At this time of year, caterpillars are starting to go through an amazing metamorphosis to change into butterflies, and I often wonder whether a somewhat similar kind of transformation is happening to me – and all of us – almost all the time. Every year across the earth, trillions of caterpillars undergo a complete transformation – a change so thorough that it literally remakes them into new creatures. A butterfly is not just a re-tooled caterpillar; it’s a completely new and different animal. As one writer said, it would be as if you dropped off a bicycle at the repair shop and when you came back, it had turned into a 747 jumbo jet. This marvelous rebirth will start happening soon all across New England, and it seems to me that something roughly analogous happens to all of us with amazing regularity. Life, perhaps, is a never-ending school where we are constantly learning and testing and growing and advancing – and completely transforming. Perhaps this kind of ‘school work’ happens every day, right in my ordinary and pleasingly old life – maybe as I prepare an omelet in the morning, or see sparrows floating somewhere, or just gaze out at the promising trees and sky. Maybe, like a good student in an excellent school, or like a caterpillar, I am becoming completely new, over and over again, but don’t realize it. After all, I have rarely stopped to notice and marvel at a caterpillar as it’s going through its metamorphosis, and, similarly, perhaps I’ve never been aware of the radical changes that are happening to me, and to life itself – always. Perhaps youthful 80-year-old student ‘butterflies’ have been bursting out on a daily basis at the good school at 44 Riverbend Drive – and I’ve completely missed it!
(about Bernice D, 61, Blessings, CT
She loves the changes
that choose her every day --
the constant and amazing mutations of her mind,
the inspiring reshaping of strength
caused by disappointments and sorrows,
the way her powers of understanding
so often seem transformed,
even by leaves letting go
or sunshine on the side of a house.
A walk down the driveway
redoes the cells in her body,
and bringing the groceries in
all of her past.
When she needs a total remake,
she just sincerely welcomes
and the remodeling
is instantly done.
Even though I usually don’t realize it, every moment of every day is busy’ fixing’ things for me. I – along with the entire universe – am thoroughly reconditioned each moment, renovated inside and out and made fresh for new escapades in the adventure called life. Even while I’m writing these words, winds are overhauling forests, and my body’s cells are efficiently reconstructing themselves – full refreshening happening with every word that’s written. This doesn’t mean, however, that life is ever damaged and in need of repair. No, the endless refurbishing happens simply because that’s what life loves best – to always make all things new. Yes, these simple, commonplace words have been used countless times before, but never in precisely this way. They sit on my computer screen with trailblazing smiles, because, like everything from mountains to stars to thoughts to words like friends on screens – they are endlessly getting fixed and refreshed and immaculately enhanced, like unsullied newborns – always .
Today will be a day of continuous birth. Each moment will be a fresh emergence, an arrival of something I’ve never truly seen or experienced before. If life sometimes seems tedious today, it will be only because my eyes and heart are closed to the nonstop special deliveries of miracles. The present moment is persistent in making everything brand new – it’s been doing it for timeless eons – and today will be no different. It will be as if each moment is the dawn of a new age, a fountainhead of unprecedented freedoms. Even the most commonplace tasks – pouring coffee into a cup, carrying clothes to the washer, washing my hands at the sink – will be brand new possibilities never before presented in precisely that way. This will be a day of countless dawns, moment by moment, each of them astonishing beyond words. Perhaps Delycia will occasionally say, “Are you o.k., Ham? You look like you’re always staring at a spectacular sunrise.”
YOU CAN'T STOP IT
You can’t stop it.
The sun will stand on hilltops today,
despite your efforts.
Morning will wear its finest shirt,
noon will wish you well,
and evening will bring
its beautiful book.
Yes, storms will speak
their pristine words somewhere,
and stars will shimmer
in their birthplace above you.
There's nothing you can doabout it.
The world will show you
what rejoicing is,
no matter what
you decide to do.
During the winter months, as my wife and I sleep in our bedroom, a humidifier quietly does its work by softly humming, and every night and every day the dependable universe does its special work with a steady stream of ‘hums’. These are hums that always stay secret and silent, softly behind the scenes, sounds made by work that discreetly does what must be done to keep things always spinning and expanding and advancing. It’s the work my body, for instance, calmly carries out moment by moment – the balanced moving of blood, the falling and lifting of the lungs, the constant re-creation of cells. It’s the silent work the surrounding air always does, sending me humming winds and pulsating oxygen and always a subtle kind of freshness. And then there are the endless ‘hums’ of the wide world I live in – the sounds of the rolling along of rivers, the constant whisper of winds that work their way without ceasing across thousands of miles, and of course the noiseless, steadfast spinning of the stars. It’s reassuring to me to stay aware of this humming, bustling labor – to realize, while I’m working my way through the minutes of a day, that so much silent work is always being done inside and around me, that so much steady and tender effort is being quietly applied to make my 80-year-old life the marvelous thing that it is.
(about Patricia F., 46, Blessings, CT, USA)
it is peace that works inside her,
always steadying her in its graceful way,
and she sometimes feels friendship
performing its good work
in her grateful heart.
She understands that life leads her
in the way that it wants to,
and does the duties it is given
by the stars and winds.
