The Pill Bug

Out of nowhere

the half curled pill bug

appears by the arc of my left heel,

like a gray freshwater pearl

spit out by the concrete creek.

The exoskeleton

brittle and hardened by its final hour

quivers silently beneath

a gust.

I pay attention

still

calm

wondering.

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The Tiniest Motions

There are many roads we travel just once, and there are others we visit again and again. This afternoon, like so many afternoons before, I heard the sound of a voice abandoned. And as I headed out the door to walk in the park, I felt that familiar tingle of a road I recognize. It is such a good thing to remember it – the call to pay attention and abandon the self. To be absorbed into something greater and to make note of the world unfolding, transforming itself into something new every moment.

I’m reminded that we can also be transformed.

This I know to be true: no matter how far I run, or fly, or hide from the work, it’s always there waiting. The pen calling to be used, the imagination painting meaning, the heart saying, go deeper. How did it become so difficult to record? And so difficult to be still enough?

No matter; this is a post about returning: changed, but ready to work again.

Author Anne Lamott writes, “It is easy to sense and embrace meaning when life is on track. When there is a feeling of fullness — having love, goodness, family, work, maybe God as parts of life…”

And when life feels off track, it is just as easy to lose our way. We can run in circles searching for what has changed, and how to fix it, but that rarely leads us home. Oftentimes, we just have to be patient, and forge ahead a day at a time until we can see the light again.

“Most of us have figured out that we have to do what’s in front of us and keep doing it… Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice…”

As Lamott writes, it is by the tiniest motions that we can find the road again that leads us back to our whole selves.

Meanwhile, I’ve been attempting to leap and sprint, or build a new road altogether. And let me say from personal experience, it doesn’t do much good to take arms against your life like that. Sure, there’s always a time for fighting the good fight, but not the bad one. Not the self-defeating one that demands “change now!”

“If you fixate on the big picture, the whole shebang, the overview, you miss the stitching,” Lamott wisely points out.

Wouldn’t life be sweet if we could trust that gentle, slow hand that threads the needle, drives it into the dark fabric and brings it up again, changed and refreshed? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to forget the need of knowing how it all turns out? The truth is that moment by moment, we have the opportunity to be amazed and to stay awake.

So in honor of the tiniest motions, here is a very tiny poem, and with it, the recovery of a stitch:

What more am I
than the observer
of mottled sunlight
casting amber waves
across the kitchen cabinet,
and a bowl split open,
bleeding pink,
revealing the tender ribs
of the sky?

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The Time is Ours

There’s a damp sweetness in the air as I brush my fingertips across a creamy-white shelf fungus clinging indifferently to a thick Doug Fir trunk. I walk onwards down the trail.

My heartbeat and the occasional gust of wind whispering through the leaves are the only sounds aside from the constant jingle of the creek. It rolls over slime encrusted rocks and trickles between a fallen branch, then eagerly winds around a bend. My boots clomp along, chasing its weaving liquid tresses. Clumps of wet loam, pine needles and decaying leaves cling to the waffle print on the undersides of my feet. I breathe in the fresh air.

If only I could savor this moment forever. A moment when my thoughts have dissolved into the forest, strained and cleansed by thousands of bristly tree hands reaching toward one another, touching. A moment when remembering comes without struggle. The sacredness of this home, this body, this life catches in my chest and I hold it there. Tears come, wind comes, and my heartbeat carries on drumming, pushing my legs to keep marching.

I glance at my right wrist – Be extraordinary – the engraved words shimmer between smooth leather encircling my wrist. Everything has changed since I bought the bracelet on a sunny San Diego afternoon 3 years ago.

Today is the birthday of a friend we lost at the too-young age of 27. And in just under a month from now, it will be the 2-year anniversary of the passing of a dear teacher who encouraged me to keep writing and to go see the world, which somehow, miraculously, I’ve now done. There are so many other things that have changed – some small, some big – the length of my hair, the ending and beginning of relationships, the city I live in, the dreams and heartaches I’ve birthed and witnessed, and seen loved ones through.

Time becomes such a strange entity as we grow older. Although it flexes and shrinks in harmony with our perspective and depth of experience, too often, it feels like it’s zooming by. I recently read a refreshing article, The Disease of Being Busy, and it made me wonder just how much our obsession with productivity impacts our perception of the precious minutes we’re each allotted to be here.

The author, Omid Safi, writes,

“When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just…be?”

In the absence of down time, we crave connection all that much more, and so we flock to social networks, checking our phones as if our friends actually reside inside the little square apps on the screen. Social media is so tempting because for a fraction of the time and effort it takes to interact face-to-face, we can get a hit of meaning and feel like we’re still a part of our loved ones’ lives. But in reality, we’re missing out on true human intimacy without real time spent with one another.

With our packed schedules, I’d also propose we’re missing out on intimate time spent with ourselves, examining our lives, dreaming of things yet to come, practicing our hobbies and wondering about who we are. If disease is a killer of the body, living on autopilot is death to the soul.

When I feel time whizzing by, I remind myself to do what makes me a human being again – I head to nature, I slow down, I write, dance, sing, cook my meals, listen to my heart’s musings, and tune back into the bigger picture.

The memories of the people who are no longer with us are a reminder of time’s preciousness. These moments are ours for the savoring. Why not spend them intentionally? What will YOU do this week to push pause on the “doing” and return to “being”?

My Nephew smelling a rose on a recent trip to the Portland Rose Garden.

My nephew smelling a rose on a recent trip to the Portland Rose Garden.