Drowning is truly a quiet affair. My arms stretched out at my sides, my head tilted back seeing only sky as I tried to keep my mouth and nose above the waves. I couldn’t make a sound, nor could I wave my arms. When I tried, I would immediately go under. All around me, even brushing against me, people were splashing and screaming and laughing, oblivious to my struggle. Finally, exhausted, I gave up and lowered my chin.
Last night around 11PM I quickly climbed outside my second-story bedroom window onto the roof that sits above the kitchen addition. The roof is narrow and flat and covered in rubber. I was in a hurry to shoot the full moon before it moved behind a stand of tall trees on its trajectory across the night sky. I am a 55-year-old woman with dimensions incompatible with squeezing through a small opening in a big hurry. I barked my shin on the way out, bumped my head and cursed that moon. Rushing and grumbling, I impatiently set up my tripod and took a few quick photos only to find that my camera settings were off. As I anxiously readjusted the ISO and F-Stop, that beautiful annoying moon slipped behind the treetops and hid from my view.
It was near midnight as I stood high above the earth, irked at the moon. Then I noticed how quiet the world was. How the air was soft and cool and the black rubber roof, still holding the heat from the day’s sunshine, was warm beneath my bare feet. I could see the neighborhood houses had closed their eyes, save for a few lighted windows winking at me through branches moving in the breeze.
Behind me, in the home I was leaning up against with one shoulder, my husband and children slept. Our big, sweet, retriever dog Baloo had followed me to the window. Looking confused as I squeezed through the narrow opening, he’d cocked his head from side to side, and was watching me still. With a heavy sigh I heard him plop down below the windowsill inside to wait for me. I took a deep, contented breath and did the same on the other side of the wall. And there I sat, like a happy gargoyle perched on the roof, inhaling the silence, waiting on the moon.
By the time she sauntered into a gap between the trees about 30 minutes later, I was calm and ready. I had a heart filled with love. Love of this home, this family, this neighborhood, the sleeping people, this night, this moon. I stood and put my eye to the viewfinder and seeing her full in the frame I said, “Well, there you are. Took your sweet time, I see.” She smiled and said, “Cheese!” as I clicked the shutter.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
The world shines about me,
luminous as the moon
smiling like a rose,
and a sweet benediction flows
through everything existing.
How beautiful life is.
Hamza El Din
Throwback Friday. I’m reblogging some of my earlier blogs, back when I had about 4 followers! Thanks for indulging me.
Not long ago I asked Connie, the woman with whom I have been in a serious “play-date” relationship for a couple of years, if she had any regular play-dates yet for her three-year old son. Sighing, she said, “It’s really about seeing if you get along with the other mother, and seriously, I’m just tired of auditioning.”
With Connie I’ve scored that perfect hat-trick in the play-date game. Our daughters like each other, we live only houses apart and Connie and I are now good friends. This is only my second serious play-date relationship in the course of raising five children. My previous steady and I lasted almost 10 years until she and her husband divorced and he got custody of our family.
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When publishing an essay here on my blog, or posting a photo, a favorite saying or a funny story on Facebook I imagine myself writing them on real paper. I smile as I see myself rolling them up tightly and slipping them into the narrow opening of a virtual bottle. As they push past the neck and into the open space below, I see them unfurl in my mind’s eye and I mentally seal the bottle and toss it out into this undulating, big blue internet ocean with the click of my mouse.
My messages are nearly always love letters. They are written to myself too, because the simple act of bearing witness publicly to the beauty I see around me is good for me, and that is enough. But early on I used to wonder, when my message in a bottle rolls up on someone else’s distant shore does it arrive at just the right time? Does it touch them? Does it make a positive difference in their day? Does it matter to anyone else?
I don’t wonder any more. Here and there people send me little love notes back. They tell me that my bottle reached them. Something I wrote, or a picture I took spoke to them. They write to me saying I sent just the right message at just the right moment to just the right person. Love notes like this one:
“Dear Lori ~
You need to know how Mammaste touches peoples lives on the most basic level so I write to you now. There are so many days when a beautiful photograph you take or a story you tell, like your daughter making her father turn the car around so she could snap a photo of a heart in nature, warms my heart. Today was exceptional though. Your post about today being a gift & a blessing shook me to the core on a day where putting one foot in front of the other was nearly impossible. Your loving words from the heart of a mother inspired me to START my day. Please accept my heartfelt gratitude.
Leslie McAfee Richter” (Used with permission)
There have been many others too. For each and every one, my heart is warmed in reading them, and I am grateful. They are little love notes rolling up on my sandy shore. I want you to know your messages have reached me. I know you, like me, have been moved by the words of others on social media, and on blogs, and watching videos that make us laugh and cry and amazing TED Talks on beauty and bravery and vulnerability, and the list goes on. We may not write a response every time. But we are moved just the same, and we are changed for the better.
A funny thing happened as I was crafting this essay. I noticed a Private message on my Facebook tab. When I opened it, it read:
“I love you. Enjoy the evening sun . . . I just had the feeling rush over me so I took advantage of telling you via this modern age contraption.”
It was from my dear friend Jane just down the street!
