Transformation

 Years ago, a woman I knew experienced some serious suffering, and I remember being astonished to hear her say, in the very midst of her misery, “I can’t wait to see how this is going to transform into something good for me.” She was smiling as she said it, not a wide, showy smile, but a modest one that simply said, “I see something good in all this.” There was a sense of self-assurance, almost a sanguine buoyancy in her smile, as though she understood that goodness sometimes leaves its best gifts in the center of suffering. She was almost excited, it seemed, to see how peace and wisdom would somehow work their wizardry inside her suffering – somehow transform her anguish into understanding and expansion. I think of her sometimes when I’m working through some small misfortune. I see her smile in her wise way. I hear her say, “A gift is being given to you. Don’t miss it.”  

Well, on our walk in the Peace Sanctuary this morning, we discovered that some kind of ‘gift’ is being given, because the house at the top of the drive into the sanctuary has been revamped into rubble.

There’s a major transformation – a ‘gift’ – happening there, and we’ll be watching for the good that – somehow, someway – will arise from the rubble.

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AN ELDERLY, AFFABLE LIFE  

(a poem about Bill M., 87, Blessings, CT)

In his elderly, affable life,

he can usually see the darkest valleys

transforming into fulfilling hills,

and he makes mountainous troubles

soften simply by looking at them lovingly.

The breathing of winds and mist

and sunshine and the songs of sorrow

seem fascinating to him. He always holds

whole bunches of brand-new thoughts

inside him like families of flowers

he can easily love.

Wonders

Browsing through the Bible recently, I was surprised to come upon this phrase in Psalm 106: “… the wonders in the land of Ham”. I’m sure I nodded and smiled, since I’m often called Ham, and since the land of my life is definitely full of wonders. Like all of us, I have a fair share of struggles, but they are easily outweighed by the wonders. To me, it’s a wonder that blood brings fresh energy to my body moment by moment, and that my lungs repeatedly lift with new life. As I write this, I’m amazed that I’m partaking in the full-of-wonders process of being part of this universe, a process that started and continues with no help from me. As I sit at my desk on this summer day, wonders work their magic all around me – tree limbs turning almost tenderly in a wind, a leaf falling to the grass with gracefulness, a sky carrying clouds no one has ever seen before. Yes, in the land of Ham (Salsich), each second brings a surprise, and each day makes way more wonders than struggles. 

This morning, Delycia and I found a world of wonders on our walk in Canonchet Preserve. I felt like I was looking at exceptional sights almost every second, as though I was walking in a forest paradise. How fortunate we are to be able to drive 30 minutes from our house and find a fairyland!

Here is a slide show of some of the scenes we passed. Swipe through them and feel our thankfulness.

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Here’s my love, taking a break after our walk, sitting in the shade beside Wyoming Pond …

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And, finally, here’s a happy picture from yesterday’s inspiring full-of-wonders walk on Napatree Beach …

Floating

Delycia and I had a scenic float on nearby Wood River today with Annie, Gabe, and Louie. There’s nothing nicer then sending yourself out on a pristine river with dear friends, and finding perfection wherever you look. Annie and I have loved the Wood River since she was a young girl, and I think all of us loved it today: its graceful flow, the lovely scenery in and around it, and – maybe most wondrous of all – a sky overflowing with boundless downy clouds. Here’s a slide show from the day’s adventure:

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EASY FLOATING
 
Some birds flew by the feeders with a swish
and swirl, and all he did was smile and wish
 
his life could float like them. A leaf blew past
the birds, and as he watched, he smiled and asked
 
it how it learned to float, and then it flew
away among the birds, and something true
 
about his life was clear, that thoughts and words
can float as easily as leaves and birds.

