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A Soul Being Filled

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Nine hours of interstate and my car sloshes into the two muddy ruts that pass for a driveway. I step out into the rain expecting the usual scent of pine, but am instead blessed by a breeze saturated with lilac and lily of the valley.

I am early this year — I’ve never seen the lilacs bloom; never seen the lily fronds petaled with fallen apple and quince blossoms.

Lilacs by the Coach House

Lilacs by the Coach House

It must have been raining for days. The bushes and trees hang heavily, and the ground is soggy beneath my bare feet as I traipse back and forth, back and forth through the wet grass, blue jeans rolled to my knees, carrying my cats, my books, my cooler, my clothes.

Unpacked, I return to the car and head to the spring in the glistening dusk. I drive slowly, windows open, and breathe.

And breathe.

Every small hollow is full of water and bursting with song. I’ve never heard the spring peepers here, either, and I swerve drunkenly to miss the scores of sex-crazed frogs leaping wildly across the road.

Across from the spring, bits of mist drift down the dark mountain and promise a heavy morning fog. Below, the Ashuelot River dances giddily along its banks dressed in decorative white foam, as if rushing to a rendezvous downstream.

I fill my bottles with fresh water and nature fills my soul with springtime scents and songs.

I am here.

Apple Blossom Art

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Apple Blossom Art

Apple Blossom Art

How Do You Escape?

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Next week I will head north, like a compass needle seeking home. After six months away, my annual early summer trip to our family home in the foothills of New Hampshire is always a sweet time.

This first trip will be short — mostly dispensing with mice and mildew and catching up with my neighbors. But I’ll be back and forth all summer, sweltering in the D.C. suburbs for a few weeks and then easing back into the serenity of New England.

In reality, there will be biting black flies and voracious mosquitoes up there, but in my mind it’s paradise.

At any rate, the WordPress Gods’ Weekly Challenge asking for photos that say “escape” is kind of a no-brainer for me.

Here is my escape:

Quiet Hills

Quiet Hills

A Sneak Peek into History

Here is a short excerpt from an essay that has yet to find an appropriate publication to snuggle into, so I can’t share much of it lest it be deemed “published” by my future editor – just a sneak peek:

My grandmother Beedie bought the white Cape Cod with its four ramshackle outbuildings in 1940, after her merchant husband died in what Newsweek magazine called “a fiery elaborate hell at sea.” Investigations of the Morro Castle ship fire subjected families and survivors to nightmarish scenarios of suspected arson, murder and panicked crew members absconding with lifeboats while passengers drowned or burned.

The shaken young widow found comfort working in her flower garden by day, and at night she was entranced by luminous showers of fireflies and stars strewn across the heavens. Deep winter snows softened the edges of her pain. She christened her house and the surrounding forty acres “Quiet Hills” and so created a healing refuge for five generations of her family.

My earliest memories of Quiet Hills are captured in a faded black and white photograph of the two of us in the shade of a massive oak tree. My pudgy four-year-old legs dangle from a tiny Adirondack chair and Beedie sits straight-backed, primly sipping English Breakfast tea. I remember the older kids were racing about on a treasure hunt, upending maple sugar buckets, peering into the lichen-covered well house and scaling the barn silo. I couldn’t tell if it was a good or a bad thing when Beedie remarked, “The hills aren’t so quiet when your family is here.” But she was smiling.

If you are the editor of a well-read and well-paying publication, feel free to contact me if you would like to read this essay in its entirety.

Are you planning an escape this summer? Where to?

If you believe that you are too busy to get away, consider reading one of these posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/are-you-too-busy-to-be-happy/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/how-not-to-screw-up-your-holidays/

Knowing Love

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They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but I would argue the opposite. For me, knowing and being fully known is downright holy.

Let it all hang out.

What you see is what you get.

Take me as you find me.

I would rather not have to wade through a bunch of BS before finding the authentic you. And Lord knows I have wasted enough time and effort over the years erecting barricades and tricky funhouse mirrors to hide the real me – even from myself.

But in recent years I’ve been working on getting to know myself better, and as I become familiar with the good, the bad, and the ugly, I am also learning to love myself.

For me, familiarity runs through everything that I love.

The Question

Today the WordPress Gods have posed the Daily Prompt question:

We each have many types of love relationships — parents, children, spouses, friends. And they’re not always with people; you may love an animal, or a place. Is there a single idea or definition that runs through all the varieties of “love”?

So that’s my answer to their question — familiarity.

Knowing God

My main love affair is with God. My Higher Power. Whatever you want to call the spirit that hovers around our heads and hearts causing love. Of course, any idea I might have of God is not actually God, and my inability to grasp the spiritual realm with my intellect pretty much guarantees that I can’t become truly “familiar” with God, no matter how much prayer or meditation I might engage in.

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I think we can, however, become familiar with God’s ways and with the evidence of God, beginning with the ground we walk on and the air we breathe and the water we drink.

In the book of Romans in the Bible, it says that “what may be known about God is plain” because God has made it plain: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal  power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

I take this as a clue that learning about the natural world and spending time in it will help us get to know God. I know that many of my friends who do not believe in God still have a sense of the holy when they are out in nature. I personally believe that’s the Creator knocking.

What Has Been Made

What Has Been Made

The category of “what has been made” includes a lot of things I love…I see God in all of them.

Other Things I Love

I love my friends. Nothing beats getting together with my oldest, dearest friends – it’s like finding a favorite comfy sweater in the back of the closet and snuggling into it. We fit.

I love my family, even their annoying, familiar quirks. My brother and sister have known me since before I was born. How cool is that?

I love my church community. They are my chosen family. It’s where people encourage me to continue to grow into the real me. They know me, love me, and forgive me.

