Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Snow outside, I contemplate seeds

As often happens this time of year, I find myself bubbling awake after a long winter's rest, bursting with plans and schemes for what I will do on that day when the world makes the shift from winter to spring--and I move my home outside walls, into the garden.

I am thinking about seeds... how they contain everything of what they will become, everything except the outer conditions—the soil, sun and water they will need to germinate, sprout and ever so gently, unfold.

I am thinking, also, of the way that once grown, plants become other things--the way that clover becomes milk and also honey. Which reminds me, laughing, of the early summer day when I discovered huge swaths of red clover taking over the garden bed in front of our house. Furious, I climbed up and stood in the center of the garden, yanking great handfuls of "weeds" onto the compost heap. A few minutes later, I came indoors and realized that I'd just tossed away a year's supply of the healing "herb" I'd just purchased at Whole Foods Market!

This reminds me of the way that, in our modern world, we bridge identities: We are consumers, multi-tasking at our workstations in our sealed and temperature controlled environments, energizing our bodies with caffeine, sugar and all too frequently, prescription drugs.

But we are also natural beings--animals--who are, at our core, meant to live in the rhythms and seasons of nature. When we allow ourselves to exercise, sweat and eat fresh, local produce in summer, and to shiver, introvert and sleep in winter, we are aligned with our true nature. The more seasons I pass through, the more experience I have with this body I inhabit, the more convinced I am that these rhythms are vital to our health.

Our give and take relationship with nature is exemplified in the folklore of herbs and gardens. Author Susun Weed claims that when we need an herb it often appears in our garden, an offering from the nature spirits. And folklore provides countless examples of the symbiotic relationship between man and plant.

This reminds me of the day when Max, 10 or 12 years old, told me, “If you ask a stinging nettle not to sting you, it won’t."
“Did you try that?” I asked.
“Yup,” he said with his Cheshire Cat grin. He has always loved teaching me (which reflects another natural rhythm of life--that of children growing beyond their parents, as nature, ever expanding, ever increasing moves outward).

Plants clothe and heal us. Their bodies ARE the food that nourishes us, their exhalations ARE the oxygen we need to survive. In a brilliant inversion, our bodies exhale the CO2 that plants need to perform photosynthesis, their version of breathing and digestion rolled into one.

Plants are archetypes for our own growth processes, instructing us, if we pay attention in the ways of natural cycles: The bursting-into-life expectant spring of sprouts, the lush and lazy abundance of July and August, the cooling of the harvest when we gather our stores, pull indoors, the work stoking our hunger for the turning inward, quiet sleep of winter.

We are part of nature. It shows us to ourselves, like today, when we, seeds of what we will become—sit warmly indoors (I am sitting beside a blazing fire as I write this). I am dreaming of spring and the new plants I will meet in the soil of our new home.

I am, creature of the rhythms and cycles of the season, stretching awake, feeling hungry for something new, getting ready to venture outside my winter cave to meet the plants that are, right this minute, stirring beneath the snow.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Something to do on a snowy day

Pull out a favorite photo and tell its story--tell it to yourself, staring at the photo or tell it to the friend you're sharing hot cocoa with today. Write it in your journal or scribble it, dreamily, on the back of a piece of junk mail.

Invent and embroider, adding to your story, the pieces of memory that flicker in and the new things you make up. Sew the edges together, a crazy-quilt portrait of people and places invented for you--by you.

You can do this with photos of people you know or shots of strangers in an ad for jam or ibuprofen or pasta sauce. Do it with a postcard from a place you've never been. Create an elaborate fantasy of being there: How the sun would feel on your head, how your skis would shush in the powder, how the waves, quietly lapping against the dock where you float, would sound...


Take out a photo of a precious Aunt, like my own Aunt Elaine--a living, breathing artist, whose gorgeous home, layered with silks and sumptuous textiles, inspired my love of interior design, whose whimsical, beautiful clothing--each piece a work of art--made me appreciate fashion for the first time. The way that, under Elaine's hand, my mothers beautiful paintings became ethereal, more colorful, surrounded by Elaine's unsual objects, framed just so.

