The usefulness of not–How empty space becomes powerful

Red Rock sedona

“Thirty spokes
 meet in a hub
Where the wheel isn’t
is where it’s useful.”
~Ursula Le Guin, Lao Tsu, Te Ching

 

I am working my way through Ursula Le Guin’s translation of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. She had loved this classic epic, and learned Chinese so that she could portray the work from a more feminine, less patriarchal, perspective.

Le Guin’s Tao is not a book that you can skim through, and I relish that in our frenetic Internet environment.

This morning I came across a passage describing the “usefulness of not,” the concept that what is put into the empty pot is more worthwhile than the container, or the way that an empty house is enriched by its inhabitants.

Wind can be such an empty space. What it touches will change visually and perceptibly, yet the wind itself is invisible.

For instance, I once lived on a hill above the mouth of a canyon. Each morning before dawn the air was still, holding its breath, waiting. The sun rose, dusting the red rocks on the canyon walls with light, and the wind started to move.

It touched each tree in a different pattern. The young bamboo outside my window shifted in the sunlight, each leaf dancing to its own rhythm.  At the end of the yard, a cypress and the old junipers were measured and deliberate in their approach, their branches ponderous in the wind’s wake.

The wind sound had an ebb and flow, like the ocean waves, only slower. It gathered momentum far away in the canyon, mixing with the murmur of the creek, low now after the winter snow melt. And then it gathered speed like a train rushing to make its next destination, roaring towards me.

Birds caromed off the wind’s currents, banking like a race drivers entering steep curves. Their flight accelerated in the wind as their wings became billowing sails. The sunlight glinted off their bodies before they disappeared against the backdrop of dark rocks.

Higher in the sky, the wind current divided a flock of bluebirds, then pushed them together once more, in a symphony of theme, motif, and recapitulation. Ravens lifted to greet the morning sun, their heavier bodies braced against unexpected currents.

And then the wind gentled, having had its morning gallop, and the life around me settled to a morning peace.

Our lives are like the birds and the trees, blown off our planned course by currents we sense, but cannot predict.

Sometimes it may be wise to suspect the obvious that we see and rather embrace intuition of what we feel.

It’s free–for two days! Fire in Broken Water

Pegasus Quincy Book #3 Fire in Broken Water

 

Whether you are sitting on a beach, or lounging before a BBQ waiting for the ‘dogs to be ready, or perched on a curb, as I will be, anticipating the parade of honor down Main Street, know that the third eBook of the Pegasus Quincy series, FIRE IN BROKEN WATER will be FREE for download Monday, May 28th at midnight through Tuesday, May 29th through 11:59 pm.

Now that’s Pacific Coast time, since Amazon lives there, so if you are on the East Coast, you’ll have to wait until 3am to snag your free copy.

Enjoy! (And send an extra piece of apply pie my direction!)

Monday, May 28, 2018, 12:00 AM PDT Tuesday, May 29, 2018, 11:59 PM PDT

All kinds of mothering

lilac bouquetI am reminded that there is both joy and sorrow in Mother’s Day. Joy, for the present family connections. Sorrow and regret for mothers who are no longer with us.

But it also occurs to me that the primary attributes that we celebrate in mothers: care taking, love, empathy for others, are present in all of us, whether we are women or men, biological mothers or not.

For example, we are mothering when we take care of, and love the tools of our trade. I am reminded of my father, a carpenter and gardener, whose day in the shop or in the field wasn’t complete until all tools were cleaned of mud and grit, polished, and put back where they belonged. That way, he was able to lay a hand on them instantly the next time they were needed. His favorite phrase was, “Take care of the things that take care of you.” He was right!

We take care of and love, other living beings. It goes without saying that I spoil both of my fur babies rotten. They are talked to, coddled, and given the best places to sleep in the bed and on the couch. I, in turn, rearrange myself in the left-over space around them.

But care and attention also extends to the cats next door. One is a gray puss with big eyes, an outside cat with human-parents who sometimes leave for days at a time for work in another town. She’s learned that there’s a fresh water dish and food at my house, at the ready for her in a sheltered area. Her buddy, an orange Tom with a chewed ear, has found a home-away-from-home with two little girls across the street.

We love and take care of both our own children, and others. Watch what happens when a small child gets lost and separated from parents in a large store. Some adult will step up and make sure the child is delivered to the front of the store where a loud-speaker announcement soon ensues, to locate the frantic parents.

We love and take care of total strangers. Once when I was rear-ended on a busy street, I was helped from the car by the guy that hit me! And then strangers were dialing immediately for EMTs. Three burly guys pushed my car out of the traffic lane. We do these things, instinctively.

Where we fall down, sometimes, is closer to home. I am of the opinion that we don’t love and take care of ourselves enough. Sometimes I forget it is a partnership and not a dictatorship from the neck downward.

When I am mindful, I eat what my microbiome needs for nutrition and energy. I exercise, even when I don’t “feel” like it, so that my body gets the stretching and movement that it needs.

But often, when I flub up on a risk that I’ve taken or a venture that’s gone sour, instead of being compassionate with my humanness, I berate and judge myself in the worst possible derogatory terms. I am merciless with my scorn and derision for the failure.

I wonder, why I do this to myself?

Why can’t we be as mothering to ourselves as we are to others?

It’s something I’m working on, especially this very special of days, Mother’s Day.