Our every encounter with one another, all of our relationships in this life are holy. Each one has the potential to be a sacred exchange, whether it involves laughter or tears; a simple smile or even a sneer! We need only pay attention. There is so much divinity in the everyday if we have eyes that not only see but also perceive; if we can listen with ears that hear with an open heart. It is all gift. All of it. Keep watching, keep noticing, look and see beyond things. It really does expand your world.
I have set a trap in my front yard. The idea for it started a couple of years ago when I saw a ‘free’ sign scribbled on an old Adirondack chair while on a walk with my husband, Alan. Alan knows I cannot resist an orphaned chair. Soon enough he plodded back to where I stood admiring the chair and picked it up as I grabbed the matching footrest and we made our way home.
The old chair sat in our back yard for two years as an idea began to percolate in my mind. Finally, this year I set my trap. With the help of my bewildered husband, we laid fresh green sod on the chair’s seat and footrest. We built-up the arm rests and planted ground cover in them. We stapled chicken-wire to its sloping back and filled it with potting soil and upholstered it with hundreds of little succulent plants. We tucked the chair under the shade tree on our front lawn, right next to the sidewalk and waited.
My home office is on my front porch and I often get to witness the joy I capture in my trap first hand. It began with the children who often run ahead of the grown-ups on their walks. They are almost too easy to catch. With their fresh, inquisitive eyes and low stature, they are drawn into the chair’s whimsey from a block away and they easily ensnare their adult charges with squeals of delight.
The next to fall prey are the older men and women. Their un-hurried pace and seasoned gaze never miss the chair, and though they are not loud like the children, very much like the children they always stop and cheerfully go over every detail with wide smiles. Often I will capture the amused attention of dog walkers who notice too late the lifted leg on the chair’s footstool as they yank the leash and guiltily look up to the house. (It’s okay, I don’t mind!) New parents lazily pushing sleeping babies in shiny new strollers whisper their admiration.
But the hardest and most elusive prey are the joggers, with their headphones and determined, focused attention on the road in front of them. As I watched them pass by over and over again, oblivious to my joyful trap, I realized I had to do something clever to grab their attention. So, one beautiful sunny day I hung my parakeet’s cage from the tree, right over the chair. He sang and chirped his delight at being outside. “Irresistible,” I said to myself, “surely this will catch them!”
Soon I noticed a jogger coming up the street, she breezed past the bird and chair without breaking stride. I sighed. But, what’s this? She is circling back! She stands panting, smiling at the chair for a moment before bounding away again.
That’s what I love most about my trap, it’s a catch-and-release program!
While out watering the chair one day a man drove past, then reversed his car and pulled up next to me to say how much he loves driving by our yard on his way to and from work. He thanked me for creating the chair, for the joy it brings him.
And so it goes. Surprise, joy, delight and gratitude fill me too. Just one of the many ways extending even the smallest gesture of love comes full circle. Isn’t that just so beautiful, the way love works?
Mammaste, notice the divinity in the everyday!
Quotes from birth mothers to their babies:
“My darling, my other self . . .”
“I touched your cheeks and nose.”
“You were like an angel who had come from heaven.”
I am a mother to five children. To three of them, I am not their only mother. They have birth mothers, and they have me. Today, as I write this on Mother’s Day, I can feel those birth mothers wondering about and remembering their children, our children. On each child’s birthday and on Mother’s Day I always stop to whisper a silent thank you to them, sending good thoughts to lift their spirits. I imagine these days must be as hard for them as they are joyful for me.
“I call your name quietly in my heart.”
“Know that your spirit is within my spirit.”
“From far away, I will pray for your happiness.”
In the beginning when my children were babies, fresh and new to the world, I often wondered if they carried the sadness of parting from their mothers, like a ship pulling away from the dock carries travelers from tearful families left on shore.
“It grieved me that I had to let you go.”
“You cried in a loud voice as if you knew your mother’s heart.”
As years pass, I imagine the expanse of ocean growing wider and wider between that metaphorical ship and that very real woman left standing on the shore, and I wonder if time ever lessens her pain.
“I love you from far away.”
I wonder if she ever stops searching the horizon, hoping to see a glimpse of that ship returning. I see her in my heart, the woman to whom I owe so much of my own happiness and I send her my prayers of love and strength.
“I cannot give up my wish to see you again.”
“Is it possible we will meet again?”
“I call your name quietly in my heart.”
After adopting our third child, a son from Korea, my friend (also a Korean adoptee ) gave me a book called “I wish for You a Beautiful Life,” by Sarah Dorrow. The book is filled with letters Korean birth mothers wrote to their little babies as they sent them sailing into the arms of joyful, ecstatic mothers like me. It is a wonderful book, heartbreaking and beautiful in turn.
”I want you to be a happy person, with a big smile.”
All the quotes included here are from those letters. They remind me of the great sacrifice each woman made for my happiness and for the happiness of her beloved child; and I never take that for granted. Never.
“I’ll pray that you meet the most wonderful parents.”