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Easy

            The old saying “take it easy” sometimes starts me wondering whether life could be “taken” in such a way – taken the way I might take a drink of water or a loved one’s hand. Life, after all, is a gift, and surely it’s good to take a gift in a sweet-tempered, considerate manner. Whatever way the gift of life offers itself – as washing the dishes, as feeling the pain of loss, as driving on the interstate, as facing a fear of the unknown – I should take it with the same sense of spontaneity and effortlessness I would show in taking a taste of a delicious dessert, or in taking a tailor-made bike ride with my wife Delycia, as we did this morning – and see what we passed: two horses taking it very, very easy.

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EASY

Standing beside a river, he understands

the easy way that water lives

as it lets its life drift along

with poise and munificence,

a master of taking the most stress-free way.

While he struggles with obstacles, 

a river simply rolls around and under and over them,

and then stays on its steady, undisturbed course.

In winds and rain, the river doesn't resist,

but gives in and goes gracefully along

in easy, happy-go-lucky waves.

If rivers sometimes flow over fields and towns,

they do it with the certainty and appropriateness

that nature always employs,

whether spreading oceans of stars across our skies,

or sending rivers

on their unruffled travels.


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And here are some flowers from Delycia’s garden taking it very easy as part of a bouquet on the dining room table, while she takes it easy making her daily lists.

All Set

 It’s reassuring to realize, each morning, that a thousand things are all set to assist me during the day, and that they were made ready with absolutely no assistance from me. I sometimes smugly think of myself as my own source and supplier of the tools of success, but it’s simply not the case — not when I consider, for instance, our car that is occasionally cared for  by master mechanics, with no help from me; the streets that have been kept smooth and clean for our car, with no help from me; the stoplights that successfully send me and others from one intersection to another, with no help from me; the sunshine that makes it easy to see Delycia’s overflowing flowers, with no help from me; and the flowers themselves that are making major miracles on these flourishing July days, with no help from me. I’m set to have a fine day each morning, mostly because of the countless tasks undertaken by people and forces unfamiliar and far away, the loyal laborers who do their duties so that ease and comfort can be a much bigger part of my life than pressure and stress.  

And here’s a woman – my Delycia – who is all set for a walk at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Preserve (which we did this morning) – fully prepared with shady hat, backpack, face mask, sunglasses, walking stick, and top-of-the-line trail shoes. Maybe ‘Ready’ should be her nickname.

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And here’s a tiny bunny in our backyard, all set to taste some juicy clover grass, we hope – and not Delycia’s flowers!

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A FREE GIFT

Today is a free gift. 
It comes 
in the generous streams 
of sunshine,
the show of affection
in the offerings of breezes, 
and the friendly roar 
of each arriving moment. 
Make ready to receive,
all day long. 
Look for new light 
starting to shine 
over and over.  
 
 

Youthfulness

“As for the [elderly woman], she took on a sudden look of youth; you felt as if she promised a great future, and was beginning, not ending …” — Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs  

            Every so often I have a feeling of sudden youthfulness, as if I’m 6 instead of 78, as if spring is just starting in me as well as in the trees beside our house. This feeling flows from some place that’s a mystery to me, somewhere as near as my heart and as far off as the farthest stars, and I’m never sure when it will show up. Sometimes the feeling starts when I’m eating something special and sensing how young the universe is and how really young my life is. Or it might begin – as it did this morning – when I’m breathing hard on my bike on far-reaching roads on days that sing of cleanness and new starts. Sometimes it’s only a little feeling, but one that finds me just when I most need to feel fresh and unfenced, when I most need to notice the childish shine on my hands. Since, like all of us, I have this kind of innocence deep inside me, all I need to do is see it and accept it, and then let my life leap around like the young thing it always truly is. 

And here’s a 79-year-old lady, my wife and good friend Delycia, who seems to know that her life is a ‘young thing’, and this morning she showed the sometimes hilly country roads near our house how elderly ladies on bikes let roads know who’s in charge.

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WINDY DELIGHT

(two in their 70’s)

They felt delight inside the wind, the joy

of nature in its cheerful liveliness.

