Long before the garden is born and thriving, you must in earnest court the land; nothing grows well or strong without relationship; therefore, you must meet and honor all her relations: sun, wind, water, shade, trees, terrain, and insect; observe their exchange in every season, for all is reciprocal. Who are her neighbors? Learn their substance and character. You must understand all her hidden moods, her acid and alkaline tendencies, her microbial and annelid content, but also her appetite and yearning for enrichment, her thirst, her limits, the answers she may give to your questions, the ways she has suffered, her maladies, and how she may be healed. Reveal yourself wholly and humbly; tell the stories that have led to this wild, desired, and essential intimacy. Unshroud your soul, damaged, mending, and like hers, bending to light; say you are an artist seeking transformation in alliance with her rounded dance of eruption, reduction, return, and mystery. Speak your promise to nurture and tend; speak not of yields but of mutual growth, and offerings of joyful sustenance, one to the other. All this, all this, before you kneel, before you gently touch and ready her for seed, before you imagine flowers and fruit, before you enter fertile years of shared abundance and love.
It went like this: the Earth invited; we waved our decline, and generous Earth invited again. We began to believe that it always would. What we desecrated today could be salvaged tomorrow. Perhaps. We had looked in mirrors and never once seen the beautiful everything, how it interflowed: us, air, earth, and fire; the green vines growing from our hearts, the moss covering our feet, the pulsing stars shooting from our eyes, our eyes crying wild seas; our hands sparking the minutiae of minerals, microbes, cells; our mouths howling the wail of wolves, humming the river’s night music, trilling birdsong through breeze; our ears’ recognition that every sound echoed the cry of our hearts; our hearts’ joyful impulse to unite, to eat and to feed, to transform together, creating now. We could have spent life wrapped in awe, entering the intricate mystery of webs, of self twined with other selves, breathing a universe. Too late have we come to know the indwelling one is the outward One, and that how we have loved the Earth is how we have loved ourselves, the beautiful everything. We were misers, lost in darkness, grasping for light, blind to the dazzling gold of everywhere wholeness.
Here we are again, on that dusty road lined with dazzling mirrors.
Let us seek our reflections and find ourselves amidst all the characters we’ve played a thousand times, taking our chosen places as we enter the new story, the sacred story, the human story, the heart of it, right now. Stay awake.
What is truth?
And who are we this time?
The Priest? The one who feels his power eclipsed and slipping, so lost in the service of two masters that he cannot find his way back to his diminished heart?
The Friends, whose fear and fatigue leave their companion desolate and abandoned? Oh, how we’ll dance through laughter and lies before dancing away in dark denial. . Or perhaps we are The Traitor, whose greed barters infinite peace for the cool slide of silver in his palm. Someone has to do it, we tell ourselves.
The Judge? So rigid with archaic law he cannot bend to suit the case before him? Too small to see the breadth and meaning of the moment? Too bound by the past to midwife justice in the present? Dead before death?
Are we among The Silent who stand and watch, hungry for violence that will excuse our inaction and fill our emptiness?
Too afraid? Are we The Cowards who cannot act against injustices we see, condemned every moment to open the door and never enter? What chances we’ve lost to change the world. What gifts we have wasted.
What is truth?
Are we once again The Follower? Eager to be ordered, free of the burden to think. Rank given, actions commanded, conscience drowned by unexamined fealty, ever ready to pound nails and pierce flesh. As directed.
And if we’re The Consigned, compelled to carry the burden behind the accused who falters in his steps, can we meet the act with grace, while jeered at and spat upon?
Maybe this time we’re The Lovers, walking the road, witnessing the pain, feeling the loss, grieving, staying.
Are we at last The Immanent One? Pure and transparent, the treasure sought, the light beyond darkness, steeped in dread and Yes, the suffering sin-eater descending into rotting evil to rise, blossoming forever in Love?
Perhaps we’re The Attendants, rolling away the massive rock unsealing death, awaiting The Seeker.
Or just this once, we are The Seeker, encountering the blinding truth of soaring news and empty tombs, sharing the message of resurrected life, so joyful it is music that must be sung.
Whatever your spirituality, I hope your week will be blessed; of course, I believe they’re all holy, but for me, this one holds such lovely invitations to explore, listen, and grow. If you celebrate Easter, may it be joyful, and I hope that spring and peace will blossom fully for all of us.
