Tuesday, May 26, 2015

TIME TO PAUSE


Wild Pig, Magdala, Israel

Post Memorial Day, 2015

There’s an old story about a man leisurely driving through the countryside on a fall afternoon and passing by an apple orchard. He notices an old farmer feeding his pigs by holding them up one at a time and letting them eat the apples hanging from the trees. So the man pulls off the dirt road, walks up to the farmer and quizzically asks, “Wouldn’t it save time if you simply shook the apples onto the ground and let the pigs eat them all at once”? And the farmer looks up even more quizzically and responds, “What’s time to a pig”?

We humans are the only creatures on the planet, and possibly the universe unless you watch the ancient aliens segments on the History Channel, that have a developed frontal lobe in our brain that can ponder the future. And of course, some have a more or less developed right brain that can reason about such things as time. A pig, for instance, wakes up every morning thinking he’s going to live forever—so far, so good! But we humans have been given the capacity to understand that our mortal time is limited and there are only so many turns of our life clocks, while no man knows the exact hour and minute it will stop. We’ve also been given the capacity to ponder life after life. When you think about it, why bother if there is none?

It’s a matter of being committed to life, not simply involved in it—like a breakfast of bacon and eggs. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed!

But Memorial Day is a wakeup call for us all. It’s a time to pause and give thanks for all those veterans whose time was cut short to secure our tenuous freedom that’s not free. It’s a time to pause and give thanks for all those departed friends and loved ones that have influenced our life experiences and our character. And it’s a time to pause and consider if we are really, really making good use of our time.

We may choose to ignore time and merrily soldier on with the pig’s mindset that life will go on forever. The pig can be excused. But we’ve all been given the priceless gift of life with the caveat that it comes with a limited amount of mortal time for a reason. And we’ve been given the free will to do with it as we please—to squander it and wake up one final morning wondering to ourselves “Is that all there is?”--or to wake up on the other side of the thin veil rejoicing in our legacy. We could argue the point forever, but that would be like wrestling with a pig. We’d get mud all over us and the pig would enjoy it. We can continue attempting to convince ourselves that our time doesn’t matter, but that would be like putting lipstick on a pig. It doesn’t change the eternal truth that it’s still a pig and our time does matter. Perhaps the answer lies in pausing time to ponder our destiny. Perhaps over a breakfast of bacon and eggs.

Monday, May 25, 2015

EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY TABLES


Blue Umbrellas, Wrightsville Beach, NC

Memorial Day, 2015

Phantom faces in the sea mist,
Phantom shadows in the sand,
Empty chairs at empty tables,
Where my friends no longer stand.

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken,
There’s a pain goes on and on,
Empty chairs at empty tables,
Their songs and laughter are now gone.

O my friends, my friends I thank you,
For the good times we shared together,
Empty chairs at empty tables,
Where we’ll meet in a beautiful forever.

(with apologies to Les Mis)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

BE THE REFLECTION


Beauty Reflectors, Jamestown, NC

Memorial Weekend, 2015

BE THE BEAUTY

We see in life what we look for in life. And the world is balanced with light and darkness, good and evil, positives and negatives, corruption and redemption, beastliness and beauty. If we focus on the negative, both our inner and outer being turns ugly. But if we focus on the positive, we radiate beauty at any age. We are, in fact, the sum of our experiences.

Be a reflection of all that’s good in the universe, like the moon or a sunflower and butterfly reflecting sunshine and beauty. Be a reflection of all those beautiful people in your life who have gone ahead but left a lasting impression. Be the person your dog has always believed you to be.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

BLESSED ASSURANCE




Memorial Peony I & II, Jamestown, NC

Memorial Weekend, 2015

A planting of this peony was brought to Salina, Kansas over 100 years ago by my wife's grandparents. We took a split of it after her grandmother's funeral and planted small splits in three homes in Kansas City and a split traveled in the back seat of our car when we moved to North Carolina.