I love my cats. I love that I know everything they are going to do at every moment of the day. How they move to the sunny square on the hallway carpet after the warm spot I’ve left in the covers has cooled. How Mayasika rushes to block my path when I’m going upstairs so that I will scritch her back. How Eliza Bean comes into the kitchen at lunchtime and stands on her hind legs waiting for her cheese.

Mayasika

Mayasika

I love my town. The smell of popcorn in the town center when the theater opens each evening; the Coop grocery clerks who know my name and ask after my sick brother; the annual meetings that always go late into the night because people can’t get enough of talking about our little community.

I love my house, even though it’s usually trashed and causes me great stress and embarrassment. It is home. It is familiar.

Belonging

As I write, I’m realizing that I am talking about something beyond familiarity. Beyond knowing and being known.

I’m talking about belonging.

A sense of belonging is the thread that runs through everything and everyone that I love. This is what grounds me.

What about you? What binds together the things that you love?

Are You Too Busy to be Happy?

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Do you ever take the time to ask yourself what you really want; what you are really here for?

I’m talking about REAL time? Even in the spiritual communities to which I belong, people often don’t.

Which is weird, right? I mean if we truly believe we are part of a larger spiritual reality that can offer us peace and happiness and empower us to make the world healthier, why don’t we enthusiastically embrace every practice that might help us enter into that reality?

To my mind, the primary practice that helps us discover and align ourselves with our true nature and purpose is taking the time to be open and present to a reality beyond what our tiny minds can grasp.

George Bernard Shaw wrote that the true joy of life lies in being devoted to a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one,

… being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. 

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, that’s strong language. I’m not calling anyone a selfish little clod of anything; I’m just saying, think about it.

Are you too busy to do “nothing,” which rather than being nothing, might actually mean everything to your happiness?

Life by the Pond

Yesterday I went on a silent retreat. I sat by a pond and watched a family of geese — the father, every feather aquiver with protective instincts, stood tall and alert by the mother who had nestled down and lifted her wing, welcoming her tottering yellow gosling into warm, downy safety.

Down the hill, a coyote led an intruder away from its den, trotting slowly and then looking back over its shoulder to be sure the ruse was working; and it did, as the binocular-bearing human hustled after the animal and away from the pups.

The sun caught the cerulean gleam of a bluebird perched atop its box, repeatedly announcing the family territory.

All of nature was doing exactly what it was meant to be doing. Instinctively.

Grasses by the Pond

Grasses Being Grasses

I Want You to be Happy

But we humans are different. We have the gift/curse of self-reflection — of ego — which can drown out our true selves and keep us on the go, trying to satisfy hungers we don’t even know are there. To get in touch with these hungers and decide if they are in our best interest, we need to slow down and listen.

How about planning an intentional fast from busyness as the relaxed summer season approaches?

Are you laughing now because what does she know, the summer isn’t any slower, it’s even busier?

Whose choice is that?

You are not a victim. You are in charge of your life. Cancel some stuff. Why not make a little time to ask yourself, or better yet, a power beyond yourself: what are you meant to do here in this one, short life? Are you on the right path?

Anyway, I don’t want to preach. I just want you to be happy. I know, odds are you are a stranger to me outside of the blogosphere — but happy people put happiness back into the world, and so I hope for happiness and centeredness and every kind of health for you.

Resisting the Demon of Busyness

I’m sharing this reading from Janet Ruffing that might give you food for summer thoughts.

Go ahead – give yourself a break, literally.

Centered

Centered

“Resisting the demon of busyness requires choices we would prefer not to make, and if we should succeed in making them, I can guarantee they will go unrewarded in both the secular and religious cultures in which we participate.

If we’re honest, we admit to ourselves that there’s something about all this busyness that we love. We like it this way, despite our half-hearted protests to the contrary. If we’re as busy as we pretend to be, then we’re too busy to allow ourselves to be affected by the pain and suffering of our world. We’re too busy to be addressed personally by the social, political or ecological disasters occurring in our relationships.

We are too busy to listen to our own feelings or those of others. Our busyness insulates from care and from compassion. Our busyness deadens our feelings and numbs our responses. The expectation that we must be busy all the time feels as if it is an external expectation, with the result that we don’t recognize that it is also self-generated in collusion with the culture.

I become flighty with so many things to attend to, moving from one thing to another, sometimes intuitively, sometimes impulsively and unreflectively. By this time, I am divided in my consciousness. It requires a different kind of discipline not to allow my attention to get caught in these ways.

This divided, distracted consciousness is a large part of the demon of busyness. This state of consciousness is literally illusion. It is something our collective consciousness keeps going because we agree to it. By keeping it going, getting captured by it, I fail to ask myself what I really want. I collude in frustrating my deepest desires by indulging the demon of busyness, so that I never have to ask what I really want to do or really need to do. Were I to do so, I might make a different set of choices in response to it.

What we need to resist is the sense of time-urgency and all the internal diffusion of consciousness which simultaneously thinks of the future, basks in self-importance and maintains an illusion of control. All of those internal ‘thoughts’ actually divert us from all dimensions of the present reality. They are literally useless and exhausting, yet somehow we love them…”

— From Resisting the Demon of Busyness by Janet Ruffing

Related Posts:

I am a member of Bloggers for Peace and this is my monthly post on the topic of Peace. I thought you might enjoy this thought that I borrowed from a post by fellow blogger for peace Elizabeth Obih-Frank:

“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” Black Elk

Also see:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/how-not-to-screw-up-your-holidays/

http://everydaygurus.com/2012/12/20/we-can-make-a-difference-right-here-right-now/

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