How could this be? What could it mean? What had she noticed that they hadn’t seen? She lifted the vase, and slowly rotated, as all of the people grew still, then elated…
For as the girl turned, the colors changed places, flashing a rainbow across startled faces. The people took time for silent reflection, considering matters with deep introspection.
“Maybe there are other colors to see; what’s lovely to you could be lovely to me.” “What we now understand to be utterly true is how much depends on expanding our view.”
“It could be helpful to breathe and be still, calmly deciding what won’t work and will.” “Enjoying each color and welcoming all, creating a party instead of a brawl.”
The artist Quim Torres created many stunning illustrations for our new book, The Rare, Tiny Flower (releasing June 14). I love the joy and drama in many of them, but my favorite depicts most of the characters sharing silent reflection time alone/together. They had been on the brink of war when a child in their midst encouraged them to consider their choices. She shows them how examining a given problem again, in new ways, allows their hearts–and options for action–to expand. And having expanded their views, their focus alters.
They understand that what they “narrowly” wanted when they first seized and sought possession of something beautiful, is actually a profound and multi-layered treasure meant to bless them all. In fact, its existence is dependent upon its gifts being shared. In essence, the characters move from the confines of negative egoic needs (my needs and desires are more important than yours) to those that are mature, healthy, and life-giving (satisfying our needs and wants, together, creates peace and greater beauty than than “I” imagined.)
I love how Quim illustrated these characters in their various poses, contemplating in silence, as the text describes their various thoughts about the benefits of stillness, breath, reflection, and how those practices open their hearts to the concept of “welcoming” differences that so recently had brought them to the brink of violence. I especially like that most them share a circle of contemplation, but that one of the crowned leaders is off, thinking through the problem while leaning against a tree.
I’ve been watching the televised images of all the leaders in the U.N., of President Zalenskyy, President Biden, President Putin, and, off in the shadows, President Xi Jingping.
By its nature, leadership can be lonely. When one’s leadership is conferred by those led, though, it would seem less onerous and more communal, as the majority of people have already freely given their support through voting, and there is the welcomed advice and expertise from valued others in the government.
When leadership is seized and authoritarian, however, options for co-creating the way through problems are diminished. There is a defacto absence of trust among the dictator and others vying for power who surround the “crown,” and those led are at the mercy of one person’s ego and one person’s version of the truth (and all the tightly-controlled propaganda that supports it). There is no widening circle of contemplation, no new invitations or revisioning to consider.
I’m happy our book’s ruler is sitting with hands folded and head down, suggesting this leader is deeply considering the next and best course of action and that we see the happy results of this person’s “silent reflection” and stillness in later illustrations.
At no other time in history have we more needed mature leaders who, together, focus on the good of all. I pray we can come together and support those who, because they’ve taken time to breathe, look inward, and reflect on invitations and options, will guide our beautiful Earth and her people forward with wisdom, compassion, justice, and right action. I hope we, too, can model the importance of taking time to give our choices silent reflection, of choosing stillness to seek the ways our solutions can welcome and celebrate human and planetary diversity, in peace.
Our children are watching. Our words matter profoundly. Our actions matter more.
Walking in an April snowfall, I think: I’ve learned all the lessons that winter can teach; I’m ready for spring; this winter has lingered too long. And then I recall the guest who long ago came for a week and stayed for two, repeating the story we’d heard for years, always unable to mine the meaning. It didn’t matter how closely we listened, what questions we asked, the telling never varied and yielded no treasures. Every morning, our guest, in robe and slippers, gripping his mug of coffee, would shuffle into our day and eventually recite again, the old, old tale of suffering unhealed; he’d sit at the site of the wound, poking, prodding, turning over all the pain and guilt, the wrong turns and regret; the words never changed. Life had been unfair. Perhaps we stopped listening; I know I sometimes rolled my eyes at my husband when The Story began again; everything we spoke of somehow provided our guest a way back into the circling labyrinth of repeated injury, with nothing at the center but darkness. And then one morning, in a pause between the words I’d heard so many times that I could say the next, our guest stared, looking beyond the moment to memory, and sighed. And in that sigh I recognized the bitter song of robins trapped in a winter that should have been spring. And the door of my heart opened; as though I was hearing his story for the first time, the yearning, the sorrow, the joy that had slipped and fallen through his life just when he’d felt it was finally his.
Maybe true hospitality only begins when guests have stayed too long, when patterns long repeated shift to mystery, and we open our guarded hearts wide to the pause between words, consenting in love to pursue winter’s lessons all the way to spring.