An Adventure into the Familiar

It’s a good November day to think about author and poet Wendell Berry and things familiar- things to be grateful for- the miniscule, the often unnoticed. He once wrote: “The search withholds the joy from what is found” in his poem “Boone”. It seems like a great time peek around the corners of the everyday, the familiar, and utter a small or extra large helping of “thank you”, even though it may be hard in times like these. I’m in the city of Seattle as I write this, grateful for every person who opens a door for another, every smile given gratis, every face of every color and shade. Let’s keep opening the door for one another, and say “thank you” to every kindness or a glisten of light that comes our way today.

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The Play is the Thing

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photo courtesy of Ginny Schneider

On these “ordinary” days of extraordinary color, magic, and mystery that the subtle winds of October bring to us, I find that like the sweet nectar of savoring that swirling and cascading leaf, or the tramp, stumble, and skip down the road-memories of childhood, the pseudo indulgence (an actually necessity) of play also draws us in. We hear it whisper, “oh, please, just one game, one dance, one indulgent giggle!” And we give in (thank goodness!)

I found myself in a small intentional community gathering the other day, asking me to “come and play” for an hour or two. The format was simple: take 8 adults, an outdoor space, and a few games (like toss the ball, say a name, next person goes, remember the order, then do it all backwards!) and suddenly, enter the doorway into fun. It doesn’t take much, just a little time and a little willingness. The results are: easier breathing, lots of laughter, and more playmates!

Today I’m hanging out with my dear friend’s two boys who love to join with me in adding a little silliness to a ping pong game (can you do a dance move in between each paddle swing? let’s see how many rhymes we can come up with for our names. . . card trick anyone?) And the free and easy, breezy attitude of play releases me into movement, unpolished cleverness, and belly laughs. The drive with my daughter and a friend or two the other day belting out at the top of our lungs a well-trodden song from the nineties did the same thing.

What would you like to play today?

Timeless in Ordinary Time

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Many Native Americans call those things that are nourishing, healing, and wisdom-giving, available to us in the natural world “medicine”. I like this way of seeing because that implies that a spoonful of cure, a helping of wisdom and encouragement is always around us.

I went for a walk early this afternoon, watching the maple leaves whirling down from their attachments, glowing with autumn sun, and thought, “medicine”. Detaching and surrendering into the free fall, the provision of sun and sky, the knowledge of ground warm and certain beneath, and even playing as you go is indeed medicine.

I noticed the reemergence of blackberries as I continued to walk. A lovely surprise after seeing them dry up and wither at summer’s end, just a few weeks ago. Medicine. The surprise re-gathering of our own juices to produce fruit after a time of dormancy gives me hope.

By the end of my walk, the sun was back in full swing, after a morning of chill and heavy grey clouds. This, too, was an elixir. Not only for my body, but for my soul, during this “ordinary time”. The idea that change is always constant- a grey sky gives birth to a sunny day, and a sunny day can curl up under the cover of clouds- can be encouraging when things aren’t going as we would like them to go. At these times, change can be a welcome friend.

What medicine can you find in your own path today?

A wink and a celebration

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Turning again toward the door of autumn, under the lintel of of September, I find it can be an opportunity to seek out celebration. I spoke with a newly made acquaintance the other day who, in the context of learning to live out Pacific Northwest winters, said, “find all the colors in the gray!” A great way to attune your eye to, and celebrate, the awareness of the season you’re living in, I thought.

So I ask myself, what colors can I find in the golden turning of September? Where are the nuances, the subtleties in the spectrum of this new season, or this new season in my life? Your life? The light seems to wink at us this time of year as it passes through leaf-shapes and colors of change. How about a little celebration toward what these changes might have in store for us?

A Celebration Blessing

Now is the time
to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder
of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encourages you to live everything here.

See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.

– John O’Donohue.

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photo by Ginny Schneider

Transitioning into September

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Summer is daintily putting on her September gown, donning a sheath of early winds, as golden leaves are already dropping in small doses like up-dos falling into their autumn tresses. Watching summer transition over into autumn up here in western Washington can be a difficult thing. We waited so long for this warm, bright season, and now we find ourselves bidding farewell to blue skies and longer passages of light, only to wonder when the rain will set in, those long, drippy days, bathed in grey flannel skies.

I found a gentler way to cross this threshold, however, and it includes choice words. Knowing others have tiptoed lightly into September over centuries, millennia, and written about it, for some reason, gives an ounce or two of comfort, and brings beauty to an otherwise dreary passageway.

“The Spirit of Gardening” website at http://www.gardendigest.com/quotes.htm has been just the spoonful of delight that has helped me enjoy this threshold over the last few years. Choose a month, choose a season, and you’ll be treated to snatches of poetry and yummy quotes that hold your hand when nature’s changes come.

How can you resist John Updike’s quote from his poem “September”:

“Like plates washed clean/ With suds, the days/ Are polished with/ A morning haze. 

or “Smoke hangs like haze over harvested fields, The gold of stubble, the brown of turned earth And you walk under the red light of fall . . .” a quote from an Autumn Equinox ritual. How can you not appreciate the turns of season more with such choicely worded offerings!