Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Golden Autumn

One day last week I spent some time harvesting the gold falling from the huge maple in front of my house. I cleared a path. The tree was still brimming.

The sun was shining; the temperature temperate. I was immersed in beauty. However messy, it was beauty nonetheless.

Later the same day I learned of horrific physical problems assaulting two dear friends. One, who, with her husband, has always been there when I needed help of any kind, was in excruciating pain and facing surgery, perhaps death. Another, whose gentleness had permeated my days, was in excruciating pain and facing possible paralysis. I was stunned – I sleepwalked through the evening – doing the things I routinely do -- feeding the cats, fixing dinner, eating, reading, watching the end of a Netflix movie – sort of present, sort of not.

I know it’s all part of the cycle of life – leaves falling, people dying. I know Thich Naht Hanh (and other Buddhists) affirm that there is no death, no birth – that everything is part of some great continuum. I even have days when I believe that/understand that.


It is so hard to see people you care about suffer. And you worry about the one friend's husband and the other friends new kitten. Who will take care of them?

By the next morning, the stunned-ness had melted into a gentle sorrow, floating on the edges of my day and I focused – as much as I could – on my routines – feeding the cats, fixing breakfast.

I was sitting at the table looking out my back window when a large bird flew at the birdfeeder hanging outside. My birdfeeder is designed to provide for small birds and to prevent squirrels from stealing the food. When a small bird perches on the ledge, it can access the seeds. When a squirrel tries it, its weight shuts the feeder.

The bird – a flicker – was almost as large as the feeder. It flew at the transparent portion of the feeder, banging at the inaccessible seeds. And flew away. A few moments later, it came back .. .and balancing below the feeder’s ledge it triggered the seed dispensing . . . and ate.

I had several moments to see the intricate patterns on its long slender body – the touch of crimson on its chest – the dark roundness of its eyes – before it flew away.

And I was back. I became aware that my egg, scrambled with mushrooms and a little cheese, was delicious. That the sun was magnifying the gold of my backyard tree. And the sky was perfectly blue and beautiful.

Now I could acknowledge both my fears and prayers for my friends. Now I could acknowledge the miracle of the every day.

And it is good.

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