I could write about my Uncle Max sitting at his 6-foot long desk at the Concord Hotel, scolding me (16 and blushing) with a twinkle in his eye, when I, who had a key to the front door, chose to crawl under the fence with the kitchen boys--for the sheer adventure of the experience.

Collect seeds.

Begin with a box--a shoebox with a lid would be perfect, or one of those decorated boxes from the craft store, even an empty crate. You decide. The only criteria for the box is that the things you collect must fit into it.

Now take this life you have, and all the stu--ticket stubs, photos, pieces of ribbon, certificates, resumes--you've got in drawers, purses and pockets. Put it all in the box. Add clippings from newspapers and zines, old love letters (or new ones!), Anything that speaks to you-especially of love and depth. Include anything that glows or shouts "Me, me!"

Sort and Assemble.

There's still time, it's still snowing.
Get out some blank paper and a gluestick or scotch tape and arrange things into poems. What I mean is, sort your collection into collages--you know, like scrapbook pages. Use color--waxy crayons or sheer watercolors. Shade your life just so.

Sometimes I like to snip sticky labels into different shapes or, as my mother taught me to do, glue a dried seed pod or dead bug onto the page.

Curl up with the message your soul is trying to send to you. What do you want you to know today?

Find a little spot--a shelf or corner--and build a shrine. Somewhere in your home, that can be reserved as sacred space. There, place objects that have special meaning to you. On a shelf in the dining room facing the apple orchard, I keep a shadow box containing a photo of my children at the beach collecting stones--inside the frame, I've placed actual stones from that day. Nearby, there are shells from other trips, a little red wagon that represents summers at Fire Island, a set of children's books (The Bunny Planet) that meant alot to us, and other energy-rich objects, talismans that remind us we have lived a life, rich with experience.

As always, offer Gratitude today.
Look out the window at the falling snow.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

I once joked, "Oprah is single-handedly going to shift this country's consciousness toward light." Today, gulp, I think this might be true. Oprah is the Tipping Point.

I mean, just try and find a book the day after she's recommended it!

Like millions of others, I went to the bookstore to purchase Eckhart Tolle's book, "A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose" because Oprah had told me to. But those millions of others seemed to have gotten there before me because, at least at the Border's Books in Fort Lee, New Jersey, every copy had been swept from the shelves in a matter of hours (according to the clerk at the Customer Service Desk). She assured me that every copy of A New Earth had been sold.

So I walked around the store, making a big pile of other books that caught my interest. And as I stacked, I prayed: If there is a copy of A New Earth in this store, please bring me to it.

Then, I sat down in the cafe with my pile of books and an iced decaf green tea.

Two hours later, just as I was finishing COOK, chef Jamie Oliver's new book, I felt an urgent need to LEAVE RIGHT NOW. Gathering up my down jacket and overflowing briefcase, I took the Jamie Oliver book to the checkout line, where I purchased it with the gift card my mother had given me for Christmas.

Then, I headed for the exit door. And that's where I spotted it: A great big display of "A New Earth"--right in front of the Customer Service desk where I'd stood just two hours earlier and been told, "We're all sold out."

"Was this here all day?" I asked the new clerk, a helpful young man with rumpled shirt and spiky hair.
"Nope," he said. "Just unpacked 'em."
"Where did they come from?" I asked.
"Just arrived..." he said. "Or maybe they were there before. Not sure."
"Thanks," I said, smiling as I turned away. For sure enough, my angels had done exactly what I'd asked them to do. They'd found the copies that were in the store and had, indeed, led me to them.

I took the book home and the next morning, when I showed it to Matthew and told him the story, he looked puzzled as he pulled out the set of A New Earth CDs he'd been listening to all week. "You gave these to me for Christmas!" he laughed.

Which is a fun story to tell... but it is not the reason I sat down to post this today. I did that because I want you to know about this book.