Happy Mother’s Day to each and every birth mother. So many of us owe you such a deep, deep gratitude. ”Thank you” seems so feeble a phrase to encompass such an enormous feeling in my heart.
“Dear adoptive parents . . . Please lead my baby to be a righteous and happy person. . . Please love my baby.”
Yes. I promise. I will. I do. Thank you. I wish for you a beautiful life too.
Mammaste~There is so much divinity in the everyday.
I was frightened by the things I could see. I wanted to explain them away. I felt reassured when my thoughts about them faded with time. No more. Today I fully embrace the mystery that is spirit. The possibility that we are all a part of something larger than this earthly existence. The clues are all around us and I am no longer afraid to see them, to claim them as the miracles they are, to write them down here so I never forget.
There are times when something in the present moment triggers a memory in my heart so deeply relived that I suddenly see the power that experience had in affecting so many of the choices I made thereafter. In a crystal clear instant I envision each day of my life as one watercolor brush stroke on a single transparent piece of paper as thin and fine as a Bible page.
Each painted day, normally laid-out in linear time, begins to float into an orderly stack, one atop the other in perfect register. It is then I glimpse the entire landscape of the earthly existence I am painting with my life. There in the blending of all my days.
With this new perspective I can free myself from dark, repetitive patterns I had not even realized I was laying down; layer upon layer over time.
In these rare flashes of overlapping clarity, I understand the way each experience colors and informs the next. How every kind or harsh word; every choice to be happy or sad; to feel love or anger; to forgive or to punish; to fear or be fearless; shapes and shades the larger image on the canvas of my life.
These moments of insight are always fleeting. And as the image fades, I am mindful of the masterpiece I am capable of creating with every thoughtful stroke I paint, on every delicate and precious new day I am given. Like this day. Right now. Today.
There is so much divinity in the everyday, every day.
There is a sweet little drawing of a smiling face scribbled on the wall next to my bed. The artist is my youngest child when she was about three years old. At the time I calmly told her that walls are not for drawing, and then complimented her on her artwork. I left her original graffiti there on my wall because it is beautiful, and because it reminds me of the lessons I’ve learned since being a new mother of one child, to a seasoned mother of five children–a span of 19 years between the oldest and youngest.
When my oldest daughter first drew on a wall, first cut her own hair, first filled the toilet with non-toilet items, first lied to me, I did not yet know that all children do these things (or some facsimile). I did not realize then, as I do now, it’s part of growing up; of curiosity, testing, exploring, imitating or avoiding. I was harder on her because I was young and didn’t know better. Her actions were not personal, but in my own immaturity as a parent I perceived them as direct affronts. I would overreact and make a big deal out of ‘bad’ behavior by shaming or lecturing her at length for what I perceived as big infractions. By the second, third, fourth and now fifth child I know better as a mother. I don’t claim to know best, it’s just that I know better the mother I choose to be.
As I sat on the edge of my bed looking at the smiling graffiti, I was thinking how much I wished I could change the parent I sometimes was to my oldest child. Then the phone rang and there she was, on the other end of the line.
I shared with her all I had been thinking about. I told her I was sorry that when I was raising her I wasn’t as calm or as mature or as wise as I am now. I told her I wished I could talk to the mother I was then and tell myself all that I have learned so I could do better. I apologized. She laughed and acknowledged having to “pave the way” for her siblings and she told me I was forgiven. In turn she apologized to me for her teen years. We laughed together about pay-back. I loved her for the grace of absolution she blessed me with so easily.
I can’t go back in time and give myself the wisdom of mothering that I have now, but I can share it with you. (Lucky you!)
First: It’s not always about us. Our children are growing, stretching, testing. We can love, guide, offer reasonable consequences and did I mention; love, love, love them? But there is no need to bully, shame or just generally freak-out. Second: If we do freak-out or overreact (because we all do) it’s okay to forgive ourselves and do better when we know better. Third: It’s less okay when we know better, and we don’t do better. That’s when we rationalize, make excuses for ourselves or place the blame on our children for how we choose to react. We’ve all been there, let’s just choose not to live there.
And lastly: There is great courage and love in risking vulnerability and humility. There is no shame in admitting fault. Fallibility is an inherent quality of the human condition, especially in parenting. Instead of defending our less flattering behavior to suit our need to see ourselves in a better light, admitting our mistakes as parents is important in validating what our children experience, of honoring their truth.
A close friend said to me after I told her this story, “Do you know how many adults would love to hear; ‘I’m sorry,’ from a parent? It would heal so much for them.”
Wise words from another seasoned mother.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
Along the way I have struggled with the challenges any journey of creating the life you imagine is really about; facing your fears. It’s about wresting that baton from the conductor in your head, the one that keeps playing the same song of fear, doubt and failure over and over, and giving that baton to the maestro of your heart.
Immediately I was pulled to the dining room as if there were a string attached to my heart, and I stopped in front of the dining room table. I noticed a slight wrinkle in the tablecloth and I suddenly knew. All the hair on my arms stood up and I slipped my hand under the cloth and felt . . .