It has been good to step away from the blog and set down the pen for a few weeks. But as my Better Half recently observed, “My goodness. For having nothing to do, you sure are a busy man”. He’s right. I have been busy and yes, it has been good to being focused on other things for awhile. My pen set aside, one of those things has been taking time to read what many of you have been writing. While not all that glitters is gold, I have found some really quality stuff out there. I’m grateful for the chance to put the literary shoe on the other foot and enjoy the work of so many of you malcontents, photogs and fellow troublemakers.
But sadly, as has happened in the past, the second-to-last day of vacation was tough. Maybe it’s happened to you. You’re still off, but your brain is inexorably drawn back to re-entering your regular Life, already in progress. Don’t you just hate that? Adding to my malaise was the realization slowly dawning that for as good as my time away from the blog was, my pen now felt as heavy as the anticipated page was blank. Didn’t see that one coming. But there was something else even more troubling. The closer my next post-date deadline grew and having read so many great posts, my self-imposed pressure to come back with a masterwork was really gnawing at me. “My first post back has to be great!”
And the more my own self-inflicted expectations of needing to hit one out of the park grew, the more the waiting ink in the cylinder between my ears began to freeze up. I had jotted down so many ideas. But now, I found myself at a loss as to divining which one held the spark that would ignite my Masterwork, my Opus Dei.
And then I saw a photograph.
Taken by Eric E. in the coastal redwood forests, I was unexpectedly transfixed, momentarily lost in the beauty of what he had captured.
Ding. And it hit me. What was truly magnificent about Eric’s photo had less to do with the amazing tapestry the Forest was presenting than the startling realization that she had done her weaving with no regard to whether any Human would ever see it or not.
But Eric saw it and then, he did something ordinary. He took the picture. It’s what he does. It’s what he loves. What made his simple act so significant was sharing it with us. I saw it. It met me. In the time it took to exhale, I was free.
I am renewed at being reminded that so much of what is meaningful has nothing to do with being clever or wise. The Redwoods don’t concern themselves with what the Ferns are doing. All they know how to do is to be Redwoods. And they do, every day, all the way to the sky.
For their part, the Ferns and Rhododendrons do the same thing. It isn’t a matter of either being unimpressed at the stature of their towering neighbor. Truly, I don’t think they care. It’s more a matter of the Ferns and Rhododendrons knowing who they are and what they do. So without any fanfare, they both quietly concentrate on carpeting the forest floor with their leafy reaches. But let’s make this really fun, let’s go even deeper.
What you don’t see in Eric’s photos are the slugs and the worms – each burrowing, doing their thing in composting the soil, making it rich. It’s what they do. In fact, several slugs have confirmed the worms don’t even know how to spell ‘redwood’, much less ‘fern’. Yet, there they are. Each doing what each knows to do, independent of the other.
As majestic and complex as each plants’ systems are, it still blows my mind to bear witness to what happens when they’re all there together, each doing their own thing. Independent and yet, together. Magic. Masterwork. Opus Dei.
All of which brings me back to me. Sometimes I’m so sure I know what is important, I spend my time on it. Rushing here and there. Listening to relatives go on about ‘nothing’ (my opinion, not theirs) or E-mailing him or her…making sure I’m on-time and ready to go. “Make it happen…” and on and on it goes.
But there is even a darker side to such manic compulsions behind being productive…to making a difference. That is in my rush to get it all done, I do not give ‘ordinary‘ the time of day. Too busy. Gotta go.
The time off the last few weeks has reminded me of the importance of the little things, even the boring ordinary ones. Remembering to wipe up splashes of iced tea after I poured or being mindful of taking my empty coffee cup back to the sink is as important to others in my House as me mulling over my Master Work. Ordinary stuff that conveys respect.
Fact is, I don’t really know what of what I may be doing today will prove to be important a week from now – or even years from now. And yet, knowing how much I don’t know, I am reaffirmed in the importance of being and doing the ordinary in my own way…like the Redwoods.
When everyone says, ‘it’s fine‘ and I know it really isn’t, I need to be listening to my own counsel. Conversely, there have been moments of late where I’ve been told, ‘It isn’t fine…‘ and yet, down deep, I know that whatever ‘it’ was, it is fine because I know I had gone all in and given my very best. Balance. Doing my best shouldn’t be compressive. Come to discover, finding my stride, ‘being in the zone‘ is actually liberating. It is good to once again be taking my cue from what the forest has spent thousands of years perfecting.
