“Earth is crammed with heaven.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning
There are certain days that it doesn’t feel like earth is crammed with heaven. Many days, we are reminded of loss. If not our own, others. Death of a sister, a dad, a grandma this past two weeks. It’s been a year and a half and not a day goes by that I don’t miss Dad. And loss grows heartfelt empathy for others when they enter where you’ve been.
And at the same time, others are experiencing great joy. The innocent child-like anticipation of Christmas. And there in lies the essence of life – the weaving of struggle and delight, loss and gain. A pendulum of sorts.
The passing of time brings a certain acceptance and perhaps even a bit of peace. And in the loss, we gain a new appreciation for the moment, for forgiveness, for letting go, for loving without condition. Even in the dark, light remains constant, ready to slowly pull us back into the earth that is crammed with heaven when we are ready to re-enter.
So as Christmas is at our doorstep again, be light for those who are amidst loss and grief. Show them that even in the struggle, joy can and must co-exist so it can lead us back to our new normal, to our next self. Be the window to a bit of heaven for another.
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” – Norman Vincent Peale
“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. Not all things are blest, but the seeds of all things are blest. The blessing is in the seed.” – Muriel Rukeyser
A beautiful Sunday drive brought Mom and me through the “old” neighborhood. First past her home on Sixth Street, then to Dad’s house on Earl Street where his parents landed after they immigrated from Poland. We finished the “tour” by the still white house on Ivy where they came together to raise our family. All three are within a few miles or so of each other. Families back then didn’t land too far from home. It was both familiar and distant.
“We come to beginnings only at the end.” – William Throsby Bridges
Many good memories with neighbors who remain friends still. Beginnings anchored in hard work, struggle, laughter and faith. By today’s standards, the houses are small and yet somehow we made it through with one bathroom, sharing a room with my sister and a small kitchen with no dishwasher. Those were the days with alleys where the neighborhood kids gathered to play boot hockey, ride bike and make forts from piles of snow.
“The journey is my home.” – Muriel Rukeyser
Every now and then, we need to go back to our beginnings to see how far we have come as well as be reminded where we need to return to. Seeds and roots.
“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” – William Gibson
“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ― David Steindl-Rast
There is always something to be grateful for. Always. And the fruit of gratitude is joy. Slow down, take a breath and fully receive the blessings planted throughout each day. What is right in front of us is so often what we miss. Open your eyes and heart.
Jeanne gave me a grateful sign for my birthday. I put it in the living room right next to the television so I can’t miss it. Don’t miss the signs and follow accordingly.
“We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.” ― David Steindl-Rast
“Calendars and clocks exist to measure time, but that signifies little because we all know that an hour can seem as eternity or pass in a flash, according to how we spend it.” – Michael Ende
We measure our years with birthdays, but we experience the soul of life in moments. As we grow older and time moves faster, we discover that our cup is over flowing when we measure the right things. And the hot pursuit of position and accumulation of stuff comes up empty. Less really is more. Depth over distance. Connection over chaos. Quality over quantity.
Beauty, spring, winter, loss, light, dark, laughter, tears, delight all merge into a tapestry of color and pattern that is all our own yet we share the same journey that takes us each down different paths. The gains and losses. The joy and trials. A thousand hellos and two thousand good-byes. All of it binds together to shape us and prepare us for what’s next.
So as I celebrate my 53 years on earth today and Abby’s 1 year, I am mindfully aware and grateful for all of my blessings that came with many sunrises and sunsets, of days filled with joy and even the ones with the seemingly endless challenges. The authentic life has it all.
Ride the jet ski at 81, throw the ball (again and again) and never lose your sense of humor. And above all, be kind. And that includes to yourself. Cast light, measure the right things and choose abundance and joy.
Lately, I’ve been listening to the songs of one of my favorite artists, Mary Chapin Carpenter. The lyrics and notes are like a warm blanket, comforting and familiar. One of my favorite lines from The Jubilee – “When we look back and say those were halcyon days we’re talking ’bout jubilee.” Halcyon is defined as a period of peace and happiness; an idyllic time.
We so often look back longing for what was because we miss the beautiful fabric of each day while we are busily on our way to the next thing. May we all realize and deeply appreciate our hacyon days and moments while we are right in the middle of them. So we can be doubly blessed now and when we look back in fondness for what was and a renewed hope for what is to come. Simple moments make up our halcyon days. Simple moments.
