Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Eyes Wide Open

A few weeks ago I was taking a walk when I turned up a path I don’t usually follow and there I spied this beautiful ivy creeping up a stone wall. I whipped out my cell phone to take a picture and thought about it all day long. What if I hadn’t made that turn? Not that missing an attractive plant would have made any difference in my life, but I was reminded once again of how much goes on in the world that we might miss if we get too set in our ways (or paths) or become unwilling to see things from another perspective.

When I was a kid I used to spend a great deal of time staring through the panes of a stained glass window on a landing of the stairs to the second floor of our house. The window wasn’t fancy in the least—in fact, the entire middle section was clear glass. But the slim panes around the edges were of different colors. If I looked through the red pane the yard below seemed to be lit with fire, the grass and rosebushes crimson. When I gazed through the light blue pane everything was serene and still.  Long moments would pass while I marveled at how differently I felt as I surveyed my yard through various lenses of color.

Recently, in my own home, I suddenly looked up from my computer to spy a woodchuck outside the window, nibbling a fallen pear a few yards away. A little while later I sensed movement on a tree outside. I ran to a window upstairs and realized that by changing my perspective a bit, I could now see a gorgeous redheaded woodpecker; he wasn’t visible from my location on the first floor.

Clearly we can’t see all things from all sides at all times. It’s impossible for us to take all paths and know all outcomes. We have to pick and choose, and sometimes in choosing one path over another we miss out on a bird, or a flower, or an opportunity. But at other times our intuition (or something else) guides us to look up at just the right moment, or to turn at just the right point, or to arrive or leave just when something wonderful (or horrible) is happening.

Some people seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Others seem to get it wrong a lot. I like to think that if we keep our eyes open, stay receptive to new possibilities, let go of the fear of change, and most importantly, listen within, we’ll walk on the miraculous side of life. As any artist knows, changing perspective changes the whole picture. Just have to be willing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Waiting for Gateau

The other day I experienced a delicious freedom (thus my title, which is French for cake). Driving home from teaching a late morning yoga class, I suddenly realized that no one was waiting for me. I stopped at a pricy grocery store where I shopped leisurely without spending too much, and then ordered a decaf chai. I stopped at the bank and the gas station, and took my time unloading my car. Sounds like an ordinary day? Au contraire.

Why would this be cause for celebration? Perhaps it’s because even though knowing that someone or something (a puppy, cat, or even a fish needing to be fed) is waiting for us can be a warm and fuzzy feeling, it can also cause us to rush, feel distracted, pressured, or guilty about “taking our time.” In fact there’s something slightly distasteful about that very phrase when it’s said in a certain manner, i.e. “She’s certainly taking her time in bringing our coffees.” Sigh.

It’s lovely knowing that someone is waiting at home, and I am grateful for the years, nay decades, when my children were waiting for me to get back from wherever I was even if I was gone only for a brief interlude. It was charming to know that they loved me so much that my very absence caused tears, even if I had just run down to the corner to buy milk. I also admit it’s heart-warming when my husband welcomes me home with open arms and says, “Where were you? I was worried!” (Words my mom used to say all too often.) I appreciate the fact that he gives a damn about where I am, and is happy when I’m back (even if it’s just because I promised to make dinner). I’m also aware that when my recent-grad son moves out of the house again, empty nest syndrome will most likely rear its ugly head and I’ll be miserable (at least for a few weeks).

Still…being waited for can be taxing. It can cause us to gulp down our lunch or forget to buy stamps or trip over curbs in our haste to alleviate the torment of the one who waits. It’s like an irritating fly that keeps buzzing around our ears, “You’d better hurry. So-and-so is waiting!” Or, “You’d better not glance in the window of that shoe shop because there will be hell to pay if so-and-so has to wait any longer!”

You get my drift. I love those who wait for me, wherever I am, and wherever I’ve gone. But I also love the glorious freedom that comes—once in a while—when no one is wondering where I am or when I will resurface. It’s a heady feeling just to dawdle and “take my time,” knowing that time is exactly that: for the taking.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Harvest Time

Due to an alternating combination of busyness and laziness, I haven’t written on this blog all summer. In fact, the last time I wrote pear blossoms were falling on my head. Now, as you can see, the pears themselves are falling, and though they are tasty (and organic!) they make quite a mess, particularly since by necessity my car is parked right underneath the trees.

Though I loved the beautiful pear blossoms, I must admit I didn’t pay much attention to the progress of the pears over the summer, so one day recently I looked out my window and was startled to find that fruit was ready to pick. I guess I could have been more observant (and more nurturing!) as the pears were evolving, but I had other things on my plate (and mind). Now, when I gaze out the window I’m overcome by a sense of awe. How did things change so much without my even noticing?

From experience, I realize this isn’t a unique observation. With school starting, I know that parents all over the country are saying things like, “I can’t believe he’s in Kindergarten already!” or “How did she get old enough to go to college?” And others might be saying things like, “When and how did this relationship go sour?” or “Where in the heck did this gray hair come from?"

