Sometimes when I’m sad or frustrated or just looking for something to make smile, I look at this picture: It’s the passport photo of my 1-year-old niece, Olive. It’s funny how just an image can cheer us up or change our energy. Any photo of my nieces tend to brighten me up, but this one in particular makes me happy. Cutest passport in the history of time? I think so. Some things are too cute, words will only spoil them. So I’ll leave this one alone.
Health, Happiness, and Indecently Cute Passport Photos
Most mornings start out the same for me. My eyes peel open slowly like velcro. My insides feel like they want out. Everything feels out of balance. I throw pills in my mouth, make my pot of coffee, let Monty out, and wait to feel human again. It isn’t the best…mornings have always been the hardest. But roughly an hour later, I start to feel better. The pain subsides. The disoriented, dizzy haze fades, and I sip coffee slowly and let my thoughts organize themselves. Once I’m human again, Monty starts making noises that imply if we don’t go outside and play in the pool soon he is going to explode or implode or something of that nature, so we go. He jumps in immediately, I sit in the water on the first step, and the day really starts. I’ve come to love our routine. It feels good spending so much time outside. Especially after a year of feeling so imprisoned to the indoors. Lately, the last step of morning involves saving frogs from the pool. They are really tiny; cute actually. Usually there are at least 5 of them. I try to keep them together, like they are some kind of family I’m rescuing and I don’t want the children to get separated. I have no idea why I feel this obligation to save them, but I do, and so I do.
They are such incredibly small animals, sometimes I just watch them. I feel bad when I find a floater who didn’t make it. I scan the sides of the pool twice where there are usually one or two and then the two round filters that catch the extra debris. I then usually carry them to the nearby ditch so they can hangout in natural water. Last night, Monty was muddy so I walked him out to the pool to clean him off, (this is now what we consider bath time) and when we approached I heard a loud splash of something that jumped in. When I looked in the filter, a huge frog was in there, spinning from the pump circulation. Certainly he would have died in there. The steps are too deep for them to jump back out. I took him from the filter and released him in the garden, and told Monty to be gentle as he sniffed up close after every hop he took. Then I played “Folsom Prison Blues” to him on my guitar because I learned that song recently and it’s really fun to play. And what’s the frog going to do? Walk out on my concert? Come to think of it that is what happened, but you see my point.
Anyway, it’s interesting to look at such physically tiny life that we normally never see. There’s plenty around here. Including wolf spiders that are INSANELY large and terrifying-looking, but ultimately harmless. So when they’re inside I catch them in plastic cups and throw them outside, basically screeching the whole time because if it escaped the cup and crawled on my hand I’m pretty sure I would pee myself.
There is a huge variety of birds; there are mice and turtles, spiders and lizards, and even these tiny bunnies that Monty chases away. I like watching their world. Something about it makes my problems feel smaller, and I don’t know what the explanation is for that.
Anyway, I really don’t like killing anything alive. Especially because I don’t feel like they are in my territory but that I am in theirs…and it seems so pointless to kill them. There was a time I wouldn’t mind killing tiny things, I think. But now the idea doesn’t sit right with me. (Except mosquitoes, screw them.) So I catch them and release them. Save them from the filters. If anything, it helps me feel like I’ve done something. There are many stationary days. Sleep filled and cloudy. It makes sense to save something from drowning if only because I haven’t done anything else that day. I don’t have to, but I can. Might as well save a frog or five.
I’ve read this excerpt of Marc Nepo’s book at least a couple of times. I know this because I’ve underlined some things in blue and starred others in black–And even this morning while reading it for what is evidently the third time, I still felt inclined to mark parts of it. So I thought I’d share the whole excerpt here, because it really speaks to me, and I think it will to you too. Here it is. Have a beautiful day.
Rather the flying bird, leaving no trace,
than the going beast, marking the earth
Much of our anxiety and inner turmoil comes from living in a global culture whose values drive us from the essence of what matters. At the heart of this is the conflict between the outer definition of success and the inner value of peace.
Unfortunately, we are encouraged, even trained to get attention when the renewing secret of life is to give attention. From performing well on tests to positioning ourselves for promotions, we are schooled to believe that to succeed we must get attention and be recognized as special, when the threshold to all that is extraordinary in life opens only when we devote ourselves to giving attention, not getting it. Things come alive for us only when we dare to see and recognize everything as special.
The longer we try to get attention instead of giving it, the deeper our unhappiness. It leads us to move through the world dreaming of greatness, needing to be verified at every turn, when feelings of oneness grace us only when we verify the life around us. It makes us desperate to be loved, when we sorely need the medicine of being loving.
One reason so many of us are lonely in our dream of success is that instead of looking for what is clear and true, we learn to covet what is great and powerful. One reason we live so far from peace is that instead of loving our way into the nameless joy of spirit, we think fame will soothe us. And while we are busy dreaming of being a celebrity, we stifle our need to see and give and love, all of which opens us to the true health of celebration.