They felt this fun-loving wind would bless

them, would treat then like a girl and boy

made just for windy, untroubled days. The trees

were bending in the wind like dancers full

of joy, and he and she could feel the pull

and whirl of youthfulness. A fresh-faced breeze

was blowing through their lives. The generous gift

the wind was giving filled them with the light

that floats in early spring. Their lives felt bright

and young. It was as if this wind could lift

them up where springtime always flows and thrives

in hearts so new, in elderly young lives.

Views

INFINITE ABILITIES

            I recall a friend once telling me that the weather has what he called “infinite abilities” to surprise us. He said there’s no limit to what the weather can do, because it doesn’t grow weak and weary like we do. This morning, as I was walking near the Mystic River, I was thinking about what he said, and it started me wondering if we, too, might actually have some infinite abilities – the ability, for instance, to bring some brightness to others, or the ability to be brave when life breaks down, or the ability to believe in kindness when cruelty seems in control the world over. I, for one, am weary of the limiting outlook on life – the view that we can have only so much satisfaction or whole-heartedness or amazement, that these qualities come only in small quantities and will sooner or later shrink away. I’ve known people who had a far wider view of things – who paid tribute to the good gift of life even when suffering severely, even when hope seemed to hold out no hand. They seemed to know that cheerfulness and inner liveliness are limitless – actually infinite – and that any person’s supply of benevolence is literally boundless. To them – and to me – a quality like the ability to be amazed by the beauties of this universe is without limits. When the door of death swings open for me, I hope I’m able, even then, to be astonished by the view – by the vast mysteries of all things. I hope I can still shout, at least in spirit, some words of praise for the gifts I’m given each moment …

… including the gift of this lovely view of the Mystic River from St. Patrick Cemetery, where I did a misty morning walk today.

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OPENINGS
(about Patricia F., 46, Blessings, CT)
(10/26/18)
 
She seems to see openings everywhere.
Even in disappointments, there are windows
to look through to new understandings,
and in fear, if she looks with care, 
there are always crevices
that show her a view
of courage as vast as the sky.
She knows the doors
of the universe
are constantly swinging open.
There are entrances to satisfaction
wherever she happens to be,
and she’s sure a doorway waits
in the center of every sorrow. 
Life gives her 
a new gateway every morning, 
and she takes pleasure 
in opening it. 
 




Together

Several years ago, Delycia and I attended a dance concert at Connecticut College, and it was a truly astonishing performance by gifted young dancers. It was amazing to me that students taking a dance class three hours per week were able to present such a fluid and refined performance. I couldn’t help but think of the idea of ‘togetherness’ as I watched these inventive dancers glide around the stage. There was cohesion in their movements, a kind of easy harmony among their bodies as they smoothly set forth the themes of the various dances. There was an inspiring singleness among the dancers, as though they were one blended dancer instead of many. There was cohesiveness among them, and camaraderie, and the close bonds that bring people together to make something special. Our admiration and thanks went to the young dancers and the college’s Dance Department for doing what the whole world needs to do: work as one in fellowship and concord.  

And this morning, on our brisk walk on the seaside hills of Noank (CT), I noticed this peaceful scene of togetherness.

Here are several types of bushes and trees and fences and grass and old, silent stones and pavement, all staying together in peacefulness. Beyond, dozens of sailboats seem to be resting easily with each other, in partnership saving up strength for the next sail.

And then we saw these varieties of flowers, side by side, almost shoulder to shoulder, on this handsome seaside porch.

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A SWINGING LIFE

You could see swinging
in your life - 
the breezy sway of the feeder 
with sparrows swinging on it -
the wavy movement of feelings 
inside you -
the fluttering of sorrows and joys 
together as friends.
Find any moment, 
and you will find 
a flowing back and forth, 
a friendly push and pull,
and you could easily swing 
and be amazed. 

