Archives for April 2015

Sharing and Acceptance

This has been a very interesting week, one in which I seem to have been called to consider how I want to be in the world going forward.  This ‘call’ has come through several separate channels, all bumping up against each other through just my daily routine.

First was a dinner with a friend and mentor from many years ago, whose work in the world is to help accomplished people accomplish more through personal renewal.  I had taken a year-long leadership renewal course with her at the Shannon Institute in Minneapolis more than ten years ago, and the experience, which helped me think, for the first time about what my core values were, has continued to resonate in my life ever since.

Then the other day a dear friend, whom I love not because she seem to know something useful about everything (which she does), but because she is a warm and giving person, mentioned that when a certain Native American tribe prayed, it was never to ask for anything.  The only form of prayer they had was to express gratitude.  This meant finding thankfulness in every situation, no matter how sad, fearful, dire – or joyous.

And this morning, my daily meditation prompt, from 365 Tao, Daily Meditations, by Deng Ming-Dao, a small and beautiful book I consult each morning to give me something to think about all day, is about ‘acceptance.’

Drought burns basins to dust,

Light rain is a dew of mockery.

Receive without complaint,

Work with fate.

I also have a personal mantra which I speak each morning and night, parts of which I borrowed from Wallace D. Wattles’ two strange little books; The Science of Getting Rich and The Science of Being Great (I know!) when I was young and uncertain for my future.  Examining this mantra (which is not about getting rich), and which I have always thought of as sort of a prayer, I realized for the first time that it asks for nothing except to share with others, the core values I have declared for myself and incorporated into in this ‘mantra.’

All these together seem to be calling me to examine these values, see if they are still the ones I want to live my life by, and to consider gratitude, acceptance and sharing as touchstones for experiencing what comes as I move into the later chapters of the journey.

Kind April

The sun came out briefly one evening last week.  After four days of rain I needed to get out.  A short walk around the block then I sat, for the first time this year, on my porch.  I watched the shadows creep up the face of the houses across the street and crawl into the crown of the tall trees that dominate my neighborhood as the sun set to the west behind me. Too wet still to walk in the yard, I sat listening to the soft suck of the garden, swallowing the melt of the long winter.

Just last week, in the shopping center, piles of coal black, iron hard snow still framed the vast parking lot. But now, in the cracks between the cement squares of the sidewalk, fine hairs of grass, delicate green cilia, are pushing through the mud and moisture, testing the air.  How eager things are to get going. Already, regiments of lawn bags stand, overflowing on neighbors’ tree lawns; the winter swept up, stuffed in plain brown paper, waiting to be carted out of sight and mind.

The poet  (T.S. Eliot, in The Wasteland) says “April is the cruelest month” perhaps reflecting with sad anticipation on the temporality of things even at the moment that they are first coming into being.  I can understand that. This promise of renewal is only that and we know another season of cold and darkness will come.  But here and now, sitting on my porch on a mild evening, after a decidedly cruel winter and despite the rain and mud, I choose to see and hear and feel April as the kindest and most hopeful of months.

Branching Out

On a corner in the Royal Heights neighborhood where I live, there are two giant evergreens, white pines, I think, which stand in defiance of a cardinal rule  for conifers.  Each has divided its trunk in two, reaching one arm skyward, extending the other, thick and rather insouciantly, at nearly 90 degrees over the sidewalk, like a semaphore signalman’s letter “T” — sans flags, of course.   I was taught in school that it is deciduous trees which branch out—extend from their trunks multiple broad arms, and hands with sinuous fingers.  It is the conifers whose trunks stand tall and solitary, straight as the Papal Guard, fine feathered whiskers of their needles floating from the spidery sticks of the secondary branches.  These are the stoic trees, imperious and self-contained.

I see these two unusual trees each early morning that it is not too cold or wet for a walk.  And I walk, now, looking toward retirement and some liberty from many decades of 7:30 AM breakfast meetings, Monday morning staff time. It is interesting to suddenly consider being unencumbered from the entwining structure of external expectations, to stand alone and self-contained.

My doctor says that, barring something unforeseen, I should prepare to be here for another 20, 30 years.  Depending on the emotional vagaries of the day, this message resonates as either a sunlit open door—or the abyss.  I have been lucky in my work life.  So many times my own desires have found support in the needs and interests of others, and I have been able to pursue a creative path within the context of a paying job. And that context, despite the compromises required in any corporate setting, has given me the platform to make a contribution and provided considerable security.  Now I face, alone, the tangled web of Medicare and Social Security—and what to do with all the time ahead.

Perhaps these two iconic trees I see each day are not so odd.  I’m sure there are many reasons a conifer’s shape would alter from the expected; a lighting strike, an injury, a worm.  But that there are two of them, so very large and standing prominently at adjacent sides of a lot, they are striking to me as I round the corner on my daily walk.  It’s as if they were saying ‘hello,’ and ‘goodbye, now,’ each extending an arm to wave as I walk by. I take these quirky apparitions as a reminder to be flexible, adventurous, not tied to expected outcomes—mine or others’, and as a message that in the time ahead there still is room to branch out.

Farewell Poet Laureate Reading

Please join me and my wonderful Stonecoast mentor, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, for a reading at Heights Arts Gallery April 18, 2015  at 7:30 PM.  This is my final activity as the 2013-14 Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate. (Yes I know it’s 2015 – but the laureateship chages in Apirl, hence the overlap.)  Jeanne is a wonderful poet New York and taught me so much, and I am so happy to be able to read with her.

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