My grandmother planted these flowering plants around family plots in cemeteries back in Kansas. She chose these plants mainly because of the impeccable timing of the blooms around Memorial Day every year. The plants are very hardy and they seem to survive without much human intervention. Like so many of us, she wanted the cold stone markers that say so little of those they identify to be decorated with some small measure of the beauty of these departed souls.

But perhaps we have things totally reversed. Could it be that these bright reminders are actually overseen by those we’re memorializing, so that when we mortals infrequently visit in quiet remembrance, the colorful blooms are there for us with a beautiful assurance that "all is well"?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CRAYONS & CREATIVITY


Craft Still Life, Jamestown, NC
Crayola Presence, Jamestown, NC


I stumbled across a comment recently that noted the author had only just regained the creativity he had as a child using a box of crayons. The crayons had been replaced with books on history and algebra and being responsible and earning a paycheck and paying his bills and obeying all the traffic signs and saving for retirement and exercising and eating healthy and he wanted his crayons back. I actually remember going through that stage with the introduction of coloring books. The new goal was to stay within the lines and “create” a colorful picture. I now know that it was a great way to keep me occupied and generally out of trouble in the long dog days of summer vacation. But it still did teach me the discipline of doing a good job and the persistence of seeing it through to the end. I recall looking at a lot of unfinished pages that were started by some of my young nonconformist peers including erratic crayon marks that were defiantly way outside the lines! Even then we were all seeking our own paths in life.

As with most things in life, there always seems to be a need for balance. We can be left brain creative as long as we have the common sense to also employ the right brain discipline to pay our bills for the craft materials on time. Or perhaps at least have the sense to employ a right brain who will do it for us! And being totally right brain focused leaves a lot of room to let our hair down on occasion. I remember the story of a young girl that was busily working on a blank page with her box of crayons. As the teacher walked around the classroom monitoring the children, she asked the girl what she was coloring. She told the teacher that she was creating a picture of God. When the adult teacher told her that no one knows what God looks like, the young girl quickly responded, “Well, stick around for a few more minutes and they will”! (I asked a young girl if she would create a picture of God for me and without hesitation she quickly used her crayons to produce the image above).

The young girl was unencumbered by all the filters and biases that we adults accumulate as we muddle through life. No one had told her that God couldn’t be pictured so she didn’t know it couldn’t be done and her creative mind knew exactly how God should look. We adults need to be reminded of this, especially those of us who have seen many moons and many seasons and accumulated lots of baggage along the way. Perhaps we simply need to start with another blank canvas when life gets boring and open that creative box of crayons that’s still tucked away in our left brain to re-energize our life once again!

This blog has manifested into my box of Crayolas with an endless supply of colors!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

INTERBEING


First Iris of Spring, Jamestown, NC

In his book Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh makes the point that a flower is made of only non-flower elements. He writes that “When we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it. Without clouds, there could be no rain, and there would be no flower. Without time, the flower could not bloom. In fact, the flower is made entirely of non-flower elements; it has no independent, individual existence…When we see the nature of interbeing, barriers between ourselves and others are dissolved, and peace, love, and understanding are possible. Whenever there is understanding, compassion is born…

In Buddhism, faith means confidence in our and others’ abilities to wake up to our deepest capacity of loving and understanding. In Christianity, faith means trust in God, the One who represents love, understanding, dignity, and truth. When we are still, looking deeply, and touching the source of our true wisdom, we touch the living Buddha and the living Christ in ourselves and in each person we meet.”

I've also read that when we really look deep into a blooming flower, we look into the face of God.

Friday, May 1, 2015

SPIRITS RISE



Wispy Cirrus Spirits, Jamestown, NC
Vaporous Lake Spirits, Jamestown, NC


Vaporous spirits rise
above the lake's surface,
soar into the heavens,
and spontaneously morph
into an unrehearsed dance of life.