The pears are a juicy reminder of how seemingly swiftly and quietly things can change, even though the process may have actually taken months or even years. Obviously, there’s no running away from it, whatever it is. So just pluck that ripe fruit (or if it’s rotten, compost it) and enjoy the flavors. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Pear Blossoms Keep Falling On My Head

Yes, just like raindrops. I always liked that song, but also felt a bit annoyed by its positivity. I don’t much like rain, and it rarely puts me in a good mood. However, as the lyrics go, “I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin…”
        Same with pear blossom petals, which are decidedly more pleasant when they land on one’s noggin. However…pear blossoms wafting in the gentle spring breeze remind me of something unsettling. And that is…you guessed it! The fact that spring is moving on down the road and once again everything is changing.
        Pear blossoms also have a very short lifespan. I happen to have four pear trees on my tiny plot of New Jersey land, a miracle in itself (and, they are all different kinds, each bearing fruit, albeit wormy fruit). I adore my pear trees, and each year eagerly await the blossoms (some years they are scanty, but this spring they are plentiful, or perhaps I should say were plentiful, as even as I write this post the wind is blowing the petals to the ground).

       The blossoms are lovely to behold—but they also mean there will be many, many pears to harvest (else my yard will be filled with bees and smushed pears). This year the trees blossomed late—everything is behind by about two weeks in my neck of the woods. Though late, they didn’t stick around any longer than usual. In less than a week, the blossoms began to behave like snow.
       Pear blossom snow is delightful, but as I said, it does mean that it’s over. Like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Or birthdays. Or childhood. Infancy. Ice cream cones. Whiskers on kittens…oops, no, that’s another song.
        I know I must buck up and accept it. Like everything else, pear blossoms come and go. Everything changes, nothing stays the same, and life moves on. We wouldn’t want our children to be in diapers forever (would we?). We wouldn’t want to be having teenaged crushes forever (er, would we?). We wouldn’t even want to be middle-aged and at the height of our career forever…because even that, after a while, would get draining and tiring and tedious. To everything there is a season, as the wise ones said, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
        And so, I bid a fond farewell (for this year) to the pear blossoms. Fortunately, blessedly, and most thankfully, I bid them au revoir at the same time as I welcome my lilacs, which are just beginning to open their gentle, and likewise ephemeral buds. As always, as we say good-bye we are also whispering hello.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Looking Up!

After much resistance, I finally joined the club. No, I’m not talking about some pricy fitness center. I’m talking about buying a smartphone. It took me a long time but I finally realized I could not keep up with the pace of the world without it.

So far, I have no regrets. I’m enjoying being able to check my email anywhere, anytime, and it’s great for locating restaurants in unfamiliar neighborhoods, among other things. However, there’s one thing about cell phones of any ilk (and particularly, perhaps, about the mesmerizing smartphone) that bothers me. Yes, you guessed it! It keeps us looking down.

Not that there’s anything wrong with checking out your shoes or the cracks in the sidewalk now and then. But looking up seems a much better, more expansive option in most cases. So along with getting a smartphone, I made myself a vow: Henceforth I’m going to make a concerted effort to look up at the sky, every hour on the hour (or as close to it as possible).

Why would I do such a thing? Well, my first yoga teacher Liz (her name is Jill in my memoir, Yin, Yang, Yogini) once told me that in order to believe all you need to do is look at the sky. And I found that she was right. Whenever I feel separated from the Divine, from nature, from my soul, from my heart, or from my true self, all I need to do is look up. Whether the sky is cloudy, royal blue, filled with seagulls, glowing with stars, dark and grainy, pink with rainbows, doesn’t matter. There’s something about staring into the vastness, the endlessness, the overwhelming ongoing-ness of the sky. Every time, it does the trick.

So while I’m enjoying my new smartphone, I’m going to remember that there’s a lot going on up above, all around, and inside. It’s fine to text, to research, or chat, or do whatever we do on our smartphones, but if we want to be really smart, it makes sense to cast our gaze to the heavens now and then, just to remind ourselves to believe.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Anger Mis-Management

On a flight not long ago, while listening to mellow mantra yoga music on my IPod, I noticed what was playing on the movie screens all around me. Everyone seemed to be watching a film called “Anger!” Whether it was an explosive action movie or a dramatic love story, anger was the main theme. As I witnessed the angry faces and movements on the screens without being able to hear the dialogue, sound effects or music, I wondered what everyone seemed so extraordinarily furious about. It occurred to me then that anger—like happiness—is something we can choose, and by surrounding ourselves with angry images, sounds, and expressions we’re feeding into the choice to be pissed off.
           I will admit there is plenty of disturbing news in the world every day. But anger doesn’t seem to solve problems, and in many cases makes things worse. When my kids were little, the popular advice was to give them a pillow to punch or enroll them in an active sport like football so they could “get their anger out.” Even back then, this seemed unwise to me. Anger and punching just appeared to produce more anger and punching. As the mother of three boys, I was used to anger, even though my kids were not especially out of control. Still, there were balls thrown through windows, the occasional broken bone, and insults and expletives hurled (among other items) when anger exploded. All this was unsettling, to say the least. I’m not against active sports or punching bags (as long as they’re punched with joy!) but I found that reading a story or taking a walk in the woods was just –if not more—effective when tempers flared.
           My kids (now grown) still get angry now and then, and so do I. But as Kundalini yoga master Yogi Bhajan once said (and I’m paraphrasing here) the fire in your heart can be used to make food, or it can burn your house down! Anger and explosive passion can lead to so many types of destruction (including self destruction) and I’ve observed that anger begets anger, just as love produces more love. I’ll stick to my healing mantras and breathing techniques to weather any angry storm; I’d rather let the light in than punch anyone’s lights out. Namaste!