What I do here has little to do with being clever or wise. It is not stunning the reader with witty alliteration or crafting a shiny phrase. Blogging (or anything else worth doing) has much more to do with being able to get out of my own way, freeing myself up from my own clutter to do the things I am uniquely born to do…in ways that come to me in the quiet; ways much larger and older than I. The point is I don’t think our Lives aren’t ultimately measured by our Master Works…the big stuff. What matters is the ‘every day‘ stuff; doing the ordinary, extraordinarily well.
Tell someone you love them or, better yet, show them. Let me bring this down to real. On our way out to hit some tennis balls this morning, our next door neighbor stopped us long enough to ask if we (Rick) could make a cake for her grandson. Jay was over for the weekend and today was his 11th birthday. Could we make something happen for Jay? My first internal reaction wasn’t good. “Does she think we’re made of money…this was our day to play tennis!” Truth be told, once I had quit whining and calmed down, I felt ashamed, finally seeing the request as an opportunity to do the ordinary right now. I mean really, today was only the 2nd day we’ve played since the weathers improved so it isn’t like Wimbledon was on the line or anything. And how many 11th birthdays does a kid have? Maybe our neighbor didn’t have the skills, or the money, or the pantry to pull it off. She is a proud woman. Or maybe she simply remembered Rick’s reputation for all things baked and glorious. In any event, I felt like a toad. I’d been so intent on doing our thing, so focused on working my plan I hadn’t seen the big, blinking invitation to help someone else. I usually like thinking I do better on that kind of thing. Not today. But that’s OK, I plan on making it right by singing Jay his own crooner style of Happy Birthday in about an hour. His grandma and some of her relatives can do back-up. It’s going to be very cool. Maybe we’ll get a record deal (ha!).
I get it. Obstacles are everywhere. So please understand, I am not advocating you give away your money or time in some kind of willy-nilly give-a-thon to anyone who asks. But dropping off a gallon of milk (or a birthday cake) to a neighbor who may be struggling is not a bad way to let Karma know you are on her side. Ashamed of my first reaction, I feel so much better now.
Try it. That’s all I’m proposing. You just never know if what you decide to do is the very something that someone else may need to get through their day. None of us really knows if what we think is important now will actually prove to be so, later.
I wasn’t there in the coastal forest that day, but Eric knew he had to take the picture. He doesn’t even know me and he certainly didn’t know it would unlock me in the very moment I needed his help.
Jay is going to feel really special in about an hour. You should see the frosting! How cool is that? It isn’t often that we get to be there to witness the fun of the surprise when that ordinary thing you do so well comes back as the one thing that made a difference for you or someone else. It’s not the big stuff. It’s all of the little stuff all working together. So lighten up this week, “be” and take your cue from the Forest. The true You knows what to do. It’s up to you. Make right now your Opus Day.
It’s good to be back…
To me, this is what great writing is all about. You may have seen it long before me, but this is worth renting.
“The true story of one woman’s effort to keep her family afloat under difficult circumstances comes to the screen in this bittersweet comedy drama. Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore) was a woman of intelligence, talent, and pluck living in the small town of Defiance, OH, in the 1950s. Evelyn was married to Kelly Ryan (Woody Harrelson), a man who gave her ten children but not much else.”
PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS:
This week, I unveil my new header. The new banner is my deposit on just how I value Eric E and his gracious permission to share some of his work. In fact, all the nature photos in this issue have come from Eric’s work. This guy has a lens for a Soul. For that, we’re all a little better off. I look forward to flying your photo in my banner for quite a while to come.
Thank you Eric
Chelsea Mirror framing Gloria Steinem’s quote: http://www.mirrormanmirrors.com/images/B%20&%20G%20CHELSEA%20MIRROR.jpg; Obstacles: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/When-Things-Go-Wrong-Life-Challenges_1; Slice of Birthday Cake: http://www.bystephanielynn.com/2012/02/25-chocolate-dessert-recipes-for-valentines-day-weekend-inspiration-ideas.html; Interior Movie Theater Screen (Original Source Unknown): http://badassdigest.com/2012/07/20/go-see-a-movie-in-a-theater-this-weekend/; Prize Winner of Defiance Movie Poster: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prize_Winner_of_Defiance,_Ohio; Movie Review: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/prize_winner_of_defiance_ohio/
Jeopardy Fact: The literal translation of the Latin for Opus Dei is ‘Work of God‘. If you want to read a little more about the Opus Dei formally known as The Prelature of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei (Latin: Praelatura Sanctae Crucis et Operis Dei) and its’ role as an institution of the Roman Catholic Church, there is a good starter article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opus_Dei.
– ## –