Monday, May 16, 2016

'Bonsai and Buddha'

I know this will seem trivial and useless to most people, but today is a huge milestone for me. 

For those who know me closely, they have known that I have been working on my second "complex" cross-stitch for more than 10 years. I venture to say, I probably have started it closer to 15 years than 10 years ago. I have worked on it around holidays, and vacation days, and on days when I was home sick, generally. 

My life has changed in so many significant ways during all this time - jobs, time zones, relationships, I have become an aunt twice, I have traveled the country and Europe, I have raised three cats and lost two of them because of old age, and I am grayer, much much grayer. 

This is a milestone for sure!
I had to stop for a second and record it for posterity - picture below. It's not framed yet, but I finished it today, so the day should be marked. 

Today is also the last day of my first ever medical leave. 97 days ago today I was taking time off from work to have open heart surgery. May 17 seemed like an eternity away, and here it is. It's how life works, I guess. I am glad that sometimes we manage to leave something behind to show for all this time past. 

It's called 'Bonsai and Buddha'

Thursday, May 05, 2016

About Spring, Birthday and Easter

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want—oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” (Mark Twain)

You noticed right. I posted nothing in April. My favorite month, my month, “the cruelest month” that it is, I had no inspiration. Not totally true – I just stopped breathing there for a while, in awe of this life, and this world around me. And I had to be quiet for a bit to take all the awesomeness in.

Anne Lamott says at one point that “in Easter — and Passover too — something that happens is that we stop. This is the 'dark night of the soul' stuff that John the Divine writes about; that in that stopping we may fall into an abyss that we have been trying to outrun since we were little children. (…) But in Lent, if you are a person of committed spiritual growth, you do stop.”

So, that's what I did, I suppose – just stopped and observed the big world around me with care, and keen eyes. It might be the last time I did – who would know?! We're not giving precise expiration dates.

This April, was the first time in as long a time as I can remember that I really was happy about my birthday. Ever since I was in elementary school, for whatever reason, my birthday was sad to me: another year, vanished and not half of the things I planned to do are checked off the list. So disappointing! Time running out, never returning to me. The mouse in the wheel running out of steam. But this year, the world looks different to me, from the other edge of the precipice that I just hopped over in February.

Like an old poet once said, my “doors of perception were cleansed” and the “world appears now to me as it is – infinite”, and most of all vibrant. I might speak in platitudes here, but there is something humbling about your heart literally being stopped for a bit. To come out of that and still see the light of day is character changing and direction altering. How can it not be?!

As much as I previously hated my birthday, I have always loved spring, and Easter is my favorite holiday. They usually all fall around the same time. I just love sitting still and listening to the life coming back in the spring. The light this time of the year is the light of Easter to me – given to us secretly in the dark church, at midnight, like a big mystery that only we are chosen and fortunate enough to partake into. I love spring because it allows me to enjoy that light, of hope and renewal and “another chance”-ness with every day, unlike the light of Easter, on Resurrection night, for one hour at church.

This year, I enjoyed spring slowly, with every flower, every bloom that showed up in my yard. It's amazing how much time you have when one is not working. I relived, again, every year of my life, with every sunny hour and every tulip that popped open. Since facing death a few months ago, my senses are sharper, and my attention is keener than ever before. I realize more acutely that the end is in every breath. Or could be. Therefore, I am that much grateful when I outlive it. The leaves look sharper green, the sun is warmer and brighter, the music is sweeter and every breath is a blessing. Every touch from my loved ones is uplifting and gracious. I am so unspeakably and undeservingly lucky!

Spring has always been a happy awakening for me, a welcome gift of re-opening my heart to the world once again and trying once more to do it right. For the first time, this year, I associated my birthday with that sentiment, as well. Took 41 years, but I am grateful I finally got it. I hope it forever stays this way – such a gift to be able to awaken my soul as the world awakens its own!

Instead of brooding over the year past and what I did not get to accomplish, I now cherish the simple fact that I made it over another threshold. I cherish people around me, and the fact that they are on this side of the dirt with me. Strawberries taste sweeter this spring, and the wind in my wrinkled and wintry cold skin is a gentle kiss.

Rumi asked “What is this heart? It is not human, and it is not imaginary. I call it you.” Just like the Alchemist, I finally found the treasure – it's always been here, it's always been inside me. This year, I got to meet it. Full circle. Now, I am home.

*Note: Orthodox Easter vigil started April 30th this year. Easter Sunday was May 1st

 "April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land"
Shades and colors of my garden, in April.

The Light. At Easter.  

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough"