The question is not what you look at,
but what you see. ~ Henry David Thoreau.
I encountered this dry bear grass waving in the wind that always seems to blow near Flagstaff, Arizona, on a hot summer day.
The grass became a metaphor for the winds blowing through my own life.
Sometimes we bend to life’s winds, sometimes we resist. The important thing is to remember that we, unlike the grass, have a choice into which directions we grow. Through mindfulness of the forces we encounter everyday, we can decide when to yield and when it is wiser to resist in order to build a richer life experience.
If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.
~ Oprah Winfrey
These young skunk cabbage were flourishing on a trail near the Museum of Northern Arizona one morning and I was struck by their vitality. There had been no rain and the ground was rocky and barren. Yet there they were.
What they had was enough: sun, air, a quiet place to grow.
I wonder if sometimes I am too focused on what I want and not enough on what I truly need to make life worthwhile.
Life at its best is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed. ~ Carl Rogers
The San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff, Arizona were formed from the jagged edges of a volcano that exploded many thousands of years ago. The Peaks rise to an elevation of over twelve thousand feet and are large enough to form their own weather pattern.
From July through September, each summer day creates massive thunderheads that explode lightning and heavy rain showers across the mountains. In the dry high-plateau air, the edges of the clouds are like cutouts against the blue sky.
I’ve spent many lazy summer afternoons watching these monster clouds build. They are a daily reminder that life is always changes.
Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments. ~Rose Kennedy
These ox-eye daisies found a home in the Coconino forest near Flagstaff, Arizona. No one had planted them, and the ground was poor and thin. Yet they thrived, moment to moment. If I went back there a year from now, a sister plant would have sprung up in their place. This was their spot, and the short mountain summer, their time to bloom.
Sometimes in my rush to accomplish good things, I forget to notice what is right under my nose. I miss the beauty that is there for the taking, if only I notice. This flower reminds me that I sometimes am too intent on the goal and forget the importance of the journey.
Each day comes bearing its own gifts.
Untie the ribbons.
~Ruth Ann Schabacker
Because my weekdays are filled with to-do lists and have-to’s, I cultivate a sense of slowing down on the weekends. The walks I take are longer. The pauses to talk to my cats are more frequent. I smell the air like a wild animal, not sure what the day will bring. It is a time of coming alive again, of thinking different thoughts, of letting my mind roam where it will.
In a way, I become a different person, a weekend person, looking for balloons flying high in the sky, listening for children’s laughter, and anticipating the smell of good coffee as I enter a cafe.
We all have the ability to look closer: when we do, our world becomes a richer place.
Mindfulness helps you fall in love with the ordinary. ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Cracked volcanic rock, almost elephantine in its folds and crevices, lined a short walk on my way back to the Museum of Northern Arizona near Flagstaff.
What delighted me about this canyon was the overabundance of lichen, profligate in its blooming on this rough cliff wall. I wondered about the partnership between algae and fungus which produces lichen, and about its role in our modern world as a signal of pollution. Like the canary in the mine who only sings when the air is pure, lichen bloom only where high mountain air is unpolluted by industrial fumes.
And lichen are ancient. Some lichen colonies can be over 9000 years old. And older still is the rock to which they cling.
Nine thousand years from now, what will be our human legacy on this earth? Will our species still be as beautiful as these volcanic partners?
We deal with change all the time. Day changes into night. Our body changes from hungry to full. Seasons change.
But if the cycle is predictable in many ways it may be comforting. Change can be, in the wider scheme of things like fractals. The farther away is your perspective, the more the overall pattern emerges.
Change within sameness in comforting. Change, anticipated, is satisfying.
As we move from summer into fall, I’m ready to break out the new school-year crayon box. I’m swinging into Starbucks for the pumpkin spice latte. I see geese flying a V overhead and feel a crispness in the air.
So when you say, “I hate change,” figure out what it is that is so disturbing. You may be surprised.
What does change mean to you? What is the most terrifying change you’ve ever experienced? The most satisfying?
I have been working hard all week, packing boxes for the local Humane Society thrift shop. My sister suggested weekends were for fun, too, so yesterday I drove north to visit the sunflowers of Northern Arizona.
These sunflowers provide stability for me. For fifty years, they have always bloomed out on Fort Valley Road north of Flagstaff. Every fall, fields and fields of sunflowers framing the mountains in the distance, under the monsoon clouds.
Perhaps someday these fields will give way to the growth of the town northward, but right now, this instant, as they have for the past half-century, they provide beauty that is without price and at the same time, totally free for the taking.
Gifts abide all around us, if we just look for them.