Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Long shadows

What do you look toward, when you are fearful, sad or anxious?

On days when you have to make yourself do too many tedious things that you do not want to do, but since you are an adult, you are expected to do them anyway?

On days when you fear your life is going to waste, or your path has disappeared, or that this is all there is and it is not enough?

The only thing I can think of to do right now is to look outside of myself and into the garden.

Nokomis Naturescape, Minneapolis

That's it. My one answer. I feel a little dose of joy each day when I see the first butterflies and bees of the day nourishing themselves on flowers I planted there, for the express purpose of feeding them.

In my very mundane life, that feels like a gift and a wonder to me. To look up and catch a glimpse of an orange-winged treasure flashing in the golden light, gliding down from that vast summer sky to circle, climb, circle again to finally land on the perfect flower from which to drink, on this infinitesimally small bit of planet earth.

All the more precious since their population is threatened by humans, as everything on this earth is threatened by humans, except for the very occasional things that are helped by humans.

Like the butterflies who visit my tiny waystation, and I hope many many other waystations as they make their way to Mexico.

So heartfelt thanks to the butterflies for bringing a smile to my lips and un-furrowing my furrowed brow for a moment each day during the many weeks of summer. They feel like companions to me.

Gratitude to the goldfinches, who now hide in the tall serviceberry next to the house and make speedy garden forays, gripping with their feet the seedheads of hyssop, coneflowers and bergamot as they eat one tiny, pointed seed at a time.

[no photo, but they are a darting bright yellow and olive yellow, with handsome black and white stripes]

Oh bringing love love love to drive off despair and violence of every sort, disrespect and destruction, leaf blowers and the weeping of the world. I am far too small to feel all that love...but the right size for the timely presence of a butterfly to still fill me with joy.

And there are lakes, and clouds, and wind-blown blue days that smell like the wildness of creation.

Earthly gifts are the ones that have weight and substance. That feel real. That feed us, the people.

(Not humans—the people. Humans are biological constructs, the people are body-and-spirit. This is what I've just decided.)

Earthly gifts are sacred gifts, and oh how this world needs more protectors of the sacred.

What if I pared away all the parts of my life that feel like junk food.

That deplete rather than replenish life and health. Would it help?

What would be left?

I don't know. Where is the center? What holds it all together?

I read about Hope Bourne, a wild soul of a writer who moved to Exmoor at the age of 52 to live off the land in an old caravan. She wrote:

“For money, you sell the hours and the days of your life, which are the only true wealth you have. You sell the sunshine, the dawn and the dusk, the moon and the stars, the wind and the rain, the green fields and the flowers, the rivers and the sweet fresh air. You sell health and joy and freedom.” 
Everything in me responds to this. It is what I most fear! My heart nearly breaks just to see it put into words, the commodification of our lives and the great loss of our birthright: the light of day, freedom to move, to experience the life of the planet.

But I almost feel crazy sometimes, because I do not know anyone else who feels this way, and our society does not support feeling this way either—far, far from it.

What this society supports is work and work and work, and feel grateful that you have a job, don't expect more than work, and you are of no value and irrelevant as an individual unless you are working.

And even THAT doesn't make you of value, unless you are rich. Because those are the people a money society values.

I feel the grief of this so keenly at this moment. Our lives are commodities that only we can value at their true worth. But once we know their true value, how do we live as if we honor that?

How do we get our lives back?

What—or who—do we have to leave behind in order to do it?

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