Dawn, Dusk, and Doves

Dawn

Dawn (Photo credit: Daveybot)

Simple questions trigger deep realizations and happy observations. Several Facebook pages and blogs that I follow have been brimming with questions that seem easy to answer, but once you do, you’re letting the genie out of the bottle. Or opening Pandora’s box.  A few of the questions I’ve seen this week:

  • What’s your favorite cereal of all time?  For me, Frosted Flakes. Hands down.
  • Old rock stars – cool, or should they hang it up? One person mentioned her son was taking a class at college about “oldies” music – and it’s music from the 70s and 80s. I almost cried. In my mind, Elvis is oldies. Prince is not! However, Paul McCartney can keep singing as long as he has a pulse and I will be thrilled.
  • Next week is Leap Day – what are you going to do with the extra 24 hours?  This, courtesy of Ellen DeGeneres. I feel a separate blog post coming on…

My favorite question this week, though, came from Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.

Dawn or dusk?

Some people are not morning people, and miss the dawn. Some people work late, and come home under streetlights. Some people don’t care one way or the other, or have never thought about it.

Dawn and dusk inspired the name of my blog.

My favorite thing is being outdoors. I enjoy maintaining my garden – and other people’s gardens – and walking through the parks in our area. It’s still cold, but in the morning I take the time to watch the sky brighten and the clouds and vapor trails turn pink in the rising sun. As soon as it clears the roofs of nearby buildings, the light glitters on the frost on the fence and deck.

Last week, a pair of mourning doves began courting and sunning themselves on the deck railing in the early hours. I call them George and Gracie. One morning, they snuggled wing to wing, and from my vantage point by the back door, their heads and bodies formed a perfect heart.

Though the front of the house takes the nor’easters square in the face, the back of the house faces southwest. All year, the backyard basks in the sun. In the summer, I am up with the sun, and my coffee and I pull up a chair in the yard, facing east, and wait. Light and warmth inch over the rooftops and fence, find their way between the branches of trees, and starting with my feet, they wake me up and bring me to life.

I’m never alone at that hour. Robins, finches, and sparrows hop along the fences and sing in the trees. When the red bee balm and purple butterfly bushes bloom, hummingbirds swing by, sometimes pausing for a breather in the branches of the poplar over my head. All the birds dive for cover when the red tail hawk coasts through.

The sun’s color shifts from yellow-white to gold to peach to orange as it dips west. The sky darkens from bright blue to cobalt to purple to ink blue. The light makes the needles of the white pines shimmer as if dusted with gold.

A house on the next block has a massive, towering maple tree in its yard. Every autumn, I look at the very top of the tree, searching for a single leaf. The uppermost. The one that is first to see the sun rise and the last to see the sun set. I envy that leaf. It has a long way to fall at the end, but in the meantime, what a glorious view!

In the evening, I stand on the deck or sit in the yard and watch the sky darken and the first stars come out. Sometimes my youngest daughter will sit with me, and we’ll get stiff necks gazing into the cobalt blue overhead, and between the salmon and purple clouds, looking for the first star. We find constellations. Scorpius, with its red Antares heart, travels right past the yard all summer. When we can’t see it anymore, we know autumn is coming.

Winter sunsets happen right outside my back door. At certain times, the sun or moon settle in a nook between two distant trees, as if they are being held by the trees themselves. I could be fixated on a project or task, but the sun, before it sets, finds my eyes and my face and says:

“Over here. Look at this. You’re going to miss it.”

And for a few moments, nothing else matters.

And again, I am not alone.

In those still moments, at dawn and at dusk, even if they aren’t quiet, miracles become visible. Spirit is present and alive in simple, simple things. Earth breathes and begins again. At dawn, I give thanks for another chance and promise to do my best. At dusk, I put my burdens down and give thanks for everything good.

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Trust30: “Mirror, Mirror”

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fa...

Image by epicture's via Flickr

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mirror, mirror on the wall… find the nearest mirror. Look. Keep looking for 3 minutes. Write about what you see.

I felt the timing was right to dig out this prompt. My internet tanked in the middle of the Trust 30 Challenge, so I didn’t get to this in June.  But now…it seems right.

A doctoral student at UCLA, who is preparing for her wedding in October, started a blog called Mirror, Mirror…OFF the Wall. After spending so much time gazing into mirrors as she tried on gowns, and not liking how she felt afterward, she decided to avoid mirrors and her reflection all together…for a year. This started back in March and will continue until next March.  She wrote, in part:

“In those moments I felt like the worst version of myself – insecure, indecisive, vain…More importantly, I had lost both time and emotional energy in the process.  The dress shopping had put me over the edge, and with the requisite wedding make-up and hair trials, there would be more vanity to come.  Something had to give.  It was time to take a serious look in the mirror – or was it?”

My gut reaction to the news coverage this received was, “What a crazy, extreme reaction! She’s a beautiful woman. Why is she avoiding looking at herself?”

But once I read her intentions, and understood where she was coming from…well, I still think it’s kind of extreme. I understand her intent and reasoning, and in her academic life, she studies the relationship between beauty and inequality. So it’s like using yourself as an experiment.

