January Presence ~ waking up your house

IMG_3928One way I’m living more poetically this year is by being more present. On the second Wednesday of each month this year, I plan to write about a simple way to be more mindful. We all have certain rituals we perform every day whether we pay attention to them or not. We can elevate these little acts into meaningful rituals that help us be more present. My first ritual of the day is what I refer to as waking up the house.

January is a perfect month to be more aware of the blessing of having a place to call home, no matter how humble. If we are lucky enough to have a roof over our heads, we can be grateful to have somewhere safe to live that protects us from winter’s cold, snow, wind and rain.

Every morning, before the sun rises, I get out of my warm, cozy bed and slide open the curtains that cover our bedroom picture window. I do this gently so I don’t startle myself or any critters that might be visiting the large birdbath just outside the window. More than once there has been a deer staring at me eye-to-eye. I take a deep breath and look out the window with a nod to the new day and take note of what the weather is up to at that moment. (In January, I always wish for snow!)

The next happy part of my morning ritual is opening the bedroom door to see my nine-month-old kitty who comes flying through the house to greet me when he hears the curtains open. I reach down to the floor, sweep up Mr. Darcy and nuzzle my cheek into his soft golden fur. Holding him like a baby in one arm, I move through the house turning off the porch light, turning on the living room lamps, and opening the shutters. That’s usually when he hops out of my arms with a satisfying purr.

Especially in wintertime, I like to light a fragrant candle on the mantle. The flame flickers like a promise in the dawn light. Standing on the brick hearth, cold against my bare feet, I take a sweeping look around my home. While I don’t always say it out loud, I at least think, “Good morning, little house, thank you for keeping us safe last night.” By the time I head into the kitchen and find my husband sitting in the sunroom doing the crossword puzzle, I have had dozens of wonderful thoughts, any of which could be turned into a poem.

No matter where you live or what stage of life you are in, I encourage you to be aware of your own morning rituals, including all you do to wake up your house. Move through each ordinary action with awareness and gratitude. Like a poem, our rituals add structure, flow, rhythm and beauty to our life. There is poetry in being present. §

“Be where you are. Otherwise you will miss your life.”
~ Buddha

The Elegance of the Season of Now

My mother, daughter, and I stand next to one another in front of a sunny window on a January day. The trees outside are bare on this crisp and clear afternoon. “The trees will be so pretty in the spring,” I say, instantly regretting my words.

I’m learning to appreciate the elegance of the moment in which I find myself. I think of a saying I’ve always loved, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift…that’s why they call it the present.”

Like rings marking the age of a tree, the figures in the hazy reflection represent three distinct generations. Each woman feels a certain amount of relief and discomfort about the season she is in. They all fight the urge to get stuck reminiscing the past or dreaming of the future.

My mother is the most deeply rooted of us. She is a towhead little girl, a beautiful bride, a young mother, a devoted grandmother, and a grieving widow. She says she didn’t expect to live so long and doesn’t want to be a burden. How I wish she understood she’s no more a burden than a stately tree providing solace, shade, beauty, and grace.

I’m part of the sandwich generation, those of us firmly in the middle of adult children we still worry about and parents who need our care. I’m retired now, leaving me to find identity within my relationships. I am a little tired and no longer young, but I am still growing.

At thirty-one, my daughter is in full bloom. She faces the daily excitement and anxiety of a demanding profession in a bustling city. She is a newlywed and first-time homeowner still unsure if she will choose to become a mother herself. If not unaware, she is at least indifferent to her skin so soft and supple, her body so long and lithe, her mind so sharp and strong.

The three of us stand silent, deep in our individual and collective thoughts. The significance of our coming together for just a moment to look out the window at the trees, mysteriously dormant yet pulsing with life, is palpable.

The trees stand strong, bold, and elegant against the bright blue sky. They hold both the memory and the promise of green leaves and fresh blossoms, but on this cold winter day they are living fully in the season of now. §

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” 
~Eckhart Tolle

To Everything There is a Season

As summer turns to fall, I feel an equal sense of sadness and anticipation. I will miss warm sunny days spent outdoors but look forward to cozy chilly evenings curled up by a glowing fire. Similar mixed emotions can appear when we say goodbye to one season of life and step into another.

As we travel through our lives, we are like tourists passing through towns and villages with names like childhood, adolescence, adulthood, parenthood, empty nest, retirement and old age. As much as we may wish to permanently settle in any one of those places, we must move on.

Although seasons of life are often of equal length, do you find the journey through each one speeds up as we get older? Looking back, my first twenty years or so seem to take up the most space on my personal timeline.

The same number of years spent raising my children was a blink of an eye. Thirty years as a teacher was a snap of my fingers. It’s as if I was looking out a car window and watching it pass by in a blur.

I miss it like I miss summertime.

Then I remember a favorite Bible verse ~ To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. King Solomon employs the poetic device of repetition to illustrate the ceaseless, often antithetical, changes in life.

A time to break down, and a time to build up

A time to weep, and a time to laugh

A time to mourn, and a time to dance

Solomon reminds us there are good times and bad, and just like the changing seasons, we are not in control. The verse encourages us to enjoy each season of life, no matter what it brings, and rejoice in all of our days.

Quite honestly, I spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. Doing so can fill me with a deep sense of longing and regret that keeps me from paying attention to the road I’m on. I suspect I’m not alone in this struggle. Perhaps that’s why Ecclesiastes 3 is a compass for so many of us sojourners. We know it as scripture and as song.

Everything is made beautiful in its time, the poet goes on to say. The carefree, verdant spring and summer of our youth fade to a season when daily responsibilities, chores and chaos scatter endlessly like falling leaves. Then, quite suddenly, our days stretch before us as empty as bare branches.

It’s fine to warm ourselves with yesterday’s memories or look forward to the future, but we are wise to show acceptance, gratitude and enthusiasm for each and every day of the exact season in which we find ourselves. §