I’ve been on an awful lot of plane rides lately, and this time of year travel is especially interesting, since I’m often coming and going between completely different climates. Departure is snowy and arrival is steamy, or departure is sunny and arrival is overcast.
All this change can be disorienting, and so I’ve been trying to pay attention to cloud break, the moment when the plane pokes above the cloud cover. I will never forget the first time I flew up in a rainstorm, when the sun blazed through and shocked me, the moment we rose high enough.
Storm down below? It’s sunny up there.
Ten below zero on the ground? It’s sunny up there.
Gloomy and gray as far as the eye can see? It’s still sunny up there.
This omnipresent energy, this source of radiance and light, this supporter of photosynthesis and vitamin D, is just beaming down on us, without pause, beyond the clouds and rain and snow.
Dear ones, if we are very lucky, we have a few people in our lives with this same power, shining forth to light our days. And when the darkest days arrive, our own solar system is here to remind us that beyond the clouds, no matter how ominous they may be, the sun is still shining.
We just have to gain enough altitude to see it.
I recently vowed to be even more earnest, as a sort of counterweight to the meanness and cynicism that can seem like our collective default mode. In doing so, I was aware that the cost would be that I’d sometimes feel foolish, trusting others who are not similarly earnest, and once in a while being taken advantage of by the meanies.
What I was less prepared for was the more tender vulnerability that comes along with earnestness. When we are sincere, and motivated – not blindly so, tra-la-la, but as a conscious intention – our armor is off. We can run faster, see more clearly, breathe more freely. It is a tremendous and magnificent accelerator.
But when we are not armored-up, we are also more easily bruised. One mean spirited question, one unkind judgment, one misplaced assumption, and the earnest ones are dented a little. It is hard not to respond to meanness with meanness, to judgment with more judgment.
Dear ones, there is so much we care about, and the more we care the harder it is to show it to the world. We want to protect our caring, to wrap it up so that it stays safe.
But when our love is safe, it’s also invisible.
Honeybees, whatever we love, let’s show it just a little more earnestly.
The arrows will come, but we can take it.
Love is tough that way.
At some point during a long day of speeches, a passing phrase will usually catch my ear. This week it was at a sustainability gathering for a big waste management company, where about halfway through the morning someone asked, “Why do we call it waste?”
This is a pretty cool question, since my biomimicry studies reminded me that in natural systems, there’s no such thing as waste. Leaves become compost; poop becomes fertilizer; seeds become sprouts. At long last, with movements like the circular economy inspired by visionaries like Ray Anderson, we are re-examining this question for human endeavors, thinking more about loops than lines.
Dear ones, what are we throwing away in our own lives? Maybe it’s something as tangible as plastic bags or potato peels. Maybe it’s the chance to deepen our own relationships, with endless discussions of logistics and no time for feelings. Maybe it’s our own time, thrown away on comparison shopping and binge watching sitcoms from the ‘90’s instead of thinking or resting or exploring. (Okay, maybe that last part is just me.)
Instead of sighing over the trash, let’s recognizing the resource.
Whether stuff or chances or time, it’s all precious, and all looped together.
There is no such thing as waste.
I recently experienced the best possible form of shopping – a poetry bazaar! Hosted my the wise and generous Elizabeth Lesser, our group wandered around a big room full of poems and quotes, gathering up precious scraps of wisdom and inspiration.
The quote that leapt up into my hand was surprising, because it was so familiar. This verse from Corinthians is one I know by heart, but this time, a different phrase caught my ear: “Where there is knowledge, it shall fall away.” Of course, the idea that there comes a time when knowledge is useless is deeply disturbing for someone who takes such comfort in the knowable and analyze-able.
Dear ones, whatever challenges we face this week, let’s use our minds and brains and knowledge to tackle what we can — and let’s also seek out the wisdom beyond knowledge, the wisdom that can be invisible because it is most familiar. The people we’ve known for years, the streets we walk every day, the trees that have stretched overhead for decades, the books and songs from our childhoods… let’s look to them with fresh eyes. Let’s soak up all they have to offer, the love that has been here all along.
We can make simple meditation practices awfully complex, but they don’t always require mantras or cushions or apps, as useful as those tools can be. Sometimes a crackling fire and a scrap of quiet are all that’s needed.
This week brought some welcome fireplace-time, and one particular example came complete with an expert fire-builder, who piled the logs into a complex and beautiful cris-crossing structure.
As the flames crackled away, it became clear that the structure was in peril, ready to collapse as the lower tiers turned to ash. A little pinprick of anxiety lodged in the back of my mind as I silently willed the fire-tender to return, so that it could all be repaired.
Sure enough, just as I reached for the poker in a desperate attempt to avert disaster, the beautiful structure fell into a heap, sparks flying everywhere. A small wave of dismay rose up – this was a minor thing, to be sure, but it had been such a perfect fire, and now it was ruined.
Then, as the sparks cleared, I noticed an odd thing. The fire was even better than before! The collapsed arrangement had whooshed more air in between the logs, making the flames even brighter. It was not so tidy, but it sure was great.
Friends, we are all so carefully tending the fires of our lives, poking here and there even when we know it’s not really needed. We are constantly propping things up, adding so much fuel that there’s no room for air, checking and re-checking instead of basking in the glow of all we’ve created.
Dear ones, this week, let’s run one less errand, send one less email, schedule one less meeting.
Let’s aim to tend just a little less, bask just a little more.