activism that anger does not change anything.  It is when we love and care for something that we work toward saving it. May we teach our children and to love and nourish this beautiful home we’ve been given.

I hope some of these quotes speak to you. May you find beauty throughout each day.

My Garden as Mirror

Where flowers bloom, so does hope. Eleanor Roosevelt

My garden holds deep meaning for me, for it has evolved as I have evolved. She nurtures and heals me as I nurtIMG_1070ure and feed it. So it seems appropriate to honor my garden and share its beauty as another gift from nature.

When I moved to my home with my husband, the garden was already mature. It was filled with rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, peonies and many fruit trees. In the first fifteen years of my life in this home, the garden took care of itself. There was no time to spend doing the tasks necessary to maintain a garden. My husband and I were both workaholics who looked forwIMG_1069ard to time off so we could get away. The last thing we wanted to do with our limited time was care for a garden. What we didn’t hire to be done, didn’t get done.

The house had a large attached greenhouse, which was indicative of my lack of focus on gardening. It was a beautiful structure that was slowly falling apart with shattered and cracked glass falling through a disintegrating wooden frame. I was too busy to care for or use the greenhouse and so it languished as the garden languished. Much as my soul languished in these years.

When I divorced my husband, I began to attend to the exiled parts of me. Two years later, I began attending to the exiled parts of my garden. The first year I planted a rose garden. The next, I got into bulb gardening and began introducing daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and dahlias. Over the next few years I began to look forward to the colors spring would bring. Finally I refurbished the greenhouse with all new glass and paint. The garden sparkled. Was it the greenhouse? Was it the bulb garden that continually expanded? Or was I seeing through a different lens at the new palette I’d created? Probably some of each. The garden’s blossoming reflected the blossoming of my inner world.

When I stopped everything and embarked on a deep spiritual journey, my garden became my sanctuary. It became another metaphor for my life. Although gardens have been used as life’s metaphor for centuries, the cycles of my journey have matched the seasons of my garden. I have been nurtured and held by the life-and-death cycles of my garden. As new buds emerged, and flowers bloomed, I knew new stories were emerging within me. I watched the colorful, fragrant flowers complete their cycle and die. I honored the deaths and births within myself, knowing each death made room for the new.

 Not long after my divorce, my fruit trees died. Was it old age or lack of care? I was dying also, but did not know it at the time. My soul was shriveling. I now know I couldn’t live in the vast spiritual wasteland anymore. Similar to my apple and pear trees, I could no longer survive without some deep nurturing care for my soul. Today there are new fruit trees being nurtured by a fresh and alive soul. We have been partners and co-creators—my garden and me.

My garden returned me to my “Earth Mother” soul. I had lost her somewhere back in my twenties as I was striving for independence and success. Digging in the soil with bare hands I felt home again. I didn’t wear gloves because I wanted to feel the earth, to feel the bulbs, seeds, and starter plants I was planting. There was something so nurturing for me as I nourished and babied the new plants to maturity. I was reconnecting to myself, knowing something greater than me was guiding this journey.

Excerpt from my book: “Listening to My Life: My Journey  through  Fear to Trust”

My Ode to Kindness

When I look for kindness, I see it all around

The young person helps an elderly woman with groceries

The driver stopping to check on a dog near the road

The smile from the clerk when she checks me out

A hello as I walk down the street

The truck driver slowing down to let me into his lane

The laughter of children playing

The adult taking the hand of a child to cross the street

The neighbor who fixes my appliance

Kindness blooms where kindness is planted

Plant kindness where you are

smile at the harried clerk

say thank you to the kindness others offer

show appreciation for those who serve

encourage a friend

Kindness spreads like wildfire

Please plant it where you are

 

SACRED SPACES

cascade-environment-falls-2214386At first you might find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred space and use it, eventually something will happen. Your sacred space is where you find yourself again and again.   Joseph Campbell

I find more and more I need a place to go that takes me from the busyness of my days.  A place where I can slow down. When I slow down, I show up to myself. This is what a sacred space gives me. I was first introduced to the power of sacred spaces in Japan. Below is an excerpt from my journal while in Japan.

Shinto shrines dot my walks through the city streets of  Kyoto.  I am in awe of the gardens and temples, the sacred spaces that are throughout this city.  Lingering at a small Buddhist temple tucked between two large high rises I feel a sense of peace engulf me. I am taken by how space is used in this crowded city. Hallowed grounds are found throughout the busy city blocks in the form of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. In the west we build large edifices called churches and visit them once a week. The remainder of the week we lock them up for safekeeping. Sacred spaces are part of the landscape of Asia, offering quiet retreats throughout a busy day. 

I linger in a garden, one of many that grace this city.  Walking the path I look out upon a beautiful pond surrounded by trees shaped by the winds.  It is fall and the colors astound my senses.  Reds, with backdrops of gold and yellow create a kaleidoscope of exploding, vivid shapes of various hues. I hear the cuckoo bird and get lost in its melody. I cherish the comfort these gardens bring.   Sitting quietly for a moment centers me, before, once again, entering the busy stream of foot traffic. 