She sees life laboring
in its loving way to help her,
and she holds out her hands
This morning, as usual, I was greeted, when I awoke, by my good and happy house. It’s always there for me at the start of each day, waiting to wave with friendliness as I begin a brand new journey. And this kind of thing happens all day long, every day – all the rooms saluting me again and again as I pass through them, the new daylight outside saying hello as I walk with it here and there, and even the trees raising their leaves to me as I pass by. I was at the grocery store this morning, and it was as if each person I passed greeted me in their silent, shy way, and even the plums and blueberries seemed to say hello as I looked them over. Today, like all of them, will surely be a day full of greetings, each moment ushering me in to its pristine and matchless paradise. I hope I can be politely grateful all day long!
BRINGING OUT THE RED CARPET
(about Braelynn J., 52, Blessings, CT)
Braelynn brings out the red carpet
to make a gracious greeting
for a new day. She knows that shame
and distress might show up, that sorrow
could come to her doorstep, but still,
she ushers each day into her life
with thankfulness. She knows
there are wonders beyond belief,
both bright and dark,
waiting inside each hour, each moment,
and hospitality is what they deserve.
She somehow hugs both good news and bad,
because she knows they both bring gifts.
She opens her door and says,
Whenever I feel uncomfortably warm on these summer days, I can always sprinkle some cold water across my face, and luckily, life itself does something similar when I get lost on the sweaty trail of worries. All I need, when cares and concerns are closing in upon me, is a sprinkle of presence – the boundless freshness of each present moment. Perhaps I will feel it every so often today – the splash of newness that’s always available, the soft shower of inventiveness that life is always ready to spray me with. In the heat – real or metaphorical – of any day, I hope I can feel the soft drizzle of cleanness in each feeling and thought, the way each new moment is bespeckled with dashes of cleverness and resourcefulness. Like the best friend it is, life is always ready – especially in the heat of doubts and qualms – with its rejuvenating sprinkles of freedom and refreshment.
She found a fountain one morning,
and made it something
she could carry
and care for,
an everlasting spring,
a spray she could use
to sprinkle stillness and acceptance
especially on herself,
this restless person
who forgets that she's a fountain herself,
an unfailing flow of life,
and now she carries
the quiet fountain she found
and is starting to see
that she simply found
Whenever I ask Delycia what her ‘favorite’ something is – book, song, season, vacation, etc. – she usually says it’s too hard to choose, and I’m slowly understanding what she means. In a universe filled with limitless treasures, how can I designate my most-liked? When I’m presented with miracles moment after moment all day long, is it really possible, at the end of the day, to pick my best-loved? Of all the beautiful breaths I take today, can I conceivably say at bedtime, ‘Oh yes, the breath I took at 7:02 pm was my absolute favorite’? I now see what my wife might mean about the difficulty of choosing favorites. It’s just too hard to prefer one jewel out of the day-long, boundless flood of them. Every scene I see today will be a mysterious marvel, and rather than singling out favorites, I’d best just be astonished – and grateful – moment after moment.
Today, like all days, will be constantly moving forward. Indeed, its life-giving, steady progress cannot be stopped. Each moment will move ahead with both vitality and peacefulness, bringing into view realities that have never before been seen in the history of the universe. It will be a day of continual advancing for everything, each person and squirrel and street and speck of dust becoming something fresh and newfangled each moment. All the moments will be totally forward-looking, moving easily ahead into unmapped territories. I guess we could say that this day, like all days, will be ‘forward’, like a brash young person is – bold and brazen, a valiant adventurer on the hunt for thrills and breakthroughs.
No doubt I need to be always on the alert, ready to accompany this shameless, audacious new day.
Below are some scenes as we passed through Elm Grove Cemetery on our walk this morning …
This simple but special day, like all of them, will be what I would call an ‘introducer ‘, and a very good one, too. If I keep my eyes and heart open, this day will propose brand-new plans and strategies for me, and suggest the freshest and best ways to appreciate life. All day long, astonishing activities will be formally presented: my fingers dancing with elderly flair across the computer keyboard, water freely running from the faucet when I turn the handle, my old, happy hand stroking my unshaven cheek. Everything will get going every moment. Brightness will seem to begin wherever I look. A new miracle will be formally presented when I sip my coffee, or take a taste of a plum, or let my head effortlessly turn. This day will put forward a new type of friendliness, even in the way my two legs love working together as I walk.
Please, dear day, set in motion your marvels. I am ready.
Below are some scenes from our walk yesterday on the Beebe Pond trail …
… and, two photos from the top of the Coogan Preserve trail today, where I was resting after a tough climb on my bike …
… and, our friendship poem for yesterday, and some of Delycia’s lovely flowers, inside and outside …
Today is April Fools Day, and it’s a good occasion for me to consider what a scheming trickster life can be. For instance, it pretends to be solid, like it’s filled with totally separate structures and shapes (called people, animals, things, etc.), when, in truth, it’s a formless, indivisible, ever-shifting blend of newly unfolding moments. Life also continually play-acts at being composed of the past, present, and future, when the truth is that only the endless, ever-shining present is truly real. And finally – perhaps the grandest of all tricks – life is always insisting that I am in charge of ‘my own life’, when, actually, there is only one life, of which I am a part, and this immeasurable, indivisible life knows precisely what to do to take care of itself. All I have to do is go with the amazing, moment-by-moment flow. If evil needs to be conquered, like it always does, life will show me how to assist in the takeover, and if peace is spreading, like it always is, life will lead me to its warmth and luster.
Hey, life! No tricks for me today! At age 80, I’m no fool, and I’m wise to your wiles!