It leaves us with these choices: fame or peace, be a celebrity or celebrate being, work all our days to be seen or devote ourselves to seeing, build our identity on the attention we can get or find our place in the beauty of things by the attention we can give.
I’ve been pretty taken by these Day Lilly flowers blooming outside. I like that their entire purpose (for me) is just to be something delightful to look at. To be simple and beautiful reminders. It took years and years of me hearing the term “Day Lily” being thrown around as merely words assigned to a flower to one day, just last week, finally putting it together that they are named this way because they bloom for merely a day. (Duh.) They are such vibrant and roaring things. They’re like little poems themselves that don’t require writing. Flowers often strike me as delicate but these specifically do not. They’re almost unruly. They are stunning colors and you’ll find yourself lost looking in their center, unaware of time. Tolle refers to flowers as “Windows into the formless” and that makes sense when looking at these lilies. They’re incredible creatures, and they only last a day.
If you’ve never read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, he begins the book with a description about the first flower ever to bloom on our planet, and why that is important to our existence and collective consciousness now. It’s quite a beautiful passage. So here it is:
Earth, 114 million years ago, one morning just after sunrise: The first flower ever to appear on the planet opens up to receive the rays of the sun. Prior to this momentous event that heralds an evolutionary transformation in the life of plants, the planet had already been covered in vegetation for millions of years. The first flower probably did not survive for long, and flowers must have remained an isolated phenomena, since conditions were most likely not yet favorable for a widespread flowering to occur. One day, however, a critical threshold was reached, and suddenly there would have been an explosion of color and scent all over the planet– if a perceiving consciousness had been there to witness it.
I really love this description and the image of such a large, simultaneous blooming. But the deeper point he goes on to make is that flowers were most likely the first things human beings came to value “that had no real utilitarian purpose for them–that is to say, were not linked in some way to survival.” He attributes our fascination with flowers to their ethereal quality, calling them “temporary manifestations of the underlying One Consciousness.” Since a flower is a glimpse into the formless, and ego is described as “identification with form” (materialism, i.e. I am what I have) we can say that the simple act of looking at flowers is an opportunity for us to see with our soul and not our eyes. To drop our egos for a moment. Physically the flowers are beautiful, and underneath they represent the joy of formless beauty. You don’t have to “own” a flower to enjoy it. It’s interesting too to witness how the entire atmosphere of a room can change once you put a vase of real flowers in the center. Or even one flower in a small vase. Somehow, it makes a difference. It changes things.
To think about beauty and purpose in terms of time, it occurs to me that only humans would consider a day not long enough for something to exist. If we were told we could be beautiful and happy and perfect, but we could only last a day, would we take on the endeavor? It seems like we’d demand more time–enter some boardroom negotiation with the creator. And yet, some of us exist on earth for only a little while. There are so many lives cut short, and as survivors we see it as indecent. It feels, to us, like they were never given a chance. They were never able to really live. But maybe, like the day lilies, one day of life is more than enough time for us to serve our purpose. It’s hard to grasp conceptually. Time is something my mind busies itself with at night–until I think of the concept of eternity for too long and the thought becomes too intense and my brain explodes. It’s pretty frustrating, you can imagine. Gary Zukav once described life in terms of time as “the eternal moment” and sometimes that makes perfect sense to me and sometimes it’s not enough. It’s almost too simple. But that’s how I imagine a lot of the secrets of the universe to reveal themselves. Complex, large ideas executed very simply. Maybe the better word for it is elegant.
Maybe I’ve made some far-reaching metaphors here. The truth is, flowers are pretty things to look at mostly, and possibly I’m ruining their beauty by cluttering them up with philosophy. But it’s an interesting investigation to discover why we as humans, often so entrenched on utilitarian things, furthering our purpose, working harder and faster and longer, can every once in a while stop our busy lives and look into flowers and feel a sense of ease and simplicity. We may smile looking at them without even knowing it. It’s interesting that in our modern society, flowers have come to serve the purpose of a wide spectrum of emotions. They’re a way to say “I Love You” and “I’m Sorry.” We use them to celebrate life and death. It’s no mystery why people say “Stop and smell the roses.” Flowers are small and silent, their scent often subtle–requiring you to drop everything and stick your nose right into the bloom to really take it in. I think once I just thought they were pretty things to look at and that was all. But I’m finding more and more that simple and beautiful things, selfless providers, (flowers, dogs, sunsets) are much more in tune to our purpose here and the work we do. If ego is the blueprint for dysfunction like Tolle says, perhaps flowers are the blueprint to consciousness. If even just for a day.
Health, Happiness, Day Lilies
*I took these photos on my iphone and they haven’t been enhanced. For realsy!