Sunday, December 15, 2013

Kindredness & kindness

I've been applying for a lot of jobs lately. But in my heart, I want my life to be branching like a tree, silhouetted in bare grace against the winter sky. No more trammeling myself into spaces that feel small. No trying to impress, convince, persuade. Trees, stones, water, birds...nothing on this earth ever tries or wants to be other than itself, except for us. They just are.

I mean, look at the trees, stripped to the bone. That essential being-ness of trunk and branch is like a song traced against the sky, a quiet refrain repeated from tree to tree. Each a living being, and also a branching map of its own life. Like a human, specific to itself in its particulars; and again like a human, akin to others of its kind. Unique...yet not alone.

Along with the job seeking, one of the things I've been doing rather than writing blog posts is gathering photos of crones. Over and over, I am struck by how so many of their faces shine with joy and radiate such love and acceptance. I feel wrapped in an embrace just by looking upon their beautiful faces. How diminished we would be without the grandmothers and their wisdom--a cauldron of power that has distilled over the course of many-years-lived into its bare-branches-against-the-sky essence.

By looking at photo after photo of women who are wholly who they are, I hope to honor that essence in others and nurture it in myself. It's a kind of choosing. A kind of reminding, envisioning, invoking: This is the kind of woman I want to be, how I want to grow old. Like a grand, twisting tree, like a wrinkled and happy and lovely old woman, enough in myself.

I've been thinking what a gift to the world that kindness is. How powerfully it affects us when we are touched by another's kindness, and how we long to be accepted and to belong. That longing must always be there, underlying surface-dwelling things, like a tender nourishing stream beneath the tangle of tree roots.

It is never so clear that the longing exists as when a stranger unexpectedly smiles at you, or a small child you do not know reaches out her arms toward you and laughs, just at the sight of you. Suddenly, you feel yourself light up from within, a welling of joy and gratitude for being seen for who you are: Nothing more and nothing less than a human person walking in this world, over this ground, under these stars and these clouds, following a path and singing a sometimes-brave, sometimes-wavering tune as you go.

Mary Oliver wrote, "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." And "When will you have a little pity for every soft thing that walks through the world, yourself included?"

It takes such a small act of kindness to ourselves or others to swell that small, unseen, tree-rooted stream, and to feel its nourishment. Then compassion arises feeding healing tears, as we accept ourselves and are accepted by others, at the root. That is how our hearts expand, sending out tendrils and branches toward others, like a beautiful tree during the crone-time of winter, still swelling buds and green with life within.


  1. I'm so happy to see you using the Kindredness & Kindness theme you'd mentioned a while ago. I too feel a kinship with trees—there's a lot to learn from them. Those are very wonderful portraits of those trees you've made there. I feel this culture is so contrived and un-natural too in its expectations that we conform to something or other and jump through hoops to get some job or even housing, two things (in their typical form) I don't care for much. Every other creature just lives a natural existence, whereas we contrive every little thing.
    Here's a bit of Emerson: ashamed before the blade of grass or the blowing rose. These roses under my window make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are; they exist with God to-day. There is no time to them. There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. Before a leaf-bud has burst, its whole life acts; in the full-blown flower there is no more; in the leafless root there is no less. Its nature is satisfied, and it satisfies nature, in all moments alike. But man postpones or remembers; he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past, or, heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tiptoe to foresee the future. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the
    present, above time.

  2. Reifyn, thank you for the beautiful quote. And what I forgot to say is that each of us is already enough, myself included. Maybe we, unlike the rose, are able to influence the course of our own blossoming...but that doesn't mean that we are any less if instead we choose to let ourselves unfold as we will, or some combination of both, dwelling in the Mystery.

    1. Your welcome, Carmine. There's no other quote I recall more often than that one as I often look forward or back. And I love roses—they're my favourite. I think what RWE's words mean to me is that as long as we exist in the Now like every other living thing, we'll be living up to what we're meant for. Anyway, I'm glad you think about such things as what you post here—I feel that you will do all right inwardly no matter what path you tread, because you pay attention to being part of everything else. Humans make the world more complex than it actual is, and that's what we inherit. No wonder we cry as babies! But it's really something, this having to navigate through what we're given. It is in a sense a gift to us from ourselves.

    2. Agreed. The more we can look at what comes as a gift, the less resistance we will feel to what is...a path of wisdom and practice toward which I am taking small and stumbling baby steps. <3


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