I’ve surrendered access to technology and clocks before with joy. Never missed them. At Lent, I gave up my obsessive need for answers…and was much better for it. So I can appreciate her motivation and intention behind this test.

So when I found the above Trust 30 prompt from Esther Poyer, I decided to take the challenge…to really, truly look at myself.  I’ve spent decades disliking myself with intensity because I didn’t look like the popular girl next to me in class…because somewhere in my psyche “tall” morphed into “fat”…

…and because I insisted on focusing on how I didn’t look, what I didn’t have, and what I couldn’t do, rather that the opposite.  Mirrors were a necessity for blow-drying my hair and applying mascara.  That didn’t mean I liked them.

Even as recently as last year, I sometimes felt a lump in my throat when I checked my reflection. I saw myself and wanted to cry in frustration.  I disliked the way I looked, the way my clothes fit, the way my hair fell. And I kept it to myself. I’m embarrassed to say that there were days I didn’t want to leave the house because I saw every flaw in vivid detail.  I’ve learned since that the root cause of the insecurity had other sources, and I was taking it out on my appearance.

Recently, I compared two sets of photos of myself, taken five years apart.  There were marked differences. The 2006 me looked good.  The 2011 me looked good…and happy. Because she was being more true to herself and appreciated herself “as is.” She didn’t just look happy – she WAS happy.

What I see…and what I know to be true…are not the same things.

When I look in the mirror, I see a vessel. A vessel with blue eyes, crow’s feet, and manic skin that can’t decide if it’s 16 or 50 – prone to breakouts and wrinkles at the same time.  The vessel has squared shoulders and a straight bearing, a strong spine that bears much. It’s spent a good amount of time in the sun recently, and it glows.  The vessel’s roots are starting to show, and it’s time for another appointment with Clairol 110.  But red or silver, there’s a crazy amount of curl that persists despite previous efforts to straighten it. And I rather like it now.

Looking deeper, harder, more intently…past the surface…the vessel contains a soul put here for a reason.

The vessel is a receptacle for knowledge, talents, gifts, and abilities.  It bundles together compassion, wisdom, courage, faith, love, curiosity, laughter, and tears.  It’s powered by spirit, motivated by a need for happiness, and capable of great good.  It writes, breathes, dances, embraces, and thinks.

She is fearfully and wonderfully made. Imperfect, but for a perfect purpose.

Look in your mirror. Fearlessly. Defiantly. What do you see?

Bliss

A female ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochu...

Image via Wikipedia

“I am thankful for the moments of bliss that bless my life. I stop often to enjoy several seconds of bliss.” (a mediation from The Woman’s Book of Soul by Sue Patton Thoele)

In The Woman’s Book of Soul, Sue Patton Thoele wrote, “Although we may have extended periods of profound joy, most of our truly blissful moments are fleeting.” And she encourages gathering together those moments and threading them on a memory strand for recalling with gratitude. Like a charm bracelet or charm necklace of bliss.

Moments of bliss come in unexpected ways. They are those moments that make our souls happy, might even make us smile or laugh out loud, catch us by surprise, or move us to happy tears…and maybe put us a little closer to the Divine.

For the last couple of years, I’ve taken to having my morning coffee in the backyard, watching the sun come up. This morning, I was treated to brilliant blue sky, a steady breeze to push around the humidity and the glossy green leaves of the trees, and the aerial acrobatics of the neighborhood goldfinches. Bright yellow darts swooping and chirping on their personal roller coasters of joy against a field of blue.

Last week, I stood in the garden bed, trimming spent blue blossoms off my butterfly bush, with red petunias and pink and gold zinnias at my feet. Suddenly, I had company. A ruby-throated  hummingbird, who shifted from flower to flower at eye level, then dove to investigate the petunias and liatris. It hovered right between my feet for almost a minute before zipping off to park itself on a tree branch. It looked around, and I could almost see the thought bubble over its head. “Oh, look! Bee balm!” And it shot across the yard to the red firecracker-like blossoms.

Bliss is sitting in the yard at night with my feet up, fireflies blinking in garden, the red gleam of Antares in the heart of Scorpio gleaming overhead. Bliss is dirt under my nails and a sore back from four hours pulling weeds and harvesting produce in the garden surrounded by the sound of wind in the pines.  Bliss is a photo of the coastline of Skye, or the natural architecture of Canyon du Chelly. Bliss is my 8-year-old falling asleep with her head in my lap because she “loves her mama.”  Bliss is sleeping till 10am, having nowhere to be, and feeling that your body is grateful for the extra downtime.  Bliss is drag racing a pheasant, running alongside US 23.  Bliss is witnessing two eagles soaring and feeling like they are there just for you.  Bliss is a smile that reaches someone’s eyes when they look at you.  Bliss is an unexpected note that reassures you that you ARE important.

What are your blissful moments? List them. Think about them. Close your eyes and assign them a symbol – a silver key, a small stone, a feather, a bright yellow bead – and string them all together on a silver thread of memory. When you want to visit those blissful moments, pull your charms from your jewelry box of memory and count your blessings.