What Eckhart Tolle, the book's author (who is also the author of the best-selling The Power of Now), is really good at, is explaining, in very simple terms, the way that the mind gets tangled in its own fancy footwork. It's refreshingly easy to follow. In fact, for the first time, I kind of understand what the EGO is and how to outsmart it (sometimes).

Using Tolle's guidelines, I've already caught my EGO obsessing about how I look, who Im with (and how that makes me look), what I'm wearing (and how that makes me look)... you get the picture.

He's also showing me why Oprah is so darn effective. Because she has managed to translate who she really is into action--in the show she created and then reinvented in her own way, refusing to cover "dark" subjects anymore. Insisting on moving her oeuvre toward light... in so doing, she set an example we can all follow. Do your inner work, dig down and find out what you're really about and then, in every choice you make, shine THAT into the world. She wrestled that pesky EGO to the ground and mastered it... convincing IT that, in order to survive, in order to "look good" she was going to have to be more of who she really is.

And that's how Oprah became the tipping point--leading her enormous audience to the side of the scale that she chose, from her core self, the side where the light shines most brightly.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A link to ponder

To ponder when you get to thinking about our precious planet and her beautiful residents.


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Angel links... and pink

One of the ways the angels support us is by "arranging" for us to meet the people who can inspire, engage, empower and teach us. When one of these friends arrives in my life, I can (usually) "feel" it. There's a palpable charge between us--you know what I mean, you've felt it yourself: That electricity, that instant recognition that this person has the potential to change my life.

Angel-sent friends arrive just when we need their special brand of friendship or mentorship; and soon, they're saying or doing something that answers a question we've been asking or something that mirrors our own issues and concerns.

Sometimes, an angel friend lands in our lives for just a few moments, serving as a conduit to another person or experience. But many, simply because they resonate with our highest, best self, stick around; we like having them around.

The angels have sent me many such friends to play with--one is Patricia Gaddis, a writer from Asheville, North Carolina, whom I "met" several years ago when I selected her wonderful story for the magazine column that I edit.

Whenever Patricia emails, she sends a shorthand greeting that, no matter what I'm doing, instantly grounds me in angel energy. She writes: Pink

To be honest, I no longer remember why she writes the word pink. I know that we've often discussed energy and the sending of energy between one person and another. At this point, to me, it's a little blast of pink light and I always "pink" her back.

This morning, just as I was getting ready to start blogging, I checked my email and found a message from Patricia which read:
This reminded me of you... Pink

Patricia's message--and the story, on Beliefnet, reminded me of YOU, my subscribers, so I thought I'd share it. I've linked Patricia's message to the Beliefnet site. Just click on it to be taken there.

Her message reminded me, also, of another angel-sent friend (and writer), April Burk, whom I "met" ten or twelve years ago when our children were small and I was writing a little "zine" called "Family to Family".

April, who found my advertisement in the back of "Mothering" Magazine, was one of my first and best contributors--and she soon started her own zine, "In My Shoes: Stories from the walk of life" which I loved. Both zines met the fate of most zines, their eager publishers ran out of money.

April and I share a greeting, too--the letter "H", a little code that reminds me that, as she once told her husband Sam, "Yes, I know we've never met but we are still friends!" To which I add, "Very good friends... so there!"

Finally, here's a wonderful world to explore. This link, recently sent to me by Tom, the angel who is selling us his house, and shaking up my life, is to TED.com.

A site featuring inspiring lectures on all sorts of themes including: Art, Music, Science, Education, Love, Faith, Politics; offered by some of the world's most innovative and inspiring creators.

I've already spent several hours exploring and listening. In fact, last night, instead of my usual Friday night "What Not To Wear" marathon, I pulled up a comfy chair to my husband's computer and got lost in the site, watching clip after clip. I especially recommend Ken Robinson's talk on Education.

Enjoy: TED

I'll close as Patricia would, by writing: Pink pink with a little note to April, who's reading this: H.