When I look out in the morning, I need to see nature. My eyes are not ready to focus on man-made lines. I want the soft green of fields or the expansiveness of the sea. If that’s not available, I can at least look at a plant or flower near my door or a small patch of lawn. As a last resort, I can view a beautiful painting with soft, natural colors and lines. If I am able to do that, I find my day rewarding and pacific. That’s not to say that everything is wonderful. There are still persistent, daily irritants, but my ability to let them flow by me like the flotsam on a stream is strengthened. I can understand that the person who pushes to get ahead at the store might be more of a hurry than I; or the person who responds to a question gruffly may be suffering a hidden pain. It is more difficult to let go of the day-to-day mistakes I make. If I remember, I realize my need to return to gazing with appreciation at nature. Sometimes I see, in looking at my own hands, the love they are capable of giving. Memories and possibilities spring up to connect me once again to this experience of earth.
I am convinced: weeds have intelligence. Those pesky, long stemmed, yellow weeds talk amongst themselves as the mower approaches. “Lie down, she’s coming,” they say. I want to knock them down like a machete wielding madwoman, but when I look behind the mower, I see them laughing and dancing in the sunshine. How do they do that? If I were run over by a giant rotating blade I would be cut to shreds to lie bleeding on the ground.
Another thing: how do weeds know how to disguise themselves and grow near desirable plants, intertwining roots, taking advantage of shade and available water? What I thought was a healthy, fast growing astilbe turned out to be, on closer inspection, a struggling shrub surrounded by thistles. From a distance the leaves looked exactly the same. Horticulturists say that weeds grow in conditions similar to the plants they emulate. But what about horses tail among the carrots, or buttercups under the radishes? On the other hand, dandelions have evolved to be the bullies of the weed world. They grow anywhere without trying to hide. Maybe it’s better when weeds try to fit in. At least from the surface everything is beautiful.
Weeds Run Amok
The changing light on the fields below our home creates an almost limitless variety of moods. I look out to see the golden light of the morning sun and everything is yellow and bright. On other days an ethereal morning mist diffuses light and the air feels as though it holds me close. Peace is almost tangible, maybe because I cannot see too far. Sometimes dark and sinister clouds encroach on unsuspecting fields. Corn stands proud and tall not guessing torrential winds will soon bombard their tenuous hold on life.
The noonday sunlight fades and washes out the color. Strange, it seems as though the opposite should happen. When evening finally comes, amber light again bathes the fields and creates growing shadows so opposite of morning. Illumination diminishes in calculated steps until the only light I see is from the stars. The fields are black: in appearance only, not reality. They are as green as they ever were. Only the light has changed.
In the darkness it’s difficult to remember the warmth and life force brought here by the sun. Maybe sleep will once again bring light around to succor me with healing rays.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I know a lot about rain: different types of rain, different words for rain, different descriptors. I can relate to the Inuit and Yupik people, who supposedly have hundreds of different words for snow.
However, one of my most memorable experiences of rain happened in Osaka, Japan. I went out for a jog one morning hoping to get my exercise before the rain began. I made it almost up to the Castle (about two miles) before I felt the first raindrops. I pressed on a little farther. I thought, a few drops of water can’t hurt. It might even cool me off. It’s so hot I’m sweaty. By the time I finally turned around the rain was getting serious. I turned down a street lined with small shops. Each had a small awning overhanging the sidewalk where I could get a little shelter. Unfortunately, with the businesses closed the awnings were retracted and covered only about a foot of the sidewalk. I ran from awning to awning and plastered myself against the buildings to stay dry, then dashed to the next.
To say the rain increased in intensity would be an understatement. It was as though someone from the roof was throwing down buckets of water—huge buckets. The water in the gutters began to run over the shallow curb until it was like a river running down the sidewalk. At some point I realized that keeping any part of my body dry was impossible and I made a mad dash for the hotel.
Arriving at the hotel, I stood outside the entrance attempting to wring the water from my clothes. My socks and shoes were waterlogged and entering the lobby, I looked like someone just stepping out of a swimming pool. I casually walked to the elevator across the marble floor, making squishing sounds and leaving huge puddles. The employees and hotel guests were too polite to say anything, but I felt eyes boring holes in my back.
I love rain. It’s what makes our area so lush and green. It’s good. But that day, it was just too much of a good thing.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YOU ALL, regardless of weather
It’s quite windy today and I was reminded of a time when a horrific windstorm ripped through the Anchorage area. I was working as a flight instructor at Fort Richardson. People were scurrying around tying down anything that could blow away. I bundled up and headed out to the flight line, wanting to double check the tie down ropes on my airplane. As I opened the door of the Quonset hut, I was greeted with a blast of frigid air. I put my head down and cinched my hood closer around my face. It was impossible to breathe facing into the wind. As I walked across the open area between the building and the airplanes, I was at the mercy of the wind. Barely able to control my movements on the snow and ice covered slippery ground I thought maybe I should return to the safety of the building. But my plane had to be secured. Going downwind, I was practically flying; and walking upwind, I had to lean forward more than forty-five degrees to keep from being blown backwards. I learned later that gusts up to 100 miles per hour had been recorded.
We waited out the storm next to the cozy heater in the office until dark. Knowing there was nothing more to be done, we all finally went home, hoping to find the airplanes safe when we returned. The next morning, under calm and sunny skies, we surveyed the damage. My airplane was untouched, but others were not so lucky. The tail tie down rope of one plane broke and the plane was flipped over onto its back, wing tie downs still intact. Several others had been blown into each other with crumpled wings and tail sections. The force of that wind was a graphic reminder of the power of nature. “The Spirit, like the wind, blows where he wills and no one can control his movements.” John 3:8
“There is no such thing as bad weather. All weather is good because it is God’s.” St. Teresa of Avila. At this time of year I often hear talk about bad weather. The wind, rain, frost, and snow: all have their detractors. The clouds hide the sun and I hunker down inside. Being an outdoor person, I find it difficult to adjust to spending more time indoors. I love those fair summer days when the breeze brings smells of ripening fruit and flowers. But I am fortunate to live in a climate where, with only minor adjustments in clothing, I can be outdoors every day. I find something to appreciate about whatever weather surrounds me, enjoying various types of weather perhaps because I basically like change. How boring it would be to have moderate temperatures and sunny skies every day! Some of my favorite memories are of being out in extreme weather. In my next blog I’ll share some of those memories. And maybe you can tell me some of yours.
On this feast day celebrating one of my favorite saints, I’m happy that St. Teresa of Avila shared this bit of wisdom.
So much of my life is centered on planning and striving. When do I have time just to be? Eckhart Tolle said, “We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be.” When life throws curve balls, I find my plans thrown into confusion and I realize that without goals and plans for the future, I flounder and lose the zest for living. I don’t know how to balance the needs of making plans and being in the moment. Both, at times, fill me with life giving energy. To sit and meditate and breathe in the goodness of life as it is can be exhilarating. But being still and doing nothing can make my life a stagnant mess. On the other hand, working towards a goal carries me along like a rushing river. But ceaseless doing is exhausting and makes me crazy.
Maybe the answer lies in openness to the spirit. I must listen and pray to know what is appropriate for each moment, to know what brings love into the world.
I guess I had forgotten the word I chose to focus on this year. Now I remember! My word is: Open. That’s what I need.