We can shape this ‘modern age contraption’ that is the internet into anything we want it to be. Why not a vehicle to transport our love letters to humanity, to the world?
Divinity in the Everyday
This 'Way' of being in the world, of seeing the world as inherently good, of life as ultimately hopeful, and beautiful and sacred, is an exercise in flexing my ‘intention’ muscle every day. This loving outlook is an awareness I cultivate consciously. It is my spiritual practice of divine perspective. It is an intention of being a non-judgmental observer of myself and others. It involves, much of the time, my being unreasonably optimistic.
Because it’s Mother’s Day, and my oldest is about to be a mother, I’m reblogging this, with love.
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…
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We often think the meaningful stuff of life will happen for us in big ‘Ah-Ha’ moments when we suddenly see what our purpose is, discover our passion or perceive why we are here so we can get down to the business of living our truest life. But what if because we are looking for what we assume it will look like, we are missing that it is already here, right in front of us?
Today, as I sat in my idling car at a red light on one of the coldest days in Minnesota history, I suddenly remembered a sunny summer evening sitting on the grass outside an elementary school down the street from our home. A school aptly named “Golden Years.” I was watching my youngest daughter wobble around on her little bicycle that had just recently metamorphosed from four wheels to two. She had begged me to take her to the park so she could practice riding on what she called the ‘pie’ court. She was referring to the tattered basketball court at the base of the sloping hill where I sat watching her ride; tanned legs pumping, brown braids flapping.
Round and round she circled the rectangle, carefully cutting corners and bumping over cracks in the tar where tenacious weeds found purchase and grew stubby and thick under the regular trampling of feet. As I watched her ride I began to wonder why she calls this the ‘pie’ court. It was obviously not round . . . I called out to her as she cycled by me; “Why do you call this the ‘pie’ court?” On her next pass she yelled to me,
“It’s because there is a pie in the middle!”
I looked, but I couldn’t see any circles anywhere on the court. “Where?” I shouted as she whizzed by again. This time she answered me well after she had passed by and I heard her words faintly trailing off, “It’s in the shape of the weeds!”
I looked again, this time really trying to see what she saw and suddenly, there it was. Not the pie I assumed I’d see–not the round shape with a big triangle slice cut out. No, the weeds growing in the cracks of the basketball court formed an almost perfect symbol for pi. Not apple pie, but mathematical pi! I was delighted to see it. My daughter was like a magician making something appear before my very eyes that wasn’t there a moment before (something children often do).
I hadn’t thought about that memory since that day a few years before and it made me feel a little sad. I realized there are so many details of my life that I will forget that are so simply beautiful.
I suddenly longed to remember all the small details that have made up this life of mine. I wondered, what if NOW is always the moment we were born for? What if every NOW contains the potential of living out our purpose, our passion, our reason for being? What if we looked at it that way, that we were born for this very moment in time, all the time? (Yes, even these moments in idling cars, waiting for lights to change.) I wonder, would we finally see the vast infinity of pi (even in the weeds) if we stopped looking so hard for that big slice of apple pie? I wonder.
Divinity in the Everyday
Two children, bright and beautiful, suddenly, separately and unexpectedly passed away this week in neighboring communities. One a sweet little 8-year-old boy with the face of a freckled angel, the other a shining, vibrant young girl of 14. Both smiling from pictures framed by a journalist’s galley of words attempting to explain this tragic loss to stunned readers. Many, like me, are strangers to their grieving families but that does not matter–children should not die, and we are all connected in our collective grief.
. . . as the story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all.
Many in the two communities in which the children lived hung balloons up and down their streets in school colors, one community filled with orange balloons and the other green in a tender display of shared sorrow in support for the grieving families and in celebration of these precious lives.
At times like these we often want to hold those families close and tell them we grieve with them, but we feel helpless to offer comfort for such an unfathomable loss. So, people hung balloons hoping to send these families the message that they are not alone, that they are held in the hearts and prayers of many who may not know them but who grieve with them.
Where I live, these two communities border each other. Today as I was driving down the road I saw this collective compassion overlapping in a very visual way.
Where the two grieving communities crossed paths, two bunches 0f the colored balloons, four green, four orange were entwined on a shared tether.
It was such a powerful display of who we are when we are so consciously connected to our own hearts and therefore to the hearts of others. A signpost marking a moment when we recognized our oneness–when a stranger’s grief became our grief. An interconnection that felt so real and fragile and tender and sad and beautiful all wrapped up in the image of those balloons for Carly and Quinn, tangled up together in the bright sunshine, swaying gently in the cold winter wind.
With my deepest heartfelt love and compassion to their families.
Divinity in the Everyday
So what happens when we realize what we thought we were giving out of love, we were really giving in exchange for love? What can we do when we feel resentment or bitterness welling up over something we’ve given in exchange for less than what we expected?
Well, that’s the amazing thing about gifts of love–we can retroactively transform those past transactions into gifts by simply forgiving any perceived debt! We can just burn the invoice, tear up the bill, erase it from the ledger in our heart. The alchemy of this transformation is pure magic, and you and I, we are all magicians at heart.