I learn that the natural roots of Shinto come from the ancient dwellers of Japan.  It was their response to the stunning natural environment they found. Shinto honors Earth as a partner, seeing mystery in all of Earth’s gifts. The gardens symbolize their reverence for earth and all of creation.  As I come upon Shinto shrines throughout Tokyo and Kyoto, I enter the peace these small gardens offer. The Shinto belief calls for us to harmonize with “Great Nature’.

My sacred spaces always include someplace in nature. Some people create alters in their homes as sacred space. Where do you find your sacred spaces? Take time to pay attention to when you are in a place of peace and quiet.

Civility

Nature Thrives on Differences

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I continue to mourn the loss of civility in our country. It seems our main discourse is to blame, accuse, threaten, or denigrate people who we disagree with. I recently read a quote about civility from the Institute for Civility in Government that Brene Brown shares in her book Braving the Wilderness.

Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process. Civility is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements. It is political in the sense that it is a necessary prerequisite for civic action. But it is political, too, in the sense that it is about negotiating interpersonal power such that everyone’s voice is heard, and nobody’s is ignored.

As I read this I knew it was true, yet so hard for me to do. We are so polarized at this point I have a hard time wanting to hear what the other side has to say. I have made preconceived assumptions about them that preclude me from wanting to hear their point of view. I have family in very different political camps than me and although I love them I find I don’t want to talk to them. This is wrong–for me and for my family.

My commitment is to practice deep listening, first with my family and then others. This will require me to pay attention, be present, and be open. If I can’t bridge the divide with family how can I expect our country to bridge the divide. May we all find peaceful ways to begin to bridge the divides that separate us from our fellow citizens. It starts with one relationship at a time, and I believe it is probably the most important work we can do at this time.

Peace be with all of us in our endeavors to listen to each other and find common ground.

 

 

 

Trees

I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree.  Joyce Kilmer

The beautiful Service Berry tree offers gifts each of the four seasons.  After the blossoms turn to berries, the Cedar Waxwings come in droves and denude the tree of berries within two days. It is a wonder to see, especially since I don’t see them again until next year. Do they have a special radar that tells them when and where the service berries are?  The fall gift this tree bestows is vivid fall colors of red, yellow, and orange. Winter offers time for rest. Her leaves have let go and she hunkers down for the winter, renewing her energy.

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Service Berry tree in backyard.

Trees continue to be my solace and my teacher. They are rooted to the earth. When I’m fragmented and unsure, I return to nature and the beautiful trees dotting her landscape. I reconnect with the Universe, becoming rooted, centered–coming home to my core essence.

Visiting Northern California, I saw a mighty redwood standing with a gapping burned out hole in its trunk—surviving, but scarred.  My life has had raging fires that have burned and scarred. I too have survived these fires that have swept through my life.  I stand taller and am stronger for the burning. Trees continue to teach me how to live.

The cypress that bends to the mighty winds–bending but not breaking. It teaches me how to live with the power of the wind and not resist it.  I am learning to flow with the changes that take place. To fly with the wind, instead of pushing against it, diminishes the stress that comes with resistance.  I feel the freedom that comes with trusting the flow of life.

The trees that have died become nursing logs and new growth begins.  As parts of me die, old patterns or habits no longer necessary or useful, space opens for me to create new stories.  Death brings life, and my old ways of being are a nursing log for the person I am becoming.

The tree stands in all its glory—proud, majestic, and strong. It survives the many elements and still reaches for the sun with hope of renewed life.

I continue to reach for the sun, to stretch and grow.  The sun heals me and gives me hope for tomorrow. May you find and befriend the gifts of trees to support nourishing growth within your being.

Spring is Here

Spring is nature’s way of saying “let’s party.”  Robin Williams

I’m always amazed at how much lighter I feel when we turn the cornerIMG_0951.jpg

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from winter to spring. The burst of color from the first flowers of spring: daffodils, crocus, and hyacinth bring me such joy. Their winter rest has produced such beauty. A good lesson for me in my busy schedule. “Rest in the stillness,” is a thought that comes to me when I get too busy running from one activity to another. When I say this I feel myself slow down and breathe.  Always a good thing.

Spring affirms the changing of the season reminding me that life is constantly changing. I need this reminder periodically in these tumultuous and divisive times we are living through. I use the word through purposefully because we will live through these times as we have other hard times in our history. It is just sometimes hard for me to remember when I am feeling the angst of our country’s divide. Spring is a great reminder that life continues and dark turns toward the light.

It is hard to pick my favorite season, but I think I would have to say it is Spring. The beauty of the flowers, the birds preparing their nests, and the return of sunny warm days.  It is the sense of rebirth and renewal. I wonder what is being rebirthed in me, what wants to emerge? I think of Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “Where there are flowers there is hope.”  Yes, Spring opens my heart to hope and trust that all will be well.

Follow Robin Williams’ sage advice, “Party” and enjoy the vibrancy this season offers.