Serenity

We took a beyond-belief kayak trip on the Wood River this morning – a trip that settled a sheet of serenity over us almost as soon we set the boats in the water. There’s something about an elderly river and lordly trees and the holiness of mist that can make any summer morning sacred. We almost didn’t need to paddle, as if the river itself was flowing us along in its princely way. Peacefulness was all around us – in the soft songs of birds, in the easy roll of water under the paddles, in the distances we could see as the river stretched far ahead of us. Even the water striders seemed easygoing as they skated across the water beside us, and a great blue heron rose up across the water as pleasantly as if he was not flying, but strolling, through the air. I think we felt lucky all the way, like wide-eyed kids seeing miracles all around them.

Here’s a slide show of our journey:

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It might seem strange, but our peaceful experience on the river this morning reminded me of the many peaceful days I had in the classroom when I was teaching. It didn’t always happen, but there were definitely occasional days when patience seemed to be the strongest force in my teaching. On those days, nothing seemed to be rushing or running or dashing or pushing. Whatever happened seemed to happen in a slow and resolute manner. Whether it was me turning the pages of my lesson plan book, my students coming down the hall toward my classroom, or the trees beyond the soccer fields swaying in the currents of air – everything seemed to be done with neither haste nor carelessness. That’s strange, because it might have seemed, to an observer, that there was much urgency around school on those days of patience. No doubt some of the students walked speedily to get to their next classes, and some of the teachers probably moved quickly through part of a lesson. But, still, in my classroom on those patient days, there seemed to be a sense of serenity at the heart of everything. Inside any rushing was an essential, all-pervasive peacefulness. Things sometimes happened quickly, but always carefully, calmly, and perfectly. A fitting symbol of this is something I saw at the end of one of those rare days, when kids were boarding buses and others were warming up on the athletic fields. I saw a car parked in front of the main entrance to school, and inside it, reclining in unreserved stillness behind the steering wheel, a woman was peacefully sleeping. Games were starting on the fields, and I’m sure cars were, as usual, rushing along the nearby interstate, but inside this car there was an enduring stillness. In a frenzied world, patience reigned there, as it had all day in my classroom – and as it did this morning on the unruffled Wood River.

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And here’s a gallery of some of Delycia’s relaxed and undisturbed flowers today …

Smiles

            Goodness is a steady and faithful follower. It seems to pursue me everywhere – in stores, where I can always see a gracious smile from at least one person; on walks, where strangers usually send a greeting with a wave; and especially in the midst of disappointment and sadness, when I can always count on goodness somehow giving me its gifts. Even in disaster and desolation, goodness is persistent and enduring, a devoted follower. It’s always just behind me, waiting and ready – as I discovered once again this morning when, returning home from a bike ride, Delycia pointed out this random smile waiting for me in the lawn spreader.

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A GRACIOUS WORLD

(a poem about Sharon Z., 82, Blessings, CT)

 

She sees smiles everywhere.

In her house,

wastebaskets seem pleased

when she empties them,

and chairs show expressions of tenderness

as she considers which one to choose.

To her, trees seem amused

as they sway in passing winds,

and even sorrow

is gracious when it pays her a visit,

pleased to be bringing new understanding.

Each day seems delighted to see her,

and most moments seem thankful to be her friend.

It appears that life enjoys

making her feel good.

Even grief can come with a grin,

saying, “Don’t worry. I’ll be gone soon,

and wisdom, as usual, is right behind me.”

 

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We took an easygoing though sometimes strenuous bike ride this morning, the Wheeler Road – Al Harvey Road loop again, one of our favorites. I feel sure we smiled most of the way, because we both especially love the openness

that seems to be all around us along these quiet country roads. Yes, there are stone fences everywhere, but they don’t fence in our vision of the widespread pastures, forests, and skies – and this massive stone fence didn’t stop Delycia from soaring away from me on her lightweight bike.

And certainly, no ‘No Trespassing’ sign can keep two lovers of spaciousness from stopping to see a handsome green and golden pasture.

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I always smile to see Delycia’s spectacular flowers …