“If you are paying attention, then the day is going to be pretty joyful, and a lot of delight will fill it.” – Greg Boyle
“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” – George A. Moore
Home is not only place. It goes beyond place. Home is people, pups, (cats even), safety, warmth, belonging and place. Savor and pursue those moments of silliness, light and joy. Conversations with friends, connections, eyes that meet and look well beyond the surface.
That’s home and what makes life not only tolerable but wonderful. Ordinary moments that transform us and make life extraordinary. We too often succumb to dull and despair without ever giving delight a chance to show its face.
Savor all that is and hold tightly only to now, releasing the past and future to depth of being present in this very moment.
“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.” – Mother Teresa
“We live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender. Each morning, we awaken to the light and the invitation to a new day in the world of time; each night, we surrender to the dark to be taken to play in the world of dreams where time is no more.” – John O’Donohue
The pure joy of being around dogs, often more than humans, is their innate ability to enter each day with a clean slate. No grudges, regrets, needless worries or consternation. Just letting go into the sheer delight of seeking and finding adventure in the ordinary. May we all be blessed with daily gratitude, a deep sense of play and heartfelt silliness so we can awaken to the blessings abound and share them generously with others.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
Dive into each day with a simple, naïve and irrational openness and awe. The other way of living really doesn’t add up to much so there is no real choice. It’s pretty obvious. Don’t overcomplicate it and enjoy today.
Get your eraser out. Wipe the slate clean.
“A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world.” – Leo Buscaglia
It’s been a wonderful week witnessing Abby and Sasha bond and become best of friends. There’s a glean in their eyes and bounce in their step. I’ve taken their lead as well.
When walking Abby and Sasha a few days ago, Abby started taking Sasha’s leash a block from home to guide her in. Today, Sasha started to do the same for Abby as well. It was very sweet.
“Of all possessions a friend is the most precious.” – Herodotus
We are on this journey together and have the opportunity, perhaps even the obligation, to walk by each other’s side and guide each other home.
Be a good friend to those you know and kind to those who cross your path who may need a friend. Take the leash.
“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.” – Havelock Ellis
“Let us be grateful to people (dogs) who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust
Sasha joined our family today. Abby is thrilled.
A year ago, I lost my Samoyed Molly and then in October, I lost my Golden Retriever Lily. I have been looking for a Samoyed for almost a year and when it fell through a couple of times, I got a Golden Retriever in December.
Abby will be nine months soon and Sasha is four months. When the opportunity came up a few weeks ago with a breeder, I couldn’t pass it up. It just felt right. The “rules” would say you shouldn’t get two puppies. Wait, it’s too soon.
The one thing that I’ve learned in the past year after losing my Dad and two dogs within 5 months of each other is that life is short and the rules we make up really don’t matter.
God works slow and fast, in His own time, which usually doesn’t align with our own. There have been days that have dragged and months and months of waiting. Seemingly for no reason at all, stuck in the waiting. And then suddenly, something new comes together rapid fire. The waiting comes to an end and we’re tossed into the next chapter of our life in a moment’s notice.
All that has come before brings us to this day, whether we can figure it out or not. So when we let go of our rules, stop trying to “outsmart” God and trust Him, we can enter fully into what is and be in grateful awe of this very moment.
“Well, that’s what life is – this collection of extraordinarily ordinary moments. We just need to pay attention to them all. Wake up and pay attention to how beautiful it all is.” – Alexander Payne
It’s been five years since I’ve done a big yard project. Last week, I rented the roto tiller and tilled up the weeds along the side and back of the garage. Yesterday, I finished the resetting the block edging, Today, the rock and dirt were delivered. Seven hours later, the rock is in its place. Dirt spreading and grass seed is on the agenda tomorrow.
Five years ago, the project was tilling and sod after the back yard tree was removed with a crane. Today, the missing piece in this yard project was Dad. And it’s days like these that I miss him most. He would have gone with me to the rock store after he measured the area and did the calculation to get the exact amount of rock that I needed. He would have handed me the shovel and held down the landscape fabric. After we were done, we would go grab a beer and toast to getting the job done.
“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.” – Earl Nightingale
While I always appreciated the help, what I really valued the most was the easy conversation and time spent with my best friend and Dad. As I shoveled the rock into the wheel barrel today, I imagined Dad sitting in the adirondack chair just hanging out with me making the hard work enjoyable.
The daily moments and ordinary days are what we remember the most so don’t miss them while you are in the middle of them. Be present and deeply grateful for those oh so ordinary days.